Many of us think of a PhD as a one-way ticket to a tweed jacket and a tenure offer. Long forays into academia often result in remaining in that field for a lifetime, either as a researcher or a professor. But a challenging job market and developments in technology knows means that suddenly a physics degree may help you own your own business. Read on for examples of people who took non-traditional career paths and proved the old adage that a major is simply a starting point, and learn how thinking outside the box can result in renewed career success.

  • Glide through the transition. The economy took a downturn in 2008, leaving many Americans without jobs. As the unemployed embarked on the job hunt, some found that switching industries gave them a leg up. One Boston woman made a lateral move from marketing to manufacturing. She remained in the tech industry, but switched titles completely. The trick to negotiating a late-in-life career change is being able to translate your skills. Ask someone in a position similar to the one you want to look over your resume and replace your wording with industry-specific jargon. Future employers will know exactly what your skillset is, and how it can be applied.
  • Play to your strengths. The owner of Ednovation employs 200 people in offices around the globe. He obtained a degree in physics. Working with the theoretical for years not only gave him a gift for explanation and communication, it also inspired him to start working in the “real world.” As a business owner, you can see the relevance of your work, and results come about much quicker. Scientific training also results in thorough behavior and extensive networks and connections, all enviable gifts in the business world.
  • Engage in research. College majors fall loosely into two categories: job titles (engineering, social work) and academic areas (literature, anthropology.) For those who pursue the latter course, their four to eight years of schooling consist primarily of research. The owner of Semicaps, a self-proclaimed academic, explains, “My aim is to continue to do more research, for as an academic, I want my work to be important to all the problems in this industry. I want to anticipate the problems and build up technical expertise and manpower in this field.”

Gone are the days when someone would stay in the same job for twenty years. For better or for worse, the world is changing. Employers seem to value an adaptive individual with new ideas. Not to mention, as technology grows exponentially by the day, even the most steadfast of employees would be hard-pressed to keep up. Instead of feeling stuck in your chosen field, consider how your skills could make a difference. Would the power over words gained after years of poetry help you write engaging marketing copy, or grant applications for non-profits? Can you apply years of teaching experience to managing a large group of employees? This kind of crossover thinking leads to more opportunities for you while equating to better businesses globally.