Help, I’m Stuck with a “Wrong” Degree!

Millennials in the 21st century grew up in a situation where they are forced to decide what they want to do when most of them are too young to really know. Furthermore, they were told by their family or their peers, that they should have thought about what kind of career they want to be before they chose whichever particular course to study at university, or to go down a certain line of employment once they’d finished school.

Eventually, they follow other people’s suggestions and they ended up growing in a study environment or work in a job that they no longer want to do. All their hopes and dreams seem to fade away, and they are miserable.

Maybe this story resembles your story! You’re left, stuck wondering if things would be different and you’d be in a university coursework or in a career you’re happy in if you’d chosen differently as a teenager. Instead, you’re having to work hard to make things work with a course that you don’t want, with no related degree in the subjects you have now decided you’d like to work in.

I’ve been there before, I used to get sick with my current degree that I pursue and I felt that I no longer wanted to work in my chosen degree subject. I felt like a failure, I felt a bit lost, and it was as though I’ve lost my purpose. Moreover, when you feel that you are stuck, it seems that you have thrown away the best opportunity you could have had a career you want.

For, a majority of us, changing your major at this time point will not be a realistic solution. You wasted too much time and energy already, the circumstances may not allow you, and you might simply not afford it.

Does that mean that you should give up your hopes and dreams? Not exactly. Here are some ways to apply your “wrong” degree to the right career:

1. Develop Skills That Are Transferable to Multiple Careers

Source: Flickr.com by Luigi Mengato

Source: Flickr.com by Luigi Mengato

There is a multitude of skills that can easily be transferred to another subject or careers. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you are majoring in engineering but you want to work in public relations and communications. Fret not! You’ve developed analytical skills, research skills, and writing skills that might be relevant to the line of work that you are interested in.

For example, if you had practical lab courses before, you can mention that you have the research skills as well as data analysis, interpretation, and some basic statistics during the lab work itself. When you write the paper for your lab, you develop analytical and reading comprehension skill to make sure that your paper’s resources are legitimate and accurate. Finally, the writing skills that you polish when you actually start writing the content of the lab paper itself can be transferred to other topics that need academic writing expertise.

This is just one example of how an engineering major can develop skills that are applicable to various sectors. There are plenty of skills that you can acquire during your studies and it’s up to you to discover and thrive to work for it.

2. Enrich yourself with experiences that will elevate your current degree

Source: Flickr.com; by Steve Jurvetson

Source: Flickr.com; by Steve Jurvetson

There are plenty of ways for you can get exposure to different lines of careers or work. Firstly, you can learn more by involving in activities that will give you some valuable experience. By volunteering or joining an organization, for instance, you can accumulate experience necessary in the field that you pursue and eventually you will be able to swiftly yet smoothly changed your field of expertise. For instance, if you are a biology major and you want to make a jump to publications career, you can volunteer yourself to create marketing content materials or to develop brochures for a cancer research organizations, offering to write content you’re your professor’s scientific publishing website, or you can pursue a part-time editorial role with a well-known scientific biology publications agency.

If you’re the career-centric type, try to get an internship position in the field of your choice. Sometimes, you may not have even have considered doing an internship in a company that is related to your major, let alone to other sectors such as a PR firm or a publishing company. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue such an internship now or even after you graduate. Internships are a fair way to enter into a new field. Surround yourself with people are in this field or who have similar goals, and appropriate experience will make up for the wrong degree or even surpass the right one.

Lastly, if you’re the laid-back type, try to learn stuff from courses online, for example, a marketing and communications course from Coursera, a coding tutorial from CodeAcademy, or a photoshop class from Lynda.com. While learning something online might not be the best option to get the real exposure to the line of work that you will pursue, at least you show that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone to learn something new, and this attitude of lifelong learning is invaluable anywhere in the world.

3. Never stop looking for an open door

Source: Flickr.com; by Hernán Piñera

Source: Flickr.com; by Hernán Piñera

Some of the entry-level job requirements may specify that you need to have 1-2 years in whoever knows what the specific skill set that the job needs. Some might have heard from recruiters that “You have to be in a communication major to do a work in copywriting” or maybe in order to get that scholarship to a university, you have to be a specific student from a specific, well-known target school. Truth be told, that is not always the case. There will always be exceptions to the rule in practically everything.

Case in point, I came from a small town in Indonesia, not many people know where I came from or from which school I was, yet I managed to get to NTU with hard work and the right information.

If you find yourself that you’ve chosen the wrong path, think again. There are a lot of things that you can explore to supplement your “wrong” background to the path that you find most suitable for you. Show that you have the right skillset and the right attitude for that specific goal that you aim for, work hard and nurture a mutually beneficial relationship with experts in the field of interest to raise your professional profile and broaden your access to a bountiful of opportunities. Get out there, work hard, and don’t miss that opportunity!

Final Thoughts

A final word of advice from me is that you shouldn’t think too hard about this. If you were to pay attention to a lot of people around you, you’ll be surprised at how many of them felt “stuck” in the same situation that you are currently facing. While working in an area of study or work that you don’t like, it’s a good idea to figure out where you are right now, what you really want to do, and set specific goals on how you might achieve that goal.

Don’t just spend your free time on Facebook or doing meaningless activities that will eventually make you feel miserable. Take up a new hobby, participate in communities, and talk to more people. Learn photography, learn a new language, talk to more people, do whatever positive things that you like, and pray that opportunities come along at the right time.

Work hard enough at your current degree or your current job that you don’t like, invest your time to finish that degree, and save your money from that mediocre job. Who knows, maybe one day from the money that you save, from the relationship that you build with others, and the hobbies that you pursue, will one day open up plenty of opportunities, be it to take another education abroad, or to make an income in instead. It all starts with you, take ownership of your life and you will be amazed by your achievements later in your life.




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Born and Raised in Surakarta, Ignatius is currently pursuing an Engineering degree at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore. Prior to joining Indonesia Mengglobal, Ignatius was a former public relations officer at PINTU (Pelajar Indonesia NTU) and is currently a Business and Corporate Executive at PPIS (Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia Singapura). Ignatius is a friendly, supportive and inquisitive person, and he always eager to connect with others. Feel free to find him at his Quora, LinkedIn, and Facebook pages at the description below or drop an email to ignatiusadityah@gmail.com.
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