Liberal Arts Colleges Offer Flexibility – 7 Ways to Enhance Your Degree

These days, liberals arts colleges have a bit of a bad reputation. Following your passions into a liberal arts degree can seem like a risky decision. With the fluctuating nature of the economy and the most recent recession only just starting to become a bad memory, you might hear a lot of negative talk about the prospects of getting a job as an English or Fine Arts major. While these naysayers have some grounds, in reality, there’s a lot you can do with a liberal arts degree that gets overlooked.

Here are 7 ways to take advantage of your liberal arts college education:

1.Have Confidence In Your Degree 

The first step toward getting the job and life you want is confidence. So, you got a degree in poetry or theatre. You followed your passion! Be proud of that fact and know that your ability to navigate through the mires of your research and writing-dependent degree has actually given you more applicable skills than you realize. While a lot of liberal arts colleges offer degrees in subject matters that don’t directly translate to a job, these kinds of degrees leave you with strong writing skills, a superb ability to find and take in new information, and excellent communication tactics. All of these are highly sought after skills by employers. Focus on the best parts of your liberal arts education and promote your dedication to following your passion because, in the end, being a unique and passionate individual is going to make you stand out from a sea of applicants with the same credentials.

7-ways-to-enhance-your-degree2. Focus On How To Use Your Skills

While liberal arts colleges may not lead you with an easy path to a job right away, a liberal arts degree is a bit like having lots of little skills that can be applied to many paths. Part of your job is to hone in on where you want to direct and use them. The clearer you are about where you want to go, the better you’ll be able to leverage your degree and the easier your path into gainful employment will be. Employers want to know what you are trying to accomplish, where you are trying to go with your career, and how they fit into that path. Start by looking at what you love most about your liberal arts education. Was it the ability to work as a team? Maybe it was the excitement of finding a question or subject matter that you were curious about and spending hours digging into it,  learning all you can? Maybe you loved being the center of the action, and talking in front of people? Whatever it was that drew you to your liberal arts degree can help to reveal the career for you.

3. Fill In The Gaps

You followed your passion and that’s not something to be ashamed of, but once you find the direction you want to head in for your career you may also find that you need a few more skills to complement your wide range of liberal arts talents. Technical skills and certifications are especially good complements for your resume, and can really fill in the gaps for employers in the industry you are seeking work. Take some time to really research the programs and technical skills that job posters in the career path you seek are looking for. Now, use that same curiosity for learning that brought you to pursue a degree at a liberal arts college and learn something new!

4. Get Work Experience As A Volunteer Or In Non-Profits

A lot of the issues that people have with liberal arts colleges is the perceived lack of real-world application that a degree from one of these institutions leaves you with. A lot of liberal arts colleges offer internships that can go a long way toward helping you get the work experience necessary for your career path. But, if you didn’t participate in an internship while earning your liberal arts degree, there are still plenty of chances to get relevant work experience. Talk to your college about any connections they might have, look into volunteer work, or get your experience at a nonprofit. All of these avenues can provide you with the work experience that you need to really get yourself moving.

5. Use Your Cover Letter Wisely

Your cover letter is your chance to explain exactly how your liberal arts education is applicable to the job you are applying to. This is your platform to bring any soft skills you may have learned to light. Use some of the things that made you passionate about your degree in the first place. Be clear about how any extracurricular or internship work applies to the job. Talk about working to direct a team, spending significant amounts of time digging into research, and talking in front of people. All of these are great skills that liberal arts colleges provide you with. Remember, your cover letter is also a chance to show off those writing skills that you’ve been honing!

6. Boost Your Resume With A Portfolio

A resume filled with work experience isn’t the only way to show off your relevant experience. Many liberal arts degrees are centered around projects that require real-life skills like writing and designing. Take advantage of all the projects that you worked on in college to add a portfolio of work that you’ve completed to your resume. Bring your portfolio with you during interviews to show prospective employers what you’ve been working on during your time in college.

7. Embrace What Makes You Different

Liberal arts colleges can provide you with an open format to explore what excites you and what you find passion in doing. It’s a unique experience. And creates a unique and diverse graduate. Take advantage of these differences! People hire people. Showcase your passions, reveal that you’re a real and rounded person and people will be more likely to remember you and to like you! After-all, people hire people that they genuinely like and enjoy.

