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If I graduate from college and realize I've chosen the wrong major, what are my options?

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I think many college students feel the stress of choosing the college major that is right for them-- what if they choose wrong? I'd like to know what my options are in case I find myself in this situation a few years down the road. Thanks! #choosing-a-major #majors #career-counseling

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Rebecca’s Answer

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Hi Evelynn!

Your college degree is important, but it's not everything. The fact that you have a college degree is usually all you will need to get your foot in the door. Most of my learning took place on the job. I received an International Business degree and now negotiate contracts for my career. I have no formal training and did not go to law school. If you don't have a highly specialized career, like software engineering, electrician or doctor (careers that require training to become an entry level employee), you will learn your skills on the job, most likely. These days, many companies will even encourage you to move around within the company, so your major matters even less! You could start in marketing and then realize you love sales or accounting and many companies will support you in that transition. That could even be a great question to ask during your interview.

Your option can always be to go back to school and receive another degree, but you can also try working to see what you like. And if one person doesn't see how your talent may translate to a specific role in the workplace, there are more employers out there - you don't have to take one person's advice as truth. I'm answering from a business perspective here, so if you are interested in a trade, you will probably need to go back to school. However, if you are interested in working in business or other non-technical fields, I would suggest interviewing first, then working for a year or two. See what interests you and start somewhere in the working world. If you realize you just cannot do what you want to, school could be the next option. Having that experience should also help you to better understand exactly what type of school you would need to go to, which could help you to be more focused in your school choice.

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Ken’s Answer

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The most important thing for you to do early on is to find out how your personality traits relate to people who are successful in careers, so that you can make an appropriate decision. If you follow the process as described below, you will lessen the possibility of making the wrong career decision. If you do find that you made a mistake, you can just go through the process again to reorient yourself.


Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
  • • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##
  • Here are some tips on how to reduce college costs. Too many people spend way too much money on an education and end up with unnecessarily high debt: ## http://www.educationplanner.org/students/paying-for-school/ways-to-pay/reduce-college-costs.shtml ##
• It really does not matter what school you attend, as the most important factors are how well you do with the school work, which is an indication to an employer about what kind of employee you will be, and the effort that you put forth in your networking to set up networking connections that will help you throughout your education/career journey. Here is an important video for you to watch: ## http://www.ted.com/talks/julie_lythcott_haims_how_to_raise_successful_kids_without_over_parenting?utm_campaign=social&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_content=talk&utm_term=education ## Ken Simmons Translate
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Catherine’s Answer

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Hi Evelynn,

I agree with Rebecca above, there are a lot of jobs/careers where the training is done on the job, but the degree/major gets the person in the door. Many majors are transferable to several different jobs and lead to different career paths. I majored in accounting and finance, but only about one third of my job responsibilities relate to technical accounting. The rest relate to project planning (determining the appropriate staffing, planned timing for projects), preparing and giving presentations on various topics (not directly related to accounting), giving trainings to develop the skills of others (again, not directly related to accounting), I provide the on the job training many times. Overall, I would not worry about choosing the "wrong" major, even if you complete college and obtain a degree, you most likely can find many different types of jobs with the degree and once you are in a job, you may be able to transition into a different type of role not directly related to your degree.

Best of luck.

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Brian A.’s Answer

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Hi Evelynn,

I agree with everything said above. I can tell you from personal experience that your college major will not determine your career path. I went to a liberal arts college and studied history. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I connected with my professors and loved the subject. I still have not found an opportunity to apply my knowledge of ancient mongolian warfare technology to anything I do today. But you can develop the same skills essential for success no matter what you study: organization, writing, study habits, critical thinking, and working collaboratively in groups. I ultimately went to graduate school after working several jobs and had a better sense of what I wanted to do and what I wanted to achieve in my career. It wasn't until my second year of law school taking a federal income tax that I discovered what would eventually my ultimate career path. When I was in college, I never would have imagined in a millions years that I'd be interested in corporate taxation, or that I would have a career in mergers and acquisitions.

So my advice is do not fret. Whatever you are currently doing, really apply yourself and work hard. Keep learning, keep improving yourself, and make a plan to get to where you want to go. You will be successful if you have some essential skills and will be happily surprised by the direction your career takes you.

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