Transferring Unique Humanities-Related Skills to Unrelated Jobs

Good news, you’ve graduated with your humanities degree! Bad news – your studies seem entirely unrelated to the role you want to apply for. What now?
Sarah Si
Sarah Si
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Upon finishing your last exam or project, even before your convocation, you started on the first step of your job hunt – researching the job market. And after much back-and-forth with yourself, you’ve picked out the role and company you think fits you best based on the job description offered, research into the company, as well as your unique skill set.

Unfortunately, the job you’ve set your eyes on isn’t related to your humanities studies in any way, shape, or form. Does this mean that you need to go back to school, and study for a second degree? Or pursue higher studies in a more related field?

The answer: you don’t need to. In 2019, YouGov released an Omnibus survey that showed 53 per cent of Singaporean graduates worked in roles unrelated to their degrees. In other words, because so many degree holders already work in areas unrelated to their academic disciplines, it’s no different for humanities majors to do the same.

Moreover, it’s generally understood among employers that you don’t need a degree linked to your chosen area of work, so long as you have the relevant skills necessary. However, do also take note that certain industries, like science and research, do need at least a relevant degree due to the technical nature of the industry. Otherwise, more competitive sectors such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) may take in degrees of all disciplines, though relevant work experience (internships, part-time positions) is needed to get a leg up on other candidates.

But before jumping headfirst into your job hunt proper and shooting off resume after resume, take a look at this article first!

Review your skills and resume

It goes without saying that no matter what role you’re looking at, and whether it’s related to your degree discipline or not, you’ll need a range of transferable skills – like leadership, problem-solving, as well as communication and interpersonal skills – to keep you versatile and adaptable throughout your working life. Moreover, you’ll find that it’s usually the transferable skills that ultimately help you secure the role you’re gunning for.

In fact, as soon as you realise the importance of your transferable skills that are entirely unique to you, and figure out how to frame your interest (as unrelated to your degree as it is) as something you’re working towards on your customised resume, you’ll be able to increase your chances of catching recruiters’ attention!

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Focus on the unique skills you have as a humanities graduate

Social responsibility: Due to the nature of humanities, you’re specifically trained to assess society and the world as a whole, and work towards what best benefits it. This can come in the form of economic responsibility, environmental responsibility, ethical responsibility and philanthropic responsibility.

Personal responsibility: Humanities majors don’t usually shy away from the consequences of their actions. In fact, if you’re one, you’ll be more liable to give reasons that justify your actions and take responsibility for the choices you made. With such little room to play the blame game, humanities graduates tend to focus more on the job at hand.

Quantitative and empirical reasoning: Whether it’s numbers on a page, or a description of an issue, you’re able to use the data to come up with information, and then use it to make sound decisions. From there, you can create a collaborative environment that will help you in working your way out of a problem with your colleagues.

Perseverance and resilience: These are crucial in this time of great change, where companies and economies are adopting new technologies swiftly, as well as redefining strategies and business models. Perseverance and resilience will help you bounce back and overcome obstacles over the course of your working life.

Creativity and innovation: Creative and innovative employees are able to use their imagination to visualise situations from different perspectives, approach their tasks in new ways and create solutions to problems. On top of that, being able to generate new ideas usually results in companies finding new opportunities previously untapped.

Adaptability: Usually referred to as the skill that helps you adjust quickly to a new environment, it’s the most in-demand skill among employers today. Constant technology upgradation is the main reason why recruiters are always on the lookout for this skill.

Ability to learn fast: Typically, fast learners are able to listen actively and analyse whatever they hear on the spot. In other words, people who learn fast are able to quickly take in concepts and instructions with little guidance, as well as come up with feasible solutions in relatively short spans of time.

Critical thinking: If you’re able to see a problem from two angles or more, and in turn interpret, evaluate and apply a solution effectively, congratulations! You have critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills tend to be intrinsically linked to analytical skills, as well.

Time management, project management and organisational skills: No matter who you choose to work for, you’ll need to be able to complete your work and achieve desired results within the deadlines set. Effective time management, project management and organisation skills allow you to schedule and plan tasks efficiently, prioritise them and even multitask if several projects are due around the same time!

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Don't forget in-demand transferable skills

Although it may seem like you’re starting the recruitment process for the role you want on the back foot, if you understand what employers want, you can make up for any shortfalls you may think you have.

For example, the moment you figure out that it’s really in-demand transferable skills, like critical thinking and adaptability, that land you jobs (even those completely unrelated to your humanities major), you can write your resume and cover letter in such a way that it best shows your relevant transferable skills!

Tip: Although you’ll pick up a number of unique, sought-after transferable skills over the course of your humanities programme, you can further hone, or pick up, new skills over professional courses and certifications, volunteering and side projects.

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Some quick interview tips

Because most employers don’t necessarily onboard candidates based on relevant academic disciplines, successful applications tend to ride on transferable skills. So, as your interview progresses, find an opportunity to explain why you’ve decided to follow your interest rather than what’s related to your field of study, as well as why it’s aligned to your personal core values. This will show your interviewer that you’re a potential good match for the role!

Tip: If you have little to no work experience in your chosen area of work, it’s not the end of the world – elaborate on how you found out that your chosen career is right for you, and that you’re willing to learn fast.

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Ultimately, as you gun for a role with your unique humanities-related skills, be sure to stress your potential and what you can develop, rather than what you don’t have. After all, because you can bring in such unique skills, you can expand the company’s talent pool! But if you don’t land the role on the first try, don’t give up yet! You’ll find a company that appreciates your skills.