I can’t find a job in my college major, what should I do?

Photo credit: hxdbzxy, Shutterstock
Photo credit: hxdbzxy, Shutterstock

From a reader:

I am a recent graduate of a four-year university with a bachelor’s degree in Democracy and Justice Studies. I chose not to go to law school or pursue any further education in hopes of landing a nice job. Now, with no luck searching and applying fruitlessly for months on end, I almost wish I had. Do you have any advice for finding a good job that recognizes a degree in a field such as mine?

Dear What Now?

I was in the same predicament as you when I finished my undergraduate degree in Criminology. I thought I wanted to go into corrections, but after a few interviews I realized it really wasn’t the field for me. Similar to you, I was more than concerned. It was too late to apply to grad school and I needed a j-o-b.

Here’s what I did:

  • Visit the website for your college major. Just about every department lists what graduates with that particular major have gone on to do. This will give you some insight into the range of ways people have leveraged your particular major. Identify several that sound interesting to you and reach out to those individuals to learn more about their careers.
  • Get insight from your college’s career services office. Career Services staff members often have insight into which companies are willing to take chances on nontraditional majors. Let them know that you are interested in learning about careers that might be outside of what people normally do with a degree in your field and if they can connect you to potential alumni, organizations, and opportunities. Additionally, some universities have multiple career service centers, so don’t limit yourself to just your department. Who knows, there might be a company visiting the College of Business’ Career Services office that would love to have you!
  • See if your university is hiring. Many universities have entry-level positions that are perfect for recent alumni. Most of the time, these positions don’t require you to have a specific major and your alumni status goes a long way.
  • Consider a year (or two) of service. There are programs like CityYear, Teach for America, and other “service” related opportunities that will put a little money in your pocket but give you big experience and help you grow your network.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

How have you managed your job search after graduating from college? Share your insights in the comments.

Have a question? Send it to us and we’ll answer it here on the blog.

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Qiana Williams is a senior human resources manager for a global retailer where she is responsible for all aspects of the implementation of HR strategy for more than 200 employees domestically and internationally. Prior to this role, she navigated the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, tackling the various aspects of HR. Qiana has played an active role in her community through board service with organizations such as City Year – Columbus, Communities in Schools of Central Ohio, HandsOn Central Ohio and the United Way of Central Ohio.
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    • david
    • October 8, 2013

    I wish this didn’t need saying, but I would not offer most of the advice above. There are too many chances of it going wrong. For example, my Ivy League alma mater did not have a careers office worth the name, nor did my department make any effort to keep up with ex students. Had I thought to check that out before applying to that University, I’d have gone somewhere else instead.

    So skip points 1-4. Do some volunteering if you can, but don’t expect anything of it.

    Instead, start a company. Any company. Just get to work, show some initiative. So much the better if it relates to your academic major. Give it a go. Even if it fails, and you have to go looking for work, it will look good on your CV.

    Go ahead and do the rounds of careers offices and the like, but don’t expect them to actually help. Much better to chase your own networks of freinds. Find out what you r best mates are doing, and try to get in with them. If they are in your major, good. But even when they are outside your major, they are still your best friends, and a good place for them is a good place for you.

    • Kalena
    • October 9, 2013

    I appreciate the general advice given in this article but am curious as to why Teach for America is listed as a suggested service position. On the surface, their mission is admirable but they are not benefiting the long-term educational needs of schools across the country. They are instead helping to turn the nation’s educational philosophy into a business model, rather than a human one.

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