What are you going to do with that?


by Lydia MacKay ‘19

When I tell people that I’m majoring in History, their first question is often, “Well, what are you going to do with that?” Is there a good answer to this question? Sometimes I list out some “acceptable” responses—law, business, the usual—but other times I’m just sarcastic. As if their skepticism isn’t bad enough, people often feel compelled to offer their advice that I choose a more profitable major. True story: once I talked with this man for all of five minutes, and he recommended that I switch my major to accounting.

This skepticism seems to be a common occurrence, particularly for humanities and social science majors. People like to draw direct lines between a degree and a career: major in engineering, become an engineer; major in biology, become a biologist; major in history, become a... historian? People don’t see that as a viable career path.

I frequently commiserate with one of my friends, an English major, about the many questions we are asked by well-meaning and/or nosy people and the doubts they provoke. Are we employable? How are we going to use our degrees? Should we, in fact, have majored in accounting?

Sometimes people’s preconceptions about our future careers can be funny. In addition to her English major, my friend also has a Computer Science minor. A well-meaning older woman, after hearing about this major and minor combination, once asked in all seriousness if she planned to “code memes for the internet” for a living. While hilarious, this also shows how commonly (and frustratingly) people try to literally translate your degree into a career.

In honor of all of us seniors graduating in “unemployable” fields or with niche major/minor combinations, here are some responses you can use when asked that dreaded question: “What are you going to do with that?”

  • History major and one business class at Babson: consultant for time travelers

  • Russian Area Studies major: internet troll counterintelligence

  • Peace and Justice Studies and Astrophysics double major: negotiator for Earth’s first contact with aliens

  • Studio Art and American Studies double major: nail polish color namer

  • Medieval/Renaissance Studies major, Health and Society minor: CDC advisor on the Black Death (when the permafrost melts)

  • Classical Studies major, Education minor: school motto writer

  • Religion and Political Science double major: consultant for cult leaders running utopian societies

  • Psychology and Theatre Studies double major: fake psychic

  • Medieval/Renaissance Studies major, Chemistry minor: alchemist

  • Media Arts and Sciences major, History minor: Youtube conspiracy theorist

  • English major, Computer Science minor: meme coder

From the May 2019 issue.