Humanities Career Resources
Life after graduation... What will you do? How will you maximize your education? What career doors are open? What others might open down the road? Here are some thoughts to help you begin thinking and preparing as you complete your Humanities degree.
Marketing the Liberal Arts
In many ways the Humanities Interdisciplinary degree is the classic liberal arts degree. It provides a broad Arts and Sciences curriculum. It encourages you to make connections between disciplines. It lets you investigate the richness of human creativity and thought. It also provokes that classic liberals arts question:
Hmmmm... What job can you get with that?
What a scary query! People seem to ask with alarming frequency. Their tone is laced with skepticism. Even worse... you might not know how to answer them. But fear not. The idea that no jobs exist for liberal arts majors is largely incorrect. Let's examine the situation more closely.
BAD NEWS - The bad news is that liberal arts degrees are not really geared as vocational training. They really don't prepare you for one specific career. They connect less specifically to careers than majors like Architecture and Accounting. Humanitarian is not actually a career track, and the future really does look unclear for many liberal arts graduates.
GOOD NEWS - However... it is important to distinguish between unclear and dismal. Rather than preparing you for one career or another, the liberal arts provide general preparation for whatever comes along. You replace The Career Ladder (with its linear path and rigid intervals) with The Career Landscape. Imagine the Konza Prairie... many different hills to climb... many paths from which to choose. That is the beauty of the liberal arts. The future is unclear but you have choices!
Consider this: as the rate of change accelerates in the world, the ability to adapt to new situations becomes more and more valuable. Employers need people who can learn effectively. And they need people whose skills are portable. Here are some attributes that fit that profile and are often honed by the liberal arts. Has your Humanities degree developed any of these?
So employers might need skills that you have. Despite the lack of vocational training. There is only one hitch. How do those skills relate to selling widgets? Or juggling staff budgets? Or planning the Pumpkin Festival? Et cetera. Some employers might not discern why General Skill ABC makes you the best candidate for Specific Job XYZ. "I don't need cultural sensitivity... I just need good brochures!" This means that you need to effectively market what you have to offer. You need to make the case for your transferable skills. You need to articulate how your transferable skills connect to what the employer needs done. A successful product communicates its utility to consumers. And so must you.
Breadth versus Depth
The Humanities Interdisciplinary degree requires less expertise in one particular discipline than majors like Art or English. You sacrifice depth as you widen your focus. This does not necessarily hurt you, but you should still consider the issue. There are some links between certain disciplines and certain jobs. One can imagine the Acme Dance Studio favoring actual Dance majors over the fifteen hours in Dance that you might have chosen to take for the Humanities degree. You might still be qualified. You just need to recognize that you may face an additional hurdle in communicating that ability.
Other employers may worry that your learning has been too shallow... that your degree is some General Studies degree... that your classes were all Latin and Greek. Et cetera. These concerns obviously lack validity. But employers still make snap decisions. Each resume gets very little attention. And that is the danger. It is potentially unclear what Humanities Interdisciplinary implies about your area of expertise... less clear than for majors like Speech or Music. This means fewer people will correctly intuit what your degree involved. Here are three tips for getting the right idea across:
- Communicate your program of study. Can you show potential employers how your curriculum was structured? Are some courses worth mentioning by name? Should you talk about the rationale you created in your Curriculum Proposal? That may help an employer understand and remember your academic background. "Oh yes... the person who studied Hispanic Literature and History!"
- Talk about the value of breadth. Make your interdisciplinary curriculum part of your marketing strategy. Show what you integrated. Can you demonstrate how you will bring both philosophical and cultural perspectives to the table? Talk about how you have made connections between the visual and aural arts? Cite some time when facility with multiple languages helped you approach a challenge? Try to highlight the unique insight that studying multiple disciplines has provided.
- Prove yourself in the workplace. While working now or after graduation (even if it is not your ideal job) you'll have opportunities to display versatile and insighful job performance. Once you prove your ability to grow and gain expertise in the workplace, that pretty much becomes the bottom line for future employers. A reputation for "knowing your stuff" should supplant most groundless concerns about your major.
The Degree in Context
So your degree is potentially marketable. Having established that, the number one thing to remember is that no degree constitutes your "ticket" into a job. The outcome of your job search hinges on more than just your diploma. Your workplace training and performance, volunteer efforts, personal reputation, people skills, personal contacts and extracurricular activities are also crucial parts of "the package" that you present to potential employers. Market each to its proper measure.
Here are some things you can do to PREPARE for the moment when you actually start searching for employment...
USE YOUR CAMPUS RESOURCES
Reading this page counts. But the really important step is to diligently utilize Career & Employment Services in Holtz Hall. Internet resources, workshops, career fairs & recruiting programs, consultation availability... these are excellent ways to get the ball rolling. They also coordinate great experiential learning opportunities (internships and the like) that may help you gain insight and make an effective transition into the professional arena. So the sooner you learn about what they offer, the sooner you can use everything efficiently. Don't wait until your final semester! Consider CES your number one resource for looking past graduation now.
Who you know really does matter. But crass manipulation of peripheral friends for personal gain is not really what we mean here. People you know can probably tell you about new opportunities and help you better understand particular career fields. They may know about jobs that are not advertised where you're looking. Many people you've forged connections with know things worth knowing, but you need to initiate the conversation for that transmission of knowledge to take place.
