An Open Letter to Liberal Arts Majors Everywhere

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Dear liberal arts major,

You’re cool. Seriously, you are. You’re probably the kid with the hip glasses, the skinny jeans, and the Urban Outfitters everything (is that what the young folks are wearing these days? I’m so out of touch). You’re also the kid who takes all the philosophy classes just because you can and the nerd who reads books on the way to class just for kicks. You also may not want to teach most of your life (which is what everyone assumes you’re going to do. That or work in the insurance industry. Not my cup of tea.)

I was you. Well, ok, I was financially limited in college, so I didn’t have Urban Outfitters everything. But I did have the big glasses that fit my miniscule budget (aka I got them for free. Yeah, I’m cool.) and I took all the philosophy classes I could fit into my class schedule. And people thought I was a snob because I occasionally read a book while walking to class. Oops.

Since we’re so much alike, I wanted to give you a few pointers about life after college. Because as awesome as that liberal arts degree is, not everyone recognizes the value of it.

You are highly employable.

Employers just don’t know it. You’ve got skills that the average business major doesn’t have. In fact, did you know that the liberal arts were once considered the courses an educated person needed to participate in civilized life? (and yes, I did just paraphrase Wikipedia. Don’t revoke my degree, please.) Because of all those extra classes you took, you know how to self-educate and you know quite a bit about humanity, more than just how to close a big deal.

However, the interviewer sitting on the other side of the table doesn’t know that. He sees a nerd who likes books and probably has no social life or skills that would fit the workplace. It’s your job to convince him otherwise.

So get busy in the summer volunteering or interning or working at jobs that show you do know how to survive in a non-academic environment. For instance, work at summer camps, intern at your dad’s company, or volunteer overseas. The options are endless.

You have to create your own path.

Your career path isn’t going to look like most other college grads. You get to be creative in your job choices, and we all know the extent of your creativity, otherwise you wouldn’t have survived to the end of your liberal arts degree.

And, unfortunately–or not so unfortunately–you may work in a job you don’t particularly like for a few years. But you know what? That’s ok. That job will teach you valuable hard and soft skills that you’ll need to catapult yourself to success.

Dream big, kiddo.

For a liberal arts major, the options are endless, no joke. You aren’t tied to one industry or field by nature of your major. Nursing majors are kind of tied to nursing. Education majors are tied to education. But I can’t count the number of liberal arts grads I know who currently work in marketing, education, or government. Many even own their own businesses.

You can be whatever you want to be. And that’s kind of daunting. It has a tendency to paralyze us, leaving many of us stuck in the limbo (didn’t you love that part of Dante’s Inferno?) of those first crappy jobs right out of college.

Allow yourself to dream. Can you create a business around a particular life skill you have? You music majors out there, did you know you could write for the music industry? And I don’t mean write music. I mean write write. I’ve run into potential writing jobs for the music industry that I just don’t qualify for. Art majors, biology majors, history majors, the same goes for you.

And you don’t just have to write, either. If you love helping people, but you don’t want to write or scrape by with your own studio, create a business around video tutorials teaching people to do your particular craft. Or just do your craft and sell it online.

Work hard.

Sorry kid. Stinks to be you, but you’re going to have to work your butt off. When you work hard to meet a goal, however, it’s totally worth it. It may take a few years, but when you see your liberal arts degree + all the experience you’ve accumulated during the summers and your first years after college, you’ll look back and be grateful. That minimum wage job won’t stay a minimum wage job forever, I promise, if you keep working at it.

Don’t let anyone tell you your degree is pointless.

Because it’s not. Did you know liberal arts used to be the only kind of degree colleges offered? So everyone was a liberal arts major.

And from those liberal arts majors came a lot of great stuff. Like the Chronicles of Narnia stuff. Oh, and, more recently, Paypal (Paypal was co-founded by a philosophy major). Liberal arts majors are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, politicians, and famous philanthropists (and to be a philanthropist, you have to make money somehow). Take that liberal arts haters.

Be confident and be your hip-liberal-arts-major-self and don’t let anyone define your career path for you.

Oh the places you’ll go. It’s not going to be a piece of cake. But you can do it.

All the best,

Another liberal arts major who has by no means arrived