We’ve all heard the jokes about useless liberal arts degrees, but my guest today argues that in today’s high tech economy, liberal arts degrees can be incredibly useful and even lucrative. His name is George Anders and he’s the author of the book You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education. We begin our conversation looking at research that suggests that the jobs that pay the most money and are in the most demand today require a liberal arts background, and not necessarily a STEM degree. He then goes on to highlight research that shows how most of the jobs being created today aren’t in computer programming or engineering, but rather in jobs that support those fields like sales, management, and consulting. George then argues that individuals with a liberal arts background are in a killer position to fill those jobs.
We then discuss the perils of liberal arts degrees and what individuals who’ve earned them can do to market themselves and take control of their careers.
- In what sectors are most of the new jobs? What skills do they center around?
- The importance of non-tech skills, like imagination and empathy
- Why does the refrain still exist that you need a STEM degree in order to get a great job?
- Why your first job isn’t your destiny
- The salary paths of liberal arts degrees vs. STEM degrees
- 5 strengths that liberal arts degree holders tend to have in common
- Why big data is useless without a context and a story
- How Facebook kickstarted their ad sales with real-life, human salespeople
- The self-discipline tool that Jeff Bezos uses with his employees
- What a liberal arts degree can contribute to blue collar fields
- The ways in which automation has created more jobs
- How to get paid well with a liberal arts degree
- Creating a job that doesn’t exist yet
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- How to Quit a Job (Without Burning Bridges)
- Podcast: The Myth of Following Your Passion
- Why Every Man Should Study the Classics
- An Introduction to Public Speaking
- Stewart Butterfield
- The Masculine Art of Improvisation
- Jeff Bezos’s Peculiar Management Tool
- AoM’s series on Reviving Blue Collar Work
- Podcast: Mike Rowe and the Case for Blue Collar Work
- AoM series “Is College for Everyone”
If you’re a liberal arts major and feel like you’re stuck in a dead end career or you’r getting a liberal arts degree and worry about your job prospects, You Can Do Anything provides not only balm for your anxiety, but more importantly, brass-tacks advice on how to market your “useless” liberal arts degree.
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. We’ve all heard the jokes about useless liberal arts degrees, and hot it’s good for being a barista, whatever. My guest today argues that in today’s high tech economy, liberal arts degrees can be incredibly useful and even lucrative. His name is George Anders and he’s the author of the book “You Can do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education”. We begin our conversation looking at research that suggests that the jobs that pay the most money and are in the most demand today, require a Liberal Arts background and not necessarily a STEM degree.
He then goes on to highlight research that shows that most of the jobs being created today aren’t in computer programming or hard science, rather in jobs that support those fields like sales, management, marketing and consulting. George then argues that the individuals’ Liberal Arts background are in a killer position to fill these jobs.
We then discuss the perils of a liberal arts degree and what individuals who have earned them can do to market themselves and take control of their careers. After the show’s over, check out the show notes at aom.is/liberalarts.
George Anders, welcome to the show.
George Anders: Thank you. Good to be on the program.
Brett McKay: So, you recently published a book, “You Can do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education”. I’m curious, what caused you to write this book? Was there a particular moment you experienced, or was it just several moments or the zeitgeist you’ve been hearing in the news, or are you just a liberal arts major who just got tired of hearing your degree is a waste of money?
George Anders: So, the first propellant. I end up on a bunch of alumni lists, so I get a half dozen calls a year from people who go, “Hey, I just graduated. I’m interested in writing. You seem to be able to make a living in writing. How do I do it?” I go and have coffee with them, and they’re all absolutely wonderful people and they’re high energy and they’re smart and they’re persuasive and you go, “You guys should be crushing it in the job market.” But they aren’t. And then in my day job as a journalist, I interview a lot of employers and they’re always saying, “We want to hire STEM, but we’re not getting the creative people we need. We’re not getting the people who think outside the box.”
I’m going oh my god, there’s this giant disconnect. You’ve got all these really good people who could be coming into your organization and could be doing really great things, and you’ve got a bunch of hiring specs that just make you blind to this talent pool. The reason I wrote the book was because that I felt the college to career path was broken and somehow it needs to get fixed, and I’m gonna do everything I can with this book to help us get to a better place.
