An accounting graduate gets a job as a passport specialist with the federal government. A music major and an art history major both find their niche in public relations. A sociology grad ends up working for a major nonprofit organization as a speakers’ bureau coordinator.
These are all true stories and proof positive that you can land a job in a field outside the scope of your college major — if you know what to do.
You may think you’ve got the wrong degree for the career you want to pursue. But you can make up for that — and then some — by grabbing hands-on experience however you can.
"If you’re going into a career that’s unrelated to your major, experience speaks volumes," says MacKenzie Lucas, an art history graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is now working as an assistant account executive in the Chicago office of PR giant Ketchum.
While still in college, Lucas completed two PR-related internships: one in a US senator’s office and the other with a boutique PR agency. She even interned at Ketchum for two-and-a-half months after she’d already graduated, which helped her land her current job.
Identify Transferable Skills
Many skills you’ve gained in college are transferable, meaning they fit a wide range of fields and careers no matter what your major.
Beth Moseley is an accounting graduate of Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She recently began working for the US State Department as a passport specialist, conducting background checks and looking for instances of fraud in passport applications.
State Department interviewers thought her accounting degree was nice, but they were far more interested in the skills she had to offer.
"I have strong problem-solving abilities and am an independent thinker, and I let them know that during the interview," Moseley says. "You have to find what skills you acquired with your degree that carry over to the position you’re after."
How? Talk to people in your field of interest, and investigate to pinpoint the three to five skills that seem to matter the most. Then you can figure out which you already possess or can quickly learn.
Be Visible to People Who Matter
Michaela Bondon majored in vocal performance before graduating with a music degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She knew she wanted to get into public relations, because she had taken courses in advertising. So she started talking to every PR professional who was willing to chat with her on an information-only basis.
"The circle went on and on until I finally had built up a pretty good network," she says.
That’s how she was offered an unpaid, part-time, postgraduation internship at a PR firm. She took it but kept talking to other PR professionals with her firm’s blessing.
A few months later, she was called for a full-time, permanent position at Blades Trozzolo Public Relations in Kansas City, Missouri, where she has since been promoted to account executive.
Choose the Right Minor
"I majored in the most unmarketable major of all: Sociology," says Alysha Cryer, a graduate of Loyola University in Chicago who now works as the media and speakers’ bureau coordinator for New York City-based Catalyst, a women’s career-development organization.
But wisely, Cryer minored in journalism.
"I may have majored in sociology and had to deal with everyone asking me if I wanted to be a social worker, but I minored in journalism, which was a strong combination that made up for whatever people perceived to be a shortcoming," she says.
Landing a job outside your major isn’t easy, but it’s definitely possible. "If you can articulate what attracted you to the major and focus on what skills you learned and how they relate to the job, then you can be a music major who can still run her own company someday," says Cryer.
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