Help me figure out my next move in life.
January 5, 2010 8:22 PM   Subscribe

QuarterLifeCrisisFilter: I am unemployed, unsuccessfully trying to get a business venture off the ground, have no clue what I want to do for my next career move and am experiencing a general lack of direction in my life. You are not my shrink, the only one who can decide is me, yadayadaHELP!

Get out the eye-drops, this is a long one....

I turn 27 in May (and I'm male for what its worth). So far I've had an interesting if somewhat turbulent career. Basically my career path was as follows:

- Worked at a couple ad agencies, including a top digital agency on a prestigious account until I was laid off in '08

- Went client side to do lead-generation/marketing where I found that I like doing web strategy for companies and email marketing/other online lead-gen but HATE cold calling/talking to prospects on the phone. Got laid off this past summer due to the economy.

- Decided to launch my own lead-generation business but am having little luck getting it off the ground since I didn't account for it being so difficult to land that first client that everybody needs to see before they'll consider doing business with you. Working on a side project with an affiliate site of mine that has had declining revenues for a year and now brings in just under $200/mo. Hopefully this will bring in more but I'm not sure how successful it will end up being.

Outside of that I've been looking for jobs for unemployment and have had no luck finding any that will A. interview me and B. that I can see myself doing. Fortunately I've been a good saver so I can last through next year and have family that can and will support me financially if I need it so I have some time.

I'm at a point in my life where I know enough about what I DON'T want to do to help me decide if a potential job might be a good fit for me. Unfortunately what I don't know yet is what I WANT to do. I know I don't want to do sales and I know I want to be at a small company where I can make a difference and really leverage my skills but all the internet marketing jobs I find are at companies I would find incredibly boring. This has made me come to the realization that a career in internet marketing, despite my interest and talent for it, may not be what makes me happy.

My mom always said I should do something fun and interesting to have the experience of a crazy job...something random like a dolphin trainer (although I know that takes a ton of training in and of itself). I've tried looking for random jobs like this but don't know how to go about finding a fun crazy job without knowing what specific titles to search for since I don't know what might catch my fancy.

I'm losing motivation to work on my entrepreneurial efforts and feel my energy being sucked away by the harsh Chicago winter. It is because of this that I finally came to terms with the fact that I'm having a quarter-life crisis and have no direction in my life.

The purpose of this question is to humbly ask the hive mind for:
- any shared experiences about how you found yourself in a job you love
- how you figured out what you ultimately want to do
- where you searched for random and exciting (and hopefully not minimum-wage) jobs since there don't seem to be any job sites specifically for them
- how you found direction in your life
- any advice on coping with a quarter-life crisis

I've considered picking up and going on an adventure or moving but that's not really an option financially and also because I live with my very loving and caring girlfriend who, while she would do anything for me, I cannot bring myself to uproot from her job/friends/family in the area. She has been great at being here for me but I know this is ultimately something I have to figure out on my own, which is why I'm here to get some guidance to get me started on that journey.

Ultimately I consider the time and money I am spending unemployed now as an investment in my future happiness. At this point in time I have the luxury of not needing to settle for just any job and am determined that my next career move will be one that makes me happy--I just am struggling to figure out what that will be.

As I don't have much to do, I'll be here to answer any questions you may have about my situation. Thank you all for your thoughts and suggestions in advance, the hive mind has helped me many times in the past and I hope you can help me once more.
posted by Elminster24 to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry I can't be of more help, but I'd like to mention that while you're unemployed, plenty of organizations are hurting and could use a few hours a week of volunteer labor. Can't hurt you, and can help with the whole connections thing as well. You could help with the stuff you know, the ad stuff, or just tutor or something random. You don't have to work that many hours, and plenty of opportunities are very flexible. Volunteermatch is a good place to start.
posted by R a c h e l at 8:28 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

My advice to you would be to go get a job. Maybe something completely outside the realm of your skillset or career plans. It will get you up every morning. It will get you showered. It will get you meeting new people. It will bring you new focus.