Brett McKay: Yeah, one of the surprising bits of research you highlight in the book, because since I was in high school, which was twenty years ago, it was always like, “You gotta learn how to program. The jobs of the future are software programmers, software developers, etc, ect.” But you point out that a lot of the new jobs between 2012-2016 weren’t actually programmer jobs.
George Anders: Yeah, in fact, if you look at the numbers, we created about ten million jobs. Only six hundred thousand of those were in information technology. 94% of the jobs came outside of that core STEM function. Areas like market research are booming. You need people to design the questionnaires, evaluate the data. Fundraising is a growth area. Social media is huge. This is the redemption of the English major, that at last you can get paid good money for being sassy and clever and coming up with the kinds of saying that go viral.
There are a lot of opportunities that don’t have to do with tech, and a point I want to underscore is that tech will open up opportunities quickly, but it’ll shut them down just as fast, and whatever software engineers are needed right now, within five years that gets automated. It used to cost a million dollars to build a website. Now you can sit down with WordPress or Squarespace and get yourself a site in two or three hours.
That’s a lot of programming jobs that don’t exist anymore. So, yes, tech can offer you good opportunities, but these can be short lived, and I think the ability to be creative, to be imaginative, to show empathy with other people, those are gonna be skills that you can take from one workplace to another, and a lot of those are just parallel what you’re going to get if you come out of college with a classic Liberal Arts education.
Brett McKay: Why do you think that refrain still exists, that if you want to do well, get a computer science degree, become a programmer, when as you pointed out, a lot of the jobs they are becoming automated, and it’s a smaller percentage of our overall job market? Why do we still have that? Why does that disconnect exist?
George Anders: So, I blame the media. When in doubt, you should always blame the media. Semi-seriously. If you look at the kinds of people that end up on the covers of business magazines, if you look at the kinds of movies that get made with the coder in the hoodie making millions of dollars, yeah, at the high end you can make incredible money if you have got great technical skills, but you could also make incredible money playing in the NBA. That doesn’t mean all of us should try and become basketball players. So, I think there’s a little bit of skew there that we focused on what the very top achievers in STEM can do ,and it’s impressive. We’ve tried to say, well, everyone can get a piece of that pie. The answer is no. If you’re a B+ or B- coder, you’re gonna have a much more satisfying life and probably a more stable income if you look at some of the ways you can use your people skills.
Brett McKay: That’s another interesting thing that you highlight, the research you point out that- okay, STEM jobs, that’s where the money is at- but you highlight research that shows that no, actually, in the long run, individuals with Liberal Arts degree end up earning more or end their career with a higher salary than, say, someone with a STEM degree.
George Anders: So I tell the story, in the book, of Andy Enderegg, who graduated from the University of Kansas with a masters in Fine Arts and Creative Writing. Her first job was nothing amazing. She went and joined Groupon, and she wrote those sassy little teaser notices that Groupon would mail out to us. I think it paid like thirty three thousand a year, but she gets there and she’s resourceful and she’s clever and she goes, “You know what? Let me build you a training module so you can hire more people like me, and you can get them up to speed faster.” Then she said, “Let me go help you guys on campus recruiting.”
Pretty soon they’re going, “Wow. You’re actually really useful here. We want to bump your pay up.” She gets up close to 50 thousand within a few months. They go, “You should manage people.” She becomes managing editor there. She’s up to 80 or 90 thousand. Now she’s set up at a consultant to other companies that need to figure out how to make their stuff go viral. She’s working about half time. She’s earning six figures, and she’s got a place by ocean in Venice, California where she works on her short stories. Life’s good, but there are a lot of those stories out there. Your first job is not your destiny. In the course of going from college to your early forties, people probably work eleven or twelve different jobs, and instead of fixating on what’s job number one, being able to work that pathway where your first job leads to a better second job leads to a better third job. Over time, life gets better.
