Major ≠ Career

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.

How To Earn “Likes” From Professionals

Social media is a crucial element in today’s social life. Everybody has a social media account, except people over seventy and technophobes. In fact, it has become a social convention. In my country, there is a ritual before you use Facebook:

  • Initiation; you create a Tuenti -a Spanish social media similar to Facebook- account when you start high school.
  • Transition: you create a Twitter and Instagram account, and you gradually stop using Tuenti, when you start bachillerato -college preparation-
  • Incorporation: you create a Facebook account, and you gradually stop using Twitter but you keep using Instagram, when you start college.

These elements play an important element in young people’s lifestyle. However, they do not realize the negative consequences the use of social media can have or that it can be used as a job hunting tool.

Facebook, the most important social media

Facebook, the most important social media

Nowadays, employers, as a recruiting strategy, take a look at your Facebook account to get a first impression of the aspirants. I personally do not like this method because I prefer to keep my private and professional life separated. I do not know if this method is ethically right or wrong, but I understand the position the recruiter is in.

Your internet presence is another representation of yourself, one that everyone has access to. So ask yourself: “If I can not give a good impression of myself, how I am going to give a good impression of my company?” Recruiters know that when they hire someone that person will represent the company. The last thing a company needs is a worker, due to lack of professionalism, who will give a bad reputation to the company.

As a candidate, whether you like the method or not, always remember that your objective is to get hired. Like yourself, there are others who want your position and will go through the same process, so having your Facebook prepared will give you the advantage. To have a professional Facebook, make sure that your posts are about articles related to your profession as well as pictures from conferences or other events you previously attended. Your profile will look professional and recruiters will feel that you take care of your professionalism.

If you do not feel comfortable using Facebook –like myself-, your alternative is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social media which, unlike Facebook, was originally created for the professional environment. In this social media, you can highlight all the achievements that you could not include in your resume. Another interest feature is that you can build a network and connect with people who will later be able to help job in the job hunt. Although there are some people who do not like LinkedIn, I know by a fact that in certain professions, like engineering, recruiters use LinkedIn quite often. For instance, one of my friends from SHPE –Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers- was directly contacted by a recruiter through LinkedIn.

Whether you prefer LinkedIn or Facebook –that is up to you-, social media has become another resource that the best professionals use to promote themselves. If you are able to promote your professional image through social media, you would not only have the advantage in the job hunt but also a new valuable skill.

Intellectual Entrepreneurship

thinking-outside-the-boxA significant number of undergraduate students plan on attending graduate school to get either a master or a PhD, but you must be sure why you want to attend graduate school. In my first semester, I wanted to go to graduate school to get a PhD, ignorant of how this degree would benefit me, to end up teaching at college level and researching. At that time graduate school was very distant and I have realized that a PhD is only useful in the academic environment. Your PhD training will not likely be useful in the job market due to the incredible gap between society and academia.

It was in one of my writing courses –“Writing For Your Profession”- that I got to know more about graduate school. Writing courses are full of readings and one of the readings –“Intellectual Entrepreneurship”- is about the Intellectual Entrepreneurship, a PhD program of UT at Austin which differs from other graduate programs because is focus on saving the gap between society and academia. Graduate students are forced to think outside the box and apply their skills in real live situations. The principles of this program are:

  • Vision and discovery: clearly, needed for anyone who wants to do research or wants to become an entrepreneur
  • Ownership and accountability: you are responsible for your own discoveries and education
  • Integrative Thinking and Action: what makes the program special, put what you have learned into a good use, and not just leave it as something theoretical
  • Collaboration and Teamwork: this one is self-explanatory

Although my mind has significantly changed since my first semester –from wanting a PhD to not wanting to go to graduate school to wanting to do a master-, I am reconsidering getting a PhD in abstract algebra, which ultimately would help me to achieve my professional goal of becoming a cryptographer. With a degree similar to the one of UT at Austin I would not have to excessively worry to find a job, like many other PhD student. Furthermore, I would have the benefits of a higher salary than average that later is going to help me finance –or repay the debt- the PhD, which is not cheap.

This article also gave a clear idea of which universities I want to apply for graduate school. For instance, think about Harvard. Harvard is the best university of the world, with an admission rate of one percent. This fact drives a significant number of students mad, but they do not think that they can get a good, or even better, education at any other institutions. Ivy League universities’ exclusivity is based on their renown, but renown is not equal to a good education.

Even though I still have time to decide whether or not I attend graduate school, I will keep it in my mind as a possibility. Nevertheless, unlike before, I have a better picture of what graduate school is. As a person who likes to learn from its experiences, if have learned something from “Intellectual Entrepreneurship” is that I just do not to have a good education but I also want to put it into a good use. An Ivy League PhD can have all the renown of the world but it is going to be useless –and a waste of money- if you are unable to apply it in your job.