For college students, choosing a major is a major decision.
We’re pushed and pulled in so many directions: following our hearts, family traditions, prestigious careers, and high salaries. Should we specialize early, or attempt to establish ourselves as well-rounded?
You probably can’t answer these questions even now. Seems cruel to expect that of a teenager – doesn’t it?
The fact is, STEM subjects are pushed on students as the answer to job security and uncapped earning potential. This can send humanities graduates out into the job market with faltering confidence, stripped of the bravado that accompanies an absolute certainty in one’s professional destiny.
Don’t write this student off. The humanities graduate comes equipped with a wholly-different skill set of more than equal value to that of his scientist counterpart. Here’s why.
Startups are defined by their undefined product offering. Therefore, it makes sense to hire graduates with a broad, varied academic background. Study programs in the humanities are designed to teach students how to think, rather than what to think. Students won’t memorize formulas or learn to solve problems step-by-step. Instead, they’ll develop a range of quantitative research and analysis skills, the ability to seek out fresh perspectives, and a knack for identifying gaps in their own knowledge—which they’ll fill rapidly as they take on assignments in new subject areas.
Graduates with cross-disciplinary skill sets thrive in a work environment where staff wear many hats. They are able to take on tasks outside the original job description and offer an endless stream of new ideas for solving tough problems. You never know when you’ll need to pivot, but if you do, there’s nothing more valuable than an employee who always wanted to keep his career options open.
Polished People Skills
The heart of a business is its culture, and culture is formed by people. Throughout their studies, humanities students have the opportunity to think deeply about human interactions, studying language and behavior across a range of societies. Students curate a heightened capacity for empathy, and leave college as team players who are able to work in partnership with individuals who are very different from themselves.
In a small startup, you can’t rely on sales figures alone to persuade investors or potential employees to take a chance on you. If you have an outstanding “people person” on your team, they have the power to convince others of your energy, passion, and potential—plus they’ll help colleagues to work issues out when the going gets tough.
Skilled communicators are vital in the market research process. You shouldn’t doubt the brilliance of your engineers—but humanities graduates can guide the development team in usability, ensuring that you’re building a product that people really want. Where STEM graduates may excel in strictly technical aspects, humanities graduates can help the team to understand a bigger picture of the impact your product could have for its users.
Humanities graduates know how to persuade, debate, mediate, and promote. Throughout their studies, they have been assessed on a wide range of outputs: essays, quizzes, presentations, debates, practical projects, group work and—if they’ve chosen to complete a thesis—a one-on-one defense of their original research, under pressure.
It’s easy to lose efficiency and let bright ideas slip through the cracks in a startup where every employee is busy busting his own infinite to-do list. Skilled communicators lift spirits, encouraging collaboration and transparency. They also make inspiring managers, as they’re curious to hear new suggestions regardless of the contributor’s technical expertise or proven business acumen.
Humanities programs are grounded in developing a flexible approach to solving life’s problems and equipping students with the ability to appreciate a multitude of different perspectives. If it’s too late to reverse the results of your latest recruitment drive, fear not—it’s easy to keep learning alive in the workplace. Encourage communication between teams, make use of mentoring opportunities, and consider offering funds for your employees to continue their education alongside work.