Why It’s Great To Pursue A Career Outside Your Field Of Study

Komal Sharma

Last Updated: June 13, 2024
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You’ve put in years of hard work into your education, pulling all-nighters, sacrificing sleep to complete assignments, and rushing to the exam hall. Your student loans are looming, and you’ve even spotted your first grey hair due to the pressure. Despite all your efforts, your degree hasn’t led to the stable job you had hoped for.

Who would have imagined that studying philosophy wouldn’t lead to any job options on a career website? Or that your love for technology would result in endless hours of answering Excel queries? Nothing seems to have gone according to plan. Your degree was meant to open doors to success, but instead, it has left you with more doubts and the fear that the past four years were a waste.

But here’s the thing: it’s totally okay to switch up your career path and venture into something unrelated to your field of study. Many individuals switch careers, sometimes taking on roles that are different from their initial ambitions. It’s natural for aspirations to change over time, even during your college years. And it’s totally okay to go beyond the conventional. And for that, we’re here to tell you why changing careers is not only acceptable but often a wise decision.

Should I Follow My Heart Or Stick To My Field Of Study?

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Many individuals believe that their chosen career path should directly align with their field of study. However, this needn’t always be the case. It is totally acceptable to pursue a career that does not tick with your educational degree.Your interests, skills, and passions can lead you to various career paths, and it’s important to explore and follow what makes you happy and fulfilled. Your degree is just one part of who you are, and it’s okay if your career doesn’t perfectly align with it.

The courses we take in college or university often seem to determine the profession we will have for the rest of our lives, or at least that’s what we’ve always thought. But guess what? A significant part of the graduate population make career shifts and take on roles that initially don’t align with their desired career path as undergraduates.

And you know what? That’s fine! It’s normal for your goals to change and evolve, even while you’re still in college. Let’s say, for example, you have a passion for playing with toy cars, but you end up studying plant growth in school. Sure, even if you choose to study plants, you can still chase your dream of becoming a race car driver when you’re older. It’s perfectly okay to choose a job that brings you happiness, even if it’s not directly related to your field of study. 

Your college years are a time of exploration and growth, both academically and personally. It’s okay to start studying one thing and then realise that your true passion lies elsewhere. For example, you might enter college thinking you want to study business, but as you learn more, you discover a love for art history. 

This shift in interests is natural and can lead to exciting opportunities. Just because you study one thing in college doesn’t mean you’re locked into that field for the rest of your life. You can always pursue your passions and dreams, even if they seem unrelated to your field of study.

In fact, having a diverse set of skills and experiences can make you more adaptable and marketable in the job market. Employers appreciate candidates who can think creatively and offer a fresh point of view. So, if you find yourself drawn to a career that doesn’t align with your field of study, don’t be afraid to pursue it. Follow your passions and interests, and you’ll find a path that’s uniquely yours.

Your education equips you with valuable skills that can help you succeed in any job you choose. So, don’t hesitate to follow your dreams and do what you love, even if it diverges from what you studied in school. Now that we know that it’s okay to pursue a career that doesn’t align with your field of study, Let’s talk about the doors of opportunities you can open in terms of your career and growth.

Broad Skills Acquired In Education 

  • Transferable skills from various subjects: This means you learn different skills from all your subjects in school, like how to communicate well, work in a team, and solve problems. These skills can be used in many different jobs, even if they’re not directly related to what you studied.
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills: These are skills you learn that help you think carefully about things and find solutions to problems. For example, if you’re trying to build a LEGO tower and it keeps falling over, you use your critical thinking and problem-solving skills to figure out how to make it more stable. These skills are important in any job you choose, whether it’s related to your field of study or not.

Evolving Interests And Passions 

  • Personal growth and development: As you grow up, you discover new things that interest you and make you happy. For example, you might have studied science in school but later realise you love making art. Pursuing art can help you grow as a person and develop new skills, even if it’s different from your initial studies.
  • New opportunities and experiences: Trying new things can lead to exciting opportunities and experiences. For instance, you might have studied music in school but discovered a passion for helping others. You could then pursue a healthcare career, where you can use your skills to make a positive impact, even though it’s different from studying music.

Changing Job Market Demands

  • Flexibility and adaptability: The job market is always changing, and sometimes the available jobs may not match exactly with what you studied. Being flexible means you’re open to trying different things and adapting to new situations. For example, if you studied computers but there are more job opportunities in healthcare, being flexible can help you explore new career paths and succeed in different fields.
  • Importance of continuous learning: In today’s world, it’s important to keep learning new things even after you finish school. This helps you stay updated with the latest trends and skills needed for different jobs. For instance, if you studied business but found a job in technology, continuous learning can help you acquire the skills necessary for your new role.

