Blog Series: #1 Mistake People Make When Choosing An Area of Study

Welcome to a multi-part blog post series focused on career planning – from choosing a field of study to entering the world of work. For the next three weeks, one new article will be published every Thursday.

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Blog post one: #1 mistake people make when choosing an area of study

I was having a conversation with my 18-year-old niece and I asked her “what do you want to become?” She blatantly responded and I quote; “I have no idea.”

At first, I was upset with her; I started a long lecture about life goals.  The discussion led to me providing advice on professional development. I told her she is young and she needs to know what she wants now, not later and that she should to plan early and make informed decisions. But who am I kidding? She is just a young adult – still in college and going through the motions of life. I could not blame her.

At 18, it can be extremely difficult to have a clear idea of career choice, because of competing interests and unconsolidated ideas, due to lack of life experiences. We have no idea where we will end up, but we should still have a vision. When choosing an area of study, there are many things to take into consideration.

To pursue formal education requires a combination of scholastic aptitude, academic commitment, opportunity and financial investment. Some of us might still win without having that fancy degree but formal education is a tremendous advantage and a head-start. Formal education might not be for everyone and on its own does not entirely prepare you for a lot of things, especially the world of work, but choosing a university degree and trying to figure out what works for you, not your parents, not what you think is an elite career, but what YOU are deeply passionate about can be daunting.

Some fields are over saturated and we sometimes fail to understand the demand for certain career choices. The common issue is that – you find people who studied in a particular field, did exceptionally, made the dean’s list and still at home because they cannot find a job.

I believe the #1 mistake people make when choosing an area of study is –

NOT KNOW HOW TO UTILIZE THE DEGREE

Which usually stems from a lack of passion for the subject area. It is one thing to have a degree, but if you like the idea of a certain area without having a passion for it, then you are down a road of disappointment. Chances are, you do not know how to market yourself, lack experience or even passion for doing this job. There are many reasons which I can assume.

However, I wanted to provide objective experiences to help you understand the key factors to consider when choosing an area of study. Not just from me but from many people who once crossed this road.

In that regard, I did a short survey with twenty (20) people. My sample was a stratified random sample. The persons who participated in the survey fell into a certain category – all university students both past and current, who either studied (or currently studying) on campus and online, originated from different Caribbean islands, studied different fields, have jobs or self-employed.

The survey group includes persons from multiple islands including, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Dominica (living here and working abroad), and Antigua.

The research question was simple: what is the most important factor to consider when choosing an area of study?

I chose this sample because I wanted diverse views from different cultural, economic and climatic backgrounds to help you when making your decision.

follow your passion

Below are just a FEW of the responses:

Begin with the end in mind. Taking this approach before you pursue any new endeavor is key for defining and measuring your progress and success. Ask yourself what are your goals upon completion of the intended course of study? How does completing this degree act as a stepping stone to achieve my end goal? If the goal is to seek employment you should do your research on the current and projected needs of your intended job market (location, willingness to relocate, industry, desired transferrable skills). If a specific 1st degree is required or preferred for admission to an already identified graduate or higher education program then you can logically narrow your focus.  Based on your goal a university, technical or vocational route may be more appropriate. Seek input and advice from persons who currently work in your intended/desired space, and or professionals at the top of your desired field. You might not know exactly what you want to do now, but acting on this logic while simultaneously searching for passion is one path to fulfilment.” – Wainella Isaacs

I think people should choose a field of study that they are passionate about, especially for a first degree. If the area intersects with their subjects/skills of high proficiency then the better. In essence, you want to do something you love that cultivates your built-in talents. This will guarantee that you excel at your first degree, which is sure to open many doors, regardless of what field of study it may be.” – Jerelle Joseph

When I chose my degree, I only considered how much I would love what I was doing. My degree (Literature with a Theatre Minor) generally is not one that would land me a high paying job because I want to teach. But, I felt like the analytical and life skills I would learn would benefit me in life.” – Gabrielle Khan-Le Gendre

How marketable you will be? How passionate you are about the subject area and if you can turn it into a business.” – Jahna McLawrence

“#1 reason for choosing a career path is passion. You have to ask yourself:” Will I be content with this career?” Crunching numbers is what I enjoy hence: I chose Accounting/Finance & Business Management. All companies need an adept accounting team which plays a key role in business decision making. Accountant’s recommendations impact the entire organization by providing financial data analysis, and identifying ways to reduce costs and grow revenue. Something I enjoy doing.” – Anya Wallace

I think the most important factor when considering a major is to figure out where your interests are. We may not know what we want to be at an early age but we do know what we like and what interests us. The key is to keep an open mind and always remember you can change your major. We need to place less emphasis on money and more on passion. If you are serious about what you do, you will find a way to integrate your passion and major into any job that you get along those lines.” – Kevin A. Francis

Choose an area of study you enjoy, love and will at some point use in your life to be self-employed. An area of study that isn’t being done by everyone. For example, Human Resource Management, Finance, Accounts, Law. Read up on new and emerging areas e.g public government procurement, renewable energy, resource mobilization, international relations/law etcetera.” – Hilda Kelshall

“I think the #1 mistake people made is that people may not know their area of interest after high school and it’s like a norm to go to college. So they go to college just to do anything just to fulfill the social norm that I’m done with high school and I’m now in college and I think I’m just going to major in “this”. There is no passion towards the study but they get 3.0 GPA and above average so when they are done they end up doing something else in the world of work or nothing at all.” – Anonymous

Most of the responses emphasized on having a passion for the subject area. To summarize all of this, here are the things to consider these when choosing an area of study:

  • Am I passionate about this subject area?
  • How can I utilize this if I cannot get a job in my field?
  • Will this help me to start the business I intended to?
  • Can I earn additional income from doing freelance?
  • Am I doing this because I love it or is it a family tradition to study a particular field?
  • Is this field of study over saturated?
  • How marketable will I be? Will my skills be transferable?

I recall someone asking me “how did you land a Sales and Marketing job with a degree in economics?

I responded that “economics is diverse and a foundation for everything. I applied my knowledge of perfection, competition and the relationship between firms and customers to measure the supply and demand for particular good or service.”

In that position, I honestly could not purely apply theories of macroeconomics (although very important; it impacts the world), on inflation rates, oil prices etc. But I love microeconomics which involves the study of the behaviour of firms and how they interact in the marketplace. Everything that consumers do affect businesses, you as a consumer react to the actions of firms. So this is how I utilized my economics degree. I leveraged this to apply to marketing. How many people are willing to spend for a particular service based on established levels of disposable income. What if I explain the intangible benefit they can receive for investing X amount of money to get Y.

I guarantee you, that gaining clarity will save you money and time.

Next Thursday, I will be sharing a post on how to utilize your skills and/or degree to earn more. OR how can you utilize your skills and/or degree to earn more?

If you like what you read, subscribe to my mailing list SUBSCRIBE TO MY EMAIL LIST for notification on the next post. And let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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