Abandon Your Passions For Boredom & Safety?

Rachel’s the kind of girl I started this site for — someone who’s getting rotten advice from the people close to her. And so, loyal fans, today I spring into action on her and your behalf. Behalves. Whatever.

Hi Josh,

This fall, I’m going to be a Junior in college. My declared major at present is International Relations–I love it, but all I ever hear is, “You can’t get a job with that.”

First of all, they’re wrong. There are a lot of majors out there that receive that kind of criticism — a few that come to mind are women’s studies, philosophy, art history, comparative literature, Jewish studies, and lots of other things ending in “studies” — but international relations doesn’t deserve to be among them.

A good IR program will prepare you for all kinds of jobs in the government, business, and nonprofit worlds. The crux of these programs (and correct me if I’m wrong, current/former IR students) is to give you a solid foundation in the policies, politics, economies and cultures of the areas you’re interested in. That foundation is something you can apply to any of the industries above.

Yyyyyyeaaaaaah, Rachel....I'm gonna need you to come in on Saturday...

Another important thing about an IR degree is the connections you can make during your time in school (which is true of every major, but perhaps even more so in international relations). One advantage IR folks have is that the whole world is your job market, and not just the U.S., as it is for most students. Use your school’s association with conferences and partner organizations to forge as many individual contacts as you can so that you can leverage them for jobs when you come out.

(And if you don’t understand what I mean by that, I mean — go to the conferences, meet and talk to and network with as many people as you possibly can for the entire time you’re at school. If you don’t have a couple hundred LinkedIn connections by the time you’ve graduated, you’re probably not working hard enough).

The modern world is more interconnected and has fewer barriers than ever before. If you are a strong IR student, I don’t think you should have a great deal of difficulty getting a job.

I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, nothing wrong with that. See Everyone’s On Plan C.

I know where my interests lie, but none of them seem to be conducive to acquiring a job. I’ve considered dozens of professions, everything from being commercial airline pilot to a college professor to an interpreter to a journalist.

It’s true that the prospects for professors and journalists aren’t what they used to be — but they’re still out there. I’m not sure what you mean by interpreter, but if you’re talking about foreign-language interpretation (as opposed to, say, sign language) — foreign language skills have NEVER been in higher demand, my friend.

And young pilots make terrible money, you’re right. But, amazing coincidence that it may be, you have written the one man who is trying to change all that through a simple solution: tipping airline pilots. I’m serious. I started a website about tipping pilots. But yeah, until that website catches the world on fire, that’s a really rough life the first few years.

And after hours of contemplation, the bottom line seems to be, “In order to get a well-paying job with an ounce of job security, you’ll have to suck it up and graduate in a degree with something you tolerate, at best.”

Bullshit. Mostly, anyway — the security part is the shakiest, but you know what? There isn’t much true job security out there in ANY profession as there used to be, and that’s just part of the working world that we’re all gonna have to share for the rest of our lives.

Let me take it a step further, actually, to something you may not have considered: the degree you get may end up having NOTHING at all to do with the career you end up in. I couldn’t tell you how many people I’ve met who are in the same boat as I’m in.

I got an English degree with a 3.91 GPA and I swear to God, I cannot tell you one damned thing of consequence about anything I read in all that literature I had to pore through. Then I got a master’s in journalism, after which I never practiced one iota of journalism. I fell into Internet stuff, which led to software and business and marketing, then advertising, and all of sudden 10 years later I’m writing 1,500-word blog posts every day answering questions from students all over the world.

How the hell did this happen? No idea. There is no logical explanation for it. Point is — I’m not alone. This happens to people all the time, and the subject of your college major has only a small role in the whole of how things in life turn out.

The general consensus right now is, “Drop your IR major and graduate with something you can get a job in, like Healthcare Administration.”

If you do that, I swear to God I’ll drive down there and shoot you with a paintball gun until you recant. (Not really, but I’ll definitely do it in my mind).

Look, it’s true that you may not get a job right away that you’re absolutely in love with. You might not be singing “Whistle While You Work” with a sparrow on your shoulder while magical dwarves cavort with you on the sidewalk all the way into the office every day. But that doesn’t mean you have to choose a job that’s so goddamned boring that it sucks out your very will to live.

There are plenty of jobs out there that will be “good enough” to get you by and not make you want to hang yourself until life guides you toward something that really resonates with you.

If I decide to switch majors, it will likely take me a minimum of 6 years to complete my Bachelor’s degree, and I’d hoped to get a Master’s as well–in hopes of stalling entering the workforce until the economy improves and get paid better once there 🙂

Don’t switch majors. And I’ve never liked the whole “hide from the bad economy in grad school” idea either, frankly — I think it’s wrongheaded, especially if the master’s degree is something you’re doing solely to stay out of the work force (and not for a specific and calculated career benefit).

Let’s say a master’s degree over two years costs you $40,000. Well, don’t forget the opportunity cost of not working those two years — even at Starbucks, you could probably swing $25k per year. So that’s a $90,000 real cost you’d be incurring by doing that.

Admittedly, I’m living at home and going to a state school right now, so student loans should be kept to a minimum.

Even better.

Is it better to graduate with a degree in something you like? Or am I better off going with the more competitive major, getting a job I have no real passion for whatsoever, and finding a job that’s suited with that degree?

I think I covered that above, so you know where I stand. 🙂 Good luck, and let us know what you decide to do!

What about you? What do you think Rachel should do? Let us know in the comments below.

HEADS-UP: This site is getting a name change and along with it a complete redesign in the coming weeks. I’m not revealing the name just yet, but it’ll a) combine both outlawstudent.com and GiveMeaResume.com in order to serve current high school and college students as well as recent grads looking for jobs, and b) it’ll reflect more of the renegade, take-charge spirit that you find in a lot of my advice. Stay tuned!

64 thoughts on “Abandon Your Passions For Boredom & Safety?”

