How 27 People Got Jobs Unrelated To Their College Majors

David Luther
by David Luther
Get The Job - 1 year ago
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How 27 People Got Jobs Unrelated To Their College Majors

Karen Gordon

When I decided to major in sociology, people always gave me a hard time. It’s shocking to me that people don’t always see value in studying humans. This wasn’t a major that put me onto any one career path, but I knew I’d use it every day for the rest of my life in both my professional and personal interactions. I figured I’d rather have a major I knew I’d use than a major that perfectly lined up a career that I may later decide to leave.

As the VP of Growth for a company bringing technology to the event rentals industry, you’d be surprised how often I use my degree. My understanding of people helps me better sell and market our product, as well as build and maintain relationships with partners. I also attribute my writing and communication skills in large part to having to write so many lengthy papers in college.

Jen Spencer

Jen Spencer, 39

Vice President of Marketing & Alliances
Allbound — BA in Secondary Education, Extended English

My degree is in Secondary Education, Extended English. After I graduated from college, I was a high school English teacher.

17 years later, I now run Marketing for a software company.

My career path was as follows:

– Teacher
– Education Coordinator at a non-profit theatre company
Public Relations Manager at the theatre company
– Sales and Marketing Director at the theatre company
– then my next positions were focused on Sales and Marketing in B2B software

I use my teaching background daily both in my marketing and sales strategy and in my team management. People ask me all the time if I miss teaching. I always say no because I actually use those skills every day.

Vincent Nero

Vincent Nero

VP of eCommerce & Marketing
Successories — Film Production

I studied film production at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. I love movies, so why not learn how to make them. But when I graduated in 2009 during the peak of the recession, I had a choice of chasing the bright lights of Hollywood or turn my summer internship as a marketing associate (making product videos) into a full-time job. I took the bird in the hand and quickly parlayed the skills of producing and marketing my student films into become a marketing professional.

Family and friends were surprised I didn’t turn my major into the obvious career path, but they are happy for my success.

Every broad major has transferable skills. For me, it was creativity, project planning, budgeting and team management. When taking a job that isn’t directly compatible with your major, find those commonalities and lean on them. After you do that once, you will have the confidence to continue to take on new career opportunities.

Brandon Schmidt

Brandon Schmidt, 32

Content Strategist at YDOP
YDOP — B.S. & M.S. in Bible

I am a Content Strategist for YDOP, an internet marketing company in Lancaster, PA. With Bachelor’s & Master’s degrees in the Bible, being an internet marketer might not be the first career for someone with my education background. In fact, it wasn’t; I served for 9 years in non-profit organizations, including 5 years as an ordained minister.

What helped me make the transition from ministry into marketing is finding and highlighting the related skill sets. My time in seminary and in churches helped me learn and hone skills in researching, writing, and communicating. Plus, I had started blogging while in college, which developed my writing skills for online, giving me the experience that I needed when I started my new job at YDOP.

Holly Wolf

Holly Wolf

Director of Customer Engagement
SOLO LaboratoriesBusiness

I went to school to become an x-ray technologist. Most of my career has been in various marketing roles. Prior to this role, I served as chief marketing officer of a bank. Today, I serve as the Director of Customer Engagement (marketing) for SOLO Labs.

I expected to be a radiographer of sometype for my career. But when I graduated there were few jobs available in radiology so I took a job in a jewelry buying office for a local retailer. I worked weekends in radiology. Then I accepted a full time position in a free-standing emergency center where I took x-rays and did a variety of other nursing related tasks. That job gave me the opportunity to advance in my career and become part of management and eventually I landed in marketing.

Eric Elkins

Eric Elkins, 49

CEO and Chief Strategist
WideFoc.us Social Media — Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

I’m the owner and chief strategist of a social media consulting agency here in Denver – we’ll be celebrating 10 years in business in August. My bachelor’s degree is in biochemistry and molecular biology (and my master’s is in curriculum and pedagogy), and people often ask me how I feel about my useless degree in science.

