Throughout college, I answered two questions almost daily:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What’s your major?

As an adult, though, I can’t remember the last time someone asked me what I majored in at college.

The consequences of my choice to double major in English and drama, however, have had profound impacts on my life.

What a student majors in matters, yet not in the way most people think.

 

Don’t Major in Minor Things

 

Tony Robbins says, “Most people fail in life because they major in minor things.”

We sweat the stuff that doesn’t matter because everyone else seems to think it matters.

A history major has the same earning potential as a computer science major… A philosophy major has the same potential to find a highly engaging work life as a business management major….

….WHEN those majors are supplemented with other experiences, a drive to contribute at a high level, AND a clear vision of how to be of great value to others.

The greatest choice you will make at college is not, “What major is right for me?”

The greatest choice you will make at college is,

“Will I plan and work for a future of great contribution

or

waste time on things that don’t help develop my valuable strengths?”

The vast majority of students focus too much time and energy on pursuits that don’t matter while missing out on what actually matters.

Here’s what matters:

  • Creating strong relationships
  • Experience working with others
  • Testing your limits
  • Contributing your energy to meaningful projects
  • Learning to productively advocate for yourself and others

Now add to that a major that’s in-line with your long-term goals, and you’re set.

As you go about answering the question “What major is right for me?,” use these 4 strategies to spend less time on minor things and gain more confidence in your decisions.

(And by following these strategies, you’re actually going to be doing all those things that matter. Brilliant!)

 

Strategy 1: Interview professionals.

 

So you think you want to be a physicist. You’ve said it since you were 7 years old. That’s cool!

Have you ever talked to a physicist? How about 3 of them? Or 10?

You are about to make a decision that will influence your life’s direction. Take the time to talk to people who are actually doing the job you are considering.

They will LOVE sharing their thoughts with you.

Don’t just ask fluffy questions. Ask them hard questions, too.

Find out what disillusioning experiences they’ve had at work. What is daily life really like? What do they wish they had chosen to study or spend their time doing when they were in college?

Most of all, learn what they see as the most advantageous majors for you to land their job one day.

Every few months, touch base with them to share how you’re making progress on their advice.

 

Strategy 2: Interview professors.

 

If you are considering several majors, talk to the professors in those departments.

During their office hours, walk in and tell them what you are considering.

Share what you ultimately hope to do as a career. Be open about your strengths and weaknesses. Tell them your dreams and desires.

Ask them which major would be help you achieve your goals.

Talk to as many professors in those departments as you can.

Do this — not to impress them, but to get their honest reaction.

Maybe not all of them, but most of them REALLY will want to help you.

Research has shown that the most powerful predictor of long-term success is finding professors who inspire and mentor you.

By letting professors get to know you (and vice versa) you will get a feel for which professors will help you achieve your dreams.

If you find a particularly inspiring professor, though, don’t feel that you must major in their subject. You could minor in it — or try to take many of their classes — or even create a mentoring relationship with them.

That could be enough inspiration to help make some of your less magical classes more bearable.

Every few months, touch base with the professors who created an impact to share how you’re making progress on their advice.

 

Strategy 3: Interview alumni.

 

Ask the alumni office or career center at your university for help contacting alumni.

If you are considering multiple majors, ask for the contact information of at least 5 alums in each major.

Ask for recent grads (within the last 5 years) and older grads.

You want to get a feel for how useful the major was in their career pursuits.

Again, ask quality questions (See Strategy 1).

Which degrees opened the doors you want opened? Which ones were duds? And why!

Every few months, touch base with them to share how you’re making progress on their advice.

 

Strategy 4: Interview people who hire for your dream job.

 

This strategy is incredibly helpful, and it’s so rarely used.

Go onto a job search website like indeed.com.

Look for the jobs you’d like to get in the cities you’d like to live in when you are about 26 years old (and get booted off your parents’ health insurance.)

Let’s say (to get random) you want to live in Des Moines doing graphic design work.

Search for that.

Read through at least 10 of these listings. Look for patterns. What are the core competencies and requirements employers are looking for?

Pick one or two job listings that seem the most exciting to you. Call those companies. Ask to speak to the person responsible for hiring or supervising that position.

Tell them you are currently in school, not ready to apply and preparing to be their ideal candidate some day.

Ask them what they look for that makes a candidate stand out and undeniably hirable.

Ask them which majors they consider useful and which majors would be a waste of your investment.

Guess what I’m going to say next?

You guessed it! Every few months, touch base with them to share how you’re making progress on their advice.

 

Bottom Line

 

Armed with this new insight, spend your college time following the advice you gather and create those experiences for yourself.

If you were to use all 4 of these strategies — you would have a dramatically clearer notion of what you want for yourself after college. Before you ever invest a dime at any institution.

And that’s what matters most: Not what you study for these few years, but the collection of academic, volunteer and paid experiences that set you up for the next 50 years.

Will you spend your time focused on things that don’t really matter?

Or

Will you take the steps few students take? Will you ask the questions most won’t ask?

Most people fail to achieve their dreams — not because their dreams are unlikely or unattainable, but because they are so vague.

As you seek to answer the question, “What major is right for me?” ask  BIGGER questions.

Ask, “What future path will allow me to contribute my greatest talents? What dreams will be big enough to always keep me challenged? What problems would I like to seek answers to? What will inspire me to wake up excited most mornings? What do I need to study and experience to bring something valuable to the world?”

 

Ready to Do It Alone?

 

That’s the strategy,

But will you do it?

In all likelihood, you have tons of questions of exactly how to go about doing this.

  • Where do I find these people?
  • How do I set up interviews?
  • What if I’ve never met a physicist or live in a small town?
  • What if I am nervous about asking questions?
  • Am I going to look stupid if I write down their answers?
  • How do I get over my fear of talking to adults?

Because this is so unconventional, chance are none of your friends are  following these strategies.

For anyone who might feel intimidated or foolish doing this on their own, you are NOT alone.

Once you get this skill under your belt, you will use it for the rest of your life.

Let us help you. Click here to schedule your college planning strategy session.

 

 

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