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Does Your Degree Disqualify You?

May 5, 2015

If you choose the wrong major the rest of your life could put you on a trajectory that you hate, or worse find yourself regularly unemployed. This life decision that you often make before your 20th birthday could strongly dictate the rest of your life, so choose wisely. While a vast majority of students agonize over their area of study for their undergrad is it actually worth the anxiety?

A study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that it doesn’t matter nearly as much what text scrolls across your diploma as you might think. In fact, nearly half of all college graduates won’t get a job in their field of study right after graduation. So while getting a degree in something that isn’t directly related to your entry-level job may be an inevitability, we wanted to know from the experts how to address this in your job search.

Your Resume

Deanna from IBM offered this helpful insight on how to address your resume, “I would say that highlighting any and all of your related skills and experience is key.  Attaining an academic degree is one way to learn the skills necessary to start a career, but other ways exist as well - such as niche classes, internships, work experience, etc.  Look at how you communicate your attributes and focus first on your applicable experience and skills for the job of interest.  Highlight what you have done and what you have attained (not what you don't have) [such as a degree in the field you’re applying for].”

Deanna hit this one square on the head. In your resume you should focus on how your skills that you’ve obtained through your degree and previous work/internship experience transfer over into the job you’re applying for. For example, if you have a degree in Philosophy and you are applying for a data analytics position it would be worth noting how your degree taught you to think logically, while also evaluating a problem from various levels.

More than likely there is some crossover in what your degree taught you and the position you’re applying for. This is of course goes without mentioning your previous work history or any of the internships you worked while in school. Remember, your resume is an advertisement for yourself, which means your audience is the recruiter for that position. So the question is, how can you sell yourself to them while still being honest about your experience?

The Interview

An expert from Hewlett Packard named Dustin gave this insight in regards to interviews, “The key is to highlight your past experiences and how they have prepared you to be successful and take the next step in your career. Take a moment to review your previous work experience and note where there may be transferable skills present. Then be sure you are ready to easily communicate how those skills transfer to the new role and have prepared you to take the next step when you are speaking with an interviewer or hiring manager for that next role.”

Be ready to talk about your degree field in the interview. You’re going to be asked how your degree, in an area that is outside of the job field you’re applying to, will enable you to be successful in the position you’re hoping to obtain. You’ll need to be able to speak at length about this, which means you should think critically about your answer well before the interview.

Just like every interview you’ll also be asked to illuminate the hiring manager about your previous work/intern experience. Be sure to take a similar approach in your conversation in this part of the interview as when you discuss your education: highlight the parts that are beneficial and if possible stay away from the pieces that could be perceived as not helpful.

The good news is, no matter what your degree is in you may have the opportunity to get a job in any field. It may not be the opportunity you’re hoping for, but you can do it, because lots of entry-level job seekers get those kinds of opportunities every year. While getting your degree in an area that is relevant to your career field is most certainly helpful, not having the perfect degree lined up.

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