Aligning Your Study with Your Career

Many people may question what you’re planning on doing in/after you complete your studies, whether it regards the subject you’re majoring in or not. As a fellow student, I get asked “what do you want to do with that?” a lot after explaining what I’m majoring in (Physics & Math). The majority of my high school, and now my college years, I’ve known that I’ve wanted to major in both Physics and Mathematics, but have no intention in teaching or researching it furthermore after my undergraduate degree. This may seem odd, and it may leave you with a hanging question - why would someone want to major in such tough/unusual fields despite their lack of motivation to continue the subject after the fact?

1. Study what you love.

I cannot express how important it is to study something you really love. You may have observed that many adults that graduated college don’t do something tied exactly to their studies, or more commonly, they don’t work in a field even closely related to what they studied! This isn’t strange - most college students both have no idea what they want to do in life, nor do they know the exact path they’ll take, the realizations they’ll have, or the people they’ll meet. That being said, don’t limit yourself to study something that you’ll think will make a lot of money in the future. Yes, money is a monstrous factor when it comes to jobs especially with student debt, but if you decide to follow what interests you deeply, you’ll find that the cash will follow. Plus, unless your field of study is oddly specific, many companies aren’t paying much attention to what you studied, but more toward who you are and your potential - are you going to be an asset or a liability to the company?

2. Change your perspective.

Think about how coding formulas all day into Excel sheets sounds to you. To some, it may sound awesome - to others, like torture. You want your hobbies and professions to coordinate - if you love to paint, don’t become a financial analyst just because it makes good money. This tracks back into your studies. When planning ahead on what you want to do in life, constantly ask yourself, “Is this something I want to do?” Don’t waste your time on something that doesn’t interest you - you’ll be bored and tend to not enjoy your job, which will reflect in your work. And I can attest to this - poor work does not lead to promotions and pay raises; poor work leads to demotions, lost jobs, and worst of all, wasted time.

Look at your career as an open book. Don’t dial in on something so specific that you’ll be lost if something goes wrong. Don’t get me wrong, having a vision is the main driver for most people, including myself. But, that being said, your goals should reflect your passions, interests, and ultimately your dreams.

3. Link your dream job with your field of study.

Another tip I found hugely successful is to find common ground between your dream career and your current field of study. For me, it was the concept that allowed me to connect entrepreneurship with physics and mathematics. Obviously, I enjoy physics and math enough to study it, but entrepreneurship is my dream job. The crux of starting your own company regards solving problems and helping somebody. So, the risky, fast-paced attitude of start-up culture goes hand-in-hand with the complex problem solving that goes into studying physics and math.

This isn’t a one-time case either. In Steve Jobs’ famous commencement speech for Stanford University, he mentioned that a calligraphy class he took in college led to the creation of multiple fonts used on his Macintosh computers. One single college class was the catalyst that put the very font you’re reading on this webpage.

Think deeply about what the big-picture lessons are regarding your study. Surely, whatever you love to do on a daily basis, your career, and your field of study have some alignment - all you have to do is think about their long-term morals and learnings.

4. Be proud of what you love.

Owning what you want to study and how that’s going to play into your career will help your motivation and validation a lot. As students, we all dread the question, “So, how’s school going?” yet we are inevitably asked it from every person we come into contact with. So, in order to answer that, alongside the follow-up, “So, what do you want to do with that?” make your answer something you’re passionate about - rather than something you’re embarrassed to talk about. If you’re studying to be an accountant, your answers to these questions will vary incredibly based on if you’re dedicated to crunching numbers or not.

One way to think about this concept is to observe your own emotion while studying and working and compare it to how you feel when you’re having fun, performing your favorite hobby, or things of that caliber. Ideally, the dream job should be one that not only is profitable, but aligned with what you love to do. Another thing worth mentioning is that the career you had in mind may be completely obsolete - or may not exist yet.

Whether it’s what you’re having for dinner or your career path, you have to look at it with an open mind. As long as you maintain a positive attitude and take every opportunity as an open door, there’s no limiting your experiences.

For example, I received my summer internship from a simple 5 minute conversation with someone who matched the same hobbies as me. One night at a casual dinner on campus, we listened to a speaker talk about his experiences as an entrepreneur, but as he walked up to speak, he mentioned my Bass Pro hat out to the crowd. As he went on to speak, he had briefly mentioned he started a fishing tackle company with his friend, one that I knew quite well and had purchased from. After he had finished, I approached him and we spoke briefly about fishing and entrepreneurship, two of my greatest passions. He connected me with his friend who was currently running the tackle company, and long story short, in the two weeks following that conversation, I received a job offer to work at the company. It was a perfect match, since I love fishing and entrepreneurship, and all it took was a simple conversation (and a stroke of luck). I had no intention to get a job when I spoke to this individual, but my open-mindedness and positive attitude allowed me to receive a great, resume-building experience while meeting some life-changing people.

All-in-all, take every experience with an open mind and never rule anything out. Another connection, no matter what industry it’s in, can change your life. Again, going back to what you choose to study - remember you should study what you’re passionate about. No matter what it is, having some passion or emotional connection to what you’re doing makes it seem less like a job and more like a hobby - which makes working, and making money, seem like a breeze.