As a former professor, Amanda Krauss knows what a college degree can do for you. But just as importantly, she knows what it can’t. “Being a professor, I saw how many people came to college not knowing why they were there, with this expectation that they would somehow be given a job,” she says. “Because that’s the idea, right? But there isn’t this correlation anymore, this neat equation of education equals job.”
Krauss found this out the hard way when she left her position as a classics professor at Vanderbilt to pursue a career in technology.
She blogs about her experiences in higher ed and the outside world at WorstProfessorEver.com. We caught up with her for some tips on landing a job, with or without a diploma.
Know how to discuss coursework
There’s nothing wrong with taking a varied, liberal arts-heavy courseload — but be prepared to explain how these classes translate into job skills. “There’s a lot of resistance at the higher level by people who don’t want to turn college into vocational school,” says Krauss. “If you want to study poetry, that’s fine; but make sure you know how to present that to an employer.”
Join professional organizations
No matter your education level, it’s important to stay current in your prospective field of employment. “Conferences and professional organizations are one of the universals of professional development,” says Krauss. “It’s where you learn about the most current trends in your field.” And then, of course, list these babies on your current, relevant résumé.
Think twice about a master’s
An undergrad degree in linguistics that you don’t know how to use? That’s a forgivable move, and your university shares some of the murky guilt. But the old “wrong me once” adage applies to poorly thought-out master’s degrees.
After leaving Vanderbilt, Krauss discovered that advanced degrees weren’t always an asset when job-hunting in new fields. “An advanced degree scares people if you’re not in higher ed. A lot of the time, employers think: ‘Why would you want to do this?’”
Follow Monica Weymouth on Twitter @MonicaatMetro.