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Why it's a mistake to regret your college degree

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CPL’s latest employment monitor found that 60% of people would, given the opportunity, change their college course and do something different. That’s an astonishing proportion of the population walking around with regret. Why did over half of the population choose a course that they later wish they didn’t? 

Let’s take a look at some reasons and what they can teach us about finding career fulfilment, starting with the one that most of us can relate to.

You’re not supposed to know what to do with your life

It’s an especially big ask of a 17 year old filling out their CAO to decide what their life plan is going to be. Picking a college course should mirror your career journey. It’s supposed to be about throwing yourself into new challenges and trying to figure out where your strengths and interests lie. If it’s not immediately obvious to you, or your parents, why you decided to take ‘Philosophy and Star Trek’, it will all make sense later on.

Don’t undervalue this period of your life. It’s all part of the career life cycle. People rarely choose their perfect career, they stumble onto what they are meant to do with their lives through a mix of luck, coincidence and maturing interests. It’s all about creating the circumstances for your success. And college is just one part of that.  

The course doesn’t necessarily guarantee a career

Many of us pursued a course with the intent of settling down in a specific career straight after college. This is a tempting notion – especially during a time of economic uncertainty. However, picking a course based on job prospects will only narrow your options and could make you feel chained to it even if your interests change. Realising, upon entering the world of work, that the career you invested four years in isn’t right can leave you more confused than ever and wishing you could start again.

Increasingly we are seeing less of a link between what you study and what you end up doing. You learn throughout your career. Bearing this in mind will help you let go of regret and maybe reconsider staying where you are.

The importance of career fulfilment

We are living in the age of mindfulness and the pursuit of career happiness. Genuine passion and enthusiasm are in high demand from the world’s leading innovative companies. Thought leaders are focusing more and more on inspiring employees and giving them freedom to pursue their interests because fulfilled employees are more productive and creative ones.

You can follow your interests, whatever they are, at any stage of your life. It is important not to let your degree limit your imagination. Your college course does not define you or your career. Feeling obliged to pursue a job based on the four years you spent studying a BSc in Maths is a mistake. If your interests lie elsewhere, pursue them. Doing so has better job prospects than continuing to use your degree out of obligation.

People are approaching their careers the wrong way and it’s manifesting itself later in in terms of low job satisfaction and engagement. If you focus on personal fulfilment early this becomes less of an issue. If you picked a general degree and still don’t know where you’re going – embrace that uncertainty and use it to experiment. If you picked a specific degree and regret it, don’t. You took a risk that didn’t pay off and crossed out an option on a long list of possibilities. When choosing your next step play to your strengths but also consider your interests. If you wish you could change your course, then what course would excite you? Follow that curiosity now and see where it leads.

Read the full employment Monitor