A guide to job hunting as a humanities graduate in Hong Kong (Part 1/6)

 

Why do you need a degree in the humanities? What jobs do you get after studying literature, philosophy or film studies? What’s the point of learning cultural theory, gender theory, critical theory and the like? After all, which employer in Hong Kong will care about how well you know your Susan Sontag, Wong Kar Wai, William Shakespeare, and bell hooks? In short, what’s the point of having a humanities degree?

Books

If you’re someone with a humanities degree, you’ve probably asked yourself these questions before. You probably know the questions by heart if you’ve been an undergraduate or master’s students of English literature, history, philosophy, film studies or any other field in the humanities. If you haven’t asked yourself these questions, you’ve most likely been asked them – by friends, parents, friends of your parents, your extended family… The list goes on. You might also have read articles that dealing with why the world needs people with humanities degrees (see this, this and this, for example).

Now, if you’re graduating this year (congratulations, by the way!), this onslaught of questions – about your studies, your future, and your employability – might be coming at you more often than ever before. As people with a humanities background, a question we all wish we knew the answer to is this: How does one tackle these questions? What are the arguments? How does one respond?

Stop worrying, and start developing your career planning skills

As I see it, the solutions is in part not to care. By that I don’t mean that you should ignore other people altogether. Of course you should care about being able to explain your choices or your background to other people. And yes, questions from family and friends are important. Our close ones – and their understanding of who we are – matter to us, whether we like it or not.

That said, if you are graduating this year, haven’t secured a job offer, and want to find a job, your time is probably better spent developing your career planning skills than explaining your university degree to your close ones. Developing your career planning skills includes practicing how to describe your skills and experience to other people.

Yet the people you need to convince right now are not your friends, family or others in your immediate circle (although these people can provide good practice). The people you really need to convince – of your value, skills, knowledge, and employability – are your potential, future employers, and yourself.

. . . the people you need to convince right now are not your friends, family or others in your immediate circle (although these people can provide good practice). Rather, the people you really need to convince – of your value, skills, knowledge, and employability – are your potential, future employers, and yourself.

That you have to convince future employers of your value seems like a no-brainer, right? The challenge is, of course, how to actually go about doing it. As for the second point – that you need to convince yourself of your worth – is less obvious, but even more important. As the authors of “So What Are You Going to Do with That?” Finding Careers Outside Academia point out, graduate school will teach you to be harshly critical of yourself. To that I would add that the same can be said for undergraduate studies.

5 steps to take when job hunting as a humanities graduate in Hong Kong

In my next few blog posts, I will provide a guide for how to find a job as a humanities graduate. There will be five posts in all, covering 5 steps to take when job hunting as a humanities graduate in Hong Kong:

  1. Learn to talk about your own value

  2. Treat your career planning like a research project

  3. Learn how to identify your transferable skills

  4. Ask for feedback

  5. Make yourself discoverable

The posts will be based on a series of career workshops I ran at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) this spring. This includes a workshop I gave to students graduating from the Master of Arts in Literary and Cultural Studies programme at HKU’s Department of Comparative Literature. The advice is also based on my experience managing the hiring process for companies, and being a career coach for university students/graduates and young professionals with a background in the humanities and social sciences.

From my career workshop for graduates of the Master of Arts in Literary and Cultural Studies programme at The University of Hong Kong.

From my career workshop for graduates of the Master of Arts in Literary and Cultural Studies programme at The University of Hong Kong.

Who is this guide for?

I created this guide to job hunting for humanities graduates in Hong Kong for several reasons: First off, I’m aware that a lot of career advice out there feels overly general. Advice that is useful to a graduate with a major in business or medicine is not necessarily relevant to a graduate who studied literature or cultural studies. Humanities graduates typically have a harder time figuring out what jobs to apply for, identifying their skills, and pinning down their past work experience.

I also wrote this guide to help graduates in Hong Kong. A lot of career advice that you find online and in books are, moreover, written based on the job market and work culture in the US or the UK. I’m aware that many university graduates in Hong Kong feel that the career advice out there doesn’t apply to their situation.

Finally, I hope these blog posts can help anyone who is interested in career coaching and career counselling. Maybe you are wondering what career coaching can do for you. Or maybe you want to learn more about my approach as a career coach. These blog posts should give you some insight: While the advice I give won’t be personalized (this is something I can only do through one-on-one coaching), this guide will give you a sense of how I think and how I can potentially help you.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this guide to job hunting for humanities graduates in Hong Kong!

Relevant blog posts

How to build a meaningful career

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About the author

Julianne Yang is a Norwegian career coach and HR consultant in Hong Kong. She offers one-on-one career counselling for young professionals, PhD candidates, and university students who are looking to build meaningful careers. She also designs and runs career workshops and training sessions for universities, co-working spaces, and companies in Hong Kong.

When she’s not career coaching or training, she works as an HR consultant for small- to medium-sized tech companies, managing all things related to hiring. If you need help with writing job listings that attract the right talent, screening candidates, conducting interviews, and developing effective employer branding and recruitment marketing strategies, feel free to get in touch.

 Read more about Julianne (www.julianneyang.com)