As a History of Art undergraduate, Malina Mihalache has often been asked the inevitable question ‘what can you do with an art history degree?’ But how much of our time, argues Malina, should be spent researching, planning and figuring out what we truly want to do with our lives? Should we figure this out before it’s too late, or should we have a happy-go-lucky attitude and hope that it will all sort itself out in the end?
In my opinion, the answer is somewhere halfway in between these two extremes. It is true that as a student, you are in charge of choosing the path your professional life will take. You can choose to postpone figuring it out until as late as possible, but this will come at a price – the price of missing out on all that university has to offer. In terms of careers planning this can mean the expert opinions on CV and cover letter writing, invaluable connections with alumni and employers and above all, impartial, objective advice.
Like many art history students in their second year of study, I have been struggling with truly knowing what I wanted to do after university. Whilst studying history of art at Warwick has been a very enriching and rewarding experience, I can’t help but feel somewhat left out when it comes to the job market. Many sites that advertise graduate jobs don’t even have the option of choosing history of art as an undergraduate degree and finding work experience in the field involves almost always unpaid, self-sourced jobs. So I understand the struggle, and to be very honest I do sometimes envy our peers who read science-oriented subjects, as their career choices always seem more straight forward and easier to make.
Until fairly recently, I have been quite worried about my professional future. I have had several career paths in mind but I could never truly decide. I have tried to get as much experience as possible – by juggling several part-time jobs, negotiating numerous internships over the summer of my first year and volunteering. Whilst I then had lots of things I could put on my CV, I was even more lost and confused than before I came to uni. No matter how much I tried to find out what I really wanted to do after graduation by experimenting with different career paths, there was something essential that I missed on – getting to know myself and my values. And it all came together when I attended the careers skills session aimed at second year art history students, when I realised that we aren’t supposed to do this on our own.
There is a wide array of help available – from tutors who are well-connected with alumni all over the world, to Careers and Skills Service staff who can tell you all about lots of helpful websites which you won’t probably find on your own. There are also a tremendous amount of workshops and sessions aimed at developing skills that employers are looking for, regardless of what field you are considering entering upon graduation. Warwick literally pays people to ensure that we are supported and guided through this journey of discovering what it is that we would like to do and what suits us, so why do it on your own?
The History of Art department is quite small which is again something that we should all be taking advantage of, as not everyone at Warwick can say that most of their teachers know their names and make time for informal chats with students. This is our little treasure that might be a decisive factor in our work life, because of the invaluable advice and connections that our tutors have.
There are a lot of misconceptions about studying history of art, especially regarding the skills we acquire and the possibilities we have upon graduation. If we want to change these misconceptions we must firstly educate ourselves with regards to the widely transferable skills and varied job opportunities across all sectors that we, as history of art graduates have. So next time someone asks you, “what can you do with an art history degree?”, you can confidently reply “anything!”.
The reason I wrote this blog was to try and guide anyone out there as undecided and worried as I was. The most useful thing one could do whilst figuring out their career path is getting help and guidance from specialists, and Warwick makes it very easy to do so. Therefore, if you still haven’t figured it out or the process seems never-ending and confusing, don’t worry. There is still plenty of time to attend one of the careers skills session, book a slot with a career advisor or just drop an e-mail to one of your tutors and ask for help.