If you’ve followed along for a while, you probably know I started my working career in something completely different than my major right after I graduated from college. Before graduating from UT with a Petroleum Engineering degree, I was 99% certain I didn’t want to pursue any jobs in petroleum engineering.
Instead, I took some time to find opportunities outside of my major so I could apply for jobs that aligned more closely to what I really wanted in a career. At the time, I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. “Will this even work for me? Is anyone else doing it like this? What if this doesn’t work out?“
This blog post is for anyone who’s currently in the same position I was in a few years ago: close to graduating with an unfulfilling major or not wanting to change degrees to save money. It’s also for anyone who’s currently unfulfilled at their current job.
I hope this guide helps you find a more fulfilling job, something that you enjoy and uses your talents and skills to the fullest.
Assess your job skills, your “nice-to-haves”, and dislikes.
The first thing I recommend doing is figuring out a few things you want in a future job. Grab any notebook and pen you have lying around and make three columns. At the top, label them accordingly: skills, wants, and dislikes in a future job.
Are you gifted in anything specific? If you don’t know yet, here are a few tests you can take to find your skills and talents. What are some things you could see yourself enjoying at a job? What are some things you definitely don’t want to have?
For example, there were a few things I knew for sure when I graduated from college: I knew I had an eye for aesthetically-pleasing design. I knew how to work a camera. I knew I wanted to use those skills in a job (not something I’d probably be able to do at an engineering job). I was certain I didn’t want to work alone at my first job. I also knew I didn’t want to work weekends.
List things that you know for sure about yourself. This is not the end-all, be-all. It’s just a starting place to where you will go in the future. You might already have an idea what you want to do, but I still highly recommend doing this exercise. It will really help you narrow down your options when you’re considering what you really want in a future job.
Plus, it’s a pretty interesting thing to look back on once you do land the job of your dreams. You’ll realize how some of your priorities have changed or stayed the same.
Start slow and don’t rush.
Next, please don’t try to hurry the process of finding a job you love, love, love right after school. It’s super stressful putting yourself through that much pressure to find a full-time job absolutely different from your college major. Manage those expectations if you haven’t built up the experience to prove you’re qualified for the roles you want yet.
I know it might be uncomfortable to take a job you don’t love 100% right when you graduate, but you’ll be much less stressed knowing you’re giving yourself time to build skills and make the right connections. When I was looking for full-time social media jobs as an engineering major, I knew I needed the time to gain internship experience, meet business owners, and make friends in the industry. It took me almost three years to really feel confident that I had enough experience to apply for the jobs I wanted.
Be practical about the jobs you can do to make you money right now, while prioritizing time to do what you can with what you have. How many hours could you dedicate towards learning what you really want to do outside your current responsibilities?
If you currently work a 9 to 5 job you don’t enjoy, is there a way you could work a few hours on the weekend to build up experience? Could you set up a few coffee dates or video calls during the week to make some connections? If you can find ways to prioritize the job you really want with the responsibilities you currently have, you’ll be much more successful in taking that next step.
Find time to help small businesses.
As you might have read in How to Land Your First Internship with a Small Business, I’m a huge proponent of interning with small businesses as opposed to large corporations.
Big companies might have the resources to give you a better-paid internship and maybe more mentorship support, but small businesses can offer some valuable things as well. If you’re really looking to find your skills, companies with less people on staff typically allow you a more agile, diverse, and flexible work experience.
With a small business, you can typically have your hands in more things and see more behind-the-scenes processes. I highly recommend applying to internships or part-time opportunities with a small business if you haven’t considered it already.
Continually update your resume with your relevant experience.
One of the most helpful things I learned at the beginning of my career (which honestly should go under the 5 Things You Should Know About Life After College blog post) is that there are so many things you can and should be proud of. Once you learn a new skill or you hit a milestone that could be counted as relevant experience, write it down—both for yourself and your resume.
For example, at one of my first jobs, I was assigned to write email marketing copy for all customers. I wasn’t in charge of anything email-related, but it was something I was interested in doing. I took the opportunity to write and learn my way through it. By the end of my job, I could proudly write, “I wrote copy for 30+ emails with an average open rate of 40%,” which is really high for industry standards.
Celebrate your successes at internships and part-time experiences that could count on your resume. Update it as soon as you can, so you’re not scrambling to remember the great things you accomplished the next time you need to update your resume.
Make connections and apply to entry-level positions.
Once you’ve built up enough internship experience or part-time experience to feel confident to apply for the jobs you want, start making genuine connections with people at the companies you want to work for.
It might sound difficult, but it really doesn’t have to be too complicated. If you want to work somewhere specific, I’m sure you might have questions what it’s really like working there. What’s the work culture like? What are the typical responsibilities of the role you want? Do they like where the office is located? Ask questions to people who work at the company. They’ll be more interested in the possibility of hiring you if you show interest first.