“How to Find your Educational and Career Paths”
| Prof. Victoria Juharyan - 01 Apr 2023

While the question of “how to choose your college” might appear to be a merely practical one, requiring equally pragmatic advice, which should lead to subsequent decisions of a similar sort and considerations of the larger issue here, namely, “how to choose, find and follow or abandon and change a career trajectory” is a philosophical question with existential and ethical implications.
 The wandering Ukrainian philosopher and teacher Hryhoriy Skovoroda (1722-1794), often called the “Ukrainian or Russian Socrates” as well as the “Diogenes of Kharkhiv,” and “our own Pythagoras,” insisted that we should all follow our callings, passions, and natural inclinations rather than the expectations of society, which imposes false hierarchies and fake prefabricated codes of behavior and paths of life that lead to disappointments and resentments. 
 It is much more beneficial for communities and salutary for the individual, Skovoroda claimed, to be, for example, a good cobbler, who enjoys their craft, than say a misguided lawyer or even worse, an incompetent medical doctor. The thinker himself preferred the life of a peripatetic poet and sage over the governmental or ecclesiastical positions repeatedly offered to him in his youth. “The world tried to ensnare me, but I escaped” is written on the philosopher’s grave inscribed according to his wishes and instructions. 
  As much as my inclination here might be to continue providing my audiences with proper references to the wisdom of thinkers I admire if I were still required to provide a list of ‘my own’ recommendations regarding choosing one’s education and career paths, it would be as follows:
• Choose your teachers, not just universities.
 Do not only research the colleges and universities you would like to attend but also look at particular professors and their research in the departments of your interest. Carefully go over the courses offered and whenever possible read through the syllabi as well as the research and teaching profiles of the instructors. Consider your topics as well as potential teachers, supervisors, and mentors.
• Ideally, you’ll be learning from your peers and environment as well. 
 After carefully studying the departments and scholars of the institutions of higher education of your interest, make sure to also look at their student body descriptions and profiles. Ask yourself: would you like to spend years of learning with and among these people? Make sure both the environment and the culture of the campus appear welcoming as well as intellectually, socially, and aesthetically appealing to you. You learn from your surroundings as well as friends and colleagues not only from your academic instructors.
• Develop your talents and follow your passions.
 When thinking of your major and fields of study, make sure not to give into considering only current job market conditions and the illusions of promised security, but also, and much more importantly your interests, passions, and inclinations. Market conditions change as history and contemporary news repeatably prove to us. So, make sure to dedicate your life and work to worthwhile efforts and careers that align with your talents, passions, and the good you can do in this world during your lifetime.
• Apply to colleges and universities of your dreams, not only “safety schools.”
 Do not fall prey to what the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre calls ‘Bad Faith’: try to avoid a prison or a fence of your construction by thinking that only what seems within your reach is possible. Dream big and give it your best. What do you lose by trying? If your chosen school or track of study is not working out for you, dare to change it. 
• Find what you are truly interested in and work on those topics with passion and due diligence.
 Work ethic and the honor code are just as important in your education as choosing your schools and professors. Do not attempt faking your way through this most significant journey of our lives for you will only be cheating yourself. 
• When focusing on your specialization, remember the significance of general erudition.
 Know the world you live in. Study the knowledge available to us and do your best to contribute to its expansion. If you find out that your inclinations are not in theoretical domains, choose practical professions that best contribute to either the improvement or the maintenance of our universe and its inhabitants. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, when finding your place in it.
• You learn best when you realize that you also teach in the process.
 Finally, please keep in mind that your own life, education, and career choices are not only examples to others but also shared experiences; education is individual as well as reciprocal and communal.

                                                                                                                              Victoria Juharyan 
 Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of German and Russian at the University of California, Davis. Together with Alyssa DeBlasio, she is the co-editor of the collected volume Socrates in Russia, published by Brill book series in Contemporary Russian Philosophy in 2022 to commemorate the 300th birthday of the Ukrainian teacher and philosopher Hryhoriy Skovoroda. Victoria completed her Ph.D. in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University in 2018. She also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth College and a BA in Literary Editing from St. Petersburg State University in Russia.

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