Give me an AskMe career shakedown!
October 27, 2009 12:49 PM   Subscribe

CareerFilter! Help me to "diagnose" why I'm so tired of my career and which directions will lead to more satisfaction in future! Patient history, current symptoms and potential therapies under the fold (neatly organised but very long!!!).

The how and the why:

After a very confusing life I have finally reached a point where I feel quite secure and can see myself moving steadily along through life, work, and relationships.

However, right at this point I've realised that I'm very dissatisfied with what I actually acheived (apart from the basic stability and predictability).

I previously asked about this here:

...but I felt wanted some more specific feedback and so if I give some more specific outline one or two posters might be able to diagnose my situation more clearly than I can and suggest constructive approaches! Hence:

The (shorter!) lifestory:


My family moved around a lot when I was young - we lived in 3 different (non-English-speaking) countries before I started primary school (that's elementary for US people!). I think this made me feel pretty much an outsider; my folks raised me to be very academic and bookish and this helped contribute to my different-ness through adolescence. I've always had very few friends. Even so I did extremely well in secondary (high) school and had heaps of interests (music, literature, computers). I think I lacked confidence (maybe because my dad pushed me a lot to pass exams, his sole definition of success!) to actually do anything methodically for myself so none of them lead to concrete results that are with me today :(


At my top-league university I still did very well academically, but became increasingly "worn out" and a bit depressed / low self-esteeming until by the end of it I was pretty much burnt out (at 22!).


After graduating I went through the motions of trying to get a job but I'd only had very basic retail experience in my summers, and basically bailed out even of the interviews I did get. Classic depressed self-sabotaging.

So unable to stay in the big city any longer I returned to my folks' place in their Medium Town. I no longer fit into (to cut a complex, painful story short!) had no career plan, and became steadily more depressed. I moved out into awful shared housing, did grindingly menial work, lost it, moved to my parents again, and got more basic office admin work (repeat cycle a few times!).


Finally a friend helped me get a basic job in a school in the Big City, depression faded with my folks' faces. I had a few girlfriends who helped me get more confidence and crucial presentation skills. After, say, the 3rd painful breakup, I got an lirbary job (fast-paced Pharmaceutical info centre), did OK, so committed to that 100% - I did another year as a "graduate trainee" in a (more relxed) Department, then took a Masters in library/info management (US: MLIS).


Sadly I chose to do the Masters back in Medium Town at my folks' to save money (I could have got another job and done it part time, but... confidence!). Another year of depression, and counselling this time. So I passed the Masters of course, worked in unqualified roles at the uni library and eventually moved out.

Point 6. is basically now, as in my earlier post. I have a "senior assistant" level job , basically entry-level qualified academic librarian. I earn slightly more than £20k pa, which in UK terms is somewhat below average, and just enough to live on in Big City, but not luxury. I rent a tiny room on the and have to take long train rides to see my friends.

The education:

As I said I got top marks in everything academic. 9 A grades at GCSE and 4 A's at A-Level (that's the final high school exams). I specialised in Maths, Physics and German, plus 1/2 Further Maths because I tried (and failed) to get into Oxford to do Physics with Philosophy.

My real love at school was languages. My big regret has been not to just study German and French then modern languages at uni, because it would have been pure pleasure and I would have aced it!

Instead, trusting my dad's vague ideas of untold millions as a nuclear scientist I took 4-years of undergrad Physics (with a side of German as a concession) including a year in Germany doing Masters level research. I emphasise that this "vague idea" was the closest I every was to any plan! Due to being very capable but barely enthusiastic I got 2:2 (just under the 2:1 cut off that UK employers use to skim off the top grads).

I thought about being a teacher (I still enjoy teaching per se) and got accepted on a good course to teach Physics but lost my nerve at the last second. Hence the brief work at a school to prepare.

While between library jobs did the ECDL which shows I'm competent in MS Office, Internet & file management.

The library Masters thesis was actually enjoyable (I liked being a humanities researcher with great(er) techie understanding) but the actual library content was mostly a grind. I got an award for top thesis of the year (it was on the cross-over of Web 2 and library instruction!).

The current crisis!

While studying for my Masters last year I sent out CVs for some obvious Physics-grad jobs (IT mainly) and was terrified to get immediate interview offers. The whole assessment centre thing, and getting back to programming after 5 years of basic admin and library stuff scared me and I put them off then turned them down.

My current job wasn't too hard to get and I have put 100% into it, but it's not an inspiring environment, has become boring v. quickly (it's cataloguing!) and I don't see any great promotion prospects soon.

Now I'm back on my own 2 feet, I keep meeting people who are say, 25 and ready to buy a house and I realise I could have just got some sort of financial job out of uni and been in that position by now. Makes me want to weep. I would love nothing more than to settle down in my own place, start a family...

Possible options?

1. Just continue with the library thing, get another professional qualification (CILIP for UK lib types) and take it easy - after all I just recovered from all that emotional pain.

2. Go for the IT / graduate training route - it'll pay more immediately, be challenging and build my confidence.

3. Go into accountancy / finance (as a careers advisor recently reccomended) - I'll have to start low again but eventual earnings will be big and it's transferable.

4. Can anyone suggest any ways to go from here? This is my main question! To me all the options look pretty sub-optimal and difficult but am I missing something? Are there any good directions I can go even though I've based my career more or less around survival???

Is it too late to go into a more lucrative career? What are the cost/benefits in terms of money?

Has anyone out there had a similar experience (I find it a bit doubtful) and could they share it?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total)
What do you want to do? Would you like to define your life by your job? You don't mention much else. Will money make you happy? Would you like to travel?

Are you smart/persistent/creative enough to strike out in a new direction that rewards you with more? It sounds like you are qualified for basic programming work, but were turned off by the idea of working a little harder.

My feeling is that you are probably qualified to work in the financial division of a company, forecasting sales and closings with Excel all day. This pays absurdly well (eventually), and you'll have inroads as a scientist.
posted by gensubuser at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2009

What are your passions? What makes you get out of bed every morning? What do you do in your spare time? It sounds like you've been doing what's necessary to get by with really living. You are at a stable place right now; it would be a great time to dabble in lots of different things in your spare time and figure out what you really like.
posted by sid at 5:21 PM on October 27, 2009

It doesn't sound like you really know what you want to do, but you're interested in teaching and languages - why not do a TESOL course and teach English overseas for a year while you look into everything?

It's not 'too late' to change careers unless you have obligations to meet that depend on maintaining your current income. It doesn't sound like it, so go for it.
posted by jacalata at 7:16 PM on October 27, 2009

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