After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, I quickly found out that I really wasn’t qualified to do a whole lot. My husband had a degree in accounting and was being pursued by manufacturers, non-profits as well as public accounting firms. I on the other hand was scratching and digging to find something. I’d planned to go to graduate school but to be quite honest, I hated the field of psychology. Actually, I disagreed with much that I’d learned so now what was I going to do? After shaking off the pessimism and focusing upon my “transferable skills”, as well as my work experience, I sought an opportunity in the field of business. My first professional job was with a mortgage company as a debt collector. This experience sparked my interest in law, which later lead to work in the insurance industry and later a career in vocational school administration (I became a paralegal educator after completing a paralegal certificate program).
How many of you have a familiar story? Well, this article is written for those who find themselves with a degree that they “think” they can’t do a whole lot with. Here’s what you must first understand. Achieving a degree is an accomplishment no matter what field it is in because it shows that you are a finisher, a completer and not a quitter. A college degree also makes a potential employer confident of your basic writing, reasoning and communication skills. These skills are transferable to just about any field or profession.
So now you have a degree in basket weaving (some universities might actually offer this degree, or more realistically something like Philosophy), what should you do now? Well first assess your skills. We talked about the general skills, but did you complete an internship while in school, if so, what did you do during that internship? Did you work during the summers or while in school? If so, be sure to examine what skills you acquired during this experience. Make a list of your duties and then assess what skills you used to fulfill those duties. For example, say you worked in a sporting goods store as a sales clerk. One of your duties may have been setting up displays, right? Well, this can be listed under marketing or merchandising skills and can be a transferable skill in any area of retail. Also, think back to your activities with your sorority or fraternity. Did you chair a particular committee or plan a fund raiser? Don’t hesitate to include this on your resume as you probably had to exercise leadership skills in order to complete these tasks.
Now, what kind of job would you like? Don’t hesitate to conduct informational interviews – that is to call people who have jobs that you might be interested in and ask them about what they do. You might even want to “shadow” them or spend a day with them. Remember, informational interviews and shadowing can lead to potential job offers. Being knowledgeable can also cut your job search time. So don’t be in a hurry to get out there, do your homework first. Remember there are many, many fields and professions, and there is no way that you can know about them all. I’m confident there is a job out there for someone with your expertise.
While you are looking for a job, be sure to consider temporary jobs as an option. Temporary jobs can help to get your foot in the door and even give you the opportunity to learn new skills. For example, signing up with a temporary employment agency may afford you the opportunity to learn new software programs such as Corel Draw, Photo Shop or Quick Books. If you talk with your staffing specialist, they may be willing to let you come in and work on some of the tutorials. Also consider becoming certified through Microsoft. These certifications can add to your resume and thus your credibility as a professional.
Be sure to check with your local schools about substitute teaching. Subbing can be a great opportunity to earn money while exploring other careers. It’s also an asset to your resume. Every state is different so the requirements vary. There are also many paraprofessional opportunities with the school. Many of these jobs require a degree but not in any particular field. Substitute teaching can afford you the opportunity to learn more about your district and what jobs are available.
Lastly, we know that graduate school is an option, but don’t hesitate to take more short-term routes. For example, here in Michigan, someone with a college degree can get teacher certified in about a year full-time depending upon what they plan to become certified in and what classes they have had. One might also consider getting a real estate license and entering that field, or becoming licensed in the field of insurance or securities. These licenses once again provide an entrance into a profession. Also don’t shy away from certificate programs such as paralegal studies, grant writing or financial planning.