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Alternative paths: How your degree does not determine your career

Trinity College Foundation Studies

Fri Aug 25 2017


Many graduates believe that after investing time, money and effort during their studies, they will naturally land a job directly related to their degrees.

While that may be the case for some, others might not be as fortunate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t live out a successful career in a different role or a different industry altogether.

Understanding your skills, interests and experiences

Understanding what you are capable of is very important. and only then can you begin to form an idea of what roles you can fill. So step away from the laptop, baby!

What you learn from your studies and your work experiences can help you excel in roles that might not be directly related to your course.

Think about all the ways in which your degree has assisted you in acquiring or refining skills in areas such as research, teamwork, public speaking and more. The same can be applied to your work experiences, voluntary or paid. Ask yourself what tasks you were given and how you accomplished them. What instructions were you given and how did you respond to feedback? Were you a strong team player? Were you able to work independently? What did you enjoy most about your work?

Reflecting on what you’re good at and understanding how you might have applied your knowledge in different situations and scenarios will ultimately lead you to a better understanding of what roles you can apply for and what industries you could possibly excel at.

For example, if you’re a history major you’re not just limited to researching the past. Instead, you can use your history major to advance a career in curation and exhibitions, government or education. This all depends on how you view your experiences and how you can mould them to find something better suited to your abilities rather than trying to fit into something that doesn’t quite define you.

Famous people who’ve gone beyond their studies

If need further convincing that your degree is not a signifier of who you are, look no further than towards some of the most well-known names in the world today.

Former Prime Minster of Australia Kevin Rudd once studied at the Australian National University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Chinese language. During his political career, Mr Rudd used his knowledge of Mandarin as a means of diplomacy and further reinforced ties between Australia and China.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson went to the University of Miami and completed a Bachelor of General Studies where he specialised in criminology and physiology. He would later to go on to find success as a professional wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment where he won several championships and is now leading a career in film and television as an actor and producer.

Lisa Kudrow, widely recognised for her role as Phoebe on Friends, studied psychobiology and was on her way to getting a study published before deciding she wanted to be an actress instead. Edward Norton studied history at Yale but that didn’t prevent him from becoming a great actor. And several of The Simpsons’ writers during its early years had advanced degrees in maths which led to specific math humour that only hardcore mathematicians would get being inserted into episodes.

What this means

This is all to say that your degree should not define who you are or what you’re capable of. And even if you do still end up deciding that you want to pursue a job directly related to your degree after graduation, perhaps think outside the box and consider how you might fit in with other industries.

Every industry needs an accountant, for example — someone to do the numbers and work on the payroll. Imagine being an accountant for an arts organisation or a cinema. You’d probably get way more perks to perhaps see shows or films for free rather than working at an accounting firm!

So good luck with the job-hunt graduates but just remember that you aren’t what your degree says you are.

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via