Dear Alice,

I am a senior who will soon (hopefully) be graduating with a BA in Anthropology. During my freshman year, I chose my major because I thought it would be interesting to study. Now I realize how completely useless a degree in Liberal Arts is unless you also go to graduate school and get at least a Masters, if not a PhD. I don't want to go to school anymore!

While I enjoy my major and feel like I've learned a lot, sometimes I think I should have just majored in business, engineering, or some other "real" major that would have helped me get a job. I feel like the last few years have been completely for nothing, and find it very difficult to motivate myself to finish, or even start, any schoolwork during this last year. I'm beginning to not even care if I graduate at all.

-Underwhelmed Undergrad

Dear Underwhelmed Undergrad,

Don't give up quite yet. For centuries, colleges and universities have considered liberal arts the bedrock of a sound education. Through classes in the humanities, writing, foreign languages, and social sciences, students develop critical tools of observation, evaluation, and judgment that translate into all spheres of life. Your liberal arts background has likely given you a solid foundation for a fantastic future, whether you decide to dive straight into the job-market, volunteer abroad, score an internship, or even go to graduate school (you never know!).

Anthropology grads are well acquainted with cross-cultural differences and similarities, particularly important in today's multicultural society. It is likely that you have an appreciation of cultural diversity, and understand how to approach other cultures with sensitivity, flexibility, and understanding. Along with that fancy diploma you're about to get, it is likely that your anthropology degree has provided you with a myriad of skills, including:

  • Analytical and critical thinking
  • Oral, graphical, and written communication
  • Understanding of the nature and causes of human diversity
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Planning projects and writing grant proposals
  • Sampling, gathering and organizing data
  • Conducting field studies with methods such as interviewing and surveying

Anthropological skills and insights have been used in an vast number of fields: from helping architects design appropriate housing for groups from different cultures, to developing highly successful reforestation programs abroad, to shedding light on the public health aspects of epidemics. When interviewing for a position, it is important to showcase your liberal arts degree and highlight your first-rate abilities. The following tips may earn you an A+ in the job market:

  • Show off your written and oral communication skills, whether in your cover letter, résumé, or in the interview itself. 
  • Highlight your interpersonal skills. Perhaps you have experience interviewing different populations, adapting to other cultures, or understanding group dynamics.  
  • Show your critical and analytical thinking skills. Demonstrate how you take the time to look at every situation from several different viewpoints before acting.
  • Promote teamwork. Provide examples from working in teams for a school project or extracurricular activity to showcase your leadership abilities.
  • Highlight your diversity. It is likely that your major provided you with a breadth of knowledge in a wide range of topics. Perhaps you had a unique internship or practicum experience related to diversity? Use this to your advantage and talk to employers about your diverse education.
  • Show that you're an avid learner. Promote your willingness to learn and gain new skills. This shows that you want to keep growing as an employee.
  • Promote your problem-solving skills. As a liberal arts student, you have been trained to dissect problems, analyze issues and develop practical solutions.
  • Emphasize your business savvy side. It is important to show employers that you have the ability to think critically and solve complex problems that could be used in several different business jobs.

Here's a suggestion that may help you feel better: Visit your school's career education center. They might be able to provide some perspective in this area. They may also be able to connect you with some alum's who graduated with your degree.

Remember, in the end, you are much more than a major. Aside from the time you spent hitting the books and tickling the keys (on a computer that is), what other experiences did you have in college? Internship, work, and extracurricular activities can all contribute to a well-rounded student. College may have been a long and winding road, but the experiences, skills, and strengths you collected along the way will prove to be invaluable.

Alice!
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