My seven-year-old daughter changes her mind every day about what she wants to be when she grows up. One day she wants to be a baker, the next day a photographer, and sometimes she wants to be a farmer.
Frustrated, she will say that she can’t decide. To which I reply, “you don’t have to choose one thing. You may be lots of things. It’s more important to stay open about what you want to do and focus on what you’re good at doing!”
Few of us know exactly what we want to do when we head to college. Many of my colleagues and friends studied one thing during their undergraduate years only to wind up in a career that has nothing to do with that major.
My father is a great example. He majored in history, flew jets in the Navy, went to law school, and then became a career foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State. What was he really good at? Negotiating, listening, remembering details/conversations, and embracing adventure.
My neighbor majored in art history, minored in psychology, and is now Vice President of Compensation at a well-known investment firm. She is good at multi-tasking, thinking things through carefully, and managing people. She’s also a mother of four kids!
It is liberating to realize that what you choose to study is not the only determinant of your career success. Honing your interests/passions, gaining hands-on experience through internships or research, and developing skills like teamwork are all essential too.
A liberal arts education gives you a broad palette of tools to apply in almost any work environment.
That’s great, you say, but is that what employers seek? Yes! Employers consistently say they want to hire people who have a broad knowledge base and can work together to solve problems, debate, communicate, and think critically—all skills that liberal arts programs aggressively, and perhaps uniquely, strive to teach.
And once you are out in the real world, the more general skills of communication, organization, and judgment become highly valued. As a result, liberal arts graduates frequently catch or surpass graduates with career-oriented majors in both job quality and compensation.
My daughter is creative, empathetic, and loves the outdoors. As a future Terrier (fingers crossed), she will have the same opportunity to study broadly and carve her own career path, even if it zig-zags. A liberal arts foundation can best prepare her for whatever she wants to be, or winds up doing. It turns out that the advice I’ve been giving her holds true for you, too.