Brett McKay: So STEM degrees, you probably land a job that pays really well your first job, but it stagnates. It’s not going to go up to much, but you argue that Liberal Arts Degrees, you’re probably, the first few jobs you get is going to be peanuts, right? 30 thousand. But, as you adapt, as you develop some career capitol, that can go up, continue to rise.
George Anders: Absolutely. Is it possible for everyone to do that? No. There’s a bit of risk here, but it’s a big, broad pathway that can work for a lot of people. Public rhetoric is acting as if that’s impossible. What I wanted to do was open people’s eyes to some possibilities that they might not be hearing about.
Brett McKay: What is it about a Liberal Arts Degree … First, how do you define a Liberal Arts Degree? Is it just any of the soft things like literature, psychology, what sort of degrees were you highlighting in the book?
George Anders: Yeah. You’re in the right zone. Humanities, which is English, classics, philosophy, and then social sciences, which is psychology, sociology. I count history, that’s the way some people count it in the humanities. But, yeah. It tends to be the disciplines that work more with words than with numbers. Although, every now and then, numbers are starting to come into the social sciences, too. There’s nothing wrong with being able to function in both levels. It’s like being able to play the piano with both hands. Do something with your left hand, you do something else with the right. I do like that sense that you’re working in the world of ideas rather than the world of equations.
Brett McKay: What is it about a liberal arts degree that allows individuals to thrive in today’s job market that’s being eaten by software. It’s much more information based, much tech based. How is it that a person that studied philosophy or classics, how are they able to thrive in that sort of job market?
George Anders: I identified five areas that seem to be constant. What I did is I looked at job ads that offered at least 100 thousand dollars a year and were looking for people with critical thinking skills, which tends to be the big claim of major in the Liberal Arts, you’re going to learn critical thinking. I go, “Okay, what exactly is this critical thinking?” As I said, there’s five things it amounts to.
First is the willingness to go explore something new. A lot of people just want to be told what to do and do the same thing for a long time, but if you’re willing to be adventuress, if you’re willing to go off the paved roads, there are a lot of opportunities in this world.
Second thing, the ability to analyse problems and peel apart, gather the right facts.
Third thing, to be able to work up solutions. Especially in murky areas where it’s not obvious what you do. Where are we going to build that road? That’s the kind of thing that a city planner needs to figure out, and that’s not just an engineering question. That’s a whole lot of trade offs. Both literally and metaphorically, if you’re a good road builder, you can always find work.
Fourth area, which is really crucial, is the ability to read the room. That translates into empathy, translates into understanding what’s on other people’s minds, and that can make you so effective in all kinds of business settings, all kinds of social settings. If you’re in politics, you need to understand why some people are going to vote for you, why some of them aren’t, what their sticking points are, how to address those sticking points. That starts to translate into leadership. If you’ve got that ability to read the room, you can become the team leader. You can become much higher up in management.
The last one is the ability to communicate persuasively. We ask for good communication skills, but I think that lots of people have good communication skills. What you really want is the ability to put it to work in a setting and bring people around to your point of view.
All five of those things are things that you can pick up with an English degree, with a history degree. It doesn’t really matter, literally, whether you know why the Irish Rebellion of 1798 happened, but it does matter that you know, wow, there are all these different interest groups. They want different things. I ended up talking with some people who have done very well in sales with a Liberal Arts degree. They will tell me, working with a client is like a character in a novel. You get used to figuring out what makes this person tick and how can we get to a situation where we can go forward together?
Brett McKay: What I love about the book is all the case studies you provide. I was really impressed with the case studies of individuals with a Liberal Arts degree that somehow get a job at one of these tech firms. And you think, okay, to get a job there you need to have a computer background. But in a lot of these cases, these individuals, okay, they thought, I don’t have that, but I can get it. They use the resources in that skill set they developed with their liberal arts degree to teach themselves new skills to thrive in this new job.
George Anders: Very much so. In fact, I open the book with the story of an anthropology, who after a bunch of zigs and zags, ends up doing user research for Etsy, which is the big global arts marketplace. What does Etsy need? It needs someone who can figure out what exactly is it that artists want to accomplish on our site? What do they care about? What’s their point of pride? What are their apprehensions? How do we make it click for them? All of a sudden, an anthro background turns out to be useful.
