As a Sunday School teacher and former Youth Leader at my church, I hear it time and time again, “My parents want me to study [medicine, engineering, nursing, pharmacy, accounting or any other profession they can brag about]…but I want to be [an artist, a writer, a musician, an actor or any other creative endeavor that seems more like a hobby to them than a career].” I was in the same boat when I attended my university. My mom had it all planned out for me. I was going to study Pharmacy, graduate and earn a lot of money. Career decision done. However, I initially told her, around the age of 10 I believe, that I was going to become an Advertising Executive. After a long talk about her sacrifice to move to this country and how Nursing has provided for this family, and this and that, my dreams were crushed, so I thought. After much rationalization, I decided that law would be a happy medium. I went through school, starting practicing and realized that I would have much preferred a career in Marketing. So, I decided to hustle and started a dual career in Marketing & Blogging while still practicing law until I branch out full-time. Looking back, there were some things I did while in school that I’m glad I did and other things I wish I had done.
1. Minor In Your Preferred Major
If you’ve been trying to convince your parents that majoring in Dance will eventually profit in large dividends and they aren’t convinced, don’t worry. Remember, higher education is really about learning first and a salary second. It doesn’t hurt to major in Biology, after all, you do need to know where your heart is located, but it would be wise to minor in a field you want to pursue in the future. If that won’t work, than get a Masters. However, you may need to take a few prerequisite courses before you can qualify for graduate school, but it’s a small price to pay to pursue your dreams. What I learned about life is that you never know where you will end up. You may become a dancer who eventually specializes in physical therapy for other dancers. Having an understanding of multiple disciplines helps you to stand out and create a path that’s uniquely yours.
2. Be Strategic About Your Electives
You already have to take electives. Schools require them to encourage students to have a well-rounded degree. This is an opportunity to be strategic and focus your energy on courses that feed your own interests. Even though, I majored in English and Psychology, I took an Acting course just because I was interested in pursing it. The sky’s the limit with electives. They are like creative freebies. Electives don’t affect your major and it’s already built into your tuition. I wish I took a graphic design and marketing courses while in school rather than paying out-of-pocket for them as a professional. Utilize the opportunities you have while they are there.
3. Intern In Your Dream Field
While in school, I had some amazing internships. For law school, I purposely only applied to schools in NYC, because I wanted to be around the fashion industry. I always wanted to do something with design and fashion, so I strategically positioned myself to be at the forefront of those opportunities. While my classmates were working for judges and district attorneys, I became a Public Relations intern with Christian Louboutin. I wanted an out-of-the-box experience. I was able to meet Mr. Louboutin himself and some other designers, dropped off shoes at the Vogue offices and called Rachel Zoe’s office a few times during awards season. As an added bonus, because I was a law student, the Communications Director saw that I had a unique skill set for the position and gave me the task of monitoring Christian Louboutin’s Intellectual Property matters too. I not only learned a lot about Fashion PR, but I also learned from the company’s attorneys too. It was a win/win situation for me.
Another memorable experience was my Visual Merchandising internship in Bloomingdales’ Marketing department while in undergrad. I had to arrive at 7am to dress the mannequins and change the promotional displays before the store opened for the day. I learned about how marketing campaigns affect consumers’ buying decisions, just by setting up displays. It was a rewarding experience, and one of the first steps towards my Marketing career. Overall, my internships were eye openers. I figured out that I preferred Marketing over PR, without majoring in either fields or even taken a course. Internships are a great way to test whether the field you admire is a good fit for you.
4. Network Outside Your Major
I don’t know about you, but I’ve pretty much obtained most of my jobs and internships through someone else. There is so much information out there, that it’s easy to overlook some great opportunities if you’re not aware of them. Networking in fields outside your major, can help you secure internships and jobs you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Who says only Business students can attend a Future Business Leader of America meeting? If you’re an Engineering major who loves going to art museums, than attend an Art History seminar. Expand your inner circle of influence and be creative. Conduct informational interviews with people in the field you’re passionate about over coffee to get an inside scoop of their everyday routine. Volunteer at events or join a committee. Meet as many people as you can. Soon, you will be surrounded by a network of people that are related to the career path you want to pursue.
5. Let Your Expertise Influence Your Parents
Nigerian parents would prefer their children to focus on certain professions, partly because of the stability and financial potential. Doctors, lawyers, engineers and nurses aren’t going anywhere. Those professions are needed for society to run effectively in one way or another. That’s why these professions have good salaries, because those professionals have trained long and hard for a tough and consuming career. However, society is changing. The highest paid people aren’t just doctors and lawyers, they are also people who influence society, period. Nowadays, social media personalities are singing to the bank, because they have created a brand that influences followers to pay attention to what they have to say and offer. Many started as students and have become professionals doing what they love. However, this doesn’t happen overnight. They continue to develop an expertise in their area, which influences people to support their brand. This also applies to parents. If you become an expert in a particular field that you are passionate about, your parents can be influenced by it and become supportive too.
Parents would be more willing to let you major in Art if they see you practicing daily or taking some type of initiative. It’s hard for your parents to support your endeavors, if you say you want to be a music producer, but sit on the couch watching TV for 5 hours a day. If you want to act, join a local theatre, engage them when you’re practicing your monologue and invite them to your rehearsals and plays. Begin to develop an expertise they can’t ignore. Soon, both of you would be proud of what you are doing. Plus, being a passionate expert could also increase your earning potential, which would have your parents sleeping easier at night. They can relax knowing you won’t be asking them for money much longer.