It’s one thing to talk about what you want to be when you grow up – it’s another to actually be the thing you talk so much about. Talking about something and doing something are very separate. One of the reasons I believe in internships so much is because they teach you about a certain field or industry and enable you to make an educated decision about whether or not you want to pursue that field after the internship. When we are forced to make decisions about our careers and our majors before we’ve had any time to really learn about that field or experience that industry – aren’t we just making an uneducated decision? How can you possibly select your major as an underclassman? Regardless of my opinions on when we should select our majors – we select them when we select them. So the question is; what happens when we want to change our major? Is that okay? What will employers think of that choice? How do we explain ourselves? For this blog, I wanted to provide some answers for you:
• It’s okay to change your major.
• The most stressful part of changing your major is that there might be different courses required for you to get into that major or for you to maintain your current school status (junior, senior) in a new major. I’d suggest looking into this BEFORE you change your major. More work shouldn’t deter you from changing your major but you should make this decision educated on the process and what’s involved.
• Speak to an academic advisor and determine if changing your major will delay your graduation (because of extra coursework). Again, you want to make decisions with as much information as possible.
• If you are confused as to whether or not to change your major because of a career choice, do some research to find out if that career usually requires job applicants to be a certain major. For example, many finance companies will only hire FINANCE majors so if you are a business or economics major you might want to rethink your major if you desire to work at a finance company.
• If you decide to change your major, think about what drove you to do so. These reasons will come in handy when you need to put them into words during an interview with a future employer who asks you about your decision.
• Concerned about going into your new career in business marketing with an engineering management major on your resume? Don’t worry about this – all that you need is a strong cover letter that clearly explains why you switched majors and how that major change makes you a great fit for that company. You should also be able to clearly articulate this for the interview.
• Another thought for you: you don’t always have to change your major just because your career ambitions change. For example, I have a lot of students who are business or marketing majors and reach out asking if they need to change their major because they want to go into public relations or advertising. I usually advise them against changing their major as that typically means delaying graduation and repeating classes that tend to be very similar at the core. Industries like communications, advertising, marketing, and public relations are all so similar that typically a change in major isn’t necessary. Employers are looking at candidate’s resumes trying to find something relevant – any of those options work.
• Sometimes more important than the title of your major is the actual experience you’ve had in that new major. If you are a finance major who wants to work in the advertising industry and you’ve interned at the biggest advertising firm in New York City – that’s going to impress an employer regardless of your major. Internship experience helps the employer really connect you to their position. They can say to themselves, “This candidate is interning and therefore showing us this is an industry they care to learn more about.”
• An example for you. In my book, ALL WORK, NO PAY I give the example of my best friend who was an art history major at the University of Florida and decided to speak to a representative from Target at a job fair. She wasn’t a business major but became interested in their business leadership executive training program. She was nervous to tell the Target recruiters that she was an art history major. Today, she’s worked at Target for the past ten years. She is one of their fastest rising young executives. Clearly, she told them she was an art history major but she had several solid reasons that she was the best fit for the position. Don’t be afraid to tell an employer why you are the best candidate for them – regardless of your major. For more tips and tricks on how to navigate college, read my book: ALL WORK, NO PAY.