How to Rock Your Career Regardless of Your College Major
I launched my own location-independent business in May of 2013, and I am now unemployable. Don't get me wrong, I've never received more job offers than I have in the past year, but I love working for myself so much that I can never put on a suit, wake up at 6:30 a.m. and commute 30 minutes to an office job ever again.
My life didn't always look this way. And my college degree was definitely not on a clear path to entrepreneurship as a financial planner. I was a theater and choir kid all through high school. (If "Glee" would have been around then, I would have been so cool. But "Glee" was not around, and I was not cool.) In college, I double-majored in theater performance and women's studies.
Today I'm a financial planner for millennials, and I work virtually with clients in their 20s and 30s across the country. When I first started taking my certified financial planner classes, I was so embarrassed to tell people my majors. But my past experience in theater, women's studies and therapy set me apart from all the other financial planners in the world.
How My College Majors Helped My Current Career
The experience, skills and abilities I gained in college all come into play every day in my current career. Any degree can help you develop your career into what you want. Don't lament the degree you earned or feel embarrassed over what your major was. Your college major doesn't matter as much as you think. Managers want to work with people who have great personalities and are easy to train.
So how do you make a big transition -- like going from an actor to a financial planner -- work for you? Start by understanding what you can do with the skills you have right now. What abilities do you have that are needed on your dream job? I never thought I'd be asked to be on the local news to speak about first-time home buying tips, but you better believe I was glad that four years of theater training prepared me for a three-minute segment.
Dig through your own experience and identify what you had to do to earn that degree you now feel can be used to develop your career. I use my writing skills -- which I honed in my women's studies classes -- to communicate with my clients via email, create financial articles for DailyFinance and send out my Gen Y Planning newsletter. In one of my early jobs in financial planning, I edited all of the other advisers' quarterly newsletters. This was a valuable skill that I brought to the company.
Take Action to Gain the Experience You Lack
Understanding what you already know provides you with a starting point. But you won't develop your career and land your dream job simply by saying, "look at what I know." You also need some level of experience in the area you're looking to break into. This isn't easy.
If lack of experience in the field is what you need, don't wait for permission to get it. In other words, don't apply for job after job and give up when no one wants to take a chance to hire a graphic designer who majored in accounting and has no proof of what they can do. Start doing graphic design for friends and family and build a portfolio of your work so you can start getting paid projects.
You must take the initiative to get out there and demonstrate what you know. Then come back to that career in a new industry that you really want. You'll have the experience to back up the skills you're bringing in from that unrelated degree.
I would sit in the personal finance section of Barnes & Noble and read every personal finance and business book that I could get my hands on. I started off helping answer my friends' money questions. I learned there was a whole world of financial planning that existed and I could earn a living helping others with their money, so I decided to enroll in classes to become a certified financial planner.
Never Stop Learning
You also may need to continue your education, either before you grab that dream job or as you progress through your new career. Show your willingness to learn new things at any job you work. Take on roles outside of your set responsibilities. Or learn on your own. There are a number of online options to continue your education that are free or really cheap:
- Watch how-to videos and tutorials on YouTube.
- Take a class on Skillshare or Udemy.
- Sign up for actual college classes -- for free -- through a program like Academy Earth or Coursera.
- Enroll in a local or online program for an additional certification like I did.
You can develop your career no matter what your college major if you're willing to work to get there. It's not an easy road, and it's not always a fast-paced one. But your college major does not decide your career. You have the power to do that.
Sophia Bera is a virtual financial planner for millennials and the founder of Gen Y Planning. She is location-independent but calls Minneapolis "home." She offers a free Gen Y Planning newsletter and recently published her first ebook to provide a Gen Y guide to empowered personal finances.