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Book review: 'You Majored in What?'

Jenna Johnson

Every year at this time, soon-to-graduate college students hear this question over and over: "So... what are you going to do with that major?"

MajoredinWhatbook.jpgSome students have a quick answer. But many don't -- especially with the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent in March.

A new book came out last week that aims to help students confront such questions: "You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career," by Katharine Brooks.

A few weeks ago I sent advance copies to two students and had them review it.

Ivellisse_Morales.jpgIvellisse Morales
Boston University
public relations major

Ever since a sophomore in high school, I've wanted to practice public relations. Five years later, I'm a public relations major with the intention to enter the nonprofit sector. However, the refreshing perspective of "You Majored in What?" convinced me that my major does not necessarily dictate the direction my career and life will go in. According to "the butterfly effect," just one situation can completely redirect my plans. Years from now, I could be in medical school, a teacher or a Wall Street broker. A scary thought.

I've managed to reasonably plan out my life, but for the undecided college student, "the butterfly effect" is a savior. With colloquial yet comforting language, Katherine explains the need to know one's self -- skills, interests and talents -- to find a job after graduation, no matter what major or circumstances. She even provides approaches to "The Question" that all seniors dread: "What are you doing after college?" She gives tips on how to tackle this question when asked by others and how to answer it for yourself.

To fully benefit from the book, time needs to be set aside to complete exercises that uncover one's skills and interests. You'll draw maps, charts and doodles. It's an interactive book that demands an active reader, which might be difficult for the typical college student. It's a great read for vacation breaks than during school.

Nonetheless, the book confidently explains that no matter if you're an archaeology, classics or music major, you can still find a job and make yourself marketable to employers.

Complete with resume and cover letter tips, "You Majored in What?" acts as a much-need manual for the lost, the undecided and the graduated.

From a scale of 1-5 (1 being the lowest), I give it a 4.5.

Amy Strope.JPGAmy Strope
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
public relations and political science major

Reading "You Majored in What?" in the last six weeks of my college career seemed a little odd for me. I already have two majors and a firm career path in public affairs that I am interesting in pursuing. Brooks' book, however, made me stop and think -- and thinking is always good when you're 21 and prone to careening ahead in one direction!

The book centers around the premise of throwing away the traditional thinking of a linear career path. Instead? Embrace a system Brooks calls "Wise Wanderings," which entails combining chaos theory, adaptability, some direction and a little storytelling. Introduced early in the book, she applies Wise Wanderings throughout.

I give this book a 4 (out of 5), because of its quirky Wise Wanderings approach, which works even for a college senior, about to walk into life with not much more than a diploma in hand.

Next book review: "Life After College: The New Graduate's Guide," from Hundreds of Heads publishing. Interested in writing a review? Shoot me an e-mail.

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By Jenna Johnson  |  April 8, 2010; 9:39 AM ET
Categories:  Real World  | Tags: Boston University, University of North Carolina  
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I will look up the book - it looks like a good resource! One quick question: does the book offer some advice on how certain majors do offer better job prospects than others? Or does it just show how students can find jobs with any major?

Posted by: dominiqueatwisechoice | April 9, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I wish your reviewers were more different- not both public relations majors who already had a fair idea of what they wanted to do. I would like to see a review from students with more varied majors, or who actually had no clear idea of what to do with their degree.

Posted by: sarahee | April 10, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

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