  1. Any sane person will tell Rachel that she should definitely pursue her dreams. It’s her life and it sucks that people around her have dissolved much too deeply into the realm of boring adulthood and boring jobs that provide what this so-called “security.” Unfortunately, there aren’t many sane people in the world these days.

  2. DO NOT QUIT YOUR MAJOR, I REPEAT DO NOT!!!! If you love what you are doing, then DON’T QUIT. I mean, if you loved sitting on the couch all day and wasting away, I would have some different opinions, but DON’T QUIT. My parents taught me a LONG time ago never to go into a profession for the money. You will be MISERABLE with your career, and will thus be miserable with all your “money”. Also, if you love what you do, YOU WILL DO WELL IN IT, and thus you will excel in it. Times may be tough right now, but when you truly have a passion for something, you put your all into it, and you will tend to excel to the top of your profession rather quickly. I have met so many people in my industry (Engineering, which I have fallen in love with because it uses alot of MY PASSION – MATH!!!) that are only in it for the money. They hate their job, and in turn, are miserable. It is SOOO not worth your happiness and giving up on something you really enjoy just for some extra money!!! NOT WORTH IT in my book. My opinion, don’t become one of those people who can’t stand going to work each day and are unhappy. I say stick with what makes you happy, and the money will come. 🙂

  3. Judge Josh has hit it on the bloody nail head!!! I don’t know what turtles in shells you’re talking to, Rachel, but IR is happening! My daughter, admittedly in high school, has already decided she will minor in that because she knows how GLOBAL the office has become. She’s contemplating a double major with that and Education because foreign teachers make decent money. (So she says, and so the research leads me to believe.) Trust me, there’s a calling for you in IR. If nothing else, keep plugging away at the IR degree, and since you’re still a junior, you MIGHT be able to swing a couple of extra classes to do a minor in business, which would up your marketability, since most International Relations departments are with corporations. (I remember freshman/sophmore years were filled with General Ed, not so much focusing on the main classes yet. Not sure if this is still true.) Just an idea.

  4. Nicole Powell

    I can totally relate to the dilemma Rachel is going through now because I have been in that situation before. Although for me, it was for other reasons. I am a brain tumor patient who wanted to become a pediatrician. That is what I originally set out to do. However, through a set of unforseen circumstances and set-backs, I am now beginning to go for a nursing degree. I now know this is what I want to do, but it is not what I originally started out to become. I think the best advice I could give is follow your dream and know your own limits. No one but you can know what those are, not you parents, your best friend, no one. You should be the one to choose who you will become and what you will do with your life. Don’t let others choose that path for you.

  5. Amen. I graduated uni with an English degree with a 3.98 GPA in three years instead of four. Didn’t get me a job directly really, but the library was damned impressed with both that and the fact that I applied to work for them 21 times, and so I was hired.

    I worked in admin jobs the last year or so as I tried to get the library gig and let me tell you–admin is boring, and healthcare admin won’t pay very much. Dream big!

    China Mieville is a science fiction and fantasy author who has won about every big prize in the genre over the last few years. He has a PHD in International Relations and subtly interweaves different political systems into his work. You never know where it will take you.

  6. I’ve had so many friends come to me for advice on what they should major in. We’re all going to be Juniors at our university next month, and two of my closest friends are still unsure about their majors. One wants to go to Law School and wants to major in everything; the other was an undeclared major whose passion is Photography. Last semester, the latter friend became an Art major (since our school doesn’t offer Photography as a major), after I advised her many times that she should pursue her passion no matter what her family said about her future money-making potential with an Art degree. Long story short, follow your passions no matter what in college. We’re shelling out thousands of dollars (even if we’re on scholarships) for our education; might as well enjoy the ride. You will do so well in your classes if you’re truly enjoying them and find yourself actually wanting to go to class to learn about that subject; it’s how I feel with my English courses (English major, doing Pre-Med here). So, I absolutely agree with Josh on his take about Rachel’s IR major–and support his decision to shoot her with a paintball gun if she changes it for any reason other than a change of passion. 🙂

  7. My wife and I graduated with International Affairs degrees and know a lot of folks who did. Here is what we’re doing now:

    Me: Law school after a year long job search turned up nothing.
    Wife: Personal Banker at Wells Fargo
    Friend 1: Dog walker
    Friend 2: Dog groomer

    The folks hiring at international corporations and the state department do not need college grads with an interest in IR, but no skills. An IR BA is possibly the best way to guaranty that you do not have and IR career.

    Think about where you’d like to work and what you’d like to do. Go to their careers websites and see what they are actually looking for and what the people in those positions actually do.

    Do not cave into this manic and vain proposition that you should follow your dreams off a cliff. It is bad out there and you need to be smart if you want a job.

  8. The world has become a very small place. International Relations is IN. Don’t let those around you scare you into not pursuing your dreams, especially when your dreams are a viable option. Good luck!

  9. No body is going to die your death, so dont let anyone live your life!!! Blunt but true. Stick to your passion, Rachel. Business today is global and an IR major will help you tremendously. Besides you’ll be a more attractive candidate if you pursue a career you are passionate about because your energy will show through. Maybe your job prospects may be a little better in something else, but are the people who are advising you to “ditch your dream”, be there for you, when you develop ulcers or a heart attack from putting in years working in a field you hate?
    Dont forget the tremendous importance of being happy in what you do.

  10. This “you’ll never get a job with an IR degree” is just bullshit. These people have no idea what they are talking about. As you said, Judge Josh, the whole world is the job market.

    And, hey, Rachel, if you can’t get a job with this degree in U.S., try Brazil! We only have three colleges that offer this degree – and a lot of companies, NGOs, and so on, to work with 😉

  11. I’m with Josh (except for the Starbucks job – no way you’d make 25K a year there at 8 bucks an hour.The math doesn’t work. Sorry, dude.).

