Why Your Liberal Arts Degree Can Still Get You a Job After College

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Remember back in junior high how the days used to drag on? It sometimes seemed like the clocks were mocking us, especially when the minute hand would move backwards for several agonizing seconds before finally landing on the spot that indicated sweet freedom. You’d wait several more eternities (that in reality were probably not much more than ten seconds), and finally the bell would ring.

Once you get to college, everything gets turned upside down. You suddenly feel like you’re in one of those movie montages where the calendar pages blow away and months elapse in the blink of an eye. How can the time between moving into your dorm freshman year and listening to the commencement speech senior year feel like just 15 minutes in 7th period chemistry?

Now that graduation is just a few short months away, you may have officially entered freak out mode. How are you going to find a job? Oh, and also figure out what KIND of job you even want?

Guest writer Bill Gerken knows exactly how you feel. He shares what he’s learned as a liberal arts major at a technical school and outlines a plan for tackling the job search in the months leading up to graduation.

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It’s tough getting a job, especially just after college. Competing with (sometimes) thousands of other candidates can be a daunting experience. Even more difficult? Getting a job as a liberal arts grad.

As a senior in the journalism and political science departments at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I’ve learned a lot—how to analyze policies, understand digital politics, write in different styles.

But unlike a math or engineering student, my skill sets aren’t quite so tangible. You can’t give me a problem and expect the same solution every time. Liberal arts majors don’t see things in black and white.

An engineering student usually becomes an engineer, but a political science student doesn’t necessarily become a politician. Us liberal arts grads don’t face the same limitations on our careers that STEM majors do, but that also means it’s harder for us to find jobs.

On my job hunt, I’ve received more rejection emails than I can count. I’m not ashamed. Regardless of your major, if you’re searching for jobs, you’re probably facing the same problems I am. Everyone does.

When we enter college, we all have glorified expectations of our future careers. The reality is quite different.

I pictured myself transitioning smoothly from college to my first job. My friends and family who had encountered bumps and unforeseen circumstances along the way didn’t faze me. I was sure I’d be different. I’d get a job, no problem. And yet, here I am—with less than 100 days until my undergraduate degrees are completed, I’m still jobless. That fact made me realize that I needed to change my approach.

I decided to follow the advice of my professors, career counselors, and friends; I needed to apply to jobs I didn’t necessarily see myself going into as a freshman. Instead of applying only to political science and journalism jobs directly related to my field of study, I’ve begun to broaden my search.

So, how do you show employers that you’re worth noticing, especially if you’re applying to jobs outside your major?

Here’s my approach: In preparation for the career fair at RIT, I applied to over 50 jobs. Some of them are related to my field, but most of them are only related to the skills I’ve gained. After rewriting my entire résumé, I felt prepared for the challenge… and ready for the firm handshake that could seal my future career path.

My broader job search began to include public relations and marketing positions. Marketing and public relations aren’t my majors, so I had to come up with a way to sell myself to potential employers.

To the recruiters with curious looks when I staked a claim in the marketing divisions, I pitched my ten-second elevator speech.

“I know I’m not a PR or marketing student, but I have experience in all the job requirements. Aside from technical skills, including the programs necessary for public relations careers, I also have an understanding of how people think. Through political science, I’ve learned how people make decisions based on presentation. In journalism, I learned how to write in a format that catches the reader’s attention. After all, what is politics but the ultimate form of marketing?”

My elevator pitch got me an interview with the third recruiter I talked to at the job fair—she told me she respected my non-traditional approach.

Though I know marketing students learn a particular set of skills related to their field that I may or may not be privy to, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m looking for a job. If a recruiter is willing to consider me for a position that isn’t directly related to my field, heck, I’ll take it.

I learned something they don’t tell you when you begin college: Don’t apply to jobs only in your field. Broaden your horizons and consider the skills you’ve learned throughout your college career.

Your first job might not be what you expected, but it might just be what you needed. Considering other positions could land you a job you never anticipated and take you on a career path you end up loving.

Now it’s your turn! What’s your plan for life after graduation? Are you worried about finding a job after college? Let us know in the comments section below.

Not sure how to approach your job search? Check out our Job Search Survival Kit to learn some small, manageable steps you can take to get started on your job search (no matter how quickly graduation is coming up).


About the author:

bill gerken

As a student at Rochester Institute of Technology, Bill went for political science and journalism. Soon enough, he realized the real world is a scary place with plenty of jobs—jobs that you need more experience to get. Check out his sites: gradpocalypse.blogspot.com, reporter.rit.edu/users/wjg6008. Connect with Bill via Twitter: @wjg6008.

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