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Weighting values vs. practical considerations in career choice

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Suppose you don't have any particular burning ambition, but you do at least have some leads as to what you might like to do for a career. Field A is interesting, but due to economic conditions, may not offer good job prospects in the future. Field B, while not as interesting, would be more likely to offer much needed income and stability. How should you go about making.a decision?

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Choose Field C -- not yet discovered by you, not yet invented, and stumbled upon accidentally in a way only possible because of the decisions you've made in life up to that point.

 

In seriousness, though, why would you ever choose less interesting and more miserable? If you can pay your bills, that's all you really need, and it's only really relevant if you have a $0 savings. The real aim is the fun and interesting stuff.

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I disagree with JASKN. If you are totally uninterested in the job, then, of course, I would advise against entering that field as a long-term career. However, just because you aren't going into the most interesting field, doesn't mean that the alternative is to have a more miserable future. Actually, the opposite can be true.

 

The best option would be to pick (if possible) the most interesting and most stable/income-producing career. If not possible, you need to decide whether or not giving up less stability for interest (or less interest for stability) will further you in accomplishing your goals. It depends on what your goals are. If one of your goals is to earn enough money to support a family, then entering the field of art, theater, religious study, or philosophy is not the best option - no matter how interested you are in the subject.

 

 Consider this list of top 10 worst college majors by Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/10/11/the-10-worst-college-majors/

 

 

With low demand and low earnings, the arts and humanities are well-represented on this list. Film, video and photographic arts (No. 2) features a 12.9% unemployment rate for recent grads; fine arts (No. 3) has a rate of 12.6%; and philosophy and religious studies is a high 10.8%. All earn a median of just $30,000.

Edited by thenelli01
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If one of your goals is to earn enough money to support a family, then entering the field of art, theater, religious study, or philosophy is not the best option - no matter how interested you are in the subject.

This sounds like a recipe for resenting your children...

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I think the main problem with deciding on a major is that everything sounds interesting. There's philosophy, cognitive science, neuroscience, bio-programming, psychology, chemistry, archaeology, forensic science, comp sci, pre-med... so many choices. Without trying them all out, how do you know that X is the right major for you? What if you choose X and hate it? That's a waste of money, isn't it? What if you move onto Y and hate that, too? ... stresses me out just thinking about it. There's so many decisions to make, and realistically you don't have the time or money to try out a bunch of different majors to find a 'perfect fit'- if that even exists.

 

What's helped me out the most has been trying out different internships in college. Many of them require little-to-no experience, and it's easy to move up and see what an entry-level job in the field will be like. And by talking to coworkers and higher-up's it's easy to see what kind of work is available for grad students. This has helped me eliminate a lot of 'cool-sounding' subfields that I would absolutely hate to work in.

 

@Matt, if you're smart you can really major in anything you want and move into a more specialized field. One of my bosses is head of the robotics department, and I recently found out she got her BA and PhD in Psychology. Seems like such a leap, but it's really not that uncommon to find your niche in a totally different field than what you majored in. If your purpose for going to college is to learn specific skills that you can use in a specific career, go for it. But for many people who don't know what their future careers are going to be, going to college with the purpose of learning more general skills that can be applied to a wide variety of areas can be a great thing.

 

If one of your goals is to earn enough money to support a family, then entering the field of art, theater, religious study, or philosophy is not the best option - no matter how interested you are in the subject. Consider this list of top 10 worst college majors by Forbes.

 

I really hate these types of implications. Just because there's a high unemployment rate for grads majoring in X, doesn't mean you won't be able to find a job if you major in X. Conversely, even if you major in something really 'profitable' doesn't mean you'll automatically be super smart, or be able to get a high paying job. For example, Computer science is a stereotypical major for getting great paying jobs upon graduation- it's listed as #3 on Forbes' best paying college majors list. (#1 is computer engineering.)

 

But according to tech employers, "199 out of 200 applicants for every programming job can't write code at all. I repeat: they can't write any code whatsoever." He goes on to say that "After a fair bit of trial and error I've discovered that people who struggle to code don't just struggle on big problems, or even smallish problems (i.e. write a implementation of a linked list). They struggle with tiny problems. So I set out to develop questions that can identify this kind of developer... Most good programmers should be able to write out on paper a program which does this in a under a couple of minutes. Want to know something scary? The majority of comp sci graduates can't. I've also seen self-proclaimed senior programmers take more than 10-15 minutes to write a solution." That's something to really think about.. even in a profitable field like CS, most graduates can't even write a simple program.

