What jobs are out there in the real world for economics majors?
That can be a puzzle for some Furman University economics majors as they near graduation. But they can learn about potential economics-related careers and how to build them from department alumni.
A large number of Furman econ graduates agreed to share information about how they built their careers in the updated Jobs Book. More are expected to be included as they are found or answer the survey, said Jessica Hennessey, assistant economics professor, who spearheaded the project.
“We have this alumni network that hasn’t been used,” she said. Alumni were asked about how they reached this point in their careers. The process also re-established a relationship with the alumnus that is beneficial to the university and its students.
Two students, seniors Ashley Rogers and Sarah Harris, were hired to pull the alumni list, find contact information, and talk with the alumni about their careers, Hennessey said. Of the 2,700 econ alumni listed, 1,700 were able to be reached.
“The alumni were all so willing to participate and were excited to share their stories,” said Harris. “I had a few people send three-four page responses! I was also impressed with how accomplished the alumni are. I can’t tell you how many CEOs/presidents I talked to, and several alumni have started their own businesses.”
Rogers said the work showed up how varied economics-related careers can be.
“Very few went into a field that is explicitly for economists. We have alumni involved in medicine. Some are stay-at-home parents, and many own their own businesses,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing to see where an economics degree can take you and just how many skills a Furman education can teach you in general.”
Rogers said one of her favorite responses “was from a woman who is 90 years old and attended Furman during World War II. Imagining what the campus was like back then, especially with so many of the men off at war, is fascinating.”
Gaining an idea on where an economics degree can be used in the workplace is helpful, she said, because “we don’t just produce economists,” said Hennessey. Alumni listed in the Jobs Book work in 10 to 15 different industries, including government, business, finance, policy, consulting, medicine, entrepreneurship, and non-profit organizations.
The Jobs Book information also helps faculty members as they advise students, she said.
“This is a tool for our professors to advise our current students and for our students to learn about career opportunities,” said Ken Peterson, John D. Hollingsworth Jr. Professor and chair of the Economics Department.
As students browse through the Jobs Book, they find ideas for where they might seek a career, Hennessey said. They can contact an alumnus directly, which sometimes creates an opportunity for a mentoring relationship.
The two that conducted the survey said they learned from it.
“When I initially started this process, I was thinking about a career in law,” Rogers said. “When I started to receive responses from alumni who had been practicing law for years and heard their career stories, I realized it was not the path for me.” The responses from other responses directed her attention to consulting and economic development.
Harris said a response from graduate who worked in city government and economic planning was helpful for her career plans as she is pursuing jobs in community development and government housing programs.
Both said the Jobs Book will help connect students and alumni and could help with information about internships and job opportunities.
“A lot of the alumni provided information about internships with their companies,” Harris said.
“Additionally, we received a lot of feedback as to how to improve the current economics curriculum, as well as what skills are necessary in the workplace,” Rogers said.
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