Already changing my career!?
June 28, 2011 8:27 PM   Subscribe

Interested in changing my career PT, Lawyer, Teacher? ..but what should I know before.

I am now almost a year out of college and have given up trying to figure out what I want to pursue from what I majored in.

As background information, I graduated with Recreation Management as a major. While at the time I was day dreaming I would be working outside in the wilderness all day for the NPS or something similar, I have come to now find myself working in marketing/pr for a land advocacy org. Which is great, but I just don't seem to get the fulfillment I'd hope for out of the job. Much of it is sitting behind a computer, on the phone, inside...not much of what I imagined.

From the beginning I was on the fence about this major and now its been about 2 years and I'm just ready to give up and do something different.

I'm just unsure as to what that next thing will be and I'm looking to mefi's to help me identify and fine tune strengths, interests, etc.

I enjoy being outside, if not outside I love being around people. I am very personable and can relate easily to people. Many think of me as flexible, adaptable, friendly. I always like to help people in any way possible. A few things I do dislike are sitting behind the computer all day, not moving around, not feeling active, not feeling useful. A few of my interests are hiking, cycling, skiing..(saying this makes me interested in even doing adaptive skiing/cycling programs).

I enjoy computers for the most part though especially for personal use, it's more or less just the fact that I'm sitting behind it all day is what bugs me.

Looking into other careers I have always been fascinated with rec therapy which was the other area that my major could have led me provided I took health science courses and labs. I chose more the business route. With the downturn of the economy I feel like this sector just isn't doing well and most positions are part-time. I am considering physical therapy but the hang up on pursuing that is all of the science courses I would need to take. I am not very strong in science or math and I know as a PT its all the core requirements.

With that said are there any other careers or ideas I should maybe look into in the health field or elsewhere? Also maybe more information about being a physical therapist? It sounds like an amazing career, very rewarding, and most PTs are upbeat happy and content with their work. There's many paths you can take with it as well - opening your own practice, different settings, etc.

I have also considered being a lawyer, as some folks mention that it would be a great opportunity to help people, sociable job for the most part, and I don't mind reading/writing as I'm doing much of that now.

Being a teacher also seems like a great path although I don't know what subject I would even do well in teaching. I'd probably just work well with the students and inspiring them.

Then there is the possibility working in an outdoor camp with troubled youth or those with disabilities which eventually could lead me to a M.A. in social work? I just feel like that career path could be a bit rocky.

Any comments, suggestions, words of advice - I seem to just get stuck on this everyday and feel like I'm just treading water lately. :(
posted by melizabeth to Work & Money (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I just feel like that career path could be a bit rocky.

Any career path will be a bit rocky.

We've talked a lot about going to law school.
posted by Jahaza at 8:30 PM on June 28, 2011

If you don't like sitting behind a desk, lawyering is not for you. In the US there are not many jobs available for lawyers. Some people assume that "helping people" or public interest kinds of lawyer jobs are easy to get, but that is not a good assumption. They are often highly competitive.

It sounds like working at a camp might be a good idea for you. I'm not sure what you mean by "rocky"? I guess the way to find out would be volunteer programs that could give you experience on weekends. You have a good job now, don't underestimate how valuable that is even if it's not ideal.

It seems like you're really invested in going back to school in order to change careers, but remember that school is often expensive and you might run into the same problem you did with undergraduate. Better to know what you want to do with as much certainty as possible before you take the time and money to go to grad school.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:37 PM on June 28, 2011

If you don't like being behind a computer, don't go to law school. It's almost all you end up doing once you start practicing.
posted by gauche at 8:39 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Onpreview: what the young rope-rider said.
posted by gauche at 8:40 PM on June 28, 2011

If you're not good at science, you're going to have a tough time getting into PT school.

Do you have any experience doing the kind of rec therapy stuff that interests you? It seems to me that a good place to start would be by volunteering in that sort of setting. It would give you some idea of whether you really enjoy it, and you could also talk to people who work there about their career paths.
posted by craichead at 8:45 PM on June 28, 2011

How good are you at school generally? Law, teaching and physical therapy are all three really demanding courses of study. If you aren't comfortable handling science now, cut PT right out.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:46 PM on June 28, 2011

I'm a lawyer. I don't think it's hard for resourceful people to find jobs as lawyers. But there's a reason there's such a high rate of alcoholism and depression in this profession ... It's pretty stressful.

