The Value of the Liberal Arts Education in Business Today
Over the past several years, many people have asked me how a liberal arts education was at all relevant to a successful career on Wall Street. My response is, If not for my liberal arts education, I could not stay on Wall Street or, for that matter, survive on any other street in todays business world.
From my vantage point, men and women who are successful in business today have a universal constant among them; they are prepared to learn and find ways to adjust to the unexpected. Rather than looking for employees with specialized technical backgrounds, companies now yearn for people who are able to frame a problem, consider options and use reasoning to reach conclusions. The ability to think independently and creatively; to function in an imperfect and constantly changing environment and to make critical decisions under pressure that not only meet short-term objectives, but also realize long-term strategic goals are essential. A liberal arts education helps showcase a students ability to adapt, communicate effectively and think critically through complex problems generating solutions that effectively add value to any organization.
Another constant in business today is that change is inevitable. Management changes, clients problems and needs constantly evolve and the environment in which one operates changes rapidly. A liberal arts education provides a unique perspective on the various dynamics that cause change, how it takes place, the challenges faced by those initiating change and how to adapt to it. To be successful in a dynamic business environment, one must demonstrate flexibility and adaptability necessary to be an agent of change and help implement the new strategic vision for the organization. I have found that colleagues who lack a liberal arts education have trouble adjusting to new strategic visions and goals resulting in frustration and shortened business careers.
Also, more than ever, the global interconnection of business demands that aspiring leaders have a broader understanding of the worldyet another benefit of the liberal arts experience. Changing demographics, increased use of technology and a global economy all have impacted how an individual is valued in any organization. It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a narrow focus or specialization, particularly for career longevity. The competitive environment is more intense today and employees function under the common rules of natural selection. If a person desires a long and prosperous career in todays fast-paced business world, being the fittest means multi-tasking, cross-training, and recognizing when it is necessary to initiate or accept change in order to respond to the challenges of an evolved business environment.
Fortunately for employers, a liberal arts education prepares a person well for lifelong learning and nurtures intellectual curiosity. An individual with this type of education can meet the demands of todays business world by relying on the intellectual confidence attained while obtaining the liberal arts degree. Taking risks and challenging norms is the very foundation of the liberal arts experience. Every career is enriched by such an education.