Monday, April 27, 2009

career pondering

I've been thinking a lot about careers lately, probably because I spend part of every day cruising craigslist. As I browse through the various categories of listings I occasionally stumble on something that looks appealing, but mostly the jobs are things I apply to knowing that while I'm qualified for them, I won't actually enjoy them. And I know "no one enjoys working," "if it were fun it wouldn't be called work," etc etc, but come on, I know plenty of people that like, possibly even love, their jobs. And what I assume it comes down to is finding a job doing something that you honestly enjoy and not just something that pays the bills. Simple enough to say, but how do you figure that out?

At 29 I should know what I want to do for a career. In fact, by 29 I should be working at a job that may not be my dream, but should have me learning skills and meeting connections to secure that dream job in the future. At least that's how life plays out in my dream world. In the real world, I'm 29 and wondering how it is that I don't know what I want to do. How can I feel so ambivalent about my career options? How is that no career ever jumped out to me as The One.

In second grade I wrote an essay about how I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I held on to this idea all the way to college when I became an education major. There it took approximately two semesters for me to realize that I hated the education department at my school and to transfer away out of it. After that my major bounced around more than I can honestly recall because nothing ever grasped me in any kind of life changing way.

During college I worked at Barnes and Noble and since college I've worked as an office manager, a campaign coordinator, and a manager of member services. Out of those my favorite was B&N and that's because I worked with friends. The others, while not bad jobs, did nothing to set my world on fire. They were all jobs that I stumbled upon thanks to friends and not because they were what I wanted to do with my life. There was not a single college class that I took, that in any way related to those jobs.

Jparks says that as long as he's known me I've wanted to be a stay at home mom. And while that's looking like my next career move, it's not what I've always aspired to be. Hell, I could barely imagine having kids, much less staying home to take care of them or having that be a real financial option. And if jparks were right and I had always aspired to be a stay at home mom I would happily admit it, because it would mean that yes, YES, I know what I want to do with my life.

To get back to my question, how did you know what you wanted to do for a career? How many of us actually grow up to be what we wrote our second grade essays about? Did you graduate and find a job that directly related to your degree or did you stumble into something that you never expected to love but do? Am I the only one that spends large portions of time wondering when she'll grow up and discover her career calling?

(can we all agree that I couldn't be a grammar teacher? look at those commas! holy crap, I need help)


  1. Hmm isn't it that a person changes their carreer like 5 times in their lives?
    So... I have a degree in history and anthropoplogy, I was going to get another degree in eductiaon but stuff got screwed up, but I went and taught anyhow, came home, went back over seas, you know this. Then I was a financial services officer and I liked it okay, but I loved to sell stuff, loved to get customers to bring their mortgages to me. Loved to know that I was the best in my region. Then Adam got a job here, I can't work here, blah blah blah, had a baby, YAY! And now I'm a SAHM (shit ass ho motherfucker... oh wait, stay at home mom....) I love it! Also LOVE IT! I cannot imagine being away from Trixie for more than an hour or so at a time. I understand that some people HAVE to work, and others can't bear to be around their children that much. But I love it. Best career move I've ever made. Highly reccomend it.
    You'll see when that small person looks to you with their adoring eyes, you'll see. When they come to you 'cause their upset, you'll melt. Best career choice ever.

  2. There have been times I've loved what I've done for a living (right now, NGS in 1997 or 2001, Apple in 2006) and times I've hated it (NGS in 2004, Apple in 2007, NASA the entire freakin' time). And while it has occurred to me that maybe I want to get out of hi-tech, I honestly couldn't think of what else I could do and make a living at it. One thing I can say is that you're MUCH better off with a resume that shows you know how to work - flexible skill sets and the power of displaying adaptability - than you are with one specific career talent that limits you to a finite number of job opportunities.

    All I know is I never planned on doing this for a living, or I sure wouldn't have wasted all that time on political science. Plus my mom went back to work when I was six and she was thirty-six, so it's not like you doing some years at home with young Barkevious is a decision for life.

  3. I'm 25, working on my "career" and I still don't know what I want to do.

    My plan was to major in English as an undergrad then get a Masters in Library Science. I would leave Florida and go be a librarian somewhere further north, ultimately landing a job somewhere fun like the Jeopardy! Library, researching and compiling fun facts.

    Clearly, that hasn't happened.

    I wound up falling into the industry I'm in now and I'm kind of floating along, picking a path, but I wouldn't say I'm passionate about it. I don't mind my job since it's challenging and I'm learning new things all the time and it plays up to some of my strengths; it's just not what I ever envisioned myself doing.

