My major is unrelated to my dream job, what now…?

By Grace Wong

Let's pretend you're a senior sociology major, but the only reason you chose sociology in the first place is because it seemed like a good idea at the time and you really didn't know what else to major in. Now that graduation is around the corner, you realize that you don’t want to go to grad school to become a sociologist. You wish that you could go back and major in something like communications or public relations so that you can become a media relations specialist instead but changing your major now just isn't an option, you simply can't afford the time or the money. So what can you do to bridge the gap between your degree to a seemingly unrelated career? Here are a few ways (and keep in mind you could apply this same logic to almost any major or concentration of studies and almost any career):

1. Highlight your transferable skills in your résumé:
Transferable skills are the skills you can easily transfer from one career or work setting to the next. If you are a sociology major who wants to work in media relations, some of the skills that you can transfer from school to the workplace may include, for example:

  • Research, critical thinking and writing skills: the ability to find, collect and analyze information, synthesize key ideas and write a report.
  • Public speaking skills: the ability to make formal presentations and present information and ideas clearly, objectively, and in an interesting manner.
  • Interpersonal skills: the ability to interact and work well with a wide variety of people from all kinds of backgrounds
  • Leadership skills: the ability to build effective teams and gain cooperation from difficult people

2. Supplement your degree with job-related experience:
For example, you could try to gain career related experience by:

  • Pursuing a communications internship with the government. As a sociology major, you may not have considered doing an internship in a marketing or public relations department, but that doesn't mean you can't pursue such an internship now or after you graduate. The federal government and many provincial governments offer post-secondary recruitment programs that channel university graduates into different lines of work, including communications. You can take this experience with you to the private sector as well.
  • Putting in some volunteer experience before you graduate, e.g. by offering to develop brochures and other communications materials for a non-profit agency or a public relations/marketing firm.
  • Networking and seeking information interviews with employers you might like to work for, this helps get your name out there and may lead to temporary freelance work, which can help you get your foot in the door.

3. Look for exceptions to the rule:
Perhaps you've heard other people say: "You have to be this major to work in that field." Not necessarily so. Many people can tell you that they have ended up in jobs completely unrelated to their majors. As author Richard Bolles points out in his best-selling book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, in many career fields there are exceptions to the rule:

No matter how many people tell you that such-and-so are the rules about getting into a particular occupation, and there are no exceptions -- believe me, there are exceptions (except where a profession has rigid entrance examinations, as in, say, medicine or law). Rules are rules. But somewhere in this world, somebody found a way to get into a career that you dream of, without going through all the hoops that everyone else is telling you are absolutely essential.

Your job is to find that person (or a career counsellor on campus) and ask them how to bypass it. In many but the strictly regulated career fields, there are exceptions to the rule. So whether you're a sociology major trying to become a media relations specialist or any other major trying to become something that seems unrelated to your field of study, be creative and start exploring some of the ways you can turn your education into the career of your dreams. All the best!

Modified on April 23, 2009