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really some sort of American Idol for jobs would be ideal
August 14, 2014 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I need a career change. I just don't know what to. How does one go about finding this out?

I'm tired of not having a job. I went on Wikipedia looking things up today and fucking Lynndie England has a job (seriously, look it up). I am tired of living in a world where someone who participated in the goddamned Abu Ghraib scandal is seen as more worthy of making money and contributing to society than I am. I am tired of the cycle of potential bosses reaching out to me, telling me they love my work and would love to have me on board, interviewing me multiple times, sometimes even saying they aren't interviewing anyone else, and then disappearing into the ether without even sending me an email telling what's going on. It is emotionally draining, and it is financially draining. People still tell me they like my work, all the time, but it has gotten to the point where I hear something like this and my immediate reaction will be "fuck you." It's an empty sentiment. It does not contribute to my having a job, and I don't want to hear it. If I was such a good worker you would think at least one person would care enough to un-stall my career. I have literally considered responding to these people telling them not to compliment my work anymore, but i don't think there's any way to say that and have it go over well.

That's part one. Part two is that (to make a long story very story) my father, who was abusive growing up and who likely has some sort of undiagnosed mental illness, has apparently said he will pay for me to go back to graduate school. I heard this from my mother, who now works for him again (because she couldn't find a job either - literally her only option was going to work for the man who left her). I don't put much stock into this. For one, he has a long history of promising and not delivering - I was relieved when I got my first job with benefits because I was tired of suddenly becoming uninsured when he decided he was mad at us and dropped us from his health insurance, which happened at least five separate times in high school and college. He also has an equally long history of bribing people into his good graces, even if it drives a wedge between them and the rest of the family. (He paid for most of my sister's wedding and I don't think my mother has ever forgiven her for it. Then they fell out again.) However, there is no way

But there are a number of problems:

- I'm 26. I'm already out of the running for entry-level jobs, which by and large want 22-year-olds out of college and/or people without a work history to speak of.

- I don't know what I want to do. The only things I think I would be suited for are even worse, job market-wise. The only criteria I can think of is that there would have to be as certain a chance as possible that I would find employment afterward, that the employment I would find would pay well and be somewhat respectable/prestigious/suitable for a career/something I could be proud of doing, and that the employment I would find would be suitable for people who do not operate well when office politics determine whether you get and keep a job. I don't know where those exist anymore, if they even do. And if they do, I don't know whether they'd want me. I literally have no idea where to even start to think about this. I just know that I want to be a success.

That's one question -- how do I even go about doing this? The other problem is that I don't want to change careers. I want to be the most successful person in my field. I want to run a major company in it eventually, and change things for the better and help out people in my position. But I don't think my field wants me to be the most successful person in it. I don't think it wants me in it at all. I think it would prefer if I just dropped dead. How do you cope with the feelings of failure?
posted by dekathelon to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
suitable for people who do not operate well when office politics determine whether you get and keep a job.

1) Freelancing or 2) a regulated profession that will let you hang a shingle or 3) other small business (still, clients, with all those).
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:06 PM on August 14


Sorry to threadsit, but I freelance currently. Office politics very, very, very, very much determine whether people get and keep work as freelancers. If anything, politics determine it more, because there's no HR and very little regulation to protect freelancers - everything is nebulous. And, of course, they don't even get the tradeoff of a salary and benefits and a retirement fund.
posted by dekathelon at 3:08 PM on August 14


Yes, true. I don't think it's possible to get away from politics altogether. Job security, then?

(4) Skilled trade)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:11 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


You don't want to change careers, but you sound like you don't like the industry you're in. You're not going to be able to change the industry, so you're going to need to change careers...

Choose a trade, apprentice at it (or go to vocational school, or get a certificate), and bust your ass being the best you can be. Take pride in doing good work, but don't be defined by your work. Be nice to others and always take the high road.

There's a big labor deficit in the trades, if you're willing to work hard (and probably relocate) you can make decent money and have a good career.

For example, welding.
posted by jpeacock at 3:15 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


How do I even go about doing this?

Have you gone to a temp agency? Even a technical temp agency.

You may scoff, but that's exactly how I started, just to get a steady paycheck and my foot in the door. I was not proud of my first job, but I saw it as a step to somewhere better. I got ten months down, then left it for a job with twice the salary, learned more stuff, and jumped again. And again. And again. Sometimes through agencies, sometimes through networking.

