When people find out I have a BA in Psychology but work as a Marketing Manager for a software company (or previously as a Staffing Manager for a temp agency or a Human Resources Manager for a sign manufacturing company), they generally pose one of two questions:

1. How did you end up in marketing (or HR) with a Psych degree?
2. So, can you read people’s minds?

So to provide answers to their questions:

1. Because I am organized and love people and relationship building and you can teach me the technicalities of the job.
2. Unfortunately, no…but imagine how much fun I would have if I could!

It’s amazing to me how people respond when your previous experience or degree is not a direct correlation to your current position. During my freshman year, when I was contemplating what I wanted to ‘be’ when I grew up, I clearly remember a conversation between my Dad and me. He asked what classes I liked, and the first thing that came to mind was Intro to Psych. He encouraged me to follow my gut, take classes I enjoyed and receive a Liberal Arts degree from a well-respected University. I followed my Dad’s advice (thanks, Dad!) and have found that doors have opened in many unexpected places, all without a degree in Business Management, Finance, Marketing or the like.

I just recently learned from his keynote at the USASBE conference that Guy Kawasaki has a Psychology degree as well, worked in the jewelry business while getting his MBA and had a religious experience when he saw a Mac for the first time. He didn’t have the direct experience, but he wanted to work for, and evangelize, Apple. Imagine if Apple hadn’t given Guy a chance due to not having an undergraduate business degree or work-related technology experience.

I only caught about 30 minutes of Guy’s keynote, but one of the things that continues to resonate with me about hiring your next employee is his statement, “Ignore the Irrelevant”. As an employer, don’t hire someone because (s)he has the perfect background or the right degree – hire someone because (s)he is a great culture fit and loves what you do. Maybe easier said than done, but would you be where you are today if someone hadn’t taken this advice and given you a chance?

So, the next time you are hiring, I pose this one question to you: Will you ignore the irrelevant?

Kristen Langham
Marketing Manager
Palo Alto Software