Even though I was only a scientist for a few months – turned out I hated the work, and wasn’t particularly skilled in it – the most important things I retained from my college education have stuck with me in the 27 years since I graduated. How to approach a problem and look at the variables involved; how to assess media about science and decide if it’s legitimate; and, of course, how to be a better cook in the kitchen!

And my path from being a scientist to a cook in restaurants to a corporate trainer to an elementary school teacher to a newspaper editor to a director of marketing to my current job as a business owner and strategist makes a lot more sense when you take it step by step. Each new career was based on things I’d learned about myself and the world in the previous one.

So here’s my advice for someone majoring in a “useless” field of study: Your major in college doesn’t matter all that much, so study something you’re passionate about – something that interests you, that keeps you engaged, that feeds a love of learning. You’ll be much more successful in school, and you’ll come out with a kind of discipline and way of thinking that will serve you well no matter what you decide to do with your life. As a business owner, I care less about what people studied in school and more about their ability to communicate well, work through conflict, and solve problems.

I currently work for myself as a nursing home navigator coach for caregivers. I’m also a Career Intuitive and Grief Coach. This is a vast departure from what I studied in college (I was a Public Relations major).Yes, this was unexpected. But, after my time as a caregiver for my dad, this was what I decided I wanted to do. I never imagined that I would leave the 9-5 corporate world and work for myself, but I’m very happy that I did so.
Yes, many people told me that it was quite risky to work for myself. Yet, I can’t stress enough how happy I am now that I’m truly doing work that I love.The advice I would share with people is: To me, there is no such thing as “broad” or “useless” fields of study. All knowledge is valuable. Choose a career based on what you truly love, dream big, and aim for the stars!
Josh Meah

Josh Meah, 29

CEO and Founder
Therapist.Marketing — World Politics

I was absolutely sure I would work in politics (and likely will again at some point).. I started with internships at 4 prestigious policy think tanks and eventually worked in Congress until I became disillusioned at its effectiveness and in general the loose applicability of public policy to daily lives. Business and entrepreneurship were philosophically in line with my desire to make a direct impact, which is what I get to do by working 1-on-1 with my clients every day. I slowly transitioned from politics to business by taking sales jobs and increasingly more executive roles until I was directly supporting the owner of a company and eventually was entrusted to run it myself. From there I started 4 companies from scratch, taking each to profitability.. I did not expect my career path, but I was comfortable with it, because I followed my heart every step of the way.

My advice to students who took on a “broad” or “useless” field is to disregard what everyone else thinks about the practical value of your body of knowledge; the only thing that matters is whether you find your passion and pursue it. Your path is your own, so enjoy it, but do yourself the favor of taking it seriously. You’ll find the “useless” things you learned have applicability to your future passions – sometimes topically, but almost always through what you learned about yourself in pursuit of a love of some kind. Frequently students settle for a major that their parents would have preferred, but that’s almost always a mistake. The best careers belong to the professionals who are the most fulfilled. It’s hard to be successful, but it’s easier if you want to be successful and have the willingness to work for it – so determine yourself a life you’d actually want and go from there.

Christine Cummings

Christine Cummings

VP of Marketing
All Set — International Tourism Management

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I am the VP of Marketing at All Set, a Boston-based start-up that helps customers find top house cleaners with verified reviews. We have been recognized by BostInno as a Top 10 Boston Startup.

I studied International Tourism Management in Germany, am 35 years old and am now a marketing executive in a field not related to tourism at all. For me the drift away from my specialization happened slowly but completely planned. My first job was with Europe’s largest tour operator, TUI, in the marketing department. Looking back today, I think this first job and the fact that it was in the marketing department, was the main driver for the rest of my career and I ask myself what would have happened if I had started in accounting or HR. What I do know though is that marketing was the best choice I could have made and from my very first job I strategically planned out the next positions and specialization’s within marketing to grow my portfolio.

