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Exploring Opportunities Outside Of Your Major: My Experience

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

Hurrah for me, I’m graduating in April. As it turns out, to everyone’s surprise, the career path that I chose when I was 17 is not what I want to do today. I’m still graduating with the same major that I picked then, but the trajectory that I’ve gone through over the past four years is not what I thought it would be. It is not a unique experience, and I have been reflecting on my path frequently as I near commencements. If you’re as lost as me, take into consideration how I explored opportunities outside of my major without changing it. 

Beating impostor syndrome

I have a strong tendency to negate any of my accomplishments, instead preferring to grovel and compare myself to others. During my first years at school I felt very disconnected from the other people in my field. I tried so hard to mirror them, to fit into conversations I didn’t want to be a part of in class, before realizing that there was no point. Still, I had the impression that every single person in my classes was more accomplished than me, in part because they had actually figured out what they wanted to do. Up until this year, if a professor asked me what I wanted to do once I graduated, I would not be able to come up with anything. I realized that if I was not connecting with my peers, and if I wasn’t confident with what I wanted to do, I had to make a change. My confidence improved greatly once I took a step back and figured out what I wanted to do, instead of trying to do what everyone else was doing. 

Adding minors

At MSU, you can add minors to your degree plan that have absolutely zero relation to your major. This is a great opportunity to spend some of your time exploring a field that is unknown to you, or that you have a special fascination with, even if it doesn’t relate to your career. It helps that you don’t have to choose minors right away, I declared my minors junior and senior year. A minor that seemingly has nothing to do with the rest of your degree path can still sneak its way into your career aspirations. I added a women’s and gender studies minor because of my lifelong interest in feminism and activism, not because it had any relation to my journalism major. However, I’ve been able to use both fields to learn more about gender and media, and use my communications industry skills for feminist activism. Adding a minor can help define your niche and clarify what you actually are passionate about. 

Picking and choosing what you love about your major

I never actually changed my major from journalism because I still like many aspects of it. I like research, constructing narratives, and learning about my community. Even when I felt disillusioned with my career, that never changed. By figuring out what I still liked about journalism, I was able to do what I wanted in my remaining journalism classes. It is easy to feel just completely done with your major, but you still liked it at one point. For me, picking and choosing my favorite parts of journalism allowed me to further figure out what I actually wanted to do. 

Finding career experience

I am extremely lucky. Journalism degrees are incredibly versatile and can be used as a doorway to many different careers in communications and media. I was able to use my journalism experience to look into related careers that interested me. A couple internships later, I’ve been able to find what I want to do and how it does and doesn’t fit into my journalism degree path. I wasn’t planning on taking those opportunities, so I’m glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and accepted something unknown. Actual career experience is just as important as the degree when it comes to job interviews, in my experience. Employers often ask for examples of your work, and that is much easier with tangible experience. 

Accepting that you’re not 17 anymore

My college career has been vastly different from what I would have expected when I got accepted into MSU all those years ago. It’s OK if you’re not doing what you thought you would be, few people are. I don’t live for the teenager in me, I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes since then. I live for who I am now, with infinitely more life experiences, ups, and downs that have informed my decisions as I grow up. 

At the risk of sounding like the conclusion of an after-school special, the most important thing I’ve learned as I navigate through college is to do what I want to do, not what others are doing. I spent many years angry and confused because I loved and hated my major. I didn’t want to change my major, but there was definitely something off that was preventing me from reaching my full potential. As I venture into the world that is post-grad life, I’m glad I already had this little identity crisis so I can have a better grasp on what I actually want to do with my life.

Madison Reinhold is Marketing Director, Events Assistant and Staff Writer for Her Campus at MSU. She leads the Design Team which produces content for social media as well as merch and recruitment, in addition to planning team events and contributing articles to Her Campus. Madison is a senior studying journalism with a concentration in writing, reporting, and editing, with minors in women's and gender studies and history. She also interns for MSU's Center for Gender in Global Context, creating social media content, contributing to their newsletter, and editing their department magazine. She previously interned for local non-profit The Women's Center of Greater Lansing. Additionally, she works for MSU's College of Social Science Office of Student Success, providing supplemental instruction to students. In her precious free time, Madison is attempting to write her first novel, playing fetch with her dog, Hazel, or finding a new niche history book to obsess over.