Fachportal der Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften in der Schweiz

How to start your career

Landing the perfect job on graduating – that's what all students presumably want. We have again been assisted by Dr. Markus Diem, Academic Advisor at the University of Basel, in suggesting tips on how best to achieve this.

Typical career paths for graduates in language and literature studies tend to lead to the fields of education (schools, adult education, universities of applied science), administration, and marketing, advertising and communication (especially corporate communication), as well as media and publishing (see also the section on Employment opportunities). Some graduates, of course, set their sights on an academic career by doing a doctorate, taking up academic posts as research assistants, and then obtaining a post-doctoral qualification leading to the possibility of a lectureship (see How to complete a doctorate).

Markus Diem, Academic Advisor at the University of Basel, describes how graduates with a BA or MA in the field of language and literature studies can enter the world of work: A graduate is like a paraglider being blown around by the wind as they circle over the field in their first lesson, but they have three steering lines on their paraglider: placements, projects and relationships. In the initial phase, it takes around three years after graduation, on average, for someone to become established in their professional field.

Placements should whenever possible be carried out during the university degree, mainly in the vacations between semesters, but also in term-time. It is worth searching in a targeted manner for areas of work that appeal as a possible future career. Students should not simply wait for vacancies to be advertised, but should take the initiative and contact interesting companies or institutions.

Projects may be an MA project, or other projects carried out at university which allow students to get to grips with a specific topic that is also relevant in fields outside university. However, projects may also take the form of voluntary work.

Last but not least, relationships also have a big role to play, just as they do in other subject areas. Professional relationships need to be built up and cultivated during the degree course through the above-mentioned placements and project work, but other relationships stemming from the student's own circle of acquaintances, clubs or voluntary work are also valuable resources.

To sum up, it is fair to say that everyone who has already forged links with the world outside university will be able to make the leap into a successful professional career.

Markus Diem explicitly warns against delaying entry into the working world until after completing an MA, whether this is through extended visits abroad or undertaking further training, e.g. in the field of culture management or PR. Such training is sensible only if relevant work experience is already available. After completing a Master's, says Diem, it is important to enter the world of work and get established before taking the next step.

People can also turn to occupational guidance services for help with career planning, especially in relation to further training. Some universities have career centres which assist students and graduates with job-hunting and guide them through the application process.

Marion Regenscheit, MA Literatur- und Medienwissenschaften, Universität Basel:

«Neben dem Studium habe ich an verschiedenen Orten wie z.B. beim Schwabe Verlag und am Basler Literaturhaus gearbeitet. Das hat mir die Entscheidung, wo ich nach dem Masterabschluss beruflich hin möchte, erleichtert. Ausserdem konnte ich so viele nützliche Kontakte knüpfen. »