College graduation is a major milestone in students’ lives, as well as that long-awaited, last leap into adulthood. However, one question lurks among college seniors and graduates: What am I going to do after college?
For many, life after college is far from a breeze. Trying to find a profession that is not only comfortable, but also challenging and directly related to one’s major can be difficult to find. Therefore, many college graduates fall into careers not necessarily pertaining to their original major.
"From my experience, it is very common for students to choose careers other than what they majored in,” University of La Verne Career Services Assistant Director Gabriel Alaniz said.
“The common misconception is that once a person majors in a certain degree, they are limited to careers strictly within that major,” Alaniz added. “Most majors are excellent foundations for a wide variety of jobs, which currently exist.”
Alaniz, who has had experience with students from ULV as well as California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, said there are a number of reasons why college graduates choose professions that have nothing to do with their majors, which include:
- Choosing a major because their family wanted them to
- Not understanding what career options exist for their particular major
- Changing interests during their time in college
- Realizing that they are dissatisfied with their major during their junior or senior year, but stick with it so they can graduate in four years
- Realizing that advanced education is required to pursue a particular type of profession within their major
- Desiring to make the most income possible after graduation and then switching to a profession that can offer that opportunity
Alaniz said that students who graduated from certain majors, such as liberal studies, business, accounting, engineering, nursing and architecture, generally stay committed to their current major within the context of a profession.
However, Alaniz said that students who chose communications, sociology, criminology, English, philosophy and political science as majors tend to go into a variety of professions which are not necessarily related to their major.
“What needs to be known is that majors can prepare students for a multitude of jobs,” Alaniz said. “A person may end up majoring in psychology, yet end up in a business career.”
University of La Verne alumna Katie Andrews, who graduated in 2002, did just that.
After taking a general psychology class in high school, Andrews wanted to explore psychology, as well as other aspects of human behavior while studying at La Verne.
“I actually picked behavioral sciences as my major during my freshman year,” Andrews said. “I decided this is where I would start because it was the only thing that really interested me. As I started taking classes at ULV in that major, I really enjoyed it and loved the teachers.”
“I actually really wanted to work in forensics and eventually work for the FBI, a long term goal of mine,” Andrews added.
When Andrews became a junior at the University, she decided to go into marriage and family therapy because she thought there would be a steady demand for it.
“It seemed as though I was always the mediator amongst my friends,” Andrews said. “I was a good listener and always managed to get my friends to see both sides of any argument. I figured this was something I could use in marriage and family therapy.”
However as Andrews began looking for a job after graduation, she discovered it was not easy to find a secure career within her field.
“I ran into a lot of, ‘You don’t have the experience we’re looking for,’” Andrews said.
Because Andrews moved out of her parents’ house, she had to find a job to support herself.
Meanwhile, Andrews found a job at Chick’s Sporting Goods in West Covina, where she was quickly promoted to two management positions within a year.
“I turned out to be a pretty good manager,” Andrews said. “I started thinking and looking back at all my work experience and figured I should go back and get my master’s in business. I thought this is where I really belonged.”
Andrews then found a sales representative position at IndyMac Bank, selling mortgages to mortgage brokers. She is now taking classes at ULV to get her MBA.
“I know you don’t necessarily need a Master’s to be a sales rep, but I figured going back and getting an education in business would help me excel in this field much more than my degree in behavioral sciences would.”
Andrew’s IndyMac coworker, Cynthia Doornik, also contemplated what to do after graduating from Azusa Pacific University in 2003, where she majored in business with a WEB/IT minor.
“I originally wanted to have a career in the fashion industry,” said Doornik, who was once an apparel manager at Chick’s Sporting Goods. “However, after nearly six years within the apparel industry, I learned that there was more to life than just clothes.”
“I think it is easy for people to immediately do what they know,” Doornik added. “I knew retail because that was all that I had experience with. However, it wasn’t challenging for me. I love being able to learn something new everyday.”
Doornik then considered getting a real estate license to work with her mother’s company. At the same time, Doornik interviewed for an account executive position in the Wholesale Mortgage Division at IndyMac Bank, where her older brother worked. After an interview and a few tests, she was offered the job, which she accepted in April 2005.
“Even though it wasn’t the career that I saw myself in as a child, I was able to see this as a new challenge,” Doornik said.
Alaniz said the college experience is much more than just gaining an academic degree.
“I believe the college experience is a time for holistic development,” Alaniz said. “Students’ world views, values and beliefs are challenged and refined, which leads to a greater understanding and appreciation of multiple subjects and interests upon graduation.”
“I don’t regret getting my degree in behavioral sciences, even though I think I should have declared business as my major,” Andrews said. “Having a background in psychology and sociology helps me analyze any situation and how to act or to react with my clients.”
“Every course I took in college has been significant to my current occupation,” Doornik said. “I originally decided to be a business major because I knew that I would have many options for my career.”
Alaniz believes that it is better for college graduates to work at a job for a couple of years and then realize it is not a good fit, rather than beginning that process later in life when responsibility and financial expenses increase.
“One of the biggest fears that college students face being stuck in their first profession, even though they may hate it,” Alaniz said. “This mindset presents a lot of anxiety to choose the ‘right’ profession straight out of college.”
“The advice I would give to students is simple,” Alaniz added. “Begin to understand that there is nothing wrong with having multiple interests.”
Tracy Spicer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.