BA in History

Arsalan Jafree, 2007

Arsalan Jafree

Why did you choose History as a major? 

I chose History as a major because I’m a curious person by nature. I enjoy the learning process and reading about history. The past informs the present and - to an extent - the future. It serves as an invaluable and altruistic guide. A solid understanding of history (events, cultures, people…etc) can be very helpful when dealing with a diverse workforce in the business world.

Another reason why I chose History as my major was the program itself at George Mason. I had taken a few courses offered by the department and was pleased with my experience. The professors I took classes with presented the information in a manner which was engaging, informative, and easy to understand. Once I found a professor that I had a good rapport with and who provided a stimulating learning environment, I would take as many classes as I could with him or her. I understand not every student can do this because of scheduling or personal commitments, but I was able to. This allowed me to have an even better experience within the program because my relationship with professors and peers grew even more.

What was your career path after graduation? 

I always knew that I would not follow the traditional career path typically associated with History majors (i.e., teaching, law school, research…etc). My plan was to use my major coupled with my experience at the Broadside newspaper and target either the international relations field working at an NGO or the media industry. The latter was my first choice. Unfortunately, the NGO field is hard to crack unless you are well-connected or have a substantial amount of experience. The media industry was very volatile around the time I graduated and has gotten worse year by year. I was fortunate to recognize that I needed to change strategy and keep an open mind. I had several contacts in the Management Consulting field and one of them introduced me to a recruiter at a large company. Within two of months of that introduction, I was hired into my first job and the rest is history. 

How do you think your History major at Mason prepared you for your career?

In my opinion, students transfer little of what they learn in college unless they specialize in a defined discipline (Information Technology, Engineering, Accounting…etc). With that being said, the History major allowed me to practice and improve upon my writing skills. It is a process that continues to this day. Being a History major expanded my research capabilities and gave me an even broader understanding of the complex world we now live in.

Any advice you’d like to give to current Mason students? 

This may sound arrogant, but the next time someone asks what you plan on doing with your History major, I suggest responding with this: “Tell me what I cannot do with it.” With that being said, it is important to know as early on as possible how you intend on utilizing the major. Do you want to follow the traditional path associated with History or do you want to do something else? If it’s the latter, research companies or organizations that you can imagine yourself being a part of and what it takes to get your foot in the door by looking at the entry-level job requirements. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can map out your action plan on how you will get there. Keep industry trends in the back of your mind as well. It would be advisable to not get into a field that will be non-existent in five to ten years.

As a History major, I also recommend adding a minor in Information Technology, Business Administration, or obtaining a specialized certification (i.e., certified Microsoft Office). It’s important to distinguish yourself from the competition and have a tangible skill set. It’s nice to see students with all the extra curricular activities they were involved in, but if I were a recruiter, I would want to know what you can bring to the table or why you are unique versus all the other applicants. Being different is your greatest strength. 

Of course, the job application process is never easy so I will say this in bold letters…BE PATIENT. Recruiters are bombarded with hundreds of resumes. From one angle, I infer the job market is still volatile and hasn't fully recovered. But do not despair because I encourage you to follow up with the company or organization and request a status on your application. This is a sign of being pro-active and “owning your career.” What do you have to lose?

I also suggest building your professional network beyond LinkedIn by meeting people face to face when possible. I have seen a recurring trend; it’s not what you know, but who you know. This is the predominant way of getting hired in the Middle East and South Asia. Hence, when you are in the market for an opportunity, I would pull out your rolodex of contacts and identify who can help in the process. Once you have exhausted all your personal and professional contacts, you can proceed with blindly submitting applications online.

Job searching can be a very frustrating process, but be patient. Above all, keep an open mind and do not limit yourself. Have a plan, but learn to go with the flow.