Finding Careers in Unexpected Places

“So what are you going to do with that?” It’s a question most people get about their major. More often than not, the answer should be “Whatever I want.” Putting aside the fact that most people change their career a number of times during the course of their lives, by and large, the topic of your degree is typically at the bottom of the list of things employers care about, (more on this later).

There are a handful of professions out there where the major is a prerequisite for entry like Nursing, Engineering, and Architecture but you can usually identify these by asking yourself if the name of the major happens to be the name of a career. For the rest of them all bets are off.

80% of 2015 graduates researched their career of choice prior to deciding on what major they chose. So how come when I look at UConn graduates and their careers I see some funky stuff going on? Hint: only 27% of college graduates work in a field that “matches” their major.

What does this Accounting Specialist, Healthcare Recruiter, and Junior Software Engineer have in common? Their degree in Psychology from UConn.

How about this Marketing and Communications Consultant, Credit Risk Manager, and Clinical Mental Health Counselor? These people have a degree in Mechanical Engineering. From UConn.

And the Photographer, Legal Assistant, and Integrative Health Coach? A degree in Mathematics worked for them! I know this fly’s in the face of logical reasoning but reality is rarely logical. So what exactly should you focus on?

  1. Experience

Whether it is part-time work, previous job experiences, or internship experiences, proven ability to thrive in an employment setting is what separates college graduates in the minds of employers.

  1. Transferable Skills

Hard skills or task related skills are easy to train, but nobody wants to hire someone who can’t think critically or work effectively with others. An emerging trait of interest in the minds of employers is the ability to persevere towards a long term goal (grit).

  1. Networking

Nobody will care about your major and nobody will care how smart you if nobody knows who you are. You can (and should) start to build these relationships early and often- with your instructors, with your internship supervisor, and with those you informationally interview that work in a field that interests you.

  1. Align with your purpose

You will be much more likely to be successful if you can find something to do that you actually enjoy. It is much more difficult to give attention, effort, and enthusiasm needed for success to a job that you dread. Since there are many paths to most careers, you might as well take the path that brings you a little happiness.

But don’t just take it from a guy at the Center for Career Development. UConn’s Institute for Student Success can help you navigate choosing your major or figuring out how your major aligns with your career goals through The Major Experience (TME).

By Eran Peterson
Eran Peterson Assistant Director, Career Coaching and Counseling Eran Peterson