Choosing A Career: $$$ vs. Happiness

Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you will make, leaving an indelible mark on who you are as a person and carving out possible futures for you.   We don’t often think of it in terms of real numbers, but your career choice can cost you a few hundred thousand dollars over the course of a lifetime.  What is the cost of choosing passion over high profits and vice versa?

broke monopoly manFirst let’s agree that everything has a cost.  Waking up in the morning costs me $12 on average.  $2 for coffee, $5 on gas, $6 on lunch and a $2.50 energy drink to get me through the afternoon slump.   That’s before I even leave work, so it cost me $12 to work today.  Such is life, and life without a sufficient amount of cash flow is stressful.  Ask Obama’s hair.

Furthermore, we have all heard it 1,000 times, we college students, about how the humanities are “fluffy”, a waste of time, and unmarketable.  We’ve also heard the counterarguments.  Humanities majors can write and think critically and synthesize information.  But let’s get real, most majors that involve following a passion involve a pay cut.  As the education level increases, the less likely it is that it will pay off.  A graduate student of philosophy, for example… need I say more?


On the flip side,  having more money has a cost associated with it as well.  Sometimes it costs you a passion, it will always cost more time, energy and relaxation with your significant other and friends.

I think of the progression I followed from elementary school (obsession with fame, MUST be known by everyone) to high school (huge un-channeled ambition to be a high-powered something) to the money-hungry days of my freshman year in college.  I had to be rich, not filthy rich, I’d settle for something in the millions of dollars in salary a year.  Not too much to ask, right?

Well, it’s not realistic for one, and even middle class wealth isn’t guaranteed anymore by attending college.  A study conducted by Princeton University found that “Although income is widely assumed to be a good measure of well-being, researchers found that its role is less significant than predicted and that people with higher incomes do not necessarily spend more time in more enjoyable ways.”  I think it’s fair to say that some people genuinely enjoy being workaholics, 80 hour work weeks, and pouring their purpose into their work. “Success” and $$ coexist in a 1:1 ratio for some people.  What if you’re not one of them?  Are you paying attention to that little voice in your head?

Is the lap of luxury a fallacy?

For me, I’ve realized that mid-level income is by no means mediocrity.  There is nothing mediocre about my life.  I’m surrounded by family that I love, I go to work every day to a job I enjoy, I feel accomplished when I leave, and I have spare time to hang out with friends, read a book or catch up on my favorite TV shows.

I have time to slow down when I want, time to hear my own thoughts. I smell the roses.  College is a totally crappy time to slow down and think.  What are the things you associate with the word college?  Drinking?  Stress?  Being poor?  It’s not a great time to slow down and think, but determining what makes you happy might be the most important thing you do in your college career.



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