We met with our board of visitors (generally sociology majors who are now successful business people with a sprinkle of academics) and in talking about developing internships for sociology majors it was said that we need a paragraph blurb for what undergraduate sociology majors bring to a job. Employers tend to think of business or maybe economics and have little idea (unless they were sociology majors themselves) what you learn in sociology. We quickly agreed that a lot of it is what any good liberal arts major would bring. But as we talked more, it got more interesting and insightful about some of the distinctive things people learn in a sociology major, although we are still working on the concise elevator version. Here are some of the points.
Our staff career counselor who works with sociology as well as political science and international relations says the sociology majors are different. They are not just looking for a job. They are more political, but also more passionate, and are focused on some issue that really matters to them. They want to change the world; they want to have an impact. This can be an important plus for the right employer. They tend to prefer nonprofits or government, but there are businesses who also want this passion to do good.
The sociology major even more than other social science majors teaches students to think in a more holistic way, to imagine self in society, individual in group. Sociology majors are taught to differentiate among people, to think about relations between different groups of people and about the differences between different groups. They are taught to think about social processes and the interconnections among different parts of society. Much of business is about market segmentation and recognizing and responding to group differences, as well as about thinking about where society is going.
Our business people also said it is often crucial that people be able to work well in groups, to be able to resolve conflicts, divide labor and distinguish among their roles, work together for a common purpose.
There are also important skills: Ability to pose a simple research hypothesis or question, pull together data to address that hypothesis, and write a report about what the data show relative to the hypothesis/question. Experience using a statistical software package. Ability to read a research report and identify crucial methodological information for evaluating its results. Ability to write a paper evaluating the evidence relevant to a particular issue. And there is a crying need for people who can analyze data and write up what it shows.
Your thoughts about how to pull together the elevator talk, the one paragraph blurb? Other things we should add to the list?