What if my major doesn’t match my career plans?

Your major is supposed to be the subject you care most about for the rest of your life, right? Well, not necessarily. I’ve seen a lot of students this year who for one reason or another are in a major they like, but don’t love. I’ve seen several students who do love their major but would like to try something else out. Common questions I hear are: what do I say about it? How can I find a job outside of this field? What does this mean for finding an internship?

Your career prospects are certainly not doomed if you don’t want a job in your major, for a variety of reasons. The first is that the foundational skills you develop through your major (and all of your other classes) will be needed in the majority of jobs out there, in whatever field you decide to explore.

The second is that most employers are looking for evidence of the skills they need to get the job or internship done. While a major is a strong indicator of skills in some fields, most employers would love to see experiences beyond the classroom: internships, campus leadership positions and jobs, volunteer activities, athletics, and more.

If your major isn’t your “passion,” allocate some time in your regular week for the experiences, roles, and activities that are closer to what you find meaningful and interesting. It is never too early or too late to begin the exploration process for what you do like if you’re not sure what that is.

Side note: Many people have different passions over the course of their life. Some people have several passions at once, others have one for many years, and then a different one after that. For more on seeking out “career passion” and what that means, check out this article. Paula’s article is written for graduate students, but it applies to anyone just starting out at any level.

Okay, but what about finding an internship?

If you are exploring internships that aren’t related to your major (marketing internships and you’re a mechanical engineering major), it will be important to determine what pieces of your major will translate (e.g. knowing how to frame and tackle problems; good at analyzing data) and how they translate (e.g. what does the field of marketing do with data?). Then, share your interest and those pieces that transfer in your conversations with employers at job fairs, in networking chats, and in your cover letters. This may require a bit of work, but employers need to be able to clearly understand the “how” and the “why” of your major and your goals. Students who do this preliminary research stand out to employers, regardless of their major.

I’d rather talk this major-career thing out…Great! Current UW Seattle students (and recent alumni) are welcome to come on in and talk to one of us career counselors.

By Catherine Basl
Catherine Basl Career Counselor Catherine Basl