Business Time: What Liberal Arts MAs and PhDs Can Offer the ‘Business World’

Dear Business People,

First, I always swore that I would never write another open letter after I wrote an open letter to people who write open letters, asking them to please stop writing open letters.

But, circumstances have changed, and here I am typing up an open letter, and I’m writing it to “business people”– I fully realize that none of you identify as a “business person”, but for lack of a better term, that’s what I’m calling you. This category includes folks who work at ‘the’ bank, or those who work in insurance, or some other financial institution. You might also be a business person if you (unironically) wear a tie, or carry a brief case. You probably have two sets of socks (business and tube, or business and active, or business and whatever).  Capital (money or property) is most likely your main concern at work.

I am writing this letter in an attempt to persuade you to consider hiring those with advanced Liberal Arts degrees—those of us holding Masters Degrees and PhDs. Please consider this post  a blanket letter or recommendation that I am writing on behalf of Liberal Arts graduate students, and the growing number of academic expats, who are leaving education because there are virtually no jobs, and working at the jobs that do exist serve to ensure that you are securely below the poverty line (and I mean all of them- the LICO, the LIM, the MBM, you name it, most of us are gazing up at it).

Many of us would like to join your ranks. We want desperately to work with and for you. And you couldn’t have a better pool of applicants. Here’s why:

We are smart. In order to enter an MA program in Ontario, a student has to hold at least an A, but in many cases an A+ average throughout their undergraduate programs. High grades like these should not just suggest that graduate students are smart; they are also very hardworking, and eager to please authority figures.  Consider the hours of preparation that they pour into test prep and assignments; A’s and A+’s aren’t just the product of being brainy (I know plenty of smarty-pants with B, C, and D averages). These folks are motivated to succeed, and sure, success doesn’t necessarily mean money for them, but that’s great for you! It means that we are cheap.

It’s not just that graduate students and academic expats devalue the monetary value of their skills (that’s just a bonus!), they actually have skills that you, people of the business world, can really use, and attributes that you should be excited to capitalize on!

Here’s a few to consider:

We have what, in the parlance of your community are called “deck skills”… for the record, we call them “power point presentations” or “slides”.  Graduate school, and teaching in particular is one big power point presentation, whether we are presenting to our peers or our students, we are delivering jazzy, sophisticated, and informative “decks”.

We are malleable, having no previous indoctrination to another corporation’s culture. We are brainy blank slates, primed to be efficiently socialized into your corporate culture.  And that radical leftist social justice equality baloney that we were once so passionate about, if we still carry any faith in it, we are pretty good at burying it… except for maybe when we are imbibing in libations (so you can imagine our entertaining and lively contributions to the office holiday party!).

Liberal Arts graduate students will work for next to nothing. This is especially true for anyone who has spent any time working as a part-time professor. I think that you will be surprised at our definition of a “well-paying job”, and pleasantly so! Some of us even work for less than $200 a week teaching college!

Simultaneously, we are both excellent worker bees, and queen bees. We are used to excessively long working hours with little encouragement, respect, or feedback, but at the same time, we have plenty of leadership skills, leading tutorials and directing courses (which can be populated by up to a few hundred undergraduates or college students).

We are excellent performers, comfortable with public speaking. We have plenty of experience addressing diverse audiences like colleagues and students.

We are critical thinkers, which means that we are great at uncovering holes in arguments and seeing limits to perspectives. I imagine that such skills would be very valuable, particularly in competitive business environments.

We are “big-picture thinkers”, capable of “seeing the forest without losing sight of the trees”.

Most of us are research and analysis ninjas, adept at distilling complex situations into meaningful components, factors, and themes.

We have been trained to be open-minded, and literally designed to see the world from different (and sometimes conflicting) perspectives.

So, please don’t be dissuaded from inviting us to be on your team. Our skill set is valuable to you, despite what you’ve heard about the low “ROI” of liberal arts degrees.  Sure, MBAs are great (I guess), but I think that you’ll find our particular brand of imposter syndrome, insecurity and eagerness to be very refreshing and quite lucrative. After being rejected by our beloved academic communities, we are eager to please you, and grateful for the work.


A woman who would like a job now, please.