My advice to people with very specific fields of study as well as very broad ones is this: “Follow you intuition and start in a field that excites you and matches your interests and skill set, even if that means having to fight extra hard for the first job and waiting a little longer to score it. From there try to get exposed to as many aspects of your field as possible. I for example was responsible for the offline marketing and the press and volunteered to get involved in the online shop and newsletter marketing. That is how I learned about digital marketing. From there I had a job that helped dive deep into SEM, SEO and Affiliate marketing before I learned more about email marketing. By searching the areas that I did not have experience in but needed experience and exposing myself to them I build a round profile. After the first couple of jobs, your major becomes almost irrelevant and your experience and knowledge gets more and more important. So you have the power to drive your career into what ever direction you want it to have.

Jenny Dorsey

Jenny Dorsey, 26

Executive Chef, Managing Partner
Jenny Dorsey Consulting, WednesdaysFinance

I’m now a professional chef and culinary consultant based in NYC, but I majored in Finance (undergrad) and started my career in management consulting; I was an MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School before pivoting completely to the food industry and returning to school for a Diploma of Culinary Arts.

My career change was certainly unexpected, but also not shocking in retrospect. The happiest moment of my life was when I realized, in culinary school, I had found “my thing”. I’ve always wanted to pursue a passion, something that I loved, something that meant more than a job or a title or some facade of success. I enrolled in culinary school on a whim; I was already accepted into Columbia’s MBA Class of 2014 and was planning on continuing on my path of management consulting. I thought food would be this creative sabbatical of sorts. But one day, during a “midterm” of sorts I got into this incredible, musical rhythm in the kitchen and realized how free and clear my mind was. It was an interesting point of self-realization; I didn’t know when I made the decision to come, but my new future was already waiting for me.

Fast forward 4 years and I’m now 26, a professional chef running my own culinary consulting firm. I help food businesses launch and grow strategically, R&D innovative new menu offerings for new and existing restaurant groups, and design memorable experiential concepts for culinary brands. I am also the Co-Founder and Executive Chef of a popular dinner tasting restaurant in NYC named I Wednesdays (wednesdays..nyc.) My two businesses have been featured in publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Business Insider, Thrillist, The Huffington Post, 7×7, Village Voice as well as on Food Network and Oxygen TV. It’s been such a crazy journey of ups and downs and I’m excited to see what the future brings.

I believe majors do not dictate your path in life. What matters is that you take the leap of faith when you feel it calling to you.

While I worked in the public relations office and marketed shows and events on campus during college, I was a vocal performance major focusing on opera and musical theatre. I’ve found the things I learned both in and out of the classroom at my liberal arts university and on the job have helped me succeed in the marketing and public relations world.
Angelo Giallombardo

Angelo Giallombardo

Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Central Executive SearchPlant Biology

