Career paths are rarely straightforward, making many graduates feel lost after obtaining their degrees. “What next after graduation?” Every student in the College of Arts and Science has asked themselves this question — I certainly have. Regardless of what degree you receive, there’s no limit to what kind of career you can have.
As students we often feel bound to the field that we majored in, but the economy doesn’t have a job for every one of us. It’s even less likely to find a job in our specialization. In addition, after four or five years of studying a particular subject, you may discover that it isn’t what you want to spend the rest of your life doing.
Increasingly, graduates have had to rethink their career paths, take on new challenges or have simply had to create their dream jobs for themselves.
Profiling three alumni who graduated with a degree in fine arts, social sciences, or natural sciences but pursued a non-linear career path, shows that getting creative when it comes to your career is a valid choice.
Following a career that isn’t directly linked to your degree isn’t out of the norm. No matter what changes you choose to make, you are always taking positive steps forward.
Kyle Hamilton began university with the intention of doing a medical degree. After completing his Bachelor of Science in Biology, he went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English Literature with the intention of pursuing a law degree. After being accepted into three different law schools, he decided to take a job housekeeping at a remote mountain lodge instead. He worked for 10 years in hospitality.
Now he has a successful portrait and wedding photography studio, and has had his work published in ski and snowboard magazines across the world.
During his time at university, Hamilton travelled to France, Sweden and New Zealand. He got money for his first plane ticket by collecting beer bottles from parties and subsequently had enough money for the first two weeks.
Once he arrived at his first destination, Hamilton worked odd jobs to stay afloat. Hamilton says travelling and working in another country opens up your mind and is the best thing you can do.
Choosing a career path that isn’t common is a lifestyle choice and, in Hamilton’s experience, inner passion has been the motivation that has kept him going.
By starting his own company, Hamilton realized that he needed to learn to take the good with the bad. In order to make career changes, he needed people that would encourage and push him to make forward progressions.
Choosing to look at nothing as a bad choice and counting every experience as a learning opportunity has helped him grow his business and make each change successfully.
Embarking on a non-linear career path is not an excuse to be disorganized. Planning is still necessary for both the long term and the short term. However it is important to be open to making changes to your plans.
A liberal arts degree makes you realize that “University is where you go to learn how to learn,” Hamilton said. “The skills I learnt at university were far more valuable to me than any knowledge point that I learnt.”
Frank Collins likewise entered university with the intention of pursuing a career in medicine. After trying different classes out, he settled for the social sciences and completed a BA in International Studies (Development Stream) from the University of Saskatchewan. Collins is now the Owner and Operator of Danger Dynamite Multimedia, a marketing company in Saskatoon.
After graduating, Collins was employed by the City of Saskatoon, spent time on the oil rigs and then worked for a tech company. This last venture set him up to see how a business is run, skills that he put to use in Danger Dynamite.
In making his career switches — and eventually starting his own company — Collins questioned what skills he possessed and how he could make money using them. A turning point for Collins was realizing that he didn’t want to work for someone else, despite the uncertainty that comes with entrepreneurship.
“Starting your own company means being okay with the possibility of failure,” said Collins.
Long term goals are important. No matter how non-linear your career path is, your short term goals must be the steps you take towards achieving that final goal. And, if you can’t find a job that you want for yourself, then create it — just as Collins did.
Shannon Dyck, another alumni from the U of S, says that her BA in Art and Art History taught her the value of transferrable skills.
After completing her undergraduate degree, she pursued a Masters in Environment and Sustainability. For her, it has always seemed normal to be interested in more than one thing.
“I think it’s stranger to think that people would ever just be interested in one area — I just don’t know if people are that straightforward,” Dyck said. In the learning and career changes she has made, Dyck never felt like she was jumping from one extreme to another.
Art requires a person to be a problem solver, innovator and forward thinker. You have to use your imagination to dream about what could be and envision ways to improve upon what already exists. These are skills that Dyck puts to use at her current job as an Environmental Coordinator for the City of Saskatoon.
Change isn’t something Dyck became comfortable with, it is something she embraced and even looked for.
“Failing to see something as part of your plan can blind you from seeing the opportunities around you,” Dyck said. Indeed, great, meaningful journeys aren’t the ones that are clearly set out and well-trodden.
Before university, Dyck went to Germany for a year-long exchange and lived in England for the duration of her third year of university. These experiences took her out of her comfort zone and shook things up for her. The ability to meet and learn about new people is clearly a great skill. It is one that you don’t even have to travel very far to practice.
“Taking one degree doesn’t bind you to one particular path,” Dyck said. “You can always change your mind. And it should never be considered backtracking because you’ll end up gaining so much by taking on something new.”
Being open to change, taking advantage of the opportunities to travel, and being willing to take a risk by tapping into your entrepreneurial side are just a few of the things that Hamilton, Collins and Dyck had in common. These skills helped all of them attain the successes they have experienced in their fields thus far.
Taking a career path that isn’t directly linked to your specific degree isn’t out of the norm. So figure out what skills you possess, and find or create a career that works for you after graduation.