How To Translate Your Arts Degree Into A Consulting Career


Sure, in high school a degree in English literature, economics, history or political science seemed like a totally great idea. You could do anything if you set your mind to it, right?

But now that graduation day is looming closer and closer, “anything” is a pretty frightening prospect. “Anything” could turn out to be “nothing” if you don’t figure out which direction you’re going to take – and soon.

You might be wishing you’d pursued a business degree instead of becoming an expert in post-modernism. If that’s the case – if you are business savvy and you’re looking for a way to break into the corporate world – consulting is a career path worth looking at.

I know what you’re thinking. Consulting. Business. Numbers. No place for an arts graduate. However, your arts degree can easily translate into a career in consulting. In fact, many consulting employers are actively encouraging arts grads to consider this industry.

Intrigued? Read on to see how your arts background can make you an effective and highly sought-after consultant.

You already have the qualifications

Take a look at the responsibilities and requirements noted in various consulting jobs posted right here on TalentEgg:

“Conduct research”

By the time you graduate with your BA, how many academic papers will you have researched and written? Exactly. Arts students are researching machines.

Tip: If you have the opportunity to choose the topic for any of your projects, try to make them business-related so they are more relevant to consulting when you have a job interview.

“Strong communication skills”

Communication is an arts student’s middle name. You’ve written thousands – maybe even millions – of carefully crafted words, and you love discussing and debating in class. If you can convince your TA to give you an A, you have a pretty good shot at convincing a consulting firm to give you a job. The key is to be as impressive a communicator in person as you are on the page – consulting is all about face-to-face interactions with clients.

Tip: Practice your public speaking skills by taking participating in theatre classes, plays or improv groups. You’ll learn how to perform to an audience, project your voice and avoid stage fright.

“Help clients”

If you’ve worked in any kind of customer service job during school, you already have a ton of experience working in a client-focused environment. This is exactly what consulting is all about – and exactly why you’d make an excellent candidate. Think about ways you’ve helped customers or clients in a retail store, a restaurant or a call centre, just to name a few common student jobs.

“Ability to handle multiple tasks and meet deadlines”

Were you involved in an extra-curricular activity while simultaneously working a part-time job and still managing to get all your essays in on time (and pull off As)? If so, you’re already apt at efficiently managing your time.

“Passion for ideas and creative thinking”

This is a huge component of being a consultant, as the main part of your job will be thinking of different solutions and working with clients to ensure their individual needs are met. As an arts grad, odds are you have some creativity running through your brain. If you ever had to compose an essay analyzing the impact of nature in “The Secret Garden” or describing the correlation between picture and text in a popular children’s book, you’ve definitely tapped into this. Reflect on your schooling and your involvement in activities outside the classroom to see where else you’ve utilized your unique perspectives!

“Demonstrated leadership skills”

Did you ever lead a group project? Chair a meeting for your college cabinet? Act as fundraising executive for your theatre company? All of these things require strong leadership abilities. Having the confidence to speak in front of others and lead them in a positive way is going to make you a strong consultant.

“Approach new challenges with a positive ‘can do’ attitude”

Perhaps you had to work with a difficult person on an assignment, or couldn’t connect with that perfect source for an article you were working on for the school paper and had to change your approach. Maybe you worked as a telemarketer and had to negotiate with clients on the phone who were dead-set on saying ‘No’. How did you face these obstacles? What were the results?

Bonus tip:

Get more “business” under your belt!

Even though you’re not a business student, see if you can join any one of a number of business student societies, associations or clubs at your school. After a few months, you’ll be able to walk the walk and talk the talk just as well as any BComm student.

Business case competitions should be of particular interest to you, as the case study interview is the main way that employers evaluate potential consultants. The more cases you can complete before you start applying for consulting jobs the better!

Also, try to enroll in at least one business class per year. If that’s not possible, sit in on friends’ classes – sometimes called “auditing” a class – to expose yourself to business knowledge and terminology.

Are you an arts student who wants to be a consultant? What steps are you taking to be a more attractive candidate?

Photo credit: The photographic evidence by Chris Held on Flickr

About the author

Leah Ruehlicke works in video production, living in a tiny apartment in Toronto with bad water pressure and an amazing book collection. Follow her on @LeahRuehlicke.