Switching Disciplines: How To Leverage An Unrelated Degree At Interview

Not everyone enjoys their course at uni. For those students who never really ‘clicked’ with their degree, finishing tertiary education is a joyous occasion.

But then comes a difficult period of applying to unrelated jobs. These graduates are hoping to break away from their specialisms. But how can they explain the desire to abandon their subject, while keeping the tone of their interview positive? How can they showcase their experience, when it is all slightly mismatched to the field they’re now moving moved into?

It’s simple: learn how to leverage an unrelated degree.


Keep interviews positive

Perhaps you’ve heard that you should never badmouth a former employer during a job interview. Similarly, try to keep the tone of your interview sunny when discussing your university experience.

Focus on the positive soft skills you have taken from your degree. You have learnt perseverance, demonstrated a determination to finish what you’ve started, and undoubtedly gained a whole host of other skills.  Be specific in explaining the scenarios that show how you have grown and demonstrated these strengths. Recruiters will be pleased to see your logical approach, self-evaluation and the proactive way in which you engage with your experiences.


Don’t feel inferior

The reality is that most students will not work in the field indicated by their courses; you are not alone. Try to evaluate the skills that you have learnt during the course of your Bachelor’s. The reality is that, for most graduate jobs, all that is asked for is a degree-level education.

However, if you feel very self-conscious about your very different degree subject, spend some time thinking about how your subject makes you a stronger candidate than others. It can be particularly difficult during group interviews to get yourself noticed; being the one person who is not doing economics in that finance interview makes you memorable!


Have an answer to the inevitable question

Undoubtedly, while going through the interview process you will encounter the inevitable: “Why are you so dramatically moving away from your degree subject? Surely you can’t have been thinking of [sales] when you chose it?”

Have an answer ready. Be honest but positive. It’s okay to acknowledge that you have changed quite a lot since the age of 17 when you made your UCAS applications! Think about how you are different and be prepared to explain yourself. Your honesty will make you come across more confident and give the interviewer a sense of your character – making you interesting enough to earn a second interview!


Research, research, research!

Just because you haven’t necessarily studied the area doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what you’re applying to do inside out! Emphasise your genuine interest in perusing a career in the field by demonstrating the knowledge you have acquired.

This is important for you and your employer. You both ought to have your eyes wide open in the recruitment process. Moreover, having researched the role, you may be able to offer new and interesting insights into how you would be the best candidate, and how you believe the role could be approached.

You never know: potential employers may be delighted to find a fresh approach. Coupled with genuine enthusiasm, this may even give you the edge at interview.


Don’t give up easily

In the job-hunting process, one employer may not be interested in investing in training for you, or may not appreciate your different perspectives. Despite some likely rejection, hold on to the knowledge that an employer who is prepared to invest in your training early on, is likely to hold greater prospects for your future, and an overall more fulfilling role. Keep applying until you find the right fit.

Positivity and clarity are the key skills in moving away from your degree subject. Be ready to explain your decision-making in a clear, linear way, and show your enthusiasm for the future. That way, you can equal other candidates with a clearer vocation and make yourself intriguing to any interviewer.


Inspiring Interns is an internship and graduate jobs agency.