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What to Do With Your College Major

“What Can You Do With Your Major?”

This is a question I often see tossed around many career service websites. I feel that the way this question is phrased is fairly limiting. This question makes many students feel as if there are only a certain number of options available to them when it comes to finding a job based on the major they chose to pursue. Instead, I believe that the question should be phrased like this:

“What do you want to do and how are you going to leverage your education to do it?”

Or better yet,

“How are you going to use your major?”

Students should take pride in their education and trust that they have gathered significant and valuable knowledge and experience throughout their college career. Yes, recent college graduates do not have the same kind of working experience as those that have been in the profession for years, but they also bring in a fresh perspective and new ideas. Instead of feeling like whoever is hiring them is doing them a favor, students should have confidence in what they would be able to contribute to the company. This brings to mind the question, “what is an employer going to do for that student to leverage $150,000 of education taught by some of the finest people in the United States?”

I often come across an attitude in employers that they have some sort of hold over the students because they possess a “job.” Students looking for “jobs” will not do as well as students looking for “careers.”

I run an employment agency and have let clients go for displaying that kind of attitude towards candidates. I personally think it comes from self doubt and insecurity.

In order to encourage recent college graduates to apply for a position, college career sites should post something like,

“Congrats to the majority of the students at ______, we are seeing even more demand for your services on the market then we did with last year’s graduates.”

Graduating college is not an easy event for a student. In addition to feeling anxious about the future, college graduates are often faced with pressure from family members and peers alike to “succeed” and “make the right decision.” I remember feeling so lost. Right after school, I took a position managing retail bank accounts for a company named Deluxe (ticker: DLX). About 4 months into the position, I thought it may be a good tip to tell my manager to sell the company stock. She did not love that mentality and, when I look back on it, I was not being a “team player.” I was right, however. From 2004 to 2009, the price per share went from $44 to under $9 per share.

Throughout my tenure at this firm, I was unhappy because I jumped at the first offer and felt almost like this job was an obligation of mine. I had the mentality that I had an obligation to the employer, not the other way around.

About a year or two before graduating, a student should write down his or her career goals and they should make a point of following them. It’s okay for them to change, as long as a concrete, attainable goal always exists. If the job or accomplishment is competitive, the student just has to work harder than their competition. The ones who fight to achieve the goals they have set forth for themselves will succeed.

Additionally, unless it is accounting, finance or nursing, employers should have an open mind when considering the major and educational background of any given candidate.

At my recruiting firm, our two best team members whom I could not live without, actually have theater degrees from NYU. I was a business major at my school and I can only remember one teacher’s name. The one takeaway I got from school besides writing skills (do not underestimate how important these are) is that one should measure wealth by how much they can give. My company makes a point of giving back to charities and schools in any way that we can.

The point that I am trying to make is that your college major should not matter. What matters is that you went to a higher learning institution, learned a lot and worked hard. Hopefully, somewhere along the way you began to get a sense of what interests you most and what you have a talent for. If an employer feels that your background or education is not well-suited for their company, chances are they are what I call “sign-off” managers. “Sign-off managers” are managers who are so afraid of failing that they never end up doing anything great. This type of manager is too afraid of staffing a Liberal Arts graduate in, let’s say a marketing position, because if things didn’t work out, they would not have been following protocol.

Also, keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with taking a job for a few months to keep your cash flow coming before you find the right position. Actually, I recommend it. Take your time and think of your major as more of an opportunity than a hindrance.