Dear Matt: I've been out of college six years and haven't found any opportunities anywhere closely related to my area of study (degree in statistics). I never did an internship and feel I'm not getting noticed because I lack the experience companies require. I feel like I'm wasting some of my best working years. What can I do?

Matt says: I know from following up with this reader that you are working and gaining valuable experience, regardless of the industry. In cases like this, it's important to take a step back and reassess your entire job search plan. At this point you should treat your job search like that of a recent college graduate searching for that first entry-level job. While you didn't do an internship, you should use the fact that you have real-world work experience to your advantage and highlight that in your résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and in any communication with any networking contacts or potential employers.

While you may be discouraged now, you have plenty of time to pursue your passion — but you can't pursue it without a plan. That's why you literally need to start from scratch, says Karen Kodzik, a St. Paul-based career management consultant and president of Cultivating Careers (

"Think back to why you initially choose your field of study," says Kodzik. "What did you want to do with that degree? What work did you envision yourself doing?"

There are a wide variety of jobs one can pursue with a statistics degree, in fields such as clinical or market research, the public sector and insurance. Many industries need employees with a research-oriented or statistics background as data and analysis are important business metrics. Go back to your college career center to find out where some alumni from your department are currently working. Can you network with them? Are there professional/industry-related trade associations you can join? These organizations are full of potential contacts. Search on LinkedIn for job titles that may fit your degree/background. Where do those people work? Where did they previously work? Connect with them, then research their company and previous positions. Are these companies hiring for any related positions? Could you then reach out and have an informational interview with these people?

It's also important to search current jobs you'd be interested in and do a skills analysis. How do your current experience, technical skills and education meet the latest industry needs or trends? If there is a gap, consider taking a class or seeking opportunities at your current employer that can fill in those gaps.

Don't be afraid to start over. Take a step back to move forward and you can accomplish your goals and dreams.