As many liberal arts graduates can attest, landing a job with specific requirements is daunting when your studies have been so diverse. Unlike higher education programs tailored toward a particular field (Engineering or Accounting, for example), a liberal arts degree gives you a well-rounded education. I was able to indulge my curiosity in subjects like ancient Greek mythology and North African history while learning French, but when it came time to land my first job, I felt a little lost. How would the skills I learned as a liberal arts major transfer to the workforce? Well, as it turns out, easily. Here are five important skills I use in my current job that I credit entirely to my liberal arts education.
1. Communication (written and verbal)
Effective communication skills are the backbone of the classroom and the workplace. Countless essays and writing assignments taught me how to write with a purpose, whether it be to inform, persuade, or argue. These skills can take you from the job application process to the office when you need to send a carefully worded email to an important client or coworker. Verbal communication is equally important, as liberal arts students know from classroom presentations and debates. Surprised with a boardroom presentation during the first few weeks on the job? Not a problem—you’re a pro! Still feeling a little shaky in front of your team? There are tons of short communication skills courses available to increase your confidence and motivation.
2. Collaborative work
As they say, “teamwork makes the dream work!” Collaborating in a group is one of the most important skills in any environment—professional or otherwise. From students on campus to professionals in a conference room, patience, understanding, and helpfulness can carry you far. Group work may have been a necessary evil during your undergraduate years, but the collaborative skills you develop will make the difference between employee of the month and office pariah.
3. Analytical thinking and research
Memorizing complex equations or facts from a textbook can only take you so far in the professional world, where the ability to research and analyze information for practical use is far more important. Research projects covering a vast array of topics keep liberal arts majors curious while developing their analytical toolkit. This ability to quickly digest, process, and produce new information will come in handy when your boss asks for a brief rundown of the latest technology in your field.
While some people are born leaders, it’s a skill learned over time for most of us. Because liberal arts graduates already possess important leadership characteristics—communication, focus on results, and inspiration—studies show humanities graduates may be better leaders than MBAs! In the workplace, taking an active leadership position on a project that interests you will ensure a more rewarding and fulfilling professional life.
5. Planning and strategic thinking
Thinking outside the box requires creativity and imagination—something liberal arts graduates have in spades! The key here is to be selective about where you go once you’re outside the box. The ability to think and plan strategically is a highly valued skill in most organizations because it answers the question: where can we go next?
Any liberal arts graduate on the cusp of their professional career can venture confidently into their first job interview knowing they already possess the top five universally desired career skills! The only question left is: where will you go next?
For more tips on how to score a career with your degree, check out our Internships and Careers section.