I'll be 40 next year. I know a lot of stuff and try to keep learning. I've worked in great places, but I've also worked in awful places and used it to learn to be a better person and a better coworker. People like hiring me.

You want a lot of things: Money, power, prestige. Give yourself some time to build to that. It's rarely just one giant leap.
posted by mochapickle at 3:22 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't count yourself out of the running for entry-level jobs at 26. I'm 27 and only just got my first Real Job this year (with health insurance and all that jazz), after a long work history in the service industry. While it's true that the majority of my colleagues that are doing the work that I do are in fact, 22-year olds just out of college, it doesn't really bother me. I don't see myself doing this job Forever but I certainly feel like it is a useful stepping-stone on my resume to whatever else I might want to do.

As for the feelings of failure, I have been there- I once spent 11 months working the world's worst temp job, in the basement of a windowless govt building, earning a pittance, and applied feverishly to every job I could get during that time. I didn't get one until, well, 11 months later. Just remember that it's not in fact a reflection on you: society has not searched within its soul and found you wanting, and Lynddie England (to use your example) more deserving. Plenty of people probably deserve my current job more than I do, yet I'm the one who has it and not they, but that fact says nothing about any of us as an individual.
posted by Aubergine at 3:34 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


[dekathelon, please don't edit comments to add additional material, and take care not to turn this into a running back-and-forth with answerers.]
posted by cortex at 3:37 PM on August 14


I currently freelance and I have tried temp agencies. I am looking for different avenues. Please either edit this into the original post or leave it stand.
posted by dekathelon at 3:50 PM on August 14


1. Office politics are almost everywhere. And even at the rare job where they aren't, it only takes hiring one person to shift that. So I'd give up on that.

2. As a fellow 26 year old I feel you. I'm currently about to start grad school in a field I love, but also one with really good job prospects. I spent a year unemployed after my bachelor's and literally no one would hire me.

I think there's this myth that there are entry level jobs out there if you set your sights low enough but the truth was there was crazy competition.

3. You're probably going to hate this, but I've gotten further through connections than any amount of selling myself. It's not about just doing good work, but being a person others want to endorse - your attitude, how well you play with others, etc. You might need to work on this. As well as letting others know you are actively looking for new opportunities.
posted by Aranquis at 3:50 PM on August 14


People still tell me they like my work, all the time, but it has gotten to the point where I hear something like this and my immediate reaction will be "fuck you." It's an empty sentiment. It does not contribute to my having a job, and I don't want to hear it. If I was such a good worker you would think at least one person would care enough to un-stall my career.

Forgive me for commenting twice, but here's one thing I've learned so far: It's more important to be a fun, good, calm, reasonable team member with than it is to be a good worker. I recently worked with someone who was undeniably intelligent and superlatively knowledgeable of our industry, but oh man, this person Did Not Play Well With Others, Like, At All and has now left the building in great haste, with no reference.

If you're sending a message to people in your network that you don't welcome feedback, even to the point of dismissing positive feedback, it makes it very hard for them to want to hire you. You can turn in the most perfect work ever, but if people get the feeling you're painful to work with, it doesn't matter.
posted by mochapickle at 3:50 PM on August 14 [12 favorites]


People still tell me they like my work, all the time, but it has gotten to the point where I hear something like this and my immediate reaction will be "fuck you." It's an empty sentiment. It does not contribute to my having a job, and I don't want to hear it. If I was such a good worker you would think at least one person would care enough to un-stall my career. I have literally considered responding to these people telling them not to compliment my work anymore, but i don't think there's any way to say that and have it go over well.

You can switch careers to anything in the world, but as long as you take this attitude with you, you'll fail at your next career too. I see the same pattern in the way you ask questions here and then rebut every helpful answer you get while becoming angrier and angrier that they're not the perfect solution.

When your response to people trying to reach out a hand to you is to slap it back and ask why they don't "care enough" to solve all your problems, it's going to poison your career and your personal life, because people just won't want to have to deal with you. I know you're sick of people telling you to get therapy, but you absolutely have to figure out how to stop dealing with people that way somehow - if you can do it on your own, then great - or you'll keep sabotaging yourself.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:33 PM on August 14 [13 favorites]


Consider moving to the Midwest. Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma - the states people often refer to as "flyover country." There are, comparatively, a lot of jobs here and your previous work history in NYC will be considered impressive. I think it is very likely you will get a good entry-level job in this region, and you may well get one in your field. Plus the cost of living is lower.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:10 PM on August 14


All workplaces are "political" to some degree. Politics is what you get when you put a bunch of people together. Certainly a workplace isn't going to be a Kumbayah summer camp full of instant friends.

