Division Chair of Arts, Columbia College
With college graduations on the forefront, employers have been busy wooing soon-to-be graduates as potential job candidates for their companies. Witnessing this flurry of activity, I am again reminding my students to focus on the skills and talents they have gained throughout their degree program that they can offer to any business organization. Many students are currently accepting positions within areas specifically related to their degrees. However, as the program chair for Dance Studies at Columbia College, I have been contacted by employers, both in and out of this degree area, who are interested in speaking to the students majoring or minoring in dance because they value the highly employable skills they have learned through this degree program.
While most people think of a degree in dance as a launching pad to a career within this field, such as choreographer, dance company director, producer, arts administrator, or one of numerous others, I challenge those seeking job candidates to think beyond the obvious. As with any degree, a focused education allows students to explore their passion, and the majority of these students will pursue employment within their specific fields. However, college degrees, regardless of their specific focus, should also offer students the opportunity to gain skills that can be valued in most business organizations.
In fact, Valeh Nazemoff, business owner and author, has written a book, The Dance of the Business Mind: Strategies to Thrive Anywhere, From the Ballroom to the Boardroom, which highlights how dancing–when used as a metaphor–aligns with business career success. In her book, she mentions some of the qualities that you will find in many job candidates who major (or minor) in dance. Nazemoff notes that while most students who take dance share a passion for movement, they also share a desire for individualism. They tend to be persuasive. They have to be persuasive within their movements and often without words. They are persistent, often trying again and again until their steps are mastered. They are people who continue on the path even after a possible misstep. The show must go on even if mistakes are made, so dancers learn to pick up the pieces and go on to get results. Their work ethics are impressive, and they tend to be confident as performers and as individuals. A degree in dance, therefore, offers students the opportunity to learn many skills that are highly valued in most work environments. In addition to these observations, I have also personally witnessed how skills gained through dance improvisation translate to all trades/job markets.
Through dance improvisation, students gain skills in assessing value in existing structures and are open to experimentation. Dance improvisers celebrate the assets of a community, yet are always seeking ways to improve. Through dance, students experience visual and perceptual design honing formalist aesthetics through expressive techniques. Thus, they develop a keen eye for quality and will strive for consistency and efficiency. Through dance, students create and problem solve through composition and consistently learn to find new solutions. Dancing allows one’s kinesthetic empathy to be heightened, allowing authentic interpersonal connections to quickly form. Therefore, dance improvisers are good at making positive working relationships. Dance improvisers are also good at understanding how to lead and follow simultaneously, and diplomatically. These students are taught to work tirelessly on personal development in the name of the greater good and will naturally work to integrate themselves into a community.
Various degree programs also highlight general knowledge development in the realms of leadership, social justice, and advocacy. This may be more focused depending on the college, university, or degree program the student attends, but, regardless, these may also be areas to consider for potential hires as well.
Students experiencing learning opportunities focusing on these realms can assist with advancing conversations within these areas and potentially have an impact on important matters affecting today’s workplaces and society. Job candidates knowledgeable within these areas may also possess strong collaboration, communication, and organizational skills and thus become positioned as loyal advocates who will go well beyond the call to action.
While the list could easily continue, the idea is to encourage employers to seek out the skills necessary for job success. This process may include seeking graduates with the (not-so-obvious) degrees that promote the highly valued skills necessary for them to excel in the world of business. Who knows, expanding your reach as you search for the best job candidates may have you dancing as well!
Marcy Jo Yonkey-Clayton is the Division Chair of Arts, Dance Program Coordinator and Associate Professor of Dance for the Division of Arts: DANCE, at Columbia College in Columbia, S.C.