If careers were linear, the logical topic for this post might be “careers you can do with a degree in X.”
Lists are seldom inspirational – or even very useful when it comes to identifying career options. While lots of university career offices have lists like “Careers for X majors,” I’ve yet to meet a client who said that a list solved their indecision. For that matter, I’ve yet to work with a career advisor who thinks that career lists will set anyone on their future path. Typically, the lists are there because, if they aren’t, someone will ask why there’s no list.
Part of the reason why someone will ask is because it feels efficient to have a list. Surely, there is a set of careers that make for logical next steps after degree X. The problem is that your most logical career options will likely depend more on you and your environment – your skills, your life circumstances, the labour market where you’re willing to work, your values, your motivations and interests – than on your degree.
That’s because degree-focused lists tend to zero in on content knowledge and one or two key skills. They’re built around a tiny part of what makes you a good job candidate – often around the most trainable part.
Does this mean that the sky’s the limit, and it’s just as easy to become a computer programmer with a sociology degree as with a computer science degree? No, but it does mean that you shouldn’t automatically reject options on the assumption that you’d absolutely need to complete retraining in order to make a career transition.
Out of curiosity, I did a quick mental survey of friends and acquaintances with graduate degrees in English – and no other degrees. The “Careers for English majors” lists typically include options like teaching, writing, journalism, public relations, marketing and publishing. My quick mental survey included software programming (yep), consulting with large non-profits, career counseling, and project management along with more expected careers in research coordination, marketing and speech writing.
As a hiring manager, I wasn’t convinced that an applicant could fill a role just because they had a relevant degree. The people I worked with were successful in their roles because of their personalities, the skills they had developed (no matter where they developed them), and their motivation to do the work well. Their degrees provided relatively little insight into whether they could or wanted to do the work.
My next few posts will focus on exploring and preparing to make yourself a competitive candidate for roles that might not share content knowledge with your degree. After all, that’s where most people end up – working in careers they never expected to have when they chose a major.