Aligning Your Major and Career

Professional African American Woman

Understanding the symbiotic relationship between a college degree, a professional career, and soft skills are important factors when employers consider candidates. But before we answer the question, ‘What employers are looking for,’ we need to answer the question, ‘What are you looking for?’ Everyone knows that there is value in earning a college degree, but the question every college student should be asking is, “What do I want to do with my degree?” Another way to word the question would be, “What kind of career am I looking for?

To answer this, some students might simply say, “I want to get a job in my field.” What field? What job? What career? While you may be in college to earn a specific degree, what career field you land in may be quite different than you’d imagine it to be.

Rebecca Koenig addresses this in an article for US News and World Report1, “No one is employed as an "English major." Nor, for that matter, as a "biology major" or "business major." Although a few fields correspond with professions, such as engineering and nursing, most liberal arts degrees don't point to specific employment routes. Rather, they provide a set of skills that help job seekers navigate the professional landscape.”

1 “Your College Major Does Not Define Your Career” Rebecca Koenig, US News and World Report, September 24, 2018


This skill set that you are developing is the basis for getting hired. You see, many employers are steering away from looking at a potential candidate’s specific degree and instead focusing on what overall competencies that candidate brings with them. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) CAREER READINESS is defined as “the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.”

NACE has outlined the following eight competencies employers consider essential:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Teamwork and collaboration
  3. Professionalism and work ethic
  4. Communication
  5. Leadership
  6. Digital technology
  7. Career management
  8. Multicultural fluency
Professional Standing Against the Wall

So, while you may not know exactly what your career will look like, you can start working on it right NOW! How do you do that? By working on the eight-core competencies above. If you are serious about developing these skills, then here’s a project you can work on: Take each individual competency and consider how you will begin to implement it into your college career. Attack each one like a research paper, where you define each skill and come up with ways to implement them.


For the professionalism competency you may consider learning this skill through campus jobs and internships, but what about the importance of managing personal brands both online and in-person? Or seeing the classroom as a professional environment and consider dressing up for classroom presentations — your own or otherwise.

The work world is ever-changing, and we must be able to adapt to those changes if we are to be successful. Understanding the symbiotic relationship between a college degree, a professional career, and soft skills is a great place to start.

If you’re a student or alumni currently looking for an internship or employment opportunity, join SPC’s online platform Handshake, for direct career and internship opportunities.

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