“What’s your major?”
“Sanskrit. You’re majoring in a 5,000-year-old dead language?”
Rather than one single subject, college is about learning. It’s about learning how to learn. It’s about discovering how to discern between information that is important and frivolous. It’s about being well-rounded. It’s about being exposed to different people from different cultures with different ideas. It’s about learning time management and making your cash flow last and eliminating distractions. Being able to tell people that you can’t hang out right now because you have to study or go to bed so you can wake up early is a discipline that needs to be learned for many people. There’s always someone inviting you to play video games or take a walk or get a beer, and being able to buckle down when you need to is as important as any other skill a student develops. It sounds easy, but only about 56% of students graduate from college. And that’s within six years, not the standard four.
Is it possible to choose the “wrong” major? Probably. Becoming an expert in cat memes may not be the best use of time and student loans, but it’s also not the death knell that many would have you believe. You can have a soft major and succeed or have a hard major and fail. It’s all about the person. Furthermore, things change. Once upon a time, law school, along with medical school, was seen as the pinnacle of education. No longer.
It may take some time. You may have to start as a temp or go back for more schooling or find your unique angle or simply hustle more than others — or all of the above, like I did — but there are still opportunities out there to be had. At a certain point, it becomes more about experience. Even within the same field, different organizations have different processes and systems, so in many cases, you’ll have to learn from scratch anyway.
Also, if you’re serious about not only your career but your life, you should learn far more after college than when you’re on campus. After all, you’re only there for four years and you’re out of college for forty to fifty years. Hopefully you don’t stop reading once you graduate. In order to learn a business — any business — thoroughly, a person must learn all aspects of it. This is one of the reasons why Andrew Carnegie advocated for his employees to begin at the bottom:
It is well that young men should begin at the beginning and occupy the most subordinate positions. Many of the leading business men of Pittsburgh had a serious responsibility thrust upon them at the very threshold of their career. They were introduced to the broom, and spent the first hours of their business lives sweeping out the office. I notice we have janitors and janitresses now in offices, and our young men unfortunately miss that salutary branch of a business education.
I’m a manager and I’ve combed through résumés and made hiring decisions. The applicant’s major was not one of the top three items on my list and, even when I did get to it, it was usually as a means to learn more about the person and what made them tick.
“I see you majored in finance. What made you choose that?”
The responses tell me about the person, how they thought and perceived things, and how they would fit within the group, something that is far more insightful than words on a CV.
I once knew a twenty-five-year-old college graduate with little experience that had a two-page résumé. The second page was one line that listed just his hobbies, one of which was watching professional wrestling. That’s the kind of applicant that is your competition.
Do you think it matters what his major was?