    Those folks that are telling you to change your major and do something you have no interest in are forgetting two things:
    1 You will likely not do well in a field in which you have no interest. This usually translates pretty quickly to getting fired (aka, being unemployed).
    2 It’s not their life.
    Unless they are paying your way, or supporting you if you are unemployed(and if they are, please tell them that I am available for adoption), what they say has no bearing on what you should do.

    Any bachelor’s degree is a help – it never ceases to amaze me how many employers rely a bachelor’s degree as a means of applicant-weeding, which is why I am where I am today – but some degrees are more marketable than others. An international relations degree is not a bad place to start. If you need proof that there are jobs available in your field of interest, look at the US State Department web site, international banking sites, and the UN job listing site. Just for starters.

    And it’s not that the other majors are boring or bad – it’s that they don’t interest YOU. Trust me, you don’t want to shell out a boatload of money and 4+ years of your life that you’re never going to get back for something you don’t like. It’s not so much ‘follow your dreams!’; it’s more ‘don’t start down the path to known unhappiness.’ Why would you waste your time and effort and brains this way?

    Check out those websites. I haven’t looked at them for a while, but I’m betting you won’t be disappointed.

  12. I’m majoring in graphic design, and like you there have been a lot of nay-sayers about my choice of careers and both the lack of jobs and competition in this field. But, I started doing design work for FREE for a start up company while I was still a junior in high school. Not only did this help me win design competitions and scholarships, it has also allowed me to build a portfolio of work that few people at my age have…I just turned 19 and will be entering my sophomore year of college. But best of all, I’ve already been offered a job when I graduate. So my advice…NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR PASSION!

  13. Rachel,
    I hear you. I graduated with a BA in IR too, but while I was in college I made the most of it. I did an internship with the Dept of State, and I studied abroad in Russia for a year. They were fantastic opportunities, and I do not regret sticking with IR. If you’re passionate about it, you can make it work for you. You may not get a job in your field directly out of college, but its better than being miserable making a career out of something else that bores you to tears. Employers are looking for people who have skills that are useful across the spectrum, such as writing, analytical thinking, reasoning, and communication. IR is just as good as any other major for developing those skills. My advice is to stay with it, and make the rest of us IR majors proud 🙂

  14. Josh was right when he said no one is immune to this economy….I’m a registered nurse…..was laid off in January and haven’t found another job yet!

    Stick with the IR if that’s really what you want. You can always back to school later if it doesn’t pan out.

  15. Don’t let yourself be discourage with that kind of flimsy, cynicism-soaked advice. Yes, the world is a tough place and can be a boring, soul-crushing, bottomless abyss of rat race at times, but most of the experience is what you make of it. I come from an Asian, math-and-science minded family. In high school, my interest turned to the visual arts, and with a lot of practice, I became good enough to exhibit at our city’s main museum and several prominent art festivals a number of times times. And good enough to garner some scorn from teachers, but that’s another can of worms. Mind you, I wasn’t rebelling; I actually love all of science too. My serious interest in art happened by chance (!) due to personal issues at the time.

    Up until college, I wasn’t hit with the fact I sort of had no coherent, final idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I got accepted into good schools for both of my passions, but I was indecisive. How could I choose one, knowing I’d be stuck with it forever?

    That’s where I was wrong, and even my parents rubbed that fact in my face repeatedly, and am I ever thankful to have had parents like that. If you really want to do something, then, within reasonable bounds (wanting to be a neurosurgeon in space is a bit much), it is definitely doable. A huge part, if not the entirety, of life is simply attitude. So after all my internal struggling, I chose to pursue a double major in the sciences. I really love art and all that there is to it, but I despise art classes and the copious amounts of bias, misery, and crazy that comes with some of the professors. Maybe after I graduate, I’ll try working freelance or in a studio, but right now I’m dedicating some free time to honing my skills, not to mention preserving my sanity with my workload. Or maybe I’ll venture into forensics, medicine, research, or IR like you. I always though being a federal agent seemed cool.

    And I’d still venture to say that I’d be willing and able to pursue various career paths after that. If da Vinci did it, well, why can’t I? We all have numerous opportunities, but it’s up to us as individuals to realize that and move forward with confidence, not fear.

  16. Don’t let yourself be discourage with that kind of flimsy, cynicism-soaked advice. Yes, the world is a tough place and can be a boring, soul-crushing, bottomless abyss of rat race at times, but most of the experience is what you make of it. I come from an Asian, math-and-science minded family. In high school, my interest turned to the visual arts, and with a lot of practice, I became good enough to exhibit at our city’s main museum and several prominent art festivals a number of times times. And good enough to garner some scorn from teachers, but that’s another can of worms. Mind you, I wasn’t rebelling; I actually love all of science too. My serious interest in art happened by chance (!) due to personal issues at the time.

    Up until college, I wasn’t hit with the fact I sort of had no coherent, final idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I got accepted into good schools for both of my passions, but I was indecisive. How could I choose one, knowing I’d be stuck with it forever?

    That’s where I was wrong, and even my parents rubbed that fact in my face repeatedly, and am I ever thankful to have had parents like that. If you really want to do something, then, within reasonable bounds (wanting to be a neurosurgeon in space is a bit much), it is definitely doable. A huge part, if not the entirety, of life is simply attitude. So after all my internal struggling, I chose to pursue a double major in the sciences. I really love art and all that there is to it, but I despise art classes and the copious amounts of bias, misery, and crazy that comes with some of the professors. Maybe after I graduate, I’ll try working freelance or in a studio, but right now I’m dedicating some free time to honing my skills, not to mention preserving my sanity with my workload. Or maybe I’ll venture into forensics, medicine, research, or IR like you. I always though being a federal agent seemed cool.

    And I’d still venture to say that I’d be willing and able to pursue various career paths after that. If da Vinci did it, well, why can’t I? We all have numerous opportunities, but it’s up to us as individuals to realize that and move forward with confidence, not fear.

