Still don't know what I want to be when I grow up ... at 39
July 24, 2014 6:47 AM Subscribe
Trying to figure out how to begin a career change at 39, when I don’t even know what I want to do next. Feeling really adrift and stuck right now – how do I start making a move?
I’ve been working as an instructional designer and project lead at a large consulting firm for over a decade now. I hate the corporate environment, I'm so done with all the needless stress, I’m frustrated at how much of my life I’m spending on things that feel like they REALLY don’t matter, and I think if I could do anything in the world I would end up doing something with kids.
Back in the mid-2000s, I tried to “escape” my corporate instructional design/project management work by going to grad school in linguistics in the hopes of launching a new career in academics, but while I was competent enough, enjoyed my classes (if I could be a student forever, that’d be swell), and mostly liked teaching undergrads for my assistantship, ultimately I had to face the fact that I just wasn’t passionate enough about the field to make it through my dissertation, the job search, or the publish-or-perish approach to a long and steady career. I collected my MS as my fabulous parting prize (so now I've got MS degrees in instructional design AND linguistics ... wooh.) and returned to my old corporate company with the intent of just doing it for a few years while I figured out what I wanted to do next. That was two years ago and I don't see an end in sight.
Once I admitted to myself that I didn’t want to be a linguistics professor I sought guidance at my university’s career center, but they seemed bemused at working with a graduate student rather than an undergrad just trying to pick a major – they directed me to the US Government Big Book o’ Jobs and washed their hands of me. I’ve also tried taking a “Choosing a career path” course at a community college, but that mainly consisted of taking a number of personality tests that told me that in general, I’d do well in a teaching, counseling, or writing field. I don’t disagree with that, but I don’t know how to explore my options here – right now I feel like all I have are very basic, kindergarten-level ideas of what jobs are available. If I were honest with myself, I’m not even sure if I want to change fields completely or just try to find a different instructional design job – I don’t HATE instructional design work, but right now it’s so tangled up with all of the things I do hate about my job that I’d love to get away from all of it.
After sort of jumping into things with that linguistics jaunt, I'm feeling a little gun-shy of making another move without being pretty darned sure, but I haven't the foggiest idea how the heck one becomes sure. So now I’m feeling stuck and frustrated – I know what I’m doing now is making me miserable, but I don’t know how to start figuring out what to do next. I hear about people all the time making drastic career changes for fields that suit them better, and I want that to be me – but how the heck do you DO that? What would YOU do as your first step? There's GOT to be a way out of where I am right now ... right?