5 reasons Liberal Arts degrees aren't completely useless

Originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse.

I don’t regret majoring in film. The four years’ worth of analyzing cinematography in “Battleship Potemkin” and classes like “Violence in Cinema” were a blast.

When I walked across the stage to accept my undergraduate degree, I was absolutely certain I’d move to Los Angeles and become a successful (and fashionably dressed) Executive Producer.

HUSTLE-BLOG.COM // 5 Reasons Liberal Arts Degrees Aren't Completely Useless

Unfortunately, LA is brimming with unemployed arts graduates. Even outside of Hollywood, many liberal arts degrees are not exactly in high demand. It can be difficult for job seekers with degrees like English or Philosophy to find work. Even when they do, the pay usually isn’t great.

Once I decided I didn’t want to fetch coffee for five more years, I left the entertainment industry and returned to school for my MBA. Recently, I joined Dell as a summer marketing intern.

The last few years have shown me that many of the lessons imperative for a film grad’s survival in Hollywood actually transfer extremely well to the corporate world.

Here are five lessons you learned while writing papers on Shakespeare’s sonnets that translate to your career :


Be prepared for the situation you're walking into.

In 2012, I interviewed for a position that required familiarity with the video game industry. When asked what I felt was “the most important game of the year," I answered “Portal 2”.

All positive energy in the room immediately vanished after I gave this response. Why? Because “Portal 2” came out in 2011. Old news. An hour researching the industry beforehand could’ve saved me a considerable amount of embarrassment.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t get the job.

Currently my work requires speaking with professionals throughout the company. In order to have an effective meeting, it’s crucial to show up with specific agenda items and background research.

Some helpful places you can start in your search for this information include the other person’s background, the company itself, and any major things going on in your specific industry that could be used as talking points.


Tailor your message to reach your goals.

The record label I used to work for once shelved a quirky video we’d produced for a particular band in favor of a more generic version. The original video was weird and artsy, which--while cool-- appeals to fewer people. Music videos are ultimately a marketing tool, so keeping this one lighthearted and less bizarre made the band appear more accessible to prospective fans. Super weird content would have turned off those same fans.

As more and more industries jump onto the "Big Data" bandwagon you'll run into situations where you need to explain something highly technical to executives. These folks don't need to get into the weeds of how a certain piece of code works, they want to know what value it adds.

Adjust your tone to the audience--hit the high points, how these apply to the people in front of you, and provide in-depth details only when asked.


Leaders make decisions, so take an informed stance.

Back when I was a development intern, one of my long-time mentors told me “opinion is everything in this town”. This advice extends beyond Hollywood. Employers want to know whether you have anything to offer besides following orders. Leaders don't waste time sitting on fences.

And before you rush to “have opinions” all over the place, make sure you have the reasoning to back it up. Don’t treat your next meeting like a YouTube video’s comments section.


Know your story. Be able to say it in 30 seconds.

Pitching a film is the same as pitching a project to your boss or pitching yourself to a company recruiter. Rather than explaining the plot of a movie, your 30 second“elevator pitch” informs others about who you are, what you want, and why you’re talking to them. You need to make sense to people, so paint them a picture.

In the corporate world you’ll find yourself having to explain what you’re working on in order to get buy-in. Telling the story of what you’re doing and what you need clearly and concisely makes it easy for others to understand how they can help.


Be fearless and consistent about building relationships.

I wish I could tattoo this on your forehead. Nearly every single job I’ve gotten was because of a connection with somebody who could help get my foot in the door.

Hustling, aka Networking, is a skill. It can be learned.

You need to build legitimate relationships with others. This takes time. It requires making an effort to go out for drinks or coffee with people regularly and actually getting to know them.

If you work for a company like Dell that has an open door culture, use it. The opinions and information I’ve gleaned from meetings with other employees have been invaluable and often spark new ideas to explore.

Some people to start networking with: a friend of a friend who either works at a company you’re interested in or has a job that sounds interesting to you.

How have you leveraged your undergrad degree in a new industry? Tell me in the comments.