It's OK to be a work in progress

April 18, 2018

The seamless process: shadow colleges, pick a major, have your family celebrate your achievements at your high school graduation party, enter college, ace your classes, land that dream job and do it for 40-plus years. Easier said than done, right?


According to a December 2017 report, the U.S. Department of Education found that at least one-third of college students change their majors within three years of college, and 10 percent of students change their major at least twice. That means that, out of a high school graduating class of 300 students, 100 of them will not complete the major they originally started in.


With graduation less than a month away, I’d imagine that the future seems ominous for some of you. You just put in three, four, maybe five-plus years of hard work to earn that diploma. Maybe some of you have a job lined up, while some of you have no idea what you’ll do after May 5. 


What if I get into my job and hate it? What if I’m still in school and starting to question my major? Is it too late to turn back? Did I just waste all this time and money?


I will be the first person to tell you that it’s OK not to know what you want to do when you grow up. Perhaps you’ve been groomed to be the next family lawyer or accountant, or maybe you took an unpopular route that your parents tried to discourage you from. 


It’s never too late to become what you truly desire to be or to figure out what that might be. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found that people often stay unhappy in a career for one to two years before finally having enough and switching. Those interviewed named loss of identity, fear of making the wrong choice and being comfortable in their current jobs as reasons for staying despite unhappiness. I beg of you: Don’t be a part of this statistic! 


Time is the most valuable resource. Although it may seem easier to stay in a current major you don’t like or take a job in a field you find that you no longer enjoy, it may be worth the extra cost to go back to school, switch majors or take an even lower-paying job that makes you happy. A 2017 meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Psychology found a positive link between job satisfaction and life satisfaction, meaning that your unhappiness in your career could affect your relationships, activities, marriages and friendships.


I will be graduating with my bachelor’s degree this May with two years remaining until I achieve my PharmD. Regardless of how straight and narrow my path may seem, I will be the first to admit to you that I do not even know what I want to do with my life. Sure, I want to be a pharmacist, but what kind? In what practice setting? In what state? With what patient population? I keep hoping for that “a-ha!” moment where I discover my passion and feel 100 percent certain in what I want to do. As for right now, I’m still figuring it all out—and that’s OK.


So, whether you have three years left of school or are graduating in three weeks, make sure you are doing what makes you happy or keep searching until you find it.  Measure the opportunity cost of time wasted in a career or schooling that you really don’t want or love. Take the jump: go back to school, switch your major or take some extra time in searching for that coveted first job. Make sure that at the end of the day, you are really happy with your choices and you are living the life that you (not anyone else!) want for yourself. It’s OK to be a work in progress.



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