Brooks, K. (2010). You majored in what?: Mapping your path from chaos to career. New York, NY: Plume Books.

Review by Erica Lee Payne, American University of Sharjah, [email protected]

Plan, do your best, but

Notice tiny butterflies

That may redirect 

In her book, “You Majored in What?: Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career,” Katherine Brooks (2010) describes the Butterfly Effect as “a small incident at the beginning of a process…that can produce a large variation in the long-term outcome” (p. 10). The aforementioned poem gives the essence of the book, which encourages the perplexed young adult to consider every experience, however small, dull, or demanding, with a new lens of possibility. For the adolescent floundering in the uncertainty of their future or the advisor encouraging a student in a tough course, “You Majored in What?” is a sensible guide for mapping the unknowns of a young adventurer.

To give a snapshot of the book’s structure, each chapter begins with a thought-provoking quote, followed by an introduction to the topic of the chapter. The first half of the book indulges the dreamer and focuses on a theory of chaos, outlining the inevitable and unpredictable nature of life. In these initial chapters, Brooks discusses chaos theory, wise wandering, and helpful mindsets, beckoning students to look beyond what is directly in front of them. The latter half of the book leads to more structured guidelines. In these chapters, Brooks delves into resume building and cover letter writing, as well as job coaching for interviews. She enriches each chapter with narratives, examples, sentence starters, tables, and practical questions. With each segment, she includes applicative activities that ignite creative juices and guide the scattered mind. Notice the introduction haiku? According to Brooks, a haiku amusingly assists the stumped writer by limiting them to only seventeen syllables that succinctly summarize their thoughts. This example is one of the many “wisdom builders” (Brooks, 2010, p. 245) that crowns the end of each chapter of the book.

Indubitably, “You Majored in What?” was written for and may be recommended to aspiring young professionals. Brooks’ relevant vernacular and realistic insights win her an audience with even the most incredulous college student. From the outset, she reminds them that they do not need the whole trajectory of their life planned: “your future arrives one day at a time” (Brooks, 2010, p. 157).  Brooks helps students address the anxious queries of well-meaning adults, by breaking down seemingly unsurmountable tasks into small, manageable goals. She inspires them to reflect on their experiences with a new lens. This refreshed mindset leads them to approach life with freedom and flexibility. However, one would be remiss to assume this is simply a feel-good self-help book. Quite the contrary, it is an active workbook that requires a ‘roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty’ mentality. It invites students to designate time for deep self-reflection as they consider thoughtful responses to challenging questions.

In light of this, advisors recognize that many students will not have the capacity to invest time to read the entire book. Brooks herself claims that only “about 10 percent of the people who buy [career books] actually read them the whole way through” (2010, p. 255). Instead, this book may be used as an advisor toolbox, containing a wealth of valuable resources for practical workshops, motivational stories, and clear applications for a diverse body of students. In accordance with NACADA’s Academic Advising Conceptual Core Competency (NACADA, 2017b) this book provides templates for implementing learning-centered advising, which seeks to ensure that “[students] think about the content of their learning [rather than] passively receiving information” (Drake, Jordan, & Miller 2013, p. 37). Additionally, the whole book highlights NACADA’s core value of Empowerment (NACADA, 2017a) by providing realistic suggestions for emboldening students to explore their passions before committing to a career path. She exhorts, “you’re going to take risks, try new things, and experiment with what interests you, regardless of its ‘usefulness’” (Brooks, 2010, p. 288).

Whether students are embarking on their college career or dabbling aimlessly post-graduation, Brooks sets the trajectory to move forward with excellence. “You Majored in What?” is an invaluable resource that can be read cover-to-cover, delivered as a workshop, or used as a reference.



Brooks, K. (2010). You majored in what?: Mapping your path from chaos to career. New York, NY. Plume Books.

Drake, J. K., Jordan, P., & Miller, M. A. (2013). Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017a). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCalues.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017b). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx




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