Getting a first job that’s unrelated to your studies

Good news, you’ve just figured out your dream career. Bad news, you’ve also just spent at least four years studying a totally different course. Does this mean your degree is totally worthless now?
Elliyani Mohamad Ali
Chief Editor, gradsingapore

Let’s face it, playtime was over the moment you were done with secondary school. Barely out of your teens, you were forced to make a decision that would impact your whole life. You had to make a choice out of the hundreds of options offered by the local universities. After much deliberation, you picked one, perhaps due to parental pressure or peer influence, and hoped for the best.

Fast forward a few years later to your graduation, and you realised you would rather get your teeth pulled than join the industry you just studied hard to enter. Instead, you have your eye on a completely different field. Does this mean you need to start your career planning over from scratch?

The correct answer: Not necessarily. A 2019 YouGov Omnibus survey revealed that over half (53%) of Singaporean graduates work in jobs unrelated to their degrees. So, it’s absolutely possible to get a first job that’s not related to your studies. But before jumping the gun, it’s worth it to look at the steps you should take before sending out your resume for full-time jobs.

Take a deep breath, you’re not alone in this

Before moving forward, it’s worthwhile to take a step back and reassure yourself that completing your degree hasn’t been a waste of time. Most employers agree that having a degree, regardless of the field of study, is better than not having one at all. Understanding this fact is important in order to build your self-confidence and to know that you have plenty to offer employers, even if you’re currently lacking the technical skills.

Getting a first job that’s unrelated to your studies_Take a deep breath, you’re not alone in this

Research the job and industry

It’s easy to think you want to be a game developer just because you love playing video games, but do you have what it takes? Are you good enough in math to learn how to code? Can you work up to 70 hours a week during crunch time? How about possibly earning lower salaries than your peers with similar skill sets working in banking or IT firms? This isn’t trying to put you off being a game developer; every industry has its own set of challenges and unpleasantness. The key is to do enough research to understand that you’re passionate enough about the industry to deal with the difficulties that come with it.

Getting a first job that’s unrelated to your studies_Research the job and industry

Internships are your best friend

If the amount of research hasn’t put you off, the next step is to apply for the relevant internships. An internship is one of the best opportunities to learn on-the-job and pick up some much-needed skills. While internships can be competitive, you won’t be dismissed just because you lack the technical skills. Your level of motivation very much plays a part, and this is where creating a compelling cover letter pays off.

Getting a first job that’s unrelated to your studies_Internships are your best friend

Learn what you’re lacking

Invest in yourself and take up the relevant courses that you’re still lacking in. If you think some courses are too expensive, there will always be free talks or introductory sessions online if you dig deep enough. There are even affordable programmes offered by community centres, and you’ll get further discounts if you’re a Passion cardmember. Focus on building your technical skills first since this is where you need to work on immediately.

Getting a first job that’s unrelated to your studies_Learn what you’re lacking

Once you’ve tried to beef up your resume with the relevant work experience and skill sets, then you’ll likely receive more favourable responses when you start targeting your resume towards full-time employment. News flash, most employers don’t look at what you’ve studied. Instead, they look mostly at the experiences and skills you’ve acquired.