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Choosing a Major: Five Tips to Keep in Mind

- August 23, 2013

Last week, we received a message from a MyPerfectResume user with a beautiful piece of advice to share. “The key to career happiness starts in college,” she said. “Major in something practical that will allow you to earn a stable living, and minor in something you love. Do this, and you’ll be on your way to a fulfilling future and a perfect balance between work and life.”

This is a lovely suggestion, though it’s a little bit easier said than done. For every person who has this aspect of life all figured out, there are dozens of others who are standing at a crossroads and breaking a sweat while their major-selection deadline approaches. If you’re facing this point and feeling the pressure to drop your “undeclared” status, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  1. This is not actually a lifelong decision. It may feel that way. But that’s an illusion based on your perspective. You’re standing at an early point on the long and winding career path that will take you from here to retirement, and this path is much, much longer than students tend to realize. Believe it or not, you will be able to change your mind. If you decide you don’t like your chosen career, you’ll have lots of opportunities to start over from the beginning or change course in the middle of the game.
  2. Opportunities to change your mind may occur sooner than you expect. In fact, the very day you graduate, you may decide to leave your major behind. This happens all the time. You may find yourself cherishing your college experience and valuing everything you’ve learned about geology, history, education, or zoology…with no intention of seeking work in this field. That’s fine. You’ll be surprised at the number of employers who won’t worry about the details of your major as long as you possess a legitimate four-year degree.
  3. In the meantime, if you have to choose between studying something you’d really like to know about (art, labor relations, Latin) and something that suggests a stable future and lots of job openings (business, tech, dentistry), choose what you love. Doing so will leave you with positive feelings about learning and education, and years later, this positive relationship with learning will provide more long-term value than the weeks you spent forcing your way through a few courses that made you miserable.
  4. Recognize that debt changes everything. Money plays an unfortunately important role in many of our life decisions, and this one is no exception. If you’re going to spend years (and possibly decades) paying for this degree, you’ll have to be practical and take this into account. But as you do so, keep item 5 in mind.
  5. Your indecision may be an asset. Smart, flexible, broad-minded employers tend to like smart, flexible, broad-minded candidates. If you show up for an entry-level interview with a marketing company holding a degree in agricultural science, competent employers will recognize you as the interesting and well-rounded person that you are. Curiosity tends to breed curiosity, and if you have a colorful and varied backstory, smart employers will enjoy asking you about it. The same rule—happily—also applies to grad school admissions. A degree in engineering or art history won’t keep you out of medical school. In fact, it may give you an advantage, since it shows a willingness to take risks, grow, and embrace learning for its own sake.

Don’t Stop Here

Once you’ve gained the knowledge and experience to make you an interesting candidate (and an interesting person), learn how to showcase your assets to potential employers with winning professional resume. Visit MyPerfectResume for tools, guidance, and formatting resources.

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2 responses to “Choosing a Major: Five Tips to Keep in Mind”

  1. […] employers know that you have the smarts, ambition, and passion to succeed in this position, even if you have a degree in an unrelated discipline or no degree at […]

  2. […] Is your major likely to pay off for you financially? If you’re choosing a major or course of study simply […]

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