What to Do When Your Major and Career Choice Don't Match

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  • 0:02 Major & Career
  • 0:51 Experience Vs. Education
  • 2:50 Transferable Skills
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

What happens when you figure out that your college major doesn't match up with the career path you want to be on? In this lesson, we'll look at the difference in major and career and how to get into a career that's not a match for your major.

Major & Career

Janine is a computer science major, and she's a senior in college, but she just realized recently that she doesn't want to work in technology. Instead, she's decided that she really wants to work in human resources (HR).

Uh-oh. Janine's major, or the course of study you follow in college, is different from her choice of career, or the occupational field that you work in.

While it's true that, for many people, their major and their career are in line with each other - science majors tend to work in science, education majors become teachers - that's not always the case. So, what should someone like Janine do when they realize that their major and career choice don't match?

Let's look closer at how Janine can follow her dream to become an HR rep, even as an IT major.

Experience vs. Education

Janine really wants to work in human resources, but her major is all about computers and technology. Does she have to scrap her plans to graduate, go back and start a new major all over?

Not at all! The first thing that Janine should realize is that there's one thing employers value more than your education: experience, or time spent demonstrating and building skills in a certain field. For people later in their careers, experience usually takes the form of the jobs that they've had in that field.

But what about Janine? She's still in college and looking for her first full-time job. How can she gain experience in the human resources field?

To start with, Janine can do an internship, or an on-the-job training position, in HR. Some internships are paid and others aren't. Some give college credit and others don't. But they all offer a good chance to build experience.

To find an internship, Janine can go to her campus career center, which will likely be able to help Janine find a good internship. If they can't help her, she can always do an online search.

Besides internships, another way that Janine can gain experience is through college activities, like volunteering, serving on committees and joining clubs. For example, Janine knows that human resources requires a person to be able to communicate well with others. She can volunteer to be a translator for local immigrants trying to communicate with government organizations. In this capacity, she'll be demonstrating to prospective employers that she is good at working with people and organizations.

Finally, Janine might want to supplement her experience with education. She doesn't have to do a whole other major, but she might consider taking classes or workshops in human resources topics. For example, she might take a class on mediation or a workshop on employment laws. Both of these things can help her learn more about HR.

Transferable Skills

Okay, so Janine is getting experience through an internship and volunteer work. She's also taking a class in mediation that will hopefully help make her more attractive to future employers. But what about all her computer classes? Were they just a waste of her time?

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