In my work with students over the years, I have often come across the sentiment that if you decide for whatever reason not to go into a career directly related to your degree, that your degree becomes less valuable to you, and that you’ll struggle to interest employers in what you’ve achieved through your university studies.
While it may be easy to see where this view comes from, it is also important to challenge it, as so many graduate opportunities (60%+) in the UK are open to any degree discipline. As one PPLS lecturer put in a session we co-hosted a couple of years ago
‘Some employers will want you for your knowledge; all employers will want you for your skills’
So it’s important to identify just what skills you’re developing and demonstrating through your studies, and then link them to career-areas you’re interested in/what particular employers are looking for. For more on just what these skills are, try the following resources:
- ‘skills for your CV’ section of the ‘Career Options’ info for your subject – English, Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology
- our new career-planning programme, Career Ed – reflective exercises to help you identify all your skills
….and then follow the sound advice of a recent PPLS grad on linking your skills to what different employers are looking for – make the connection!
‘Every interview I attended after graduation eventually reached the same question from an employer: “Why not Psychology?”
It is a reasonable question. Why spend four years studying a field to then pursue a job in another? After completing an MA in Psychology (along with two years of joint honours Philosophy, and some LEL subjects thrown in for good measure) I was faced with the same decision as many graduates from a range of disciplines – whether to seek employment directly related to my field of study, or to branch out in a new direction. For me, the decision was an easy one; my time studying had been highly enjoyable, but a career in professional psychology didn’t feel like the right fit.
For graduates, like myself, who decide to pursue a career away from their degree subject, the question then becomes how to market themselves to employers. How does a psychology student compete alongside a business student for a job in marketing, or a philosophy student make themselves appealing to an employer in journalism? The initial foray into the job market can be disheartening (rarely do you open the paper to a job advert proclaiming “Philosopher wanted”) but it is important not to lose faith in the value of your degree.
The most important thing I learned to do when trying to market myself to employers was to effectively evaluate and pitch the general, transferable skills studying Psychology had given me. Below is my quick list of the skills I gained:
- learned to conduct research effectively and manage a project;
- developed my critical and analytical skills;
- learned how to perform statistical analysis and present the results;
- honed my report writing skills through hours spent on essays, projects and dissertations
- gained invaluable experience and confidence in giving presentations.
All of these skills are heavily sought after by employers in a range of professions and industries.
If I could offer any advice to a student or graduate who may find themselves in the same position as me, it would be to consider every experience and opportunity you encounter in terms of the skills you gain from it. Pursue internships, outside activities and work experience wherever possible to practice applying your abilities and gain new ones, and when you consider your courses, don’t just think about the grades you achieved in the end, but the new skills you gained along the way.’ – recent PPLS grad