He’ll either go out in the field and talk to them, or set up these hour long Skype calls, and he’s really good at drawing people out, and going, okay, tell me more. Explain to me why that is. What’s your belief? What got you interested in art? What are your best pieces and why are you proud of them? That’s an interviewing skill and a field research skill that turns out to be really useful, cause you can have the best technology in the world, but if you’ve built your site for a set of consumers that don’t exist, or if you’ve made some mistakes along the way that alienate people, you’re never going to have the success that you want. Sometimes bringing in an anthropology major to talk to your users can save you months of time building features that are off target.
Brett McKay: Right. Another example you provide of Liberal Arts degrees, individuals with Liberal Arts degrees thriving in today’s more tech oriented economy is big data. We’re hearing all this information about big data, big date, big data, but as you point out in the book, data is meaningless without context. You need individuals to take that data, that raw data, and craft it into a story that people can understand.
George Anders: Yeah, and in terms of where the jobs are, what amazed me … I spent some time with OpenTable, which is the restaurant booking service. They have a big data team, and it’s about 10 or 12 scientists. You don’t need that many people to run the numbers. That’s done very automatically these days. But they have more than a hundred people with iPads that go out on the road and sit down and chat with guys in restaurants and say, “Okay, here’s what I see in the numbers. Here’s some things you can do with them.”
You need a lot of personality and charm, and you’ve got to be a good listener, and you’ve got to be good natured. You’re selling yourself as much as you’re selling the numbers. If they just tried to give restaurants a drop down menu that says you should rearrange your seating, they guy would say no. This is my restaurant. Who are you to tell me this? But if you got someone who comes in with personality and, yes, they’ve got the data on the iPad and all of the bar graphs and everything, but they’re going to make you feel nice about it first. That ability to connect with another person turns out to be really valuable. That’s more than a hundred jobs for doing that as opposed to 10 jobs for being the tech guy in the background.
Brett McKay: Yeah. Perfect. You give Facebook as an example of that. When they first started their advertising business, they wanted to make it automated, just drop down. It wasn’t going anywhere. Then finally, they hired sales people, who would go to people face to face, and that really kick started their ad sales.
George Anders: Yeah. They’ll do something … It will tell you, “Hey, here’s a cupcake shop.” They put up a geo tag, Facebook ad to get everyone within half a mile to see wow, we’ve got two for one on cupcakes, or something like that. They sold them out like crazy.
You go, okay, that’s a very accessible, real story. I can use that in whatever business I have. There’s an art to knowing how to spin those stories right, and it’s sociology majors, it’s English majors, it’s people who have dealt in the world of stories and human beliefs and attitudes and the like, that end up doing that the best. So there are now thousands of people with non-technical backgrounds in Facebook making good money bringing the ad mechanisms to the world in ways that a face to face meeting can do things that a drop down menu can not.
Brett McKay: Right. You also highlight, many of the CEOs of some of these large tech companies, and just large businesses, it doesn’t have to be tech necessarily, a lot of them have Liberal Arts degrees. There’s philosophy majors, classics majors. Can you highlight some of the ones that stood out to you during your research?
George Anders: Yes. The philosophy majors, in fact, are especially interesting because, if you think about it, that is a field where you’re, in a way, put in a position where you imagine ruling the world and coming up with edicts and principles that could guide all of civilization. So there are not low ego people. I mean, they’ve got nice manners. They’re not obnoxious, but they’ve got big ambitions.
One of the examples I really enjoyed was Stewart Butterfield, who runs Slack. Slack is an incredibly popular business communications tool that combines the fun of Facebook and utility of email. It’s very well built. He’s the kind of guy who’s always thinking about what does the world need. How do we communicate? What does it mean to communicate? He’s able to assess that in a deeper way than someone who’s just going here’s the technical specs of my site. Very empathetic, very good understanding of his customers, and philosophy degree got him on the road to do that.
Brett McKay: Right. He didn’t just invent Slack, or create Slack, he also created Flickr.
George Anders: Yes. He did. Yeah. In fact, the funny thing about him is keeps trying to create the ultimate multi-player video game. And none of them ever work.
