Careers

Ask A Career Coach: How Can New Grad Find Job Outside Major?

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I am graduating from college in two weeks and I'm looking for a job right now. I attended school on a four-year, full-tuition academic scholarship. I mention this because about two years into college, I realized I didn't like my major (biology) and wanted to switch to communications instead because I'd like to go into public relations, but because my scholarship had a time limit on it, I couldn't switch majors -- it would have added another year to my college period and I couldn't afford to pay out of pocket. I took one semester off for medical reasons and my scholarship was deferred then, but now I have to graduate this month or it will cost me about $12,000 per semester that I don't have. Am I expected to apply for jobs for graduates with biology degrees? And if I want to apply for a PR job, how do I explain why I have a bio degree? I did have one internship at a hospital in the PR department, but I felt like that was more because of my bio degree than anything else. Can you help?

Today’s question was answered by Barbara Gronsky, PhD, of Delaware Valley Career Solutions LLC:


I am sorry to hear about your dilemma job/major dilemma. Let me briefly explain how the job search process works. You are free to apply to any position you want, but in order to be invited in for an interview, you typically need to demonstrate the following:

1. Relevant education or certification, and

2. Relevant experience (often through internships) for that job.

You will be competing against individuals who have graduated with a degree in communications, journalism or public relations and the corresponding internships that match the work they are seeking.

Your internship in the PR department at the hospital does count, but it may not be enough to get you in the door.

You should also know that 70 percent of jobs involve someone knowing you, rather than merely responding to job postings. That means that your ability to build a strong network in PR would be helpful.

If I were you, I would find a job in biology (if they are simpler for you to get based on your background) for the time being to pay your bills. I would also check out one of the professional associations related to public relations (such as the Public Relations Society of America) and see if they offer any certifications or certificate programs. Hopefully you can afford to take those courses little by little. In your free time, I would also see if you can find volunteer work where you are doing publicity/media relations for an organization. VolunteerMatch.org is a clearinghouse of volunteer experiences nationally. Your goal is to build your portfolio of relevant knowledge and experience.

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