I am a college senior majoring in history and women’s studies. I will be graduating in a few weeks, but I’ve already begun looking for a job. I want to work either for a nonprofit that researches and advocates for women’s rights (I interned with one), or for a publisher doing research on women’s issues. My friends and family think that I am nuts, and that I should get my teaching certification so I can teach high school. They tell me that without a business degree, I will never get hired anywhere else. I don’t want to teach! I want to research and to write about what I love! What advice do you have?
Congratulations on your upcoming graduation. That is a big accomplishment! Let me tell you first that your friends and family are wrong. You absolutely can get hired outside of academia with a humanities degree. It just takes a bit more effort than if you had a STEM or business degree.
Classroom learning is no substitute for what you learn on the job, and I encourage all undergraduates to do an internship or two prior to graduation. You’ve already done that, so think about the skills that you used at your internship, and how you can apply them to the problem that your target organizations have. The beauty of a humanities degree is that it trains you to think critically and analyze complex information. You’ve spent the last four years improving your abilities to write clearly and to present and defend your arguments. These are invaluable skills to an employer. Your resume should highlight that, instead of being a listing of courses you took and clubs to which you belonged.
You should also be building your network. Your university’s alumni association is a good start, but consider joining other groups that will put you in touch with the people who have the connections at the places you want to work. Look into networking meetings geared toward women’s leadership, or women’s rights. Volunteer with organizations that do work in these areas. Be sure to join LinkedIn, as it is a useful tool for building and engaging your network.
A liberal arts degree provides you with a ticket to a wide range of career options, and is actually sought out by many employers who want creative risk takers on their teams. You seem to have a good idea of what it is you want, and now you know how to go about getting it. I have no doubt you will be successful.