What Employers Should Know About Liberal Arts Graduates

By Gretchen Kernbach on May 6, 2016

When one usually hears the phrase “liberal arts,” terms such as literature, art, music and philosophy come to mind. Then alongside those terms, come negative connotations perceived by employers.

In the dog-eat-dog world today, employment is harder to come by than it ever was. To add to stress, recruiters typically look for college graduates who majored in more specialized fields, referring to economics, accounting, engineering, or business. However, there is more to liberal arts than meets the eye, and recruiters are definitely not seeing straight.

Image via glasbergen.com

Richard Detweiler, president of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and founder of the Global Liberal Arts Alliance, conducted research which resulted in the finding of leadership among most liberal arts graduates. According to naceweb.org, this means he “found that liberal arts graduates are more likely to be leaders, contributors, and civically engaged than those college graduates who, he says, didn’t have liberal arts graduates’ ‘breadth and range of education.’”

In addition, Detweiler busted the myth stating graduates are not useful in the workplace. The rest of his conclusions will be presented at NACE2016, an employment conference hosted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, to be held June 7-10.

Furthermore, Susan Adams of Forbes released an article in 2014 titled “New Study: Is No Degree Better Than A Liberal Arts Degree?” Adams stated. “If you are in the millennial generation and your goal is to find a job, it may be wiser to get no college degree at all than to spend four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars earning a humanities B.A.”

Her opinion was formulated by a survey of approximately 3,000 job seekers and HR professionals conducted by Dan Schawbel, who runs Millennial Branding. Adams reported he “found that a striking 64 percent of hiring managers said they would consider a candidate who hadn’t gone to a day of college. At the same time, fewer than 2 percent of hiring managers said they were actively recruiting liberal arts grads.”

In harsher words, liberal arts graduates are being discriminated against. Between Detweiler’s and Schawbel’s discoveries, that is enough evidence to recognize a problem. This is the year to throw away everything you thought you knew about students who pursued a degree in liberal arts. Now, you can welcome in the truth about them.

Expect these graduates to have an appreciation for different points of view. Their analytical personality allows them to compare/contrast opposing ideas and opinions. In addition, always assume liberal arts graduates are skilled in communication, an ability that is needed in every type of work environment. This means they can construct efficient documents with clear, concise messages.

Cultural literacy is a key skill to have nowadays as our population becomes more and more diverse. This may not have been as important 20 years ago, but today it stands as a major topic of discussion. According to liberalartsadvantage.com, cultural literacy is “the ability to understand the ways in which cultures are different and how that’s reflected in levels of formality, [and] expected behavior between generations and genders.”

Emotional intellect is another significant skill liberal arts grads obtain over their college career. Often, the work atmosphere is filled with hectic, stressed out people trying to meet deadlines and such. It is useful to have a sense of others’ emotions when interacting with a superior or a client. L.A. graduates tend to understand human motivation better than others and know when to appropriately use emotions in decision-making.

In addition, other abilities such as leadership and organization are acquired as a L.A. major. According to liberalartsadvantage.com, a strong sense of leadership means “the ability to visualize what needs to be done and can describe it to others; the willingness to sign up to do what’s needed, demonstrate initiative, say, ‘I’ll do that!’—and then they do it, with integrity and intention.”

The ability to effectively organize and plan things out is vital to any business. Yes, a liberal arts major would be a good person to plan out a wedding, but in this situation, it means effectively not procrastinating. Proficiently estimating timeframes is crucial when it comes to hitting deadlines. You do not want a worker who does all his or her work at the last minute, or even forgets to do it altogether.

Image via dc.edu

As projected, graduates from a liberal arts school are creative thinkers. Creativity is essential in any company regardless the type of work.

According to elitedaily.com:

“We live in a world that is constantly becoming innovated with new concepts, ideas and technology. Having the creativity to help innovate something that has never been created before — anything from a product to a piece of art — is all based on where your mind wants to take you … People in today’s world need to realize that individuals in leadership positions must be creative and become creative problem solvers as these are skills of the future. You need to unleash your creativity and understand how important it truly is to have it flourish throughout your life and career.”

There is more than meets the eye, or in other words, there is more than meets a degree. Do not be so quick to judge a liberal arts graduate. They have the necessary skills (and beyond) to qualify for a job. Negative connotations do nothing but close your mind to new people and new possibilities. Review each prospective employee without judgement of what they decided to pursue in college.

By Gretchen Kernbach

Uloop Writer
Virginia Tech

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