Shelter from the storm

I’ve never been the kid with a big plan for success in the work force. When I was younger, all I wanted to do was plug my guitar in, tour the country and focus on my nascent musical abilities. Supporting myself with a career simply didn’t register with my teenage self.

My parents never pushed me to pursue a specific career ambition that would yield a lucrative payday. The focus was never on chasing money. They even supported me when I was a stack of paperwork away from attending the Berklee College of Music. (I decided not to after realizing I would be condemning myself to a lifetime of debt all for a degree in music theory).

As a freshman at St. John’s, I first declared myself a Government and Politics major. It was obvious to me within the first few weeks that I had to quickly change this concentration. It just wasn’t me.

I remember scanning the list of majors that were offered at St. John’s, in every college, and nothing immediately struck me as an ideal fit. I became aware of the incredibly privileged situation surrounding me: I was young, enrolled in a vast university and in a position to study any subject I wanted.

Lawyer? Doctor? Journalist? This is America after all, so take your pick.

But as an 18-year-old person, that position was proving to be more of a cause for concern than a privilege. Friends and I would ask each other, “What do you want to do with your life?” Few genuinely knew, most did not.

It would take a few more years and three more majors before I started to realize that this dilemma is what makes the college years so beneficial. College isn’t about programming minds to function as a droid in one sole occupation. It’s a time for exploring, experimenting with different fields and not being tied down to a specific career path.

Still, there’s a common misconception amongst students that struggling through four years of a major that they hate will somehow be worth it because of the salary they’ll pick up upon graduation. But in today’s work force, no jobs are guaranteed, and pursuing a career solely for its money is a guaranteed route to depression.

There’s a subculture in this country’s classrooms that pushes students toward picking a career early in life; it’s the result of an American society that our grandparents inhabited, and to some extent, our parents too. On a broad-spectrum, generation after generation of Americans have experienced a tougher time finding jobs, and not just because of crumby economies and baby boomers who won’t retire.

Technology has slowly been transforming entire industries, and as a result, the jobs that comprise those industries have also been evolving. This transformation demands more of working professionals. For example, it means musicians now have to manage an online presence if they want to gain popularity. Journalists and writers now have to be tech savvy, be able to produce Web videos and understand Website platforms.

Aside from a few timeless professions in such fields as medicine and law, job-seekers are finding that the broader the range of their skills, the more opportunities are open to them. What matters is not your desire to perform one task very well, but your ability to learn and to diversify your skills. Simply put, it’s the more skillfully diverse and experienced students that will get jobs after graduation. For this reason alone we as students should value our time in college for the time it allows us to diversify ourselves.

What’s been crucial in my college years is the experience I’ve gained in internships, the advice I’ve solicited from professors and working professionals and my abstention from “declaring a career.”  

I’ve taken my time to test the waters of different fields—both in and out of the classroom—and it has left me with a greater understanding of what I want to pursue, and the assurance that I can perform in multiple occupations. There’s no one major that could have brought me to where I am; only patience, curiosity and perseverance could do that.

If I could go back and give advice to my freshman self, it would be to not lose sleep over picking a major. I would advice not to get stressed over hopping around, and have the persistence to explore and utilize the college years.

With graduation a few months away, I still may not be the kid with an elaborate plan; but I’ve got options to pursue and I’ve found work that I care about.

Bring on the work force.