By Chemda Wiener
The first day I walked into my computer science class, my professor explained one of the reasons we should all become computer science majors. He pulled up a slide which listed the amount of positions open in the workforce for computer scientists and the amount of people who actually become computer scientists. The numbers spoke for themselves. There were so many jobs open, and so few people to take them. We were sure to make money. There could not have been a more convincing argument, right?
Right now, like many college students, I’m at that dangerous and anxiety-inducing crossroad: I’m trying to choose a major. Of course, as I consider my major, I’m also thinking a little further ahead and looking at what jobs this major might open up for me. I have a lot of interests and am trying to explore as much as I can this semester. I love English literature and I love physics. I love pretending that I have people figured out (much to my friends’ annoyance), so I guess that makes me a lover of psychology too. I know I can’t major in all these things, and I know I shouldn’t major in some of these things, but I am trying to come up with a way to decide what to do. I want a way to feel that I am not sacrificing any of my interests but that I’m also not jeopardizing my future career.
As I think of the professional field I would like to go into, I consider the following two factors: I am looking for a job that I will feel interested in or passionate about, and a job that makes money. According to a study done by ReviseSociology, the average human spends about a fifth of his or her waking hours working over his or her lifetime, or a third of their waking hours working in a span of fifty years. It only makes sense to me that with such a significant amount of time spent working, I do something I am actually passionate about. The financial factor is, of course, a no-brainer. Money is a common cause of stress and therefore everybody, not only me, looks for jobs that will provide them with financial security.
As I indicated previously, I’m not alone in this decision. But as I talk to more and more people about their decisions and considerations, I notice that sometimes people are more focused on the second factor as opposed to the first – on the financial aspect rather than the passion aspect.
Sometimes we forget that our jobs should make us happy and content, and should be jobs that we can look forward to doing. We should not just sacrifice a fifth of our lives because we think that is the only way we will have financial stability.
When we focus only on the financial aspect of our jobs (or future jobs) we may inevitably end up doing things we don’t enjoy and do not find fulfilling. The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey states that less than fifty percent of Americans feel satisfied with their jobs. At least fifty percent of us waste half a day doing something that is not fulfilling or satisfying.
Why do we do this to ourselves? We enter fields that we have little interest in but must dedicate lots of time to. We make ourselves unhappy with the claim that in the long-term we will be happier; we will have money. But what about right now? What about a fifth of life – should that really be sacrificed as a means to an end?
As I choose my major and ask for advice, I hear a lot of the following: “Well, let’s look at this logically,” by which people mean, “What makes the most money?” or “What has the most job openings?” Those aspects are definitely important, but why are there scarcely replies such as, “What makes you happy?” or “Well, you are passionate about x, and you will probably look forward to doing that everyday,” or even “What type of person do you want to be, and what profession might be in line with those values?” Is it worth spending a significant portion of our lives, and expending a tremendous amount of energy, towards a practice that does not fulfill who we are or give impetus to who we would like to become?
It is not, however, only the financial aspect that might cause us to choose a career path that does not really interest us. Society clearly endorses specific jobs that it declares “logical” through advertisements and statistics, and even through day-to-day conversations. It is so much easier to just listen to society, to just continue through life without having to make that defining decision, without needing to actively choose to sacrifice one interest over the others. Defining who we are is scary and risky. What if the interest I focused on was the wrong one? What if I sacrificed my ability to do the thing that would actually make me happiest? It is too much responsibility to choose something that might lead to failure. And why should I do so, when society deems it so acceptable to simply go along with the mainstream?
It is so easy to get pulled into this practice, but we need to stand defiant and define who we are. We need to make logical decisions in the truest sense: what makes us happy in addition to what will ensure financial stability. We need to take risks and put our unique personalities out there and become the people we want to become. So, rest assured, if you hear of me majoring in computer science, it will not be because there are so many job openings (or at least not only because of that), but because I am truly passionate about the subject.