Taking a different career path from your education
I have a small problem. I pursued a Bachelor of Commerce degree, insurance option for my undergraduate studies. However, I have landed a job in project management and I am not sure whether this is the right career path since it is different from my college major. Although I like the job so far, I am not sure whether my lack of the necessary academic qualifications will hinder my career progression. Should I pursue a career path in project management, which I am enjoying, or should I quit and look for a job in an insurance-related field? Will my career progression really be affected by my lack of academic qualifications in project management?
Congratulations on finding a job that you love and taking the risk to pursue a different career path from your studies. This is a brave move and it will surely pay off in the long run.
That said, many people are finding themselves in totally different career paths from their educational backgrounds. With the rapid growth of technology, it is quite easy to literally do what you please and this will continue as technology gets into more aspects of our lives. Your career and education do not have to match perfectly because people change their career interests along the way for different reasons. We shall discuss some of them here. Additionally, academic qualifications have become bare-minimum requirements for getting into the job market and that means that most employers will often not care about your college major, as long as you can prove that you are skilled and are able to learn quickly.
Reasons your education and career path do not have to match
- Job availability: This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for taking a career path that is totally different from your education. In an increasingly shrinking job market, people are bound to take any job that comes their way since bills have to be paid. As such, most people tend to take the first job that comes their way even if it is not related to the courses they pursued on campus. As time passes, however, some people grow to love the jobs and choose to pursue that career path. This is what might have happened in your case.
- Different career interests: Let’s say you picked a college major without all the information you needed. However, as you progressed, you discovered other interests or talents and you decided to pursue them. This happens to a lot of people who end up in totally different careers from their college majors. Some people discover their talents and choose to make a career out of them while others just learn new skills and choose to go with them as career paths.
- Passion: The value of passion and career cannot be overemphasised. Sometimes, you develop a strong interest in a different career path and this launches a lifelong journey of a fulfilling career. Sometimes, you discover that you have a passion in a certain field and you choose to pursue it. This is important as you get to do a job that you love and you create growth opportunities for yourself.
- Limited opportunities: As technology changes how work is done and jobs are being taken up by technology, some jobs will require fewer people with higher skills to execute. As such, opportunities in such fields will become limited, forcing people who pursue courses in those fields to seek alternative career paths.
- Emerging jobs: Work, just like any other aspect of life, keeps evolving. For example, a couple of years ago, if you studied journalism, it was almost natural to go into the media or publishing industry. However, with that same course, you can now become a social media manager, PR specialist, or even a content marketer. Such scenarios have become common and people are commonly finding themselves in new fields that have nothing to do with their academic qualifications.
What you need to know when taking a career away from your educational qualifications
As much as you may be interested in a job that is not in line with your academic qualifications or it happens to be the only job available, it is necessary to know that there are a few things that will determine how successful you will be. These are things you ought to do to ensure that you demonstrate you have what it takes despite lacking the necessary academic qualifications.
- Take time to learn: It is evident that you will have to learn a new set of skills to enable you to perform your job well. As such, learn all you can on the job and make sure you apply these skills accordingly. This way, your performance will be great and you can quantify your accomplishments when you are applying for other jobs in future. The world is moving towards the ability to deliver as a prerequisite for a job so if you can prove that you can get the job done, you will be on your way to success.
- Use your transferable skills: There are skills that can be used in a couple of fields and they are usually soft skills such as report writing, communication skills and being creative. These are skills that can be liberally applied across different fields and while applying for jobs that are outside your college degree. It is important to show that you possess these skills, how you have used them in the past to accomplish what was required of you as well as other industry-specific skills that you have gained in your work.
- Undergo formal training: Since you have already chosen to take a career path in a field that you have no qualifications in, it is advisable to take professional development courses or a Masters degree so that you can gain more knowledge and of course, have the necessary academic qualifications. This will add to your suitability for future jobs and open positions as you can demonstrate that you have the ability to do the job as well as the necessary academic qualifications.
- Be proactive: Since you are starting from a lower point, you need to exert yourself so that you can learn what you need to learn so as to perform well. This means that you have to learn some things on your own and others from your colleagues. As such, you will need to learn and work at the same time. Make use of the resources at your disposal and whatever knowledge your colleagues have so that you can succeed. This may also mean doing extra work so that you can learn on the job.
- Set achievable targets for yourself: Targets will help you break down your career into manageable tasks, which you can use as learning and testing grounds for your skills. This will also help you gain skills in a systematic manner and soon enough, you will have mastered your job and the skills it involves. This will also set the stage for a successful career path in your chosen field as you will be able to prove that you have the skills required to deliver on your tasks.
- Network strategically: When you take up a job that is different from your college major, just like when you take a conventional career path, it is important to create strong networks, which will help you navigate the workplace and gain more skills. Through your networks, you can learn about training opportunities and other chances for you to gain the skills you need in your field and learn about emerging trends, which will come in handy now and in the future. As such, take a keen interest in your chosen field and make the right connections so as to grow.
- Develop the right attitude: Since you will be starting from a lower point than your colleagues, you are likely to feel inferior and hold back your ideas. However, take the bull by the horns and face your career choice with confidence. Develop a growth mindset. Be open to new learning opportunities. Don’t shy away from challenges and most importantly, ask for help whenever you see a need for it. This will help you grow and with time, you will feel comfortable in your new career, which will open new opportunities for you.
- Be a problem solver: Work is primarily about solving problems. It is about giving solutions that move the organisation forward. You are hired to combat the company’s pressure points so be creative and ensure that your work drives the company forward.
In conclusion, your career and education do not have to be directly related. You may choose to take a career path that is different from your academic qualifications because you have developed new interests and passions or maybe, the most available job at the moment is different from your academic qualifications.
Whatever the reason, it is possible to learn new skills and grow in your new career path. All you have to do is be open to new opportunities, learn, network, be proactive or even take up a course in the new field. This will set the stage for your success.
Would you consider a career path different from your educational qualification?