Myth: My major limits me to jobs in only a few fields or industries.
Yes, some fields require professional degrees, and yes, some fields are only open to people with a certain major. (For example, to work in a research lab you typically need a science degree, although there might be flexibility about which one. Brain surgeons will always need an M.D. and years of residency, thankfully.) Many fields and organizations, however, are open to people from any degree.
Especially in entry-level positions, many of the required technical skills are taught on the job, so employers are looking for transferable skills such as motivation, analytical ability, and teamwork. As long as you can demonstrate that you have the transferable skills necessary for success, you could be a candidate regardless of your degree.
So, next time you’re walking through a career fair, don’t be afraid to talk to any employer that catches your attention. Share your career interests and how you’ve used your time on campus, and ask how someone with your background could get started in their organization. You might be surprised by what you hear!
Myth: Employers are mainly interested in my major.
On-the-job success requires so much more than a major, and employers know it!
Many organizations are looking for “T-shaped” people, who have both the technical knowledge and skill to meet the requirements of their position, and a breadth of interests and experiences to contribute fresh perspectives and ideas. Imagine working on a team where everyone had only the same knowledge to draw from. How would a problem ever be approached from a new angle?
Invest your time wisely, so you can show employers how you’ve gained a range of experiences. Did you study abroad? Did you gain leadership experience in campus clubs? Do you speak more than one language fluently? Have you volunteered for a cause you care about? The perspectives and skills you gain from these experiences will make you stand out.
Myth: My parents want to know my career plans NOW!
Students often think of their “career” as one, continual event that happens after graduation. Realistically, your career is more like a series of long semesters…each one is different, brings its own challenges, and builds on the one before it.
For example, over time one career might include getting a few promotions, taking a lateral move to learn a different skillset, pursuing a graduate degree, taking a radical sabbatical, taking time out of the workforce for family, changing industries or fields, and then pursing an encore career. Do you think you could plan out these twists and turns ahead of time? Do you know what you will eat for lunch four years from today? Probably not, and it’s just as unlikely that you could predict all of your future career moves the day you graduate.
So, what does this mean? First of all, save yourself the stress and anxiety of trying to plan out your “career.” Instead, focus your energy on planning your first step. Research organizations where you might want to start. Invite professionals from related careers for informational interviews. Do internships to “reality-check” what you think you’d like to do. These practical steps will help you make an informed choice about where to start your career. Then, you can think about your next career move.