  17. Some believe that employers aren’t really concerned with majors in general but more importantly, they value that one has completed a four year degree. Completing a four year degree says something very positive about a person but that person should consider the current market. Who is the competition? If you were an employer would you choose someone with an IR degree or someone with a different business degree (ie MIS or accounting)?
    Keep your major but be open. Your dream degree will get you a job, it just may not be your dream job at first.

  18. Some believe that employers aren’t really concerned with majors in general but more importantly, they value that one has completed a four year degree. Completing a four year degree says something very positive about a person but that person should consider the current market. Who is the competition? If you were an employer would you choose someone with an IR degree or someone with a different business degree (ie MIS or accounting)?
    Keep your major but be open. Your dream degree will get you a job, it just may not be your dream job at first.

  19. Rachel, don’t change it, there is always sub categories of what you enjoy and you can go into anything. Would you rather hate the money and the life you earn or would you rather love every bit of it even if it isn’t much? I, myself, am going into art. Not much job opportunities with that, it may seem, but there are actually many! I could go into the government and draw portraits of people in the courts because cameras aren’t aloud. I can paint and decor my own house without paying someone to do it and I can do it for others. I can either be an employee under someone or I can be my own boss. My uncle is a professional artist and that’s how he makes his living. It may not seem like much but you will be surprised how much art is wanted whether in the school or just in today’s world. I can take my art to archeological sites for documenting, I can go into construction, landscaping, graphic design- you name it I can be in it. I don’t need to be specifically certified to do what I want. I will do this because I enjoy it. Don’t throw away your happiness and enjoyment to make hard money or to please someone else. Do what you enjoy and what makes you happy, don’t make yourself miserable otherwise college would be just a waste of time for you. If I can do what I want on low budget and not a “successful” job then why can’t you?

  20. I think the stigma associated with International Relations, Political Science, and other commonly “soft” majors comes from what having a soft major can often tempt college students to do: complete their college degree and come out on the other end without much academic training to show for it.

    I believe it’s the absence of coursework rigor that causes this to happen – whatever it is that makes a class of academic behaviors “a discipline,” like Mathematics. There is little formal structure of thought that is reinforced that can effectively recreate anything but social cliches, so it’s no surprise that these college graduates are only marginally more productive in the eyes of an employer than they would have been had they not gone to college (or at least had they not majored in political science, IR, Humanities, etc.)

    This sounds really major-snooty, but I just see it as a reality, having myself experienced the relativist, inconsistent throes of earning a Political Science degree. The students’ creative output reflected no scientific structure of thought, but mostly their Democrat/Republican party lines, “hip rhetoric” agendas (MTV or Oprah activism, you could call it), or their cultural baggage. While this is a problem in any major, the level of the problem in Poli Sci is far worse because there is no organized attempt to structure curriculum and requirements so as to ensure a specific level of understanding, and hence qualification. At least at my school there wasn’t.

  21. Wow this was me 4 years ago when I was applying for colleges to go to. I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do. When I was younger I wanted to be a doctor so my parents assumed that I still wanted to do that. By the time the end if high school I has no interest in doing that bc I wasn’t good at math and I hated physics and chem. I did have a slight interest in journalism or communication and I applied for that instead of bio or pre med (what my parents wanted me to do) we fought everyday bc they told me I’d make no money as a journalist and to do the pre med or bio. I said no and I decided on communications studies, which I love.
    So the point of this is not to give up on what you want to do. If you love IR, do it!!! I know I’d rather do something I’m passionate about than do something I can just tolerate and am miserable with. Stick with your passion you’ll be happier in the end!

  22. This is so me. I am actually coming from my University’s Economics department where I met an advisor to explore changing to that major despite having no interest in it whatsoever. I am a double major in political science and international studies, and everytime I tell people, it always, “What are you going to do with that!” This is the post i needed to see to stop me from selling out on my dreams so early in my life. Thank you Judge Josh and thank you Rachel for letting me know I am not the only one who wants to ignore what her head is telling her, and follow her heart instead.

  23. Rachel, what is life without passion!?!? You are passionate about IR and you should be, since it is what makes you tick, breathe, and live. If you give up your dreams now what will happen later on in 5, 10, 30 years? I wish you luck and hope you will chose whatever makes you happiest for the long term! You have made me think about my own similar situation and for that I thank you and wish you the best in your pursuits!

  24. First of all I have to say I usually LOVE what Josh has to say but his comment that women’s studies, art history , philosophy is conducive with no jobs is crap. A degree is what you make of it and what you want to do with it.

    Second DO NOT GIVE IN to the people who are putting those thoughts into your head. We are part of a global network and federal agencies especially want people who have international relations background, respect and understanding for different cultures, especially because America has their hands in everything. Keep your major, keep your dream and make your dream happen. Start networking, study abroad, intern, do everything you can to get yourself on the map and show the world and future employers you love what you do and are not afraid to show it!

  25. I sooo can relate to the whole passion vs. security thing… I am currently a Spanish and French major but have lost my interest in using them as as a primary skill in a career… I’ve actually decided I want to go into writing, as in fiction writing, which is a VERY unstable and difficult-to-break-into fied, but it’s my passion and I’m determined to find a way. Follow your dreams! 😀

  26. Do not quit the major you are loving! To many people settle for something they do not like and it leaves them miserable for the rest of their lives. I can visualize many jobs using an IR major. Are your friends jealous because you found something you love and they have not? Stay with your love and dream!

  27. I live in NYC, we have an area here called the United Nations. It’s a very big building that deals with many countries, international businesses and international trade to name just a few things that they do. They constantly need well educated people and they continually recommend these people to their clients/corporations. Having a degree in IR can help advertisers launch products in new markets, develop new trade contracts and smooth over rough patches between parties with different belief systems.

