Happy young woman using laptop computer sitting on couch, smiling teen shopping online, banking in internet, freelance and work from home, running e-business, remote distant working, writing web blog. Gone are the days when simply getting a college degree secured a good job. In times past, any college degree in any field was enough to get you an entry-level position, if not higher, at a good company that offered plenty of room for growth and the opportunity to work your way up the ladder. Nowadays, post-graduate unemployment is at an all-time high, and college grads are struggling to get even the lowest positions in a company that specializes in what they majored in. How can you avoid that? How can you prepare yourself for the best career possible and increase your future job prospects? One way is through the electives you take in both high school and college. Sure, majoring in a field that has a lot of jobs is a great start, but not everyone is suited for a career in the medical field or the world of science and technology. So even if you’re choosing to major in something that’s not considered high-demand in the job market, you can still boost your future job prospects by the elective courses you take before graduation. Here are a few tips on choosing the right electives, along with some suggestions of what electives to register for next semester.
Think Big Picture
According to a study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only about a fourth of college graduates have a job related to their field of study in college. That means that even if you have your heart set on being an art historian and study art history for four years during college, you’re more likely to end up in a completely different field. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t pick a major that lines up with your interests and future goals and plans, but you need to think more about the big picture when you’re registering for classes. You should, of course, take the courses that are required for your major, but consider other alternative career paths as well. Maybe you don’t become an art historian but can land a job as a museum manager. You may need some management classes, business classes, and finance classes to improve your odds of getting that job. Or maybe you can get your foot in the door at an art museum by writing grant proposals on behalf of the museum or working in the museum’s IT department. You need some specific skills to do each of these jobs, and while they aren’t directly related to your specific career goals, they could get you in the door at a place you’d like to work.
Consider Your Skills, Not Just Your Interests
You may be incredibly passionate about art history, but you may also have a natural ability to understand complex mathematics. Or you may be thrilled about the idea of working with computers when you graduate, but you also have a knack for writing. When you’re choosing electives, be sure to think about what your natural skillset includes rather than just simply what interests you. We know you spent years taking classes that you didn’t have a say in, and the freedom to select your own classes in high school and college may give you a whole new level of excitement, but you can’t and shouldn’t ignore what you’re naturally good at either. It never hurts to fine-tune some natural abilities and increase your knowledge base of something you’re already gifted in, especially when it comes to future career prospects.
Push Yourself Beyond Comfort Zones
In the opposite way, don’t be afraid to take some classes that push you outside your comfort zones. If you’re not a “math person,” you may shy away from anything math-related, like economics, finance, statistics, and engineering. But you may be shocked to find that something outside your “comfort zone” is actually really enjoyable and you may discover a hidden talent or inclination toward a particular subject that you didn’t know existed. Particularly when it comes to electives classes, you should really take your time to explore a variety of courses to see what you may enjoy and what you may be good at so that you cover all your bases and get a good well-rounded education.
What Electives Should I Take?
Now that you understand the importance of varying your electives, let’s talk about some specific classes that you should take. Some of your electives will depend on your major, while others are just good choices for anyone. If you are a math or science major, it may be important for you to focus on electives that help you with soft skills and non-mathematical knowledge, such as psychology, communications, and writing. If you’re majoring in something more arts-focused, like English, art, education, and so on, you will benefit from the more technical electives, like statistics, engineering, and computer technology. All students should consider taking courses that will benefit them as a business person (such as economics, finance, business, management, and financial planning), a communicator (classes like writing, communications, psychology), and a tech-savvy individual (courses like computer technology, computer programming, and statistics).
While your degree is going to be specific, your education as a whole should be as well-rounded as possible. The goal is to get a leg up on other prospective employees and show your future boss that you will offer more to the company than someone else. Your well-rounded educational background will also show that you are not just a one-trick pony but that you can excel in a variety of areas and learn a variety of different skills.