Q: What is the best way to present/describe an Econ major to an employer?
A: This question resonated with me because upon graduation I found myself interested in working in the financial services sector, and many of the jobs I applied to did not require an economics major. I am currently employed as an analyst for Ameriprise Financial, a Fortune 500 company in the Minneapolis metro area. When I initially applied for the job it was open to all majors, but preferred a finance major. This is a reality that many economics majors face when applying to jobs in the financial sector, however it is possible for an economics major to stand out as candidate.
With any job you apply to, research the skills and traits that you believe the employer will be looking for. While the economics major may sometimes feel like a specialized one, some of the most valuable knowledge that I gleaned from my degree can apply to any job. One of the core skills required in economics is the “art of critical thinking”: the ability to not simply learn an equation or memorize a fact, but to understand the reasoning behind it and articulate it. In a similar vein, economics gives you experience in researching the “why” behind reality, something that every employer wants in their employees. Having the economics major housed in the College of Letters and Science can actually be a boon when applying to jobs, because it exposes you to a diverse array of classes and experiences. Speaking to those experiences when interviewing, especially when applying for non-finance centric jobs, will help show your adaptability and diversity of interests.
Perhaps the most important aspect of describing your major to your employer actually has very little to do with the major in question. Why are you interested in the area of study, and what brought you to pursue it? I graduated with a double major in economics and political science, after originally pursuing computer engineering my freshman year. When explaining my academic career, I told employers that I was passionate about understanding how and why the world worked, and that I switched majors to pursue that passion. While on the surface that may seem irrelevant to the job you’re applying to, within that statement employers can ascertain many things: a thirst for knowledge, a mind for research, and an ability to adapt. Whatever your personal reason is for studying economics, share that passion with your employer. Remember that at the end of the day, every employer is looking to answer two questions: whether you will perform exceptionally in the workplace, and whether you fit into the work environment. Speak to your experiences within your major that answer those two questions, and you will position yourself well for success.
-Taylor Kostal ‘13