Throughout college, you probably heard (and maybe even told) jokes about liberal arts students being doomed to fast-food and retail jobs after graduation. And while it's usually all in good fun, that fate is at times true for some liberal arts graduates. But is it the degree itself that makes some of these new grads less employable, or is it that they fail to market themselves?
More likely, it's the latter. But it doesn't have to be that way. Even if you don't learn how to market yourself while you're a liberal arts student, it can still be possible to land a great job out of college. Here are three ways you can demonstrate the value of your liberal arts degree to potential employers.
1. Show, don't tell
This phrase is often thrown around in the writing world as a plea to not merely explain what's going on but to let the readers see it through descriptions. The same "show, don't tell" idea totally applies when marketing your liberal arts degree.
Instead of just listing skills on your resume or cover letter or even in the interview, you should also attach them to a specific activity. For example, if you want the employer to know you're a team player, don't just say you're a team player. Mention an example from college, such as all those group projects you worked on for your English classes and the role you played, to show you're a team player. The same goes with writing. Instead of saying you're a good writer, mention some of the college papers you wrote, perhaps even sending them a couple of examples.
If you want to show employers some projects you've completed in school, consider creating a profile on a site such as MyEdu.com, where you can attach some of your projects and where employers browse at student profiles when seeking interns and new employees.
2. Know how to talk up your school and program
Not all liberal arts degree programs are made equal. So if you're going to use your education as a marketable trait, then you should know some key facts about both your school and the program you graduated from.
Find out how well your school and program score on well-known rankings like those from U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. If it's high, then your college degree may look more impressive, and it's worth noting in an interview or even on a cover letter or resume. In the spirit of showing and not telling, if you took courses or were advised by a professor who is distinguished or has won awards, you can also mention that, since it can also make your education appear more valuable than it might at first glance.
If you merely list your degree on your resume or in your cover letter and it's a school the employer either doesn't recognize or doesn't know much about, then you're just another new graduate who probably doesn't stand out much. But if you provide some details about what makes the school great, then it becomes more impressive that you earned a degree there, particularly if you graduated with honors or distinction.
3. Give a very liberal artsy interview
The last chance you get to highlight your liberal arts degree is in the interview. Don't only mention your degree when asked about it, but try to work it in throughout the interview to show its relevance to several different topics.
According to Dr. Katharine Hansen, an educator, blogger and the author of many career books, a key factor in promoting the benefit of a liberal arts degree is giving the interview a "liberal arts spin." In an article for her website Quintessential Careers, Hansen advised liberal arts students to tailor their responses to the inevitable basic interview questions specifically to their education. For example, if you get asked why they should hire you, you could respond with something like, "Because the persuasive writing skills I developed through various philosophy courses equipped me to successfully write the copy your business needs."
Of course, if you have other ways to demonstrate you're an excellent fit for the job, such as an internship or volunteer work you've done, then mention that, too. The point is that as a recent college graduate, one of your most impressive achievements thus far is most likely that liberal arts degree you earned, and all the critical thinking and communication skills you acquired along the way.
Flaunt that degree. Don't hide it.
- "Ten Ways to Market Your Liberal Arts Degree," Katharine Hansen, Quintessential Careers,