New Grads: How To Get A Job Outside Your Major

job outside majorAre you an art history major but you dream of working in public relations? Are you a business major but now you want to work in design or tech? If so, you wouldn't be alone. I often am asked by new grads if it is possible to work outside of their major. Will employers consider you for a position when your experience and degree are in another field?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. You can look for work and find a career outside of your major. Here's how to do it:

1. Your resume should draw parallels. When you're applying online, you, of course, need to use keywords from the job description (more on that, in a moment), but what do you do if you've had experience that looks, at first glance, different from the position you're applying for? Look over your current experience and ask yourself, "How can I relate what I've been doing to what I really want to do?" For example, you might be a public relations major but your dream is to run a nonprofit. There are a ton of skill sets that overlap in those two fields (marketing, promotions, strategy). When you make a bulleted list on your resume under each of your items of experience, make sure to create parallels. The employer should be able to look at your resume and think, "I can see the parallels and I understand why hiring this person could make sense."

More: Top 5 Industries For New College Grads

2. Incorporate industry buzz words. When you read the description for the job outside of your major that you are applying for, what words do they use? What skills are they looking for? Try your best to incorporate some of that language into your resume, cover letter, and interview. Tie what they are looking for into the skills you already have. Most large employers use applicant tracking systems that search through resumes with keywords; you also want to reinforce that you belong in the industry.

3. Use your cover letter to seal the deal. The cover letter provides a chance for you to explain yourself. If your resume is a bit "off" from the position you are applying for, use that resume to connect the dots for the employer. Why do you want this position? Why do you feel you can excel in this environment?

4. Have an explanation. When you are sitting face to face with an employer and they look over your resume and see a disconnect between your major and the job at hand, you need a solid explanation. What do you like about the field you want to go into? What draws you to this position? Make a list of the top three reasons why you are interviewing for this position. Be prepared to recall them in the job interview if necessary. You must be able to connect the dots for the employer. Explain why you originally majored in (art history, for example) and explain what you learned about yourself through that experience that lead you to change directions. For example, as an art history major I learned that although I'm passionate about the art world, I'm more interested in the marketing and event planning associated with museums and galleries. That experience has lead me to change my direction and explore marketing and event planning on a larger scale and for a diverse range of companies.

If you take all of these steps, be confident; there will be no doubts as to why you're applying for the job, and you'll be on your way to a new career.

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Bob Prosen

Landing a job in today’s economy requires you to think and act differently. If you’re wed to the traditional way of job-hunting you’re destined to compete with everyone else chasing the same few opportunities.

The most effective way to get the job you want is to think like an employer. Sounds simple but many people don’t appreciate the importance or know how to do it.

Before beginning your search you have to understand why all companies hire. It’s to solve problems and your challenge is to position yourself as the solution. In other words, hiring you allows the company to solve problems faster, better and cheaper than they could without you. Here’s how to start.

Step 1 - Identify your skills and expertise.

Step 2 - Find the companies you want to work for and research them to uncover their problems. Use the Internet, Google alerts, read press releases and speak with current and former employees.

Your ability to uncover your target employers’ problems and position yourself as the solution is what will get you hired.

Here are just a few potential problem areas. Completing projects on time and on budget, improve product quality, improve customer service, increase sales, reduce costs, enhance online marketing, etc.

Step 3 – Identify the hiring manager.

Step 4 – Create a personal marketing plan to get your solutions in the hands of the hiring manager.

Step 5 – Develop a “One-Sheet” resume, to separate you from the crowd, along with a set of compelling cover letters that show your experience solving similar problems.

Step 6 – Follow up is essential to getting an interview. Be persistent but not a pest.

As a former executive with several Fortune companies I know how leaders think. People who have followed this process have gotten hired.

To learn how to apply this go to

Good luck and never give up!

Bob Prosen –
The Prosen Center for Business Advancement
P.S. Market yourself to the companies you want to work for whether or not they have an opening.

March 05 2013 at 5:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thanks for the insightful article. Many college grads are in a tough spot right now, because the job market is more competitive than ever. Many employers are taking experience over a degree. Many grads will find themselves working retail, customer service or sales positions. I would recommend that grads become familiar with The National Association of Sales Professionals, whether they work in sales, customer services or not. Membership is FREE

March 05 2013 at 9:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It's funny. I bet that I can become some hot shot boring stiff suit before actually getting a job in my field. It's funny how life works. Pretty lame, but funny nonetheless.

March 05 2013 at 7:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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