career change

How I Met My Major: Three Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Major

By Christina Faulkner, G’16

I’m going to tell you an incredible story, the story of how I met my major. It was the year 2014 and I had tried biology, marketing, and sociology, but none seemed like the right fit. A career counselor encouraged me to consider the following three questions on my quest toward choosing a major:

interestsWhat interests me?

I considered this question and wrote down a list of my interests. It also helped to write down what I didn’t enjoy.

Looking at the list of majors on the website, I found many options that would complement my interests! Some of the majors that caught my eye were anthropology, citizenship & civic engagement, fashion design, graphic design, information management & technology, modern foreign language, public relations, and writing & rhetoric. I contemplated my options and considered the courses required of each major and whether they appealed to me.

I decided to explore a few different options by taking classes in different programs. I really enjoyed my modern Spanish art and leveraging emerging technologies classes, but not my communications and society class.

What am I good at?

Although I thought graphic design or fashion design would be interesting, I was never very good at drawing beyond stick figures and you need a portfolio to apply for those programs. I considered some of my other strengths like writing, speaking Spanish and technology and realized that anthropology, citizenship & civic engagement, information management & technology, modern foreign language, public relations, and writing & rhetoric majors could still be a good fit!

What are my goals and how does this major fit with them?

I had always imagined myself living in a big city after graduation and/or traveling around the world on occasion. I preferred to work for a nonprofit organization or small start-up company because of the culture and environment those types of organizations offer. I looked at the Placement Report to see what students in a few different majors have done after graduation and thought that some of the information management & technology and public relations grads were doing cool jobs related to my goals. Really, I had many options, but after a few semesters of experimenting with different classes in different majors, there was one that really stood out…it’s going to be legend-wait for it…dary!

Now, remember that everyone is different and although these questions are a great starting point, meeting with a career counselor can be helpful for generating ideas, sorting through the options, and finding resources to research different paths.


While you can discuss your major at any time, next week Career Services offers Major Dilemma Drop-Ins dedicated to students who are in the process of a choosing a major! Stop by Schine 235 Monday, March 24 through Thursday, March 27 from 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. to meet with a career counselor about YOUR major match!

Are you in a "Major Dilemma"? Our alumni share their paths

Compiled by Tracy Tillapaugh, Career Consultant

We recently asked alumni to share their stories of what they majored in at Syracuse University and what they currently do in their careers.

We wanted to show that your college major doesn’t always equate to a career! Take a look at the great responses we received to our tweet:

@JeremyRyan44: I majored in TRF production @NewhouseSU but now I work in journalism as a news manager & former website manager.

@KristySmorol: I majored in broadcast journalism and I’m now working in marketing/PR.

@samedelstein:  I majored in econ and policy studies and now work in alumni relations!

@SunyyinSyracuse: Majored in sociology, work in social media & community management!

@ekyle: I have an AOS and BS in networking and network security and I am about to get my MS in TNM. I’m a software engineer.

@hsholkin: Does moving from TV news (Newhouse TV-R degree) to PR and marketing programs 31 years ago qualify? (Editor’s note: YES!)

@rmahtani: I studied Industrial Design – now I work in Social Media/Marketing.

@mussakram: Management consulting with an engineering degree

@abeljabel: YEP! Double major in Broadcast Journalism at Newhouse & Economics from Maxwell. NOW I’m a celebrity publicist in LA!

@AshOst: I majored in Child and Family Studies/Nutrition now work for NBCUniversal for The Jerry Springer Show!

@The_Mike_hay: Major was Football/Economics. Currently an accountant for a television production company based in New York.

@rattner31:Graduated hospitality management. Now work in digital marketing with hotels.

@MusicGroz: History. Work at Apple Genius Bar.

@lizzigilbert: Majored in psychology, ended up in marketing!

@anupbhonsale: Did my MS in Engineering Management @ SU, now I run a Finance and Retail company in India named OICSPL.

Alumni also chimed in on the ‘CuseConnect group in LinkedIn:

Fiona Andrews: Graduated spring ’12 with a degree in music (voice/piano concentration), and now I work at a top marketing firm in NJ.

Judith Fajardo: I graduated in 2008 with a B.S. in Advertising. I decided my senior year that I didn’t want to have the lifestyle of working in an agency, so I decided to pursue higher education, sales then returned to higher education instead. Now I work for Newhouse.

