I need help helping my wife figure out what to do with her life. I am a very lucky person who has known for a long time that I wanted to be an engineer. I love math and science, and truthfully I can think of lots of jobs that would probably satisfy me. However, I recognize that I am in the minority in this position, and my wife, sadly, falls into the other group. She has been feeling particularly down about finding her purpose for quite a while now, and I need to figure out how to help her. Read on for the details!
posted by RobotNinja to work & money (14 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
My wife is a business major (communications), which makes things especially hard for me; my peers and I spent much of our college years mocking business for being a "fake major." I am somewhat wiser now, but I struggle with the fact that I personally would probably find almost any businessy, non-technical job to be completely boring and unsatisfying. Like many others, my wife didn't really know what to do when she entered college. She started off as a geography major, but was persuaded by her parents that this would not be useful, and switched to business instead. She still talks wistfully of her geography classes, and I find this story a bit upsetting.
She worked sales for a short while, and then got a job at a high-powered consulting firm. She rose through the ranks quite quickly, and I always tell her that one of her most amazing skills is that she actually cares about doing a good job at work, even if she hates the job itself. She is dedicated and takes pride in what she is doing, but she often hates the environment she is in. She eventually left the consulting firm because she felt sickened by the fact that they were advising people on issues that they had little knowledge about, and also because any further career progress would have required her to "sell her soul" to the company - a huge percentage of the people above her were divorced and routinely working 80 hour weeks. There were other reasons for leaving, but for now I'll leave it that big-name consulting was not for her.
She is now working in project management, but is becoming dissatisfied again. I have trouble getting her to articulate all the reasons, but among them are:
1) She feels that many of the people she works with are bad at their jobs, and she winds up picking up the slack.
2) She has never felt that she has ever developed a specialized skill set. When job searching, she usually feels unqualified for most positions, or doesn't even know where to start looking.
3) In general, she just doesn't enjoy the work very much and dreads the idea of doing this same old thing for another 20-30 years.
I'm sure that part of the issue here is self esteem, and I'm trying to help her with that. However, I don't really know what other advice to give her. She has read through "What Color Is Your Parachute?", "What Should I Do With My Life?", and done various online tests that are supposed to help you find your calling, but to no avail. It seems that a major issue is that she doesn't have any particular passion that translates into a job. What she is good at:
1) Organization. She is highly frustrated by people that don't think ahead and plan for the future. She likes making lists, speadsheets, and databases.
2) Research. Back in the day, she joked about being a travel agent because she like researching vacations. However, she doesn't have much experience with academic research, and isn't crazy about reading through papers all day long.
3) Editing/Proofreading. Goes with #1. She has previously handled "style guides" for various writings done at the consulting firm, and helped manage the publishing of large documents and reports.
Again though, she isn't really passionate about any of those things. She has considered working in editing or publishing, but feels she has very little experience. She is also very prideful, and already took a significant salary decrease to switch to her current job. Taking some "simple", entry-level position in a new field will be very difficult for her to swallow. She does have education benefits in her current position and is very interested in going back to school; the problem, of course, is that she has no idea what for!
My own job choices will always be really obvious. I have specific technical skills that are in high demand, and will likely one day go into technical management of some kind. I have a lot of trouble with the nebulous, vague world of business, and confess that I often wonder what all these people really do all day. I think my wife is confused about her own skill sets and how to find a job that she can enjoy. So what can I do? What can she do? Help me help her, hive mind!