A few Saturdays ago [read: sometime in March lol], I spent a couple of hours at Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus, meeting up with a couple of soon-to-be Badgers. Knowing me and my love for Madison and its extremely cold weather, I couldn’t say no to sharing my experiences with my would-be fellow Badger alums. One of them even brought their parents along, considering how their parents would be accompanying them to Madison (for personal and health reasons). Overall, I had a good discussion with them (students and parents) about life in Madison – from the academic, social and personal aspects of it.
One of the questions that was asked was “What difference does it make, taking Actuarial Science in the School of Business (like I did) and taking Actuarial Mathematics under the Maths/Stats department? Do employers look at it differently in terms of the degree?“. Which, if I can say, is kind of similar to the questions I usually get (on Facebook, at work, in my Ask.fm), which are like:
“Would it be easier to get a job with Degree A or a Degree B?”
“What difference would it be if I do one major or two majors?”
“If I study this, would it guarantee a job after graduation?”
I think the main issue in this situation is how a lot of people think in a linear way – Get a degree in A, get a job in the A industry, work in that same industry until you retire. For example, to be an accountant, you must take an accounting degree, and join an accounting firm after you graduate. To be a teacher, you need to have gone to a teaching school/college (like an Institut Perguruan) before you can qualify to become a teacher. Or that you need to have taken computer science or IT in college if you want to ever become a data scientist / IT specialist when you work.
This linear mentality is apparent in Malaysia, especially among high school and college/university students. Sure, there are some specialized fields or careers that you would need specialized degrees or education in (like becoming a doctor, a lawyer, a professional engineer, etc). But for most industries, a lot of things overlap, and students need to learn to be open to opportunities that may not necessarily be in their “line” of studies/career.
For example, I did a degree in Business (Actuarial Science). I’m now working in Higher Education / Student Affairs, albeit in the School of Business, where my business background comes in handy when we want to do assessment for any transfer credits / outgoing student exchanges to partner universities. Other than that, I don’t really utilize my Business degree that much in theory, but the soft skills that I learnt and developed came in handy as I talk to students about their studies and majors (and the students often find it surprising that I chose to work in Education despite having an Actuarial Science degree).
Not to mention, my work now revolves around talking to parents during education fairs and/or open days, and I’ve rambled a little about it on my Facebook post and/or LinkedIn article, but it bugs me that this linear mentality is still a big thing nowadays, and how some people can’t seem to understand why other people might not share the same traditional views as them. Sure, it used to be that if you want to be successful, be an accountant or lawyer or doctor or engineer – but is it really the same now, though? Is it wrong if some people want to do something different, like go into education or culinary, or even mass communication or any of the less-than-glamorous jobs? I mean, seriously, thinking about it, if EVERYONE choose to do accounting/business/law/any of the other ‘sought-after’ careers, who would be doing the other careers? Who would be taking care of the other parts of our lives?
It’s kind of like what I wrote in an old post titled “Following the ‘Manual of Life’“. Life is not easy, and it’s definitely not a straightforward path. Especially in this time of change and new technology being built and created every day, a lot of things are changes, and we need to learn to be adaptive and flexible in our life. We also need to know what every single one of us is born different, with different passion and skills and personalities, and know that everyone is suited for different things. Not one person is born the same as another, so everyone needs to learn to explore their own interests, their own passion, build off of their on skills and talents, and find out what works for them in their own time.
It’s been a year since I graduated (I officially graduated from Madison on May 13th, 2017), and this weekend is also the graduation ceremony for my fellow UW-Madison juniors. To any of you reading this, or any recent graduates reading this, for that matter, no matter what you graduated with or where you graduated from, please remember this: there is no one out there who will ever know what is the best for you, other than yourself.
You know yourself better than anyone else, and it is your time now to find your way in this world. Do not be overwhelmed by other people’s successes, do not be intimidated by your friends who might have already found their way, and whatever it is, do not feel scared to take chances and venture into the unknown.
You are all born great, in your own little ways, so fuel that greatness, learn to break barriers, take a leap of faith and explore what the world has to offer for you. And learn to always be patience – you may not find the answers to your questions straight away (heck, I’m still finding my way myself, as a lot of your seniors are), but that’s life. Learn to not expect instant gratification, but invest in things for the long term. Develop your skills, attend trainings, strengthen yourself with knowledge and connections, and you will, one day, find your purpose in this life.
Stay awesome people 🙂