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By definition, liberal arts gives you a broad base of knowledge – but without a practical application for that knowledge, graduates quickly discover some harsh truths.

Our society needs people who appreciate arts, literature, language, history and natural sciences – fields of study that fall under liberal arts – but general knowledge and intellectual skills don’t often translate to good jobs. Lacking any technical or professional skills, even people who were born and raised in Canada often find their choices limited. The most common paths are:

  • Go back to school for a Master’s or Phd so they can teach in their discipline.
  • Go back to school for a teacher’s certificate so they can teach in elementary or secondary school.
  • Go to college and take a training course in a specific occupation.
  • Keep sending out your résumé and pray that you luck into something interesting. If you came to Canada with a liberal arts degree, you’re facing all the obstacles that other liberal arts graduates encounter, plus all the challenges that confront other immigrants. But as terrible as that may sound, it may actually give you a bit of a head start over other newcomers.

Those who come here with specific job skills or career training feel that they have already cleared all the obstacles and established themselves in their field. Arriving in Canada to find you need another year of training to meet Canadian standards can be very discouraging.

But with a liberal arts background, chances are, you did not have a specific career path chosen. If you started on a career path, there’s a good chance it’s something you just stumbled into. Liberal arts grads must be open minded in order to succeed, and that very open-mindedness can serve you well in the Canadian job market.

You are free to explore. Go to the ontariojobfutures.ca or jobfutures.org websites and find out where the greatest demand is. Go to the National Occupation Classification (NOC) website and find out what qualifications are needed to get into a career and where the best wages are. Narrow down your choices. And then follow the Career Planning mantra – and focus.

Figure out the shortest path to your objective – and do what you need to do to achieve your goals. If you can get there in 8 months or a year, you’ll probably be happy with that, whereas the professional who needs 8 months of retraining may be depressed and unhappy about the delay. Your liberal arts degree puts you on the same playing field as Canadian liberal arts grads. Now it’s time to start career planning for your life in Canada.

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