When choosing a career, young adults often find themselves under a lot of pressure to pick just one. That translates into one college major and one career path for them to follow to success. But is that always the best way to go? Many veterans in business would say no. But why?
The Millennial Reality
The harsh reality is that millennials are faced with a tougher job market than our parents survived. This is not just due to high unemployment rates around the world, but also increased job uncertainty.
In the days of our parents and grandparents it was customary to stick with one job for ten years or the rest of your life. For millennials that’s often not an option.
Businesses change management and drop employees. They outsource to other locations and completely uproot with little regard for those left behind. Big corporations file for bankruptcy due to mismanagement of funds. And positions are made redundant to pay for the CEO’s jetsetting lifestyle.
So what does this have to do with picking just one or multiple career paths?
Words from the Wise
While in college, I had the pleasure of learning from a human resource specialist with decades of experience in the field. She was a great lecturer; it was hard to imagine she ever did anything else with her life. Yet, one day she confessed her first degree was in hospitality, and that for years she had worked in the tourism industry in Jamaica.
Aside from the fact that she studied two different degrees and had long tenures in separate fields, she also owned a business. When she wasn’t lecturing at the university, she was consulting with entrepreneurs on the island. Her career history was proof that two passions could coexist as part of a successful career.
“Don’t waste your time studying in one field for the rest of your lives,” she warned us. “You have to be flexible, and that means being employable in not just one area but several. Your generation will not have the chance to work at one job for the rest of your lives, like mine did.”
From the Arts to Business
Her words resonated with me. Unlike everyone else in my class, I started off as an art student in high school, and then for two years of my associate’s degree. But when it was time to start my four-year bachelor’s, I switched to business.
So while everyone else was working on balance sheets, I was trying to analyze the underlying themes in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There were many people who felt this was a bad move on my part – a terrible career decision.
Why did I bother to study the arts in the first place? And though business was a much “safer” degree, would I even be able to keep up in my classes, with students who had the better sense to focus on business all along?
The proof was in the pudding in that one – and the pudding had me graduating top of my major in 2012. I was the only one who graduated with first class honours, and I won the HRM award for excellence.
From HRM to Finance
But when I finally landed a job, it wasn’t in human resource management; it was in finance. I filed taxes for big corporations for two years, and even became a certified payroll professional (CPP), while I was at it.
After the first six months on the job, I had a sit-down with the senior on my team and told her point-blank the training methods were boring and ineffective. Sure I learned, but that was because I took learning into my own hands. No wonder the American team thought we didn’t know what we were doing.
The Director was perhaps more amused by my complaints than anything else, but after rave reviews from the supervisor I trained, they decided to give me a shot at doing things my own way.
Needles to say, those HR skills came in handy as I helped to improve processes, train new-hires, and document training material. Unfortunately, the company thanked me by throwing more work my way, but no extra hours, and no extra pay.
So in time, I came to my senses and left to pursue a more fulfilling career as a freelance content strategist. Explaining that decision perhaps requires a brief trip back to the start of my college career.
Bridging the Gap
When I first started college at sixteen, I freelanced as an editor to help make ends meet. I didn’t have to look very far for clients. Teachers loved my writing and bragged about it in the classroom and to their colleagues.
There were plenty of new high school graduates struggling to transform their work from secondary to tertiary grade language, and they all came running to me.
Over the years, I expanded my services to include social media, blogging, website building… and then expanded so much it made sense to transform my business from freelancing to a company. It now operates as Alexis Chateau PR, with College Mate providing our student services at discounted rates.
The projects I complete at Alexis Chateau PR makes perfect use of the writing skills I honed in art school, and the editing skills that followed. I also make full use of my creative skills while working on blog posts, websites, ads, and memes.
My business bolsters my art degree by providing me with the the skills I need to manage my own business without a hitch – at least so far, anyway. And so, the marriage between my art degree and my HRM degree has been a peaceful one. I consider them both indispensable to my career and the welfare of my business.
The point of all this is you shouldn’t limit yourself just because it looks good on a resume. Any mix of degrees is marketable if you know how to present yourself well, and have the talent and skill to prove it.
I thank my university for teaching me this lesson early on, and for the HRM lecturer who told us:
We’re not sending you out there to look for jobs. Our aim is to educate graduates who leave us to create employment for themselves and others.
So find a way to tie your passions together and your career path will be long and fruitful.