 

 

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Are Liberal Arts Degrees Worth It?

This is one of the most important questions circulating around young students today: are liberal arts degrees worth it?

There’s a decent number of people that say “no.” Their argument against liberal arts degrees is typically, hard skills come first. Students should master science, math, education, and nowadays, engineering before they pursue music, the arts, or theater. In fact, the same people that argue against liberal arts, are usually the same people that argue we still don’t have enough engineers, scientists, and arithmeticians.Are Liberal Arts Degrees Worth It?

There’s a belief that we’re experiencing a STEM gap (STEM being Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), but this works both ways. On the one hand, many companies expect basic coding skills to be mandatory for entry level jobs, while others won’t hire someone without a Bachelor of Science and several years of experience.

However, while hard skills are always good to have and can bulk up your resume, liberal arts degrees aren’t going anywhere any time soon and, if anything, are going to become more sought after. Here’s why:

Entrepreneurship is In

Whereas students from IVY league schools used to be head hunted by companies looking for qualified individuals hungry to get their foot in the door, now students are seeking entrepreneurship instead. They don’t want to work for someone else, they want to work for themselves. What’s more, the mystique of a big company isn’t as appealing as it once was. Instead people are interested in investing in themselves and the brightest people they know.

Of course, in addition to this, we’re living in a digital age, where the possibilities are limitless. Now, you can develop apps, games, devices, accessories and so forth all from the comfort of your home and a few bright minds.

This means that even people who would normally be interested in pursuing a larger company may not simply because what they’re interested in hasn’t been invented yet.

So, to say that the liberal arts degree’s value is diminishing is untrue. If anything, it’s becoming more necessary since…

Soft Skills Require Training

Hard skills require some training as well, but it’s not impossible to teach. Hard skills are called such because you can plug someone into a series of YouTube videos and they’ll know how to get the job done. Similarly, you can hand them a book and they can read how to perform the task. Hard skills are no different than cooking and, like cooking, they’re wholly necessary, but they don’t teach you how to form your own recipes. That’s where a liberal arts degree comes in.

If startups require anything, it’s soft skills and ideas. Although science and engineering are crucial to your ideas becoming a reality, you need to know how to market yourself and how to communicate effectively, and think strategically. It’s more than having a great idea, it’s about selling people on great ideas. That’s how business grows.

Moreover, people can be unpredictable. Take Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, he and a team of talented individuals went through a process of building, measuring and learning. They built a product emulating a successful online messenger and tested it out on people, hoping they’d use their messenger the same way as their competitor.

In the early stages, their product was different enough to warrant people switching over. In fact, it wasn’t until they added some new features that people saw the benefit. Even then, Ries and his team had worked tirelessly for their users to import their contacts from their current messenger over into their new one. It seemed perfect… the problem was their users didn’t want to do that. They wanted to use the new messenger to meet new people, not import their old friends.

This required the team to rethink their product since people were using it but not for the way it was intended. That’s what liberal arts degrees can rectify, not only being able to think – and ideally predict – where a company can go, but also being able to immediately adapt, test, and learn.

The fact is, liberal arts degrees are important because they teach people how to communicate, how to convey information, and how to listen/comprehend material. These things are imperative to not just certain businesses, but all business.

The Landscape is Changing

The education landscape is changing. Currently, engineering and coding classes aren’t mandatory, but they should be. In the meantime, for prospective students considering the pursuit of a liberal arts degree, enroll in a coding class over the summer or take an internship at a tech firm. It will boost your skill set and ultimately make you better prepared and more qualified for a position after you graduate.

Especially when you consider that America’s number one export is services, there is always going to be an offshore company that can perform hard skills for a fraction of the price of an American employee – it’s a fact most people have come to terms with. However, if you want to groom a leader and grow a business, then you need to have someone who’s proven to be more than a do-er, you need thinkers.

The bottom line is you don’t need to know how to program an app to develop a great idea for an app. Ideas are the pieces that are growing in importance and it requires a thoughtful person to channel that idea into a reality. So while liberal arts degrees aren’t diminishing, they may require some supplemental material in the form of science, technology, engineering, and math, but with the emphasis is on supplemental.

 

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