If you’ve ever been a college freshman, you probably know the pressure of declaring a major. After all, this is what you’re going to spend the next four (or five, or six) years studying, and the following forty-plus practicing professionally… right?
Well, not always.
For first-year students, foreseeing the next four years is like trying to look down the road through a thick fog. You have a fuzzy idea of where you’re headed, but the figures and shapes ahead of you are hazy, and the path is uncertain. Squinting through the murkiness of impending self-discovery, how can a student know if the path they are travelling is the right path for them?
Many college students don’t realize their path is wrong until they’re halfway (or farther along) to the finish line. Panicking, they visit academic advisors and career counselors, desperate to find “right” path. Many of them discover there could be several paths that could be right for them. Again, the pressure of finding their niche overtakes them, and they feel the familiar burden of an uncertain future.
Take heart, college students, because I’m about to reveal one of the biggest secrets of college:
YOUR MAJOR DOES NOT HAVE TO DETERMINE YOUR CAREER.
There are several exceptions to be made, of course. If you’re pursuing a degree in a communications discipline, you probably will not be equipped for medical school or to be an engineer. But who knows? Maybe you’ve taught yourself programming on the side and you have an impressive portfolio to show off. Or maybe you’re the biomedical sciences major who realizes the summer before your senior year that you can’t handle blood, but you love to work with doctors.
Take it from someone who’s been there: there are ways to make it work.
Here are three practical steps to get closer to a career that works for you, regardless of your major:
1. Embark on a journey of self-discovery. You cannot--and should not--choose your career until you know yourself. What makes you YOU? What makes you tick? Inspires you? Grosses you out? Do you like talking to people or making machines work? These are all the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself, because their answers lead you closer to the kinds of careers and work environments that work for you. For a more guided self-discovery journey, visit the Career Center and ask about the career assessments available!
3. Market yourself effectively. If you find yourself near graduation with an unrelated major, think outside the box about what makes you suitable for the kind of job you want. If you’re graduating with a degree in sociology, but you want to become a social media manager, think about your own experience with communication. Did you learn about group behaviors, manage your own social media image or work on a team to complete a task? All of these skills are important in your desired field, so show them off on your resume!
After you have done all this, fret not: the path to success is not a straight arrow. You don’t have to make the right major decision the first time, but by getting to know yourself, gaining practical, applicable experience and marketing yourself effectively, you are taking steps closer to the work you were made to do.
Written by Sarah Russell
Graduate Assistant working on a MEd in Higher Education Administration