Your Top Humanities Assets

By Dan Moseson, PhD, Career Coach, College of Humanities, U Career Success

I am really enjoying being the embedded career coach in the College of Humanities.  It’s great fun working with such smart and motivated students.  I have a humanities background, too (a PhD in religion), and I’m excited to help my fellow humanists find fulfilling careers.  I believe deeply in the value of what you’re doing, and I want to help you show it to the world.  With that in mind, here is an (incomplete) list of the skills and qualities your humanities degree will help you build, and strategies and resources to find the career of your choice.  

Your skills:

  • NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, lists eight competencies employers value most in college graduates.  Humanities students are already very strong in seven of these.  If you want to gain more skills in the eighth (technology), check out the Kahlert Initiative on Technology at the U.  
  • Close reading:  Humanities education trains you to attend to the details of reading and writing at a uniquely intense level. This skill is very valuable in any field where communication has to be clear and details matter.  
  • Research:  You are learning to dig into complicated, emotionally charged topics, take in a range of viewpoints, and come to your own reasoned conclusion.  Besides making you a more informed and empathetic person, this skill is invaluable when misunderstandings inevitably arise in any workplace.  
  • Construction of arguments:  You are learning how to back up your arguments with evidence.  You are learning what evidence is, and how to use it to understand the world, and persuade others.  
  • Empathy and understanding of human motivation and behavior:  The time you are spending with the biggest questions and the most complex people and events in human history are developing your understanding of why people do what they do, and the empathy to see from their perspective even if you do not agree with them.  This is invaluable in any and every field where conflict has to be resolved.  
  • Project management:  The great Houston philosopher Beyoncé asks us:  “who run the world?”  Girls, obviously.  But also, you, be you a girl or anything else.  If you can run things efficiently and collaboratively, you are needed in an almost unlimited range of career fields. If you’ve written a capstone or thesis, planned a campus event, or helped run a club or volunteer group, you have at least the foundations of project management, an incredibly valuable and marketable skill you can apply in virtually any industry.  To learn more, visit the Project Management Institute at https://www.pmi.org/

Your network:

  • To learn about possible career fields and job opportunities, you will need to build professional relationships with people in those fields.  They can tell you what working in their field is like, how they built their careers, and what skills and experiences you need to demonstrate to get your start.  They can also help you connect with more people in their field and, if you maintain the relationship over time, they can point you to job opportunities you might never find otherwise (since most are filled through networks and never posted online).  I can help you make the most of valuable tools like LinkedIn and Forever Utah, as well as build on the network of professional and personal relationships you already have.  
  • Remember that faculty, staff, and fellow students are part of your network, too.  They are important both before and after graduation for recommendations, references, and job leads, as well as social connections that enrich our lives.

Your experiences:

  • Everything you do outside of class counts.  Those accomplishments absolutely belong on your resume.  Whether it’s an internship, a job, volunteering, or political advocacy or activism, your hands-on experience getting things done, out in the world, with real people and real problems, is part of the record of achievement that shows an employer you can meet their needs.  

Your values:

  • Your values will guide you to a career that works for you.  Humanities folks tend to be motivated by values and champion important causes.  This is wonderful, and can lead to great careers in government, NGOs, non-profits, higher education, and (rarely) college teaching, but I have one point of advice – don’t assume that people in the private sector don’t share your values.  You need to get to know them, too.  One of the best aspects of my experience exploring project management has been learning how many people in the private sector are driven to do things that make the world better, and work tirelessly to make their workplaces more collaborative and welcoming for everyone around them.  There are smart, kind, ethically driven people everywhere, and you can learn from them.  

Your creativity:

  • Humanities degrees train you in many wonderful and valuable skills and set you up for a wide range of exciting and meaningful careers.  However, you are usually not being trained for any one specific career.  So it’s up to you to improvise.  You will need to explore different career paths to decide which sounds like the best place for your first steps in your career, and you will need to make the argument that your skills and experiences translate to a field that differs from the discipline listed on your diploma.  Fortunately, you’re ready.  You’ve been studying how people transform perceptions, ideas, and societies, how they make something out of nothing.  You can do it, too.  


  • U Career Success:
    • We’re your first stop for career coaching, career skills, and workshops and events to help you choose a career and build your skills to get there.  Definitely activate your Handshake account for the easiest access to all of our resources and tools.  I can tell you more in a coaching appointment.  
  • Imagine PhD
    • This career exploration tool was created for PhD students in the humanities and social sciences, but you can use it, too.  None of the careers it can help you explore requires a PhD (except for being a college faculty member).  You are building many of the same skills needed for the “job families” on which this platform provides information.  It’s recommended that you start by taking the assessments, starting with the Values Assessment, before exploring the job families.  You will need hands-on experience to break into any of these fields – we can talk about how to get it.  
  • Intersect JobSims
    • Like Imagine PhD, this tool was created for graduate students, but there is no reason you should not use it.  You are absolutely capable of working through job “simulations” in fields like consulting, development, diplomacy, entrepreneurship, and more.  As with Imagine PhD, your foundation is very strong, but you will need to gain some kind of first-hand experience to get your foot in the door.  I can help you explore internships and other opportunities to do so, which brings me to:
  • The Hinckley Institute of Politics:
    • This office at the U of U can help you access a fantastic range of local, national, and global internships to gain experience in a wide variety of fields.  Even better, the College of Humanities is now accepting any Hinckley internship for credit towards your degree.  Now get out there!

This is really just a rough sketch of what you can do with your humanities degree, and of all the resources and people available to help you access the widest possible range of career paths.  I’m excited to help you on your journey.