I recommend spending x amount of time each week working on getting a job. Consider it a hobby. Work on your resume. Make cover letters. Apply for jobs you don't want. Get in the flow of interviewing. Even if you don't land a job, it will help you understand the types of work you are and are not interested in.
posted by shew at 9:54 PM on January 5, 2010

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People need a sense of Identity, Purpose, and Direction.

Identity: Meditate on who you truly are.
What makes you truly joyful? Last time you lost track of time doing something, when you looked up and a lot was done and three hours were suddenly gone -- what were you doing?
What did you enjoy as a young child? Maybe ask your parents what activity/toy/etc. you were seemingly obsessed with as a toddler?
Where do you see the best of your parents in you? What traits or talents of yours do people consistently compliment you on?
What makes you feel at home, like you fit in, like you are exactly where you are supposed to be?

Purpose: What are you in the business to do? What needs can you fill?
Think of all the relationships in your life, from family to friends to abstract things like your community and country. What do they need right now? To which needs are you called/compelled to respond? How might you try to meet those needs? Which of those needs can be a source of income for you?

Direction: Pick a time more than twenty years in the future -- your retirement, empty nest, your 85th birthday, whatever. Describe a best possible day in your life at that time. Be very specific (not just "I'll be happy and healthy."). Describe relationships, friendships, health, activities, hobbies, money, food, sleep, possessions, your position relative to your moral compass, etc. What specific things would have to happen along the way to get to that place. (Staying alive is a very basic example, which will require considerable strategy in and of itself)

Given the above:
What interim goals seem necessary to make progress toward my best future?
What "shoulds" must govern your life if you are to achieve your purpose and be true to your identity?
How can you move closer to your goals?
What can you do right now? Take the next steps.

And finally: Meditate on these things regularly. Make a weekly examination and a quarterly retreat of it.
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There are some assumptions in the above. Like that your Purpose is tied into your relationships -- in service outside yourself. Or that you have some element in your personal identity that is innate and not entirely malleable. That you are "created" as a unique expression of something. You may or may not agree, but I have found through experience working with people that the above exercises, in a religious setting or not, are very effective in helping someone start with a life plan.
posted by cross_impact at 7:20 AM on January 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you've been successful enough in your twenties that you can definitely afford to screw around and experiment some.

I would suggest an entirely unstructured approach the the problem of what to do next. I think of it as the 'whimsy' method. It's pretty simple. What you want to do is increase the probability of strange and novel leads/opportunities/ideas coming your way. How? Watch movies you wouldn't normally watch. Talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to, in ways you wouldn't normally talk. Be a bit aimless and do things on a whim. They don't have to be big things - order a different type of sandwich. Walk a different route to the coffee shop. Listen to any irrational or uncharacteristic urges. Something will come along and excite you, and you'll know it's worth pursuing, even though you won't necessarily know why.
posted by kitcat at 12:42 PM on January 6, 2010

I recently got Go Put Your Strengths to Work from my library. It's got some good exercises to help you identify the parts of a job you really like to do - the specific activities that make you feel good. I used a few of those exercises outside of my work day and learned a little more about my own strengths that I can use both on the job and off.

Seconding R a c h e l - volunteering, even for short gigs, is a great way to meet people, learn about unusual jobs, learn more about what you do and don't like about ordinary jobs, and more fully appreciate how great it is to have a financial cushion and a supportive girlfriend and family.

Along those lines, check out Craigslist to see if there are short gigs - paid or unpaid - that could give you a taste of unusual occupations.

Finally, you say "I don't have much to do." I'm one of those people with so many projects I can hardly imagine having unoccupied time. So:

* learn to knit
* learn to play an instrument
* get language CDs from your library and learn a language
* read the Great Books
* start a blog and document your search for The Cool and Weird Job - heck, start a job search board for cool and weird jobs, so the next person in your shoes will have a place to find one
* start a blog and document walking down the streets of as many neighborhoods as you can get to, listing all the uncommon shops and businesses you find. Restaurants are all over the place - but some cities are lucky enough to have a Pirate Supply store. What does Chicago have that's weird and cool but you didn't even know about?

Good luck - and have fun! Trying out new work identities can be an adventure.
posted by kristi at 12:50 PM on January 9, 2010

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