However, there are plenty of workplaces that aren't like high school - where an average person who is easy to get along with and does their share of the work will do fine, and where it's not a shark tank or an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. If you have to watch your back all the time and can't trust your boss or anyone you work with, that's a toxic workplace.

OTOH if you find yourself always the outcast at every job, and disliked by all your bosses, you might want to take a look at yourself and how you interact with people.

I agree with vegartianpla that maybe a new city might be a good idea. New York might not be the place for you, and that's OK. It's not the place for many people! If you move to "flyover country" that is not admitting defeat, that is doing something that will make you happier. And, yes, there are more jobs, the cost of living is lower, and you might fit in better.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:21 PM on August 14


If you're getting interviews, then your qualifications are fine. It really sounds like you're bad at interviewing. I met with someone this week who had great ideas but seemed mentally unstable; like it or not, if I'm going to see someone 5 days a week, personality trumps brilliance every time.

A career change isn't going to help if the problem is how you present yourself -- then you'd just be less qualified and bad at interviewing. Have you reached out to them for feedback? Done mock interviews with your friends? Just recorded yourself and watched the video? Have you thought about why your first impulse is to quit and change fields rather than diagnose what's going on and improve it?

Interviewing well and being seen as a good coworker are skills that can be learned, but not if you're going to dismiss them as "politics."
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:55 PM on August 14


the employment I would find would be suitable for people who do not operate well when office politics determine whether you get and keep a job.

Some people have a great academic pedigree, are charismatic, and find themselves in the right place at the right time and have jobs that everyone says about him, "I don't know exactly what he does." Some people have parents who will pay their rent for them to live in New York while they work on their novel. The rest of us find ourselves some kind of "skilled labor" adjusted for what is in demand given what the economy is looking for.

Starting/running a company is fantastic, but it requires startup capital/savings, and you can only really have a company that provides a product/service that there is an expanding market for. So you need money and you need to provide something that people want to pay money for now and will want to pay for more of in the future.

The canonical "get a stable job" jobs are things like teaching, accounting, health care (nursing, pharmacy, speech pathology, audiology, allied health). People in those fields manage to support themselves without having to constantly engage in "You Are A Brand!™" self promotion that only people who fit a certain personality profile are going to succeed at vs. the sort of person who is competent and reliable. We all have to pay rent and build up savings doing something, even if there's something we would rather be doing.

A huge thing with jobs that require softer skills is that people generally get hired because they fit in with the culture. The tech startup industry has gotten a lot of flak for this lately, but I see it everywhere-- PR/Communications people I know all seem to fit a consistent mold to the point where I would actively discourage anyone who doesn't fit that mold from trying to break into the field. I would really try to evaluate if you are capable of fitting the "mold" for whatever your field is and try to do that in order to create confidence in prospective employers.

If you want to be relentlessly practical about it, consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find out which professions are going to face increasing demand and pay well and require credentials to break in to.
posted by deanc at 8:33 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Hmm... Looks like OP's account is disabled now.
posted by mochapickle at 8:36 AM on August 15


I'm a bit confused here, on the one hand you say "I don't know what I want to do" but then say "I don't want to change careers. I want to be the most successful person in my field. I want to run a major company in it eventually, and change things for the better and help out people in my position."

On this basis it sounds like a lot of the frustration and "stuckness" comes from here and is the real question to work on, and know whether you want to change things up or really devote yourself to your current career when all it seems to give you is a feeling of frustration.

I've had my own version of this problem; in finding work I loved but a workplace that was very damaging to me, and ultimately forced me out of a job I was crazy about precipitated quite a major crisis of confidence, this was a hugely upsetting thing for me.

On the one hand I hated to go, but couldn't have stayed either, and working out what to do next was a total mystery to me, especially as I'd changed fields once already.

However rather than making the wrong decision I took a step back into another less intense job and decided to take some time out to really work out what I wanted to do.

Talking a step back was frightening at the time, but the time I spent putting things into perspective were really useful, devoted myself to my studies and over time rebuilt my confidence, re-calibrated my expectations, put the past behind me and then made a move to get back into my old line of work, knowing that it really was the right decision.

Though setbacks can be painful and confusing, I would counsel against making any rash decisions about retraining and take some of the pressure off yourself to really consider the best direction and work out whether your old work is worth sticking with, or if you've really had enough where to go next.
posted by Middlemarch at 3:52 PM on August 15


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