Brett McKay: Game never ending. Right, is that what it’s called?
George Anders: There’s always one feature in there that someone goes, you know what? Even thought nobody’s playing your video game, that’s a really good feature. So Flickr was the one to organize people’s photos. He goes, wow, that could be a standalone business. He ended up selling it to Yahoo for 20 some million dollars. Then Slack was the communication system within one of these games. And people go the game is what it is, but the communication system is really good.
It’s again, something that a Liberal Arts background may make you more receptive to is you had a really good idea, it’s just different than what you thought your idea was. You need to let go of half of what you thought you were doing and work with the best half. I think that ability to regroup, to improvise, it’s useful throughout all of life. Our successes are not always where we expect them. I think there’s something about being widely read in college and debating a lot of ideas in seminars that will open up your horizons to that idea that you need a little serendipity, and you should be willing to retool your plan once you see something new that’s going to work.
Brett McKay: Right. Isn’t Bezos, is that how you pronounce, the guy at Amazon. Amazon’s CEO, didn’t he have a Liberal Arts degree?
George Anders: He is a poli-math. I mean, he’s someone who has expertise in a lot of areas. He’s got a computer science background, and in fact, he ended up being the computer guy at a hedge fund early in his days before setting it up. He’s also an incredibly well-read guy. He’s a Princeton graduate, and he’s someone who will think in a lot of different directions and combines both elements.
Brett McKay: An interesting thing I just read about him is that he has these meetings, but before they start talking, he makes people read this memo that’s written out for 30 minutes in silence. He puts a premium on writing skills. He expects the people who lead meetings to know how to write well. Which is interesting because you hear a lot of the tech world is, let’s have a stand up meeting. We’ll get done really fast, but he’s very deliberate and takes almost a professor-like approach to what he does over there at Amazon.
George Anders: A key point there is that when you write, you actually have to think through logically what you’re saying. When we talk, we can get hand wavy, and everyone thinks they heard something slightly different, and the discipline of writing is you actually have to commit to what are we trying to do? What do we expect it to accomplish? When are we getting it done? It forces you to be more rigorous. That’s valuable. I’ve been in meetings where four people come out and each of them think we’ve decided to do something different. Then you have to have another meeting two weeks later to sort out all that confusion, and time’s passed, and you haven’t accomplished anything. Very few people actually like to write. It’s much more fun to have written and have produced it, but it’s really good discipline and it can save you time.
Brett McKay: Right. Do you need to have … Let’s say someone is listening to this. They’re their first year in college, or they’re thinking about going to college, trying to decide on that major. To get the benefits of a Liberal Arts degree we’ve been talking about, do you need to get a degree from a prestigious university, or could you go to a state university there and do well for yourself?
George Anders: I actually have a chapter in the book called “You Can Start Anywhere.” I have example of people who started out in community college, and people from University of Nevada Reno, and the Cal State schools, and, yeah, if you find the right professors, and you connect with them, that can springboard you into a good place. If you go to one of the world’s fanciest schools, you’re going to be surrounded by a lot of bright people, and you’re going to have a great alumni network, and everything’s a little easier. That’s not to say you can’t make that happen at Mississippi College or a lot of other places, quite literally, those are examples in the book. You’re going to need to try a little harder. You’re going to need to figure out how to get your foot in the door, but the benefits are universal.
The other thing I’d say is if you’ve picked a technical major, and you’ve got time to go and take a psychology class or a philosophy class or a history class, that can get you some of the benefits, too. I wrote mostly with a focus on what you could do with a full-fledged major.
One of the examples that hit home for me, after I announced I was doing the book, I got a note from one of my college classmates who’d gone pre-med, and Neil just always liked to take classes outside his field. We were in a first amendment Bill of Rights seminar one time. He wrote me and said, “Hey, I’ve done pretty well in medicine. I’m now a pretty prominent guy on public health. I go and testify at the state legislature a lot. I need the MD to have credibility there, but it’s the stuff I picked up in those English and law classes that lets me figure out what does the legislature really want to hear from me. When they ask me a tough question, what do I need to tell them to answer it? Where do I not need to go cause it will just embarrass all of us?” He said “It’s that Liberal Arts training that actually made me an effective guy to go and to that sort of testimony.” In a case like that, you take the two disciplines and you put them together, and it gets you farther than you’d be with just one of them.
