You Majored in What? Marketing Your Arts or Humanities Degree

My dream: finishing my PhD

Every year, millions of college grads receive their diplomas and start life in the real world. Many of these graduates only have a vague idea about what they’ll be doing post-cap and gown. In this economy, finding a job at all — let alone finding a job in your field — can be quite a challenge. In particular, some majors have a reputation of being unmarketable or having little practical value, and these majors are often in the arts and humanities.

No matter how unusual your major was, though, all courses of study provide you with a unique and marketable skill set. You just may need to be a little creative about how you use those skills to land a job. Here are some tips for making your degree shine on an application.

Know What You’ve Really Learned

During college, students in different majors usually study vastly different things. While biology students may have worked with the chemicals used in rat repellents, art historians examined the nuances of color in Botticelli’s angels. In the real world, the real value of your degree comes not from what you studied in the last four years, but rather what you’ve taken away from it.

You may not think that knowledge of painting or sculpture is applicable to the corporate world. However, you’re probably an expert in analyzing a subjective piece of content and its effect on the viewer, right? Well, that’s a skill other students may not have.

Match Those Skills to Jobs

Once you’ve really thought about what you’ve taken away from your coursework, think about which jobs could most use your skill set. These may not be obvious given your skill set. For example, it’s probably not surprising that a lot of English majors work in publishing, but did you many of them also succeed as lawyers? Forming arguments and supporting them with evidence from a text is very applicable to legal work.

Be Specific About Your Success

When viewing your résumé and cover letter, hiring managers are looking for experience that will help you do your job. If you don’t have that experience in a traditional sense — such as an internship in the industry — show them how your other experiences have prepared you for work.

Say you’re a music major applying for a job in personal relations. At a first glance, your coursework may not too applicable. However, if you were able to manage several ensembles, practice time, and coursework, you probably have great time management and scheduling skills. Make sure you make that clear, and use specific examples in your cover letter.

Don’t forget about any extracurricular activities, either. If you were the philanthropy chair for a fraternity that raised ten thousand dollars for its charity, don’t leave that out. Numbers like this show you are capable of succeeding in your work.

Stand Out With Your Cover Letter

Believe it or not, you have a distinct advantage over your science and business colleagues — your ability to write well and express yourself. Invest your creative energy in writing an eye-catching cover letter. A great letter really can make the difference in getting you your dream job. Some hiring managers for certain fields even say that a well-written, job-specific cover letter can mean as much as a higher degree.

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