DePauw teaches what employers want regardless of major


Steve Langerud, director of professional opportunities, thinks students too easily judge majors by their stereotypical connotation to career choices.
Langerud discussed how all DePauw majors can be useful for the job market and how new majors like computer science factor into the equation, and that there is no set career path regarding what a student studies.
He said he looks at majors in terms of their strengths, and also what they share in common. He's also had the chance to listen to many employers about their thoughts.
"In most cases, with a couple small exceptions, they don't see a connection between a major and their work," Langerud said.
Critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and being an effective team leader are examples of skills that employers look for.
"They're looking at a very specific set of skills that I think really all DePauw students share," Langerud said.
Another important skill that employers look for is the overriding ability to learn new things.
"With every employer, no matter what you know, they're going to have to teach you the content of their business, industry, organization, or field," Langerud said.
Langerud said that one of the launching points is that with a DePauw degree, students have demonstrated that they have the ability to learn. There is also content-specific knowledge that students can develop through research, internships, being in leadership positions and working summer jobs.
"Ideally, as students get older and have more experience, they have a deeper knowledge of the content but they also then develop job specific skills," he said.
For instance, it's different to say one is familiar with Excel than to explain how one used Excel for a specific task. The same is true for showing a written piece of work, or some sort of demonstrable product. Majors also appear over time as needed in the market, especially computer science, one that didn't exist 100 years ago. Now, there's no way it can't exist.
Senior computer science major Sarah Granger said that she thinks her major is beneficial for job searches since it is so in demand.
"Almost every occupation has gone digital," Granger said.
Granger, who has a job set up as a business and technology consultant in Chicago, applied to a wide range of jobs including other business and technology jobs as well as nonprofit organizations and government jobs.
"I definitely think [a liberal arts degree] helps," she said.
Allana Johnson, a senior computer science major, agrees. She thinks the job market is a big advantage for a major like computer science, but another is that it is interdisciplinary and can be used alongside other subjects like marketing and economics.
"Computer science isn't just a one-track thing," Johnson said. "It works with almost any other career as well."
Johnson originally planned on attending graduate school after DePauw, but then she got a software development job offer with State Farm Insurance.
Langerud said that it might seem initially more challenging to get a career right out of school, but skill sets they learn here, especially reading, writing, speaking and quantitative skills can be applied in many places.
However, Langerud doesn't think there are any majors at DePauw that are not ultimately useful in today's job market.
Langerud himself was an anthropology major, and although he's not an anthropologist today, he uses core skills like focal analysis and thinks about them all the time.
"You are not your major," Langerud said.
Although a major is something a student might love and be passionate about, as well as a platform on which to learn skills, it does not define a student as a person or as a professional.