    However, the UN isn’t the only place in NYC that could use someone of your background – so many other companies can and do require someone of your skills. Just because your family doesn’t realize, understand or know what these jobs are, does NOT me they don’t exist or don’t pay well.

    Go for it and good luck. Also remind your family that in today’s market, economy and political climate, no one has job security. No one. Enjoy.

  28. HOLLY CHICKEN WOMAN!! DO NOT CHANGE UR MAJOR!… You have no idea how many people have told me that I should not do Psychology because I won’t be able to do anything with it. Since I could remember I wanted to be a Psychologist. When I was a junior in HS my guidance counselor told me if I wanted to do PSYCH I should get a second major, like business, because I had more chances of getting a job after my BA. I have a costumer (in my present job) that is always telling that I won’t do anything with a PSYCH major, and that I should have done psychiatry instead, or something more into medicine. My co-worker told me that I will only end up been a teacher if I was lucky, and that I should try out accounting (pretty popular major btw.) At some point in my junior year in college I decided that I was going to try Accounting, so I did, one class only. Today I don’t regret taken that class, because it made me more sure that I should stay with Psychology. I just decided that I was going to enjoy my present learning something that I love. Rachel, if ur not convince yet, this is my father’s advice for you: “No matter what you study, as long as your are the best at it, it will take you to great places.”. Blessings girl!

  29. Like the numerous others have said – no, don’t listen to what other people say. Listen to what your interests lie. if it’s in IR, do it. period. As josh said, If your going for your masters, make sure you make it worth the hit. Make sure it’s in an degree that will fortify your position in the job market and above all – MAKE SURE you LIKE it. I take being happy over being filthy rich any day of the week because I have something over those rich people – I am happy. They are not.

  30. cletus kabunda

    hi,i am Cletus from Zambia,Africa.I have short word to encourage you don,t lose your direction.let me give you an example i was trying to do nursing but my family never wanted me to do that.i decided to what my course adviser told me and that was best for me,because i have passion for it.do something not because of how much you get paid,but follow the interest you have for it .destine is in your hands girl

  31. Rachel should do what she has always dreamed of.
    From the age of 10 to 11 years old, I dreamed of being a nurse. However, having children & getting married at a young age changed my course. At 31yr,a single & divorced mother of 3 (12yr girl, 9yr & 3yr boys), I went back to school & got my AAS in acctg in 18 months. Not my dream, but I was and am still very good with numbers. I worked for a CPA two years, then the corp. offices of a bank for five, and have worked a lot of different jobs since then. Accounting is very tedious and boring! It is hard to work every day doing something that does not interest you.
    At 48 years, I finally started following my dream. I can not wait to graduate, and take my state boards. Even though I have no regrets about my kids & marriage, I missed a lot of years doing what I know I was meant to do.
    Rachel, follow your dream now. Do not listen to or care what others say. Also, who said you wouldn’t be able to get employment with an IR degree? Until you find that perfect position, I am sure you’d be able to get a Public Relations position for a major corp. or public official. Hell, maybe as a movie/tv star, or rock star’s publicist. For you, the possibilities could be endless. I wish you all the best whatever you decide.

  32. I would suggest that you follow what you like to do. My parents wanted me to go into business and so stopped me from chosing becoming a teacher. Then they wanted me to go into nursing or become a pharmacist and flunked my last year of high school because I dont like biology and so this year, I chose something that I wanted to do and that was become an astrophysicist. You know what happened when I chose soemthing I wanted to do? My overall average raised by almost 20% and now i’m going into someting that i want to do and i’m happier than ever. If i chose to go into something tht i didnt like, i would want to kill myself before i went into that job. So i suggest you do what you want to do, not what your family wants you to do, because no one knows you better than yours truly.

  33. Rachel, you are the only one who can make the decision about what is right for you. In your situation, a double major is a fantastic idea. It may take you a little longer to finish, but you’ll have a full degree in both concentrations, making you even more attractive to future employers. I’m curious, do you live in a big city? IR will likely take you away from where you live otherwise, either to the cities where the bigger companies with international divisions are or maybe even out of the country, and I’m curious if this is part of the reason why the family is pushing you to change majors to something they know you can use locally.
    Perhaps as a compromise, you could investigate taking that second major in something that also interests you, but you know you can do locally (this will help if it takes a while to get a job or you need to intern for a while before you get hired, so you can still live at home), that is related to or can be used in conjunction with the IR degree. The more degree area you cover, the more marketable and attractive you become.
    I’d also like to throw something else out there, as a springboard if nothing else. The US Air Force (for one) would kill to have you with a IR degree is you have high ASVAB scores to go with it. With a degree, you would go in as an officer (cha-ching! Better pay!) and if you speak another language, the chances of you being assigned to a country or domestic facility which speaks that language are really good. Then, with the connections you make, you could have a list of offers waiting for you when you come out in 4 years.
    As someone who is very good at a job she didn’t choose, trust me, you won’t be happy doing what you didn’t pick and you will always wonder what you could have been doing with your life if you followed your heart. When I was in high school, I wanted to be an architect, but now I’m an accountant with 19 years of experience.
    As for your job matching your major, it’s true that most people find themselves doing other things. My supervisor, the controller at the company where I’m currently working, doesn’t have an accounting degree, and this is his first controller’s position, but he was an assistant controller for several years at this previous job. His degree is actually in business, with a concentration in operations and logistics…he planned to work for a large freight moving company or railroad, but never has. When it comes to something he doesn’t know about on the accounting end, he asks me!
    Do what makes you happy, so you don’t have a life of what if’s. When you are in the prime of your career, how many of the people who are telling you to run from it will still be in your life? Your parents? Maybe, maybe not. So don’t be miserable now just to suit everyone else until they’re gone. Trust me, it’s not worth it!

