Liberal arts degrees are purposefully broad, which means there are many options for career paths. The trick is to hone in on the kind of work that interests you, and then highlight your skills and experiences that would make you good at it.
You can use your cover letter to explain to the hiring manager why your skills and abilities make you a high-quality candidate. But your resume should show what parts of your college education have prepared you for the job you want. It should reflect accomplishments — preferably, quantifiable ones — that will make you stand out among other candidates or prove that you'd be a good fit for the role.
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Here are a few items all recent graduates should try to include on their liberal arts resumes and highlight in their cover letters.
Volunteering may increase a job seeker's odds of finding employment. Characteristics like teamwork, work experience and taking on supervisory roles are resume gold and will help you show that you're a productive person with a strong work ethic and values, even if you've never held a paid position before.
If community service was an important part of your college experience, highlight it — especially if your service included tasks relevant to the job you're applying for. However, even completely unrelated volunteer work helps your resume stand out to a hiring manager, particularly if the company is rooted in public service.
Part-time jobs or internships
You shouldn't worry too much about whether your jobs or internships were relevant to the job you want. At this point, any paid experience you have is helpful. Highlight these positions in your cover letter and list any responsibilities and accomplishments in your resume.
Employers hiring entry-level employees don't expect you to have experience doing the job. However, seeing work history on your resume may give an employer confidence in your ability to show up on time, fulfill your responsibilities and learn on the job, all of which are fundamental aspects of being a solid employee.
An internship that relates to the job you're applying for is an obvious bonus. Even if it seems like all you did was pour coffee and make copies, don't underestimate the skills you learned and the connections you made during your internship.
One of the biggest benefits of joining a club, or a fraternity or sorority, is the opportunity to meet and network. They also offer benefits like opportunities to lead and organize. From president to house manager, leadership roles in student groups can be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your skills.
"I ran social media for my fraternity and I managed to grow our following and engagement," says James Watkins, a recent graduate who now works for a leading telecommunications company. "With a degree in history, I recently landed a job doing social media marketing for a Fortune 500 company because I was able to show that I had successful experience with social media."
Clubs, activities and sports
Were you involved in any clubs or activities, such as soccer, student government or marching band? If so, you likely have proven time management skills, especially if you graduated with a high GPA. Getting good grades is important, but having the discipline to study and do well in classes while participating in demanding clubs or sports — that says a lot about you.
If you were an athlete or a high-achiever in a club or activity, you can demonstrate your hard work, persistence, competitive drive and commitment — traits that will set you apart from other qualified candidates and help your liberal arts resume stand out to a hiring manager.
Related courses or projects
During your time as a student, you likely have taken classes or worked on projects that relate to the job you're applying for. Add that experience to your resume and be sure to link it to the job description using keywords. Depending on how relevant the experience was, it may also be worth a mention in your cover letter. If your degree program was writing or research-intensive and you're applying for a role that requires these skills, your cover letter is the perfect place to reinforce your resume's coverage of research and writing skills.
If you're still working on your bachelor's degree but you earned an associate's degree along the way, include that in your education section. Having an associate's degree in liberal arts on your resume tells employers that you're committed to furthering your education.
Writing your resume
Now that you've identified the things to include in your resume, where should you include them? First, determine which of the three resume formats will best fit your skills and experience: Chronological, Functional, or Hybrid. Your volunteer experience, clubs and social organizations and activities should be in a Personal Interests section. Related courses and projects likely fit best in your Education section. Our Resume Builder can help you decide where those kinds of experiences should be included to catch the eye of a hiring manager.
Liberal arts degree graduates have a full range of soft skills, and their value is in their versatility. Translating that to your resume is a critical step, and LiveCareer is here to help guide you through that process.