Job Seeking Outside Your Major

By Amy Treutel

You applied to college, were accepted, received scholarships and student loans to help fund your education, got to your last semester, and stopped to think, Applying-Job-Outside-Field-Featured“Hmm, is this really what I want to do anymore?”  Throughout your time as a student, and even once you enter the professional workforce, your experiences and ideas of your ideal job may change.  Luckily, even if you start as an Aerospace Engineer but ultimately decide your passion is in Human Resources, you can work towards making that transition seamless.

There are several actions that can you can take to help increase your chances of obtaining a position outside of your major.

Transferable Skills

All of your work experiences, whether it is as a lifeguard for the summer or flight operations intern for a large airline during a semester, contribute to different skills that are valuable in the workplace.  The lifeguard position might build your customer service and problem solving skills whereas the intern position would build your database research and data mining skills.  Both jobs are equally important when trying to search for a non-related position.  It’s all about how you market yourself and those newly acquired skills.

Volunteer Work

If you are not able to immediately get a position in the area you want to work, consider volunteering for a company, an affiliate, or a supporting organization.  This will not only allow you to directly gain sought after skills in the new area you are interested in pursuing, but it also affords you the opportunity to meet and network with many people in the specific industry.  Get to know the people and what skills they have and learn how they got started in the industry.  You will probably be surprised at the routes many of them took to get where they are!

Gaining New Skills

Sometimes you’ll realize that you might be missing a highly sought after skill in the new industry you’re pursuing.  Oftentimes, there are many ways to go about learning new skills.  You could enroll in a local community college and take related classes, earn a certificate, search for online training programs, or just utilize Google and take the initiative to train yourself.  There is a wealth of information available in various mediums that could all help you in gaining new skills.

Tailoring Your Resume

Now that you’ve learned new skills and been diligent about making yourself marketable, you have to customize each resume you submit for a job and really highlight the skills you have that are most relevant to the position.  It is helpful to have a summary, project experience section, and even a skills section.  Between your resume and cover letter, you want to demonstrate to the employer that you are the ideal candidate for the position.  Browse the Career Services website to view sample resumes and cover letters.

It would also be very helpful to perform a SCOT (Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on yourself to really break down your specific skill areas and how they relate to a position outside of your major.  This will help narrow your focus and clarify what areas you should concentrate on to be the most marketable candidate for the position.

Don’t underestimate your abilities and the skills you possess.  Your degree, whether related to the position you want to apply for or not, gives you an amazing foundation for being a productive employee and quickly learning new skills.  Make smart decisions on marketing yourself to potential employers, and you will see your hard work pay off with a rewarding career.

Amy Treutel has a Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Management and a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics with a specialization in Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  She was a member of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Career Services team for over five years. Amy recently accepted a position with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in Washington D.C. and will start in June 2013. 

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