A Money Coach in Canada

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oldbook.jpgI’m a history major.    BComm students and well-meaning (perhaps) working people pooh-pooh’d this course selection.

What use is it in the real world?  they’d inquire, implying I’d never make a go of it unless I joined the MBA crowd. 

 Fifteen years out of university, with experience as an entrepreneur, as an employee in small business, and in a large corporation, I can pretty much kick any MBA’s ass (no offense)

(photo credit: Zevotron

While we may not have mastered the corporate lexicon (learnings.preferred outcomes.KPI’s) and PowerPoint is usually our enemy, here are skills any history major worth her degree brings to the table:

  1. The ability to read – lots – fast, and extract the critical information that will make a difference to the business.
  2. Predicting trends – both by reading broadly (see above) and by good analysis of stats.
  3. Asking smart questions, and connecting the dots.  Studying history isn’t really about memorizing dates and locations and events.  It’s about asking questions:  What is the meaning of this event?  How does X event connect to not just the obvious Y but even to Z?  Or:  If we make X change in our business,  it will affect Y like this, and will likely affect Z this way – perhaps as an unintended consequence.
  4. Challenging convention and making new discoveries as a result.  Revisionist history is chiefly concerned with challenging the assumptions, interpretation and questions asked of historical events, leading to new, often radically new, understandings of the event.  Innovation, anyone?
  5. Seeing beneath the surface, and making thoughtful, grounded decisions.   Our current economic woes reveal how easy it is for businesses to make short-sighted decisions, sometimes without knowing all the facts.  History majors know that what seems evident may in fact be obscuring other information that, when considered, changes the whole story.  History majors, while perfectly capable (admittedly, not universally) of being decisive, are not prone to shallow decision making processes.   They know how to weigh opinions, to note what is not said as well as what is said, to consider the context and make decisions based on thorough research. 

AND.  If all that isn’t enough, how ’bout this:   We’re careful to give credit wherever credit is due.  Wouldn’t that make a history major a refreshing colleague? 

So there you have it:  my case for liberal arts majors (with a special nod to history) as essential to good business.

Readers: Have at ‘er!   Are you a liberal arts major?  Do you think it served you well?  Why do you think liberal arts majors seem to get short shrift?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Great post. In the business at which I work, we hire at least as many liberal arts majors as business majors for positions which require considerable business acumen, including to support recommendations we offer to our business clients. As you point out, it’s the critical thinking skills that often lead liberal arts majors to stand out in the workplace.


    Dec 16, 2008
  2. I have an Hons. B.A. in International Development and Cultural Anthropology. When I left a well-paying job to start this degree, I had to field a lot of questions about the usefulness of this degree. But I knew that I had to study what I was interested in, rather than what would “get me a good job” in the end.

    I now have a good job at the university from which I graduated. Sometimes when I look at my student loan debt I wonder if I should have specialized more, but really I have no regrets. There’s a lot of time for me to further my education if I want to switch gears.


    Dec 16, 2008
  3. brad

    Most people I know with MBAs feel they benefited from the experience and that having an MBA opened doors for them. And most people I know who don’t have MBAs are convinced that they wouldn’t be any better off with one.

    My feeling is that if someone won’t hire me because I don’t have an MBA or other advanced degree, I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway. I look for enlightened employers who have open minds and are looking for someone with transferable skills and experience. When I was hiring people myself, I found that skills, experience, and personality were far better predictors of a potential employee’s success than his or her academic credentials. There are exceptions, of course, where being able to list those initials after your name inspires confidence, adds marketing cachet, or helps reinforce the notion that advanced degrees are required for success in life (which is why most university professors have advanced degrees, right? If they didn’t, graduate schools would go out of business.)

    Once you’re in the door, most good employers will determine your earnings more on the merits of your skills, experience, and results than whether you have an MBA or other advanced degree.


    Dec 17, 2008


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