BE EXCELLENT RIGHT NOW
Many of you are working currently. When you go out to convince an employer that you will do a great job, having done a great job previously certainly helps you make your case, even if the job was part-time and unrelated. On the other hand... well... why should an employer risk an open position on tepid past performance. In short, never underestimate the role of good work now in opening doors later.
WATCH THE GRADES
You'll hear the saying Grades are not everything. That really is true. GPA typically becomes less important as you get further into your career. Actual work performance matters much more. However... Grades are something is still mostly accurate regarding initial job searches after college. Work for the best GPA you can. If the results still fall short however, remember that grades, like the degree, only represent one aspect of your marketability. How do you want an employer to interpret your GPA? Design interview answers and application materials to foster that interpretation.
WATCH THE GRADES II
You may plan further education before you enter the workforce: graduate school, law school, et cetera. You should recognize that grades do factor heavily in many of those admission scenarios. Along with test scores like the GRE, LSAT or GMAT (and various other factors) grades loom large. They can impact your success as an applicant and/or the tier of schools in which you can seriously contend.
PICK SOME TARGETS
Knowing where you might want to work eventually, and where they might hire you, gives you some additional avenues of preparation. You can research more fully. You can get knowledgeable about the trends and issues involved in the field. You can take electives that bolster your understanding. You can find extracurricular activities that offer relevant experiences. You can check into related internship possibilities. You might do some informational interviewing. You can also seek part-time jobs and/or internships that will give you an inside view and provide relevant training.
USE YOUR INTERNET
The Internet is probably here to stay. Use it to research and sharpen your picture of the terrain. The more you know, the more opportunities you'll uncover. Remember that checking the Internet is an ongoing process. New pages (and new jobs) are constantly appearing. One of them may be the key you need. Also remember that not everybody on the Internet is right about everything. Comparing sources will help you better define which information you should accept and which you should reject. Career and Employment Services offers a great nexus of sites to serve as your entry point into the web.
BUILD A PORTFOLIO
Creative and artistic energy is integral to the liberal arts. The work you are asked to do at K-State oftens reflect that. It is valuable to keep this work and keep it organized. Depending on your destination, samples of your writing, a portfolio of your drawings, a video of your theatre work, the fruits of your best research, et cetera may demonstrate what you can do better than any line on your resume. Beyond that, the portfolio process can also help reveal your transferable skills to you. People often discover a new appreciation for what they have learned as they review what they have accomplished.
Here are some jobs that recent K-State Humanities majors have landed after graduation. Some graduates also decided to pursue further education. It is worth noting that some of these may require supplemental experience/education/training to attain... but this should further emphasize that the degree is only one part of the hiring picture. While the list might spark some ideas, remember that your career search will be unique. Don't let this list confine you. This information was taken from data compiled by Career & Employment Services and conversations with former students.
Newspaper Journalist / Columnist
The size of this list is limited because relatively few students pursue the Humanities major each year... so it also helps to see what graduates with related majors have done. Although we have touched upon potential distinctions, the prospects for Humanities majors significantly resemble the prospects for other liberal arts majors. The two disciplines you choose as focal points for your Humanities curriculum are particularly appropriate fields to investigate. Here are a couple of links to K-State's Academic and Career Information Center resources:
The Beginning at the End
This discussion really just begins the process. More sweat and toil awaits if you're willing... so this seems like an appropriate place for some key points to help broadly frame your search.
- Think several moves ahead
If your options for "first job after graduation" are not what you ideally wanted, that does not mean your career is DOA. Those positions might grow into better positions down the road or give you the necessary training for new opportunities. The marketability of your degree, perhaps paradoxically, can grow as you add to your resume in other ways. You are not looking for your whole career... just the next good stepping stone.
- Do some reading
Lots of books tackle how to conduct an effective job search. The Academic and Career Information Center has many of them. You might also try www.jobhuntersbible.com, the web companion to What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. Parachute is considered a classic job-hunting resource, and its site guides you through career resources on the web and details some other books that might assist you in your search.
- Avoid tunnel vision about working for others
Many of you have the skills and chutzpah to just start your own business or organization. If you are not sure who will hire you, maybe you should just hire yourself. Or maybe that will be an excellent career option several years down the road as well, after you have learned an occupation from the inside. If you are considering this option, the Small Business Administration website might give you some good initial information.
- Your diploma does not prohibit additional training
If you see an interesting career direction that might open with some additional coursework, perhaps some more specific vocational training, don't be afraid to look into it. More and more people are viewing education as an ongoing process. Whatever happens, your degree will complement any additional study you add to your bag of tricks.
- Avoid tunnel vision about certain fields
Remember that lots of people have good careers doing things you've never even thought about before. There are numerous roles to play in government and public service (at all levels). There are thousands of educational institutions. There are businesses involved with every commodity or service you have ever crossed paths with (some of those even intersect strongly with the liberal arts). Many individuals work for non-profit foundations or charities. Thousands of corporate careers are invisible to consumers despite their importance. Get off the beaten path. There is life and opportunity beyond The Fortune 500, and your interdisciplinary outlook should give you the versatile thinking skills necessary to learn and succeed in these varied environments.
This page was prepared by Jim Hohenbary