Drastic Measures

About four years in to my studies, I entered the “Dear God, What Was I Thinking” stage of my Arts degree. The constant flood of news articles about the soaring unemployment rate of university degree holders, the flat sounding “ohs” I kept hearing at job fairs when told people I was an English student without a pedagogical bone in her body, my sister’s MBA and subsequent enormous house all had me doubting my future abilities to find employment and stay out of the gutter. Overly dramatic and desperate, I moaned to my friends, my mom and a career psychologist, before plunging headfirst in to the dark abyss I had sworn I’d never enter. That’s right, The Helsinki School of Economics. Now, bear with me, dear fellow humanists. This didn’t mean I was selling out or conforming to what the man. I swore I’d only use any possible powers I might gain on the other side for good. The plan was to just slightly expand artsy degree into a more employable direction, gain the trust of the moneymen who run this country, learn their language and use what I had learned to promote the arts, thus making the world a better place. See, I’m still the same herbal-tea-drinking, poetry-reading, Belle-and-Sebastian-listening bleeding heart I ever was.

Now, what did I learn?

Some things were just as bad as I thought they would be. Twentysomethings rocking through the best years of their lives in suits, ties and Hermès scarves is just as awesome as it sounds. People were career-minded, competitive and really excited about all things business. As well they should be - we were in a business school after all. They had the business part down, but sometimes I found myself wondering where the school would step in.

I did a minor in Marketing. This was a module consisting of 30 credits of intermediate level courses. My sister the MBA holder had given me an approving nod on my choice, saying it was easy enough and might look good on a resume. And it was. And I hope it will. From what I gather, Marketing is considered to be somewhat of a soft option in the world of the Business School. Tough guys do Finance, the geeks go for Economics. But nevertheless, I was still a bit dumbfounded at the lack of anything, well, academic, that might suggest we were at an actual university. The PhDs lecturing at the head of the hall who evidently had studied at this school and gained degrees, but as we approached the end of Intermediate Studies, science was yet to rear its head.

The class work was mostly structured around varied case assignments that were based on ones used by the Harvard Business School. In Harvard, they’re used as a basis for open class discussions, but over at HSE, we wrote 20 page reports on them. Working on one with my group I had the most profound culture shock of my brief business school stint: naively, I asked my group what was the required number of sources for a paper of this length in these parts. In response I got incredulous looks. My group told me to stop over thinking things, turn on my bullshit generator and get writing. And so I did. Eventually I completed my minor studies at what had meanwhile become the Aalto University with a good overall grade.

But what had I learned? That somewhere, between the ‘hard’ sciences and the humanities there is a third way, which isn’t a science at all. I don’t mean to knock the School of Economics, there’s science in there somewhere, I’m sure. But for a majority of its students it isn’t the main point at all. For them the point of studying there is to get acculturated into the business world. They learn to talk the talk, make neat PowerPoint presentations and go on to be successful. And maybe that’s the moral of the story: people will hear what you have to say better when you know to present it. Spicing up my Arts degree with 30 credits worth mean PowerPoint and presentation skills with a few snazzy buzzwords thrown in might just be the perfect marriage of style and substance.

tomorrow. part iii, tomorrow

SUBliminal Messages: This is just to remind you