Of all the non-useful things people believe and have no proof of but perpetuate, I'd like to put one to rest:
"You can't do anything with" a degree in (fill in the blank) ... an English degree, a degree in philosophy or anything in the general vicinity of the humanities or social sciences.
That belief is just false, false, false - especially today.
How can that be? With the cry for skilled workers in science, technology, engineering and math, you would think that people only with those degrees can find jobs.
Like most things in this world, the job market is not that simple.
First, let me point out that a lot of successful people with degrees in English and philosophy have had or are having terrific careers:
Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and astronaut Sally Ride are three examples of people with degrees in English. And there are plenty more.
Chris Hayes, the youngest prime-time anchor of any major cable news channel, recently premiered his new show on MSNBC. He got a bachelor's degree in philosophy.
When he was interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air," host Terry Gross intimated how odd it was to study such an abstract area because his work - in which he talks about politics - is "about the real world and real policies."
He countered her "what does a philosophy education have to do with the real world" perception by describing his incredible intellectual training.
His education was about clear reasoning and learning to be "critical of one's own arguments and of others' arguments and whether they follow logically," he said.
No matter what your politics, watch him and you'll see that the guy does a phenomenal job of applying this education.
Many people who study language or philosophy learn practical skills that can be used in the real world. They learn to analyze and understand complex information, how to write persuasive, comprehensive arguments and how to think.
In my new book about what employers are looking for today, every employer I talked to said the same thing.
Yes, some are seeking particular technical skills. But what they want most are people who can think critically, know how to listen and be open to other points of view.
This is how innovative ideas and products get hatched.
If you look at people with degrees in social sciences, which typically focus on society and human nature, you'll see that their education, too, can be quite useful in the job market.
Take anthropology, an area that got attention in recent years when Florida's governor, Rick Scott, said colleges should drive students toward STEM programs and away from becoming anthropologists "where we don't need them."
His over-simplistic classification misses out on anthropologists' relevance to companies today.
You have to get beyond your limited perception, which likely entails people digging for fossils in Siberia. Think of anthropologists as having skills in observing and analyzing people in their natural environment.
That makes them very useful in places like General Mills, where an anthropologist's work observing people's habits in real-life breakfast settings led to the development of Yoplait's portable Go-Gurt.
Anthropologists, who also are skilled in critical thinking, work for places like Intel, IBM, Microsoft and research firms, and according to the Bureau of Occupational Outlook, have a rosy 21-percent growth rate through 2020.
If you're getting ready to look for a job or considering what to study, don't be deterred by simplistic or outdated perceptions about what's practical in today's marketplace.
When someone asks, "What will you do with a degree in English, philosophy or anthropology?" brag about the great training you got that can apply to the real world.
What employers want above all are people who can think critically.
And from what they tell me, those people are not so easy to find.