Choosing a Career

Dear Edahn,

I've been going to the school called the Academy of Art University for about a year now and have been in the Fashion Design MFA program. All of a sudden something changed inside of me. I realized that I don't like sewing machines/drafting patterns/limited job prospects, etc., so I decided to change majors! I am now enrolling in Advertising because it's about ideas, designing these ideas through Adobe photoshop/indesign/illustrator, and marketing, etc. I just did this yesterday and school starts in three days. So, good choice? Some say "follow your heart" while others say "just get a practical degree."

There's a lot to say about careers and the way our generation worries about making the wrong choice. I think people tend to get lost in their thoughts and planning when they approach the subject. They tend to think that their career is supposed to make them feel a certain level of excitement and drive and dispel the background angst and malaise that is a natural part of life. When that drive fades (and it always will), they think they've selected the wrong career. While I think your career can help you dispel some of that angst, it happens by creating lasting meaning, not fleeting excitement.

Meaning is generated when you do something you find important, not just important to you but important to the world, that uses some (but not necessarily all) of your gifts. You don't need to volunteer in Sudan to do that. Bringing some beauty, harmony, humor, spirit, and joy -- all of which are connected to each other -- to people's lives will suffice and it'll give you a reason to persist in the face of obstacles. If you feel any of those feelings when you're engaged in your work, you can almost guarantee that you're bringing those feelings to other people too. There are no careers that inherently possess those attributes; those attributes emerge when they blend with your talents and personality.

A good career is one that brings meaning to your life and lets you live comfortably enough to have free time and not be constantly worried about personal finances. In theory, you can find income and meaning in either fashion design or advertisement by blending art and humor and creating little moments of beauty in your audience. (Granted, not all advertising campaign aim for or achieve that, but some do.) Job markets being equal, if you really feel that your MFA program won't evoke those attributes and infuse you with the same meaning that advertisement will, then the sooner you GTFO, the better.