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7 Reasons Your Humanities Major Doesn’t Mean Unemployment

7 Reasons Your Humanities Major Doesn’t Mean Unemployment

Recently, I had a conversation with a new acquaintance about where we went to school. I told him my alma mater (a large state university), and after we talked about its March Madness bracket potential this year (mediocre to decent), he asked what I studied there. The answer: English. The response: “Oh, so you must teach.”

The implication was that if I had such an impractical major, it was teaching or bust. Now, the lovely person didn’t mean to imply that I was otherwise unemployable, but that’s how conversations like that can feel when you’re the one with a humanities degree.

If you tell people you majored in accounting or computer programming, they likely have a good idea of what you do every day. But what about those of us who majored in philosophy or history? Are we doomed to a life of standing on street corners in the middle of the afternoon, giving speeches on the many subtexts of Hamlet? Short answer: no. And if you too are a humanities grad, you don’t need to fret too much about your employability. Here’s why.

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1. The employment picture isn’t as grim as you may have heard.

According to Business Insider, humanities majors face an unemployment rate of 9%, which is on par with the rate for non-humanities majors like math (9.1% unemployment), and all majors overall (7.9% unemployment). Graduates of most majors face a challenging job market, but it’s not necessarily worse for humanities majors by default.

2. You actually have a number of options once you graduate.

Many humanities majors have to make a decision: Continue on the academia path, or go out into the “real” world? Both are valid choices, with different higher ed and employment concerns. This allows you to do your own thing and choose a career path that works for your interests and immediate goals. You’re not locked into a specific job type.

3. Your skills aren’t easily summed up by a major name.

Sure, you studied art history or cultural anthropology. You also spent your time in college developing critical thinking skills, writing skills, and comprehension skills. Humanities especially lean heavily on using writing and communication skills to develop concepts. These are essential in any job, whether or not that job is directly related to your course of study.

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That can give you a leg up over people who took mostly specialized classes in college and may have very specific knowledge and skills, but weaker writing and communication skills. Writing skills will get you everywhere.

4. Your skills aren’t easily outsourced.

When the economy shifts and companies try to find ways to outsource jobs to other countries or to computer algorithms, humanities majors aren’t easily replicated. Again, those writing and critical thinking skills are extra essential. Your ability to take information and apply it toward a solution is something that can’t be replaced easily. Empathy and social skills, same deal. There are some elements that can’t be pushed out, and that makes those skill holders valuable in any economy.

5. That you graduated is often more important than what you studied.

On a resume, that A.A., B.A., M.A., or Ph.D. tells the reader that you had the skills and drive to finish your degree. Regardless of where you went to school or what you majored in, it gives a baseline sense of your accomplishments.

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6. Social intelligence may beat subject-specific intelligence.

This is not necessarily true for, say, surgery (or maybe it is!), but in most professional fields, employers are now seeking candidates with emotional intelligence on top of hard skills. The kinds of skills you develop in the humanities can give you an edge, and show that you’re the kind of employee who can grow, analyze, and flourish on the job. You can always go and learn skills like coding, but it’s tough to go back and teach yourself how to analyze situations and talk about them coherently.

7. A major is not a lifelong decision.

We make lots of decisions between the ages of 18 and 22 that we wouldn’t want dogging us for the rest of our days. Perspectives change, realities change; needs change. Even having a “practical” and specific major is no guarantee that you will have lifelong employment in that field.

For example, I have a friend who gave up her engineering career, and is now a cake designer and a small business owner. Building a specific set of skills through a major is pretty important, but it’s not necessarily the most important thing forever. Building a set of skills that will serve you flexibly throughout your career evolution, that’s the key to longterm success.

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The next time you start to feel like your liberal arts major may fail you in the long run, remember that you made a choice that set you on a path—not a dead end. You can work with the skills you’ve built to make your humanities degree match your professional goals. And you don’t have to panic the next time someone looks skeptical and says, “So, uh, are you just going to go to law school, then?”

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via shutterstock.com

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Jessie Liu

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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