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Monday, March 3, 2008

Studying what you love

Growing up, my parents always told me this: "We don't care what you decide you want to be, but you have to go to college. If you want to herd sheep, well, then you will be a college educated shepherd."

(My standard response was that I wanted to be a ninja. To this day, I still think it would be a fun profession.)

I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life when I went to college. I liked my literature classes in high school, and I loved music, but I wasn't sure that I wanted to be a music teacher. An English teacher didn't sound so bad though. So I entered college as an English major, planning on entering the education program my second year.

One semester in the education program told me that while I might still want to be a teacher, I did not want to go through the education program offered to me. I was, for the most part, enjoying my English classes, so I decided to continue there. I changed direction a bit and picked up a supplementary major in a computer field, intending to go to a consulting firm like Arthur Anderson.

Well, we all know what happened there.

So I was coming up on graduation. I looked at what I liked to do. I loved my literature classes. I loved to read and analyze and write. And I liked history and government. A light bulb appeared above my head, and I decided to go to law school. So that I wasn't just jumping into graduate school without any idea of what I was doing, I took a year and worked in a law firm. I learned that while I did not so much enjoy toxic tort litigation, I liked the law. So off to law school it was.

I sometimes wonder what I was thinking, majoring in English. I did what everyone said - I majored in what I loved. Our running joke used to be "If you study engineering, you become an Engineer. If you study architecture, you become an architect. What are you if you study English? Unemployed." Things worked out for me though. I enjoyed what I learned in school, and I enjoy what I do now. My fellow English majors ended up in all sorts of professions: education, theater, government, journalism, and many others.

Sure, with the exception of my supplemental major, I really graduated with no marketable skills. I could read, analyze, and write, but I feel those skills are grossly undervalued by business. But I had followed my passion, and even though my career has taken a total left turn from where I thought I was going when I was 18 and entering college, I have no regrets. I still think that majoring in what you love is a valuable recommendation. You just need to also think about what you will do with your education when you finish, and maybe that means picking up a second major (I have a number of friends who were business and anthropology double majors, for example), or maybe that means graduate school. But you shouldn't abandon what you love. You should work to turn that into what you will do with your life after graduation.


Anonymous said...

I would also advocate for studying what you love, as a fellow English major! I have actually had a lot of positive responses from employers and prospective employers to my choice of degree, since people automatically assume that I am a whiz at writing, editing, etc, which are ALWAYS helpful in a job.

asgreen said...

I was an English major as well. =) I played with the idea of law school but eventually went back for my masters. I currently work in higher education administration and love it.

It is so important to know how to read, write, and analyze that I believe an English major is actually very valuable.