  34. It's Me, Rachel!

    Wow, thanks Josh and thanks everyone for the great advice [and the Office Space reference 🙂 ]! I think what I’m going to end up doing is keeping my IR major, improving my foreign language skills and possibly taking a minor in marketing, public relations or other type of business, do a study abroad my senior year, and start making connections with people who might be able to help me out later on =D I’m lucky enough to have found a field I love, which apparently has real job prospects, and I’d miss it if I decided to take up something else. 🙂

  35. Dear Rachel,
    I am getting ready to turn 29 and will finally be getting my bachelors next May… my major- international studies. I have 10 years of corporate work experience and let me tell you from experience- it is not your major that will get you a job- its you! The only thing a degree tells an employer is that you have the discipline and determination to finish what you start so you may as well get it in something you enjoy…. especially because you are more likely to succeed at something that interests you! A high GPA can differentiate you from someone else if you ever decide you want to get a masters or phd. Also, because of my major I have been able to take advantage of some very cool internships… including working for the British Embassy and other major international companies. I have worked in HR, Sales, Finance and Accounting…. if you have the determination and show you are willing to learn a company will hire you and invest in training for you…. no matter what your degree is in. So, don’t give up, stay the course. You don’t have to know where you will be working in 5 or 25 years… you only have to know that if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life!


  37. Passions. I had enough passion to leave behind my home in New Mexico to at least look at a school in Washington. I came back because I have a tutoring job. I kind of want to study botany and german but I am not sure what can be done with the combination of the two. Study of German/European plant life? I know of a school in NM that has a botany program but my reservation about atending WNMU is that they might be partial in teaching about high desert flora. I did not consider the same for the UW, however. I need to research more into what is close and available.

    In regards to the young woman in question. IR seems like a very respectful degree plan. If that is where her passions lie it would be unreasonable and ill advised to change it over someone elses ill feelings towards it.

  38. Kaikea Blakemore

    I’ve switched majors about three times so far, will be graduating some time next year with my B.A. I did vaguely listen to the nay sayers around me who told me the majors I’ve chosen were useless, after the third switch, I realized that someone would say that about Every major in the book if I let them. Don’t let other people’s fears become yours. There is always someone afraid of any major you might pick, and there is a reason our world has many majors in it, for different jobs and different types of people.

  39. I cannot even finish reading the post because I feel for you so! Please please do not be disillusioned by what people say about the major. I am a junior IR major as well and maybe its just my thinking but some of the smartest people I’ve met at my school are in IR (asides from physics and engineering). You don’t need me to tell you what it allows you to study and the interest it allows. The problem is it doesnt seem as solid as a skilled major like…I dont know….mechanical engineering (I love engineers) but look at the country we live in….IR is one of the most necessary (even if it isnt the most popular) studies of today. The things we learn I often feel like other students should know…its that important and I know it is to you. There are times when Im less than motivated and when I am there are a few things I do that I would suggest you try….Google is often my bff. Continue to read up on other countries or your area of interest. Plan to study abroad. Take a trip to DC. I mean….have fun with it. If you’re worried about skills, all you can do is the very best you are capable of, meaning, learning and being able to apply concepts, possibly learn a foreign language or 2 but most of all please enjoy. I may have gotten way ahead of myself. I’ll go back and read now. Hope it makes sense and helps. =)

  40. With the time that it would take to get a new major, I would say you may as well keep it. It’ll lose more money to change your major now. I think your major can make money, and you should definitely stay with it, especially since you love it.

    Speaking of situations like this but not this exact one, it is my personal opinion that you should go where the money is before doing something you enjoy. If you can combine them definitely do that, if you can’t then go for the money. I know many people agree with me but I would rather be bored to death every day at work making tons of money, than be enjoying something that barely keeps a roof over my head.

    But, the above doesn’t apply to this specific situation, because this is a money-making major. That only applies to majors with no good job potential.

  41. As a fellow IR student, that is a question I faced many times “What can you do with that degree?” But as others have said it is mostly “What CAN’T you do with that degree?”

    An IR degree teaches you to think and analyze the world around you. You market yourself to whatever company is hiring, but you could go into teaching, government (State Dept., FBI, CIA, local politics, etc), business, NGO, or basically anything you set your mind to- an IR degree teaches you how to think.

    It also has a lot of job security- there will never be a time when countries don’t want to talk to each other or have some sort of relations with each other.

  42. Rachel,

    I graduated with a BA in International Studies (basically International Relations) in 2003. I moved to DC and had a hell of a time finding a job, but after several unpaid internships, I got one. The problem was that it was unfulfilling — I mostly dealt with paperwork and typed up my boss’s speeches and brought State Department folks their coffee. DC is swimming with people with bachelors and masters degrees in International Relations who can’t get their dream jobs because they have a grasp of the theoretical underpinnings but no marketable skills. (Marketable skills include economics, statistics, engineering, etc.) I eventually headed grad school for something completely different (environmental economics) because I realized that most of the jobs in IR weren’t what I thought they would be. (Yes, there are some great jobs, but they are few and far between, and I didn’t want to stay in DC.)

    So my response to your dilemma is to (a) keep your major, because it’s what you love; (b) also get some “marketable” skills that will make you stand out from the rest of the IR majors (take some business or econ classes and/or statistics, calculus, etc.); (c) don’t go to grad school until you’re more sure about what career you want to pursue (i.e., after working in the field for a while and figuring out whose job you want to have eventually and what you need in terms of education to make that happen.)

    Good luck!

  43. People will say there is instability in any major you choose. Whatever it is, there are people who just can’t visualize the types of jobs that are related to it. You could go premed and there would be cynicists warning you about the difficulties of medical school.
    Like the others said, if you are good at what you do, you will excel. What you need is drive and the ability to work hard. The right choice becomes obvious when you ask yourself whether you are you more driven to invest your time and energy (and be a better employee) in something that is enjoyable for you or something that puts you to sleep.
    Unexpected things can get you down or hold you back in life, so like another poster said, don’t start down the path to known unhappiness.

