I am currently living in Cairo, and I am working 3 part-time jobs, which is frankly too much, but they are all good learning experiences so far. I am a translator for Al Masry Al Youm, which is a leading independent newspaper here (I translate articles from Arabic to English, and occasionally write culture pieces for their English edition). I am a Content Producer for Meedan, an online community for Arabic-English dialogue and translated current affairs, and I am also working as a supervisor/lead cashier at the Egyptian Museum Gift Shop.
Back to what I gained from Brown/Comparative Literature: Translation. The work I did in this department helped me develop my writing and analytical skills, both of which have been key in the non-profit writing jobs I worked the first year and a half after Brown, and the media jobs I'm working now. My major at Brown led pretty much directly to the Fulbright that I got last year to study Arabic here in Cairo. Fulbright grants for language study aren't that common, you have to make a case that you will do something worthwhile with your language skills in order to get it; I made a case for myself based on my interest in translating Arabic literature into English. Comp Lit work on Translation also gave me an informed perspective on intercultural issues, which is essential for the Meedan job especially, and for basically everything I've done in Cairo. Comp Lit also means developing second-language skills, which are pretty marketable, as well as awesome. Naturally language skills are a huge part of the jobs I'm doing in Cairo now, although I actually studied Latin and Greek as an undergrad. That aspect I did not carry on with, but it certainly still contributed to my career process. And since I'm talking about the practical side of things, though I can't use it to get jobs doing the kind of translation work I'm doing now, saying you studied Latin and Greek does tend to impress people, and that's never a bad thing.
Also, it's worth recognizing that it's not just the in-class activities that count. My first job out of Brown was a paid internship for Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in the grant-writing office, and for that it was really important not only that I had writing and editing skills, but that I had been involved in the students arts activities. Likewise on the Fulbright application, and my current jobs, I used/referred to writing samples from the BDH and Indy, as well as from classes.
When I was at Brown, I think I almost willfully ignored the jobs question. I thought it would be almost selling out to think about careers, that it would sully my attempts to explore my interests. Most likely this is because I imagined working for money and doing things you care about to be mutually exclusive pursuits. I also thought career development was for future investment bankers only--an impression that the resources available at the Career Development Center sometimes reinforced. Whereas now I tend to think of the career question as gradually figuring out what I can do that I consider valuable and fulfilling, and make enough to live in a way that I feel comfortable with. The thing with careers that aren't on the list of "everyone knows them and considers them financially viable" jobs, is that there isn't an obvious, well-known path to get to them. Which means that things like networking, informational interviewing, good old fashioned asking around, become much more essential.
Really, I think the bottom line is learning how to search for jobs effectively--how to identify jobs that you are qualified for and that interest you, how to present yourself well. Almost no one graduates college with a degree that directly translates to a related job, but by virtue of the work you do and the activities you're involved in, you do graduate with usable skills, whether that is writing and analytical skills, or research experience, or experience organizing events, etc.
Class of ’08