The surprising career your studies may lead to
The common wisdom is that we pick a major at university that is supposed to represent the career field that we will eventually join. While this method certainly works for some, many change directions when they go for their Master’s, often in a completely different area than their undergraduate degree. All of this education is definitely important, but there is a question of how much the choices of studies influence the career you will eventually find yourself in. It may surprise you, but there are many people who have found jobs about as far as possible away from what they studied at university. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the following examples to see some extreme changes of direction.
Let’s start with an easy one – Ashton Kutcher. What field do you think would fit the mastermind behind such cinematic achievements as Dude, Where’s My Car? and My Boss’s Daughter? Public relations or maybe acting? Nope. Kutcher actually started off his studies as a biochemical engineering student at the University of Iowa – a bit heady for the future creator of Punk’d. Had a chance encounter not happened, Kutcher might be toiling away in a research lab to develop new and innovating products, some of which we might now be eating.
As it were, Kutcher’s fateful encounter with a model scout in an Iowa City bar changed all those plans. Encouraged to enter a local modeling competition, Kutcher won the event and sparked a chain of events that would eventually land him in Hollywood. Picked up by a modeling agency in New York, the young star found work with Calvin Klein as well as runway fashion shows. Feeling that maybe modeling was not his true calling, Kutcher took what he had earned and headed out west to try his hand at acting. On one of his very first auditions, he landed his breakthrough role on That 70s Show, which turned him into a household name.
If Kutcher’s studies of choice may be strange, this one may make a little more sense. Vanessa Selbst is one of the best poker players in the world, routinely crushing opponents and making deep runs in high stakes tournaments with millions on the line. At only 30 years old, Selbst is the highest-earning female player in history. If you had to guess, what do you think she studied in college – possibly mathematics, economics, or business? Wrong again. Selbst finished her undergraduate in Political Science and then switched to Law for a post-graduate degree. Even more impressive, both degrees came from the prestigious Yale University, one of the most competitive colleges in the United States.
Even though Selbst has amassed more than $10 million in tournament winnings, she hasn’t given up her judiciary dreams. With 3 WSOP bracelets and a whole host of top finishes in other events, Selbst seems to have made poker a permanent gig, but the star has her eyes on other pursuits as well. The professional card slinger has maintained that while poker may provide the money, she would also like to work on cases close to her passions, such as civil rights and equality. We’re not sure how much of her time she will devote to these noble causes, but we can think of about 10 million reasons why she might want to stick with poker.
You may not know the name, but you’ve probably held at least one of her former company’s products in your hands. As CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina was responsible for the merger with Compaq, which vaulted the company into the top position as the biggest manufacturer of personal computers on the planet. Previous stints of executive experience were at AT&T as well as Lucent Technologies. Business degree all the way, right? Second guess is economics? Despite her arguable business acumen, Fiorina actually graduated from Stanford University with a somewhat puzzling BA in Philosophy and Medieval History. Yes, it’s true that she later changed paths with her Master’s and finished degrees in both management and marketing, but still, what in the world does medieval history have to do with running an extremely large tech firm?
As it turns out, maybe there’s a reason why there’s not much of a connection. While Fiorina was initially lauded with a great deal of praise, including the accolade of being called the most powerful woman in business by Fortune magazine, many have looked back at her performance as CEO at HP as being somewhat subpar. Crediting her decision to push through with the Compaq merger, critics believe that her actions directly contributed to the stock price of the company dropping to half of its initial value. After HP, Fiorina has moved on to other high-profile jobs, such as an advisor for John McCain in his unsuccessful bid for the presidency as well as her own failed attempt to be an elected California Senator.
Leaving one of the best for last, you know who Mick Jagger is. As the lead singer for The Rolling Stones, Jagger is a true icon of rock and has survived more than a half century in the music business, showing real resiliency in an industry where careers often come and go with the blink of an eye. What’s your pick for Jagger’s course of study? If you said business or economics, you would be… exactly right. Taking classes at the London School of Economics, Jagger had considered moving into the world, but eventually chose rock music legend as his first choice. Well done, Mick, well done.
When you think about it, Jagger’s business studies do make a certain sense in the bigger picture. While it may be hard to imagine a serious economist penning hits like Satisfaction, sources close to the band state that Jagger has always been the businessman and maybe it’s his attention to the little details that have given The Rolling Stones a longevity enjoyed by very few. Whatever his reasons, we’re glad he made the right choice and the world is most likely a better place with his singing talents rather than his economic forecasts.