Ask ProF: Job Market Survival for Humanities & Social Sciences Majors

Q: How do you market yourself with a social science or humanities degree when the trend seems to be focused on technically oriented degrees?

A: Having technical, tangible skills will make it easier to market yourself with a social science/humanities degree. When I think of tangible skills, I think of skills such as data analysis, administrative skills, technical writing, etc. With the way the world is moving, having a skill considered “concrete” (depending on the job) is important. I know most folks in the humanities field don’t like to hear that, but I’ve seen that being able to combine both has worked well.

Career website the Balance offers a nice breakdown of the two different skills sets employers are looking for: “soft skills” like communication, interpersonal, leadership and time management, and “hard skills” like computer programming, other technical skills, certifications or proficiency in a foreign language (and foreign language is an area where humanities majors may have a leg up, so if you do possess language skills, highlight this for potential employers). Soft skills, in which humanities and social sciences majors are often stronger, are more difficult to quantify and thus harder demonstrate in an interview setting or on a resume. It’s easier to demonstrate, say, your ability to create pivot tables in Microsoft Excel than a soft skill like working well with others. How can you thoroughly show that you are a team player in an interview setting without using a corny analogy? Make sure to emphasize both sets of skills, but adjust your approach depending on the job and which skillset will work more in your favor.

The division between soft skills and hard skills seems completely unnecessary, as both sets of skills are important in our world. While it’s true that too many graduates are entering the workforce with limited social skills, there are also too many grads who don’t know how to work Excel. Even for those without technically oriented degrees, knowing hard skills is still valid. I have many skills in administrative tasks, event logistics, research and data analysis, so I’m able to take these skills and apply them to any humanities job. Trends change all the time, so I’ve always been a believer in being a well-rounded individual that knows how to adapt when needed. Especially given how saturated the humanities/social sciences fields are (and just any field in general), graduates need to come prepared with tangible skills that will make them viable for employers. And having these skills is not enough – make sure you can explain to an employer in any field how you will apply these particular assets to a given position.

Remember, adding a “hard skill” to your resume doesn’t mean you are selling out or switching sides, but rather playing the game with an end goal in mind: breaking into your field and having a career you enjoy.