PHIL Major in the Workplace: Tyler Schwartz

Since graduating, SFU Philosophy major Tyler Schwartz has enjoyed a successful career in recruitment, sourcing and placing job seekers in positions as varied as banking, HR and student co-op. While never seeing a job ad specifically for philosopher, he credits skills learned in the philosophy classroom for success in the workplace.

February 20, 2020

Tyler Schwartz, who graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts and a Major in Philosophy in 2011, has never seen a degree in Philosophy as a requirement listed in any job ad. However, he firmly believes that the skills gained through his major are responsible for his career success.

“Once you are in a job, any job, Philosophy skills absolutely make you stand out,” he states. Looking back since graduation, Tyler reckons this is the reason he’s been promoted or managed a successful career change roughly every six to eight months.

“Philosophy is not the degree that gets you the job, but it is the degree that gets you the promotion,” he adds.

Landing in Philosophy felt like coming home

Tyler landed in undergrad philosophy after trying a number of options after high school. He admits he sort-of fell into it—a combination of rejections and college transfer, inspiring teachers and savvy student advisors.

Through the general studies program at Edmonton’s Grant MacEwan College, Tyler initially launched into psychology. He kept philosophy as a minor since he found the discussions and questions arising totally absorbing. He admits to enjoying having his assumptions challenged and his core beliefs raked over the coals regularly in class. As Randy Wojtowicz, one of his professors described it, “philosophy class gives you a set of tools to approach problems in the world; you not only build your toolset but you also learn how to build your own tools afterwards.”

From Edmonton, Tyler transferred his credits to SFU, switching to a Philosophy major thanks to a ‘super helpful’ student advisor who made the process relatively painless.

“I really hit my stride academically with Philosophy,” Tyler explains, admitting that it was a total reversal from school where he never really fit into a subject area or career goal. “Sitting in philosophy classes with all the other students, asking strange questions that don’t immediately make sense wound up feeling like home.”

SFU Philosophy and Beyond

Tyler best moments during his undergrad learning come from SFU Philosophy prof Holly Andersen’s three-legged stool metaphor for how to do philosophy.

“Read it. Write it. Speak it,” he explains. “I’m not sure if she still teaches it but I found it extremely helpful.

Although initially he found speaking in front of class really awkward, Tyler considers it now as incredibly helpful in teaching him to take feedback constructively and not personally, and also showing him how to think through a response in the moment and see arguments from multiple perspectives.

“The skills I gained from studying Philosophy allow me to examine problems and break things down to be a better trainer, leader and communicator in the workplace.”

He’s also extremely grateful for being able to develop ideas in a safe and supportive environment. 

“I have definitely said some stupid things and I’m glad they happened in class rather than out in the professional world,” he admits. “A large portion of my career journey is thanks to learning all those lessons in Prof. Andersen’s classes.”

Q&A with Tyler: What do Philosophy skills in the workplace look like?

Saying No.
In customer service it’s often not possible to say No, especially if a customer is being aggressive. However, using problem analysis skills picked up in Philosophy classes can help. Being able to decide which details to share or hide and reveal later are excellent tools of persuasion that can help manage the relationship, especially with more senior roles.

Being Charitable
Reviewing information, not nit-picking to establish a person’s meaning, and being gracious with what people say gets the best out of them. Tyler describes this as “teasing the essence out of what people request”.

Gentle Guidance
Philosophy is better than other arts departments in giving gentle guidance on questioning but without being pedantic, and questioning around the questions to get the intended meaning.

Analysing Problems
Philosophy allows analysis of the steps and consideration of objections; from this you get better oversight of a problem and analysis of all the pieces involved.

…and writing!
……... I am not afraid of writing lengthy reports, or going over long research documents, or adapting to a shorter email format.



Study Philosophy at SFU

Tyler on Phil Majors and Arts Co-op

Following several years in various human resources and customer service positions, Tyler returned to SFU. He has worked with many different student groups on co-op placements that connect them with potential employers. He's currently the Co-op Coordinator at SFU’s Sustainable Energy Engineering program in Surrey.

“While I was in arts, 100% of the philosophy majors got jobs! The skills and attitude they can bring to a workplace will really help them succeed and really stand out once they are in a job.”

Read more about the undergrad Phil Major co-op experience...

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