Dear Students: Your Major Doesn't Matter
Not surprisingly, we get asked a lot, “Does my major matter?” Inquiring college students want to know what’s going to set them up for a successful career in marketing. And, nervous parents ask with the hope of keeping their kids out of the basement.
Relax. It just doesn’t matter.
Okay, so it matters a little, or more than a little, depending on your career path. But, we’re in the camp that believes there's far too much emphasis put on a college major. If you’re looking for a career in marketing and communications, there are many academic paths to success.
Why You Think It Matters
Because schools say it does. Periodically, we present to college students about what it’s like to have a career in marketing and communications. In a recent particular communications class, we asked if anyone had taken a marketing class. Only one raised their hand. The marketing and communicaitons program at this school, and many others, were run separately, though just a short walk from each other on campus. In the real world, however, marketing and communications are much more closely integrated.
Why It Doesn’t Matter
How you study is just as important as what you study. Meaning, learning how to learn, think, and communicate are the critical skills for a first job in marketing. Trust us, we’ve met plenty of students with a degree in public relations that are terrible at writing press releases, and, conversely, plenty of students with no formal PR training who are great at it.
What Does Matter
Eagerness to learn. One of the most valuable skills is the ability pick up things and adapt. The truth is, no one expects a new hire to be very good at their first job on day one. In fact, if a new hire had mastered every skill required for their first job prior to starting, we’d argue that’s not a very good opportunity for them. Therefore, a college student’s major is simply a tool to tell employers, “Hey, this is the kind of stuff I like to study and learn about.” Being an art history, religion, or dance, for example, doesn’t preclude you from a career in marketing.
What You Do Now
Spend less time worrying, and more time working, exploring and growing – both in the classroom and in other campus activites, sports, arts, clubs, groups, non-profits, and the list goes on.
So, if a major isn’t important, what advice can we impart on curious minds, and their anxious parents?
For a career in marketing, we recommend the following skills:
• Hone the craft of writing – for an array of audiences, formats and styles
• Dig into and become competent using new digital tools and technologies
• Explore and solve challenges creatively and collaboratively
• Practice presenting – verbally – your ideas and opinions
• Nurture your inner curiousity
• Read, read, and read
What were our college majors? Well, we have the full range: business, communications, art history, and comparative religion.
So if you want to succeed in marketing, let your skills and experiences, not just your syllabus, define you.