At the DWAP with Greta Fenley two weeks ago, Greta mentioned a former student of hers who had recently contacted her requesting access to the OCR again. The student was absolutely miserable at his job and wanted help in finding a different one. I asked Greta if the root of the problem was the company the student worked for or the actual work that student was doing; Greta replied that the student had expressed an intense dislike for both.
The thought that one could go through four years of learning about a particular field and not realize his or her lack of compatibility to that field was very jarring to me and motivated me to rethink my strategy of choosing a major. In light of this student’s experience, I developed three thought processes that I think are very important to engage in when choosing a major. If you have any additional input, please share in the comments!
1) Reconsider why you are here
We are supposedly here to get an education, but the cold reality is that you and I live in world where it is increasingly difficult to make a decent living without a college degree, specifically one in a field with a viable job market. Initially, this fact scared me so much that I felt pressured to base my decision on what to major in almost entirely on the projected growth rate of jobs in that particular field. However, this former student’s story encouraged me to take a step back and consider my own compatibility with a particular major as opposed to that major’s compatibility with the job market. This leads to my next step:
2) Consider what you will be doing as opposed to how much they are making
Indeed, it is important that we earn a major that makes us viable candidates for successful jobs. However, we cannot let this blind us from the reality of those jobs that our major is preparing us for. If we take a moment to peel back the average starting salary or percent growth of the jobs typically associated with a particular major, what do we see? Hopefully, we see jobs that we individually (not our parents or BHPeers) could really enjoy rather than simply tolerate.Indeed, if success is our goal, we may want to ask how “successful” we can really be working in a field that we are indifferent towards.
3) Accept the struggle
This may seem to reiterate an age-old struggle between doing what one loves and what is practical, and maybe it does. Either way, what I am proposing is that we become aware of the struggle and its limitations. I really do believe that it is possible for each one of us to find a major and a career that we both enjoy and can succeed in. However, I also believe that we won’t find it if we refuse to earnestly search and instead settle on a major that seems “safe”.