Don’t do what your major says to do

Belicia T. Tan
7 min readMar 21, 2021

When people ask me what I studied, I’m honestly pretty ashamed about it.

I’m ashamed because I’m not doing what my major says I should do.

I studied Biopsychology, Cognition, Neuroscience (yes a very long name for a single major) for my bachelors, and studied healthcare management for my masters.

But do I use either of these? Nope.

“Why couldn’t I have known what I wanted, my story would make more sense ”

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash.

I absolutely hate it when people ask if I’m going back into healthcare one day. I then have to “make up my story” of why I went from wanting to go to PA school, to going to grad school for healthcare management, to working as a community manager in a non-healthcare space.

The entire story makes me seem like I couldn’t make up my mind.

But to expect an 18-year old to choose something that will determine the course of their life is honestly unrealistic. Who even came up with that.

I entered college highly unsure of myself. I went through a complete social crisis my freshman year, hopping from friend group to friend group, unsure of where I fit in. I talked to dozens of career counselors on campus to understand the different careers in healthcare, but I wound up even more confused.

I chose healthcare in the first place because that was the field my high school internship was in. I was an Administrative Intern at a local hospital. I loved it, instinctively thought this was the field I belonged in, and went for it. I let one internship sway me and blind me from the numerous possibilities there were.

Mistake #1: Being closed-minded

I limited my pursuit and I limited my potential.

I’m very much someone that once I have my mind set on something, my only intentions are to bring it to its completion. It’s not always the best thing. Once I am committed to something, I do not un-commit, but sometimes that holds me back from believing that there’s something better out there.

From day 1 of college, I chose only life sciences classes and joined only healthcare-related clubs. For summer plans, I chose only healthcare positions. As a naive freshman, I believed in choosing things that would make my story make most sense. Ironically, it only led to a story that made no sense.

Mistake #2: Wanting control

I had this ridiculous 4-year plan.

I laid out every single class I wanted to take from freshman to senior year, laid out how every summer would play out, and even laid out the timeline for when I’d apply to grad schools…who does that (???)

At that time, I believed that if I laid out the course of my 4 years, I would be able to achieve of my end goal of “making an impact in healthcare.”

“Life almost never goes as planned”

If you’ve ever heard of Murphy’s law, where everything that could go wrong goes wrong, then you understand. As much as we want to plan for our lives, and want things to go a certain way, it almost always won’t. But how many times do we look back at the course of life and say, “I wish it looked different.” Almost never.

We almost always say, “It was for the better.” Although this does not mean the path we go down feels or looks perfect, almost always in hindsight do we realize why things happened the way they did. It’s almost always that we look back and say, “I wish I didn’t stress as much, I wish I didn’t try to control things I couldn’t control.”

I spent so much time in college cooped up in the library studying my butt off for a subject I had zero interest in, sipping on my 8th cold brew at Starbucks because I felt the need to apply to every single internship out there (bad idea btw) and often times, I skipped out on social functions because I needed to focus on “fixing my life.”

Mistake #3: Not living in the present

I spent so much of my college (and grad school) years thinking about what was ahead. Even to this day, I live in the mentality that my 20s are for my 30s.

While we should be preparing for the future, it doesn’t necessarily do us good to only project for the future. I mean, who knew we’d be in a pandemic, working from our childhood bedrooms for over a year now. No one could have predicted that.

“If life wants to happen the way it wants, it will go on without our permission”

Did I ever ask to end up where I am today? Not exactly.

Did I ever imagine myself being jobless all four years of college? Def not.

Did I ever think I wouldn’t be in healthcare? Probs not.

But would I change the course of what led me to where I’m at today? Hell no.

Even if it meant “wasting” nearly 150 credits of life science coursework, only to have never applied to PA school, or applying to 2823578320572 internships, only to land zero internships, or going to grad school, only to not do what I studied, it was all worth it. All that didn’t make sense, made sense, and all that made sense, didn’t make sense.

What didn’t make sense was, “Why is all my hard work going nowhere.” The exhaustion I experienced when I studied 50+ hours for my anatomy final, only to miss my desired grade by 0.1%, or the frustration I felt when all my friends were going to intern at the Googles and McKinseys of the world, and I wasn’t, or the confusion I felt when I loved my non-healthcare role more than my healthcare roles, was why it all made sense.

I love my non-healthcare role because I remember the frustration I felt when I felt less than nothing compared to my friends. I love my non-healthcare role because of the exhaustion I remember when I failed to meet another one of my academic goals. I love my non-healthcare role because of the confusion I still experience as to why my career path is the way it is.

In my non-healthcare role, I get to empower those who are very much like me. I get to empower those who are very much still exploring their careers, or perhaps not even sure where to start. The frustration, exhaustion and confusion that I once felt and still feel, empowers me.

“Empathy empowers me to do what I do today”

So…what exactly do I do today?

I’m a community manager for an early-stage startup that builds communities to empower the next gen into career growth.

And why does this all make sense?

It makes sense because if I hadn’t gone through the path of career growth (read: career frustration) I would not be able to fully empathize with the people I have the privilege of serving today. I would not be able to fully understand what they need before they even knew they needed it. I would not be able to fully provide them with the resources that got me to where I’m at.

Because I had no direction/guidance/resources to pivot me towards a completely different career, I had to seek out advice all on my own. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the people who helped me along the way.

These people not only passed down advice/wisdom/encouragement to me, but passed down all the same sentiments to people after me. The endless number of people who have volunteered to be a mentor for my mentorship program, or have willingly been an open door connecting with students I interact with, or have graciously hopped on to do an event with my company — I owe you the world.

“I wouldn’t be able to do my job nor do what I’m passionate for without the people who were a part of my story”

If I hadn’t been so (freakin) lost, I would have never sought out all that help. I would have never humbled myself to ask for help. And I sure as hell would not received help.

The network of people simply wouldn’t exist.

If it took all that “suffering” to be able to use my story in a meaningful way to empower others, then every part of it is worth it to me. At the end of the day, what will happen might not be what we think will happen.

Don’t limit yourself to what someone told you to do, or what a silly title of a major says to do. Figuring out what you want to do feels impossible, finding something to do is a whole other story, but doing what you want to do is not impossible.

“Doing what you want to do is in your control. It holds no limits, and it allows you to be who you want to be in the very moment you live in.”

Doing what you want to do doesn’t need to be in the form of an official internship, or within the parameters of your major, it can all start now. And it starts with you believing in who you are made to be.

For more stories on my career journey, feel free to check out the rest of my Medium blog. If there’s any way I can help you or connect you to someone resourceful, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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Belicia T. Tan

Product Ops @ Indeed // Founding team @ladder.to // Founder @girlswhoconsult