Springtime Advice: Words for those choosing a Major and a Career

Well, we are at the peak of spring time, a season of renewal, blossoming, and hope. It is also a time when milestones are achieved: spring is a time when young adults finish school, walk on the stage, and receive their degrees. It is also a time when high school seniors are in the “advent” phase of receiving their high school diplomas, their tickets upon entering the next stage of their nascent journeys in life.

Springtime in May always reminds me of the days when I finished my undergraduate at UC Berkeley, definitely one of the highlights of my life. And I am sure it is the case as well for my fellow peers as well as those who are just about to finish theirs. There is a phenomenon, however, that somehow disturbs or even brings down the spirits of the newly graduates. I can speak of this phenomena myself as well because I have experienced it. The phenomena is that sometimes we regret certain things that we are not able to do in school. One of those things is choosing a major. The rampant belief about choosing a major is that it is supposed to help you find a job and be financially secure. There is a story of one man who was a Political Science major who graduated in 2013 and is now a senior fellow for the Republican Party in the State Capitol in Sacramento. Right from our freshmen year at UC Berkeley, I can already sense that he already knows what he wants to do in the long run and is really passionate about it. There is also a story of another man who graduated in 2013 with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology and is now finishing his last year of medical school in Arizona, preparing to take an exam that, if he passes, will give him the license to practice medicine. Yet, there is also another story of one of my friends who intended to study Economics but eventually switched to Political Economy. He now works as a Human Resources director at a hospital in Orange County. Another story is from a lady who was initially studying Political Science, pursuing to attend law school, but eventually switched her major to Mathematics almost halfway to her undergraduate career, and is now a data analyst for a software company. I have also heard of a story about a man who studied History at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, not necessarily knowing exactly what he wanted to do for a living. Years later, he became the CEO of a well-known finance company. Another story is one of a man who was studying Civil Engineering. He was a couple of courses away from completing his B.S. degree when he decided to switch his major to History and eventually pursued a career as a teacher. Then there is also another story of a man who was initially intending to study Medicine and become a doctor when, halfway through his undergraduate career, he decided to switch to Philosophy. Now he is aspiring to become a priest.

There are definitely a lot more stories out there about young adults switching majors, following through their majors, and sticking to their majors but eventually landing a job that is not in line with their course of study. One story is about a guy who was studying Architecture, completed his degree in Architecture, but currently works as a Call Center customer service representative.

Why am I laying out these stories?

Before I state my answer, I want to clarify that I am writing this post for two audiences: those who are receiving their high school diploma and the undergraduates who are still unsure of what they want to major. There could be many studies analyzing the correlation between a course of study and an eventual career. Some of these studies may take into account race, cultural background, and many other factors in finding a definite pattern behind such phenomenon. The more evident thing to say is that these stories are so varied, so diverse, that it would be very challenging to single out one pattern. Nevertheless, there is an important distinction to be drawn from these and many other stories.

The distinction to be made is between what you study and what you do for a living. Indeed, you could make a living out of what you studied in college. You can definitely study Science and make a career out of the healthcare or research industry. You can study Political Science and become a lawyer. Yet, it is a slippery slope to believe that what you study should lead to what you would eventually do for a living. Employers take this into belief, and that is why it is hard to find a job these days. That belief is quite prevalent especially among the parents as well. The other thing about that belief is that there is an element of money strongly associated with. There are some who choose study what they study simply because they believe that course of study will lead them to a career that is quite abundant in money. And money is security. They choose to pursue that study, only to realize that they are not so passionate with it.

It is important to realize that what you study is one thing and what you do for a living is another. What you do for a living does not necessarily have to be similar to what you study, although sometime it is the case otherwise. What you learn in the universities does not necessarily equip you for the job you might end up, although sometimes it is the case otherwise. Various factors and circumstances explain the distinction. This should not discourage you from pursuing what you want to study. If you already know what you want to do for the rest of your life, by all means go for it! Nevertheless, there is a good amount of people who still has to find their passion in life, especially young adults approaching their undergraduate years. With all that I have said, my advice is to keep in mind the distinction I have mentioned. When you still do not know what you want to study and do for the rest of your life, take into belief that we are learning creatures. We are “rational animals” as the great philosopher puts it. We are wired to learn. And when you take that into belief, you will live your life inspired to learn everything. And that is a great starting point; broadening your scope of learning interest is good point in which to find your passion. In college, your job is not necessarily to figure out what you would do for a living (no pun intended). Your job is to enjoy learning. When you do not know what to major in, choose one major that you know you’ll definitely enjoy. Money is a separate matter from your course of study. Money and your passion will come at some point later on. In the meantime, you are in a university, a garden for knowledge. And you are there for one primary reason: enjoy the garden. Look for that flower or plant where you’ll find your niche.

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