Picture this- You’re sitting down with your family to enjoy a holiday meal. The table is filled with food, those you love and energizing conversation. Everyone seems to be having a good time until the conversation turns to your least favorite topic- your future. As we all know, these conversations tend to start amicably, but can quickly escalate to uncomfortable and even defensive situations, especially when you receive questions like: “What are you majoring in?”, “What will you do with that major?”, “Are you sure you will be able to find a job studying that?” and the list could go on.
In this post, we will discuss how to answer these questions, but first, let’s talk about why they are so difficult to answer. If we really think about it, they are difficult because they ask you to respond to something that you do not yet know. You cannot be sure what job you will have after school. Even if you have carefully honed in on your top career choice, there are still so many factors outside of your control to state an answer with certainty. We do not know, for example, if the company you are targeting will have openings when you graduate, how advances in technology may affect the role you are pursuing between the time you select you major and the you enter the work force, or if you will have an experience that you cannot predict that shifts your priorities as your interests or values lead you in a new direction. Therefore, with uncertainty being our only certainty, this article’s purpose is to let you know how you can respond to these questions in ways that lead to more productive and helpful conversations (no more slamming down your silverware and stomping away from the table this year!).
In order to go about this, we need to discuss how to talk about something you are uncertain about while also considering the information the person is seeking from you with their question. When we take a look at each of the questions asked above, “What are you majoring in?”, “What will you do with that major?”, and “Are you sure you will be able to find a job studying that?”, there is a set of underlying questions that you can choose to address instead…“Do you have a plan?”, “Are you setting goals to make your plan a reality?”, “Are you going to be able to support yourself?” Let’s consider how to answer each of these “underlying questions” while also peppering in information relevant to the stated questions. We will take each pair one-by-one.
Stated Question: "What are you majoring in?"
Underlying Question: "Do you have a plan?"
Of course you do! You either are in the process of or have selected your college major. This question as stated can often feel judgmental. However, if you try to move past any perceived judgement and recognize the person is curious about the plan that is in place, this question becomes easier to answer. It also becomes an opportunity for you to discuss why you’ve selected you major. Maybe you really love the classes or the college your major is within at UGA? Maybe your professors are excellent or you are learning new things that excite you? Talk about this. Your excitement and confidence in your own decision will be hard to contest, and it will be evident that you have a thoughtful plan.
Stated Question: "What will you do with that major?"
Underlying Question: "Are you setting goals to make your plan a reality?"
Yes! You are a UGA student. I think being skilled in goal-setting is a part of the admissions requirements. Answering this question is a great opportunity to discuss what you are currently doing as it relates to your major. Are you engaged on campus through student organizations, research, or other roles? Are you working while also enrolled in classes? Are you finally getting into major coursework? Let the inquirer know how you are spending your time and how these choices are helping to prepare you. Most likely, the way you are spending your time is helping you to build a skill set that will contribute to your success after graduation, whether this means attending graduate school, professional school, or getting hired. The more you know about why you are choosing to do these things with your time, the more engaging this answer becomes. Start to consider your whys!
Stated Question: "Are you sure you will be able to find a job studying that?"
Underlying Question: "Are you going to be able to support yourself?"
Again, yes, you are! Here is where you can discuss how important the UGA Career Center is to you, right? Did you know that we have a 95% Career Outcomes rate? This is 13% higher than the nation average, and it means that UGA students are accomplishing their professional goals. This question is the most future-focused of the three we’ve discussed. This one also may cause you the most anxiety when asked. This is ok. Every student approaching graduation experiences uncertainty and anxiety. These feelings are normal and even useful. Did you know that certain levels of anxiety can lead to more productivity and faster goal-attainment? Why? Because the anxiety you feel also promotes you to take action. Remember, the Career Center is here to help you along the way. If you get stuck answering this question, you can always say, “Yes, I am planning to meet with my Career Consultant regarding this exact question to learn more about my options.” We will help you create a plan and strategy that will work for you.
So, as you prepare for the Holidays, we hope this article helps you to feel more at ease about answering questions about your future. You don’t have to have all it all figured out, but you do want to reflect on what you have done and are doing to help you prepare for life after graduation. If you have thought about these things, those holiday questions may start to sound a little different and can even turn into some of the best conversations you have around the dinner table this year.