Photo by Priscilla Du Preez
As a Philosophy major at a Liberal Arts college, I never thought I would end up working in the Human Resources field. My work for a boutique executive search firm based in Washington, D.C. highlights four key reasons my time spent in the Liberal Arts has served me well:
Both Liberal Arts students and recruiters must cultivate the drive needed to go out and succeed. Studying at a small school puts me in contact with busy students, administrative professionals, and local community members– oftentimes in leadership roles. Successfully dealing with all of these groups pushes me to weave organizational and leadership roles together, while balancing grades and other activities. I have to be able to pick up the phone and make things happen – or they never will. Recruiting also requires picking up the phone, reaching out to potential candidates, and pushing business forward with minimal intervention from up the ladder. Nobody holds your hand in the search world, so you have hustle to get business. It takes drive to reach your full potential – a skill often seen in Liberal Arts students.
Recruiters and Liberal Arts students both rely on a network to help them find the people they need. Liberal Arts networks are powerful and are used by students and alumni alike; often building relationships with past and present students simply for the sake of friendships, connections, and mentorships. Executive search places equal importance on networks. Our searches are based around mutual connections, random encounters with strangers, and networking with peers and professionals. Because we are constantly networking, we are well-suited to help people find the jobs they want, with firms that are seeking executive talent. In a busy world, it can be easy to let networking go stagnant, but in executive search, networking is a necessary (and hopefully fun) part of the process that benefits both the company and job-seeker. Liberal Arts students are uniquely poised for networking as they’ve already begun at school.
Liberal Arts teaches adaptation. Humans are creatures of habit, and learning a little bit about everything is no longer always the norm. Yet, Liberal Arts students must study, learn, and analyze unfamiliar topics and use their best judgment to make a decision. Most of this comes from studying, but it also means being prepared for anything. Adaptability is not easy, but it is extremely valuable. In a similar way, that first phone call to a potential candidate can be equally tough. As a Liberal Arts student, I use what I have at my disposal – regardless of the industry in which I may be searching – and get out of my comfort zone to find the best candidate. Being able to adapt an approach, process, and philosophy for any situation provides value to the company and Liberal Arts students already do this – making them better suited to join the world of executive search.
Liberal Arts and recruiting both require storytelling, and a personal brand is the structure of that story. Liberal Arts students are not industry experts in any particular skill but instead learn how to brand themselves and weave experiences into a story that highlights their teachable nature. To succeed, they often have no other option. They want that job, that search, or that project lead, so they’re going to get it by letting others know that they should be hired based on a personal brand and story. They’ll get someone whom they can mold based on their company’s process and the associated skills, even without the hard skill set others may have. In fact, that is exactly how a Philosophy major ended up in executive search: by being open, honest, and willing to be taught. Recruiting for executive positions is similar – using a personal brand to get a foot in the door, to connect with potential candidates and HR professionals, and to show integrity. This includes a professional online presence, LinkedIn, and simply being a decent human being. Thanks to Liberal Arts, I can tell the story of my experiences in school and the professional world to recruiters, employers, and candidates.
Liberal Arts students are unique. They are driven, networked, adaptable, and know how to translate any major into the world of recruitment – especially executive search. In the words of the late Albert Einstein, “It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education is a Liberal Arts college is not learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.” Every company can benefit from the skillset these students offer and they should be seriously considered for executive search roles.
Nicholas Budler is an Associate of Media and Public Relations at Huntbridge, Inc. Currently, he is also a rising junior at Wabash College, the Liberal Arts college for men in Crawfordsville, IN, where he is a Philosophy major and Economics minor with a passion for media, communications, and the Liberal Arts.