I’m a VP at an Executive Recruiting firm. My educational background, Plant Biology / Botany, is extremely different than my career field for the last 15 years. I went to college from 1997-2001 at Ohio University where I was certain, at the time, that my passion and career would take me into the environmental sciences. I loved plants, and all of the earth sciences. I took many college courses on earth sciences and the one I loved the most was Botany. In early 1998, I decided I was going to become a botanist. I had a passion for plants and the connection to people that transcended all other passions in my life. I studied plants ferociously the next 4 years including making overseas trips to Bolivia, Belize and Guatamala to study exotic specifies of flora. After college, I took an internship at the National Center for Preservation of Medicinal Herbs in Rutland, Ohio. I studied the impact of natural medicine, herbal medicine, and herbal pharmacology on the human species.
I felt destined to become a plant specialist and herbalist. In 2001, the 9/11 attacks hit, and I was 2 months out of college still looking for a new job opportunity. I was broke, homeless, and living out of my car where I wasn’t able to maintain a good quality of life. Gratefully, my parent allowed me to move back home for a few months. After 9/11, it was extremely difficult to find a job because the economy was poor. Work was scarce, and plant biology work was virtually non-existent. After searching for work in Plant Biology markets for over 6 months, I decided I needed to just take ANY job that I could.My father, Gary, was a specialist in the Executive Recruiting field. He has allowed me to intern with him in high school but I didn’t love the work. Because I was unemployed, I decided to take a chance at this field of work. I needed the money, and I needed to learn a skill to make a living and take care of myself.
I was a natural at talking with people, and I was great at researching topics both online and in writing. Soon enough, I was able to establish a customer base with the help and training of the office staff I worked with. Within 6 months, I had made my first deal, placement, and I was hooked on the excitement and feeling that I was helping someone’s career and family. It took me several years, but I became an excellent recruiter, and I’m still working here to this very day as the Vice President of the company.Sometimes in life, you don’t choose your career, but your career chooses you.
I got my degree (Bachelor’s of Science) in Computer Science from Rice University. I started my career writing software for a software company and now run a gym I started, Mekanix Calisthenics Gym, amongst other entrepreneurial pursuits. When I began entrepreneurial pursuits 13 years ago, many people (not all) told me I was crazy or rushing into things. Now that I have built a track record, people don’t say I’m crazy when I think about doing new things (although some still do.)

Advice to People in “useless” or “broad” fields of study
1) Get a mentor. Many schools can pair you with a mentor. You would be amazed at how few people take advantage of this.
2) Be clear with yourself on why you’re getting a degree. Gateway to future study like MD/JD? Just to get a degree? Deeper knowledge in a certain area you want to be employed in?
3) When you’re clear, you can focus your time. If you’re just in school to get a degree, and not sure what you want to do after, use your time to get an internship, try a part time job by working online, work at a non-profit, etc.
4) If you’re getting a general or broad degree, would you consider a minor in something like engineering, math, statistics? Even having a minor in those areas may make you much more marketable.. As an example, if an employer is looking at two humanities majors for a marketing position, there’s a good chance they’ll lean towards one that demonstrates analytical experience.

I have been working with people who are turning 65 and going onto Medicare for over 21 years now. But my major was in Music Performance. My father was an insurance agent for over 30 years at the time I entered the business. He had been after me for years to get a “real” job after bouncing from job to job and struggling to make ends meet as a professional musician.

I even traveled around the world touring with a musical group. But when I got married in 1996, I knew I had to support a family, and so I went to my dad to finally go to work with him. He told me that he knew how much I love working with people and that I would love a career in the insurance business. I was fearful of working for commissions only, but he believed I would do so well that he promised to pay me the difference out of his own pocket if I made less in the first 6 months of my new career than I did in the previous 6 months.

I took him up on his offer and I have never looked back. I love what I do. And we have grown from a small agency serving in two states to a national agency in the last few years.

Once you have a degree in a field with limited opportunities, advice can be a too little too late. But for those who find themselves in this position, this would be my advice as someone who has been there: Find meaningful employment doing something you enjoy until you can find a way to make a living doing what you love. For a musician, that would be continuing to improve your skill level by maintaining a practice regimen and finding gigs to play. The day that you can make the switch may never come, but keep pursuing your passion and improving yourself in that area. Take every moment you can to better yourself. Turn off the TV and take the time to hone your craft.

I still play music very often. It is something I love to do. I would love the opportunity to be able to support my family through that alone. Someone who gets paid to do the thing they love most will never work a day in their life. But until that day ever comes, I will continue to help people in my current occupation.

