Photo: Judit-Klein via Flickr
The results are in.
CEOs in the hottest industries want to hire liberal arts majors. It’s not just that CEOs themselves often have liberal arts backgrounds, but that so many companies are desperate for employees who can both think for themselves and collaborate with a team, while ably navigating the infinite possibilities of the Information Age. Who has these abilities? People with the creative and critical thinking skills that liberal arts educations foster.
Even though everyone knows that they need the liberal arts advantage in their firm, however, potential employers may need your help to see how your pathway through college prepares you for the job.
You need to make good choices in school in order to prepare your liberal arts degree for life after graduation, then learn how to talk about your undergraduate studies to prospective employers. It’s way past time to replace STEM with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
You can have it all: A degree you love and a good job.
Here are five tips to get you started.
Major in what you love
You’ll get better grades and generally just be a happier person if you spend your time studying the things you want to spend your time on. This may sound trite, but over the last 15 years of talking to undergraduates about their studies, I’ve watched so many students blossom by switching from a job-oriented major to one that they feel passionate about. You’re likely to swap jobs and even careers many times in your life, so don’t get caught up in training for something hyper specific. Don’t waste college by spending all your time being unhappy with your major.
Take some practical classes
Most liberal arts majors are not packed with an overwhelming number of required courses, so put that flexibility to your advantage. Revel in your subject–maybe it’s medieval history, South Asian novels or ceramics. Then be savvy about electives. Take some courses that the least creative hiring manager in corporate America will recognize as useful. Maybe choose a statistics or economics class, learn a little computer programming, or even minor in chemistry. Because that hiring manager is right, these classes are useful. Use your whole transcript to show the world who you are.
Talk Skills, Not Courses
If you want to jump from your major into a field that isn’t clearly linked to its content, learn to describe your coursework for its skills, not what you covered. Practice your answer for when an interviewer asks you about college.
Few interviewers care about the expertise that you developed about the Roman empire, as cool as that is. Instead, say that your liberal arts degree offered numerous opportunities to engage in research, answer complicated questions, assemble evidence quickly and often in groups, and then write persuasively. There are a lot of jobs in which the one page memo and the persuasive 20 minute PowerPoint presentation make all the difference between profit and loss. Liberal Arts majors have these critical skills.
Look For High Impact Experiences
College is filled with cool opportunities. You can live abroad for months or years, often for no more money than it would cost you to stay in the dorms. Colleges will put you in groups and teach you to build roads, housing, or teach in underprivileged communities. I never get over seeing the wonder on students’ faces when they find out their college will pay them a pretty good wage to do research! Take advantage of these chances.
Then, when facing a job interview, pull these out to talk about creativity, teamwork, dedication, work ethic, and overcoming challenges. When you sit in a chair opposite an interviewer and they ask you about your proudest accomplishment, it can’t be your sophomore year beer pong title.
You love your major. You’ve diversified your transcript. You know how to talk about your skills. You’ve done something amazing. Now, if you haven’t, go to work. Get a job. Shoot for that amazing paid internship. Collaborate with a professor as a research assistant. Become a peer counselor, advisor, tutor, or coach. Even if you’re stuck in a gig you hate because you need to pay the bills, own it, and make it part of the story you’re going to take when you when you graduate.
As a liberal arts major, you’re the well-rounded, creative, analytical, total package. You know a lot, but best of all, you know how to learn. Tell the right story about yourself and watch as the doors open wide.