On a sunny afternoon during my freshman year, I met with an advertising professor to – wait, no, maybe it was sophomore year? Actually, more likely both? I’ve been struggling with my major for as long as I’ve been in college. Conversations with advertising, graphic design and journalism professors are a common feature of my vacillation between vocations that has taught me a lot about myself and how I want to spend my life.
On paper, I’ve stayed the course as expected: I declared my Journalism major before I even stepped foot on campus, and it hasn’t changed since. But there’s an internal stress that almost constantly weighs on me – why am I still majoring in journalism?
This is coming from a person who’s had no shortage of exposure to the field: three years of editing my high school newspaper, a full-time job at a daily in my hometown and now a position as Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Free Press. My resumé would tell you my career path is pretty clear.
But it’s not that simple. Yes, I love journalism in all of its forms: photojournalism, news writing, video and social media alike. But I also have increasing passions for design, branding and all kinds of cross-disciplinary work.
Two years before I got to college, I attended a journalism conference during which we wrestled with a seemingly existential question: should journalists major in journalism? Or should they pick an academic discipline, master it and then learn journalism on the job?
That question lives in the back of my mind even now, but more recently I’ve realized my question is different:
Should you major in journalism even if you don’t want to be a journalist?
Hold on Mom and Dad, before you start ranting about how I’ve wasted two years of college studying something I don’t want to do, let me explain.
I would be happy with a life doing journalism. It truly does make me come alive, and I certainly haven’t ruled it out.
But a conversation I recently had with the ever-wise Ed Lynes made me realize I don’t have to be so narrow-minded about my future career options. I spent the summer interning under Ed at his new company, Woden, and I went into it with almost no idea how I’d spend my time there. That terrified the Type-A in me. Not to mention I was working on the dark side of – gasp – advertising!
I ended up doing a fantastic and inspiring mix of things: some graphic design, some web design, and even little bit of blogging and editing. That doesn’t sound like much, but I did all of those things because I showed myself to be versatile, eager to learn and able to find solutions, no matter my title.
And that’s the part of me that questions a career in journalism. Why pine after that position as a photojournalist, doing one thing day in and day out, when I can aspire to have a career of constant learning that lets me do all sorts of things?
I still have pretty much no idea what that looks like, except that I managed to do it at Woden this summer, but it made realize the uncertainty isn’t just okay, it’s an asset.
So why am I still majoring in journalism?
Because it doesn’t matter what my degree says, it matters where my heart is. And because journalism teaches me so many skills that go beyond newspaper work.
Journalism has given me an unshakeable respect for deadlines, it forces me out of my comfort zone constantly, it introduced me to some of my closest friends and it’s made me a passionate storyteller, something I hope to be for the rest of my life.
I could easily call the registrar, switch into the design or business school depending on my mood that day, and rest assured that my major matched my most recent career aspirations.
But it would be silly to give up a major that not only continues to motivate me, but has brought me to the exact spot where I am today.