Looking At The Brighter Side Of Pursuing A Non-Aligned Career

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  • Personal Satisfaction: When you do something you like, you’re more likely to find your work fulfilling and enjoyable. This can bring a greater sense of satisfaction and personal fulfilment to your professional life.
  • Expanded Skill Set: By studying various subjects, you expose yourself to a wide range of skills that can be valuable in different fields. For example, studying literature can improve your communication skills, while studying maths can enhance your analytical abilities. Having a diverse skill set makes you more adaptable and capable of taking on new challenges in various job roles.
  • Fresh Perspectives: Working in a field unrelated to your studies exposes you to different ways of thinking and problem-solving. This can broaden your perspective and help you develop a more well-rounded view of the world. For instance, someone who studied engineering but works in marketing may bring a unique analytical approach to their work, setting them apart from their colleagues.
  • Expanded Opportunities: Exploring different career paths can open up new opportunities that you may not have considered before. For example, someone who studied biology but discovers a passion for writing may pursue a career in science communication, leading to an unexpected and fulfilling career path.
  • Broadening Perspectives: Trying out a different career path, unrelated to your academic history, has the potential to bring about significant personal and professional development. It encourages you to learn new skills, adapt to unfamiliar environments, and overcome obstacles, ultimately contributing to your overall growth in the professional realm.

Leveraging Education And Skills In Unrelated Careers

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Don’t stress if your job isn’t exactly what you studied for – you can still shine! Here’s how:

  • Identify Transferable Skills: Find skills that can transfer over from your education and past jobs. For example, if you studied finance but now work in sales, your analytical skills can still come in handy.
  • Internship: Learning extends beyond the boundaries of conventional classrooms. Uncover your passions and uncover the perfect career path by embarking on an internship. Acquire priceless hands-on training from professionals in the industry, enabling you to polish your skills and broaden your network. Internships provide practical experience that enriches your resume or CV, regardless of whether you intend to deviate from your current field of study. They offer a platform to cultivate workplace skills, forge meaningful connections, and delve into potential career avenues.
  • Highlight Relevant Experience: Talk about relevant experiences, even if they seem unrelated. If you’ve led a team before, those leadership skills are always valuable.
  • Learn Continuously: Keep learning! Stay open to new knowledge related to your current job. Take online courses, attend workshops, or get on-the-job training. Your eagerness to learn will show your flexibility and dedication.
  • Expanding Your Connections: Connect with experts in your chosen industry by participating in industry gatherings, becoming a member of pertinent groups, and networking on platforms such as LinkedIn. Building relationships can lead to exciting prospects and gainful knowledge from peers in your field.
  • Customise Your Resume: Customise your resume to highlight the skills and experiences that matter most in your new career. Show how your background makes you a strong candidate, even if it’s not the typical path.

By using your education and skills in a different career, you can demonstrate your adaptability and worth to potential employers, setting yourself up for a successful transition.

Successful Individuals Who Changed Careers

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Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of people who have found success by switching careers and stepping outside their original field of study.

  • Elon Musk: Although Elon Musk is mainly recognised for his contributions to the technology and aerospace sectors, his academic foundation lies in physics and economics. Even without a formal education in computer science or engineering, Musk has emerged as a highly influential figure in the tech industry. His unconventional thinking and unwavering drive for innovation have been instrumental in his remarkable achievements. 
  • Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw started her career as a brewer but later ventured into biotechnology. She founded Biocon, a biopharmaceutical company, and became one of the leading businesswomen in India, known for her contributions to the healthcare industry.
  • Chetan Bhagat: Chetan Bhagat is an IIT and IIM graduate who worked in investment banking before becoming a successful author. His novels, often inspired by his own life experiences, have resonated with readers across India.
  • Oprah Winfrey: Oprah Winfrey began her professional journey as a news anchor and journalist, yet her heart belonged to the world of entertainment. Even without prior experience in acting or showbiz, Winfrey followed her dreams and emerged as a prominent figure in the media industry. With unwavering dedication, perseverance, and a special talent for connecting with others, Winfrey established a powerful legacy and left an indelible mark on television and media.
  • Nawazuddin Siddiqui: Nawazuddin Siddiqui worked as a chemist before pursuing a career in acting. He struggled initially but gained recognition for his performances in films like “Gangs of Wasseypur” and “The Lunchbox,” establishing himself as one of the most talented actors in Bollywood.
  • Sundar Pichai: Sundar Pichai initially pursued a degree in metallurgical engineering but later shifted to computer science. He worked in engineering and product management at Applied Materials and McKinsey & Company before joining Google. Pichai eventually became the CEO of Google and its parent company, Alphabet Inc.
  • Steve Jobs: Even though he studied physics and literature, Steve Jobs helped start Apple, a company that changed the tech world. His knowledge of physics probably helped him think outside the box when designing products, and his literature studies might have helped him connect with customers. Jobs’ accomplishments show that different educational backgrounds can lead to big successes in surprising areas.
  • JK Rowling: Even though JK Rowling focused on French and the Classics in her studies, she managed to achieve incredible success as an author with the Harry Potter series. Her knowledge of languages and classical literature probably played a role in the detailed world-building and captivating storytelling found in her books. Rowling’s story proves that a love for storytelling can break through academic boundaries and result in extraordinary achievements.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger: Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite his studies in business and international economics, decided to follow his passion for bodybuilding. Surprisingly, he not only excelled in this field but also went on to become a renowned actor and politician. It’s fascinating to think that his business knowledge might have contributed to his ability to manage his career and investments effectively. Additionally, his international perspective could have played a significant role in his widespread popularity as an actor and politician. Schwarzenegger’s journey serves as a perfect example of how diverse interests and skills acquired through education can pave the way for success in various domains.