Sally Morgan

Sally Morgan

Animal Physical Therapist
Holistic Physical Therapy for Pets and People — Physical Therapy, Natural Science, English

I am a holistic physical therapist for pets and people, as well as a craniosacral therapist and advanced Tellington TTouch practitioner. My work now is quite different from my majors in college.
My first major was in natural science and communications, a self-designed major. I graduated from college early as well. My intention was to be a writer in the fields of agriculture and animal health, which I did for a year after graduation. And then I returned to grad school in an MA/PhD program in English. I became a teacher at the tenth largest boarding school in the US, as well as the equestrian coach.
After do that for a decade, I returned to school to earn a physical therapy degree. For nearly 20 years now, I have had a private practice doing physical therapy with animals, and I developed animal craniosacral therapy. This is a far cry from teaching English! I taught myself in-depth animal anatomy and physiology and took many continuing education courses in manual therapy techniques and developed ways to apply them to animals. My knowledge is often more than some vets offer for certain conditions, especially orthopedic and gait issues, and I work with many vets who respect and appreciate my input with many cases. I am also an expert in pet behavior, and horse training and behavior (having trained my own horse to the highest level of dressage). Much of my knowledge in this area I gained from my training in Tellington TTouch Method, not from college courses.

I have always thought that studying anything in English is useful. You can apply writing skills to any job or endeavor, and learning about other people’s lives through books teaches you a lot about how to work with and understand people in your life. That radio show “Prairie Home Companion” often had jokes about English majors, but I do think the skills I learned–time management, intellectual inquiry, critical reading–have benefited me in everything I did after that. My English training was very useful in physical therapy school, in addition to which, I had taught freshman comp while in graduate school, and so I knew how my physical therapy teachers organized class materials and projects, which made me an even better student. My English major study further added to my current career as I wrote a book about my work with animals.
People did mention that English was useless except for teaching, and the field of English teachers is crowded to this day. This did not dissuade me though, as there is always room in any field for innovators and creative thinkers.
I think my career evolved over time and all of the things I studied were helpful to bring me to the place where I am now with my career. I did not have a plan in place, but in my original undergraduate work, I wanted to major in animal behavior, and that was not really a field yet, so my advisor suggested vet school. I was a pre-vet major for a year, but realized it was not pointing me in the right direction. Those early courses in anatomy were of course quite helpful to what I do now. And as we know from the beautiful works of Joy Adamson and others, writing is a critical part of communicating what we learn from the animal world. I have always been heading in the right direction to get to what I do now, but it was not by any means a straight line. What I do is fairly unique and took a broad range of study to prepare me to do this kind of work.
I believe that majoring in broad fields such as history, American studies, business, even art and the like can be useful in many other fields. For instance prior study in art would add tremendously to someone’s work in elementary education, occupational therapy, computer graphics, or even physical therapy. I think that success comes from someone’s ability to see and know how to apply their knowledge.

I currently oversee all Public Relations / Media Outreach, but previously worked as a Copywriter, Account Executive, Public Relations Manager, Senior Marketing Manager, Director of Marketing and Vice President of Media Relations for various Ad / PR agencies and corporations.

I have a BA in History which is completely unrelated to any of my current / past jobs. I do have a minor in Advertising. I was an Advertising major in college (University of Texas at Austin) until my last semester. But the way the program was structured at the time meant that I could only take my last 12 hours 1-2 classes at a time. Rather than spend another year in school, I chose to graduate with a BA in History since it was the quickest path to graduation. I had always taken History classes as electives so I was in a position to do so. I’ve always liked History; since graduating college I’ve written 2 books and 47 magazine articles…mostly on military history topics. The others were “ghost authored” for clients at work..

People occasionally question the fact that I have a History degree and a 26-year career in Advertising / PR. It was actually an advantage for me; I spent the first 6 years of my career writing Ad / PR copy. When I graduated college I knew that I wanted to write. At the time (in the early 90s) many ad agencies preferred Liberal Arts (English, History, Art, etc.) majors over Advertising and Business degrees because they were perceived as being more creative. Again, I had 18 hours of Advertising classwork when I graduated, so it wasn’t like I was completed uneducated in the industry.

In my case it worked because Advertising is a bit looser field when it comes to education. It certainly helps to fully understand the various Ad theories and concepts that drive the overall marketing process; in fact, it’s probably a requirement now days for someone who wants to go into the management side. But to be a copywriter / artist / illustrator being creative is just as important. After 26 years in the business, I have a very solid understanding of Marketing / Advertising / PR because I have done it on a day/day basis for so long.

