Why Big Business Is Hiring Arts Grads

By Mia Casey

When you start uni, you usually have an idea in your mind about how your career is going to go: you’ll go to uni to learn all the technical skills you’ll need in your industry, maybe do an internship or two along the way, then score a graduate position in your chosen industry. Boom – all done, you’re set until retirement. One of the problems with this assumption, is that it means you’re putting a ton of pressure on yourself to know what industry you want to work in when you originally apply to university. That’s a pretty hefty decision for most people to make.

What if I were to tell you that some nifty little things called ‘transferable skills’ existed, and that large-scale companies are beginning to see the benefits in hiring people who have a background in, say, humanities? Well hold onto your hats, because that’s exactly what’s happening.

The run down

In March this year, Ann Arnold wrote an article reacting to a scandal with the Commonwealth Bank, where she spoke to a Professor from the University of Sydney who essentially proposed that the Bank could use more humanities graduates in their employ. The issue, as this Professor saw it, revolved around values: “These are problems of how your orient yourself in society” (x).

His suggestion points to an idea that having more people who have studied arts subjects – those largely involved in examining the human condition – are suited to more corporate environments as they bring a different perspective to an otherwise business-focused environment.

Changes to hiring practices

Some larger companies seem to agree, with places like PwC and Credit Suisse broadening their recruitment requirements for new graduates and employees. PwC in particular have ‘no specific degree requirements for 95 per cent of the organisation’ (x), although they still value candidates with degree qualifications as ‘the process of studying… will [help you] build the capacities the company is looking for’ (x).

So why are they looking to hire humanities graduates?

Depending on what they study, humanities graduates are usually encouraged to take a more human-centric view of society and business. As these types of arts degrees normally focus on various aspects of the human condition (eg. Philosophy, communication, anthropology, social studies, etc.), their study is largely removed from traditional ideas of commerce and enterprise, meaning that graduates can contribute a different perspective than others who have studied business, commerce, or law.

This means that, while they may not have the technical skills that traditional business and business-adjacent graduates have, they are likely to have strong transferable skills in areas such as communication, problem solving, creativity, emotional intelligence, or empathy. This is particularly beneficial for larger companies as it means they have potential employees who can apply for areas of the company that they feel particularly passionate about, the candidate likely has these transferable skills that make them easy to work with and client-minded, and the company can then teach the technical skills as they go.

Are transferable skills the way forward?

There will be some areas and industries that require specific technical knowledge and industry-related skills that won’t be transferable from other degrees – that’s just a fact. But for a large number of organisations, transferable skills are hugely desirable in candidates, and some technical skills can be taught if the right person comes along.

Luckily, transferable skills can be cultivated, and once you know the sort of skills that employers are looking for then it makes developing these skills a lot easier. The most commonly requested skills include:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Organisation
  • Initiative
  • Attention to detail
  • Emotional intelligence

Check out these blog posts if you want a more thorough breakdown of what each of these skills mean in a practical context:


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.


Author: Mia Casey

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