David Preece, academic director for the Center for Hospitality & Tourism, said students should choose a major they’re passionate about while also researching the possibilities of its career paths and market potential.
Preece, an associate professor of HTM marketing, said most students come to college with a good idea of what they would like to study and do for their future career, while some are figuring it out while they are in college. He said the three most important things they can do are:
Research the industry
Talk with people in their desired industry
Get hands-on experience
Some of his students’ majors and future career paths have been influenced by their parents’ career choices and their own previous work experience, said Preece.
He had one student from South Korea who was wondering if he should pursue a career in medicine or marketing. The student’s parents were doctors, and they put pressure on him to take the same career path.
After hearing about his career choice concerns, Preece advised him to follow his passion. He told the student, “Well, that’s the only decision you can make. You need to think about the long term. What is going to make you excited to go to work?”
Preece said it’s important and practical to think in the long-term and to “look ahead in five or 10 years and think to yourself, ‘What do I see myself [doing] to make a living?’ Work backwards from there.”
Preece added that if students are not passionate about the field they are going into and they are considering a job because of social pressure, they “are not investing the efforts they should to make decisions now that have a long impact.”
Julian Gutierrez, a sophomore from the Philippines majoring in psychology, said going on his mission helped him decide on a career path. “Before my mission I wasn't sure what I wanted to study. I took up computer engineering because I loved to play computer games.
“During my mission I loved talking to people, finding out some of their struggles in life, and being able to help them through those struggles with the aid of the gospel.”
While on his mission, Gutierrez realized helping people overcome their challenges is what he wanted to keep doing. Those mission experiences helped him decide to major in psychology.
He concluded, “I am still deciding between clinical or criminal psychology, but I am sure that it's either one of the two that I hope to have a career in in the coming future.”
Preece said it is great for students to have a passion for multiple fields since they can potentially create career opportunities. “I actually hope most students have more than one passion, that’s what makes life interesting. If you are single dimension person, you could be kind of boring.”
He said students can have unexpected career opportunities if they are able to find “effective ways to combine those passions.” Preece is interested in the new general education program because it helps “people develop broad interests and knowledge.”
According to Preece, he was initially interested in political science when he started college but found out his interests were business related based on the fact that he liked things relating to marketing such as design, business, communication, and consumer behavior.
He reflected on his childhood, “I always liked going to retail stores even when I was little because I liked to see people selling things, things promoted, and people buying things. I had fun observing that.”
Preece took an advertisement introduction class at BYU at Provo that piqued his interest and led him to decide his career path.
He emphasized the importance of the hands-on experiences students need to have in order to guide their career choices. “Every student [should] try to get hands on experience–volunteer too. That’s probably the best way.
“HTM has a required internship … because there are certain things you can only learn by doing. We can talk all day in the classroom, but it doesn’t mean anything to you until you get in and actually do it. The second reason is because it helps students figure out what they want to do.”
Dorothy Ng, a senior studying graphic design from Hong Kong, said she was able to figure out what she should major in “mostly based on passion and interest.”
She mentioned two questions that guided her decision: “Do I enjoy doing what I study, and can I handle the workload or not?
“For instance, I switched from painting to graphic design because I couldn't give out the time and effort required.”
He said some students major in something just for fun, which he thinks is fine, but he added it is important to think how they can plan to support themselves and their future families. “They need to start doing that early in their college years because the sooner they do that, the more informed they can be about making good academic decisions.
“Most professionals in any career are very happy to help young people to answer questions. Students shouldn’t be afraid to contact people in the career path they are interested in. Most people are willing to help because they were all in the same situations a few years ago.
“After you all do that, pray. Try to get some spiritual guidance so that you can feel good about the decision you are making, but I have to tell you I don’t believe God will tell you what career you should be. I don’t think that’s the way it works.
“I think the way works is you do your research, you ask a lot of people for advice, you get some hands-on experiences, then you start narrowing the decision based on your experiences and information and feelings. And then ask for inspiration to confirm if that is the right decision. It takes work to get a testimony just like it takes work to figure a career path.”