  44. dear Rachel
    WAKE UP!!!! anyway if all this advice still does not work, let me tell you a little secret. In all that networking and linked in connection,find a chanceand travel to Kenya, you will definitely get the wake up call and smell the Coffee, Literally, i hopethen you will realize just how marketable your major is!!!!

  45. At the end of your life, will you wish you had made more money, or be glad that you loved your job and didn’t pick the high-paying one you knew you’d resent having to go to every day?

  46. I graduated this spring with a major in English with Writing Emphasis (which is basically code for Creative Writing). Imagine how people react when I tell them that. About half are impressed when I tell them of my passion, the other half are skeptical.

    But creative writing is, without a particle of a doubt, my passion, and ever since I was very young (about 5) I wanted to write. It is my goal, and it is what I was meant to do. Truthfully, if instead of majoring in English I had decided for some sadly practical reason to major in business, and if instead of writing I worked all my life at a fancy corporate job that netted me a huge salary each year, I would still feel pangs of guilt for letting my creative talent go to waste. I would never feel truly happy or at peace.

    So yes, yes, keep your major Rachel! Don’t listen to what other people (who probably know nothing about your major) tell you. Here’s what you should do very soon. Go to the career development center on campus and find out all the job options that surely await you in your field. Then you’ll have something to say back to those naysayers!

  47. Okay Rachel, go with what u wantto do, and not what everybody around u is TELLING u to do! (even tho in a way that’s what I’m doing :p). My experience goes like this: Fresh out of high school I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life I started applying for the programn I was interested in, then my dear loving father convinced me it would be better to go into another course because he thought it suited me better. … long story short I dropped out after the first sem. and never looked back!! Don’t waste your money! Do something u know will stick to!

  48. Michael E. T.

    I believe you should do something you like and not change your plans because of what someone else thinks or says. In the long run I belief you’ll be happy with your career choice even if you don’t make a six figure salary. I know I wouldn’t change may plans just because of what someone else things.
    Have a blessed day.

  49. Rachel Richardson

    Rachel if you love your major don;t change it.It is your life no one else have to live with it but you,don’t worry about what other people say you have to learn from your mistake.

  50. I have to disagree. College is a business decision. It costs too much money to waste the time on a major without any degree prospects. Now, I don’t know if IR is really one of those majors. Your advisors can tell you what sort of jobs people who graduate with that degree can do. I’d also try searching job sites for that degree, see what kinds of work is requiring it.

    The real point I wanted to make though is that I just don’t buy in to the part where you have to do what you really love or else you’ll hate your job and your life. I’m not doing what I love. Not even close. I’m working a fairly boring and often frustrating job for a lot of money. Thing is though, it’s just a job. I do my thing and when I come home is when I get to start doing the things I love. In our culture here in America, there is so much of our identity placed in what we do for a living. I don’t think it should necessarily be that way.

  51. And this goes double when it’s something like a creative degree like Lee S above. Lee, if you’d majored in business and made a bunch of money… you could still write all you want! Just because you don’t turn your passion into your bread and butter doesn’t mean you have to lose ANY of that passion.

    With the boring, cash-in-the-degree job I have now, I have much more time to pursue my passion (which is playing my guitar and singing at little bars) than if I’d majored in music theory or something like that.

  52. I’d say go with what you love. I had listened to others when I considered a major that others felt I wouldn’t be able to find a job in. Between other’s ‘advice’ and my own uncertainty, I’m in a major that, while not bad, I slowly found out wasn’t something I thought I had a passion for. Stick to what you love and don’t worry about other’s opinions, it’s your life and not theirs.

  53. In the Same Boat

    Hey Rachel. I know this is a bit late, but I had to post after I read this. I’m an IA (International Affairs) major and I’ve never thought for one second that I’m wasting my life in what I’ve choosen to study. I don’t know who these people are around you, but all I’ve heard from others is “Wow! International Affairs!? You’re going to do great things with that.” and the occansional “Umm…so what does that do?” from a passerby who just doesn’t get it.

    You’re an IR major aren’t? USE IT!!! I’m a junior too and I plan on traveling alot before I graduate. Do you have a particular area in the world that you like to study? I’m really in love with East Asian culture so I decided to minor in Asian Studies and I want to do a semester long study abroad somewhere in Asia before I graduate. I also like to write so I decided to take on another minor and do Professional Writing too. My point is that IR/IA are exeptional areas of study, but what the ignorant people may be referring to is the broadness of the major. Narrow it down a bit for yourself. And you don’t even have to do it right now. Travel abroad. Take classes in other majors to see it you like them then do a minor. You don’t have to change your major it make yourself more marketable. Heck, in high school while I was thinking about what to major in when the choices were between English, History, and International Affairs I decide on IA BECAUSE I thought it would make me look more marketable and because my school’s program is so interdisplinary. In my two years of school I’ve had to take history courses, business courses, political science courses, language courses, and our major even has 30 credit hours (that’s a year) of Related/Elective courses built in specifically for the pursue of a minor, study abroad opportunities, and internships.

    I don’t know what your school has to offer but whatever it is TAKE IT!!! Learn a second language. Travel. Intern with an IGO. Join Model UN. If you’ve ever had to take an International Eco course like I did, you’re well aware of the globalization phenomenon our world is going through. Being an IR major just puts you at the head of the game. And if you don’t believe me visit other colleges websites under IR/IA major what to do after college. GeorgiaTech’s website lead me to a bunch of different possibilities that even my own college didn’t have posted. Hope that helps.

  54. Phillip Wochner

    The world is more interconnected than ever. We need people who understand that, and who will resist those who give simplistic answers. Stick with IR.