As a result, the BA in History has never hurt me at all. After getting enough hands-on experience I was able to move into all those other positions and my lack of a Marketing, Advertising or Public Relations degree has never been an issue. At this point in my career I get jobs based entirely on experience and not my college major. But in today’s highly competitive job market I’m not sure this approach would still work. Getting a (entry-level) job with a directly related college degree is hard enough. No one wants to train you, so I’m not sure I would recommend trying to make a career (in any field) without having some really solid education or training.

Corey Blake

Corey Blake, 30

CEO
MWI — International Culture Studies

Study something that you are passionate about, something that you love to learn about every single day; if you do that, and you work hard, your profession will work itself out. After receiving my associates degree in “general studies” I considered dropping out of college. I didn’t want to be a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, and I hated the idea of getting a general business degree like a lot of my peers at school were doing. I knew I wanted to further my education, but didn’t want to waste a ton of time and money to get a degree I cared nothing about. I decided to do my research and study something that I was truly passionate about, with the confidence and faith that if I did that, I would find my way into a career that made the most sense for me. As I studied international cultures, and how people communicate, I found myself starting an international digital marketing agency going into my senior year of college. I now run a global digital marketing agency with offices in the US, Hong Kong, China, with a London office opening soon.
I work as a personal coach with an emphasis on happiness. My degree is in Mechanical Engineering. I was an officer in the Navy where I ran the nuclear engineering plant on an aircraft carrier.

Coaching was not part of the plan back then.

My work today guides people through in depth evaluation of their core beliefs and how to change them. This allows them to change their emotional reactions, behavior (often self sabotaging), and general state of happiness in life. Sometimes people have some self judgment issues, others are dealing with anxiety, anger, or deep jealousy issues.

I got into teaching after several years of my own deep exploration of core beliefs, and mindfulness practices. Today I sometime’s jokingly call myself a Belief Systems Engineer..

I didn’t take leap into the field or anything crazy. I started coaching while I still had my day job as a sales engineer.. I would teach workshops on the weekends and coaching clients on the phone in the evening. When I got laid off from my day job I had a head start on my business and decided to make a full time go of it.

To people beginning college, my suggestion is to study what interests you. In 10-15 years you might very well be working in a field that doesn’t exist today.

College education for me was a time when I learned that I could study and teach myself whatever I needed to know. That gave me the confidence to try new things like build my own website when I needed to. I’ll need new skills later as the business changes and I’ll have to learn those as well.

Coaching didn’t exist as far as I knew when I went to college. I do most of my marketing and sales via the internet with my audio coaching products and exercises. The internet didn’t exist when I was in college, nor did the type of mp3 audio products that I sell.

I now work in PR despite studying Music Technology! My diploma was in Audio Engineering and my BA Honours (degree) was in Recording Arts. This was the study of music and recording studio techniques. I initially wanted to go into the music industry and got an internship and a major record label in their marketing department. That’s how I first got into marketing and PR. I eventually specialised in digital marketing and from there went onto several marketing roles before finally working in my current role as a Senior PR Manager. My studies have had very little impact on my role now and most of my progression has come from learning on the job, self study and attending conferences.

In terms of advice for those doing broad fields of study, I would say, just do what makes you happy. That’s what I did. I was lucky enough to have very open-minded parents who just wanted me to study what made me happy. And now I work in a field that I am incredibly happy with, despite not studying for it. I would also stress that you shouldn’t feel limited by what you study. If you find later down the line that you want to do something else, then just do it!

