Discovering how communication skills open multiple doors

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Arts undergraduate applies her learning in career settings that are not always an obvious fit, but always worth the challenge 

"I love the balance of having a semester where I can study a variety of subjects that will go towards my majors and minors."

Prianka Hoque is a fourth-year student in Honours Arts and Business Co-op with a major in Communications Studies, as well as minors in Legal Studies and Political Science. Although it appears that Hoque has always had her undergraduate experience figured out, it was not always clear to her.

In her first year, Hoque planned to pursue Legal Studies, she says, "I had the mindset that I was going into law post-graduation." Things did not go as planned once Hoque took SPCOM 100, the intro course for what is now called Communication Studies. "I was either going to do a major in Legal Studies or Political Science. I took Communication so that I would have a lighter course load."

Pursuing passion

After that term, Hoque knew she had to major in Communications Studies. "I fell in love with the program. I really loved all the friends that I had made, the course content and the tight knit department," she says. Communication Studies is known to be a highly interactive major that provides the opportunity to build close connections with students and professors.

Even though Hoque switched her major, she has not closed the door to law school just yet. She realized "you can go from any degree into law school, so I thought I might as well take that opportunity to study something that I would enjoy, and I am passionate about." Now, Hoque is studying what she loves and is keeping law school in mind for the future.

In extra-curricular activities, Hoque applies communication skills as Co-President of the ARBUS (Arts and Business) Society. This work allows her to step into a leadership position where she can practice managing a team and engaging with the community, she says. "It’s nice to have the opportunity outside of class to create these workshop events and see students come to socialize and learn new skills."

Practice at work

With any degree there are challenges when it comes to applying your knowledge from university to the professional workforce. When Hoque stepped into her professional role(s) through the Cooperative Education program (Co-op) she found that her Communication Studies major was beneficial to her. Hoque says, "The number of interviews I had where I’ve been asked questions specifically about my major or where I’ve been able to leverage my major has helped me get the job."

Hoque’s communication skills gave her a distinct advantage in her interviews. "I have worked in the tech field where communication skills are very much required. With a communication major I am more marketable. I can tell the employer how I study things like leadership, team building, conflict resolution, crisis communication in my courses, and that I can apply that theory in the workplace. Interviewers are always so surprised by my skills - they’re like, ’Wait, you already know this’ Teach our employees right now!’"

Although there are many obvious benefits to an Arts degree, there are also some challenges. Hoque has worked for several tech companies on her co-op terms, usually in a communication role. During these work experiences she sometimes felt imposter syndrome - when an individual doubts their abilities because they feel the people around them are more accomplished. "I felt like I was not good enough at my co-op job," she explains.  "I usually work closely with engineers, designers, that are often male, because tech is often dominated with males. It feels a bit intimidating because I am a woman of colour with an Arts background while everyone around me typically comes from STEM backgrounds like science and mathematics."

It was first difficult for Hoque to see her differences as benefits, but she soon gained perspective and realized that "everyone has different talents, I don’t have to be a perfect cookie cutter mold. A mold is what you make it, so there isn’t a perfect fit or size. You really can excel if you put your best foot forward and keep an open mind."


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