Jonathan Troen: I graduated in ’89 from Newhouse – Television, Radio, and Film. Spent my first 20 or so years in radio, then Internet, then Television. Now I own an organic snack company, OM Snacks, and teach yoga and meditation, as well as coach other entrepreneurs. A big change from the entertainment world, and tons of fun!

Shayna Bentkover: I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelors of Industrial Design. After a few freelancing jobs, I eventually decided Industrial Design was not meant to be for me. I had taken a job as a Design Studio Specialist at my local Pottery Barn and excelled in the sales aspect of the role and long story short I am now part of a thriving sales team at LinkedIn. While I am not using my design skills directly, there are many other transferable skills that I learned from the Industrial Design program at Syracuse and I don’t think I would be where I am today if I had chosen any other major.

Michael Lambert: I graduated in ’84 with a degree in Industrial Engineering; during my senior year, the Engineering school announced they would end the I.E. program after the year, which turned out to be somewhat prophetic. After working in that field for about 3 1/2 years, I thought I’d try my hand at teaching and went back to school for a Math Teaching degree, and ended up teaching high school for a while, but after getting married and thinking about the cost of a house and kids on a teacher’s salary, I jumped into IT, where I have been for about 20 years now, in various roles.

Lawrence Harlan: I specialize in placing software and hardware engineers throughout Silicon Valley. My industry is high-tech staffing and my job title is outside sales. I graduated from SU in 2000 and majored in Mathematics. My career isn’t directly related to my SU major, but I’m constantly solving difficult problems and seeking the truth.

Bottom line? As you can see from all of the stories above, what you major in during college doesn’t necessarily dictate what your career will look like. Consider your major dilemma SOLVED!

For Valentine's Day: Following Your Heart In The Professional World

By Jenn Pedde, Syracuse University Class of 2004

It’s easy to fall in love with a person, an idea, food, an apartment, or anything really, and at the same time, it is just as easy to fall out of love with all of those things just as quickly as you fell in.  It’s really no different with a job.  You can fall in love with something, and then if it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to stay in it.  You’re looking for that career you want to marry, and until you find it, a string of decently long relationships where you gain perspective and experience is expected.  You wouldn’t expect someone to stay in a “going nowhere” relationship, so why would you stay in a job you don’t like?  This is exactly what I realized not too long after I graduated from college and found myself in a job that I wasn’t hopelessly in love with.

As an undergraduate at Syracuse University, I was hoping to work in the music industry after graduation.  In my four years, I had two internships, worked three jobs, was the VP of University Union (the entertainment programming board on campus), ran a few campus activities and worked my butt off.  I was in love with the idea of following my heart and my passion for music. I worked hard and it paid off.  Within three months of graduating, I was working at the William Morris Agency (now known as William Morris Endeavor Entertainment).  But the shine quickly wore off, and after three years the reality did not match the dream.  The hours were long, the stress was quite high, the pay was extremely low, the perks were not many, and I wasn’t as happy as I had imagined.  I quickly had to take stock of my life and realized what was and wasn’t working.

Take a Risk

I never envisioned myself as a teacher, but when the opportunity presented itself to go work abroad teaching English as a foreign language it just seemed like a no-brainer.  Leaving something I no longer loved was actually a pretty hard decision because it meant breaking up with something I had been committed to.  I’m glad I did because I spent nearly three years living in Seoul, South Korea for an experience of a lifetime.  Not only was it the best decision I ever made, it directly relates to my current job working as a Community Manager for the online MSW degree program at the University of Southern California.

I wholeheartedly believe that everything happens for a reason.  In every decision I make, I think through every option and possibility. At the end of the day, what is always the right thing to do is to follow your heart.  Trust yourself, trust your intuition, and don’t stay in something you don’t love. Odds are you’ll find the next big thing that’ll make all the difference in your life. Do your best, put all of yourself into something, but if you don’t start to feel the way you think you should, it’s OK to stop, take stock of your life, and follow a new passion. Don’t settle. Present yourself with opportunities and options. Love what you do, because you’re going to spend an awful lot of time doing it. 

Jenn Pedde is the community manager for the Masters Degree in Social Work program at the University of Southern California in the Virtual Academic Center, which offers a wide variety of social work scholarships and grants to potential students.  She’s an avid traveler and enjoys photography.