I obtained a degree in mortuary science and worked as a funeral director for 13 years before deciding it wasn’t a fit for me at all (I guess I’m a slow learner). Four months ago I quit to follow my dream of travel writing and it’s been crazy and wonderful at the same time. I didn’t plan this, but I didn’t plan being a funeral director, either; I had to do something, and I sort of fell into it and stayed there. I was good at it, but I didn’t love it. People have told me I’m crazy at every point in my life, so I learned a long time ago not to listen to anyone who wasn’t part of my fan club. I’m writing this from a thatched roof pavilion next to an Olympic sized infinity pool on a secluded beach in Sri Lanka, so I’d say it’s working out.The advice I would give is to study whatever interests you at the moment, and be willing to move on to something else if and when the time comes. You’re not a failure if you don’t stick with the same career your whole life; you’re growing, and that’s wonderful.
I studied Politics before I became the Managing Director at PARRS. I always enjoyed business but wasn’t sure exactly what area I wanted to go into, so I decided to study something I was passionate about until I had made up my mind. Unless you know exactly what you want and need a specific degree to do it, you should always choose to major in something you enjoy. If you don’t want to be a dentist, lawyer, doctor, vet or engineer then don’t be afraid of having a broad, general degree. You can always transfer your skills at a later date once you have figured out exactly what you want to do. Nobody considers it strange to study History then go into something like banking.
I studied Theology, I did both a degree and a Masters. I always wanted to be a vicar and that’s why I did the degree.

When I left University I had to get a job quickly, I started working for Lloyds Banking Group as a telephone banking advisor.

In the meantime I tried to become a vicar but I was turned down by the church. I’d met my husband while I was studying and got married. The church wouldn’t allow me to become a vicar because he had been divorced three times previously.

Anyway. I decided to throw myself into financial services. I went from Telephone Banking to Auditing and Business Analysis and later became a project manager for Callcredit.

About a year ago I left Callcredit to come and work at a start up company. People told me I was crazy, the hours were different, the workload would be harder, the job would be more stressful and it was nothing to do with my degree. My mum was really keen for me to get into police liaison work or social work. She said a degree in Theology gave me a good understanding of cultures and would allow me to better communicate with people.

I haven’t looked back! The start up experience, while stresful at times, has been an amazing one. I feel valued, supported and like I’m part of something amazing.

Sometimes I wish I had done a different degree, one like business, that would give me a bit of an advantage, but I think in todays job market they don’t much care what your discipline was they just like to know you have that level of education.

Advice I would give to people majoring in ‘broad’ subjects would be, enjoy what you are studying and make the most of the experience. If your qualification won’t be much use to you in landing a job afterwards, then you are paying for the experience and the opportunity to learn something you love, in which case, make the most of it, those kinds of opportunities don’t just happen.

Matthew Massee

Matthew Massee, 28

SEO Specialist/Freelance Translator
The AdvocatesEconomics

I studied economics, a broad field, but now work in marketing and translation. When I was still a student I recall the business, finance, and marketing students felt their majors were more “practical” than a “useless” economics degree. I disagree with this view.

The contemporary university is going through a crisis. Is the purpose of higher education vocational or academic training? If vocational, then why do we spend four or more years in a classroom? We would be far better off with an apprenticeship immediately after high school where we earn a stipend, provide value to a company, and learn marketable skills. If academic, then a “useless” major such as History or English provides us with critical, analytical thinking skills and the ability to clearly communicate. We should spend our years in academia to think about big issues that do not necessarily have market value.

I did not plan to become a translator or a digital marketer, it just sort of happened. After I graduated I moved to China and learned Chinese. While there I networked my way into PR firms doing basic copywriting. Eventually this evolved into novel and short story translation for major universities throughout China. Also during this time I used the internet to make some extra money selling advertisements. Over time I learned how to use the internet to sell advertisements, optimize websites for search engines, and market to potential customers. At this point I am financially comfortable and constantly learning new skills to complement my current careers. I have no idea where I will be in five years, but I know I will continue to confidently build on my accomplishments.

A broad degree that focused on critical analysis has enabled me to learn new things and apply them to the labor market. A more focused degree, such as finance, would have pigeonholed me into a financial career, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just different from what I have done in my life.

