Does your major really matter?

Today I presented a workshop for high school seniors about selecting a college major and career options for English majors. I provided them with a list of over 20 career options.

But most importantly, I ensured they understood this truth: which degree path you choose doesn’t matter.

I noticed many raised eyebrows at this point in the presentation, and for good reason. We’re taught all our lives to contemplate the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And later in life, during elementary and high school, we’re asked, “What are you going to study in college?” or “What are you going to major in?”

Aside from highly technical career paths, it simply doesn’t matter much which degree path you choose. Sure, it’s better to major in psychology than history if you’re interested in working as either a social worker for a private agency or for the Department of Human Services someday. Think of degree paths and majors as umbrellas. Aim to huddle under the umbrella which suits you best. If you find yourself interested in social services, pursue a degree in either criminal justice, social work, psychology, or counseling. Which one should you choose? Good grief. Just pick one. Seek wise counsel, of course, from mentors, faculty members, advisors, a career coach, career services professionals, and others, but the choice is ultimately yours.

A bachelor’s degree is a gate opener. There are very few instances when your selection of a bachelor’s degree path is going to make or break your ability to earn the right to land a job.

Even if you have worked for 20 years and want to transition into a new career field but find that your degree/major doesn’t match with your preferred line of work, don’t sweat it. Take a look at your skill set. Work with a career coach to revise your resume to highlight your skills and experience to match your preferred field. Seek volunteer or part-time experience in your preferred field.

In today’s world, employers value soft skills and experience at least as much—if not more than—they value the type of degree a candidate possesses. Hiring managers look for work experience on a resume—internships, externships, job shadowing, volunteer work, and part-time and full-time jobs. Candidates make or break the opportunity to earn interviews by their ability to write a quality resume/cover letter, to network appropriately at job fairs and during on-campus interviews, and by branding themselves online. During interviews, employers ask questions which allow candidates to showcase soft skills, including communication skills, problem-solving skills, team-building skills, and time management skills.

Today’s employers understand they’re not going to hire entry-level candidates and interns with every single qualification out of the gate. However, competition is fierce in this job market, and candidates need to showcase themselves as quick, willing learners. Employers simply don’t have time, energy, or funds to train candidates extensively.

Ultimately, just go to college. Just earn your degree. A degree is a door opener; you can always fall back on it when you find yourself unemployed and searching for work. And lastly, select a degree path you ENJOY. Life is too short to waste four or more years studying material you despise.

Need help discerning your future career path? Contact me for a free consultation.

Is a portfolio career right for you?

I’ll be honest. Until recently, I’d never even heard the term “portfolio career.” I’d heard of people working multiple jobs to make ends meet. This isn’t quite the same thing as a portfolio career, though.

A portfolio career carries a bit more intention and weight behind it; each venture is selected carefully and scrutinized. Does it contribute to my ultimate career goals? If not, I must decline, thank you very much.

As a portfolio careerist myself, I decided to stop working my full-time job on purpose. I wasn’t laid off or fired. I requested to transition to part-time status in order to pursue my interest in teaching college again. About this time, a long-time dream of mine (to pursue career coaching and owning my own business) came to fruition through the encouragement of my career mentor, Samantha Hartley, owner of Enlightened Marketing. There’s no such thing as perfect timing when it comes to taking a leap of faith as an entrepreneur; at some point, you simply have to do the best research you can, concoct some sort of back-up plan, and then leap forward and hope for the best.

I recently had the good fortune of being interviewed by Dr. Steven Lindner, a talent acquisition, assessment, and hiring process expert at The WorkPlace Group. We discussed the rise of portfolio careers among Millennials, reasons for this trend, and my own career journey.

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The article Dr. Lindner wrote mentions multiple benefits to working as a portfolio careerist, and I can vouch for many of them. In just a few months, I already believe that the greatest benefit for me is flexibility and work-life balance. As the mother of a young child, spending time with my daughter is of utmost importance. However, it comes at a price. I have to manage my time more carefully and strategically than ever before. Starting a business and managing content for a company while taking care of a three year-old little girl (with only part-time childcare assistance) is pretty tricky at times. At the end of the day, though, it’s worth it.

I won’t list all the benefits to working as a portfolio careerist, but here’s one more. I have always had so many interests that I’ve found it difficult to remain focused at times. I’ve felt like a kid in Baskin-Robbins when taking interest and skill inventories. Should I pursue a career as a writer? Oh yes. But what about a physician? I love biology and science. Oh wait–what about philosophy? I could discuss Plato’s dialogues all day long. As a portfolio careerist, I allow myself the license to explore a few of my favorite things simultaneously: teaching, career coaching, and writing/content management. The result? I’m fulfilled and am able to use multiple abilities/talents rather than just one teeny tiny skill set. For college students and recent grads (or rambling adults, for that matter) who make all A’s and can’t ever make up their minds about which direction to turn, a portfolio career might be a great fit.

Is a portfolio career right for everyone? Absolutely not. Is it a great fit for many Millennials? Certainly. For people who match the descriptions laid out in Dr. Steven Lindner’s article, it’s worth considering whether pursuing a portfolio career is right for you.

Need help figuring out your next career move? Contact me for assistance.