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

It’s hard to choose your major and harder still to choose a career. Well-meaning friends and advisors ask you to “follow your passion.” But what if you don’t know what your passion is? It’s completely understandable: thanks to the hyper-specificity of today’s jobs (seriously, just look at some PhDs), you can quite literally be anything. This presents a dizzying array of choices and if you’re someone who hasn’t figured out exactly what they want yet, that vast number can paralyze, rather than inspire. While there’s no denying that it’s a difficult decision, here are three tips that may help you out.

What do you like to study?

Think of your academic strengths and weaknesses. Do you excel at Chemistry, or in painting, or perhaps both? While pursuing a career in Chemistry because you were a Chemistry major is an obvious answer, a much more interesting route is finding a way to integrate your skills in different subjects. For instance, art restoration requires a deep background knowledge of art as well as chemical understanding. Finding these intersections may also help you stand out: one reason “follow your passion” is such common advice is because if you pursue an area you care deeply about, you’re more likely to do well in that field. Combining typically separate subjects can achieve similar results, because it creates a narrower academic arena where you can further highlight your unique abilities. 

Avoid what you do for fun.

What do you do in your free time? Perhaps you like to play the piano, or perhaps you’re an avid runner. Although it may seem counterintuitive, one good way of narrowing the insane number of career path-related possibilities is to avoid your hobbies. Hobbies tend to be ways we relax and find meaning in a world that’s too often focused on productivity. For instance, you may love to play the violin for your personal enjoyment. However, joining a professional orchestra attaches monetary value to playing the violin. While this may work for some, for others it may cause playing the violin, an activity that once was a reprieve, to amplify financial stress. Knowing what not to do is a good starting point to figure out what to do. 

Question people’s advice!

When people tell you to “follow your passion” in your career, they’re really just telling you to find something that’s meaningful to you and brings you success. But you can separate these two areas: your job doesn’t simultaneously have to be meaningful and something you’re skilled at. In American society, we unduly emphasize productivity. As a result, we tend to equate our work with our lives and try to find overarching meaning in our careers. But spending time with friends and family, something almost everyone enjoys and isn’t normally part of a job description (although I wish it were!), can bring the same satisfaction that someone else finds in their career. 

“But will I do well at a job I feel neutral towards?” One prerequisite to doing something well is making sure you take care of yourself. If you’re in a good mental state, you’ll be able to handle tasks more skillfully, even if you’re not particularly passionate about them. In fact, because your energy won’t be as occupied by your job as it would be if you were head-over-heels about it, you’ll have more time to focus on the things you enjoy. As a result, you’ll likely be happier and do your job better!

TL;DR: Despite what others may say, it’s alright if your job just pays the bills — you’re just left with more energy to do what you really want!

Finding a field you’re passionate about may seem a life-changing choice right now, but remember it’s not a binding decision: people change careers and interests all the time. It’s okay to act based on your current passions. What matters most is taking that first step and deciding, because if you grow out of your first job, finding another won’t be as daunting as finding the first. Good luck!

Janhavi is an Honors Biomedical Sciences major at UH. In her free time, she likes playing the piano, painting, and hiking, preferably with a soundtrack of late twentieth century Russian music.