Not working in your college major? No worries! (I promise.)
This might seem crazy to some Young People, but humor me: Let’s say that you recently graduated college, and you’re starting to understand that what you majored in has very little to do with your day-to-day reality. In fact, you’re starting to panic. Or maybe, you are working in your major, and you’re thinking,”…this is sports medicine? This is what I majored in?! What. The. Actual. F**K!” And, the waves of panic, and/or binge drinking set in.
Relax, Young People. We’ve all been there, and be “we,” I mean, every honest adult. I majored–wait for it–in History, with a focus on Russian Area Studies. I’ll wait for you to stop laughing, but yes, when I was 21, I was a very sensitive, sheltered soul, and I genuinely thought, “But why wouldn’t I major in history? I love history!” If you had said, “Carlota, what kind of job could you possibly get with a major in history, especially considering that you have no plans whatsoever to teach history, or get even a higher degree?” Welp, I would have stopped listening at the word “job.” The rest of your intelligent, mature query would have died away in some high-pitched whining in a key above my interest. Our “exchange” would have gone something like this:
Oh my lord, to be 21 and so confident: a simpler time in my life.
But then again, when I was 21, we actually had rotary dial phones, and sincere “social issues” cop shows, and, crucially, NO INTERNET. No Facebook. Some of you reading this are recoiling in horror, but it was actually much easier in many ways. For example, without the Internet, I was not immediately, and constantly, barraged by what all my friends were doing with their majors. I had no idea, and frankly, I didn’t care. I got my degree, and moved to Russia, and focused on my own life. I had the time and patience to start the (on-going) process of discovering my passion. I didn’t waste time panicking about (cue the dramatic music) The Meaning of My Life, because I was too busy
drinking fighting with my boyfriend discovering myself.
I got a job that I (sort of) liked, which led to getting a job that I really liked, which led to me being fired, which led to much drinking and drama, which led to me getting a job that I loved. I was very lucky. Let me make it clear that exactly none of those jobs were in my major. And, in fact, when I was working in network news, and I’d meet people who had majored in “Communications,” I’d giggle and think,”…really? So why are you so INEPT at COMMUNICATING your “ideas,” you moron?!” (Oh, boys and girls, how much fun was I?! So much fun. )
So, Young People, let’s say you’re reading this in the midst of another day working at some crap job, either in or way out of your major, and you’re
terrified anxious. Your life makes no sense to you. You think you failed. Oh my, no. Not by a long shot. You’re just getting started! Your major didn’t exactly gel with your whole je ne sai quoi? Shocking! How could it have? You’re still figuring yourself out!
Instead of seeking out your passion on Monster.com, or LinkedIn–just typing the words “passion” and “Monster.com”, makes me bray like a donkey–why not focus on figuring out what you enjoy? This sounds corny as sh*t, but volunteering with children, or walking shelter dogs, or planting a community garden, will ease your troubled mind, and put you in front of other intelligent people who will make you realize that you are not crazy. (Alternatively, you may realize that crazy, when compared to some of the other options, isn’t entirely bad.) Some of these people will mention, casually, work they do, or have done, and you’ll think,”…whoa, I didn’t even know that was a thing!” And you’ll ask that person for advice, and one thing leads to another, as The Fixx famously sang, and suddenly you’re interviewing for a job that, while probably still not in your major, may excite your brain like your major never did. If this sounds frustratingly haphazzard and weird, allow me to be the first to welcome you to Planet Earth. Bring cash. Wash your hands.
In the meantime, here’s a deeply unscientific list of some helpful things you can do, as you start paving your own unique, i.e highly irregular, career path:
- Order basic business cards, with the following information: your name, your professional email address (email@example.com) and your cell phone. Vistaprint.com and Moo.com are two very popular sites, neither of which, unfortunately, pay me a penny in advertising. Alas.
- Create a professional Twitter account (@firstlastname) and start following the accounts of the people, places, institutions and subjects that interest you, from craft beer to knitting. (My Twitter handle is @kittenmagix. I shall just leave this information here.) See what conversations the people you admire are having. How might you, intelligently, contribute to those conversations?
- Join your alumni associations: college and grad school. If you have to ask, you’re probably not a member. Join, check out the upcoming events calendar and make a plan to attend at least two events. These events don’t technically have to be networking events, because any event can be a networking event, and right now, you just need to take your courage in hand and get the hell out of the house. Even better, consider joining your local alumni association as a board member. Then, hey, you can plan events around people and subjects that you care about! It’s easy to bitch that your alumni association does nothing, but it takes real courage to say, “I’m going to get on that board and hold events for writers, so I can meet some of my heroes, and understand how they became, over the time, the writers I so admire.” That same courage is how you’re going to make your life, as opposed to just dread it.
- Go through all your Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, friends and family in general and think, “Who is doing cool stuff?” These are the people with whom you want to connect: How’d they get involved in whatever the hell it is they do? How’d they get started? What advice do they have? There are so many more jobs and opportunities in the world than you are aware of, Horatio, so this is your time to put that college degree to use and free your mind. As you do so, you might start taking note of how many of the people you know and admire are actually working in their major…you might be very surprised.
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a note in the comments, and I’ll give you some personalized advice. I’ve coached people in the White House, and around the world, so yes, Sweetheart, you are indeed a unique snowflake, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have
nagginghelp for you.
Listen, at the end of the day, you can spend this chapter of your life looking for a job, or looking for yourself. Jobs come and go, but with luck and courage, your relationship with the rich universe of self, can only deepen and grow. Good luck!
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