Even the notion of a career for life is outdated, what should I do?
April 23, 2010 4:17 AM   Subscribe

I need help with what to *do* with my life - career wise...certain conditions apply. I would really appreciate any help. Details inside.

I'm 26, educated to Masters level but in a field I'm not entirely sure I want to continue in. The pay isn't great and I don't really "burn" for the field. I love technology and very quickly become very proficient at new systems. When I've temped in the past (office work), I've quickly been promoted or been given pay rises so I think my work is satisfactory. I really enjoy finding technological solutions to problems. But I also really find it hard to deal with inconsiderate customers who ring at 11 O'clock on a Sunday or whilst I'm in the movie theatre. This makes me wonder if freelance tech guy maybe isn't the job for me.

What I would really enjoy, though, is somehow a mix of technology and ACTION! I want to help people and I like being active. But there's a catch. I'd hate to be a gym instructor. It's not that kind of action I want! I'd love to be a cop or firefighter....

If anyone can recommend any career paths which would suit me I would be very grateful. I really can't decide. I've tried retail, care work, academia etc, being a chauffeur. I'm a little bit of an extrovert but can be quite introverted at times also. Money plays a bit of a role as I don't want to be poor. Tips? I apologise for the poor structure of this question.

P.S. I also love language but that won't have come across here in this chaos of a question.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, what is your field? That would help in answering this question. If it's IT, you can do IT work for some super cool companies. My company makes underwater robots and you get to go on boats a lot. Other companies do healthcare IT that they can go and set up in developing countries to help people there. "IT" is not boring. "IT in a grey-walled cubicle for a boring company getting called on Saturday morning because someone clicked on a phishing link" is boring.

But if your field is not IT, then it is more difficult to offer suggestions.
posted by olinerd at 4:20 AM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd love to be a cop or firefighter....

Contrary to what you would think, law enforcement values degrees that AREN'T law enforcement related. Criminology is probably the least useful degree to have as a cop.

Languages are valuable, IT degrees are valuable, social science degrees are prized, even business administration/management is useful. You'll learn everything you need to know about the actual law part of it at the police academy.

If you'd like to be a cop, be a cop.
posted by Menthol at 6:00 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

The best exercise in the world for this sort of problem is to go out and talk to people who have the kinds of jobs you imagine you'd love. Maybe how you imagine it is right, but your imagination will be much more accurate after having spoken to someone who actually does it for a living. Offer to buy them lunch or coffee or a beer, explain your motivation, and you'd be surprised how many people are willing to talk to you. Then you get a taste of their real life work experience, without having to take on the personal burden of spending 6 months or a year to find out the realities someone could have simply told you about first.

The other thought is to pair your skills with your passions. Why not work in IT/tech for the police, or the fire department, or other places you are passionate about. You might feel very differently about the day to day work if it were part of something you were passionate about.

Everyone is different, but I got a lot of mileage out of Po Bronson's What Should I do with my life? (book and NPR interview) - it's a collection of stories about different people who thought about making big life changes, and the variety of ways they handle it as well as a wide range of outcomes. This is not a "5 steps to happiness" book - as in real life, lots of the stories do not work out well and for difference reasons, but it did make me think and feel much more clearly about my own choices.
posted by Berkun at 7:23 AM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by jeffamaphone at 9:02 AM on April 23, 2010

Have you considered teaching something besides gym? With your talents and interests, I can see you being a perfect fit for high school computers/technology, industrial technology, mass comm, languages, etc. A teacher can be as active or non-active as he/she chooses to be. Even classes that are not normally considered high-tech require increasing use of technology (interactive white-boards, streaming video, wikis, video capability, etc).

Also, most school districts have some sort of Tech Dept. In my district, the tech people have a central office where they take turns at the Help Desk. When they're not there, they travel to any school where someone needs help or where tech changes are being made. Unlike teachers, they work, and get paid, year-round.
posted by SamanthaK at 11:51 AM on April 23, 2010

You aren't too old to be a cop or firefighter. It's common for firefighters to be on duty one day out of three, and to make some extra money at a job on the off days. Paid retirement after twenty years is a common benefit. (In the US)
posted by yohko at 8:21 AM on April 25, 2010

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