Pursuing your Passions: Why your “Unemployable” Degree is NOT a Waste
Written by: Ann Lambert
“Go into STEM,” my uncle, a computer science major, once said to me. “That’s where the jobs are.”
He probably had a point, but something about the way I personally dreaded every last grade 11 biology class made the idea of pursuing anything science-related extremely unappealing to me. I knew it very quickly that STEM wasn’t for me, but comments like that can surely be upsetting. Is a high paying job really the only thing that matters?
The short answer: no, it isn’t.
If you’ve ever told someone what you planned on pursuing in university, and their first response was:
“Good luck making a stable living with that”
“Have fun waiting tables”
“The job market isn’t looking good for that one”
Or something else along those lines… this article is for you.
I find it’s very common for high school students to pick a job, rather than a program when planning their university career. They’ll worry about making a solid salary, or how competitive the job market will be, and decide on some very conventional career plans that might not actually be meant for them simply because they think it’s “safe” or “realistic.” Or, if they do choose to go into a “risky” field, they’ll then be “warned” by friends, family, or teachers that it might not go well for them; all very discouraging, and all very unnecessary. My advice is, don’t get so caught up thinking about your 5 year, 10 year, or even 25 year plan. Instead of asking yourself “is that a job I’d be happy with for the rest of my life?”, start by asking yourself “is that a program I’ll be happy with for this next stage of my life?”.
First off, understand you are not locked into the program you pick or the career you envision for yourself. You can always switch programs if you don’t find your first plan to be the right fit. SO many people do this, and it’s often not too complicated of a process (though, every school is different). You can also end up with a job that has nothing to do with what you studied, it’s actually a lot more common than you’d think. You, your plans, and your passions might change, which is totally normal, and healthy! Can you imagine still having all the same interests and passions as your 10-year-old self? Exactly. Growth is GOOD.
That is to say, don’t choose or stick to a program that you hate just so you can end up with that one decent paying job. Post-secondary is such an exciting time of your life; after 14 years of a generalized curriculum full of courses that were mostly picked for you, you get to create an entirely unique educational experience that is suited to YOUR interests and passions! Do you really want to dread every single class because the things you’re learning about are so uninteresting to you? If that’s how you feel about your program, chances are the job that you plan to land as a result of that degree won’t make you very happy either.
Sure, no exams are particularly fun to study for, but being passionate about what you’re studying makes it a lot better. Think of it this way: if you love the program, you’ll enjoy the learning process. If you enjoy the learning process, your take on tests and assignments will become much more positive than if you hated the material. With that positive mindset comes more effective studying, leading to better grades, and thus, lots of open doors after you graduate because of the success you attained in your undergrad. Even the academic part of university can and should be enjoyable if you love what you’re studying, and an enjoyable academic experience can lead to a successful career.
Side note: if you’re passionate about a career in STEM, by all means, pursue it! Those are some super challenging programs that lead to very rewarding careers and let’s be real, our world needs science and math whizzes, and a lot of them for that matter. Nonetheless, people should really get it out of their heads that those are the only types of programs that lead to a high-paying career. If it’s not your thing, that’s okay! There are still lots out there for arts/social science grads.
Something I heard many times throughout my first year is that a lot of employers don’t actually care about what’s written on your degree; the mere fact that an applicant has a degree says a lot about them on its own:
They can meet deadlines
They have good communication skills (whether it will be through essays, presentations, reports, studies, collaborative projects, or whatever else, you’ll definitely develop some)
They can commit themselves to something and pull through with it (a degree doesn’t come overnight; completing one takes true dedication!)
They can manage their time and stay organized (trust me, by the time you have a degree, this will most definitely be true)
If you get a degree, the jobs will come, so you might as well enjoy yourself while you’re at it. The job you get might not be what you imagined in grade 12, but that shouldn’t be a bad thing. Like I said, plans change, growth is good!
In short, you don’t even need to have a certain destination in mind when planning your university career; I’m in my second year and I have no idea where I’ll end up. There are countless career options out there, and tons that you haven’t even heard of. It’s good to stay open-minded about your future plans, there’s still SO much to discover about the job market, and yourself. Life is full of trial and error; seek out the opportunities you believe will fulfill you as they come about, and if they don’t, you’ll move on to the next one.
Overall, it’s wonderful to have set plans and vast ambitions. If you have your heart set on being a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a surgeon, or whatever else, and the path to get there is something you’re willing and (at least a little) excited to go through, that’s amazing. But for all of you with post-secondary plans that people have let you believe won’t lead you to success: go get that degree, whatever it is, and have the BEST time doing it. Always remember: money is great and all, but a truly successful career is a happy one. The saying “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” exists for a reason!
Still trying to figure out what your perfect program is? Check out my take on how to pick your program of study.