Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blog Series Part III: How My Liberal Arts Degree is Helping Me in Graduate Business School

Part 3 of our blog series "How My Liberal Arts Degree is Helping Me in Graduate Business School" is written by CUA MSBA student Alexander Ruhling. (In case you missed them, read more about non-business majors turning to a business career in Part1 and Part 2 of the series).

Alex, who received his Bachelor of Arts in Music, writes about how his degree helped him become the dedicated worker he is today.

And now, calling to the stage, Alex Ruhling!

Music to Management: Finding a Career from an "Impractical" Major

Q: How many music majors have been asked what they want to do with their majors?
A: How many Popes have been Catholic? It's truly that simple.
I remember the first few times I told people I was going to major in music, and my immediate answer to their immediate question. "Ahh... well... ummm.... I'm not sure! I mean... I have plenty of time..." etc. etc.

The truth is, I still really don't know what I want to do with the big piece of paper somewhere back home that says "Bachelor of Arts in Music" on it. I'm not Dmitri Hvorostovsky or Anna Netrebko or any other of these big name opera singers that had a God-given voice far beyond their years and could walk onto international stages in their early 20's. I'm just an average 20-year-old trying, as they say, to "make it," singing gigs here and there for measly amounts of money, knowing full well that I cannot possibly make a living like this. The question, then, becomes: is it worth it to pour thousands of dollars, hours, and brain cells into a degree that lands me out of college seemingly no better off than where I was when I started?

The answer is: yes. Undeniably yes.

How many other majors force students to sit in a 6 by 6 room and push themselves to new physical and intellectual limits for hours in front of a mirror, a score, and a piano, only for a glimpse of "progress?" We have no textbooks, no documents, no case studies. All we bring is a feeble memory of whatever our voice teacher said the last time we met for an hour of confusing vocal boot camp, a backpack full of music by dead Italians and Germans, and a frustratingly limited understanding of the beautiful delicacies of the human voice. We sit in the practice room, we make horrible noises, we get frustrated, we throw our sheet music across the room in a monochromatic maelstrom, and then after an hour we finally find the single sweet moment we have been dreaming about. And then, it's back to the grind again.

That right there is more than enough of a reason to embrace the undergraduate music life. In business, we hear about the baseball analogy of management. If a hitter gets an official hit only one time and royally screws up another three, he's doing pretty well. If for every success he only blows it twice, he's at the top of his game. My voice teacher tells my frustrated perfectionist self that if his students retain a measly 1% of what they learn each week, they are golden. A manager will face difficult decisions daily, even hourly. How many bad decisions will he make? Probably most of them.

Even Hank Aaron, Bryn Terfel, and Jack Welch have had to toil brutal hours in the face of almost certain failure. But they all learned that the work and the frustration and the disappointment makes that one home run, that one high A, and that one lucrative venture all the sweeter, all the more joyous, and-most importantly- all the more powerful reminder of doing all for the glory of God.
So maybe that piece of paper with the big "B.A. in Music" on it doesn't say "B.A. in Specific Skills Required for Fantastic and Immediate Job Security."

Instead, it says: "Hire me. Because I may not be an expert in articulating financial statements or putting together an Excel spreadsheet, but as sure as hell as you're reading my resume right now, I know how to work. I know how to fight impossible odds for impossible hours and push myself for that one sweet moment of success. So hire me. Because when that moment comes again and again, you'll be glad you did."

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