“We should create a halfway house for liberal arts graduates. They could join after graduation, and we would tell them what to do with their lives before reentering society. It’ll be like pre-hab.”
Eight years ago, I could have used that halfway house. As an English major fresh from the cornfields of Grinnell, Iowa, I wondered what to do with a degree bestowed by the department of Humanities. (Oh, the humanity indeed). Although I could analyze Paradise Lost, profit and loss escaped me. How exactly would my education in the abstract ever apply to the real world?
This plight may sound familiar to many recent liberal arts graduates, and I’m sorry to report that your coursework in cross-cultural hegemonies will never have a practical application. However, I can confirm that your ability to think critically, communicate clearly and read with an eye for analysis will be valued by employers.
In my case, I’ve been able to apply these skills within Siegel+Gale’s Simplification group. Just as colleague Jenny Eggers found her education in advertising helpful as she transitioned to information architecture, I’ve found that my liberal arts background has prepared me well for the work we do each day:
Reading a lot and analyzing quickly
Imagine someone gives you less than two weeks to understand 600 pages of documents about a subject you’re not familiar with. This happens often. It was also a common occurrence in college, with courses requiring a heavy amount of reading and the ability to quickly comprehend a new topic.
Finding connections and relationships
Many of our clients have siloed business operations, so we’re often connecting the dots between brand, communications, business owners, technology systems and the customer. This is similar to learning the relationships between literature, art, history and religion, and understanding their influences on each other.
Asking questions and pushing boundaries
To solve the problem at hand, we consistently ask our clients:
- What does that mean?
- Does it have to be this way?
- What if…?
Thinking beyond what’s immediately presented was a skill I learned early as an undergraduate. This analytical foundation helps immensely as I tackle complex problems within industries that are often notoriously reluctant to change.
Supporting and defending your viewpoint
As consultants, we’re required to provide support for our strategic recommendations, and defend them when necessary. To convince others, you need to persuasively articulate your position. This is a skill that’s reinforced throughout a liberal arts education; most courses are built around discussion, and there’s rarely a “right” answer.
Our group has a knack for translating jargon into plain language, and we pride ourselves on communicating clearly and simply. I credit my liberal arts education—with its lengthy papers and written exams—for positively influencing my writing skills.
While I’m only a sample size of one, I hope my experience confirms that your liberal arts degree can come in handy. And if you’re looking to use it here, we currently have openings for information architects.
Megan Pluskis is a senior information architect for the Siegel+Gale New York office.