Owning Your Humanities Degree

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By Dale Choudree, Career Development Advisor and Humanities Graduate, UCT Careers Service

The reality of the world in which we live is that of an increasingly competitive labour market. As graduates, we need to identify our ‘marketability’ as valuable assets in the world of work. As humanities students in particular, we need to own the edge that we have to offer potential employers.

Our core mission at the UCT Careers Service is to empower our students to be confident in who they are as graduates and in what they bring to the employment table. On the last Tuesday in May, we held our Humanities Career Café event- bringing Humanities alumni onto campus to engage with our current Humanities cohort about their journeys from graduation to success in employment. Our panelists ranged from magazine editors and translators to entrepreneurs and political researchers. (Recordings soon to be available on our website). A common thread through all the discussions was the importance of knowing the skills that a Humanities degree enables and how these skills have propelled panelists to succeed in their respective professions. This is not the first time that we have been reminded of ‘the edge’ that Humanities students hold. Investec has approached the Careers Service yet again to coordinate the Humanities Exclusive Program, aimed at engagement with Humanities students. This international asset management bank understands that their core business is relationship building and therefore people centered. Humanities graduates, with our ability to build relationships and critically analyze societal needs, are precisely the talent that they aim to attract.

Here are five key Humanities gems that will help you own your edge:

  1. Adaptability: In an ever changing world, adaptability is king. Of all the disciplines, humanities graduates are most adept at being able to adapt. Our strength is being able to critically assess the changing needs of the world and adapt our practices to meet the need.

 

  1. Teachability: Being able to process, comprehend and communicate information in ways that are comprehensible to others is a huge advantage. We are trained to read and respond both orally and in writing, a skillset that we carry into any space we occupy. This makes of us both teachers and teachable.

 

  1. People-centered: The global economy demands that we understand a multitude of people with whom we will engage politically, economically and personally. We have developed the capacity to understand people, especially those who are culturally and ideologically different from us. Inclusivity is a value that we have been trained to appreciate. Human relations, public relations, ambassadorial capabilities and diplomacy are increasingly sought after skills in both the public and private sector.

 

  1. Irreplaceable: No, not in the way Beyoncé meant it! Irreplaceability in relation to technology is often cited as a humanities graduate advantage. In a technological age where techies can replicate, duplicate and improve technologies alarming fast, our ability to manage people and the variances of human relations can never be formatted into a template. This is a skill that cannot be computerized or outsourced. Emotional intelligence and understanding people will always be in demand.

 

  1. Skills, not degrees: Increasingly, companies are attracted to skill sets and not simply degrees. This destabilizes the traditionally held belief that certain degrees hold more value than others. Instead, our value is measured in relation to our skills. What makes us employable is not our theoretical training, but our passion, attitude towards work and perseverance.

 

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, in support of this shift in company requirements, was recently quoted as saying, “ There are qualities…that have a tendency to be completely overlooked when people are sifting through résumés or LinkedIn profiles. And yet, increasingly, we find that these are the kinds of people that make the biggest difference within our organization”.

Humanities graduates are valuable assets to society and employers and the UCT Careers Service encourages them to value themselves and market their skills. To help you to do this, we provide daily career consultations, which can be booked at https://mycareer.uct.ac.za. We also provide a section that lists useful links for every subject at www.careers.uct.ac.za.

What’s more, we have amazing second semester events planned to empower our Humanities students including the Investec Humanities Exclusive Program, the All Degrees Expo, Postgraduate Career Day and Pop-up CV clinics! Watch our website for details.

In conclusion, I leave you with this mantra I’ve been hearing increasingly; Skills, not degrees. It’s not skills at the exclusion of degrees. It’s just expanding our perspective to go beyond degrees.’ Own your future!

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