Thinking outside of the box: Applying psychology and social sciences majors to multiple industries

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By: Emilio Lorenzo and Emily Tasca

Emilio Lorenzo is the assistant director of career advisement in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.

Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.

In today’s globalized world, the need for a Swiss Army Knife approach to skills, abilities and knowledge is more advantageous than ever. Just like a Swiss Army Knife can assist a savvy hunter in a multitude of settings and situations, a Swiss Army Knife approach to your career is an asset for an organization, because you will have not just the ability but the flexibility to use a variety of skills to reach desired outcomes. One common denominator you will find in the majority of every growing industry is “people.” Regardless of your job title, you’re going to be working in settings that will challenge you to communicate effectively, work collaboratively with others, embrace the diversity of others and be able to think critically while solving problems with an analytical mindset.

In the majority of today’s college majors, like accounting, marketing or finance, you are learning hard skill sets in your courses that relate directly to the industry. However, very rarely do you hear how these majors prepare a student for the real world. Soft skills are not only needed, but employers regularly identify them as important to the success of an organization and the value of a position. Psychology and other social science majors live in a paradigm that is opposite of those majors stated above. Within these majors, instead of learning hard skill sets that can be applied to one specific industry, students often gain a variety of transferable soft skills that can be utilized in many different industries and contexts.

Although this major can be seen as a challenge at times because it’s not always a directly laid-out path for your career goals, it puts you in a position where many lucrative doors will open based on the value you can add. A social science background also provides you a chance to further explore your passions. For example: If you are a psychology major, but after seeing the counseling industry up close you decided it was not the best fit. However, through your courses and experiences you came to gain a better understanding of how to communicate effectively orally and in writing, analyze situations strategically and work through conflict appropriately. These skills can be applied to a variety of industries.. In human resources such skill sets can be applied when leading trainings for new hires, writing or communicating policies within an organization or in diffusing situations within a workplace that require an objective mindset and systematic approach to following company procedures.

Connecting the dots for the employer is key. Just as we were able to help you understand how a psychology background can be useful within an human resources setting, you must able be able to articulate such connections to the employer in your resume and through interviews. A good rule of thumb when evaluating a job or career is to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager: “If I was going to hire for this position, based on what I know about the industry, what are the key skills, knowledge and abilities I would be looking for?” Although some of these abilities will seem obvious, like communication and problem solving, remember to read between the lines as well. If, for example, you are working as a manager in a business, then chances are the team you manage is going to be very diverse. Therefore, dealing  with and embracing diversity becomes an importance factor for this position. Coming from a social science background provides a better understanding on different cultures, and, more than anything, gives you a handle on what makes people tick, which can be key when dealing with as well as mediating conflicts.

Outside of assisting with your on-the-job success, a social science background can also put you in a better position to be successful within a graduate program. Social science as an undergraduate major challenges you to think and act on multiple fronts including analyzing situations, developing arguments, gathering resources to support your stance and then presenting findings in a comprehensible manner through writing. The level of work expected of a graduate student is exponentially higher than that found in your undergraduate years. Being accustomed to this type of work as an undergraduate will provide the necessary foundation for success in graduate school.  As a whole, based on the nature of work involved with studying social science concentrations, students will be able to communicate at a very high level. This is impressive for employers, because in many jobs you have to take complex concepts and articulate them in understandable terms, whether to customers, new employees or at times supervisors.

Overall, every major has its benefits and will provide foundational skills needed to reach your career goals. Social science majors take a Swiss Army Knife approach to building a broad set of transferable skills. This type of development provides the student with freedom to make a career change but has prepared them to be successful in their next career chapter.

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