Choosing an unconventional path

Erni, 22, found her passion in global affairs and debate in secondary school. When it came to choosing a university degree, she knew she wanted to get into the social sciences but her parents were less sure.

Erni recalls that they continued to worry about her future prospects well into her third year, yet she forged ahead, thanks, in part, to her sister. “My sister studied finance in Singapore. Quite a traditional path, but she hated working in a bank and after a few years, she quit. Fast forward to today, she works as a full-time freelance calligrapher”.

Her sister’s experience propelled Erni’s own foray into the social sciences, convincing her to follow her interests.

“I decided on the social sciences it covered a range of important skills,” says Erni. “Although you do have a specialization, the breadth of studies helps in ensure you can go into many fields in the future.”

Today, Erni is a Data Processing Specialist at Nielsen, a line of work she never expected to find herself in. Nevertheless, her combined specialisations in global studies and communication meant she was well skilled for a job that requires quick thinking and constant communication with international counterparts.

For Kimberly Wan Mei Wah, 24, it was these intangible skills that she found most useful in her work, first at a health and wellness company, and then as chief executive and co-founder of startup Otomate Me.  Like Erni, the versatility of the arts degree soon became apparent.

Now running her own business, Wan says the skills she finds most valuable are the ability to learn from various fields and to keep learning.

Inspiration was also key to forging an unexpected career path for graduate Puah Sze Ning, 35. Now the programmes manager at private foundation, MyKasih, Puah’s passion for advocacy and community development began at Monash University.

On an annual study trip, Puah and a small group of communication students visited an orang asli community.

“At the time, I expressed interest in the topic. Dr Yeoh Seng Guan, my lecturer, recommended that I intern with the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns. From there, I started getting more in advocacy work for orang asli communities”.

Over the years, she’s continued to work with community development organisations including the United Nations Development Programme bringing with her the passion and experience first cultivated at university.

While career outcomes for arts programmes may not be as immediately identifiable as in degrees in business or the sciences, the varied experiences of these Monash alumni demonstrate the arts and social sciences have much to offer if one is willing to follow an unconventional path.