The Myth of a Worthless Degree, Part 2 | Hour Blog

I hope, by this point, that I haven’t caused too much scoffing.  “You can whine all you want, an art history degree is still worthless” might have been your first thought after you finished my last post.  At least they would have been Obama‘s.

Bad joke.

Moving on.

While I do see that the application of certain fields of study may be a stretch for the more pragmatic, I feel like those art history majors deserve some credit for what they are actually learning and–hopefully–learning quite well: analytical and communication skills.

The internet not only changed how we learn, it also created a whole new world of possibilities for those enamored with the most under-appreciated skill set of all: writing.  Never before in history have businesses required the amount of media content that they do now.  Every store, shop, and market, every restaurant you go to and movie theater you visit now maintains multiple streams of content.  Much of it is written work, which means work for writers.  This will only become more true as society waxes completely digital, and I feel that the hiring field is ripe with unemployed, potentially revolutionary talent in this field.  Honestly, humanities students seem custom-fitted to this emergent need.  English classes, and art classes of all kinds, are a boot camp for analysis and written response.  And as far as I can tell, these are precisely the kinds of skills that make for an excellent content developer, social media marketer, PR professional, etc.

Worthless degree?

I think the problem lies on both ends here.  Too many of us are waiting tables trying to be Melville, when we should be looking into SEO and the nuts of bolts of writing in the digital age.  Hesitancy to be anything other than a teacher and fixation on publishing in a world that has left much of that industry behind can fashion us into time capsules instead of professionals, and, in the economic position we currently live in, lack of imagination kills.

It’s not all us though.  If recruiters really want to get the most talented candidates possible, they don’t just need to broaden their net, they need a different net altogether.

Let me illustrate.  I recently applied for a job at a west coast currency exchange that employed a clever method of screening applicants.   Instead of being a degree-based, background intensive process, the application was a test.  A mix of a task-specific questionnaire, a writing evaluation, and an IQ assessment, it was a truly democratic experience.  And certainly the most enjoyable application so far.  I believe this kind of smart assessment will become the norm as the value of an open approach to recruiting becomes more apparent.

(This is the end of part 2. Part 3 next week).