Every major, in my humble opinion, has tremendous value and can offer something worthwhile and unique to the professional world. Hopefully, many of us have elected an academic path that rouses our inner passions, provokes intellectual inquiry and draws us closer to our career aspirations. Although it has taken a few trials and errors, the exposure to different disciplines has revealed the necessity of embracing a variety of courses that are outside my concentration — something Pepperdine strives to achieve with its GE program.
That being said, here are seven courses that every college student should take to prepare for the real world. I must note, however, that this list is not exhaustive — nor does it imply that the following classes supersede others. In fact, several have close substitutions. Rather, I believe they serve as a representation of basic skills that all students, regardless of major, must master in order to succeed in his or her career and to be a competitive candidate in the globalized marketplace.
First, public speaking. This is a no-brainer, despite the maelstrom of criticism and fear engulfing it. Although it pushes you out of your comfort zone by demanding delivery of a finely executed, 10-minute oration, speaking in public is an experience that you will continue to face throughout your career (and life). Communication is a fundamental skill to harness early, and the more you practice, the less intimidating speech-giving can be. Additionally, the course teaches you how to create an engaging, readable PowerPoint — the most habitually abused technological resource.
Second, creative writing. Perhaps one of the more “free verse” courses for some, it nonetheless introduces you to creative thinking and the process of innovating ideas and cultivating voice. As a course like this is structured as a workshop, it will acquaint you with receiving feedback, rethinking concepts, revising language, editing grammar and resubmitting work for consideration. This is a process you will inevitably encounter in the office.
Third, accounting or business management. Managing money, understanding how a company operates and allocating resources are skills anyone must master in the business world. Taking charge of financial obligations and sustaining a productive organization require knowing how to balance a budget and, yes, some basic arithmetic.
Fourth, logic. Too often, interoffice deliberation goes nowhere, and people will then look to the individual who can formulate a compelling, cogent argument. This is certainly a skill to hone in on because what is “logical” and “sounds pretty good” are two very different things, especially when you can recognize fallacies.
Fifth, sociology. Humans and society are deeply complex entities. Having a sociological understanding can help you understand why people talk and behave the way they do. It can also help you better address their needs and concerns, especially when you find yourself in contentious group settings and must negotiate with competing perspectives.
Sixth, statistics. Everyone at some point has to handle data, whether it is as a top business executive or a non-profit manager. Statistics is one of the most widely used math concepts that is applicable to all industries and, if learned, can help you better interpret numbers, studies, journals, ads and so on.
Seventh, ethics. One day, you will be confronted with moral dilemmas in your work. It will happen so unexpectedly that you may not know how best to respond. Gaining knowledge of ethical dimensions will guide you in making tough decisions in your career and life.
Remember, your major is valuable, but it cannot teach you the entire breadth of skills and knowledge that are sought in the workplace. Space permitting, try squeezing in one of these courses next semester. Your future self will thank you.
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