Translating a Liberal Arts Degree into a Career

idealistWhat are you going to do with a degree in that?” 

I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has heard this from family members, friends, or even at times, tour groups while at Wesleyan. Apparently my Psychology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies double major threw others for a loop, and I didn’t help matters with my response. “Whatever I want to do,” I would reply. “That’s what getting a degree from a liberal arts college means.”

Though I probably could have cut down on the snark, I stand beside my answer. Wesleyan has afforded you not only a top-notch education, but also incredible and meaningful opportunities to prepare yourself for life beyond Wesleyan. In their college grad series, tapped Ashley Lee of Wheelock College to write about her experience landing a job in the social impact field with a liberal arts degree. Check out her advice below, and follow the jump to the original article:

I identified transferable skills I gained in the classroom

In college I spent countless hours in one studio or another, often with paint/clay/charcoal on my face. This, though kind of gross, doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a lot, nor does it mean that I don’t have skills that are applicable outside of the art world.

Art didn’t just require me to refine technical and fine motor skills; I also built up skills in creative thinking, problem solving, and time management. Portfolio presentations meant public speaking skills, and crafting artist statements meant working on writing.

I found that though my studies suggested I pursue a job in the arts sector, the skills that I developed would also apply well to the needs of a nonprofit organization, which I had become very interested in. I used my list of skills to influence the type of jobs I looked for.

What you can do: An important aspect of making a liberal arts degree work for you is thinking about and presenting the skills that you’ve built. List out the transferable skills you built in various classes. You might be surprised by what you realize!

I reflected on what I did outside of the classroom

When I was in college, I wanted to immerse myself in the whole culture of it. I had a few different work-study positions, I volunteered, and I even took on two minors.

These experiences helped round me out: While art allowed me to thrive as the introvert I love to be, my job in my college’s resource center required me to have positive phone demeanor, give people guidance in finding materials, and become customer service oriented. As a student adviser, I took on event planning and organizing for my advisees and myself. Leading a volunteer trip helped me become a planner, gave me patience and challenged me to make decisions.

What you can do: Take a look back at your experiences and figure out what they’ve done for you, or take on a volunteer experience to see what you can get from it! Take my word for it: adding variety to what you do keeps your mind moving and introduces you to new opportunities. I’ve added my other experiences to my resume, and they are great examples of how I’ve been able to develop skills and manage my time.

Read the rest of Ashley’s advice here.



Jelisa Adair

I am the Civic Engagement Fellow for 2013-2014. While a student at Wesleyan I double majored in Psychology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and completed a joint thesis during my senior year. I am interested in issues of social justice, mental health, media, and global welfare.