I've always thought police officer and flight attendant would be interesting jobs, for different reasons, even for college grads.
posted by jayder at 8:51 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Depends on which level of students you want to teach, but most of the Physical Education teachers in my neck of the woods are outside almost all day long. That might be a place to look into. Good luck in whatever you decide.
posted by snoelle at 8:53 PM on June 28, 2011

I know someone with a Recreation degree who also found the field unsatisfying. She's now finishing up a physical education certificate program. If you went that direction, you'd get to be active, outdoors some of the time, and you'd get to help people and kids. It might work for you.

That said, the market for general education teachers is abysmal right now in many places (trust me), and I can't imagine it being much better for P.E. teachers. It's worth looking into, though.
posted by that's how you get ants at 8:54 PM on June 28, 2011

You have to be a true contrarian to go to law school now; the current job market is terrible.

A law degree is three years and not cheap.

Law is the principal profession in which the people you work with have as their objective proving you wrong. As jayder noted, that proves stressful.

You have to be a detail person, as in "burglary is the nocturnal breaking and entering of the dwelling of another with the intent to commit a felony therein" has at least 9 embedded issues when applied to any set of facts. "No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, within 21 years of a life in being at the time the instrument speaks" is another fun one. And those are just the first year warm-ups. If you really want to fall into the house of mirrors spend some time trying to figure out the difference between the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. If you are more interested in the answers than the questions, generally, you'll not catch on to "analysis," which is what being a lawyer comes down to.

Did I mention that law school involves memorization? It's the only thing I've ever studied where you have to write your answer before you see the question.

Oh. Also, it's entirely possible to spend 20 years coming to the top of your speciality and then have it go "poof," as legions of mortgage backed securities lawyers who haven't done a deal for the past 4 years have found out.
posted by technocrat at 9:20 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


At my last high school, we had a full time garden coordinator who did some gardening, taught some classes, and ran internships for the students in our Small Learning Community (a school within a school, focusing on Green Building/Technology/Engineering). You sound like you would be perfect for her job. Check out Project EAT (they may have stuff near you).

I would also advocate for teaching PE/health/environmental science. In California, where I teach, all you need to do is pass a subject matter test for whatever you want to teach. I've never taken a physics class EVER (in high school or college), but I got 4 points away from passing (like, three questions) and I'm sure I'll pass on my next try.

The job market for teachers isn't great at the moment, but it sounds like you'd be perfect for it. Make a call to a local university that does Education programs and see what they say.

Good luck!
posted by guster4lovers at 10:11 PM on June 28, 2011

What I read is "I don't like my job and have no idea what I should do." Followed by widely varied suggestions indicating you have not really been productive if you have investigated real time looking at options. I say this because your default solution seems to be going back to school. Make sure if you go back to school for a second degree it's either because you really love the student lifelong learner lifestyle and have cash and time to burn, you have an employer or scholarship or grant paying for it, or you have identified something that absorbs you to the degree that you can't stop thinking about the subject matter and would possibly spend years with low or no pay just to be able to do that thing (this last part goes double for you if you're not typically academically strong). You're probably not there right now so this is what I would do:

1. Lose the idea of 'a career', replace with 'a job I like'. There is nothing wrong with not having a career in your twenties, careers often sort themselves out via enjoyable work, many happy people never have 'careers'. Likewise, stop thinking this degree = that career.

2. See what is out there. Apply to other jobs, now. Internally, externally. In your field, for entry positions outside of it. One year at one job using a degree is not necessarily representative of the options.