  55. Rachel,

    You’re partly right. An international relations bachelor’s degree won’t open up many opportunities if you don’t have experience. However, if you can swing a couple internships, which shouldn’t be hard, then you could find yourself in a really good situation. I’m a senior in an international relations program at a Florida public university. You should include some management classes, economics classes, language classes, and you should specialize in a specific area. If you do this then you’ll be way more competitive.

    Even then, most organizations don’t necessarily hire IR bachelors degrees. You can go for a professional masters degree program in IR, that will pretty much guarantee you a good job. Or you can do like me and completely switch it up, go for an MBA, you’ll be extremely marketable then.

  56. I definitely agree with the threatening. Except I would threaten her with a bee bee gun!!!! I assure you. You should follow whatever your passion is. Trust me. I’m a music major, so I definitely understand what you’re going through. Everyone says that with my i.q. and my experience and bla bla bla that I should do something more in demand and more legitimate. However, most of them are miserably at home somewhere wishing that they had half of the amazing opportunities that I have. They all can’t wait to get off of work in order to “get away or escape to music”, but I deal with it eveyday because I chose it over what seemed logical to others. It is true that it may be hard to find a career in your chosen field, but once you do find it (and you will) it shall be priceless. You must do what you love everyday, and everyday will feel as though you’ve never worked a day in your life. There were times when I was afraid of what could possibly be in my future with a music degree, but then I turn on the radio or attend an orchestral rehearsal and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is worth my effort, my time, and the idiotic look on the faces of my friends and family. Everytime you see a picture representing a different culture or hear someone speak a familiarly foreign language, all doubts shall fade for your mind as well. If you love it as much as you say you do, then why rip and divide your attention from it? Why not surround yourself with it and get paid to do it? Why not LIVE IT?It may be a tough road, but if you’re dedicated, then it will be yours to take whatever path you wish. Follow YOUR passion, live YOUR life, and LOVE IT!!!!!
    Good Luck!!!!!

  57. No! Keep the major…those worry-warts mean well, but I think they’re mistaken. It’s priceless to have found a field you’re this passionate about, and I’ve never had the impression it was a bad major for getting a job. I wonder if the people you’re talking about really even understand what you’re studying. If no one studied that sort of thing and stuck to business, where would the ambassadors and interpreters and such be? You might want to remind them that in this world, it takes all kinds of skills. We’re not a homogenous crowd–we’re a group of individuals with particular gifts and passions that should be fostered!

    Also, the “American Dream” of having a secure little office job and buying a fancy car and house and eventually living in luxury is *very* biased. It kind of makes you question our society’s values if success is measured by your paycheck, rather than by your *life*. I hate the money-based value system. For me, the only reason I even think about money is when it comes to being responsible (i.e., you should be able to pull your own weight in the world). But other than that, you answer to other values.

    Money is only a means to an end, and certainly not the only means to that end. If you make good money, great, and if you only make a little, that’s absolutely fine. There’s nothing shameful whatsoever about it as long as you aren’t wasting your life. And I’d argue that there’s a much greater chance you’ll waste your life if you neglect your gifts and passions than if you responsibly pursue what you love. Sometimes sacrifice of your desires will be necessary, but please don’t sacrifice unless it’s for something more worthwhile! Is a boring “secure” job more worthwhile?

    If it would make your “advisers” happy, do some research on what kinds of jobs you can get with this major. Also, internships are very valuable. Jump on those before you graduate, and seize every opportunity to befriend people who could help you. I’m not saying use them (they’re real people of course), but if you have a chance to meet people who know people, go for it, because that can take you a long way. People will hire someone they know to be a good worker, so if they already know you, it’s a head start. But remember–this is about using the gifts and passions you were born with, not about a fat paycheck. So be responsible, yes, and don’t go into after-college life with your eyes closed. But beyond that, don’t worry–it sounds like you’ve found your place.

  58. Rachel’s current major is the one I am going to pursue as well. To be honest, there are plenty of jobs she can acquire with that major. She should no listen to the negative comments of her loved ones. They are not the people living her life, so they should not interfere like that unless it is because of a more serious concern. If Rachel wants to pursue a career with international relations she should.

  59. Well I see where you stuggle in this situation. You want to pursue in something you love, but then you also want to please and obey what you’re family advises you to do because you probably believe they know best. Personally I would sit down in a quiet place and right down all my thoughts about the situtuation. After you write down you’re thoughts, look over them. Make your own judgment on what you want to do with your life, but at the same time, don’t be foolish. The best advice I can give you is to be wise with your choices and pray on it (believe me it works). Pray for wisdom and guidance. I hope that helps 😀

  60. Please follow your passion! I am a mid career student and can tell you the first twenty years of my life have been in an incredible career. No regrets! I cannot work as a hairdresser for much longer (injuries), so I am retraining. Trust me, you will create your own market niche.

  61. I don’t know who you’re kidding, but it is DEFINITELY impossible to make 25k per year at Starbucks! I work there full-time (while attending university!) and barely make more than $12k!

    But the rest of the advice is great! DO NOT give up on your passion!

  62. Rachel, I am a Business Administration and Management major with seven months to go before getting my Bachelors. Our professors are all at least Master graduates with several years of work experience.

    They will all tell you the degree in International Relations is becoming more and more important because our economy is becoming more and more global. The need to understand other cultures and be able to position your company in a foreign country is of SUPREME importance.

    Even in every day life your neighbors are becoming more international. I have Mexicans, Arabian Muslims, American Muslims, East Indians, Africans, Jews, etc, all living in the apartment complex I am in.

    The people who are “poo-pooing” your choice are SADLY misinformed.

    Grab that degree in International Relations with both hands!!!

    Now I will go back and read what the other people have to say:).

  63. Thanks Josh for this great post. I am a German and International Studies major. A lot of people are convinced I won’t find a job. This post gives me courage to keep doing what I am doing! I am fluent in German and travel to Germany (Berlin) almost every summer. Thank god for global people like us!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top