The questions I set out to explore in this blog were:
- Are there viable career paths for humanities-oriented people in the current high-tech dominated job market?
- Can humanities-oriented people genuinely add something of real value to a high-tech company?”
The questions are closely related. If humanities-oriented employees can bring real value to employers then the existence of viable career paths is more likely.
The answers to these questions are yes and yes, as attested by the fact that thousands of humanities people are happily employed even as we speak. Of course there is also the unfortunate fact that many humanities people are not happily employed. The good news is that there is abundant reason to hope that the unhappily employed can change their situation. How to change from unhappy or non-employment to happier employment is what we will talk about today.
Based on my research as well as my own experience I find that in order for a humanities person to enjoy a successful career with a high-tech company, most of us will have to enhance our skills beyond whatever we learned to achieve a college degree. We have to be able to offer the company something they need, something that will increase their bottom line. Yes, we are all extremely intelligent, well-rounded, high-quality interesting human beings with excellent writing and communication skills. But often this is not enough to get hired – unless of course you have a personal connection such as being the favorite niece of the best friend of the CEO. Honestly, in my experience this frequently the way people get their foot in the door.
But perhaps just as often employers just want to hire someone who can demonstrate that they understand the industry and the needs of the company and that they have at least exerted effort to acquire skills that will help the company. With today’s technology – YouTube, free online courses, blogs, ebooks, and all manner of social media groups – learning new skills and demonstrating those skills to potential employers easier and more fun than ever before.
About a year ago I helped my son get his first job after high school. Aaron did not want to take out loans to go to college. He wanted to attend community college part time and work, preferably in a job involving photography, something he loved doing. But even his resume-expert mother could not have gotten him such a job if he had not put in the time and effort to acquire photography skills and a portfolio to prove it. He saved his dollars and bought his first camera at a pawn shop. He spent many hours watching YouTube videos on photography skills and he spent many more hours practicing different photography techniques.
He volunteered to be the official photographer for a local reggae band. Never mind that the musicians were his best friends. You take advantage of what resources you have on hand. He posted his photographs on Instagram. He socialized with other photographers and exchanged techniques. We started a blog to feature some of his nature photography. Then I was able to help him create a resume, with links to his band videos on YouTube, his Instagram account, and the blog. He emailed the resume to a local portrait studio and got his first job.
If this approach can work for a kid with only a high school education and no work experience, it can work even better for those with a college degrees who want a decent-paying job in a high-tech industry. As James Mulvey explains in his book How to Find a Career With Your Humanities Degree in 126 Days, it helps to research the kinds of jobs that are out there and what the skills for these jobs might be. (If you are discouraged about your career prospects or just need a little guidance, inspiration, or a kick in the pants, I highly recommend you get this book. I got the Kindle version from Amazon.)You probably have relevant experience for many jobs, but you need to put a little effort into refining that experience so that you have something specific to show and tell and put on your resume.
Mulvey’s book includes a couple of useful lists of career titles (which he got from http://www.payscalecom): one for English and humanities and other creative majors and another for history, political science, sociology, and any filed that is more data- and analysis-oriented. For those of us who are both creative and analytical, some of jobs appear in both lists!
Careers for English/Humanities/Creative Types
- Web Content Specialist
- Communications Director
- Managing Editor
- Senior Copywriter
- Copywriter (Advertising)
- Social Media Manager
- Public Relations (PR) Specialist
- Editorial Assistant
- Technical Writer
- Publications Editor
- Senior Technical Writer
- Assistant Editor
- Web Content Editor
- Grant Writer
- Proposal Manager
- Legal Secretary
- Paralegal/Legal Assistant
I would add graphic artist, web designer, illustrator, and photographer to this list.
Careers for History/Social Sciences/Analysis-Oriented Types
- Intelligence Analyst
- Data Analyst
- Financial Aid Counselor
- Paralegal/Legal Assistant
- Insurance Claims Adjuster
- Technical Writer
- Operations Manager
- Program Manager, Non-Profit Organization
- Human Resources (HR) Manager
- Grant Writer
- Contract Specialist
- Contract Administrator
- Executive Assistant
- Personal Banker
- Employment Recruiter
- Outside Sales Rep
- Insurance Sales Agent
- Inside Sales Rep
Obviously some of these jobs, such as Insurance Claims Adjuster, are industry-specific. Many of them however are needed by different kinds of companies. The skills for many of them can be learned online, by reading, or by going to industry events and networking with people. You can also practice many of the skills you will learn on your own or as a service to someone you know, a church, or a charitable organization.
Perhaps there are some people who think it is unfair that after four or eight years of college you have to go back and do further training. But it’s not unfair. It’s the way the job market is for everybody in a world where technology changes at a rapid pace. Even those with Computer Science degrees have to constantly update their skills and get certifications. If you think you learning happens at one time in your life and a great career happens in another, maybe it’s time to update your expectations. But for most humanities learning new things for the rest of our lives is not a problem. Learning is what we’re all about.