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I am still thinking about a book I listened to recently. It is called "So good they can't ignore you".

 

Matching your job to a preexisting passion does not matter, he reveals. Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. 

In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.http://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/1455509124/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349301260&sr=8-1&keywords=so+good+they+can%27t+ignore+you

 

The reason for most young people's anxiety when looking for their "dream job" is that they don't have a clue what to do with the rest of their lives. Newport mentions that while Steve Jobs advocated "follow your passion" he actually first went on to develop skills and then, when he became very good, developed passion for what he was doing.

"We don't need slogans, we need information — concrete, evidence-based observations about how people really end up loving what they do."
I think this is advice tied to reality.
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/09/solving_gen_ys_passion_problem.html

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I think the main problem with deciding on a major is that everything sounds interesting. There's philosophy, cognitive science, neuroscience, bio-programming, psychology, chemistry, archaeology, forensic science, comp sci, pre-med... so many choices. Without trying them all out, how do you know that X is the right major for you? What if you choose X and hate it? That's a waste of money, isn't it? What if you move onto Y and hate that, too? ... stresses me out just thinking about it. There's so many decisions to make, and realistically you don't have the time or money to try out a bunch of different majors to find a 'perfect fit'- if that even exists.

 

What's helped me out the most has been trying out different internships in college. Many of them require little-to-no experience, and it's easy to move up and see what an entry-level job in the field will be like. And by talking to coworkers and higher-up's it's easy to see what kind of work is available for grad students. This has helped me eliminate a lot of 'cool-sounding' subfields that I would absolutely hate to work in.

 

@Matt, if you're smart you can really major in anything you want and move into a more specialized field. One of my bosses is head of the robotics department, and I recently found out she got her BA and PhD in Psychology. Seems like such a leap, but it's really not that uncommon to find your niche in a totally different field than what you majored in. If your purpose for going to college is to learn specific skills that you can use in a specific career, go for it. But for many people who don't know what their future careers are going to be, going to college with the purpose of learning more general skills that can be applied to a wide variety of areas can be a great thing.

 

You are distorting the entire OP. The question was about Field A and Field B, not about college majors.

 

I really hate these types of implications. Just because there's a high unemployment rate for grads majoring in X, doesn't mean you won't be able to find a job if you major in X. Conversely, even if you major in something really 'profitable' doesn't mean you'll automatically be super smart, or be able to get a high paying job. For example, Computer science is a stereotypical major for getting great paying jobs upon graduation- it's listed as #3 on Forbes' best paying college majors list. (#1 is computer engineering.)

 

But according to tech employers, "199 out of 200 applicants for every programming job can't write code at all. I repeat: they can't write any code whatsoever." He goes on to say that "After a fair bit of trial and error I've discovered that people who struggle to code don't just struggle on big problems, or even smallish problems (i.e. write a implementation of a linked list). They struggle with tiny problems. So I set out to develop questions that can identify this kind of developer... Most good programmers should be able to write out on paper a program which does this in a under a couple of minutes. Want to know something scary? The majority of comp sci graduates can't. I've also seen self-proclaimed senior programmers take more than 10-15 minutes to write a solution." That's something to really think about.. even in a profitable field like CS, most graduates can't even write a simple program.

 

The OP asked about future job prospects, which is why I included it. Did you read the original post, or are you just trying to troll?

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I was specifically responding to this: "If one of your goals is to earn enough money to support a family, then entering the field of art, theater, religious study, or philosophy is not the best option - no matter how interested you are in the subject... Consider this list of top 10 worst college majors by Forbes. http://www.forbes.co...college-majors/" - where you implied that if someone's interested in making money, he shouldn't enter (or major in) certain fields due to the unemployment rates of previous college grads.. "no matter how interested [he is] in the subject." That's horrible advice, regardless of whether you're choosing a job or choosing a major in college.

 

The snippet about CS failures addresses the common viewpoint that people should enter a STEM field (since it's 'more lucrative') instead of going with their first choice (philosophy, religious studies, etc) because of current unemployment rates. "Well..... I like halo, and I want to make a lot of money..... I guess I'll major in CS."

