Pursuing a Career Outside Your Degree
*Rippling flashback effect and harp music*
When I was in elementary school, I did a project on shipwrecks. For this, I had to do a ton of research on underwater archaeology and famous shipwrecks like the Titanic and the Lusitania. This project literally changed my life, because after it, I was obsessed with shipwrecks. So much so that I wrote a whole book on them (in elementary school, mind you, so it's not going to win a Pulitzer). I even tried to research and "find" shipwrecks that had not yet been found. I actually got impressively close with one that was later discovered. Long story short, this lead me to the field of Marine Science (because there were no undergraduate underwater archaeology degrees at the time). In college, I realized that the goal of having a career looking for shipwrecks wasn't really realistic. It seemed as though I was stuck with Marine Science. After a couple of years of working in one of my professor's labs, I had a realization. I'd be miserable in this field. I was technically good at it, but I hated it. Meanwhile, I was getting really into videography and filming weddings and a bunch of personal projects. I began having the desire to do video work full-time. However, I was entering my senior year. I couldn't just start over. After discussing it with my parents, I decided to finish my Marine Science degree, knowing that I wasn't going to pursue it.
This was a tough choice. I was giving up a career with a massive average salary for the hope that I could find a job in a field I didn't study (that has a fairly low average salary). But I knew it was the right choice.
So, I had to get to work. During my senior year, I took as many film and media classes that my schedule allowed. I also started making videos about anything and everything. I made short films, travel films, wedding films, etc. I even started making films during some of my scientific research and my orientation job at my university.
While I got paid for a lot of this, most of what I filmed was just for me to be able to have a diverse range of footage to make a demo reel. If you want to see what I came up with, click here to watch my demo reel from right out of college.
So now, I just had to hope that my demo reel would be good enough to catch someone's eye as I applied for jobs. To my surprise, I got a good bit of interviews. And in an ironic twist, most of them were super interested in my Marine Science degree. I guess they wanted to know the backstory and why I was pursuing video work.
To my relief, I was able to learn enough and show off enough talent to land a job. And I was able to jump right in and start making awesome videos. I'm still learning and finding "my style", but I'm so glad I decided to pursue this field.
To anyone out there who's wondering if it's possible to pursue a career you didn't study. I say absolutely. And if you have a degree, even better. Because when it comes down to it, a degree is a degree. Just because you have a degree in something doesn't mean you're stuck there. For me, I had to work hard to film whatever I could so that I could build up my portfolio and demo reel. If you have the determination and some talent, it's absolutely possible.
And yes, I still love shipwrecks and read books about them to this day. Maybe one day I'll come full-circle and make a documentary about shipwrecks (:o)
- Trevor Davis