COLUMN: Not What You Know, But How You Show
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 20:10
“I’m a communication major.”
It elicits a blank reaction. A half-hearted nod. A slightly high-pitched “Oh.” A bit of pity sinks in, and questions like, “What will this poor unfortunate soul do with their life?” immediately arise in the mind. And sometimes, if you’re dealing with a certain kind of person, a judgment forms.
Now, replace communication with any humanities major—English, sociology, political science, philosophy, history—and this topic is so overdone. It’s the never-ending discussion about the relevancy of humanities majors in comparison to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors. Personally, I am doubly victimized: I’m majoring in both communication and sociology, arguably the two most general majors at Boston College. I’m also minoring in computer science, arguably the hardest subject ever to exist. The skills I learn from both my humanities major and my STEM minor, however, will mean absolutely nothing if I do not have the ability to market myself to the world. To me, making yourself—not your major or minor—the most relevant part about your degree is a crucial skill. It is more important than anything you will ever learn in college. And I believe this is why humanities majors are not as esteemed as they should be.
There are countless lists on the Internet about the “best” and “worst” majors to have in college, so pretty much everyone knows how practical and worthwhile a STEM major is. Over their course of study, STEM majors acquire a certain set of tangible, concrete skills that they can then apply to various corners of the working world. Some of the most brilliant people I know are STEM majors. On the other hand, some of the even more brilliant people I know are humanities majors. Unfortunately, humanities majors generally don’t get a lot of credit for just how brilliant they are. Their skill set is intangible, and because these skills can’t go in a list on a resume, graduating with a degree in humanities seems pointless. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe I can’t do calculus or code C++ in my sleep (yet), but as a double humanities major, I can create, I can empathize, I can analyze, I can write, and I can offer a new perspective on various types of social inequalities in the United States. I can offer way more than an ability to find x.
However—not to discredit hours and hours of caffeine-driven hard work, late nights at Hillside or O’Neill, or evenings spent crying over a non-working printer when an essay is due in five hours—it doesn’t matter what I’ve learned. It doesn’t matter what anyone learns. What matters is how we show what we’ve learned, how we market ourselves. This task is easy for STEM majors, and I think this is why they get more credit than humanities majors. Anyone can see how intelligent a STEM major is. All one must do is look at a multiple-choice test, a few problem sets, or at a long list of computer programs and biology lab abilities under the “Skills” section of a resume. A STEM major GPA will almost always directly reflect an ability to carry out a certain set of skills. It’s all linear. When it comes to marketing ourselves, humanities majors have a bit of a tougher task because our skill set is non-linear. We’ve learned how to study complexities and larger perspectives. In certain ways, it is even easier to teach yourself how to code or do physics equations than it is to teach yourself how to be analytical. Humanities skills are a true gift. These skills, even though they cannot be placed in a list, are applicable to almost any corner of the workforce. They are worthwhile, they are meaningful, and most importantly, they are just as marketable as STEM skills. And there, fellow humanities majors, lies the most important life task.
I realize that this task can seem daunting. Resumes are always intimidating. Filled with lists and specificities and logistics, resumes are a humanities major’s worst nightmare. But I think the first step in marketing ourselves is through our personalities. I believe that the skills I’ve learned throughout my years studying communication and sociology have completely transformed the way I think and the way I act. I’m a more open-minded person. I’m more confident in my speaking and writing abilities. I’m more thoughtful and tolerant. Humanities have fundamentally changed me as a human being, and truly realizing this fact will give me the confidence to succeed in the working world. I’m positive that what I’ve learned thanks to humanities is evident in things like my extracurricular activity choices, discussions with friends, simple daily interactions, and—one day—will be evident in how I work. I’m positive that the skills I’ve learned from my humanities major are just as useful as those I’ve learned from my STEM minor, and I can’t wait to show the world.