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I was specifically responding to this: "If one of your goals is to earn enough money to support a family, then entering the field of art, theater, religious study, or philosophy is not the best option - no matter how interested you are in the subject... Consider this list of top 10 worst college majors by Forbes. http://www.forbes.co...college-majors/" - where you implied that if someone's interested in making money, he shouldn't enter (or major in) certain fields due to the unemployment rates of previous college grads.. "no matter how interested [he is] in the subject." That's horrible advice, regardless of whether you're choosing a job or choosing a major in college.

 

No, that is not what I implied, at all.

 

This is from the OP:

 

Suppose you don't have any particular burning ambition, but you do at least have some leads as to what you might like to do for a career. Field A is interesting, but due to economic conditions, may not offer good job prospects in the future. Field B, while not as interesting, would be more likely to offer much needed income and stability. How should you go about making.a decision?

 

I said you need to decide what your goals are.

 

For example -----  If your goal is to raise a family, which requires stability and income, then the fields of art, philosophy, religious studies, and theater are not the best options to pick. And that has been true historically - the demand for employment in those fields are and have been low for years, which makes them less stable and less profitable.

 

That wasn't based on the Forbes article. The Forbes article was just a supplement to help make my case and show the future prospects of the fields.

 

 

The snippet about CS failures addresses the common viewpoint that people should enter a STEM field (since it's 'more lucrative') instead of going with their first choice (philosophy, religious studies, etc) because of current unemployment rates. "Well..... I like halo, and I want to make a lot of money..... I guess I'll major in CS."

 

Straw man - I never said arbitrarily pick a field that you have no interest in to make money. The best option would be to pick (if possible) the most interesting and most stable/income-producing career. If not possible, you need to decide whether or not giving up less stability for interest (or less interest for stability) will further you in accomplishing your goals.

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Suppose you don't have any particular burning ambition, but you do at least have some leads as to what you might like to do for a career. Field A is interesting, but due to economic conditions, may not offer good job prospects in the future. Field B, while not as interesting, would be more likely to offer much needed income and stability. How should you go about making.a decision?

I went with Field A. There was no Field B to me. Then when my financial and living conditions got tougher and legislation in Field A was happening - I walked. Right out. Without even withdrawing. Early second semester freshmen year.

So no Field A or B or C, it was off to work dead end jobs. Retail, then housekeeping in a hospital. Never regretted it.

I do write though. I threw all of it away about two or three years ago, but started up again. Better than ever. More confident and passionate about it.

There was a time when I wanted to get into philosophy, and took a class here and there in community college. Of the four classes I took off and on over a period of several years, three I walked out on, one I made all the way through, an Ethics class that I had an A in. I soon realized I could learn more on my own. That was an online class that Ethics on, and in board discussions I got into it with some guy in the class, the prof had to step in online discussion or something can't remember. Also the Ph.D prof I sent a message to about a question I had gotten wrong, because I saw a difference between pleasure and happiness, but she said for our purposes in this class, they are the same. Oh, well, thanks for telling me that NOW!

Edited by intellectualammo
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Suppose you don't have any particular burning ambition, but you do at least have some leads as to what you might like to do for a career. Field A is interesting, but due to economic conditions, may not offer good job prospects in the future. Field B, while not as interesting, would be more likely to offer much needed income and stability. How should you go about making.a decision?

As framed, the first step in making a decision is to figure out the facts. You speak of "some leads" that you "might" like Field A. You say it "may" not offer good job prospects. You say Field B is not "as" interesting, but is "more likely" to offer income. Possibly this is just the way you have framed your question, and your evaluations have more clarity and certainty than that. If not, if you are really unsure of both fields, you need to find out more. Is there a way to try out either Field A or Field B: i.e. to learn by doing, or by getting closer to the doing? Sometimes a field that seems interesting can involve all sorts of nitty-gritty detailed work that you end up finding boring. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Suppose you don't have any particular burning ambition, but you do at least have some leads as to what you might like to do for a career. ... ...

This short blog post reminded me of this thread. The way people think of career passions has a slight "primacy of consciousness" tinge. Instead, the way to figure out what you like might simply be: try stuff and see what you like

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