I've landed in a dead-end job, but it's hard for me to overcome my anxiety about retraining or changing the direction of my career. How should I perform an objective, reasonable risk-reward analysis in the face of imperfect options and information?
I've tried pro/con lists, spreadsheets of financial projections, and informational interviews, but when it comes down to pulling the trigger--taking a temp job in a new field, enrolling in a graduate program--I just can't do it
. I know that any new job is a leap of faith, but I can't shake my fear that things won't work out, and I'll come out the other side with more debt, less time, more miles on the same car, fewer and/or worse career options, etc. I tend to be someone who lacks the courage of their convictions, and I don't trust myself (or, maybe, believe that it's possible) to make an informed decision about this.
1. I'm qualified for admission to graduate programs in the allied health sciences, but I can't square myself to the idea of spending $50-80,000 (and two or three years away from full-time employment) essentially on spec. Will there be a glut of graduates (who, like me, headed for grad school after the recession derailed their career) in three years? Will I be able to service $90,000-120,000 of student loan debt--I have ~$40,000 now--on my salary? What about the opportunity cost of leaving work for two or three years? Will I make it to my clinical internship to discover that I don't enjoy, or can't tolerate, the narrow range of jobs which the degree trained me for? Will a shift in the regulatory climate put me out of work in a decade? If I was passionate about being a nurse (clinical dietitian, perfusionist, occupational therapist, vascular sonographer, audiologist, etc.) that might carry me through, but I have to accept that I'm not, and probably never will be.
2. I have a biology degree, so I contacted a lab/biotech staffing service. The positions I've been offered are all unequivocally worse than what I have now: swing shifts or rolling start times (5, 7 or 9 a.m. depending on the day of the week), short contracts (4 to 6 months), 100-130 mile/day commutes, low-ish starting salaries (equivalent to $30,000/year). On top of that, I would lose my un-vested 403(b) match, and my benefits would be in limbo until I land in a permanent position. At this point I wouldn't bat an eye at one or two of these things, but together they seem like a poor trade for just the possibility
of a stable-ish career.
3. I recently asked this question about library school
, which is now off the table, in part due to the good advice in that thread.
For those of you tempted to encourage me to follow my true passions or interests, What Color Is Your Parachute?-
style: I whiled away my twenties doing just that. It was fun but unremunerative--I didn't make more than $18,000/year or have health insurance until after I graduated from college in my early 30s--and now I don't think I have the luxury of taking eight or ten post-college years to get on even keel and start saving for retirement. If I had my druthers I would stay in the job I have now, or work for a bike shop, or in the produce department at a food co-op. Realistically, though, I can't do any of those things and pay more than just the interest on my student loans, let alone save for retirement, put together a down payment on a house, or afford to take vacations.
As I proofread this post, it sounds like a list of entitled complaints--and, in a way, that's what I'm worried about.
Do I need to wait until I find an option which doesn't twist up my stomach and keep me awake at night? Am I overestimating (or underestimating) the amount control I have over my life and career? Am I unreasonably afraid of what is, ultimately, an acceptable level of risk, debt and discomfort?