When you’re in college, your whole life revolves around your major, so it’s easy to feel like it has to set the tone for your life after college, too. This is great for the business or computer science majors who can see how their degree translates into the working world, but what if you majored in something like Art History or Russian Literature?
Liberal Arts majors might have to work a little harder to show employers what skills they possess and how they’re relevant, but it’s not impossible.
Guest blogger Alex Cherin shares his thoughts on how he used his History major to land an internship—and how you can do the same.
A lack of skills is the biggest obstacle to employment. Even entry-level jobs are requiring at least a year of prior work experience. So how do you learn those vital skills when nobody’s willing to teach you? The answer is salesmanship.
Here’s the thing: Employers are willing to teach newbies if they think their time and money is well spent. Because it’s costly to hire graduates, the key to convincing employers you’re worth it is to make what you learned in college an asset. Don’t fret you English and Art majors—there is hope.
If you were a Liberal Arts major, your degree pretty much says, “Hi, I learned to read analytically, write specifically, and think critically.” Sweet. The next step is to sell it. What employer in their right mind wouldn’t want someone who reads between the lines, communicates efficiently, and can think on their feet?
Your résumé is your first and only shot to really sell yourself. Keeping that in mind, think about what you learned in school and what employers might look for in a new hire, then call out those skills in your cover letter. Remember, you didn’t spend 200 grand soaking up ramen for four years, right? Now’s your time to gloat about what it took to survive in your major.
For me, I had to sell History. In my cover letter to an internship, I discussed how the independent projects I worked on in my major help me rely on myself for answers. I went on about how the overwhelming amount of information I had to consume and the nuances I had to uncover in texts made me a detail-oriented person with a strong work ethic. The analogy I made was clear—if I could earn a degree in history, I could learn how to do the job. Now do the same with your major.
No doubt you have other work and extracurricular experience. Use that, too. When I was big on activism, I wrote about how my marching experience gave me strong resolve, a good grasp on how to handle complex and spontaneous situations, and developed good leadership skills. Of course, I made sure to disavow any allegiance to peculiar pinko organizations.
Don’t forget the importance of using your network. The connections you made in college will likely make you or break you in life. With their help, your salesmanship can only amplify your chances of employment.
The whole point here is to make use of what you got. To polish and shine your goods so employers can at least appreciate your showmanship. More importantly, stay confident and realize you’re the opportunity prospective employers are looking for. Good luck out there and happy (job)hunting.
Homework time! Make a list of the skills you’ve acquired in college (either through your major, your extracurricular activities, or your volunteer work). Try to incorporate these into your cover letter and answers to interview questions. Need a little help drafting your cover letter? Check out this post to get some ideas.
Alex Cherin is a writer in Portland, Oregon. He’s available for freelance projects. Find him and more of his work at alexcherin.com.