Job Search Tips for Liberal Arts Students: Show Off Your Marketable Skills!

Many 2010 graduates are about to launch their first job search. If you are a liberal arts major on the job market, you might feel that you don’t have a chance, as you are competing with business majors, as well as graduates from last year who are still looking for their first post-graduation job. Furthermore, many are questioning the value of a liberal arts education as compared to a more ‘practical degree’ such as a business education. I believe that a liberal arts education is one of the best ways to develop some very valuable marketable skills. This post will help you articulate these skills when applying for your next job, or when interviewing.

As a liberal arts graduate, you have become more comfortable handling the complex and multi-faceted aspects of any broad question or project. By taking classes that spans across a multitude of disciplines and questions, you have learned that there is not a single way to approach a problem. In addition, by approaching a problem from different perspectives, a richer perspective emerges. Dealing with ambiguity and the ability to re-strategize a project based on new information is key in our global and interdependent world. Through your liberal arts education, you have been able to develop these skills, so be sure to highlight them when applying for jobs.

Through your liberal arts education, you also developed critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is a complex set of mental processes that include skillfully use logic and reasoning principles to draw conclusions while avoiding common fallacies. Critical thinking also includes the ability to evaluate the credibility of different sources of information based on their quality: Is this information an opinion, an anecdote, or evidence? Through dealing with frameworks across disciplines and having had to put together logical and evidence-based arguments through presentations and papers, you have been able to develop the ability to deal with ambiguity, the ability to re-strategize, and critical thinking skills that are in high demand on the job market.

Of course, your liberal arts education has also enabled you to develop research skills. Research skills refer to the ability to access and evaluate information. Knowing where to gather information from and how to evaluate whether this information constitutes evidence is critical to backing up one’s argument. You have learned how to gather qualitative and quantitative data to support your argument. Showcasing your research skills will enable you to compete for a wide range of opportunities in socio-eco innovation, where knowing how things were done in the past, and how they can be done in the future is a key to success.  Finally, a liberal arts education also enabled you to develop persuasive writing and oral presentation skills. These skills are instrumental to convince others of the validity of your evidence-based arguments.

In sum, a liberal arts education is a unique opportunity to (a) juggle different perspectives and ideas, and to (b) proactively and systematically gather evidence (not anecdotes) to build an argument that takes into account possible confounds. Furthermore, these arguments weaved into concise and coherent essays or research papers will develop your persuasive communication skills. Of course, if you have had the opportunity to apply these skills through internships or volunteer opportunities, your chances to get the interview or to get a job offer are even higher.  Moving forward, make sure that you showcase the skills that your liberal arts education has helped you develop in your job search.

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