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27 Apr

I have been dishing a bunch of career advice” on this site, but I want to come back to one of the core tenants of why this site was founded: liberal artists everywhere. I am a liberal arts graduate, a damn proud one at that. But what does that give me? Where does that get me? And how does that make me more employable than the next guy?

The Director of the Career Center at Amherst College Allyson Moore tries to answer and writes,

Job-search success often hinges on your ability to clearly communicate the relevant skills you possess. …Too often, liberal-arts students fail to recognize the value of their own education, which is understandable when the competition for each job is as fierce as it is today. …I could cite hundreds of students who greatly benefited from their liberal-arts education and later enjoyed incredible success throughout their careers.

No offense to Moore or Amherst, but her article is entirely useless to graduates and represents why liberal artists everywhere are acting like deer in the headlights. We feel like superheroes walking off the stage of our graduation but realize that “analytical, problem-solving, and reading and writing skills” mean nothing to us. That’s why we’re all so scared. It’s not because we don’t understand the value of our education. It’s because what we’re told repeatedly that all of our skills are relevant and we’re so lucky and blah blah blah.

So again, what really sets liberal arts student apart? [Note: This question is not answerable in a single post so gear up, friends — it’s going to be an ongoing subject here at liberalart.us. I’m going to be wrong on this a lot before I am right…]

[Now back to the action:] I think liberal artists are particularly inclined to be generous. Generosity is certainly more wishy-washy than the “analytical, problem-solving, and reading and writing skills” that are oft cited liberal arts pluses but hear me out:

The best liberal arts students are generous with their work and that is the differentiating factor. Yes, I know you’re thinking of those two grade-grubbers and those three kids so busy padding their resume that their Google Calendar looks like a rainbow on the front of a Lucky Charms box. But I genuinely believe that a liberal arts environment tries to reinforce the idea that giving gifts is good. And gifts can be money, time, and art (at least says Seth Godin). I am arguing that the bleeding heart campaigns for bed nets to prevent malaria, solar decathlon challenges, and even Teach for America are about all about attempting to make a difference. These are the people that can’t help but give a damn about others. And if you make a difference by being generous, people take notice. Really, they do. Because there are way too many people out there who just do the bare minimum and don’t care. And when people take notice of your generosity, you will be hired. Liberal artists are famous for wanting to make a difference, so don’t shy away from that.