    But then again, when I was in my first two years of college, I had a major crisis where I wanted to do all sorts of stuff; I talked about culinary school, fashion design school, becoming a business major, you name it. I'm a dabbler by nature so pinpointing something I want to do continuously and for most of my life is nearly impossible.

  4. speaking of B&N, i saw peter at the grocery store last night. random flashback to those days.

  5. Surprisingly, I've said I wanted to be a writer since I was 3, and here I am. That said, along the way, a lot of people told me it would never work and that I needed to have a back-up. To them I say, BAHAHAHAHA, LOSERS!

    That said, I didn't know I wanted to be a travel writer until about six years ago. And if you had told me that I would have managed just that by my early twenties, I would have laughed in your face, too.

  6. i have wanted to be a writer since i was wee. and yes, my mother recently pulled out something i wrote when i was 6 that said i wanted to be a writer. in high school i decided i wanted to be an editor too because i was in love with my yearbook advisor. heh.

  7. I'm 31 and I'm going through this SAME thing right now. I thought I had my dream job when I worked for the 49ers. Six years and I figured I was set. But it wasn't fun anymore. And it was stressful and not being able to do things because you don't have a penis gets really old.

    But as I've bounced from job to job since then (seriously, I'm on my fourth job since 2005), I've realized that part of me misses sports. I miss it because I'm passionate about sports. And I KNOW sports. And I love working in sports because I already know most everything. Football is football all over the country. But I know if I went back to that, I would severely miss my weekends.

    If you figure it out, could you let me know?

  8. Hey, I'm 37 and I still don't have a clue. I work as a database administrator. I love my job, but not so much because of its job duties, but because I love the hours, the flexibility and I love my boss. Sometimes I wonder if I'm somehow letting myself down, by, IDK, not doing MORE? Something more important. But, I have kids and really really love having a job that is pretty stress free, that allows me to go home from work and not think about it, to concentrate on my family. Sounds lame, but to me the work environment has actually turned out to be MORE important than the type of work that I do.

  9. Wow. I feel like a slacker. I'm 35. I've never had a dream job. Well, not since I was ten when I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau.

    I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but it was far too much internal politics and drama for too little money. And since then I've rocked my way through a handful of Office Manager/Bookkeeper jobs. I'm going back to school to get my MBA.

    I haven't yet figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

  10. If it's any consolation - I'm a heckuva lot older than you and I have NO IDEA what I want to do for a career. I only know that if I have to keep earning a living sitting at a desk all day for the rest of my life, I'm not going to be a very happy person.

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be either a journalist or a psychiatrist. I became a punk rocker instead :)

  11. I hate working generally and always have. I long ago realized that I wanted to be a kept woman.

  12. Hey, I'm 34 and I still ask if I like what I'm doing.

    In 1st grade, I remember drawing a poster of what I would be doing in THE YEAR 2000 (it seemed so far away back then. It seems pretty far away right now, actually), and it was basically "living in space."

    My sophomore year in high school, we each built a small book, which entailed a bunch of little writing projects about ourselves. One that I recall standing out was that we were to write about our future careers. I spun some crazy yarn about living on the space shuttle and doing random stuff, but particularly acting as a remote teacher.

    Right now, the stay at home dad thing appeals to me. I'm kind of tired of what I've been doing for the last few years, and while I don't think that raising a toddler is a vacation, it would be different.

    Anyway, I'm pretty happy to have a job that I'm usually pretty happy with, and that also seems to pay the bills. It could be a bit better, but it could be much worse.

  13. (delurking to say:)
    Man, I feel like I wrote your post. I'm 30, graduating law school next week, and it definitely is not what I thought I'd do when I grew up. I had a friend who knew she wanted to be an architect is 7th grade, never changed her mind, and is an architect today. She's probably one in a million.

    Like you, I never thought about the SAHM thing- until I had my son. Now I wish I could stay home with him forever instead of worrying about things like malpractice and stuff like that.

    I think the biggest problem is that the dream job is only that until you actually work there- then you totally blow the idealized concept of what that job will be like. Then you realize that it has the same good/ bad of every other job.

    By the way, this reminds me of that scene in office space, where Michael Bolton says that if everyone did what they loved, there wouldn't be janitors because no one dreams about cleaning up shit. :)

  14. I went all through undergrad and grad school focused on getting a job in Finance. Then I worked in Finance for many years and realized that although I was good at what I did, I really didn't like it very much. So, for now I am a stay-at-home mom and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.