You Can Do Anything With A Classics Degree
By: Evan Stewart
In 2010, I graduated into one of the worst job markets in recent American history. I graduated with a Classics degree, which is the study of the Greco-Roman world through language, literature, philosophy, and history (In Greek and Latin).
After graduating, I got my first “real” job at JP Morgan Securities, the investment banking arm of Chase, working in client acquisition. Soon after, I left JP Morgan to pursue a higher paying position as a financial analyst at a Mortgage company. Most people weren’t aware of this, but mortgage companies that were still around were raking it in from 2011-13 because refinances were so low. When the market dried up, I switched over to an accounting job at a defense contractor; the pay was less, but I received immense 401K and health benefits. After three years, I left the defense contractor to start my own businesses.
I think you would be surprised to hear the first business I entered was string lights. String lights are essentially like Christmas lights, but are smaller, last longer and LED. I first started off selling lights inside of Mason Jars and they became an instant success. There are now hundreds of string light sellers, and all of them advertised string lights in mason jars. However, none of them sold the actual mason jar; it was merely a concept that someone could do if you had string lights. I found a way to assemble the string light in the jar to look completely natural, and then an affordable way to ship it. Once I had the product and logistics, my next goal was to focus on search engine optimization. I had to figure out which keywords customers where search to find a product like mine, and then find a way to be the top result. After hours of trial and error, I found a foolproof way to be the top result on my most important keywords. After steady sales, I expanded my line of products and had even more success with them.
Now, a traditional business model would be to get a loan, get all this nice equipment, start grassroots with a store and grow. This is a great way to gamble away your money. I started with $200, a black tablecloth and my iPhone for photos, and sold exclusively online to a niche market. I wasn’t 100% sure if my idea would earn me any money, but if it didn’t earn a penny, then I spent a minimal amount to see if this idea would work. This idea is known as a “minimum viable product,” and it has been essential for my to test out every new idea I have. I have heard too many stories where people have lost everything in a business venture and I just didn’t want to become part of that statistic; I wanted to be smarter.
So how did a Classics degree prepare me for my career in finance, and ultimately develop my businesses?
I wouldn’t say that it helped directly, in fact, I was never one of those people who believed a degree entitled me to anything. I also never had a dream to run my own business or would even say I was “passionate” about something. The only thing I can say was that I took responsibility to learn information and chased opportunity.
I know the term “impact” floats around a lot with my generation; we all seek to have a job that gives us purpose and where we can make an impact. I don’t think this is something specific to my generation, but is relevant to everyone that has a job. A “mid-life crisis” wasn’t a term that Millennials created, and illustrates some people in other generations have had a disconnect between a work/life balance. Everyone wants to do something that he/she finds meaningful, and sometimes, that means going beyond your traditional education and comfort zone to find it.