Christine Henseler, “Looking for a Job? Cash in on the Humanities”

When you think “job opportunity,” you probably think technology, science, and business. You may think that a professional degree is a singular path to your success. Think again. In this economic situation in which no job is assured, most jobs are scarce, and few employers are waiting for you to knock on their doors, you need more skills than just one. It’s simple: one set of skills limits you to one type of job. But who stays in one type of job these days? In today’s mobile economy, you need a set of skills that you can transfer from job to job, that allows you to be flexible, have options, be ready for the position that is available today, and may exist tomorrow.

What investment in learning can provide you with more mobility and flexibility, and subsequently, with better and more fulfilling job opportunities? You may think: technology, science, business. Think again. Think Humanities. Think languages. Think literature. Think philosophy, art, music, or history. I’m not kidding you. Take classes in English, Spanish or German, as an example. You might think these courses are a waste of time. Why read books by Shakespeare, Cervantes, or any other author whose name you can’t pronounce and you will no doubt forget? I agree, you may never remember the plot of Don Quijote, nor who wrote that crazy long book. In fact, you could just as well look up the information on Google. So why take a class in Spanish literature? Because what you won’t find clicking, linking, and reading on Google is the effect of the words on the page, how the words play with tone and technique, sarcasm and humor, how they display the cultural subtleties that determine the meaning of the plot, its arguments and frameworks. It is in a classroom such as this, where face-to-face discussion and debate will open your mind to new ideas and offer you skills that you can transfer from job to job: smart argumentation, logical and creative thinking, subtle analytical perception, broad cultural understanding, historical contextualization, theoretical abstraction, and most of all, questioning of standards and values and the ability to interpret nuances in perspective and position. So the next time you think technology, science, business, think again. And do me a favor: go cash in on the Humanities.

Christine Henseler is Associate Professor of Spanish at Union College. She works on topics pertaining to Generation X, twenty-first century Spanish literature, media and cultural studies, and the humanities.

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