Should You Base Your Career off Your Favorite Subject in School?

Question from a follower:

Do you think our career choices should be made based on our favorite subjects at school? For instance, History, Philosophy and Languages are my favorite subjects, but I can't think of any careers that I'd like to pursue relate to these subjects. On the other hand, even though I'm not particularly good at Geometry, for example, I am very interested in Architecture, y'know? 

By all means, your favorite subject should NOT be the only thing to base your future career on.

Look at me, for example:

  • My favorite subject in high school: physics
  • My most disliked subject in first year university: physics
  • My favorite subject in university: cognitive science
  • Now I’m a very happy UX/UI designer (and I’ve never studied this in school)

While your favorite subject in school could be a good guide to get you started, a lot of people don’t realize that studying something is completely different from working in that field. I love studying psychology, but working in psych research and work shadowing a psychologist made me realize that it was absolutely not for me.

There are so many factors involved in a career path than simply applying what you love to study. Most of the time, you don’t even get to use what you studied. Here are some of those factors:

  • Work culture & coworkers: Certain fields tend to attract certain personalities, creating different cultures surrounding them. You might fit in or you might not, and it could make you hate the job if you don’t. You’re expected to behave a certain way in a corporate office, and to socialize in a completely different way in an art studio. I, for example, quite like acting in musical theatre, but I couldn't really hang out with most theatre people I have worked with (they are nice but way too different from me).
  • Hidden job expectations: Most jobs will require you to do things you didn’t sign up for. You might need to “fake nice” to customers a lot, and that might not be your thing, even a deal breaker despite loving other parts of the job. A research job will require a tedious amount of paperwork to apply and then wait to get grants before you can start any of your own projects. You might wish to become a nurse to help people on a personal level, but realize that you’re stuck with giving shots to 50 patients a day without really relating to anyone because that’s how hospitals are structured. You need a lot of patience for other human beings to be a good psychiatrist—something I didn’t have.

How will you decide now?

Find out the realistic expectations of the career you’re considering. Do some research. Ask on Quora. Get to know people who are working in that field and ask them. Volunteer. Get into job-shadowing programs. Or just apply for the job and try it out for a year or two.

If you end up hating it, that’s fine. That’s completely normal. Most people don’t work in the field they studied, anyway.

–Taime Koe

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