Which degree courses will get me the best job in the 2020s?

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3 October
16:22
26 March
16:48

The degree you choose in university doesn’t necessarily translate into getting you the best job. “Best job” as a term is pretty vague, and the majority of students in university won’t have identified this, even after they leave. There are several factors in deciding what you will class as the “best” job for you. This might be due to monetary factors, job satisfaction, opportunities to learn, making an impact, etc. If you can work out what it is that you want to get out of your job first, this will help you considerably in identifying your ideal future occupation quickly. 

As a recruiter, I sift through hundreds of CVs a month which come from a range of people, from those who run firms and large departments, to those just out of school. When we identify candidates and qualify them for new opportunities, we always look for the one that stands out. This is hard nowadays, as many students are drawn into believing that the degree they choose in university will end up landing them a job in a similar industry. 

This is the case when I discuss the hiring needs of clients. Very rarely will they ask for a specific degree unless the job is technical, and often they’re interested in seeing people with diverse backgrounds.

For some fields such as medicine, science, law, or ones that are more technical there is no getting around this. For all instances, have a look at existing job postings to work out what kind of academic experience you might need. For example, a quantitative researcher at a bank will probably need at least a master’s degree in a quantitative field. But for the most part, this is not the case. In fact, when I was applying to large multinational institutions, the degree you had was irrelevant. This is still the case when I discuss the hiring needs of clients. Very rarely will they ask for a specific degree unless the job is technical, and often they’re interested in seeing people with diverse backgrounds. Subsequently, I’ve come across a few special profiles such as former national/professional sportspeople, Guinness world record holders, ex-armed forces, linguists, TV personalities.

Companies are always looking for keen and fast learners, and employees who are not afraid to voice ideas that might have value add.

For entry-level jobs, which most students will end up going into, the best way to land your ideal job is to have some form of track record. This can come in the form of previous internship experience, sandwich courses, etc., but something that is overlooked an equally as valuable is having your own portfolio of recent work if you’re applying for a specific job. For example, if you’re looking to get into an industry involving design, you will need to present a portfolio of your previous work, either from past school/industry work or personal projects. This doesn’t just apply to creative fields, however. If you’re looking to get into finance, having a ghost portfolio or a personal project where you have designed and implemented your own systematic strategies is a more enticing and easier way to get your name to the front of the line when interviewing with banks/funds. Not only will there be more substance to discuss when you interview, but you will also be an asset from the moment you join any institution. Companies are always looking for keen and fast learners, and employees who are not afraid to voice ideas that might have value add.

If you don’t have a specific job in mind and need inspiration, here are some tips that might help point you in the right direction:

  • Pick up on rising trends. Coding is your best example because it’s a very transferable skill that is increasingly becoming in demand. Various free websites and initiatives like Hour of Code mean that it is also very accessible to learn anywhere.
  • Use your connections. Browse your school’s career websites for internship opportunities. This is normally a free service provided by most universities and you and the school will be in a similar boat: you will want to find a job, and universities love advertising how quickly their alumnus are able to get jobs straight out of school. So chances are your school will have invested a lot of time and money trying to attract employers. Universities will also hold networking events connection students to professionals. Take advantage of those to build connections. A lot of employers end up hiring candidates simply because of their personality, so the more face time you get with future employers the better your chances will be in being remembered when they look for talent. Also, ask your friends/family/connections to see if they can hook you up with work experience.
  • If you have no idea what you want to do or the best job for you still hasn’t come up, wait. I had a friend that was jumping in every direction trying to land an interview in the name of having a job that would pay but he was rejected from all. It took him a year but he eventually figured out he wanted to stick to his interests, and sure enough landed himself an internship he enjoyed, which led to a full-time position. The worst thing you can do is to take any job in the name of money. Yes, sometimes we have to take that route but if you’re a person that can wait and that values other aspects of a job like work/life balance and learning opportunities, you might want to wait until the right job comes up. I had friends who took the first job straight out of school simply because they wanted to be employed or get paid. All of them quit after a year and a half. Some of my other friends, however, took up ad hoc jobs up to a year after graduating school, working as freelancers/shop assistants, and waiting for the right opportunity to come up. This might sound like a waste of time but they ended up landing their dream jobs and are still with their respective firms enjoying what they do, and getting paid well for it.

If you can identify the factors that will drive you, build up relevant experience, and develop and harness connections, you’ll be in a good position to land the best job for you. If you still haven’t a clue, take some time to work out what it is that you’d like to get out of a job.

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