A lot of students perceive their college major as a career death sentence. When I was younger, I thought majors and careers formed a linear, permanent deal: you major in law, you become a lawyer forever; you major in finance, you become a banker forever; etc. By the time you have to actually declare a major, you know this isn’t true: a plethora of potential jobs relate to each major, and most people hold a variety of different positions throughout their careers. Nevertheless, declaring a major is still terrifying, so here are some bits of advice to consider as you’re freaking out.
1. Work Backwards
Your career and your life are not independent entities. The reality is that your work is going to be a big part of your life so it’s important to begin by envisioning your ideal life, then find a career that’ll complement that. For example, if you aspire to live abroad, it may be useful to research jobs for people who want to live abroad.
2. Passion is Nonnegotiable
A lot of people think they’re going to major in something that’ll get them a high paying job they don’t like, and then just deal with it. The thing they forget is they have to actually get hired first and compete with tons of graduates who exude passion for that given field. Hence, why we all can’t be investment bankers. Skip wasting time on this fallacy and pick a major that you don’t despise. Profile successful individuals and what they all have in common is passion.
If you want to do well for yourself, your industry, career path, and even education are all negotiable—passion is not.
3. Money is not Completely Irrelevant
It’s a romantic thought, but if you don’t want to shoplift all your necessities for the rest of your life, money matters. The question is, how much does it matter to you? Going back to the “Work Backwards” point, imagine your ideal future. If it involves staying at four-star hotels as you eat caviar in a jacuzzi (no judgment, that sounds great), pick a major that’ll make you competitive for higher-paying positions. If you’re content chilling in your bathtub and ordering Chinese takeout instead, you probably don’t need one of the top 25 highest paying jobs.
4. Stay Up to Date on Job Market Trends
The economy constantly fluctuates so understanding job market trends is smart. Currently, a huge disruptor is AI, which is forecasted to influence almost every industry in some way. Staying up to date on job market and industry trends will help you align your passions with future employment.
Sifting through internship and job postings, you’ve probably noticed that there are certain skills many employers desire. For example, knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud softwares, coding languages, and data analysis tools. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a computer science or design major to learn these—you just need a laptop. Indeed, the internet provides many free or cheap courses to teach you these things so you can stay competitive, no matter your major.
6. Experience Matters
On your resume, your education is only one section and your major one word. The rest is skills and experiences, so don’t underestimate the importance of these. If you decide to major in one subject but have a passion for something else as well, you can gain experience in that industry by pursuing outside activities related to it. Join school clubs, intern, volunteer— there are many opportunities.
7. Mix and Match
Almost every school allows students to pursue a minor or double concentration, so take advantage of this! A minor is a great way to help balance your priorities; for example, if you select an employment-friendly major, perhaps choose a minor you’re super passionate about. Or alternatively, pick an employment-friendly minor to complement a less marketable major.
8. Talk it Out
One of the best ways to understand if a major is right for you is to talk to others you majored in the same thing. Your school’s career office can likely connect you with other current majors or alumni. Another great idea is to conduct informational interviews with professionals who have jobs you admire and learn what they studied and how they got to their current career.
Cover image via Chic Candle Co.1
Also published on Medium.