Leveraging Your Liberal Arts Degree to Land a Job

by Isabel Sperry | January 25, 2017

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If you are a student attending a liberal arts college, it can be difficult to explain how exactly your degree will help you excel in an internship or job. Unlike a vocational degree, a liberal arts education often does not directly translate into a specific career path. Yet that fact does not give you license to flounder when discussing your studies in a job interview or cover letter. With a little creativity, you can easily master the art of leveraging your liberal arts degree to land a job. Here are some strategies for doing so:

Discuss how your major provided you with transferable skills

When applying for a job, an effective way for you to demonstrate how your degree will help you is by explaining how the skills you have honed in your major will translate to this new role. If you are an English major, for example, you can emphasize your strong writing and verbal skills, and explain how those will help you in the job at hand—say, if you will be writing grant proposals or talking on the phone with clients.

If you are struggling to identify specific transferable skills from your major, you can always fall back on more general skills that you learned in college. For example, if you successfully led a team in a group project or gave a compelling presentation, you can reference it in an interview to show how you would excel in a similar situation on the job.

Highlight your initiative to gain skills outside your major

One of the benefits of a liberal arts degree is that it affords you the ability to explore many areas of study. You can take classes in disciplines outside your major that might provide you with helpful experiences to draw upon when applying for jobs. For example, if you are a history major but are interested in a career in sales, you might take a psychology class to gain a better understanding of human behavior.

In addition, you might consider taking skills-oriented electives outside your major that will make you a more desirable job candidate in general, such as coding or public speaking. Then, even if your school does not offer classes that are pre-professional in nature, you can demonstrate that you took the initiative to learn real skills that will help you in a job setting.

Another way to gain marketable skills in college is to participate in extracurricular activities related to your desired profession. For example, if you are interested in a career in business, you might consider joining a student finance organization, which could provide you with relevant experience to reference in an interview or cover letter.

Demonstrate your knowledge about the industry and job

Showing that you have the requisite skills to excel in the job at hand is, however, only part of the puzzle. It is also important for you to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the industry and profession itself, especially if your major does not obviously prepare you for it. That means everything from being able to discuss the company’s core business to understanding its key competitors. Do your research in advance to give the best impression of yourself possible.

You should also be familiar with the jargon of the industry you’re seeking to enter. It is imperative that you understand all the terminology in the job description and that you be able to talk comfortably about the duties of the role in an interview. If you are writing a cover letter, be sure to include exact key words and skills that are mentioned in the job description. This will not only help ensure that your cover letter passes through applicant tracking software, but it will also demonstrate your aptitude for the job to a potential employer. If your major did not directly prepare you for the role, it is essential that you do everything in your power to demonstrate how qualified you are, so that you can land the job.

Filed Under: Education | Internships | Interviewing | Job Search | Resumes & Cover Letters

Tags: College Education | Cover Letter | Interview | Liberal Arts | Transferable Skills

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