Don’t Let Your Degree Dictate Your Career

Posted on Jul 3rd, 2017 | Career, College

In 2009, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in journalism along with several of my friends. Despite working our tails off for that piece of paper, many of us are working in fields completely unrelated to our degrees. Where are we now, you ask? One of us is a software technician, another a social media manager, an advertising agent, a grocery store cashier, an accountant, a lawyer and then there’s me, the journalist. Some ventured off into the corporate world, others with nonprofits — I could go on, but this probably isn’t news to you.

Whether by choice or because there are no other options, a study from CareerBuilder found that nearly half of all recent college grads have jobs that aren’t related to their degree, and one third will never work in that field at all. Gone are the days when having a degree equals a job — and without that security, how the heck can we figure out what to do with our lives?

Put simply, you’ve got to have the skills to pay the bills.

Austin Jett, an employee benefits advisor with dual degrees in anthropology and Latin American studies, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that though he has never worked in his field, what he learned in college is still useful. 

Young adults need to stop thinking about a degree as a gateway to a particular job, and start thinking about what skills they can acquire in the classroom and beyond. Then, they’ve got to figure out how to mold those skills into a resume that speaks to their experience and future potential. Here’s how:

Continually assess your situation. According to a study from Payscale, millennials are notorious for job hopping, only keeping a job for an average of two years. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Continue to ask yourself what you enjoy and what you don’t about your current job, what your goals are and whether it’s possible to achieve those goals at your current company.

Shop around. By 30, I’ve worked for a small newspaper, a media conglomeration, a government agency and now a nonprofit. There’s nothing wrong with trying on a few hats to see which fits best. This could mean different roles within the same area, different business sectors or even a completely different job.

Sell your skills. Make what you’re good at the focal point of your resume and your job search. Are you great at marketing or writing web copy? Play to your strengths. You may find that you’re more qualified than you think for a variety of jobs.

Do what you love. No, really. After quitting the demanding field of journalism at 26, I finally had this elusive thing called "free time," and I knew I wanted to spend it volunteering. So I used my writing, social media and web design skills to help causes I care about. Then it dawned on me: Man, I love this so much, I should really get paid to do it. Not only did I now have a clear goal to strive toward, but the skills and experience to back it up. A year later, I’m working for a nonprofit and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been career-wise.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve acquired your work-force skills in college or out in the "real" world. If you pursue a career path you know you’ll love, the right job will find you.