Many people don’t end up employed in the fields they studied. After graduation, you may even have lost interest in your major. This is a more common occurrence than you think, seeing as how many people choose their college majors while they’re still in their teens.
The truth is that not having a degree in your desired field is only a minor setback. If you’re looking to switch fields or you want to start in a field that has nothing to do with your education, one of your big concerns may be your lack of skills.
Use these tips to learn how to frame the experience you have and gain new skills to ensure you will be well-equipped for getting a job in a field you didn’t study.
Being certified in relevant skills — be it First Aid, ESL teaching, C++ or CISSP certification — can give you a major advantage during your job search. The best part about learning these skills outside of a formal school environment like college is that you can learn them on your own schedule. You can take night classes, online classes or weekend classes. Some courses even have self-study options, so you can work on them whenever you have a free minute.
As long as you do the work, you’ll have a certification in no time. This will give you a leg up during recruitment. You’d be surprised how many people don’t get certified because they see it as too much of a hassle.
Temping is a great way to immerse yourself in different work environments and learn new job skills. Temporary employment agencies (or temp agencies) help their clients find temporary placements in companies that are short on personnel. Depending on the agency, you may be able to stay primarily in your field of interest, especially if you have relevant qualifications. If you mesh well with one of the companies, you may even be offered a permanent job.
By working at several companies in your desired industry, you will be able to gain a better understanding of the industry, while also learning useful skills and building connections.
Many large companies these days start new recruits off with an internship. Internships generally run for a set period of time, with the potential for a job offer to applicants who performed well. While many internships are still unpaid, larger companies offer small stipends and even salaries in some cases.
Whether paid or unpaid, an internship is a great way to learn new skills and beef up your resume outside of a school environment. If a company in your desired field offers internships, find out how to apply.
If you’re extremely lucky, you may be able to get a job in a different field without leaving your current company. Does your company span multiple departments? You may currently work in human resources, but you really want to be a part of the graphic design team? If so, take the leap and ask to transition into that other department.
If you are in good standing at the company, it may just happen. This kind of career change would allow you to gain skills and experience in a supportive, familiar environment. Often, a company may even pay for you to take extra courses and classes to supplement your training on the job. Some will even reimburse you for certification exams, like those required of accountants or architects.
It’s easy to despair over the skills you don’t have yet, but you may be surprised at how much your existing skills can help you break into your desired field. Make a list of the experiences and skills you’ve had that are most relevant to the job you want and mention the most impressive ones on your resume and cover letter. You would be surprised at how well management and leadership experience translates across a number of fields. There are also a number of application best practices you should adhere to including customizing your cover letter and resume for every position, following up with the company and ensuring your grammar and spelling is impeccable.
If you have trouble discovering or showing off your existing skills, you have the option of hiring a professional career coach or resume writer to help. Forbes recommends that if you do hire a professional to help, you should hire one with experience in your desired field.
Your career is an important part of your life. Choose the field that you really want to work in and you will feel happier, healthier and more fulfilled.
Jordan Perez is a freelance writer based in Woodland Hills, California. She’s been a professional resume writer and has written for a number of industries over the last 10 years — getting published across a number of digital platforms. In her free time, she enjoys re-reading all of her favorite novels.