Liberal Arts Graduates Create Careers

Liberal Arts graduates facing graduation this spring are entering a sluggish job market. Unlike their peers in engineering or nursing, many have no idea where they will get a job or what they will be doing. Despite this, Liberal Arts graduates can expect to have bright futures. The strength of a Liberal Arts education stems from the creative thinking processes that are encouraged in these fields of study. Students with Liberal Arts educations tend to be lifelong learners and open to continuing education, learning and training. Some of the greatest minds in history have excelled in the Liberal Arts including: Einstein (math), Leonardo da Vinci (art and design), Mozart (music) and Plato (philosophy). A quote from a professor sums up the essence of a Liberal Arts education: "A liberal arts education doesn’t teach you how to make a living, it shows you how to make a life worth living." (Oregonlive, by Bill Graves of the Oregonian, 3/28/12)

Seize Opportunities When They Present Themselves

Seizing opportunities is central to turning a Liberal Arts education into a profitable career. Liberal Arts graduates haven’t learned vocational skills so creating a career based upon the opportunities that present themselves is one of the best ways to excel. For example, several of the math majors that came out of colleges in the 1990’s went on to create algorithms for computerized trading. At first they just did this for fun and then they started working for large Hedge Funds. Today, these algorithms dictate the world’s financial markets. Liberal Arts graduates and designers have started some of our country’s most successful new tech companies. For example, Rob Kalin, One of the founders of the popular website Etsy, has a classics degree from New York University. Ben Silberman, one of the co-founders of Pinterest, worked in design for Google before he left to found Pinterest. Silberman, pre-med to please his parents, changed course after graduating and “cajoled” his way into Google. Now he is one of the shining rising stars in tech despite the fact that he never trained in computers. The list of great people with a Liberal Arts education also includes John F. Kennedy who had a degree in International Affairs and English major Harold Varmus, who holds a Nobel Prize in Medicine. Liberal Arts students are rarely linear thinkers. In all cases, these are people who have taken their creative skills and applied them to the opportunities they saw linear thinkers had missed. They are creative people that capitalized on change.

Invest In Training And Business Learning

Unlike business and accounting students, Liberal Arts students who create careers often need to acquire further skills to build their career and increase their understanding of the business world. Training and certification in things like business management and Six sigma can open doors and create new opportunities. Adding these business-oriented skills to a Liberal Arts education demonstrates to prospective employers that these people are talented nimble thinkers. GlaxoSmithKline and the Sloan Center for Aging and Work produced a lengthy study in 12/2011 entitled: “Flexible Thinking and Flexible Options: Effects on Work Engagement and Organizational Commitment,” One of the most extensive studies to date, the GlaxoSmithKline study looked at the value of flexible work environments and flexible thinkers in many companies. The study included more than 7,000 employees in 10 countries. The findings revealed, “... the rewards for flexible thinking in the workplace may be greater than they were just 10 years ago. For businesses to be successful, employees need the skills associated with flexible thinking.” The value of flexible thinkers is not lost on today’s businesses. For example, one of the leading builders on the West Coast took a Liberal Arts education in Architecture from USC and added Six sigma certification and an MBA (both paid for by the company he worked for at the time) to catapult his career into six-figures. In an interview he revealed that the creative skills he learned in college give him an edge over the competition. “I know how people live and I think about how they want to live... most people in this business are just number crunchers - that’s all they know - and really that isn’t too hard to learn.” All the Liberal Arts graduates this spring can take comfort in knowing the skills they have learned are very valuable. Combined with a passion for life and learning a Liberal Arts education can provide an excellent foundation for a fabulous career in business. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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