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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Williams

How to get a job you didn't study

News flash! For most jobs, employers aren’t that hung up on what you studied—but they’ll still need some convincing to extend a job offer if you don't have the qualifications many other applicants do.

By the time you leave school or graduate, it wouldn’t be surprising if your career ambitions have shifted to something outside of what you studied. You may still not even know which career path you want to pursue, and now you’re wondering about getting a job unrelated to your studies.

Perhaps an internship didn’t turn out how you expected, or market trends have dampened your passion for the occupation you thought you wanted to pursue. So, you’re now in a tough spot where your studied subjects don’t align with what you want to do. Right?

Wrong! There’s no need to panic. Lots of students switch career directions, and many people go on to successful careers in sectors and job families completely unrelated to the subjects they studied.

Furthermore, employers aren’t as focused on your qualifications and grades as you think. A degree in something can help, but, increasingly, it is not the be-all and end-all of hiring decision-making.

Identify Possible Career Choices

You know what you don’t want to do, but before diving into your job search, you need to determine what it is you want to do. A good play is to identify what industries are hiring and what skills are in demand and see what’s out there that interests you. Check out our list of the happiest jobs for ideas. Another option is to take a career test to see where your interests and personality traits overlap with certain jobs.

Figure Out if You’re Qualified

Once you’ve narrowed your search to one or two fields, assess whether you meet the basic requirements to get hired in that industry. If you’re looking to break into a specialised industry (e.g., architecture), you might have to take more courses before you can start applying for jobs. Otherwise, you likely won’t require additional training.

Want to work in a niche industry that demands specialised skills? You might need internship experience first; volunteering can also help you gain these skills. But if you don’t want to commit to a full-length internship, you could try shadowing an employee for a week or engaging in micro-placements. Short-term shadowing experiences can give you a taste of what jobs are like before deciding whether or not to pursue them. Shadowing can also be a great networking opportunity.

Build Your Network

Even if you want to move into a field you're uncertain of, you don’t have to build a network from scratch. Tap into your school’s alumni network and join a professional networking site to find people from your town, school or university in fields you are interested in. Ask to go on informational interviews or micro-placements with them to learn more about the industry. You don’t want to reach out to a vice president, nor do you want an entry-level employee to be your guide. Try contacting employees with around three to five years of experience.

If you’re looking for jobs in other cities, don’t hesitate to do informational interviews by video or phone. Joining professional associations and attending industry events can also help build your network.

Leverage Transferable Skills

Just because you want to pursue something new, it doesn't mean that everything you've done to date is irrelevant or doesn't have value. You likely still have a lot of transferable skills that employers are interested in— like writing, problem-solving, verbal communication and relationship management skills. And if you took a leadership role on a sports team, lead a project team or even support your family in getting everything done around the house on top of your studies, you may even have some project management skills in your back pocket. These transferable skills are increasingly important to employers.

Hone Your Industry Knowledge

To show employers you're interested in working for them, you need to be able to prove that you’re up to date on what’s going on in their field. And while that’s a good idea for every job seeker, it’s especially crucial if you don’t have relevant education or internship experience. Stay current by subscribing to their company newsletters, reading industry media outlets, and following prospective employers on social media.

Reinforce your resume

Getting a job unrelated to your degree isn’t the big deal you think it is, whether you're into tech, health care, humanities, automotive design, or anything else. Few companies will raise an eyebrow if they see your resume and notice your qualifications don't perfectly match their industry, as long as you demonstrate that you have the foundation skills and passion they're looking for.


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