Sticking to a career goal for dummies
February 17, 2017 10:07 AM   Subscribe

I need a new job, but I'm wasting time cycling through several different options, never really getting anywhere with any of them. Help?

I don't like my current job and would like a new one. A complicating factor is that I don't have a clear idea of what I'd like to do. I think of options that briefly sound ideal, but then manage to shoot them down within a day or so. As a result, I'm just treading water with a whole bunch of things rather than progressing towards any one goal.

I find myself dancing between the following options:
Trying to find a new job by sending out applications to online job postings. Unlikely to work, I know, and because I have no solid idea of what I'd like to do, I end up applying to a huge variety of things, each requiring a total revamping of all application materials.

Trying to become a freelance writer. Also unlikely to get far, but the idea of working from home is compelling enough that I keep getting sucked back into it. I write a few $5 articles for content mills, think about how I'm never going to be savvy enough to pull this off for real, grow despondent, and quit.

Trying to get a new job via "networking." Networking is my weakest point. I believe I have high-functioning autism, and I'm at my absolute worst when meeting people in small bursts in an informal environment. Ideally, I would find a large nonprofit to volunteer at, give it my all for a few months, and get lucky when a job opening comes up and I land it. However, this is dependent on luck and I'm hesitant to sink such a huge amount of effort into something only to not have it pan out. I'm already overextended due to my full-time job and working on the aforementioned two efforts. I've also done this several times over the years to not have it pan out, and this has been discouraging.

Ultimately, I've spent years working on career assessments, visiting counselors, and scouring job descriptions for something that lights a spark, to reach the conclusion that there is no one true calling out there awaiting me. That's part of why this process sucks so much. I'm in desperate need of a goal to give myself over to 100 percent, but there's simply no there there. I'm passionate about the outdoors and the environment, but my lack of basic social ability and training in the sciences severely limits me from entering this field.

Just to cover all of my bases, I'll add that I have been working for years at a respected cultural institution. I give tours, speak to groups, answer questions from the public, participate in teams at work and with professional organizations, and work constantly side by side with my coworkers--and I hate every minute of it. I would like nothing more than a project to keep me to myself that I can work hard on, alone.

I guess at the end of all this is the question of what do I do next? Without a single overriding passion to carry me into something new, how do I sustain enthusiasm long enough to move on? How do I move forward in putting myself out there when I lack confidence in myself to behave in basically acceptable ways due to the autism? I have things I would love to do such as work for a nonprofit or be a freelance journalist, but I always, always talk myself out of them with admonitions that my personality is going to stop me from getting anywhere.

I would love to get a job cleaning toilets or planting gardens and then devote my outside of work hours to pursuing my passions, but I'm my sole support and I need to earn more than that to survive. And also, I've had such jobs in the past and have gotten bullied in them.
posted by silly me to Work & Money (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think you would enjoy freelance journalism if you don't like talking to people. In my brief foray into it, I had to call a bunch of total strangers on the phone and ask them questions. And in that industry, you get more jobs by doing the type of networking you despise.

In my opinion you are going about this all wrong. By starting with 'something I am insanely passionate about' before thinking 'what am I currently good at' you are shooting yourself in the foot, because (for example) it sounds like you are into the concept of journalism or the concept of nonprofit work but wouldn't actually necessarily want to do those types of work. Both of them frequently involve having to do things you say you hate! If you start the other way - what do I already know I can do and don't hate doing - and then look for things within those criteria that you are passionate about, you will have better odds.

Can you tell us more about what your current job actually is? Because if you work for a 'respected cultural institution' already, I can think of all sorts of potential ways you could use that experience to transition to a nonprofit environment and/or an environment that does things related to the outdoors. But without knowing what your jobs is, I don't know what to start with.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:08 AM on February 17 [5 favorites]


You probably wouldn't get rich doing it, but if you like mostly working outdoors, not interacting with people that much, and the possibility for structuring your own hours and even launching your own business, landscaping or groundskeeping could be something that ties together some of your professional interests.
posted by helloimjennsco at 11:15 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


You could look into being a grant writer for an environmental/conservation nonprofit. Then after you work there for a bit you can get into helping out with fieldwork and science things.
posted by ball00000ns at 12:54 PM on February 17


So I'm about 20 years older than you and I've been doing it wrong. I believed the BS about following your passion, which is a bad idea for many of us. A younger sibling clued me in when I was having a meal with them recently and asked them if they were having any fun at work. And they looked me in the eye and said, "Fun? Of course not. That's why it's called work."

I mention this because some of us need to move from jobs we hate to jobs we can tolerate to jobs that bring us, if we are lucky, some satisfaction. Which doesn't mean giving up on having passion in your life. It just means putting the passion outside of your work.

A close friend of mine spent his entire life in office jobs. He landed at a publication, worked on the business side, and stayed there for a long time. It was often frustrating but he did like the people and the regular pay check. Importantly, the regular hours allowed him to devote lots of time to his passion, which was playing the horn (which I always called French horn until he made me stop).

Because of him, I got to see a Mark Morris production of the Nutcracker, see Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, etc. Those were not my passions, but music of all sorts was his passion. When he died at 70, still too young, I was the MC for his memorial service. A famous conductor volunteered to lead a special performance of the orchestra my friend once played in, under this conductor, because even though my friend was not the absolute best musician (I know because I asked the conductor that as part of writing my friend's obit), my friend's love of music and passion for it was obvious and joyful to the other musicians with whom he worked.

there is no one true calling out there awaiting me That is correct. And that's probably true for most people, myself included. If you hate your job, find another job that you may hate less but not with the expectation that you can or should put your all into it. Maybe that will happen, but probably not.

I'm in desperate need of a goal to give myself over to 100 percent, but there's simply no there there. I'm passionate about the outdoors and the environment, but my lack of basic social ability and training in the sciences severely limits me from entering this field. No one can give themselves to any goal 100% unless they are wealthy and never need to eat or poop. If you are passionate about the outdoors and the environment, consider entering the field outside of work hours as a volunteer.

As you may know, lots of US government data (environmental included) is being/has been copied to keep it from being lost forever. Depending on your skills, you might be able to help with that project. Or join a different project. Or create your own project. Plenty of people on the blue are in the spectrum (or have ADHD, like me, or wrestle with different but not dissimilar issues). If you need another Ask about that part, Ask later or search the archives. I'm not convinced your personality itself will stop you from getting to a different place. But refusing to work with your personality traits (which I often do myself, about my ADHD stuff) in advance, being in denial about them, or being paralysed by fear around them will indeed make things harder than necessary if you are anything like me.

I have been working for years at a respected cultural institution. I give tours, speak to groups, answer questions from the public, participate in teams at work and with professional organizations, and work constantly side by side with my coworkers--and I hate every minute of it. I would like nothing more than a project to keep me to myself that I can work hard on, alone. So you are clearly a skilled, accomplished and professional person. Find or create a project that fuels your passion and that you can work on alone or largely alone for now for free. For love. That will both give you a goal and, potentially, help build a professional bridge between the kind of job you have now and the kind of job you'd like to have in the future.

I'm sorry your job sucks. I had a contract job I hated last year. Wish I could have it back because being unemployed even less fun. So please, do not quit your current job, no matter how much you hate it, until and unless you have another source of income lined up. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:33 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


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