- What can I do with a major in African Cultural Studies?
- How do I start exploring my interests and connecting them to careers?
- What should I know about writing a résumé or cover letter?
- How can I get involved on campus and develop leadership skills?
In answer to this nerve-wracking question, ACS majors are often told “anything.” In fact, our coursework builds the critical thinking and communication skills needed to succeed in careers ranging from politics and education to business and law. But “anything” is a hard place to start a career search.
Think about what you’re learning in the classroom as well as what you’re doing each day to be a successful student; the skills you’re developing are equally important in the workplace:
- Critical reading, reflection, & analysis
- Proper research design & methodology
- Expanded world view & exposure to new ideas/ways of thinking
- Effective teamwork to advance a common project/purpose
- Effective time-management & self-motivation to complete projects independently
- Demonstrated writing proficiency in short & long essay format
- Discussion & debate strategies
- Broader knowledge of career & graduate-study options
One of the more significant skills ACS majors are developing is language acquisition. Your study of African languages sets you apart and demonstrates your willingness to explore and expand your understanding of history, culture, politics and so much more. Overall, you’ll have a wide variety of skills and talents to start you on the path to a rewarding career!
There are many ways to get started both on campus and off. Below, you’ll find broad interest areas that link to resources to assist you in your exploration.
If you have an interest in graduate school but haven’t decided on a specific focus, you may want to begin with your ACS faculty or a faculty member practicing the discipline you’re most interested in. Think about the questions you have before you meet and be prepared.
McNair Scholars – what is graduate school really like?
Thinking of law school? Luckily, you can find plenty of information and assistance at the Center for Pre-Law Advising. Learn what law schools are looking for, how to pick out schools that are right for you, when to apply, tips for taking the LSAT, and much more. You should also explore the Pre-Law Scholars Program.
If you’re interested in the health care field, you should visit the Center for Pre-Health Advising. It’s a great resource that provides information about the variety of health careers available and valuable information about the academic path you may want to take in pursuit of these options.
There are so many possibilities that fall under “government work” that it’s impossible to provide a comprehensive overview of what’s available to you. You can consider anything from serving in Congress to city management, from public policy work to foreign service. The best way to get experience in these areas is to conduct informational interviews, intern or volunteer for offices and organizations that interest you, and visit the wide variety of online resources available to you:
Try the SuccessWorks website to learn more about government, policy, international affairs, and the legal field.
And, look over the DC Public Affairs and Communications Jobs website for both internship and job options.
Finding employment abroad can also be achieved numerous ways. Again, the government path might be one of the most obvious but you can also consider international non-profits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch), corporations with overseas locations, or trade associations.
If you’ve always pictured yourself helping others but are too queasy for medicine and not great at organic chemistry, consider public service to others in the form of non-profit employment. There are many ways to be of service through food banks, literacy networks, shelters, community programming, immigration centers – if you have an interest area, there is most likely more than one non-profit to choose from. The best place to start is the Morgridge Center for Public Service.
Communications and Journalism
One of the most significant skills you can hone while in college is the ability to write and speak professionally, purposefully, and with precision. A career in this field can be found through work in advertising, marketing, freelance reporting, media relations, publicity, website development, and much more. Reach out to the Media, Information, and Communication Advisor, Pam Garcia-Rivera. Have a look at the types of careers/internships available.
Business and Tech Industries
Much like government work, the business world offers a wide variety of opportunities for liberal arts majors. You can find work in companies large and small doing anything from sales of insurance (State Farm) or athletic apparel (Nike) to marketing for major corporations (Pepsi) or clothing stores (Kohl’s). Many of these opportunities depend on internship work and general work experience. If you’ve worked retail or customer services jobs, you have a clear idea of what the general public needs or wants; these experiences provide a foundation for a career if you let them. The search for this kind of work can be a little more time-consuming, but there are opportunities in Madison and just about every other major city you can think of.
If you remember nothing else, remember that a résumé is very personal! There is no “right” way to create one. The format can depend on your experiences, the type of job or internship you’re applying for, and your personal preferences for layout. That said, there are a number of important tips (active verbs, one page) to keep in mind. Make sure to review the following information and don’t hesitate to come in for help!
A cover letter is simply a form of introduction. You’re introducing yourself to the organization or company, explaining why you’re a good fit for the position and what you bring to the job that makes you the best candidate.
For more resources, visit SuccessWorks
Students have many opportunities for getting involved across campus. Make sure you explore all the organizations, activities, and events available. Below you’ll find a basic list of options that appeal to many ALL majors, but don’t hesitate to ask your peers what they’re involved in, too!
- Adventure Learning Programs
- Alexander Hamilton Society
- Associated Students of Madison
- Building Relationships in Diverse Global Environments (BRIDGE)
- Center for Leadership and Involvement
- Global Connections Committee
- IMPACT National Conference
- LeaderShape Institute
- Leadership Certificate
- Legal Studies Association
- Mock Trial
- Model UN
- Morgridge Center for Public Service
- National Conference for College Women Student Leaders
- Pre-Law Society
- UW-Madison Student Pre-Health Committee
- Willis L. Jones Leadership Center