Mitt Romney. Carly Fiorina. Peter Thiel. Lloyd Blankfein.
If you thought I was randomly listing names off the Forbes 400 list of billionaires, you wouldn’t be far off. But some readers will know that all four of them do have something in common.
A liberal arts degree.
While often dismissed as a less-than-useful degree, it’s an academic pathway that can help you develop vital soft skills like emotional intelligence and critical thinking abilities. And these qualities can definitely set you apart from other candidates and make you the professional of choice. Here’s how.
In a recent survey done by researchers at the University of Southern California, business executives rated empathy and intellectual curiosity as two of the five most important skills for success in today’s business landscape. The characters, ideas, and events that one encounters when reading literature, philosophy, or historical texts can’t be encountered anywhere else. It’s exactly this intellectual and emotional absorption and digestion that teaches the mind to think deeper about the world around them. With exposure to the emotional complexes that Shakespeare can present—behaviours and compulsions that span the entire spectrum of human emotion— you’re better equipped to understand the emotional complexes of those in your life around you, including your clients, colleagues and even interviewers! This will go a long way in understanding what they need from you and how you can deliver it to the best of your abilities.
Critical Thinking Skills
When it comes down to performance in the workplace, all that really matters is getting the job done. Employers aren’t going to care about your A in Marketing 101 if you can’t replicate its success in real life.
Studying the humanities gives you the ability to more fully understand the skills and effort required when doing a job. The task ahead can always be learned— there will always be a set of instructions, whether it’s filling out a balance sheet or designing a cantilever. What’s important is being able to think bigger—by understanding the end goal, not just how to get there, so you’ll be able to recognize the larger implications of your work. Maybe there’s an easier solution or room to innovate along the way—you won’t know until you take a closer look.
Now-Market This to Employers
This is the crucial part—apply this information. Market your arts degree to potential employers as an advantage over other candidates and make sure to explain why. There are many places to do this— at networking events, on job applications, even on social media. Emphasize how your liberal arts degree has helped you develop your soft skills and engage them in a conversation that exhibits your emotional intelligence and critical thinking abilities. There is no better way to show an employer the unique skills that a liberal arts degree can bring to the table than to use it to get a seat in the first place.