So, you just graduated (congrats!). You have an inkling of what you want to do for a career, but you’re not quite sure how to get there. If you have a liberal arts degree, navigating the already-complicated job search can feel overwhelming. You want to market yourself with a specific set of skills, but your broad and diverse education may not *exactly* reflect your passions or interests, as much as, say, a degree in business or education would. Whether your majored in liberal arts or just attended a liberal arts school and graduated with a more general major like psychology or English, you can still leverage your experience and knowledge to propel your career forward. Here are five tried-and-true ways to make the most of your liberal arts degree so your major doesn’t get in the way of your potential.
1. Identify your passion. You can take a liberal arts degree in a number of different directions. For example, one sociology major might use their knowledge of human behavior for a career in journalism, while another might use their undergrad coursework to pursue a law degree. While you’d think a broad major might work against you when you’re applying for a job in a more specialized field, it doesn’t have to. Dr. Kat Cohen, president of Ivywise and a world-renowned independent admissions counselor, says there are plenty of ways to display all you have to offer, starting with honing in on your passion.
“Identify a field you are passionate about and make sure to pursue opportunities, both academically and professionally, that enable you to become an expert in this area,” Cohen tells us. “Make sure this passion resonates throughout resumes and cover letters, and seek out positions that will allow you to continue to hone your skills in this specific field.”
2. Get specific. When an employer hires a mechanical engineering major, they probably have a good idea of the coursework involved with the degree. But for a less specialized liberal arts major, it might be harder to deduce the classes you took, Cohen points out. Going the extra mile to be as specific as possible with your coursework in your application materials can help you stand out.
“If you are interested in a position at an advertising agency, you may want to consider highlighting courses in fields like English and psychology, as well as any business or marketing courses you may have taken,” Cohen advises. “Be prepared to talk about what you took away from the classes, how it directly relates to the position you are applying for, and specific skills you can draw on.”
3. Embrace a little ambiguity. Of course, coursework in the exact area of the job you’re applying for is always a plus. But broadness doesn’t have to work against you according to Cohen. Because the job market is constantly changing, many employers are looking for flexible, well-rounded candidates. Whether you wrote a thesis paper or engaged in small-group discussions as an undergrad, you can leverage your liberal arts background in your interview to highlight your diverse experiences. “These varied experiences provide you with a broad base of skills… that you can draw on for a multitude of work challenges such as presentations, reports, and analyses,” she says.
4. Put your communication skills to use. If you have a liberal arts degree, chances are you’ve had a lot of practice honing your communication skills, whether written or verbal, between class discussions, speeches, and papers. No matter what position you’re applying for, this will be an asset. Cohen recommends drawing on the same communication skills you gained from your coursework or class discussions during job interviews: “Don’t just hear what someone is saying, but contextualize the question and plan a relevant response that proves a central idea,” she says. “For example, if an interviewer asks about your interest in the role you are applying for, weave details of the prospective job into your response. Much like compiling evidence for a research paper, utilize real-world examples to support your statement and reference specific scenarios that highlight your interest and expertise.”
5. Never stop learning. Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean the journey is over! Success (and advancement) at any job involves ongoing learning — and in the age of the internet, gaining new knowledge is easier, and often cheaper, than ever. Not sure where to start? Think about what competencies or skills would bring your career to the next level, and pursue them accordingly. Whether you take an online class on coding or try your hand at a new language by chatting with a bot, you’ll never regret continuing your quest for education. See? That liberal arts degree can be more useful than you think!
How are you using your liberal arts degree? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo!
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