Know the difference between your major and your skills in a job search

When you attend a job interview, you’re more than likely going to be asked the dreaded question: “So, tell us about yourself.” As graduates, it’s a natural reaction to start talking about what you studied at university, your major topic, and what you learned within that subject. However, this isn’t always what a potential employer wants to hear. If you really want to impress, you need to know the difference between your major and your skills.

What is your major?

Let’s start off with the most obvious question – what is your major? What did you learn at college? Your college major is made up of a group of different courses to become an expert in a particular subject. It could be biology, math, economics, even art. Of course, a potential employer is going to want to know what major you completed…but that’s not all.

group of graduates

What are your skills?

When an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, they’re not just asking what subject you learned at school. They want to know about your skills. This is something you are able to do well; something you may have learned through your major, but not solely because of your major.

As an example, a skill may be that you’re a whizz-kid with numbers or that you can solve a puzzle in under three minutes. Your skills are the reason you will be hired for a job.

Understanding transferable skills

Think about the skills you have learned through your major (remember, not because of your major). These are your transferable skills that are the kind of thing employers will be looking out for. Let’s imagine you have a major in biology, what skills did you learn through taking those lessons and courses? Analytical thinking is likely to be one. Research skills are sure to be another. How about the ability to handle complex data?


These are all transferable skills that you have picked up through your time at college. Not forgetting organization, time management, communication skills, forward planning, and so on. These skills can be useful for so many different types of job roles; after all, not everyone studying biology wants to become a doctor. You could become an analyst in finance with those skills. You could work in project management with what you’ve learned. However, you need to be able to sell those skills and not just your major.

Using your skills in a job search

Now you know the difference between your major and your skills, how do you use this to your advantage when job hunting? First of all, make sure they’re featured on your resume – and touched upon in your cover letter too! You could explain that during the x-amount of years you studied for your major you learned these valuable skills. Transferrable skills.


If you make it to the interview stage and you’re asked to talk about yourself, sell those skills again. What would make an employer pick you out of the other university graduates? And how do those skills apply to the role that you’re applying for? The more you focus on your abilities as opposed to your degree, the far more likely you’ll get that perfect job.

The next time you send your resume over or attend an interview, think about the key differences between your major and your skills. An employer wants to know what you can bring to the table, not that you’ve learned enough on a particular subject to earn your degree. Put it into practice and watch the job offers roll in.