(5.7 minute read)
While searching for a job for this summer, I became very frustrated with how many job postings required a certain major instead of a certain skill set. Mostly because — the fact that I have a business degree and am currently a liberal arts student, doesn’t mean I can only work in sales or write poetry for the rest of my life. I have practical experience and self-taught talents that easily qualify me for jobs in a much wider variety of fields and, above all, a liberal arts education, that honestly can do far more for me than my business education.
First of all, a liberal arts degree is timeless. Let me explain. I finished my associate’s degree only two years ago, and it’s already horrendously outdated. Turns out, all that information I memorized, then spit back out verbatim for every exam (which, by the way, you can do just as easily for free in the solitude of a library corner) is largely irrelevant now. I memorized definitions, and specific marketing strategies, and sets of problems and their solutions. But… the problem is that the business world now has an entirely new set of terms, entirely new market situations, entirely new problems, and they have to find entirely new solutions. My specialized degree failed me, because this is how I spent my time, instead of learning to think.
It’s not the business majors who keep up with changing times. It’s the thinkers–the people who have the critical thinking skills to approach new problems and invent their own solutions. The people who not only keep up with changing markets, but cause the change, predicting what customers want before they even know they want it. And, it’s the people who not only have these innovative ideas, but also the communication skills–the written and oral rhetoric skills–to share these ideas effectively, and persuade people higher up the ladder that they’re worthwhile.
Yes, non-liberal-arts colleges have writing classes… ENG 101, 102, Business Communications, etc. etc… but at least from my experience, those classes don’t teach communication at all. They’re like all the other classes; just memorize sets of rules, and practice following them. While it’s very useful to be well acquainted with MLA and APA formatting, it’s also really depressing to read my old papers and realize that I was placing commas and semicolons properly, but in-between words that didn’t mean anything… or worse, were just plain sophistic. What liberal arts students have is the unique opportunity to combine both, fine classical rhetoric and the technicalities of proper grammar and punctuation.
As thinkers, liberal arts students are also especially good at is leading. Perhaps you’ve heard this a hundred times, but let me give you a new perspective. I was listening to a TedTalk the other day, given by a man from Africa (find it here). He told these horrific stories about things that happen in Africa that could be prevented if only they had leaders. One such story was, a friend of his went to Africa to work in the hospitals. Twice in the short time she was there, the power went out in the hospitals during surgery. The patients were still there, on the operating table, cut open. There wasn’t any light–not even flashlights or candles because they were so ill-prepared. The anesthesia started wearing off. The patients obviously were in pain, they started screaming, and there was nothing the doctors could do, because at this point they were helpless. One of the patients survived because the power came back on soon enough–the other one didn’t. And that could have been prevented, easily, if only someone had taken initiative and had a little fore-sight. What was even more interesting about this was, the speaker’s main point was not just that we have a dire need for leaders, but specifically that the way we get leaders is by educating students in the liberal arts. Not only did he claim this, but he’s proving it. He’s started several liberal arts schools across Africa, and is seeing results.
If you’re a liberal arts student trying to convince someone else that your degree isn’t worthless, I would also suggest reading the mission statement for your school and course description. Talk to your teachers about why they think students should train in the liberal arts. You have a lot to offer the world… don’t let your talents go to waste just because you don’t know how to explain them.