Stuck in a field of work you don’t fancy that much? Spent years (and tons of cash) on getting the coveted degree only to realize that the chosen career path doesn’t really work for you? There is no need to slog along a path if it’s not the right one for you! Especially when getting a job unrelated to your degree isn’t that challenging these days!
Why Getting a New Job Unrelated to Your Degree is Easier Than You Might Think
The career fields these days have become increasingly fluid.
Most employers are not longer seeking generalists. They want specialists with a market-ready set of technical skills, as well as strong soft skills.
With rapid digitization, seismic economic changes, and shifting consumer preferences, few universities manage to maintain truly up-to-date curriculums. Or even fail to launch programs that train specialists in the emerging fields.
Let’s take blockchain development as an example. The demand for such specialists has increased by 517%(!!!) last year. Whereas the supply of such specialists is way more modest. Only a handful of universities have formal ‘blockchain’ programs or provide some sort of coursework in this field. As a result, most blockchain a self-taught or e-educated.
This is not to imply that a degree isn’t important today. It is! But being a major in a certain field does not automatically disqualify you from pursuing another career.
Here’s more proof: new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York suggests that only 27% of graduates work in a field, closely related to their major. So you are definitely not alone in your wish to get a job unrelated to your degree.
How to Get a Job in a Different Field Than Your Degree
Deciding to make a career change either straight after graduation or after working for a while in the field doesn’t mean you have to panic and start all over again. It does not matter that you hold an unrelated degree as long as you have a strong passion for pursuing a different path.
But the obvious question is: how do you break into a brand new field when you are relatively new to the workforce? Here’s our advice:
1. Gain Some New Industry Knowledge
Spend some time learning everything you possibly can about your new career path. Sounds lofty?
Let’s break down your research into small steps:
- Learn about the different roles in the field. Browse career websites, scan the job posts, especially the Requirements/Skills section. Write out all the keywords used by recruiters.
- Browse LinkedIn. Find profiles of people who hold the position you covet. Look at their career trajectory and education. High chances are you’ll find people with very different college degrees. Yet, keep your focus on their Skills and Licensing & Certification sections. Again, take note of the extra training they acquired.
- Read blogs and join niche communities. Become an insider. Analyze what are the main industry conversations, who are the thought leaders in the space, what do they read, how do they learn, what are they focused on at the moment. Draw more knowledge from the conversations happening in your industry.
Once you are done, you’ll have a targeted list of skills, experiences, and certifications that are good to have in your new field. Think about how you can acquire these. We discuss some good options later in this post!
2. Take Advantage of Your Transferable Skills
While browsing the jobs, you probably noticed that you already have some of the skills necessary for the role. Indeed, even entry-level specialists typically have a host of transferable skills — a set of abilities that can be applied across roles and industries.
Some quick examples of transferable skills include:
- Digital literacy
- Organizational skills
- Analytical skills
- Communication skills
- Admin skills
All of the above is a ‘must-have’ for an array of roles.
And here’s another question a lot of recent graduates have: do college minors matter?
In short, yes. A college minor can help you develop a complementary set of skills and pitch it to potential employers along with your core competencies. In a nutshell, a minor diversifies your education portfolio and sends a positive signal to recruiters that you have some extra skills down your sleeve, unlike other graduates.
3. Work Your Way In via Internships
Internships are an excellent leeway to acquiring first-hand expertise in a new field. The best part? Internship opportunities are aplenty for both current students, recent grads, and those who’ve been in the active workforce for a while.
While internships do tend to be competitive, especially in top firms, you are not being judged by your degree or skill set alone, but rather your motivation for the opportunity. Thus, writing and filling a compelling cover letter is a must!
Apart from pursuing publicly-listed internship opportunities, you can also try to make your way in through the “backdoor”. That is to negotiate an intern opportunity for yourself.
You can start with your current workplace. Poke your head into the HR department and ask if they could perhaps propose you some upskilling program or part-time involvement with another department. If you are working in a smaller organization, talk to your boss about your career objectives. A good leader will likely be able to come up with a personal plan for helping you develop new skills.
Beyond your workplace, you can also approach NGOs, local government representatives, or even individual entrepreneurs. All of these people typically have their hands full all the time, and thus could be very receptive to your pitch.
At this point, you may be wondering, why go to such lengths to secure an internship, rather than apply for jobs in the new field?
Well, data suggests that people who had at least one internship have 15% lower unemployment, 6% higher wages during the first five years after graduation.
4. Start a Side-Hustle or Freelance
You don’t need anyone’s permission to actually start working in a new field.
With the rise of remote work, the gig economy has been booming too. So there’s no shortage of high paid part-time gigs at the moment. Thus, if you already brushed up on some theory and learned a thing or two about the new field, put that knowledge into work.
Get registered at one of the popular online freelancing platforms. Reply to job posts. Build up your portfolio in the new field and enhance your skills while doing the job.
Here’s another important thing to remember: at work most people don’t care what you’ve majored in. They want to know if you have the skills to do the job you were entrusted with.
In fact, researchers from the Brookings Institution analyzed the market value of the 25 most commonly cited skills listed by alumni of different colleges on their LinkedIn profiles. What they found is that the skills portfolio, not the degree or major, had the most impact on the person’s earnings potential.
So work on expanding your skills set and raking up some staunch accomplishments for your resume via freelancing.
5. Pace Your Transition to a New Field
Yes, you want to break into a new field. But it’s okay if you won’t be able to do it through one career step.
Remember: an average person holds 12 jobs throughout their career on average. So don’t push yourself too hard and focus on playing the long game.
Think about your career path in stages:
- Your current field and role
- Transitional role 1
- Transitional role 2
- The ultimate dream job
A transitional role can be a somewhat related job, mid-way to your new field. For example, if you want to go from being a customer support specialist to a product manager. Your transitional roles can be as “marketing assistant manager” or “associate editor”, or “customer success associate”. Then you can work your way up through learning and further upskilling.
6. Seek Out A Mentor
There is nothing more positive than having first-hand guidance and encouragement from someone who works in the industry that you want to break into.
So consider reaching out to people who are already successful in what you also want to do.
How do you find a mentor? Start searching online. Look at people active online on Twitter, LinkedIn, or in niche communities. Read their blog and pinned posts. Join in with online discussions, leave positive comments, and ask questions.
Once you become known to them you are more likely to get their attention when reaching out. Ask for quick advice first. Then follow-up with a mentorship request. Or just permission to message them once in a while for more tips.
Where you end up in a career is your choice. Just because your degree isn’t relevant to the industry you want to work in doesn’t mean you cannot use it to prove your ability to study and learn new things. Being confident that you can fit in and adapt to your potential new role will show employers what you are capable of!