What to do if you graduated with a major you weren’t happy in (the spider web analogy)

Perhaps you just graduated.  Or you’re about to graduate.  And you’re looking at your degree audit and thinking “oh my lanta, how’d I make it through college studying this?”  Or, more importantly, “what am I going to do with this?”

When you’re 18, it’s a miracle if you can figure out your college’s convoluted bus system or remember the dining hall hours.  At 18, it’s incredibly difficult to know what you’ll want to do forever–without access to a crystal ball from your local fortune teller, how do you know what you’re thinking about studying will get you to where you want to be in 10 years?

We choose majors for different reasons, but whether you’ve known from the beginning what you’ve wanted to study, you based it on salary, you had influence from your family, or you just liked how it sounded, your major in college does have some effect on your life.  It doesn’t define your life, but it can open and close career doors.

As an electrical engineering major, you haven’t learned what you need to be a neuroscientist.  That’s not to say you can’t learn–just that your EE program didn’t prepare you for a neuro line of work.

So here’s the dilemma: when you’ve studied something you can’t see yourself doing for a year out of school, let alone forever, and it’s too late to switch.  You want to be the neuroscientist, but you’re trained as the electrical engineer.

You can only gain so much exposure by reading required course outlines or articles about what people in your major do.  And, often by the time you’re qualified enough to intern somewhere to test the waters, you’re too deep in the coursework to be able to switch out if you don’t like it.

It can be frustrating–it’s like when you take the wrong exit on the highway, because you can see in your mirrors where you should be going, but you just keep getting further away with time.

It’s okay if what you studied in school isn’t a perfect fit for what you want to do now–it just means that you have to find some connections between what you’ve studied to what you want to do.  It’s like you’re a spider, creating a bridge (your connection) between two tree branches (where you are and where you want to be).

There has to be something you’ve learned that applies to what you want.  Now, it’s your job to find it.

The key is to look at what you’ve studied through a different angle–for example, why your background in electrical engineering (what you are) gives you an edge as a neuroscientist (what you want to be) (your connections being analogizing logic signals to neuronal impulses, understanding how MRIs and EEGs work, and being able to think of the nervous system as a big circuit).

If you’ve found that what you thought you’d like at 18 doesn’t suit you at 22, that’s okay–after all, if our older selves could advise our younger selves, we’d never make mistakes.

But, your next objective is to figure out how to get to where you want from where you are with what you have.  Building that spider web-bridge could be as simple as jumping into your next job or more complex, where you’re building each strand at a time–and perhaps your time and resources needed depend on how far apart the branches are.  The bridge could require further education, a temporary job in the middle of what you want with what you have, or advice from someone who’s been in your situation before.

Sincerely,

Calla

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