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Humanities Majors: Here’s How to Market Your Soft Skills

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If you’re a humanities major, you’re probably familiar with the snide remarks and eye rolls that accompany your friends’ and family’s reaction to your degree choice. “You’re majoring in what?” they say through snickers. “History? How will that help you find a job?”

The humanities get a bad rap, and due to this negative stigma, graduates with these degrees often feel discouraged when entering the job market. But you won’t see hiring managers laughing at your education.

Humanities Degrees Prepare You for the Job Market

Earning a degree in the humanities — whether it’s in English, history or psychology — will better prepare you for the current and future job market. These degree programs help you develop valuable critical thinking, communication and soft skills.

Hiring managers from every industry are looking for the skillsets that humanities majors bring to the workforce. If you know where to look for jobs and how to market your skills, that will help your job search — even in an unpredictable job market.

Developing Soft Skills While Studying the Humanities

I majored in English because I wanted to be a novelist, and it wasn’t until my senior year of college that I realized I would need to find a paying job to support myself as I pursued my dream. The problem was that I had no idea what I could actually do. At first, my degree felt limiting.  

Students in other departments, it seemed, were gaining hands-on experience for their career field. They were taking water samples from nearby rivers, learning to use technology and software, or student teaching.

As an English major, I spent a lot of time reading books and writing essays, which didn’t seem like much. But it turns out I was doing a lot more than just reading or writing. I was developing critical thinking, research, and written communication skills by extrapolating information from my assigned texts, researching and analyzing scholarly articles, and writing essays.

A majority of employers seek these soft skills in their employees. In fact, the five top soft skills for any job include:

  • Creativity
  • Self-advocacy
  • Adaptability
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Critical thinking

Humanities majors learn to develop all five of these skills. Furthermore, these soft skills serve as a bedrock for students who can later learn the hard skills required for their desired role.

According to Dr. Grace Glass, Vice President of American Public University System (APUS) and Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, Employers emphasize that while they can train new hires in processes and content, they can’t train what the humanities teach — effective written and oral communication, teamwork, critical thinking, and professionalism.”

No matter what your degree is in, studying the humanities is useful for a variety of industries, including business and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Gain Hands-On Experience in the Humanities Field

Just as any other student, you can also gain hands-on experience as a humanities major. Acquiring this experience will take research and time, as these experiences will not be integrated into your coursework. But you will be able to list them on your resume.

Research volunteer or internship opportunities to gain professional experience in your industry. My college had a small museum located beside our auditorium, and a few of my history major classmates worked as tour guides there. Volunteer opportunities are everywhere — you simply have to look.

You can also research ways to publish your work, such as publishing LinkedIn articles, freelance writing blog content or submitting essays to academic journals. For publication opportunities, consider submitting creative content to our literary journal, the Bird & Dog, or article content to its blog. For students interested in history, check out the Saber and Scroll Historical Society for publication opportunities.

Our students and alumni can also co-author articles with our Career Coaches to be considered for publication on the blogs APU Edge and AMU Edge. If you’re interested in this type of opportunity, reach out to your Career Coach to learn how the process works.

Joining an organization and taking on different roles is another great way to gain hands-on experience. As a college student, I served as the editor of my campus’s literary magazine, where I developed hard skills in editing and using Adobe software as well as soft skills in communication, leadership, and collaboration. You can find student organizations in the student Success Center.

Be Sure to Perform Industry Research and Plan for Your Career

Perform the proper research and plan for your career; I can’t stress this step enough. Because your humanities degree will prepare you for a variety of industries, that will assist you as you’re deciding which career options to pursue.

Some of those jobs may require further education, certifications or experience. This research is especially important for people who pursue psychology or sociology degrees.

To perform industry research, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ new Field of Degree pages, which let you investigate occupational information based on your degree program. You don’t have to settle on one career option. Just make sure you know what skills, experience, and additional certifications or licenses are required for the roles in which you’re interested.

Market Your Hard and Soft Skills on Your Resume

While developing your resume, build out a section near the top of your resume to include your hard and soft skills. Think about your professional and educational experience, as well as skills you can actively demonstrate to an employer. If you’re having trouble identifying a skillset for your resume, reach out to a Career Coach for a resume review and discussion.

It’s best to list hard skills on your resume, as these skills are more easily measured. If you list your soft skills, only list those skills that are found in the job description and include bulleted examples that describe how you used these skills in the past. For instance, if you include research as a soft skill, explain what you have researched as well as the methods you used to perform this research.

This general resume will serve as the foundation for every resume you submit to an employer in the future. Ideally, tailor your resume based on the job description for each position you apply to. Keep your general resume handy so you can make copies of it and insert applicable keywords when necessary.

Demonstrate Your Soft Skills through Writing Samples and Interview Stories 

Show, don’t tell. If you list soft skills like communication, adaptability or teamwork on your resume, be prepared to demonstrate these skills through writing samples or by relating stories during an interview. You’ll need to be prepared with specific examples from past experiences.

During an interview, for instance, the hiring manager may ask you to provide an example of a time when you made a mistake and had to mitigate the issue. You may also be asked how you worked as a member of a team.

Showing your soft skills is not always easy. But employers want to ensure that you really do possess these valuable skills.

You might think: “How will I know what questions employers will ask me?” You can’t know for sure, since employers will ultimately ask you questions based on what they value in their employees. But if you review the soft skills listed on your resume and closely review the job ad, you can make an educated guess and prepare beforehand.

If written communication is a big component of the job description, come prepared with writing samples. For those who want to write for a living, create an online portfolio using content platforms like Weebly or WordPress, where you can showcase your best work. Remember to add the link to this portfolio in your resume for employers to review before your interview.

Contact a Career Coach for Support 

With valuable soft skills under your belt, you’ll be well equipped to enter the job market. But finding a job — especially one you like — will require more than possessing these skills.

Having a strong resume, good interviewing skills and proper experience are important. In addition, creating a pipeline of contacts and having the ability to effectively network with those in your preferred industry will be helpful.

Remember: You’re not alone in this process. Career Services is here to guide you through your educational and professional career. A Career Coach can help you:

  • Determine the right career path for your personal and professional needs
  • Develop job search strategies
  • Tailor your resume for a specific position
  • Prepare for an interview

Speak with your industry-aligned Career Coach today to get started.

Kass Williams serves as the Career Services Coordinator, employing her communication, editing and project management skills to support the Career Services Department with content creation and email marketing. She holds a B.A. in English with a Writing Concentration from Davis & Elkins College.

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