These examples show that success can be achieved by those who don’t stick to a traditional career path. By following their passions and exploring different fields, these people have made a big impact and achieved great success in their respective industries.

Transitioning Into The Career You Love

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  • Assess your passions and skills: Before making any decision, it’s crucial to carefully assess your interests and abilities. Take the time to understand what truly excites you and where your strengths lie. By conducting a thorough self-assessment, you’ll be able to determine the type of work that will bring you both personal and professional satisfaction. Reflect on the activities that ignite your passion, the areas where you’ve achieved success in the past, and the skills you’ve acquired throughout your career. This reflection will guide you in making informed decisions and finding a new career path that aligns with your goals and aspirations.
  • Explore your new field of work: Once you have identified your interests and skills, it is crucial to thoroughly research the industry you want to enter. Knowing the current trends, growth opportunities, and challenges facing the sector will provide you with a solid foundation to make informed and strategic decisions. Research the key companies and organisations in the industry, their company culture, their history, and their market position. It is also important to keep up to date with the latest news and developments in the industry, as this will allow you to stay on top of changes and adapt quickly. Additionally, look for opportunities to network and connect with professionals already working in the field, as their experience and knowledge can provide you with valuable perspectives. Thoroughly researching your new industry will help you position yourself effectively and make the most of your career transition.
  • Build up a list of connections: Establishing a solid network is crucial for a successful career shift. Forming professional connections can unlock new opportunities for your professional advancement. Start by participating in industry events, conferences, and trade shows. These gatherings bring together experts in your field and create a great networking atmosphere. Also, utilise online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with individuals in your desired industry. Remember, it’s not just about making contacts, but also about nurturing authentic and mutually beneficial relationships. Keep in mind that building a network requires dedication and hard work, but the benefits it can offer to your career transition are invaluable.
  • Make sure to refresh your resume and enhance your skill set: It’s crucial to keep your resume and skills current when navigating a career transition. Make sure your resume highlights your accomplishments, skills, and experience accurately. Consider adding visual elements like charts or infographics to make it more appealing to potential employers. Don’t forget to invest time in enhancing your skills by taking online courses or getting certifications. Continuous learning and skill improvement are key in today’s fast-paced work environment. Stay prepared for new challenges and opportunities by staying up to date with your resume and skills.
  • Stay calm and adaptable as things change: During a career transition, it is essential to be patient and flexible. You may encounter obstacles and setbacks along the way, but it is important to stay calm and adapt to changing circumstances. Be aware that the transition process may take time and require adjustments to your initial plans. Keep an open mind and be willing to explore different options and paths in your search for a new career. Take advantage of learning and growth opportunities that arise during this period, whether through internships, volunteering, or temporary jobs. Remember that each experience can provide you with valuable new skills and perspectives. Patience and flexibility will allow you to adapt and thrive in your new career path.

Explore Careers You Love

It’s important to understand that it’s totally okay and sometimes even beneficial to follow a career path that doesn’t exactly match your area of study. Although your education will definitely impact your career, being open to new opportunities and creating your distinct journey can result in rewarding and prosperous results.

If you need help, support, or some expert advice, Mentoria is here to assist you. Our team of experienced mentors is ready to guide personalised strategies and helpful tips to enhance your preparation. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us; we’ll be your guiding star on the path to success.