The topic of this blog post came about thanks to a conversation l had with a recent college graduate. He was serving us some frozen yogurt. It was a slow period so we sat and chatted for a bit. It turned out that he was a graduate. A college graduate no less. One that l would have assumed would be ensconced in some high-rise office at a law firm or brokerage house instead of one earning barely minimum wage serving yogurt to hordes of tourists. Turns out he had gotten a degree in Music Appreciation Studies. I didn’t even bother to ask what the heck that was, but l wasn’t surprised that he had a hard time finding a real job. So, should future job security affect your professional pursuit? Here is my take on it.
Should future job security affect your professional pursuit?
Yes! My answer is.. Absolutely. I know it might not be a popular answer with young people nowadays who want to follow their passion. This might be anything from glass blowing to building houses in poor countries to traveling full time. While this is indeed admirable, it rarely puts food on the table. Unless you come from a well to do family with a guaranteed inheritance, your sustainability through your working years and retirement should be first and foremost on your mind.
I grew up in a Nigerian household where education is greatly valued. If my father had his way, every single one of his twelve children would have gone into the medical profession. He did all he could to coerce us. He got 2 out of 12. In addition to those 2, he also got 2 pharmacists (me being one of them), a lawyer, a Biologist, and a bunch of Business majors. I had originally planned on becoming an Arts major. I fancied myself an executive secretary. I therefore veered towards subjects like Typing, Bible studies and Literature. I didn’t have much ambition and those required little effort. I was happy, but my parents were not.
Upon coming to America just before l became a teenager, I had to take a test so they could determine what grade to put me in. Despite the fact that l had only 2 years of Physics, Biology and Chemistry under my belt instead of 4, my score was high enough to put me in with the seniors. It was at that point my mother told me to forget the Arts stuff. I was going to take classes geared towards Science. Now it was my turn to get pissed :-). I knew l did not want to go to medical school. One of my older sisters was in pharmacy school and l liked that idea. I made the decision on my own to make that my profession. It turned out to be a great one. One that l really enjoyed, one that gave me great job security and one that paid well.
I also remember my mom’s effort to talk my immediate older sister out of getting an Economics degree. Even some 35 plus years ago, my mother knew there wasn’t a great future with the “fluff” degrees as she called them. As always, she was right as my sister had a hard time finding good jobs after graduation. By the time she passed, she had actually been thinking about going to nursing school ironically.
I come from a time where the parents job was to intimidate, bully, and cajole your kids. In other words, tough love was the name of the game. Your parents were not friends, they were the authority and you not only respected them, you feared them greatly. Nowadays, l see kids behaving so terribly and everyone is afraid to discipline them for fear of being called bad parents. I’m not a parent by choice, but if l were one, I can say without a shadow of doubt that l would act exactly the way my parents did. Fear me now, understand it later.
I can’t help but wonder if some of these graduates realize how screwed they are whilst in college or if it’s something they figure out later. I find it hard to believe that someone would really believe they would have a great paying job with a degree in “Human Ecology” . The worst part is that most graduates come out of school with hefty loans that need to be repaid. No wonder young people end up moving back home in droves. They can’t afford rent on the miniscule wages earned from jobs that are meant to be for teenagers on school break like pet-sitting or serving coffee. Jobs that are okay as a side hustle to earn extra money.
Should guaranteed future job security affect your degree of choice? My advice.
I would say it should. Definitely. Life has no guarantees. Even with social security, you would still need to have a nest egg to fund your retirement. If you want to go into business for yourself one day, aim for classes that can help you accomplish that, go for that business degree. If you want to help people, and make money at the same time, don’t feel ashamed to pursue a career in nursing or pharmacy or other good paying healthcare jobs. People will always be sick unfortunately. I get so tired of these (usually young) people who think everyone should be some “sandal wearing, couch surfing, embrace sharing world philosophy, ambition is a dirty thing bullshit”. For those that have a hefty inheritance coming, good for you. For the rest of the people who actually depend on a paycheck to survive, embrace your ambition and desire to be successful. Tell them to piss off! Neither success nor ambition is a dirty word. I have yet to meet a successful “Gender Studies” degree individual. I’m not even sure what one could do with it except teach others?
But you’re not “passionate” about your job!
Bah! Passion is pretty overrated in my book. It’s wonderful if you love your job, but it is not a necessity. The best time to decide what degree you should pursue is before you get into college. Not during, and definitely not after. That just leads to a boat load of money down the drain. I have a friend who got a degree in Social Studies. Unable to find a good job, she started law school and after 2 years decided it was not for her. Another uncompleted degree pursuit followed. She now manages her husband’s pharmacy. All in all, she managed to rack up over $133,000 in school loans. Combine that with his almost $80,000 school loan and you can see how dire their situation is. Life is also long. Do the job well enough, you just might get passionate about it. Earn enough money, and you just might be able to retire early and then pursue your “true passion”. Volunteer on the side doing something you love while still earning good money. Should you pursue your passion? If it pays well, then by all means. That is an added bonus. If it’s going to be a pretty much “useless” degree? I say no. Nowadays, I often wonder also if a degree is a necessity for success. Plenty of people are able to generate great income without one just fine. My father didn’t learn to read until the age of 17 and he still went on to make something of himself.
What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s wise to count future job security as part of your incentive when it comes to choosing a career or do you think one should pursue their passion?