What do UChicago history majors do with their degrees? In the first installment of a recurring series on alumni careers, we interviewed Sonia Gaur, AB'19. Gaur is an Account Services Representative at NBC Universal.
What did you do after graduation, and what is your current position?
I graduated in June 2019. It took a while for me to come to terms with the fact that I would be graduating without a job. Once I decided that working in the media and entertainment industry was what I wanted to do, it became clear to me that most interviewers for entry level positions expected that the applicants could start work ASAP, within 2 weeks after the interview. This made securing a job difficult until after I graduated in June.
After graduation, I made a concentrated effort to reach out to all different kinds of people in the media business, advertising, marketing, etc., to make connections and learn of different opportunities. Luckily, one of these connections led me to my current position at NBCUniversal in Chicago. I am currently an Account Services Representative for NBCU's Cable Entertainment team, whose networks include USA, Syfy, Bravo, E!, Oxygen and CNBC. I help manage the post-sale engagement between advertising clients and NBCU, and help ensure that advertisers' deals deliver at 100%.
What are your most vivid memories of studying history at UChicago?
A lot of my more recent memories of studying history at UChicago revolve around writing my BA Thesis. I remember the stress that came with figuring out what I wanted to write about, and I also remember the satisfaction I felt when I was able to narrow the scope of my project and what I wanted to say. In terms of courses, I really enjoyed cultural and social history classes that gave me context for current events in the world.
How do you use your history degree in your professional life?
I think having a degree in history has helped me learn how to better communicate and conceptualize big ideas, which are definitely relevant to my current position.
I also think my history degree and BA Thesis helped me stand out in my interview at NBCU. In my interview, I discussed how I wrote about female comedians like Joan Rivers and Roseanne Barr, and how through my research I saw NBCU as foundational to developing female comics. I was luckily able to connect my experience as a history major directly to the position for which I was applying, and I used a historical, research-based approach as a means of entry into why I'd like to work at NBCU.
Do you have any advice to provide to current history students?
It feels a little weird to be offering out advice seeing as I was also a history student not long ago! But, I would say to really take advantage of the classes and topics that interest you because unless you pursue those interests professionally, you'll not always have the opportunity to learn about some of those topics.
I will also add that something I got asked all the time in interviews was "How is your history major relevant to this position?" My advice to current history majors is not to let the underlying impression that history is irrelevant to the present day get to you. This is probably obvious since you're already majoring in history and understand its importance, but I think lots of people in the professional world, at least in entertainment, didn't understand it right away.