In today's rapidly evolving job market, employers judge potential hires less and less on what majors they elected to take in university, and instead on what critical skills and innovative ideas they’ve taken away. This is especially good news for students who attend a liberal arts college because the curriculum is largely focused on acquiring innovative ways to think about the world, learning how to problem solve in complex situations and learning how to step outside the box and think critically. So how do you develop these in-demand skills? There are probably some things you’re doing already that help to foster them, such as actively engaging in literature and contributing to discussions, but there’s always more you can do.
Become a Devil’s Advocate
Being able to successfully construct an argument, no matter which side you’re on, is a particularly practical craft to master. The art of debate and persuasion not only helps you become more confident but allows you to put much more stock in your own ideas, having attacked them from other angles. This skill will prove useful in liberal arts courses, where you often have to take a position on something in an essay or a work of philosophy that you don’t necessarily agree with. It’s an exercise in critical thinking and engagement, and it not only helps strengthen your mind but your arguments as well.
Extrapolation, Not Emulation
The main thing to focus on when attending a small liberal arts college is that you’re not learning for the sake of becoming a walking knowledge compendium. Being able to regurgitate historical facts and figures isn’t the goal of a university education, but being informed on them and able to draw conclusions and plan out future ideas based on them definitely is. Employers are looking for people who don’t just regurgitate what they’re taught in class, they want to see that people have learned the ideas and concepts and can run with them and expand on them on their own. There’s no use in learning how everyone else markets a specific product if you’re only going to copy it, not innovate.
One of the biggest things employers are looking for, and one of the hardest skills for those new to the career world to demonstrate, is challenging ideas. While it’s recommended to generally agree with your employers and not be overly antagonistic, speaking up and suggesting ideas you think could be improved upon shows you actually care. People who merely say “yes” to everything the boss says and don’t ever counter points are a dime a dozen, but those who can offer meaningful original contributions are more likely to earn promotions. Luckily, earning a degree at a liberal arts university means you are developing valuable critical thinking and communication skills for challenging ideas, solving problems, and creating innovative solutions.
There’s a dramatic shift happening in the world of jobs and careers now, and people are searching for more than just employees who will nod along. They want drive and innovation, they want someone with big dreams and big actions to back them up, and a liberal arts degree is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for that.