It’s not unusual to hear the following question from undergrads: “How can sociology help me get a job?” That’s a fair question. Indeed, in discussing this very question with some of our recent alumni, I’ve heard two common answers. On the one hand, the sociology major provided them with research skills that are marketable in the current economy. On the other hand, the major provided them with critical thinking skills that have helped them succeed (and advance) in their careers.
Here’s what Seanette Ting (Class of 2014) had to say when I asked her some questions.
What’s your current job?
I am an assistant buyer for Neiman Marcus.
Have the knowledge and skills you learned as a sociology major translated to your current job? If so, how?
Absolutely, being exposed to the luxury world, and driving the business behind it, forces you to think about what social constructs affect “luxury” itself. The analytics that go behind every buy is incredible— but to me, it’s even more interesting to think about what influences those sales. I am fascinated by the socialization of luxury. What makes things coveted? What qualifies them to be expensive? How is a brand strategically positioned in a wide retail environment to stand out? I use sociology everyday to understand better the social constructs behind what drives this, and I truly think it’s my passion for sociology that make me a more thoughtful and informed assistant buyer.
What drew you to majoring in sociology?
I enjoyed taking Culture and Society (SOC 221) and became fascinated by organizational culture and how companies motivate their employees. Work culture and norms greatly affect our work and how invested we are. They can also reinforce the strength of traditional gender roles, and knowing the theory behind them significantly shaped how I view work-life balance today. I also learned a lot about modern society in another class, Mass Media and Social Influences (SOC 343); it really cemented for me the importance of understanding how people use technology to send widespread messages that, for better or for worse, influence our worldviews. We’re shaped by it every day.
What did your honors thesis address? How did you do it (e.g., methods) and what did you find?
Because we live in a world where mass media and especially television greatly influence our perceptions, my honors thesis explored the perceived consequences of the “CSI Effect” [e.g., expectations regarding the ready availability of forensic evidence] and how it affects the courtroom. By employing semi-structured, in-depth interviews of district attorneys, I found consistent patterns that prosecutors and judges strongly believe the CSI Effect impacts juror expectations in the courtroom. What was interesting was that though there was little evidence that it significantly affects verdicts, it was noticeably affecting legal actors’ behaviors in the courtroom in anticipation of the CSI Effect. In my results, though suggestive, I found that at least some prosecutors are changing their persona and presentation in the courtroom to mimic those on television, creating their own “dramatized” cases. Therefore, we are led to believe that it is possible the CSI Effect not only affects juror expectations, but attorney behavior as well.
What broader lessons did you learn while working on this thesis?
Working on a thesis trained me to stay committed to a long term project and to spearhead an investigation from start to finish. Pick a thesis advisor you trust because, over the course of the year, they’ll become your guide in more than just thesis work — I still miss weekly “touch-bases” with Dr. Tracy Scott. And pick a research question that truly fascinates you, otherwise staying disciplined will be a battle! I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and I learned you really can enjoy your work if you follow you head and heart to what you’re passionate about — a lesson that landed me my dream job.