Balancing What You Want to Do vs. What’s Expected of You

Maybe your family is full of critically acclaimed authors, but you’ve always preferred writing code to writing stories. Maybe you’ve said you wanted to be a doctor since you were three but have found a new passion after starring in your school’s spring musical. Maybe you don’t know what you want to do, but you know it’s not double majoring in economics and finance like all five of your older siblings.

Telling the people around you that your dreams don’t match their expectations can be difficult. We’ve laid out some steps to help you start the conversation and find balance between what you want to do and what’s expected of you.

1. Have a conversation with yourself.

In the midst of all the voices around you as you start your college journey, it’s important to take a minute to listen to the voice that matters most: yours. So, what do you want to do? 

When you ask yourself this question, what is your gut response? You may come up with a specific career, or you may just land on a set of values like “I want to help people” or “I want to stay close to home.” Being honest with yourself is a great, low-stakes way to get started making some decisions that might seem pretty scary.

Once you find that answer, follow up by asking “Why do I want to do this?” Understanding your own motives will not only help you clarify your goals but can also prepare you for conversations with the people in your corner who help you outline and achieve your plans.

2. Do your research.

Now that you’ve thought about what you want to do, it’s time to dig into the details. By looking into job outcomes and career opportunities, you can get a good grasp on what to expect from this field going forward. This way, when you initiate the conversation with friends and family, you will be able to present a strong case for the future you envision.

And while you may not be pursuing a math major, it might be a good idea to crunch some numbers. Having passion drive your interests is great, but it’s important to be aware of the financial situation you could see post-graduation. Start by looking into employment opportunities and salary projections, or reaching out to your school counselor about how to get started on the journey.

Of course, it’s totally not necessary to know your exact salary or retirement plan at this very moment. But being aware of the basics can assure both yourself and others that your chosen path will provide financial security and ensure you’re provided for.

3. Be honest with the people around you.

With the research and soul-searching complete, it’s time to be honest with the people around you. If you’re feeling nervous about this, that’s okay. It’s not an easy thing to do! By sharing the research you’ve done and the reasoning behind your goals, you can begin a conversation about what the best choice is—the best choice for you, not anyone else!

And, on the flip side, be open-minded about listening to what the people around you have to say. Chances are if your family has a specific career path in mind for you, they probably think this is best based on their own experiences and ideas. So, when it comes to discussing big decisions, remember that everyone is on the same team and wants you to be successful and happy in the future.

4. Make time for multiple fields if you can.

Splitting your time between two disciplines can be difficult, especially if they’re on different ends of the educational spectrum. But if you’re passionate enough about what you want to do, anything is possible! 

Talk to your academic advisor about a double major or even a minor to go alongside your primary area of study. If the major you want and the major your family wants for you are drastically different, this is a great way to get exposure and experience in both fields.

Additionally, you have the ability to make your college experience what you want it to be. While lots of student organizations on campus cater to certain majors or career paths, they are usually open to everybody! That means you can get involved, gain experience, and make connections in your field of interest, even if it’s not the major you’ll see on your diploma.

The journey might be difficult, and it may even take multiple conversations to work toward a resolution. But with honesty and patience, you can find balance between what you want to do and what’s expected of you. And, as you search for that balance, we’ll leave you with a few things to remember: Chase your goals, be open to hearing what the people who love you have to say, and whatever career path you end up choosing, you’re going to be great!

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