Two thirds of the education students who graduated in 2011 in Ontario are still unemployed. Can people who hold a Bachelor of Education degree only teach for a living? What kind of a job were you thinking you would get with an archeology degree when you’re afraid of flying? Does a major in Russian Art History make you employable, and if so by whom?

When you have a very specific education in a field that no one is recruiting for, or you have a very vague education such as a ‘Bachelor of Arts’ in a little bit of everything, you are going to have to rely on more than just your degree to get you in the door of your first job.

Traditionally people who fit into this category have found success but going into the public sector, but those opportunities are few and far between these days. So what to do?

  • Analyze what specific hard and soft skills you have used, regularly, to get you through your high school or college/university courses. Did you have to do a lot of research, analyze case studies and develop solutions and conclusions, solve mathematical problems, make presentations, write essays, thesis, book reports, advise others, organize and promote events? All of these experiences can be valuable across industries.


People often tend to undervalue their own skills and accomplishments – not realizing that there is a market for them.  These skills are the ones that you have to broadcast and advertise. These are the skills and strengths that define the degree you earned, yes, but they also tell the story of who you are and what you are capable of.

  • If you can, take the Myers Briggs Typology Indicator personality assessment and have it administered by a qualified practitioner. It describes who you are as an individual but also gives you a myriad of career choices that your personality type could be interested in.
  • Assess all that you learned in your community volunteer hours while in high school.  Access the people with whom you worked at a fitness club, service organization, corporate office or charitable function. Many of these adult colleagues are very well connected.
  • If you sat on student council what position did you hold and what skills did you use to accomplish your duties, another few bragging stories.
  • What life lessons have you learned to date that you could talk about intelligently in an interview, or with an adult, that would impress them enough to keep you in mind? Hint, you might have learned that you can’t take education for granted.
  • Read newspaper and business magazines to find out how government and businesses work. Find out what issues businesses are facing this quarter and this year, and form an opinion with an idea or two of what you would do if you had the power.
  • If energy and oil and gas are your passion, move to Calgary. If farming is your desire move to Saskatchewan or west central Ontario and if you love food as much as languages, try some time in Montreal or Quebec City.
  • Learn to speak and write proficiently. Knowing how to text and program a computer isn’t enough any more, you need to be able to carry on an intelligent conversation without using the word LIKE five times in every sentence. Register for Toastmaster’s, today, they are an international organization that teaches presentation skills, and they do a terrific job of it. There are classes all throughout the country and often membership is free or a nominal fee.
  • Be prepared to show how what you have learned in school can help companies develop or frame their business decisions and strategies.
  • Learn tech talk.
  • With your knowledge of art, human resources, philosophy, history and culture, corporations need your skills to help keep all the workers human and relatable and relevant – you need to know how to tell leaders how you would do it.


While you are waiting to apply for your next career move, get out from behind LinkedIn and job boards and get some real life experience. Work as an intern for free, volunteer in an obscure environment unrelated to your education, chat up people you meet and interview them, in a sense, to find out about their world. How does a plumber see the world? What are their concerns and what do they care about the most?

Most of all, get and project the right attitude. When you’re just starting out, nothing should be beneath you because everything is an opportunity to learn and grow.


Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group