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Technical knowledge and industry experience are far less important than the "softer skills" of managing people, priorities, information, time, and (most importantly) yourself.

Your College Major May Not Prepare You for Your Job—but It Can Prepare You for Life

How much does your college major matter? The answer varies a lot, depending on which industry you’re trying to break into.

For example, I’m a white collar worker, and work alongside folks with undergraduate degrees in history, finance, literature, and psychology. Yet I’ve noticed among medical professionals, it is generally frowned upon to dispense medical wisdom under the mighty authority of a BA in Film Criticism. Hmm. Curious!

I spend a lot of time working with recent graduates in the course of my Clark Kent day job. And I’ve noticed that a lot of them seem apologetic or insecure about their majors, especially when those majors don’t relate directly to the assigned task.

Just the other day, I was getting sloppy with my speech in a one-on-one meeting with a mentee, using too many unnecessary bits of industry jargon. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “but could you please explain what that means? I love marketing, but I only found that out about myself once I started doing internships in my senior year. It was too late to change my major, so I’m really behind.”

It kinda broke my heart! (And was totally my bad. I didn’t need to say “stakeholder feedback needs to be strategically leveraged against known best practices” when I could’ve just said “clients are ignorant babies, ignore them whenever possible.”) There’s a learning curve for every new job, no matter how familiar you are with the industry; no reasonable person expects you to instantaneously intuit absolutely everything.

I think a lot of our readers could benefit from a healthy reminder that you bring great value to your job role just by being you, regardless of what you studied in school or learned in internships. In my observation, technical know-how and industry experience are far less important than the “soft skills” of managing people, priorities, time, data, and (most importantly) yourself.

Piggy and I have our own observations, but they’re based on the narrow experiences we’ve lived or observed firsthand. So I thought I’d float this discussion in our Patreon community. I asked donors for their insights into skills and habits they learned in their majors, and how it serves them in the job role they perform today. And like the dedicated employees of the United States Postal Service, they delivered!

The best advice comes from real, lived experiences—and the more diverse, the better. Here’s hoping this advice will inspire younger readers who are still deciding on this issue, as well as more established folks who may be questioning the feasibility of a major career shift.

… Omg, a “major” career shift! Get it??

Here are some things that your “off-topic” major might teach you…

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If the cost of regular goods and services grows at a steady walking pace, higher education is galloping away like a Triple Crown winner whose ass just met a hornet.

How to Pay for College without Selling Your Soul to the Devil

Listen you lazy, entitled whiners: it’s easy to pay for college. Just get a summer job! Why, in my day I worked weekends as a fry cook down at the diner on Main, graduated without debt, and now I’m sixty-five years old and completely delusional about the inflated costs of higher education! Ask me more about the house I bought for $60,000 and how much I resent the respectful empathy of the children I raised!

Sorry, y’all. Probably should’ve started that with a trigger warning.

Whenever we write about student loans, we get at least one comment like this. Except with more caps lock. We delete them. We never silence interesting criticism, but come on, this ain’t a public square for every old man who wants to yell at a cloud! We pay good money for this web hosting!

At least where the cost of college is concerned, things aren’t what they used to be. Thirty years ago, it cost the modern equivalent of $8K per year to attend a public college and $18K per year to attend a private college.

Today, the same year of school would cost $21K and $48K. And you’re supposed to buy FOUR of them!

If the cost of regular goods and services grows at a steady walking pace, the cost of higher education is galloping away like a Triple Crown winner whose ass just met a hornet. I didn’t even mention the cost of textbooks, room and board, and other academic fees, which are all even worse. Can’t be giving you nightmares!

Meanwhile, average hourly wages have barely increased 11% (adjusted for inflation), making the wage-to-college-cost-ratio just fucking laughable. Yet college is still a barrier to entry into not only white collar jobs, but an ever-increasing number of blue collar jobs.

My purpose here is not to unpack the absurd inflation of higher education costs in recent years (I’d need another 2,500 words, and I can only hold your attention through so many gifs). Nor is it to debate the relative value of a college degree (another 3,000 words).

Instead, I want to focus on practical solutions for people who’ve already weighed their options and decided that college is right for them. Yes, a traditional four-year undergraduate degree is heckin’ expensive as fuck. Short of The Deep Magic, how do we mere mortals even attempt to pay for it?

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The catastrophic recklessness and base greed represented in these statistics transcends cartoonish supervillainy.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Student Loans

According to BGR lore, Kitty and I met as randomly assigned freshman year roommates at college. We came from different backgrounds, had different interests and goals. But we had two things in common:

  1. Clothing size.
  2. Student loans.

The former meant that our wardrobes essentially doubled in size while we lived together. It was a rude awakening when I moved halfway across the country from Kitty only to realize the only shoes I owned were hiking boots. Gone were the days when I would get drunk and traipse around our apartment in Kitty’s four-inch-high red heels! Now I would have to buy my own grownup shoes!

But I digress.

The latter was the seed that sprouted into this very blog.

We each graduated with student loan debts in the tens of thousands… a fact that lands us squarely in the average of our millennial age bracket. And the year was 2009… a year after the 2008 recession and subsequent dismal job market. Fun times!

It was our joint effort to pay off our considerable student debt ahead of schedule in an unwelcoming economy that taught us the importance of financial literacy. It was a painful process, and having that debt in the first place set our financial independence back by years.

But this is not simply the origin story of your humble Bitches. It is the story of thousands upon thousands of young Americans. The current reality of student loans is a source of controversy and curiosity. And it’s time we set the record straight.

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