How to Turn Less Lucrative College Majors into Winning Careers

Leverage knowledge in any field into high salary potential

So, it’s often reported that various majors just aren’t major money-makers in the job market. Some even have high instances of unemployment. But oftentimes, it’s not about the perceived opportunities based on the norm, but about how you market yourself in whatever field you choose to enter.

Writer Jay Cross explores college majors and the career stereotypes that come with them, as well as how you can leverage knowledge in any field to increase your marketability:

1. Psychology
The common assumption:
“All I can do is go to grad school or intern at a therapist’s office.”

How to reframe: Let’s say you have decided against psychology and are now eyeballing a career in marketing. Here’s what you might say to persuade a hiring manager your degree fits:

“You know, it’s funny. Most outsiders think business is just about numbers and money, but I totally disagree. My psychology courses really opened my eyes to the human element. There are so many biases, barriers and personality quirks that go into a buying decision, for example. It’s not simply about having the best product. If you don’t understand the emotional state of a customer or what’s going through their head, you miss huge opportunities to win them over. My goal at Acme Corp. is to soak up as much marketing experience as I can and whenever possible, try to apply my psych training to tackle your challenges from a unique perspective.”

Why it works: First, you show insight by identifying a missing piece: the human element. Second, you give examples of psychological phenomena that affect what the hiring manager cares about: sales. Finally, you show some humility (“I want to soak up as much marketing experience as I can”) and offer a hint of intrigue (“a unique perspective”) as to what the hiring manager can expect from you.

2. Philosophy
The common assumption: “All I can do is teach philosophy or pontificate on the is-ought dichotomy in my mother’s basement.”

How to reframe: So you’ve decided that leading college freshmen through Hegelian dialectics is no way to go through life and want to forge a career in journalism. How about saying this?

“Frankly, I expect a learning curve for getting up to speed in this role compared to a journalism major. That’s just reality. However, my philosophy courses actually gave me an incredibly strong framework for being a journalist. As we studied the great thinkers of western civilization, I really focused on the methodology: critical thinking, chains of reasoning, evaluating evidence, a thirst for different perspectives and clear expression of ideas. I’m committed to writing the most insightful, evocative and compelling articles I possibly can and I think XYZ Corp. is a terrific place to develop my skills.”

Why it works: First, you employ a strategy known as the damaging admission by conceding you are somewhat less qualified than a journalism major. Next, you immediately pivot to why, DESPITE this weakness, you are still totally capable of doing an amazing job thanks to your philosophy training. Finally, you close by promising what the hiring manager wants: great content.

 

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