Etta Melander is a fifth year student of general linguistics at the University of Helsinki. She found her humanist calling already in high school, and for some time harbored a dream of a career in journalism. During her studies, Etta has become aware of a new set of options for a specialist in languages, cultures and communication.
“Now I’m not so preoccupied with journalism anymore, “ says Etta. “I might rather like to work abroad, maybe for the EU or for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Etta’s studies in communication and social psychology open up a variety of possibilities workwise. The key skills – deep understanding of language and human interaction; the ability to grasp large amounts of information, synthesize and turn the it into a readily accessible information product, such as a journal article or blog post – might well be combined with religious studies, area studies or environmental humanities, for example.
“My problem is that I find interesting options everywhere. While it can at times be frustrating how the degree in humanities doesn’t really point you towards any specific career, on the other hand it prepares you to so many different roles! “
Sometimes comparison does pay: Humanities skills are special
As many humanities students, Etta is also active in student organisations. Volunteer work is often a good way to develop more practical skills in project management, networking and communications, which are exactly the things many employers look for – even if they might not specifically look for a humanities graduate. Another blessing brought by volunteering in mixed faculty organisations is that it gives a humanities student a chance to compare their skills with those of other student groups.
“Sometimes it is easy to forget that the skills that you possess are not universal, but in a mixed group it soon becomes clear that not everyone is as well prepared in writing clear and structured text for a selected focus group as the humanities students, for example.”
If the humanities students themselves tend to forget their special skills and value, it is not surprising that their value is under-recognized by the employers and the society at large. This is a challenge ASSET-H is willing to tackle. We are devising a skills assessment tool for the humanities students and developing ways to incorporate skills training in the humanities curriculum. What else could we do? Etta has a wonderful idea for the post-pandemic times:
“I have been dreaming of a super event for the humanities, in the lines of SLUSH (a major start up and technology happening in Helsinki). That kind of event would bring together humanities students and graduates, their potential employers and investors, and help boost the image of the humanities and create positive vibes!”
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it never harmed a Humanist
At the time of this interview, in late 2021, Etta was preparing to take on a part time position as network coordinator in a construction company. Although construction was a completely alien field for Etta, the job description she found via Academic Work seemed spot on, and one of the humanities superpowers, endeless curiosity, encouraged her to apply. We warmly gratulate both Etta and the lucky employer for a good match!
The ASSET-H project has student members in all of its stakeholder boards, at KU Leuven, at the University of Leiden and at the University of Helsinki. In the future, we are also hoping to work more closely with student organisations, such as Humanisticum in Helsinki.