This article was originally published on The Happy Miles Blog.

A lot of you have been emailing me lately asking about my experience as a post-graduate history major and how it has prepared me for the professional world. Today, I want to talk about that topic in more detail.


History majors

Liberal arts majors

If you have ever been unsure (or have no idea!) about what you want to do after college

If you are all of the above

I am number 4.

Did you see what I did there?

Did anyone see that movie? … I didn’t, but I’ll take it as a bad joke.

Anyway, whatever number you are. Yeah, you. This one’s for you.

The decision to declare history as my major was an easy one, even before I went to orientation at Holy Cross. It might have been a bold move, but it felt like a sure thing.

I gradually realized that history was the only subject I was truly passionate about. It’s also what I wanted to learn more of, read and write about in college. This has been true since childhood; my love for history is an integral part of who I am.

And, as it turns out, studying history in college was the best thing for me because I had an intense passion for it.

But as the second semester of my senior year began, I realized that I didn’t want to go to law school or become a teacher like many people assumed I would.

I was lost after graduation and wasn’t sure which jobs would be a good match for my degree. I also worried that potential employers would view my degree as being without value or use.

How could my love and expertise for Gilded Age America be channeled into a job that didn’t fall under the title of teacher, librarian, or historian?

In the end, I decided that my educational background had adequately set me up for any profession I might choose. It wasn’t what I learned about in school – like every detail of 19th century America or calculus and plant biology – but how those things were taught to me and what lessons I took away from them. For example, being able to talk at length about the Brooklyn Bridge’s construction and opening day on May 24, 1883.

I’ll save you the long explanation.

Completing school may seem pointless and difficult at times, but I’m here to tell you that it’s all worth it in the end. You will use the skills you’ve acquired throughout your studies in ways you might not even realize. So hang in there and don’t give up!

In the end, it didn’t matter what major I graduated with. I developed professional (and life) skills and passions while in school that would take me far in my career.

What are the skills and passions that can help make you successful at work?

I’ll tell ya.

1. Writing

History and liberal arts majors not only learn vocabulary, but also how to read critically, find the main points, be creative and analytical, edit properly, and write persuasively–all skills that are necessary for any job. If you can do all these things well, employers will surely take notice.

2. Analyzing

Another thing that being a history major taught me is how to be inquisitive and how to interpret data to conclude. This skill has come in handy at work, where I spend a lot of my time reporting on analytics clearly and concisely.

3. Presenting

Whether we like it or not, giving presentations is a necessary skill to hone whether you’re in grade school or college. I recall having to recite poems in front of the class starting as early as third grade. By the time college rolls around, though, expectations are higher. Rather than reading off note cards or reciting memorized speeches, college students are expected to give more engaging and well-researched talks based on their knowledge. As for the professional world, I discovered that I need to be able to elaborate on slides and focus on the most crucial information. Also, it’s important to show how much knowledge you have about the topic at hand, whether you’re presenting in person or over a computer screen, or via phone call. Although this is not a skill I’ve perfected yet, it’s something I want to work on improving in the next year.

4. Discussion

I found myself pleasantly surprised while in school that I enjoyed writing about historical events–once all the research was done. Having discourse with classmates and professors helped to further solidify my understanding of the issues at hand and why/how they came to be. In the professional world, being able to have a free-flowing discussion with co-workers is paramount. It’s important to remember that everything should be a team effort!

5. Brainstorming

I tell myself all the time that it is essential to not be afraid of expressing my thoughts, even if they seem outrageous because you never know which idea has potential. This mantra applies to history majors and professional workers alike; talking through new ideas is key in both fields.

6. Curiosity

My four years of college developed my inquisitive side… I began wanting to learn more and more about things, needing to understand why things are the way they are, and becoming interested in discussing topics with others who feel passionately about something – even if it’s something I knew nothing or cared little about before. This skill has been extremely beneficial at work. When I first started learning about this industry, I kept an open mind and ended up becoming invested in my job, team, and company. If you had asked me years ago if I’d be interested in the field I’m working in now, I would have probably said no way. Even when starting, doubt crept into my head often. But curiosity won me over eventually and now contentment fills me; eagerness to keep learning more bubbling beneath the surface always. Plus, thanks to the understanding gained along the journey – I can fully stand behind the work that my company does with Passions aplenty!

The best part about these skills? I can continue to grow and learn them through experiences at work and outside of work.

If I work hard and consult with experts, I firmly believe that I can continue to improve.

Another great aspect?

Even small gains in these skills are highly gratifying.

The most important thing to remember is that you can achieve any goal you set for yourself.

Please don’t think that your major somehow pigeonholes you, because success is mostly about attitude and the core skills you’ve developed throughout college and even before. (At least in my opinion from what I’ve seen during my short career.) It’s never too late to change your career, try something new, or go back to school. Find what makes you happy with your life and allows you to be fulfilled and challenged every day. Start with a clean slate and see where it takes you.

Get stuff done.

We want to know, have the abilities you picked up while attending university helped you in your career even though you may not have anticipated it? Let us know below!

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