The Career Question You Need to Stop Asking

The Career Question You Need to Stop Asking

What can I do with my degree?

It's a question I hear often. I never know quite how to answer it, because it's simply the wrong place to start. An arbitrary list of jobs that someone has aligned with a particular degree is limiting. It's based on the false assumption that because we have the same degree, we somehow have a uniform set of interests, skills and abilities. This is simply not true. Your major does not draw a direct line to the career you ought to pursue. Don't start with your degree, start with you.

One of my favourite career development metaphors is the backswing. In golf, tennis, and baseball, the momentum to move forward is gained by going backward. So before jumping to a career choice because someone tells you that it's a match for your degree, backswing to who you are and what gets you up in the morning.

  • What are you good at?
  • What are you good at that you also enjoy?
  • Reflect on a time when you were in "the zone," (focused, energized and engaged), what were you doing?
  • What are the transferable skills you gained from your degree? Critical thinking? Writing? Presentation Skills? Go beyond the subject matter to the value you can add to a workplace.

Some careers require a specific degree, but many do not. The key is to investigate careers that are a match to your personality, skill set and experience and learn to articulate all the reasons you are a match for that job. Your degree may factor into it, but the onus is on you to make the link between your degree and your career direction. You are not the same as all the people in your graduating class, so why would you automatically be suited for the same career?

michele-murphy-photoMichele Murphy is the Alumni Career Educator at alumni UBC. For support at every stage of your career development process, visit us on, follow us on Twitter @alumniUBCcareer, and connect with Michele on Linked In.