Back in high school when it was time to start thinking about what I wanted to do next, I thought about my hobbies as a way to help me figure out which path I wanted to take. I (somewhat mistakenly) equated liking something with meaning that it would make a good career. I was interested in a lot of things like science, music, and teaching, and I was worried that choosing one thing over another for my career would mean I’d have to give up my other interests entirely. Long story short: I was wrong.
See, at one point I wanted to become an audio engineer/producer because it would’ve combined my love of music and technology. At another point, I considered becoming a math or physics teacher because I enjoyed science and teaching. I thought either option would be a good way to combine all my varied interests into one singular career path.
Figuring out if your interest is career-material
In the end, I just couldn’t imagine myself spending the rest of my life behind an audio mixing desk or at a whiteboard. Some people do and absolutely love it, but it wasn’t for me. Although I would’ve enjoyed doing these things for a while, I wouldn’t have loved it enough to do it as a full-time career for the rest of my life. I realized I had the interest but not the dedication needed to have a successful career in these fields.
There are some people who really do have such a love for an instrument or a sport or whatever that they are willing to put in 40+ hours a week of practice for a good chunk of their life in order to perfect their craft. I have friends from high school jazz band who went on to pursue the Music Diploma program at MacEwan University and are happy with their decision. But that just isn’t me.
I’m much happier playing my favourite Red Hot Chili Peppers bass riffs in my spare time than putting in countless hours to really master guitar or bass.
Looking back, I think that asking myself the following questions would’ve helped me to figure out whether music (or any interest) would be better suited as a hobby or a career:
- I enjoy playing guitar and bass for short sessions, but would I be cool with practicing many hours a day, every day, even when I didn’t necessarily want to?
- Am I okay sacrificing financial stability and a solid income to pursue my interest in music?
- Are there other ways for me to pursue this interest without having it as my full-time job?
- Can I be an engineer who also does music… or a musician who also does engineering?
Finding ways to pursue my interests during post-secondary
Over time, I’ve realized that there are many ways for me to pursue my interests of music and teaching without choosing them as a career path. For instance, there’s always time in my week where I can just kick back and play guitar or bass. I occasionally meet up with friends to jam. There are casual concert or jazz bands out there that I could join if I want something more structured. I can do all this stuff while going to school, and eventually when I have a full-time job.
I’ve also found opportunities to teach without being an actual full-time teacher. I’ve volunteered to teach kids how to play guitar, and with organizations like DiscoverE I’ve gone into classrooms to share my nerdy love of science and engineering. On top of this, I mentor junior engineering students at my university. Opportunities like this only require a few hours a week at most, and more importantly I imagine that I’m probably a lot happier with teaching or mentoring four hours a week instead of forty.
The point is, even if you don’t choose one of your interests as a lifelong career, there are plenty of opportunities out there to pursue them as hobbies! At your future college or university, go to club fairs to discover the plethora of student groups that exist on campus.
Post-secondary institutions are big and diverse, so there’s a good chance you’ll find a group at your school that shares the same interests as you. This is also a great way to meet new people and make friends.
It’s never too late to change your course
Even after deciding to pursue engineering in high school, there’ve been several times during my degree where I’ve been unsure whether I made the right decision. Sometimes I still wonder what my life would’ve been like had I enrolled in education or some other program… but ultimately I think I made the right choice. This uncertainty is just par for the course during post-secondary.
However, if you do go into a program and end up realizing that it isn’t what you wanted or what you hoped it would be, remember that life will go on! You can always choose to do something different and transfer to another program – many students do. You won’t have ‘wasted’ your time in your original program, either; you’ll have gained friends, memories, experiences, knowledge, credits, and skills during that time, and that’s never a waste.
Read More Good Stuff
At some point, when trying to figure out what you’re going to do after high school, you’ve probably been encouraged to “pursue your passion,…