Interactive linguistics workshop helps students market their degree

Choosing a career might prove difficult for humanities students when their degree prepares for all of them.

Anna Marie Trester, applied sociolinguist and previous faculty member at Georgetown University, put together the interactive workshop “The Story Approach to a Career” at SDSU April 11, in order to give students with liberal arts degrees a hands-on approach for a more practical career search.

South Dakota State linguistics instructor Jeremy Rud was instrumental in bringing Trester to campus. Rud met her while working for a nonprofit and the two collaborated on bringing her to SDSU. 

The workshop consisted of an open house, networking with job recruiters, a resume workshop and professional head shots. Trester guided students through the career process, helping them understand what marketable skills their liberal arts degree equipped them with and how to apply those skills in most industries.

Rud said students have been asking for more “practical” career search work, so he wanted to incorporate something more hands on for students in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Rud described the goal of the event as “giving students confidence in their skills.” He said most universities put humanities a step below STEM fields, even though humanities students have critical thinking and problem solving skills necessary for future employment. 

“We want to give students the ability to discuss their skills strongly and intelligently to potential employers,” Rud said.

Trester’s “story approach” consisted of three main components: listening, finding and telling. 

Listening begins with the research process, Rud said, understanding a person’s own interests and finding organizations that reflect those interests and values.

Finding is a matter of managing social media, networking and how someone presents themselves to get a job. 

The telling, Rud said, is using job interviews as “powerful moments to help employers understand why they need you, instead of you asking for the job.”

Rud said language and liberal arts degrees are more valuable in today’s job market than people might think. According to research by New American Economy, “there is a growing demand for bilingual talent in major industries in the United States.”

“With the rate of globalization, every field is having to engage in global markets and in global interest, and need people to communicate across cultural barriers,” Rud said.

Eckhard Rölz, German professor at SDSU, said employers are seeking people with foreign language knowledge because it gives them skills no one else has.

“Apart from just knowing another language, people who know another language think different and more creatively,” Rölz said. “Any internationally-minded industry wants employees who are more tolerant and understand other cultures.”

Destinie Marshall, now a full-time real estate agent, is a recent graduate in business from SDSU. She spent her last two summers as a student in Germany, first to study abroad, then for a business internship.

“My minor in German helped me get my internship in Berlin because other interns did not understand any German; it helped build rapport with the employer,” Marshall said. “My internship allowed me to understand real estate in a foreign country.”

Rud said language connects the global economy, as every industry is “increasingly having to engage with international organizations.”

In any industry, Rud said “strong communication is a key skill to have,” and something the humanities equips students with. 

Rud, a Spanish and global studies alumni of SDSU, said his degree was “one of the best decisions” he made, because he can overcome language barriers and work with a variety of people with respect to cultural differences.

Brandi Antonsen, senior elementary education and Spanish major, said the event helped her better understand ways to link language with her education degree and market herself.

“(Trester) talked about using things like LinkedIn as a platform to connect with people and find professions instead of being found,” Antonsen said. 

Antonsen said the workshop helped her navigate steps to take next as she looks toward graduate school. She said it was a versatile event for all students.

“I think it was useful for any major, not just language degrees,” Antonsen said. “It’s important to look forward to what steps you need to be taking for your professional career and make your degree most useful.”