Marilyn Anderson

Marilyn Anderson, 40+

Author-Writer-Producer — Biology, Physiology

I work in a field that is completely different from my educational background. I got a Master’s Degree in Biology and Physiology. After graduating, I worked for 2 months as a research scientist in a lab at a medical school, but I hated being in a laboratory. So then I got a PR kind of job in the sciences field at the National Academy of Sciences in D.C. as a Biomedical Information Specialist. But I didn’t stay there very long. I realized I didn’t want to be a scientist; I wanted to be a star!

So I quit my job, sold my car, sold my boyfriend (didn’t get much for him) and moved to New York City to become a star. I got into a Broadway show a week after arriving there. However, the show closed after 8 performances (not because of me; I was good, but the show wasn’t.)

After a stint as an actress and doing stand-up comedy, I knew I had to either take a vacation or get a job. Let’s see – vacation or job? Duh — I took a vacation and went out to Los Angeles. I loved it there, and never went back to New York, and started writing in Hollywood. People told me I’d never get an agent…. or a job. They were wrong. I wrote for several TV shows (Murphy Brown, FAME, and Carol & Company, starring Carol Burnett and Jeremy Piven) and sold scripts for movies, and wrote a couple of books.

And that is what I suggest people do, no matter what their major in school. You don’t necessarily know when you are in college, what your ultimate goals will be, or what will make you happy, or how your life will change. I advise people to be open, be flexible, and follow your heart. Even if it isn’t what your parents tell you, or what “other people” tell you is the right path.

Life is a journey and it can be wonderful if you are open to the possibilities.

Laura Hall

Laura Hall

Marketing Executive
Shiply — Music Performance

I studied music at university, which people today either think of as ‘cool’ or the total opposite: ‘useless’, compared to everyone else who was studying business. When I was 17 and choosing a university course, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, I just knew that I loved studying music, so I continued. Leaving university was a very difficult experience for me and I knew music would not be as helpful to me as perhaps other courses would be. Music is a great course, with a wide range of transferable skills. I like to think of it as an English, History and Music course all rolled into one. Studying music requires creativity, good writing skills, performing under pressure, teamwork, researching and promoting. I ended up moving into marketing which seems quite far away from music, but really I use all the skills I’ve just mentioned above, and the beauty of music is it can still be a passion and can still be enjoyed and participated in outside of the workplace. I would always encourage people to take arts if that’s what they want to do. Art for art’s sake!!
As you may be able to tell, I currently work in Marketing, an area that is definitely different from my current study of English. Working this job was actually very unexpected. I simply went to help my friend out by taking notes for a focus group his company was doing, and while taking the notes I struck up conversation with his boss about the company and their goals, which resulted in him offering me a job. People were surprised I was able to get the job with no education in business or marketing, but told me to ride the wave regardless. As for advice on “useless” or “broad” fields of study, of which both adjectives have been used by many of my friends to describe my major, I simply say do what you like and jobs will come. No matter the field, as long as you really enjoy what you like you can apply skills you learn to almost any job. I am taking my writing skills from English and applying them to banners and various blog posts about marketing, along with simply being eager to learn more about this new field.
I studied to be a lawyer and I actually practiced for 15+ years before transitioning into my current role as a business coach. I made the transition because I moved to a different state but I did plan the move over a couple years. I view what I do as a natural progression from the work I did as a lawyer but not everyone was on-board with my decision. Some questioned why I would “waste” all that time going to law school and practicing law while I looked at it as all part of the journey that made me able to do what I do today. I don’t think there are any “useless” areas of study. As long as a student learns how to think, speak and write and they have a good work ethic they will find their way to a rewarding career. Too many people are focused on the need for teaching young people only technical skills when what they also need to learn communication and critical thinking skills. My advice to those who are taking general studies classes are to take public speaking and creative or business writing courses. No matter what career path you choose you’ll need to be able to communicate effectively.

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