How Do I Pick My Major?

Written by featured coach, Edward Macdonald

“So, what are you majoring in?” This question is quite possibly one of the most frustration-inducing icebreakers in the English language. From peers to family friends to the well-meaning stranger to grandma over dinner, we’ve all heard it. That said, we’ve also all probably asked it, and even wondered it ourselves at times. “What AM I studying?” “What IS my major?” “How on earth am I supposed to pick one?” If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place!

Unmask the Lie

Major -> Job -> Success = lie

A good place to start is with awareness - why are you even asking yourself what you want to study? Sure, you need to ultimately make a decision, but discerning where this question is coming from is key. Often when we feel stuck or frustrated or helpless or lost in life, there is a negative cycle of thought, based on a lie that we are believing. In this case, the lie might be that there is one right major out there for you that will lead to a great career, and then you will be successful and live happily ever after. This lie, like most lies, may lead to fear. You might be scared that if you don’t pick the right major, you won’t get a good job, and then you won’t be able to make enough money to provide for yourself, which means you will be a failure, poor and single on your parent’s couch at thirty.

If I don’t pick the right major, will I be stuck and end up on my parent’s couch at thirty?

As absurd as this sounds, the underlying mindset is one of scarcity - scarcity of good majors, scarcity of your own ability, scarcity of money, scarcity of opportunities, perhaps even scarcity of time. In contrast, recognizing the lie, and beginning to believe deep down that there is enough, and that you are enough, and that there is a rich and veritable cornucopia of majors and opportunities and every other good thing in life is a great start to peeling back the lie of scarcity. If you’re interested in learning a little more about the mindsets of scarcity and abundance, check out Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Now that we’ve uncovered a false equation, let’s look at some other equations that will serve you much better while making this decision.

Discover Your Fuel

Passions + Skills = Major

It’s easy to isolate passions from skills. Some say to follow your passions above all else. Others say passions are overrated, and instead you should focus on developing useful skills. Think of it this way  -  passion is the gas in the car, and skill is how well you drive. You need both, so think through this analogy and apply it to your situation to see what you learn.

The trick is to Identify and grow your passions and skills, and then select a major that compliments these. What do you love? What are you doing when you lose track of time? What can’t you imagine ever not doing? These questions are good windows into your passions.

Your degree combines your passions and skills, opening doors to an avenue of opportunities where you can thrive.

Next, take stock of your skills. What can you do? What are you naturally good at? What do you enjoy? Here you will see where passions, skills, and strengths overlap. What are skills that combine powerfully with your passions and strengths? In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport talks of collecting rare skills, and becoming a craftsman of the work you already have to do. These are good directives to keep in mind as you work to become more aware of what you have to work with, and as you seek to direct your passions and skills to the next level. From here, selecting a major becomes one piece that follows naturally from the other self-development work you have done, and becomes a stepping stone for continued self-development in the future.

Pursue Opportunities

Degree + Experience + Hard Work = Success

At the end of the day, your exact degree is probably less important than you might think. Employers want college graduates, but this is not all they are looking for in employees, and there are countless college graduates struggling to build careers. Know what it is you want to do, and then recognize that the way to get there is not just through a specific degree, but through the potent combination of a degree with other things. Look for opportunities now to build a resume with several years’ experience, apprenticeships, and internships. Take advantage of opportunities to gain practical skills in leadership, entrepreneurship, finance, project management, critical thinking, and communication. Work hard with focus and consistency toward what you want. If you do, you will get there. That said, it probably won’t be overnight, so don’t stress about it; hold it loosely, and enjoy the journey!

Eddy McDonald photo.jpg

Edward Macdonald is a passionate relationship builder, avid adventurer, and life coach of five years who has helped over 300 clients experience breakthroughs through the power of coaching. He understands well the importance of carefully selecting a degree, having struggled through the decision years ago, as well as focusing in on the educational space during his career thus far. In between clients, Edward (known as Eddy to his friends), enjoys strong coffee and compelling stories as he explores the outdoors and travels the globe.