Brett McKay: You mentioned earlier about artificial intelligence eating jobs, particularly tech jobs. Before, you’d have to spend a million dollars to build a website, now you can do it in five minutes with Squarespace, and you don’t need programming. Are jobs that require Liberal Arts degree immune from this? I’ve been hearing talk of AI outsourcing stuff to AI in the legal field, medical field, even writing really short snippets for news. What do you think the future is there?
George Anders: Here’s what really interesting is that software and AI can replace the routine part surprisingly quickly. If we go into medical for a moment, analyzing an xray, analyzing an MRI, over time that’s going to be the kind of thing where you’re going to have software that can do it. But, let’s go to another specialty, the geri-attrition, the first new deals with the elderly and tries to keep them healthy as long as possible. So much of that is a personal connection. You can tell them, hey, be careful about fall, and use a cane, or get some rails in your apartment or your home or whatever, and most people will nod their heads and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and they won’t do it. The good geri-attrition know how to make that personal connection where they inspire their patients to make real changes in their lives, and that requires a very human touch.
It’s the same story in writing. There are now programs that can do minor earthquake reports. Earthquake that registers 2.8 on the Richter scale happened at 2:53 in the morning with an epicenter at whatever. You don’t need a human being to do that. You can just have a connect the dots software program that does it. But if you’re wanting to write a poem, or if you’re wanting to write a hit song, there has been basically no progress in the last 50 years in coming up with AI songwriters. If you think about your favorite pop stars and what makes their songs powerful, that’s not the kind of thing that software can do.
I think anytime you’re venturing into an area that involves creativity or curiosity, or empathy, you’re on safe ground. You’re doing non-routine work, and you’re doing human to human work. If your job is very mechanical, then, yeah, you should worry that in 10 or 20 years it will be automated.
Brett McKay: Yeah. Where I thought you could combine the benefits of Liberal Arts degree is combining that with what we would consider trade jobs, or blue collar jobs. I know a guy who went to college, got a degree, I forget what it was, literature or something like that, then he ended up starting a lawn care company and he’s doing fantastic. I think one of the reasons why he’s done so well is that he’s developed that flexible thinking. He’s really good at sales, and I think that from his work experience as studying literature, that’s helped him out a lot in his “dirty job.”
George Anders: If you’re in lawn care, half of what you’re selling is the chance to chat with you and to talk about how your home looks and that kind of thing.
I took my car in for an oil change yesterday, and I ended up with the little local mechanic, where Ken is just a really fun guy to talk to. He probably charged me 10 or 20 dollars more than Speedy, but he’s close, he’s friendly, he’s got a take on life. If I’ve got issues involving all kinds of things from road trips to what have you, Ken’s always got a story for me. I’m going there as much to hang out with Ken as I am to get the oil changed. You can bring that into an awful lot of other things.
Financial planners. That’s a field that if you take a narrow definition, should be completely automated. There’s software now to tell you where to put your money and what to have in stocks and what to have in bonds, but it turns out that we’re using people more than ever because it’s not enough just to know what we’re supposed to do, we need someone who understands us and cares about where we’re going to take vacation, and how the kids are doing, and are they going to go to college or not. If you can bring that level of warmth, people will pay extra for the human engagement. A really good place to pick that up is in ac college seminar, often in a field that has nothing to do with car repair or financial management, or lawn care, but just gets you in the habit of talking to people and engaging them.
Brett McKay: Yeah. You give an example of how automation ended up creating a lot more jobs in the finance industry. It was with banking. The automatic teller machine. It actually … We thought this would be the death of teller jobs, they’ve actually, banks have built more banks, and hired more people to talk face to face with potential clients or their clients.
George Anders: Yeah. Yeah. Automats. We had the ability to put food on a conveyor belt and run it around people’s chairs in a restaurant since the 1950s. It’s pretty rare for anyone to do that. You want to have that interaction with the server, and you want to meet the restaurant manager who knows you by name. Yeah. Never underestimate the power of the human touch.
