According to a recent Gallup poll, over half of U.S. adults with a college degree would change their major if they could. While career changes at every age have become more common, it's still important to begin developing a sense of what you plan to pursue as early as possible — your college major is an indicator not only of your future career but also, by extension, your paycheck.
"Choosing a career is one of the biggest financial decisions that young adults will make, yet so many make that decision without the full picture of what lies ahead," says Andrew Plepler, global head of Environmental, Social and Governance at Bank of America.
Sal Khan, founder and executive director of online education platform Khan Academy, agrees. The organization has partnered with Bank of America on a new video series aimed at exposing young adults to the challenges and opportunities different career paths can provide.
"The single most important personal finance decision you make is your career," says Khan.
Whether you have a specific career goal in mind or are still searching for your professional calling, here are three things Khan says you should consider when deciding what to pursue:
"I am personally an idealist," says Khan. "I was lucky enough to follow my dreams in my own life so you should definitely follow your dreams."
Once a financial analyst, Khan left his finance career behind to become a social entrepreneur. He knows that following your dreams can pay off, but understands that people cannot ignore very real considerations like work-life balance and job stability.
"Your interests should definitely be a major input, but you also have to think about money and you have to think about the trade-offs of various dimensions of your life," he says. "You only have so much time in the day and you only have so many working years. Where do you want to invest that life?"
Idealism aside, Khan notes that there are many other important things to consider when deciding what career to pursue. One of the most important, he argues, is money.
"At a lot of college graduations, you'll hear people say 'follow your passions,' and that is important, but no one talks about the stress of not having enough money, the issues of debt and the issues of work stress," he explains.
Money can influence your life in more ways than just your spending habits. For example, Khan points out that financial stability or the lack thereof can have a major impact on your stress levels.
By taking a hard look at all of the factors that influence your life, including money, you can have a better understanding of what career is best for you and better prepare for the future.
"A lot of students think they know what they want to do but they actually don't have a great understanding of what it would take to get into that career," says Khan.
After spending years working with students of all ages, Khan has found that many people overlook the specific hurdles they'll need to clear on their way to a particular career. To remedy this, he suggests that young people take into consideration the skills, education and experience needed to get their foot in the door of their dream industry, as well as whether they're prepared to attain them.
Additionally, Khan notes that many students underestimate the amount of rejection encountered on most career paths. By truly understanding the challenges ahead, he hopes that young people will be able to better prepare themselves and remain determined to achieve their goals.