If you have chosen a major in the social sciences or arts & humanities, such as sociology or philosophy, you have likely heard the question, “What are you going to with that?” Your parents or friends may have asked you the question with simple curiosity and without judgment, but that is unfortunately how you may end up feeling: judged and criticized.
Besides feeling judged, you may also have trouble giving an honest answer. You have likely chosen your major because it is interesting and engaging to you and not necessarily to get a specific job. You have a vague idea of your career options as they relate to your major, but you may have trouble coming up with a specific career goal, besides the obvious.
Parents want their college students to be successful when they graduate, so they may have difficulty understanding the career options for these types of majors. Arts & humanities along with social science majors have pertinent coursework and college experiences that provide a broad understanding of the world and will enable you to steer your career in a variety of directions.
Variety is the spice of life
You likely know people who have lead a traditional career path based on their major, such as an English major who works in publishing. However, many people do not work in the same field as their major would suggest. Just from a sampling of about 100 graduates of the University of Delaware there are the following:
- An art major who is now a probation officer
- An English major who is now an event planner
- An international relations major who is now a systems engineer
If college graduates can work in a field unrelated to their major, then how do they find their careers? People discover their career goals and eventual jobs in a variety of ways, such as:
- Through other work or volunteer experiences
- By something they were exposed to in an internship
- Through student organization activities, such as event planning
- From their network (mentors, family members, acquaintances, etc.)
- Creating their own job or company
A diverse assortment of experiences and an open mind
So now that you know that your future job is not inextricably linked to your major, what will you do? One option is to give yourself the chance to become exposed to as many different opportunities in college as possible. Participating in student organizations or getting involved in research are great ways to get experience. It is important that you keep your mind open to different possibilities.
You could find out that you want to work on U.S. global warming policy after experiencing beach erosion first hand during your summer lifeguard job. You might end up opening your own business to meet the needs of a new immigrant community you worked with during a volunteer position. You also may meet someone at a career fair who gets you interested in working in pharmaceutical sales. Be sure to stay open to different opportunities that come your way.
Talk with alumni
As you go along in your college career, check with your school’s career services center or alumni office to find alumni who share your major. For example, the University of Delaware has an “Alumni Mentor Network” to connect college students to those in related career fields. These alumni can share their work experiences and how they ended up on their career path. They can also give useful advice on what it takes to succeed in different fields.
Don’t forget to build on your brand
It is also important that you polish up on communication skills, professionalism and work ethic while gaining different experiences. If you make a strong impression on an employer or a professor, they will be more likely to recommend you for an internship or other opportunity that might just lead you on the path to your dream job.
(For more guidance on connecting your major with a career, check out the wonderful book, “You Majored in What?” by Katharine Brooks.)
Lori Bielek is the Marketing and Technology Coordinator at University of Delaware’s (UD) Career Services Center where she advises students in the arts and sciences through all steps of their career development. You can connect with Lori through LinkedIn or her UD Career Services Twitter account (@UDcareers).