You’re Not Stuck in Your Subject

Chris Mastris graduated from the University of Exeter in 2015, with a BSc in Biological Sciences. He is currently a Digital Account Manager at Optix Solutions, a web design and digital marketing agency in Exeter. Chris also publishes a digital marketing blog about the industry, with a focus on career development. 

Chris Mastris

Chris Mastris

Since finishing college and applying for university placements, I knew that I wanted to work in the field of biology, most likely in research. I loved learning about the microscopic processes that happened every second, mostly without us even realising. And, while I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, I really enjoyed wearing a lab coat. (“Yeah, I’m a scientist”.) However, during the final year of my degree I started to have doubts about whether I wanted to pursue a career in biology, and my (admittedly vague) plans began to falter. I’m still fascinated by the world of science and technology, but I realised that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working in a lab.

“Ultimately, the subject of your degree doesn’t have to define your career, even if following an unconventional path might be less obvious and more challenging.”

After graduating, I spent a lot of time trawling through job boards trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I decided to try learning some programming, as it was something I’d always been interested in. Although I enjoyed the logical and challenging nature of it, I decided that it wasn’t what I was currently looking for as a career. Around the same time, I’d also been volunteering at a local community organisation, helping them with their publicity and online presence. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, so on a whim I started to read up about digital marketing. One of the most important – and fortunate – moments came when I happened upon a tweet by a local digital marketer, who was looking to recruit someone new. I sent him a message asking about work experience, and the rest is history- I’m now working full-time at that very same digital marketing agency.

Ultimately, the subject of your degree doesn’t have to define your career, even if following an unconventional path might be less obvious and more challenging. You might be surprised at how common this is, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To take one example, in our digital marketing team at Optix Solutions none of us hold a degree-level qualification in marketing- our backgrounds range from visual arts through to archaeology! For this generation especially, with rapidly changing technology and threats of increasing automation, I think being adaptable is one of the most useful skills you can have.

Importantly, I feel that my degree prepared me for my career by helping me to develop a variety of useful skills, such as analytical thinking and written communication- even if my knowledge of microbial disease doesn’t come in handy very often in the office. In addition, I think my university experience has also improved my ability to learn quickly and adapt; I’d like to think this helped me progress from being an intern to a digital marketing account manager in less than a year. My final year project, a lab-based research project, was particularly valuable in this respect- even though I found it fairly challenging at the time!

“Don’t be afraid to experiment a little with what you want to do for the rest of your life: there’s a good chance that you’ll be happier and more successful because of it.”

Although I’m now pursuing a different discipline, I’m still grateful for the experiences that my time at university provided me with. The message I want to share is that a degree can have benefits far beyond the subject matter, and it’s by no means impossible to change your path after graduating. It can feel stressful, even hopeless, when you’re not sure which direction to take. However, by putting in the effort and having patience, there’s still plenty of options out there. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little with what you want to do for the rest of your life: there’s a good chance that you’ll be happier and more successful because of it.

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