How does one port from her undergraduate Degree?
Have you noticed that it is when people start out in the university that they now figure out the course they actually want to study? This is because when you start out with a degree, you start seeing beyond what the course description provided in the university’s prospectus. Now that you’ve discovered you might be interested in a different course from the one you’ve put in for, what do you do? Change course (but this is more complicated). On the other hand, you might discover you are a genius/business person and feel like school is not providing what you need, what to do? Drop out like them Gates, Jobs and Zuck. Please, don’t. You are a Nigerian and we don’t operate the same system. A system that provides ‘fallback’ options for drop-outs (see their commencement speeches). So please, cut the ‘drop-out and starting again’ options and let’s find you better ones.
- Do a further degree (usually a Masters or an MBA): This appears to be the natural path for porting. So you see someone with a tech background and goes ahead to do a management course for Masters. Or you see an engineering graduate studying marketing at the Masters level. Although this seems logical, it is relatively expensive. Many employers tend to rank a foreign degree higher than that of home-based degrees. But, would you fault them? Our Nigerian educational system leaves a lot to be desired. Hence, many people take to pursuing a degree outside the country. Now, this is where it becomes tricky. On the average, you’ll want to find a top school for the course you are looking to port to. No doubts, studying at a top school gives you a competitive advantage in the job market. Now, those top schools have cut-throat fees. For instance, to study IT and Management at my university is £17,500 and that doesn’t even take care of the living expenses. For an MBA programme at a reputable school, we can start thinking upward of £35,000 (Cambridge Judge’s Business school fees for 2017/18 is £51,000). Notwithstanding, people have still found their way through school. This they have done via the private and government funding. So, keep this ‘further degree’ option in mind should you want to port.
- Apply hard work to your skills/talents: Sometimes, I am skeptical of using the word ‘talent’ as many ‘motivational speakers’ overrate it. Talent alone is not enough. When you want to port, think of the things you enjoy doing. Some of which you have done for free and start finding out how other people are making money from it. With a little more work and packaging you are on your way to becoming a freelancer (which is a valid employment status). So, once again, you don’t have to work with your certificate, you can port to a freelance gig based on your skills/interest etc.
- Take on internships (in hopes that you’ll learn on the job): Finding worthwhile internships are hard. But it is not impossible. This step is particularly useful for people still in school (Undergraduate or Masters) or fresh graduates. Doing an internship in an area you are interested in could help you discern whether or not it is a fling or something you want to be doing for the long-term. I did an internship in the financial risk management division of KPMG while studying as an undergraduate in Computer and Information Science. So, it is not impossible to port in that regard. One just needs to be able to tell a compelling story.
- Be a start-up founder or join one: This is quite like point 2 above. Becoming an entrepreneur is challenging but could be exciting (when you think of press coverage, LOL). Akin to starting a small business, you do not need to ‘startup’ in an area related to your degree. You could get involved with an early stage (VC-funded) startup. If you do, that would mean you’ve ported. Even if you are working in a role related to your degree. The traditional education system doesn’t prepare one for life as an entrepreneur.
So my friends, you see, you don’t have to work in the industry of your degree with the course you studied. It would find relevance somehow but maybe not at the initial stage. School teaches a lot of other qualities that could be useful in the workplace. They include socialising, meeting deadlines, managing expectations, negotiation, navigating a political terrain etc.
Please, stop tieing yourself down to your degree. Go out and explore!