Major Hangup: Why Your Degree Doesn’t Define Your Career Path

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Picture this: You’ve spent the last four years of your college career honing your skills in a specific major. You’ve taken the classes, you’ve worked internships, and you’ve received shining recommendations from your peers. But when job search time comes along, you have a hard time not only finding your dream job, but locating a job at all. What’s the problem?

Here’s the deal. Recent studies indicate that although you may have pledged your allegiance to a specific career space, only 27 percent of college graduates have a job closely related to their major. This means even if you’re gunning for an major-specific job, chances are, you may not end up there.

This isn’t a bad thing. Many people don’t work in the field listed on their diploma and still have successful careers. It’s all in the way you use it. Here are some ways to draw career success from your major, without being tied to it completely:

Showcase transferrable skills

The beauty of transferrable skills is they can be used in a variety of settings. So, let’s say you majored in design, but got a job doing sales. You can apply the skills you gained in school in a new industry.

For example, presentation skills can be used in both design and sales work. Knowing how to research a client or product properly is also a necessary skill. And, of course, understanding the needs of each customer is a requirement in both cases. These skills are all broad, meaning they can be used in a variety of settings no matter what you studied in school.

Use your accomplishments

Sometimes, an employer may not be aware of a particular route to take. In this case, you can use your major, as well as the accomplishments you made in that major, to show them a different avenue.

For example, the sales organization you work for may have always used the same methods to acquire candidates. Your design background taught you different, more creative ways to acquire candidates, like using visuals and graphics. If you show your boss the accomplishments you made previously with client acquisition, including how it’s different from their current strategy, you get to use your major while still working in a different space.

Hone in on a larger connection base

Two is better than one, right? When you major in a particular field, you’re bound to network and gain professional contacts in that field throughout college. However, when you branch out, those networks can be combined to created a larger connection base.

How can this help you? There a few advantages. First, a larger connection base means more contacts when you want help, advice, or are confused on which direction to go. In addition, having more connections allows you to merge your interests. For instance, even though you’re now in sales, you can can still go to professional design meetings and brainstorm ways to draw similarities between the two industries.

Your college degree doesn’t define you. Even if you’re in love with your industry, don’t shy away from other occupations. You can use your skills, show off your accomplishments, and grow a connection base in order to make the best of both worlds.

What do you think? What are some other ways to use your degree?

Image: Courtesy of SMBCollege; Flickr

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.