Why Your Degree Doesn’t Dictate Your Career.

Why Your Degree Doesn’t Dictate Your Career.

Once upon a time deciding which direction you wanted to head after school was simply a question of what you studied in college. In today’s world however, the matter of what you studied is dictating less and less which professional opportunities are open to you whether you are entering the working world or are already there and just looking to change tracks.

Though we all hope our dentist isn’t relying on a philosophy degree or the family physician drawing on his art history background during your yearly check-up, it is clear that over the last couple decades the hard skills you were meant to have picked up in the lecture hall are taking a backseat to a new focus on factors totally unrelated to your major.

Network over Homework.

Increasingly more often people are following career paths that are opened by the people they know and the seemingly random events and opportunities that present themselves rather than the following a series of clear and logical steps on the career ladder. Social media websites like Facebook aim to foster conversation and community. Sites like LinkedIn specifically aim to create business and professional networks that offer people a wider range of options.

Knowing the right people, or more importantly the right people knowing you, can be more important than the specific skill set you cultivated studying during your major classes. A chance encounter or introduction, a manager looking to fill a position who remembers your name or passes it on to someone else – these set potential employees apart from the cookie-cutter graduates fresh out of school. Always be aware of and working toward expanding your circle of professional friends and acquaintances. The right meeting may very well start you on a career path that has very little to do with what your educational focus was.

Your Experience Shapes You in Ways Your Degree Never Could.

Great, you got half-decent grades in your marketing or communications classes. Now what? Can you shoot and edit raw audio and video into a presentable piece? What does your portfolio of catchy and cost-effective guerrilla marketing techniques look like and how successful where they? Where your degree shows that you put in the textbook time, experience has the heft that far outweighs the paper that degree is printed on.

Whether it is on the job or not, broad and varying experience shows potential employers across different fields and lines of work a side of you that your university neglected. If you are well travelled it may light up your resume to an equally seasoned manager whose looking for someone with an international eye for that position that just opened up. If you worked construction or landscaping during the summers to help with those tuition bills, an architecture firm or advertising agency may see value in your ability to personally relate to their list of clients.

Put stock in experiences and opportunities that don’t necessarily conform to the norms of your original field of study. The exposure will speak volumes about your ability to adapt to different environments and may open you up to potential relationships and professional opportunities you hadn’t considered.

Put Your Soft Skills to Hard Work.

As much as knowing the ins and outs of your field of study, in the fast-paced and dynamic business world today your soft skills need to be equally fast-paced and as dynamic. Being able to work well in a team setting and adapt to changing priorities on a day-to-day basis is arguably more applicable across more careers than knowing your major classes inside and out.

If you can confidently walk a conference room full of people through a well thought out PowerPoint, managers and bosses will see more potential in you and worry less about the minutiae of the slide contents. Details can always be ironed out later but the presence of mind, your mastery of the soft skills, translates into an immediately usable set of capabilities regardless of the specific line of work. Your accounting know-how is useful no doubt, but the ability to confidently make decisions in uncertain situations is applicable in any career.

Having a Degree Is More Important Than What That Degree Is.

The workforce is a competitive place. Whatever your degree may be, having it is the most important part. Employers consider your degree a prerequisite to entering whatever career you may, or more importantly may not have in mind. Having completed your studies shows people you are capable of learning, regardless of what you learned.

Whatever career path you end up on, you will find that you’ll learn most when actually doing your job. No college can show you the specifics of working at a given company or teach you how they like their work done. Having done well in school highlights the fact that you have the capacity for picking up new things and being able to successfully learn and implement whatever is necessary for success. More than what you studied, your future boss is looking for these adaptability skills as the hallmark of an employee primed for success.

Stay Open and Be Ready to Wear Many Hats.

Successfully beginning a career or changing from one area to another all boils down to how willing you are to walk through whatever doors you open or may open up to you. Your degree doesn’t expire but its value is only maintained by building and honing the skills you didn’t necessarily pick up in the classroom. Your value as a potential employee grows and changes over time and being able to grow and change yourself only increases your chances, regardless of what career opportunities come up.

About author

Philip Barry
Philip Barry 19 posts

Philip Barry is a featured contributor to AgeOfTheSmallBusiness.com. After graduating from Fairfield University with a B.A. in French and International Studies he lived in Bordeaux, France for four years before serving with the U.S. Peace Corps in Ethiopia.

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