Major in How To Learn
Your college major is not your resume. Your resume is a set of skills.
Before I realized this truth, I thought I had made a huge mistake in picking my college major. But not for the reasons you might assume. You might guess that a Millennial would major in something that would land her in her parents’ basement and leave her wishing she had picked something practical.
But I’m a practical person. I went into engineering, so I could find a job with security and an above-average salary straight out of college. This sounds like a smart choice for an 18-year old, but I was so focused on what my life should look like that I forgot to stop and ask myself what I wanted it to look like. By the spring of 2009, I had a degree in Construction Engineering and Management, I had a job with a top Fortune 500 company lined up, and I was terrified that I had picked a career I would hate.
When I got out of college, I completed my first big construction project to prove to myself that my degree had not been a mistake. After that, I tried out a smaller construction company, just to make sure I was not prematurely “giving up.” When I’d finally had enough (after a little more than four years), I left the industry to enjoy some funemployment in the mountains of Salt Lake City. I thought my perfect career would magically present itself to me. Surely the only reason I hadn’t figured it out was that I hadn’t had enough free time to think about what I wanted to do with my life…
I was wrong. Five months later I wasn’t any closer to knowing what I wanted to do. However, I had thought a lot about which parts of my last career made me excited to go to work and which things made me hate it.
Learn how to learn.
Eventually, it was clear to me that I wanted to completely switch industries because the things I didn’t like about construction were systemic throughout the entire industry, regardless of which part you play. So, if I was going to make a major career shift, I realized I had to stop looking at that major listed at the top of my resume as limiting and start looking at it as a set of experiences and skills that I had gained.
My resume listed my experience in construction project management, but what that really boiled down to was this: I knew how to balance conflicting requests, create schedules, manage a budget, communicate with people of all education levels, use Excel to analyze data, pay attention to detail, and — most importantly — adapt quickly to change. Once I looked at my resume through the lens of skill-sets, I realized I had so many options.
Let’s face it. A degree doesn’t necessarily teach you how to do your first job out of college anyway. After four years of college, all I’d really learned was how to learn to do my first job. The main advantage a degree offers is knowledge of some industry jargon, so you don’t sound like a total idiot… but you’ll still sound like an idiot when you start a new job. And that’s okay. People will want to teach you, but if they don’t, then you are in the wrong place. A Stanford study found that employers actually value potential over experience in many cases. Knowing that, you should always highlight how your past experience is a good indicator for professional growth. Successful companies embrace this over competency-based hiring.
Make your work-life fit your life-life.
When I thought about what was important to me to feel fulfilled in my job, I decided I wanted to work in a place where I would constantly learn because that is what energizes me. I wanted to work with positive people because my attitude is influenced by those around me. I wanted an actual work/life balance because I enjoy a lot of hobbies that bring happiness to my life outside of work.
Luckily, a friend reached out to me from Clearlink, suggesting that I was a good fit for a position on the Paid Search team. I had never even heard of Paid Search, but during my time in construction, I used to tag along to her company events because my job was not providing many opportunities to branch out and meet new people. I had even perused Clearlink’s job page when I was unemployed, but I didn’t think I’d be qualified for any of the positions. So I was pretty ecstatic when I read the job description she sent me and realized that it perfectly fit my personality and skills.
In online marketing, the business landscape and industry rules are constantly changing. As a result, your skills and knowledge are constantly in flux, too. So even as I gain knowledge in my field, I am constantly learning alongside my team. It makes work exciting, and I’m confident I won’t get bored.
One of Clearlink’s main goals is to “create and maintain valuable relationships” on every level. We really take this to heart, which fosters a genuinely cooperative and collaborative company. As a result, I’ve regained the smile I used to wear to work every morning. I love working with people who are always helping me learn and who are really enjoyable to be around.
At Clearlink, I finally have a 40-hour workweek and my personal time is valued. I have more energy because I have a great work/life balance that allows me to fit in all the things that make me happy outside of work. That translates into being happier and more productive while I’m at work, too.
The Millennial generation gets a lot of bad press, but we will be the generation to redefine everything from careers to marriage. We’re not all irresponsible “kids” who refuse to grow up. We’re simply not willing to accept the status quo, and as a result we’re not afraid to redefine ourselves as well. The more you invest in your ability to learn, the more varied your experiences in life will be. As far as I can tell, that’s what makes my generation tick. So it’s time for us to stop worrying so much about college majors and focus on learning how to learn instead.