By Maryam Siddiqi
When I was younger, I assumed everyone was biologically programmed to wake up one day and suddenly realize what their true talent and purpose in life were. Everything would click and you would realize, “oh, I love medicine! I’m great at medicine! Guess I’ll be a doctor!”
As I went through high school and into college, this didn’t quite happen to me, and I thought something was wrong.
I took a bunch of exploratory classes for different majors and joined a variety of clubs, hoping something would trigger that feeling and reveal which career path I should go down. I went to different advisors and expected them to pull out an algorithm that would spit out the perfect major and career pairing for me, but of course, that didn’t happen.
Now, as I wrap up my sophomore year, I have finally managed to decide on a major: public relations! But I didn’t get to it based on feeling a spiritual click, and I’m completely okay with that.
I have learned that it’s not about waiting for some magical internal awakening. Maybe some people do in fact feel that organically, which is great!
But for a lot of us, it takes time and energy to figure out what your next step is. You need to be honest with yourself and partake in a lot of long, intense, headache-inducing self-reflection.
What do I like doing? What am I actually good at doing? What can I do for 40 hours a week and feel fulfilled? What type of material do I enjoy studying? What kind of responsibilities stresses me out? What sort of people do I want to be around 40 hours a week?
You also really need to go the extra mile when researching different careers. A quick Google search can get you started, but I found that talking to professors, talking to other people within the major, reading job postings, skimming trade journal — those will all help you paint a much more accurate and holistic image and allow you to more accurately judge if you would fit.
It’s not as romantic and rosy of a process, and that might be why you don’t hear about it as much as just “I just always knew I wanted to study psychology.” But that’s the reality for many students, and it’s perfectly okay!
You’re not less competent, and your major isn’t less of a fit. As long as you’re enjoying yourself (mostly), you feel like you’re growing, and you have some sense of fulfillment, the rest will fall into place with some hard work and patience.
Even now as a PR major, there are still days I wonder if I’m making the right decision. Am I actually good at this? Am I setting myself up to be stressed out and exhausted for the next 50 years?
But like with many big life decisions, there’s only so much planning and calculating you can. At some point, you just have to go out on a limb and trust yourself. Pick a direction and see where it takes you.