We often, make the mistake of associating majors to careers, like if the major the student picks would later determine his/her career. Although in many cases that is how it goes, it is not always the case. For example, we would normally assume that a psychology major will end up working as a clinical psychologist but it is hard to imagine that he/she will end up working as a marketing director. How can a psychology major work as a marketing director? Because he/she has the skills necessary to do it.
I met Dr. Sacha Kopp, dean of arts and sciences of Stony Brook, PhD in physics, when he came to my writing class to talk about career development. He talked about his undergraduate experience and how he ended up is in his position. What I got from him were two major ideas: college is an experience and majors develop your skills.
College is a collection of experiences that will later help us in our career track. Dr Kopp said that becoming a TA inspired him to be involved in education. He encouraged us to join a club or look for internships instead of just studying for our degrees. These experiences teach things that the course can’t such as: if the professional environment you imagined suits you or joining a club and finding your calling.
Continuing with Dr. Kopp’s ideas, a major develops your skills. He claimed that physics to him is not a major but a tool that later helped him. Every major offers a different set of skills. In my case –math major- I have developed critical thinking and problem solving skills, but my classmate Dana –an English major- has great communication skills. Of course, these skills later are more used in a career more than in another. This reason is why our previously mentioned psychology major can work as a marketing director: because he/she is applying knowledge about human behavior in marketing campaign.
It was this line of thinking that encouraged me to also pursue the applied mathematics and statistics major. Though the theoretical math track, offers my logical reasoning and problem solving skills, the applied math track shows me how to use math as a tool in data analysis or bio statistics. The same I could say about becoming a writing minor. I wanted to become a writing minor because I felt that it did not matter how good my ideas were, if I was unable to efficiently communicate them, they were not going to help.
I am really glad that I had the chance to meet Dr. Kopp -who is more accessible than I thought- in person because his talk inspired me to focus on developing skills. For instance, when I hosted the “Resume Workshop” event, I learned the value of teamwork, how to interact with recruiters and speak in front of an audience. Although it is really hard to keep up with having good grades, internships and other extracurricular activities, I am learning valuable skills that I can apply later in other situations.