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Picture the scene. There’s a bunch of pals – all third-year undergraduates, all arts/humanities students. They’ve been working hard at their degrees, banging out essay after essay, presentations, projects and sometimes even performances, in an attempt to pursue their interests and achieve a career that they truly love.
They’re waltzing down the spine (a couple of them, literally) on their way to the careers fair. A few are keen, they know what they’re looking for – they’ve got CV’s in their hand and an ambitious glint in their eye. The fair is another step on the career ladder for them. Some of them are less sure; they haven’t printed off their resume. Instead, they’re holding a notebook, a pen, and a sense of wild uncertainty. They hope that by going to this fair, some of their questions might be answered, or an opportunity may jump out at them that they haven’t considered before. They want to get their foot in the door.
It’s a mixed bag; however, all of them are ready to talk to employers, investigate more about future careers and hopefully pick up a few free pens along the way*. (Bribery, after all, gets you everywhere.)
Imagine their surprise then, when they make their way through the doors of the LICA building (LICA, which is an acronym for ‘Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts‘, in case you didn’t know) and there is little to nothing there for them. Rightly, they’re a little bit miffed.
After travelling to campus, they battled their way around STEM and marketing-based stalls, urgently seeking something that vaguely fell within their subject of interest. Guess what? They came up short. In response to their experience of Lancaster University’s careers fair, three of those pals took to SCAN to express their disappointment in the fair’s creative representation.
We’ve all heard it that old stereotype; girls 30-40 years ago were given the option of becoming teachers, nurses, or secretaries and, for a while, the most rebellious career a girl could seek was anything in the STEM field. It’s still not easy to get into STEM-related jobs for women, but the world seems to be waking up to this fact, with new scholarships and graduate schemes to help along the way.
For those of us who choose to do social sciences or arts, that same problem remains; only because we study English or History, nursing is no longer available.
When I have walked around any careers fair in my adult life, I have felt out of place. In a room full of opportunity, so few apply to me with a humanities degree, to the point where I’m taking leaflets to work for a bank or join the army purely so that I feel like I have options.
The truth is, I do have options and more than the teaching/marketing/journalism occupations that I’m routinely directed to by well-intended careers advisers. In an initial Google search, I came up with over fifteen (15) potential careers.
It shouldn’t be this difficult.
- Ruth Walbank
If the careers fair had been merely bad, I don’t think I would have been as disappointed. The fact remains, however, that it was good – for students who are looking to join the business world or marketing sector. Students who want to be a part of a company, students who want to serve, students who want to become executives and professionals and tycoons.
There was a distinct sense from the moment that I walked in that if you were looking for creative pursuits, you wouldn’t find them here. Perhaps it was the way that the nice lady at the stall would be flustered and desperately look for a fitting opportunity, all because I said I did English Literature, which was not the subject she was expecting.
For students doing Business Studies, Maths and Physics, the place was open. I have never been ashamed of doing English Literature with Creative Writing, but the absolute lack of opportunities present at the careers fair made me genuinely nervous for my future.
I’m no careers adviser, but I’d wager that this was the complete opposite feeling that they wanted the careers fair to give me. Yet, this feeling was inescapable – according to the fair, creativity won’t put food on my table.
- Benjamin O’Rourke
I’ve just nipped back from the careers fair. It was great – if you’re into advertising and marketing or finance. Otherwise, you’re pretty much down the bog. The fair seemed to side-step a large potential creative audience; it seems that they need to take a tip from their own advertising and marketing repertoire.
I witnessed only one journalism stall, and one media stall which involved social media marketing and developing websites. Great. However, what about everyone else? What about people interested in creative careers – theatre, television and media, art, publishing, writing etc.? These are valid careers too.
Or are they? Once again, people with creative interests appear to be undervalued and undermined. Schools’ syllabi already are dwindling these creative ‘soft’ subjects. According to a recent BBC survey, ‘nine in every 10 [responding schools] said they had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject’ with ‘music, art and drama, as well as design and technology […] all being squeezed’ in favour of STEM subjects. It seems that this trend has leaked its way into university as well.
I face mocking regarding my degree choice (English Literature and Creative Writing, in case you’re interested) on a semi-regular basis. The university’s frankly disappointing investment in attracting employers from creative fields just serves to cement this.
But hey, there’s always teaching, right?
- Lara Orriss,
What were your thoughts on Lancaster’s careers fair? Have you felt undervalued due to your career interests or choice of degree? Get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!
*I am pleased to report that they did manage to pick up some free pens.