In March of my sophomore year of college, I had a decision to make—and it was one that I was dreading. I had to officially declare my major, and the deadline was rapidly approaching. I had been procrastinating my choice because I was torn between choosing a “practical” route that had a clear career trajectory, like education, and what I really loved, the humanities.
In the end, I knew that I would regret not pursuing a degree in the humanities. My humanities classes were the only classes I loved going to, and I always left the classroom feeling alive with ideas, my brain spinning and turning with what we had discussed in class. So, reluctantly, I called my mother to tell her my plan to declare a double major in Religious Studies and Humanistic Studies. Immediately after I told her the news, I was hit with the one question all humanities students know well: “Well, what are you going to do with that?”
It’s a good question! And one that plagued me for the next two years of my college experience—what was I going to do with my degree? As far as I knew, there weren’t many companies looking for people to write exegesis or analyze the historical significance of the lute.
As my senior year came to a close, I ended up landing an entry-level web administration job in Washington, D.C. at an organization I really loved. And so, without really knowing much about working in digital marketing, I moved to D.C. and started my new career. What I didn’t know, and didn’t expect, was just how much my degree prepared me in these three ways for my future work in digital marketing, web development, and online reputation management:
- Critical Thinking and Analysis
- Intellectual Humility
- Love of Learning
How the Humanities and Digital Marketing Go Hand-in-Hand
I use these three skills that I developed in my time in college daily in my job. They are “soft” skills—they aren’t the kind of thing you could list on a resume, but they are the foundation of good, thoughtful work in any field.
Critical Thinking and Analysis
The first and most essential carry over from my classes to my career is the critical thinking mindset. I look at every project or problem a client brings me like I’m analyzing different texts for a paper: What is the project/problem? What is the client’s goal, and what is my goal? How do I bring together disparate pieces into a cohesive, workable whole?
Asking yourself questions forces you to dig deeper into your work, allows you to see things from new perspectives, and enables you to creatively solve a problem. I spent time in my classes trying to knit together ideas from different eras and disciplines, and now I use that same skill to bring together ideas from my background in SEO, web development, and digital marketing to my role as an Online Reputation Management Associate.
Another thing my experience in humanities classrooms taught me is intellectual humility. We approached every topic with the same two questions: What do I already know, and what do I need to learn?
Being able to admit what you do and don’t know is powerful. It builds trust—your coworkers and your clients know that when you say you know something or share an idea, they can believe you. It also allows you to set smart, achievable goals and avoid the trap of over-promising and under-delivering with clients.
Love of Learning
The other side of the coin with intellectual humility is a voracious appetite for learning. Admitting what you don’t know is the first step, and seeking out that knowledge is the second. In college, that meant hours in the library, but now it means collaborating with my coworkers, exploring industry blogs, attending conferences, and paying close attention to new trends. In a fast-paced industry like digital marketing, where things change daily, you have to constantly be learning and adapting.
I am grateful that I chose the humanities, and even though I still haven’t found that mythical job where I get to write exegesis or analyze the historical significance of the lute, I know that my studies prepared me well for this career that I love.