Brett McKay: Liberal Arts degrees, as we talked about earlier, they don’t pay that great. The jobs you can get don’t pay that great right after you graduate. What’s your career advice for folks who’ve just graduated with some degree in humanities or psychology or literature, so they’re on that path where 10 years from now, 15 years from now, they’re earning a comfortable income?
George Anders: In a chapter at the end of the book called “How to Get Paid Properly,” and there’s an art to it, and I don’t want to peel it all down, but I’ll share a couple of different pointers for you.
One is you need to be assertive about asking for a raise. Sometimes I think this is a gender issue. I think guys, it’s more comfortable for us to go in and say, “I’m working hard. I got a competing offer. What can you do for me?” Whatever your background is, being assertive for yourself does pay off.
Then the other thing, and this is a really good hack that I learned from a guy at NASA, is don’t just think about solving your boss’s problems, think about solving your boss’s boss’s problems. That gets you higher up. That gets you more strategic. It also gets you much more visible with the kind of people who are going, “You know what? You’re just way to smart to be in this job. We should get you into a bigger job.” I think sometimes just doing what you’re told will get you more of the same. Taking the initiative to come up with ideas that will help your company solve bigger problems, that can take you to good places. Anyway, read the chapter for more. Be assertive, and look for ways to extend your reach beyond your literal job description. That will start to get you in a good place.
Brett McKay: Yeah. Another issue too, you talk about, is how Liberal Arts schools are being more proactive about helping their graduates in the job. Before, a lot of Liberal Arts professors, you learn for the sake of learning. This is not a trade school, but they’re realizing they need to help their students find jobs. I mean, it’s not their responsibility, but provide some resources where they can learn how to market their degree in the job market. Are you seeing steps there where it’s getting better?
George Anders: Yeah. I am. I’m not seeing it happen as fast as I’d like. Though any speed, I would still be saying, “Do more. Move faster.” I’m going to disagree with you a little bit. I think that is professors’ responsibility. When I went to school, the place I went entry tuition was 35 hundred dollars a year. If you really worked hard over the summer, you could earn that and pay for your whole years college off of your summer earnings. You can not do that now for the kinds of schools that charge 30 thousand, 40 thousand or more. I think that brings a responsibility that schools can’t really pull people in at that price without saying, “You know what, we’re going to get you to a better place when you graduate,” as opposed to, “Wow, here’s your degree, now you figure it out.”
I’m always happy when I see professors who’ve got networks and who share it. I think some of the best professors are one’s who’ve worked outside academia for a few years and know what the world is like beyond the gates and help their students. I’m seeing career services departments getting more money and doing much bolder things. For some of the schools in rural or isolated locations, they will load up students on a bus and take them to New York City or Chicago or wherever the job market is, and that’s your spring break. You go meet employers. The school sponsors it and sets up meetings, but you also need to show some initiative yourself. You need to create your own job, and I have a chapter in the book that talks about how to create a job that doesn’t exist yet. It’s not as easy as just waiting for Deloitte to come to campus and say we’re hiring accountants, and you show up with your accounting degree, and they give you your job. I think the opportunities to get to something that’s really fulfilling are higher. It just takes a little more initiative.
Brett McKay: Right. You can do anything with a Liberal Arts degree.
George Anders: There you go.
Brett McKay: There you go. Hey, George. This has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about the book?
George Anders: On the internet www.georgeandersbooks.com will give you a link, and they’ll explain what the big ideas of “You Can do Anything” are, that’s the name of the book. On Twitter, I’m at goergeanders, and, of course, the book is up on Amazon as well.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, George Anders, thank you very much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
George Anders: Thank you.
Brett McKay: My guest today was George Anders. He’s the author of the book “You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education.” It’s available on Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. Also, check out our show notes at aom.is/liberarts, where you can find link to resources, or you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com. If you enjoy the show, have gotten something out of it, I appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. Also, share the podcast with a friend. That’s how a lot of people find this podcast, so share it. The more the merrier. As always, thank you for your strategic support. Until next time, this Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.