A year ago, Emma Faulkner was worried her 12,000-word thesis on women’s rights and education in 18th Century England might not be the educational milestone that tech startups were looking for in a potential employee.

She was wrapping up her Masters of Arts in Literature at Dalhousie University, and about to make her way into the “real world” – a place with an endless appetite for programmers and sales execs, but not English majors.

After a few applications, she was accepted at an unlikely place – a tech startup. Fredericton-based cybersecurity company Beauceron Security hired her as its 36th employee, and she began as a content writer last September.

 “Transitioning into the business world can be difficult for arts students, because sometimes the skills that show up on a resumé aren't necessarily as applicable, let's say, as what hiring folks generally are looking for,” said Faulkner in an interview.

“When applying for jobs right out of my Master's, I kind of knew that that would probably be an obstacle that I would face. Luckily, I was able to find a job at Beauceron Security as a content writer where a lot of my English skills were applicable.”

Faulkner’s experience proves a point being made by a lot of academics and employers: the startup and innovation sector is growing so strongly and needs so much talent that young people shouldn’t be discouraged if their area of specialty lies outside STEM disciplines. Certainly, there is a huge demand for graduates with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math degrees. But the economy – the businesses that drive it – also needs people steeped in the humanities.

Just as all enterprises need a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, they need a diversity of skills. And that patchwork of talent includes writing, communication, design, critical thinking – all the things students are taught in arts faculties.

“If you look at the language that's used in the business world, they'll often call these things soft skills,” said Joanna Sheridan, Assistant to the Vice-President and Coordinator of Public Humanities at University of King’s College in Halifax.

“And that kind of drives us in the arts crazy, because these are the ones that we think of as being like the slow-burn, hard-to-achieve and durable skills that will last a lifetime. Critical thinking, analytical skills, communication skills – there's nothing really soft about them. These are the things without which you can't really do much.”

Human resources experts and startup specialists say that growing companies need a range of talent, including marketing, public relations, content creation, technical writing and design. And even in the technical side of developing a business, there are tasks that can be performed without a computer science or engineering degree.

“Now there's so much software available that makes these things, you know, not highly technical,” said Sheridan. “I think a lot of employers are looking for people who can work alongside technology, or technologies . . . but they need people who can bring these analytical skills to bear on their work.”

King’s has introduced a non-credit program to help arts students understand the opportunities available to them in the innovation economy. Introduced last winter, the Liberal Arts Passport to Innovation program is a 12-week course comprising six one-hour modules. It walks arts students through the basics of creating a LinkedIn profile, writing a resumé and networking with prospective employers.

Dawn Henwood, a PhD whose company Clarity Studio helps founders communicate with funders, customers and support organizations, co-founded the program with student Nellianne Bateman. Their goals were to help students understand the opportunities in the innovation economy and help them to feel comfortable in trying to seize those opportunities. They wanted students to move away from rigid thinking about their skill sets and how they fit into the new economy.

Henwood said the program aims at “getting them more into a creative mode, getting them to the place where they can say, ‘This is my career journey. How do I want to shape it? What are the experiences I want to curate and create for myself?’”

Most students already have the “career readiness skills” needed to approach the workforce, she added, so the Passport program focuses on creating the right mindset and “taking a design-thinking approach to creating a career.”

For Faulkner (a great name for an English major), her job at Beauceron Security is a bit of a homecoming. She started studying sciences when she started university, but soon switched to the arts. Now she’s working for a tech startup that helps companies work on the human component of cybersecurity. And she’s witnessed the growth and opportunity of the startup world, as the Beauceron team has already grown to 52 people since she joined.

Her advice to other arts students is to understand what they can bring to an organization, even one focused on technology.

“Don't undersell the skills that you learned as an arts student,” she said. “I know, it can be really hard, because sometimes you'll look at a job posting and you don't necessarily fit the criteria. But a lot of the times, we have the skills that they're looking for. It’s just, we learned them differently, or it's worded differently.”