What career now?
December 9, 2009 7:33 AM   Subscribe

What field am I supposed to be in? I always tested very well, went to an Ivy League school and got both computer science and liberal arts degrees...

I didn't actually do very well in school, barely making all my requirements for graduation. I took the LSAT at one point in the past, and did very well and was accepted into law school and declined - Then and now I don't think I would like to be back in school again, nor am I sure I would enjoy any of the jobs available to someone with a law degree. Public policy has its attractions, it is even less tuned to my technical reasoning skills.

I like debugging things (computer programs and systems), but I find actually building them to be very tedious. I like building scripts to automate my everyday tasks, both at work and at home. I like creative pursuits, typically music and storytelling, but visual creativity is somewhat limited.

I'm currently in a field that is actually a fairly good fit and mixture of artistic and technical, but if I progress further up the food chain, my technical skills will no longer be used, and I am actually not so sure I am all that great at the other (more purely creative and political) aspects of the job...

Money has become an issue - I bounce right around the 6-figure threshold most years, and I need to stay in that area if I am to keep living in my house in the major metro area where I live. If I stay where I am at my job, I won't ever make any more money than I do now, more likely less. And I would still need to reconcile my ego to parking in a non-terminal position in my field. I feel like if I go back into computer and systems debugging (what I did out of college for 5 years), I am always a second class citizen to developers, and the path through tech support is a little menial. I have thought about doing something more in line with sales engineering - using my technical know-how to find potential solutions to problems without actually having to build them.

Any suggestions? Or ideas of how to hone in what would be a second career shift? I'm in my mid-thirties, and I don't mind repositioning myself, but I also don't love the idea of a major career shift in my forties if I don't settle into something I am happy with.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Which is more important to you, having a job you enjoy doing all day, or having the money and other trappings that come with a higher-status job? Most people have to make that choice at some point.
posted by decathecting at 7:55 AM on December 9, 2009

What do you do now? Knowing will make it a lot easier to give advice.
posted by xammerboy at 8:10 AM on December 9, 2009

I know this will be hard, but forget your ego and do what you have to do to secure your future.

My specific advise, based on the very few details you've posted - take advantage of your earning power now to achieve financial independence. Then you do whatever else you'd like to do with the rest of your life.

The income side of your personal balance sheet sounds fine, but as money is "an issue" it seems you've got to reduce your outgoings. An option based solely on information you've provided here would be rent your house - IF you can generate at least enough to cover your mortgage - then markedly downgrade your standard of living so you can first bank then invest the remainder. If this isn't an option, take in one or more roomates. Not friends but roomates, people who you won't hesitate to charge full market rent to. This is, after all, strictly business.

Live well below your means and try to save more of every paycheque than you did last time around. I'm taking a sabbatical from my primary career (banking), and never could have done this if I hadn't focused so relentlessly on maximising savings. By the time I left my last job I was saving between 80% and 90% of every paycheque.

Note that living below your means doesn't mean living badly - it means living wisely. Sometimes you've got to spend money, but it doesn't mean you spend it foolishly.

It seems as though you've fallen into the same trap lots of other people do - not controlling your costs and focusing exclusively on the income side. Flip it around, focus relentlessly on costs and you'll be surprised how much better off you'll be in as little as a year.
posted by Mutant at 8:14 AM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

Supposed to be in? There probably isn't a "supposed to" anything. Just keep doing what you do, make that money, and take up some hobbies.
posted by anniecat at 8:45 AM on December 9, 2009

I think I'm in the same boat as you. You didn't do well in school but you tested really well, right? Well, maybe that's because you didn't put a lot of effort into it. That was my problem. And I'm in a field where maybe I don't want to be, but the thing is, that's work. Friends have suggested that I should try to be a cook, or open a restaurant, since I love cooking. I tell them that I don't want to cook, because I love doing it. If it were to become work, I would stop loving it.

In other words, work is what I do so I can do the things I love: own a house, have time to see friends, travel occasionally, make my wife smile. Supposed to? Well hell, I think I was supposed to be President of the United States. That, or a special effects technician from back in the day where people still make little animatronic puppets. And if wishes were fishes, someone else would do the dishes.

Save your money, like Mutant suggests. If you're making 6 figures, there's no reason why you couldn't save some of it. Save enough of it, and you'll be free to make decisions based on what you want to do, after responsibilities like your house are taken care of. If work is fun, hey that's great, but not everyone gets that. You're in a pretty rarefied area making that much, enjoy what it affords you. Do the opposite of what you did in university, dig in, find out what it takes to do the job better, and improve yourself.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:41 PM on December 9, 2009

Maybe check out project management. A bit more responsibility and changing requirements makes it exciting day in and day out. If it's technical project management, you'll still get to flex your technical muscles.
posted by joecacti at 12:03 PM on December 10, 2009

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