How to find a job with a lib­eral arts de­gree

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - Bri­anna McGur­ran Ask Bri­anna

I’m a lib­eral arts ma­jor, and it feels like there’s no clear line of work for me to pur­sue. How can I use my de­gree to get a job when I grad­u­ate? you rise through the ranks in any in­dus­try. You never know where your lib­eral arts back­ground could take you. Late-night talk show host Co­nan O’Brien ma­jored in his­tory and lit­er­a­ture. Howard Schultz, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Star­bucks, ma­jored in com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Follow these steps to gain con­fi­dence in your knowl­edge, re­lay it to em­ploy­ers and land a job you love.

Test your in­ter­ests

Lib­eral arts stu­dents of­ten feel over­whelmed by all the ca­reer direc­tions they can go, says Karyn McCoy, as­sis­tant vice pres­i­dent of DePaul Univer­sity’s Ca­reer Cen­ter in Chicago. If you’re a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence ma­jor, for in­stance, you could pur­sue law, jour­nal­ism, busi­ness, in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, academia — the list goes on.

Be­fore you grad­u­ate, hone in on what ex­cites you by vol­un­teer­ing, work­ing part time, join­ing ex­tracur­ric­u­lar clubs and tak­ing on in­tern­ships. You’ll build ad­di­tional skills that can make you more mar­ketable with em­ploy­ers. My ex­pe­ri­ences as an in­tern at non­profit le­gal or­ga­ni­za­tions helped me get my first job as a para­le­gal.

“In many cases in job in­ter­views, it’s those other ap­plied ex­pe­ri­ences that stu­dents have had that help them stand out,” says Paul Tim­mins, di­rec­tor of ca­reer ser­vices for the Col­lege of Lib­eral Arts at the Univer­sity of Min­nesota in Minneapolis.

Own your skills

It takes prac­tice to as­sess ex­actly how your ma­jor has pre­pared you for the work­place.

“Stu­dents don’t nec­es­sar­ily know how to iden­tify the skills that they’re gain­ing or to talk about them in a way that sells them to an em­ployer,” McCoy says.

Brain­storm with your col­lege’s ca­reer ser­vices depart­ment, a trusted pro­fes­sor or an in­tern­ship su­per­vi­sor about the trans­fer­able skills you can bring to the work­place.

McCoy also rec­om­mends scru­ti­niz­ing a few job de­scrip­tions that in­ter­est you, then writ­ing down an ex­pe­ri­ence show­ing how you meet each qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

If the em­ployer wants some­one who can take ini­tia­tive, for in­stance, you’d share in a cover let­ter or dur­ing an in­ter­view your ex­pe­ri­ence at form­ing an an­thro­pol­ogy study group. It would be even bet­ter if you could re­port a mea­sure­able pos­i­tive re­sult, such as a class­wide in­crease in test scores. Is the com­pany look­ing for a strong col­lab­o­ra­tor? Your work on a team that cu­rated the new on-cam­pus mu­seum ex­hibit would be rel­e­vant.

Re­mem­ber, too, that your first job is a sin­gle rung on your ca­reer lad­der, McCoy says. You can pre­pare in­ces­santly and still find you’d rather work in a dif­fer­ent com­pany or in­dus­try that bet­ter fits your pas­sions or life­style.

“Each step is go­ing to give you some­thing, whether it’s a spe­cific skill or an in­sight that says, ‘OK, this def­i­nitely isn’t it.’”

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