Student Life

My Useless History Degree—An Analysis of its Usefulness in My Career

As I approached graduation for my single major in History at the University of New South Wales in 2014, I was given the opportunity to qualify for a second major. By undertaking one more business subject, I could elect to graduate with a double major in History and Business. I declined and instead studied the Spanish Civil War, a period of which I had no prior knowledge.

My friends joked about my post-graduation job options; they believed I was only qualified to work at the Australian War Memorial or as a librarian. What those jokers didn’t understand is that without my useless history degree, I’d lack the skills in analysis and critical thinking that have given me an edge over my peers and catapulted me into a management role.

While my business colleagues can discuss the benefits of Ford’s model of business management and my engineering friends can design bridges for large vehicles, I have a special skill that they lack: I can tell if they’re lying.

My history degree has taught me to thoroughly analyse facts, sources and arguments to assess their validity and reliability. I can see through people’s use of jargon and unreferenced facts and deduce that, despite knowing nothing on the topic, they’re not being as truthful as they appear.

In my workplace, this skill has helped me work effectively with other departments in my organisation. My confidence in critical thinking has made me an asset to my supervisor and has resulted in increased trust—and increased my potential for promotion. As such, my useless history degree has become quite useful.

The junior historians out there will already be weighing and critiquing my arguments, and challenging my relaxed, unprofessional tone and writing style. However, the critical thinking skills I acquired, while studying my useless history degree, allow me to argue a point and adapt my language to suit different audiences and contexts.

Had I sent this article to my workplace supervisor, I would have written it differently. The ability to assess and apply the nuances of tone and writing style proves vital when communicating in a large organisation. Once again, my history degree is a little less of a joke.

There are many more reasons why we should encourage students to undertake the study of history. However, I will conclude by suggesting you read Antony Beevor’s The Spanish Civil War. Examine his facts alongside el pacto del olvido (The Pact of Forgetting). Let the study of history shape you into a critical thinker and a future professional asset.

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