Humanities Majors, Unite: 4 Ways to Build a Business with Your Skills and Perspective

  • As a current or former humanities major, you’ve likely learned to dread the question, “Wow, what are you going to do with that degree?” The inquiry can range from polite (a friend you haven’t seen in a while genuinely curious about your plans) to snarky (your relative that you only see over the holidays after a few glasses of wine).

    The humanities—art history, philosophy, social sciences, English, history and the like—are often the butt of the joke when it comes to “real world” applicability. But you know that’s not true, and there’s data to defend you. A report from the National Center for Higher Education Management found that humanities and social science graduates make $2,000 more than professional or pre-professional graduates during their peak earning years (ages 56 to 60).

    The potential for a rewarding, self-directed career is out there; you just have to be more creative about how you make it happen. Here are four ways to use your unique skills and perspective to build a business.

    Go Solo

    Let’s say that throughout the years, you’ve developed a marketable skill (or several). For example, maybe you’re a strong writer with an English degree and a resume full of writing and editing internships. You could leverage this experience into becoming a remote copywriter or marketing associate. Or perhaps you’re an art historian interested in starting your own small gallery in town. After studying languages, you might want to offer translation services in person and online. You get the picture.

    If you want to own your own business, consider establishing a Limited Liability Company (LLC). It requires a few staples to get started: choosing a business name, filing articles of organization, obtaining necessary permits and licensure, a workspace and small business insurance. While you will have control over the company, this structure protects you from personal liability should your finances dip into the red. The rest is up to you.

    Find a Partner

    Perhaps you love pursuing your passion so much that you don’t necessarily want to worry about doing that while also running the logistical side of a company. Some of the most iconic business partners have been total mismatches in personality and expertise, but that’s what makes it work. If you pair up with a business- or data-minded friend, you could run the more “human” side of your joint venture in terms of communications, company culture and creative growth. In short, find someone who complements your skills and talents and work together.

    Emphasize Communication

    Humanities majors tend to excel in communication, whether spoken or written. It would be tough to make it through years of studying the human condition without emerging on the other side with a deep understanding of why empathy and sharing stories matter to the world. The great news is that you can use this in virtually whichever career path you pursue.

    Let’s say you decide to start a website. It could be an online publication, an ecommerce shop, a monetized blog or a website for your shiny new LLC. You won’t have to outsource the writing or the planning because it ties in well with what you’ve already studied! When it comes to interacting with clients or potential customers, you have a head start. You have the words and the voice to show the world how much you care and why you’re the best person for any job.

    Augment Your Skillset

    You already have more skills than you know. Perhaps, to make them fully usable and marketable, you just need to pick up a few “firm” skills along the way. It’s never a bad idea to learn web basics: coding, Adobe design, SEO, etc. Or perhaps learning a hands-on trade would make you a triple threat. Think about how you can expand your capabilities by picking up a few more concrete skills to augment your humanities background.

    Your humanities education provides you with invaluable skills in communication, critical thinking and looking at the bigger picture. Now you just have to put them to work in a rewarding career.

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