Tips for Getting a Job in a Field You Didn’t Study
Most colleges expect you to declare a major long before you’re legally able to buy a drink. Students are busy enough with adjusting to a new life, learning to fend for themselves, and absorbing new ideas. Add in the inexperience of youth, and does that sound like the ideal condition for making strategic decisions about one’s career?
Perhaps that’s why so many people graduate with one degree and end up working in an entirely different industry. Or maybe it’s because people grow and their interests change. Or maybe college doesn’t actually prepare you for the workforce…
In any case, plenty of people have jobs that don’t match their major. So how did they break in? Here are six tips for getting a job in a field you didn’t study.
1. Get an Internship
Internships are a great way to get a sense of what it’s actually like to work in a certain field. You may confirm your suspicion that you need to shift gears, or you may find out that your expectations were way off – both experiences are valuable. Use your cover letter and interview to explain that you’re thinking of changing paths and hope to use your internship experience to inform your decision.
2. Start a Side Project
If an internship isn’t in the cards – maybe you’re already working full-time or there aren’t opportunities in your area – start a side project. Got a finance degree but know that fashion is your true calling? Start a fashion blog. Wish you’d gone a more technical route instead of majoring in English? Teach yourself to code by building a website for a friend or local business. You can learn a lot from a side project, and you’ll be simultaneously building your resume or portfolio.
Networking is useful in pretty much any scenario, but it can be particularly helpful when you want to make a change but don’t know where to start. Friends and acquaintances currently working in your field of interest may have advice. If you’re just starting to build your network or don’t know anyone with applicable experience, do a bit of research and request an informational interview with someone who has your dream job.
4. Use Your Current Resources
While you may not be in the right job, you could be at the right company. If you work at a large organization or corporation with multiple departments, there may be opportunities to work on special projects outside your current role, sit in on other department’s meetings, or even shadow someone for a day. Let your manager know you have an interest in another part of the business and ask if they’d be open to your learning more about it.
5. Continue Your Education
If you could do it all over again, maybe you’d choose a different major. But hindsight is 20/20, and not all education comes packaged in a four-year degree. You can learn lots of marketable skills like web design, digital marketing and user experience in certification courses through companies like General Assembly and Skillcrush. Most of these courses last a few months and are designed for people who are currently working fulltime.
6. Make the Connection
One more piece of good news: you don’t apply for jobs with a college transcript. Your resume, cover letters, and interviews are all opportunities to tell the story you want to tell. Your degree is just one chapter in that story. Use every opportunity you have to highlight relevant work and connect your knowledge, skills and passion to the job that’s right for you.
Jenessa Connor is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and young adult author. If you don’t find her in front of her computer, check the local movie theaters and restaurants, Prospect Park or the gym at CrossFit 718.