An open letter to employers (well…anyone, really)

Hello!

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read this blog post. This particular bloggage is a follow up to a previous post titled “You’re into history, eh? So, you must be a teacher?”

I am writing this letter, on behalf of History graduates (both undergraduate and graduate) to explain the benefits, to you as an employer, of hiring someone with a History degree.

“[A] ny fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it.”

Oscar Wilde

I am sure that you have read many resumes and CVs (hundreds if not thousands) during your time as an employer and have dismissed those who have had said History degree.

**STOP RIGHT HERE**

Firstly, ask yourself why you may have dismissed said application. Is your first thought, “What can someone who knows everything about the War of 1812 do to support and contribute to our business?” This is the first mistake. Don’t think about the subject matter; focus on the skills. As Historians, we can’t tell you everything thats happened in History, that’s not what we do. Among other things, we study and analyze┬átrends, theories and problems, that are very relevant to today, communicate and interpret them.

Secondly, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having a History degree means that we are qualified for everything.

Yes, for the most part (and I’m the first to admit it), Historians are HUGE Geeks, but most of us don’t love the History Channel (that’s another blog post in itself). That aside, we develop a wide variety of skills that are applicable to any workplace.

So, what are some of these skills?

1. We analyze and interpret research. Throughout both of my History degrees, I sifted through hundreds (if not thousands) of documents; primary and secondary sources. I learned how to evaluate what research was valuable and what was garbage and used sound evidence to present my case. I always had a back up to a back up and learned how to use these documents to my advantage.

2. We are awesome communicators. Personally, I’ve developed this from studying Public History (how we communicate the academic stuff to the regular Joe on the street, who has no knowledge or background in History). Historians develop key presentation skills when studying History. We learn how to speak in a concise way, as well as write clearly and to the point.

3. We pick up on the little things. We pick up on things that you might not even think of! We are trained to see the things that others may not. Our attention to detail is second to none.

4. We analyze trends. As stated previously, we reflect on the present by referring to the past. This can be very helpful when looking at business success or failure or when we need to look at the past to solve something in the present. How did we solve this before?

I could go on…but this is a blog post and not a book.

Key skills to take away from this (I’m not saying every Historian will have these, but the majority do):

  • Effective communication skills (both written and oral)
  • Key problem solving and the ability to critically analyze situations
  • Independent thinking
  • Highly organized
  • Ability to work with others and on an individual basis
  • Manage time, stick to deadlines and work under pressure

…and the list goes on….

I’m not saying that studying other subjects can’t give you these skills, but sometimes you have to point them out when it isn’t so obvious :)

I’d also like to say, don’t rule out extra curricular activities and the skills that can be developed from taking part in them. Just because it isn’t paid, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

In conclusion, I hope I’ve shed some light on the skills that Historians develop.

Sincerely,

Jenn

P.S. For further and more in depth information on what you can do with a History degree, check out this resource from UWO. Please click here.

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