Pursue a passion, not a job

By John Zawawi

US Army Corps of Engineering Savannah/Flickr
(US Army Corps of Engineering Savannah/Flickr)

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that I should look into engineering, or maybe accounting, I could probably afford to buy from a local bookstore this semester. Not that being an engineer is a bad thing, because it isn’t. I sit here typing away on a laptop that weighs less than a brick, in a T- shirt mass-produced by advanced machinery, while listening to music on a phone that could look up any fact recorded in history if I bothered to stop sending Snapchats of my face from weird angles for a minute. All of this is made possible through the wonders of Science Technology Engineering Mathematics graduates.

But I was never meant to be one of the builders of this generation. Anything that I would try to design would have the structural integrity of a wet noodle. When it comes down to it, my strengths just do not have anything to do with the “desirable career fields” for graduates. Science generally befuddles me and math just frustrates me, yet over the years of high school I have been subjected to countless adults telling me all about how the STEM fields are where jobs are. When I was in high school, engineering students from the University of Connecticut were paid to go around the state and make presentations on how great engineering was as a major.

Engineering is a great major and the economy backs that up. “What society rewards in economic terms has moved away from softer majors. It’s become about how much math you do,” said Dr. Anthony Carnevale, head of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

But engineering and STEM in general is not for everyone. I know I’m not the only student who can’t tell you the difference between a quark and an antiquark. Yet I still had to sit through a presentation on the wonders of a STEM career. It feels as though we are encouraged to pursue our dreams, but only within limits.

The focus has turned away from encouraging students to follow passions to encouraging us to follow the path of least resistance. I understand the incentive for public schools to encourage young students to explore math and science, as we need talented minds to keep advancing the work we’ve done, but there is an undeniable under-emphasis on the liberal arts in schools.

It’s no secret that arts funding gets cut first, but why do we shy away from encouraging kids to pursue areas of study that they might be good at because it’s harder for them to find employment? Take anthropology, for example: a major that consistently ranks among the bottom in terms of graduate unemployment and beginning salary. According to Forbes, unemployment for anthropology is 10.5 percent. This statistic is used to scare students out of pursuing anthropology as a major, but why don’t we use it to say that if there were 10 anthropology majors, you only need to be better than one to find a job?

Shouldn’t we instead encourage students to pick something they like and work hard at it instead? A common complaint levied against millennials is our tendency to crave instant gratification. We want Facebook to load in a second, our grades to come back immediately with a huge “A,” and a job right when we graduate.

But we are taught to want by our role models, and it’s our schools that have instilled this lack of patience in us. The urge to find a job easily and immediately has been instilled in us for years. I think it’s time to try and ignore that programming to an extent. Pursue the things you are good at and like doing, even if it takes some time. If it’s math, that’s awesome. If it’s drawing, that’s wonderful. Most times, we love the things that we are good at. So go out and do what you’re good at, because if you are truly good at something, there will be opportunities for you to do it.


John Zawawi is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]