Dear Matt: I’m starting a new job search. I have a bachelor’s degree in business management and an associate degree in accounting. I’ve only focused on applying for accounting roles since college and am now wondering if I am limiting myself. Do you advise people to look for jobs outside their field of study? Why or why not?

Matt says: A college degree helps you move forward in your career, but it certainly does not define or limit your career options. What you think you want to do when you are in school at ages 18-23 may be completely different from what you want to do — or end up doing — once you turn 25, 30, 35, 40 and so on. The key is to find a career that brings you personal and professional satisfaction, no matter what your educational background or experience.

My advice is to do both: Search for jobs within and outside your field. Why limit yourself or your options? But before you do that, ask yourself how you truly want to spend your workday, says Risë Kasmirski with Minneapolis-based Meaningful Connections ( a career strategy, personal branding and online strategy consulting firm.

“If you love accounting, you’ll likely want to head to the financial department of a company to work with like-minded peers,” says Kasmirski. “On the other hand, your business degree opens doors to many other positions within organizations.”

Would you like more client interaction? Then looking for opportunities in sales, marketing or customer service might be a fit, says Kasmirski. Would you like a management role? Then look at organizations that interest you to find out about long-term management possibilities. Did you develop an entrepreneurial spirit? Maybe it’s time to start your own business or consider working for a start-up.

“You’ll spend a lot of time at work,” says Kasmirski, “so it’s a great idea to pursue jobs in industries and environments that excite you.”

Start by focusing on industries, services or companies that fit what’s important to you. Do you want to work for a small business, large corporation or a nonprofit? Do you want to spend your day in an office, telecommuting or traveling? What’s more important, focusing on work-life balance or pursuing a job title or leadership role and doing whatever it takes to achieve that?

Once you understand your focus, join related LinkedIn groups and follow companies of interest to connect with industry professionals and recruiters. Connect with them via e-mail, phone or in-person to learn about how they got to where they are now and what skills are needed to succeed. Attend networking events in industries to learn more and make valuable connections. Update your résumé and hit the job search prepared and confident that your next career move will be the right step for what you want.

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