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Job listings rarely read, "Wanted: Philosophy majors
specializing in Socrates," or "Calling all English
majors for top jobs at high-profile firm," or "Were
you a history major? Earn six-figures for performing intellectually
If you are a liberal arts major, targeting potential employers
and marketing yourself may seem a monumental, if not impossible,
task. You should have majored in electrical engineering, right?
Wrong. Sure, your technically-trained friends generally don't
have much trouble determining which employers to target and
how to showcase their tangible skill sets. But, with a savvy
approach to getting a job, you are just as likely as a computer
science major to find meaningful work. And, best of all, your
liberal arts degree generally isn't limiting: You have the
freedom to do nearly anything they want.
The first step is not to think of yourself in terms of your
specific degree. Companies often do not hire students because
of their specific degrees - instead they use job applicants'
skills as criteria for filling positions. So, instead of asking,
"What are good jobs for Romance Languages majors?"
ask, "What are my passions and strengths? What skills
do I have? What do I want to be doing in my job?"
The first step in responding to these questions is to honestly
address what you love to do. What fascinates you? What do
you find compelling and fulfilling? Once you've answered these
questions, address what skills you can bring to the work place.
Your first response may be that after four years of college,
your skills amount to doing close readings of King Lear and
analyzing the socioeconomic implications of the Kennedy administration.
However, according to Phyllis R. Stein, a career coach in
the Boston area, liberal arts majors tend to have a lot of
skills they don't even know they have. "It's not just
that you took a Shakespeare class," Stein says. Instead,
she explains, in that Shakespeare class you honed your researching
skills, you learned to make coherent presentations, and you
refined your ability to organize your thoughts in writing.
Stein adds that liberal arts majors generally have excellent
administrative and management skills. They write well, they
can think critically, they can analyze problems, and they
can communicate well with co-workers. Liberal arts majors
can work simultaneously with big picture concepts, and with
the small details that fit into these large visions. They
are also, she says, adept at adapting to the vocabulary of
different occupational fields. For example, the jargon of
marketing, law, and accounting is such that different words
in each field often have similar definitions. Liberal arts
majors are good at achieving fluency in many different occupational
languages, simply by virtue of spending their undergraduate
careers using terminology specific to English, philosophy,
and history. This versatility is helpful to liberal arts majors
as they tailor their resumes and job applications to prospective
Also, when you assess your skills, don't forget the skills
you gained from doing volunteer and extra-curricular work.