How do I get the good old days back?
May 12, 2011 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I’m looking for some advice or different points of view to help me decide what direction to move in.

3 Years ago I left a professional job in a 10 year career that has never been a good fit without having any idea of what I was going to do next. My salary in that career was a solid middle class salary, and I lived comfortably and well within my means. I had no career satisfaction but was otherwise happy. I was able to save money and do things I enjoyed such as traveling (cheaply!), skiing, taking classes, etc.

After I left that career, I eventually took a job with a 50% salary cut, to explore a different field – I do well at this job, but I’m bored out of my mind and am not challenged at all. There aren’t really any opportunities for advancement here. Although I can pay my bills, there’s not much left after that. I’ve stopped doing a lot of the things I used to enjoy, which has been difficult. My car is 14 years old, and will not likely last much longer without extensive repairs, my home needs repairs, and I haven’t been able to visit my family on the opposite coast for a few years. I see my savings as being for an emergency, and have not touched it for the most part.

I identified a career that seems like it may be a better fit (though it’s not anything that I have a passion for; still looking for that) and have been accepted into a post-bac program that starts soon. And now, I’m crippled with fear. I would be using savings and loans to pay for this education, and my savings will be wiped out. I’ll need to cut back even further in my expenses which I can’t imagine. Once I finish this program, my expected salary will be somewhere between what I’m making now and what I used to make, but will have loans to pay back. I will also eventually need a graduate degree to get to the level I would like to get to, but I can’t even fathom how I will pay for that at this point. It seems like I’ll be living paycheck to paycheck for years to come.

I’m in my late 30’s, single and just don’t know what to do. At this point, I would go back to my old career just for the paycheck if I could, but the field has been hit hard by the recession and no one is hiring. Even if they were, my being out of the field for 3 years will not help. I could stay where I’m at, but I feel like I’m wasting time here. I just want to be comfortable again, and do the things I enjoy.

Can anyone offer any advice?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Were you bored out of your mind at your previous position?
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:47 AM on May 12, 2011

Have you actually tried sending out resumes to (old career)? Even if it's a long shot, you only have to get lucky once, and it sounds like you might really appreciate it now.
posted by anaelith at 8:16 AM on May 12, 2011

Hmm. Personally, I wouldn't take on additional debt in your position. Been there, done that, wish I'd made other decisions. Student loans linger forever. FOREVER.

Can you go to school very part time and pay for it as you go, keeping your current job? And what about the new field — are you certain there are jobs available? How do recent grads fare in the job market? Check out message boards in the profession. Do people bitterly complain about not finding work? Or is everyone sunshiny and optimistic? If the job market is very good in your new field, then maybe! But keep in mind that you'll be in school for XX years; will the job market still be good then? It's a gamble.

What about sticking it out in your current job until you can get back into your old career? If you start networking like crazy, you might be surprised at what you can find. Once you're back making decent money, then maybe you plan for your career change and pay-as-you-go.

Also, for short-term relief, can you get a part-time second job? Might give you the flexibility you need to pay for your home repairs, visit your family, buy a car.

I am usually a proponent for changing careers and going to school and all that good stuff. I guess I'm hesitating here because you seem very uncertain the direction you want to go in, careerwise. It's tempting to see school and a new career as the answer to your problems, but until you're really sure what you want to do, taking on debt seems like a bad idea.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:22 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

will have loans to pay back. I will also eventually need a graduate degree to get to the level I would like to get to

The grad degree part is what really scares me for you. It sounds like this post-bac program won't get you where you need to go. I'd take a step back, find a post-bac+grad-school option, and get a scholarship or fellowship to make it affordable. Meanwhile, do whatever you can to raise your income (old career? second job?) and reduce expenses (start onto that student income now? second job at restaurant = lower food costs?). I know this is an extreme austerity program, but changing careers is about starting again from the bottom, so it comes with the territory.

In the meantime, during this year of finding a terminal program, applying for fellowships, and saving, you might explore options for old career + new twist to see whether you can find something satisfying that doesn't require more schooling. If at all possible, try to laterally shift towards where you want to be. Worst case, you'll find nothing. Possibly, it'll make you more competitive for grad school fellowships. Best case, you'll avert grad school and find something you enjoy.
posted by salvia at 9:03 AM on May 12, 2011

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