How Much Money are You Leaving on the Table?: All things (I wish I had) Considered

                                                                                  Image from Refinery29

                                                                                  Image from Refinery29

There are many things I would change if I went back in college. Not that I have any desire to go back, whatsoever, but I certainly would have considered doing some things differently. I would have been a bit more of a realist, particularly where my degree was concerned.

Maybe it’s a female trait (hate to stereotype) or comes with the creative type (can’t help but stereotype), but you could say I was a tad idealistic in pursuing a music performance degree. I was very much the “I just want to sing!”-type in school, without any consideration or desire to explore a practical approach to such a career, or better yet, pursue a degree that would compliment my passion for a more lucrative position, and by lucrative I mean a steady salary.

Often once we leave college, interests change, degrees change, and (thank God) we change. For those of us who have yet to pursue an MA, and are working to make a decent living as adults (though there is a growing trend to avoid that as long as possible) are we using our degrees to their greatest potential? Or are we leaving money on the table?

This week NPR covered a segment on Why Women Choose Lower Paying Jobs. A recent study shows “The Percentage of Women in the Least Lucrative Jobs” well outweighs the percentage of men. In the segment, economist Anthony Carnevale, of Georgetown University, took a moment to rate just how much money this NPR reporter left on the table:

I described my situation to Carnevale: I majored in applied math. I have an MBA. And 

I’m working as a reporter at NPR. 

‘Oh, you left a lot of money on the table,’ he told me. ‘You left probably as much as $3 [million] to $4 million on the table.’

Whether male or female, those in their 20’s likely pursued a degree in an area they considered themselves talented in. And Boomers (aka our parents and other wiser, older generations) would likely tell us, “You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated.(Just read the slightly demeaning, but practical advice in Forbes, 20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get, which may benefit more than just 20-somethings.) Everyone is talented, but not everyone is smart enough to consider how to incorporate their talents into a career that would be both profitable and lasting.

Some of us may be more concerned with doing what we’re passionate about than whether or not there is any money left on the table. Though money is not always the objective, with whatever is left on the table, could we also be leaving opportunity and skills that could inadvertently be the necessary growth for our talents? 

There is no harm in pursuing a degree in the arts or doing what you love, but seeking out potential possibilities by merging your passions with productive skills, especially for those currently in college or furthering education, is certainly something to consider.