Working Your Degree While You’re Waiting: Non-Traditional Paths to Employment

January 31, 2012  |  
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By Blair Bedford

The path to employment isn’t limited to just one road or direction. There are various ways you can make the most out of your time and energy in-transition during the job searching process. Although interning and volunteering have a stereotype for only being opportunities for young, inexperienced college students looking to get coffee and answer phone calls all day, these methods are some of the best ways to occupy your time while on the job hunt. Plus, if you find the RIGHT internship you can be given a lot of responsibility, and in turn, get your foot in the door and possibly be offered a position in the end. While you’re waiting, try utilizing and broadening your skill set and experience with some of these non-traditional employment alternatives for some of the traditional college degrees:

Liberal Arts

Obtaining a degree in a field that is very broad, like in Liberal Arts and Sciences, means that searching for a career depends a lot on your individual skills and experience. Liberal Art degrees are a benefit in many ways because of their versatility, but this field is also not as specific or “tied down” to any one career path.
With a degree in Liberal Arts, you can market yourself in more ways than one. Start off your transition into the job market and hone in on your career path by interning with a program that accepts all types of degrees. Networking is also another valuable option for liberal art degree holders. Interacting with a broad network of professionals can give you the opportunity to learn more about various occupations and the types of people who do well in those fields. Finding a few mentors from networking and discussing what they do in their fields could give you an inside look without the risks of playing trial-and-error with your professional life.

Sciences

There is no science when it comes to obtaining a career in any field, let alone a career in the sciences. From political to medical and computer sciences, many of these specific degrees require a higher education, actual experience or sometimes both. For political science majors, volunteering with your local government is a great way to network and get yourself acquainted with the ins and outs of politics. Staying active in the community by organizing community initiatives and keeping in touch with local government officials is also another great way to position yourself for a career in politics. Connections and leadership experience is key.
If graduate or medical school is in the works for you to gain a higher degree to work as a doctor or physician, try volunteering as an assistant at a local hospital during the transition. Many specialized doctors allow those who are interested in the field to gain hands-on training and experience with helping patients, completing and filing important paperwork for the office, and sometimes even observing the process of surgery or inpatient/outpatient procedures.

Urban and Regional Planning

Unique and specific degrees, like urban and regional planning, make the job search a little bit more interesting, to say the least. With its specific courses in community development and urban planning, a degree in a field like this requires a little more persistence and elbow grease when searching for employment.
If you aspire to obtain a career in urban and regional planning but the opportunities are slim, don’t fret just yet. To start, research the recreation parks and offices in your area and what types of positions they offer that match your skills. Volunteering at a park and recreation’s center or a summer camp could give you a leg up on the competition when searching for your dream job in the field.
Governments with offices in community initiatives are also another good alternative to getting into the urban and regional planning profession. Many city governments have departments specifically for community development, and often welcome volunteers and assistants.

English

With a degree in English, the possibilities in a job search could be endless. With opportunities in the media, education and even the human resources industries, a college education in the English major could direct you down many career paths, which is the upside as well as downfall to this popular college major.
One of the many options English degree holders can explore is in education. According to CNN Money and The College Majors Handbook, over 30 percent of English-major graduates work in education. The demand for teachers with diverse experience is still an important commodity, and programs like Teach For America are a popular alternative to utilize that English degree. Teach For America offers college graduates the opportunity to teach students in under-resourced communities and areas with compensation and benefits. These types of programs are great transitions into the job market with employable experience.
Another popular option for English degree holders is in communications as a writer, an editor or in public relations. Internships in this field could guarantee a job in the company in the future, so look for freelance and intern opportunities to start off, or assistant positions within a company to work your way up.

Communications

In the communications and media fields, one of the most popular routes towards a career in the profession is through internships. Whether it is one or multiple, interning at a radio, television, public relations or production firm could enhance your chances when industry employers are looking for new employees.
Although many internships are unpaid in the media industry, do not waiver when the opportunity presents itself. It could be a great way to get your foot in the door in the industry and an even better way to network efficiently and broaden your skills in communications using real world, hands-on experience (that counts really well towards building your resume)!
Many media companies have internships that last throughout the fall, spring and summer seasons, many of which pay (but be prepared, because those are very competitive). Look on company or media websites like Mediabistro and Ed2010 to find internships with television and print media industries. Also, if you have experience with production, editing and things of that nature, volunteer to do video work for different people–music acts, sports teams of all different levels, dance companies and more.

Business
A career in business should seem like a straight path to a six-figure career right after obtaining your degree, but most of the time, this is not always the case. Do not trust your degree in business to automatically open the door to your new career. But in the business world, there are a few options while waiting to begin a new career.
The field of business is a revolving door, so make yourself employable in the meantime by staying current with relevant information about the industry. Business classes can also keep you busy while you are waiting for the doors of opportunity to open. You can find many business classes online and in local community colleges that offer courses without having to fully enroll in the school itself.
Networking within the business world is another important tool to use to keep your head above water during the tough times of looking for a job. Online, you can connect with professionals on LinkedIn and other websites that allow you to expand your network. Joining national or even local business organizations, like the National Black Business Trade Association and the National Black MBA Association, will also keep you involved with business professionals from across the country, as many of them offer a membership fee which includes national and local events, conferences and networking meet-ups.

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