"So, what can you do with a liberal arts degree?" If you've been working toward a degree in history, philosophy or English, chances are someone has asked you this question at least once. Now that you're entering the job market, it's time to consider the value of your liberal arts degree.
In an interview with the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), Karyn McCoy, vice president of the DePaul University Career Center, said, “The perception is that through the liberal arts, there's no connection to a career and no clear path to career success. The rhetoric is that liberal arts degrees don't lead to jobs upon graduation.”
Don’t believe that rhetoric. Your liberal arts degree can be marketable if you know how to position it correctly. Throughout your education, you likely developed valuable skills that employers want. In fact, some leaders in the business world believe that skills matter more than majors.
Your cover letter offers you the perfect chance to make the case that you’re a qualified and motivated candidate by listing key skills that enable you to do the job well. Here are four skills that should appear in a great cover letter for a new liberal arts graduate.
1. Critical thinking
In liberal arts, you don’t just learn how to memorize information — you learn how to analyze that information critically. You understand that there is often more than one side to a story, and a problem can have many possible solutions. Your college experience teaches you to examine each challenge and propose several creative ways to overcome it. In the workplace, your future boss might call these skills "thinking outside the box" skills. A person who can think critically brings incredible value to employers, so make sure you give an example of how you used your critical thinking skills to meet your goals in a class, internship or club.
2. Written and verbal communication
In many industries, your primary mode of communication with clients — and even coworkers — will be over email. It’s more essential than ever to be able to put thoughts into written words clearly and professionally. No matter what kind of job you end up in, you'll need to be able to communicate effectively. While you might take this skill for granted, many people lack it in the professional world.
Warren Buffet, the billionaire investor, believes that being able to communicate your thoughts effectively is one key to success. Speaking in a recent interview with Michael Hood, co-founder of a company called Voiceflow, Buffet said developing communication skills is a surefire way to increase your value in the workforce.
"You can have all the brainpower in the world," Buffet said, "but you have to be able to transmit it. And the transmission is communication."
Of course, your well-written cover letter will demonstrate your excellent writing skills, but if your written and verbal communication skills are key strengths, note them specifically in your cover letter and give some details about how you’ve developed and used them.
3. Information synthesis
We live in an age of information overload, so it's important to be able to sort through the wealth of information to determine what is — and isn't — relevant.
During your liberal arts education, you likely completed research papers and assignments that required you to compile information from multiple sources and draw an insightful conclusion. This ability to look at a topic through various perspectives and resources, organize the information and make a recommendation is a critical skill for many jobs. Whether your employer needs you to determine the best printer for the company's needs or create a buyer persona based on sales analytics, your research skills will make you the right person for the job.
4. Interpersonal relations and collaboration
You likely worked on group projects and presentations in school and activities. Those experiences taught you essential collaborative skills for the professional world. Employers look for candidates who have experience working through important processes such as:
- Delegating tasks
- Negotiating meeting times
- Managing conflict
- Getting along with others
According to McCoy, "The reality is that pursuing a liberal arts degree helps build the skills that are most in demand from employers — communication, teamwork, analytical skills and more — and teaches the flexibility needed to not only succeed in getting a first job but to succeed throughout their careers in a rapidly changing workplace environment."
Candidates' resumes will vary based on their degrees, experience and the jobs they’re applying for. Your cover letter is one place the benefit of a liberal arts degree is clearest. Build your cover letter around your strengths and accomplishments and keep these four essential skills in mind as you go. Take the guesswork out of writing, formatting and structuring your great cover letter for new liberal arts graduates by using LiveCareer’s Cover Letter Builder.