3. Get a second part-time job or volunteer with whatever interests you. Work Saturdays at a bike shop, lead the running group at the sneaker shop, volunteer with YMCA children's programming or with some kind of park ranger gig, whatever. Meet people doing stuff you think you might like to do, talk to them about it, ask them how they ended up doing what they are doing. Meet people doing interesting stuff, period, and expand your options. See what you like and where it feels comfortable.
posted by skermunkil at 1:51 AM on June 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

The life-fulfilling, spiritually affirming job that you seem to be seeking is mostly a myth. They call it work for a reason.
posted by COD at 4:57 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a lawyer. I spend approximately fifty hours a week sitting in front of a computer. And though it's true that you can go to law school with any undergraduate degree, "Recreation Management" does not exactly make you look serious. Law schools may not care about that, but employers do.

Now's not a great time to be getting into the health field either. Tuition costs are as high as they've ever been, and we're nearing a breaking point in our health care system. Salaries and job opportunities are going to take a nose dive in a couple of years, no matter what happens, as Medicare and Medicaid simply can't continue to pay what they're currently paying for the amount of care they're providing. As the new health care law seems to want to put more people on those rolls, the only real solution is to cut reimbursement. Private health carriers are likely to follow suit.

Here's the thing: everyone wants a fulfilling job that pays well and doesn't involve hours of drudgery. But those jobs don't exist, unless you happen to be a huge geek and like poring over arcane technical documents of one kind or another for hours at at time. You like doing that, we can hook you right up. This is why lawyers, doctors, and engineers make good money: what we do is a rather bothersome combination of difficult and mind-numbingly dull. I mean, seriously, today I'm going to spend about three hours going through nine months of emails regarding a failed business relationship for selling horse trailers, hoping to find a document which may not even exist, and barring that, seeing if there's something I can argue will work just as well. Two weeks ago it was going through five hundred-odd pages of claim documents from a bunch of mink farmers, looking for patterns and trying to come up with a value for the whole case. I happen to be possessed of a personality which thinks almost everything is interesting and views these sorts of tasks as a treasure hunt. Most other people would consider this to be some tedious f*cking shit. And to be honest, sometimes it is. But that's why I can afford to pay back my student loans and not have a roommate.

My suggestion? If your pays even moderately well, just deal with it. Most people aren't in love with their jobs, which is why things like The Office and Office Space are successful. Instead? Step up your hobbies. Get serious about cycling or running or some other sport. Register for a triathlon. Get yourself a boyfriend or whatever. Watch less TV, do more volunteering. In general, just make better use of your weekends and other free time. If you're looking for spiritual fulfillment from your job, you're Doing It Wrong. Your job is supposed to enable and facilitate the your life, but be it.

This is what a lot of people do. A few summers back, I lived with a guy who was a nuclear engineer for the Navy, but also an serious triathlete with an awesome girlfriend. A lot of the partners in my office show up at 6:00AM and leave by 3:00-4:00PM so they have time to fit in a round of golf and/or have dinner with their families. My sister is a nurse with the unusual schedule that entails, so she took up the guitar, is training for an Ironman, and spends a chunk of her summers working for the camp she volunteered at in college. I and a fellow MeFite attorney have a book deal.

You don't need a career change. You've just hit that point after college where you realize that hey, you've finally made it to the point you've spent your entire life trying to reach and, well... now what? Well, now you get on with the rest of your life.
posted by valkyryn at 5:22 AM on June 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

Have you considered becoming an occupational therapist?
posted by mareli at 5:52 AM on June 29, 2011

valkyryn has it. Jobs suck, and most people do not find their lifelong passion in their jobs. And a career is not a marathon from clearly-defined Point A to clearly-defined Point B, it is a series of jobs that sometime have a related them and sometimes don't. So don't go launching into an expensive path just because you are a little unsatisfied, only do it if you feel a strong, compelling drive to do that new thing. The fact that you're listing all of the usual ideas (PT, lawyer, teacher) that every young job-changer lists tells me you haven't found a passion for a job, and that's fine.

So there are two things you can do. One is what valkyrin said: look at your job as the thing you have to do to finance your housing, food, and hobbies, and go all-out for your hobbies. Really focus on enjoying your outside-of-work time, and you may find that your life has plenty of meaning. It might even give your work new purpose as you show up happier, understand work's place in your life (pays the bills), and as you gain more experience and get better at your job.

The other is to seek out jobs that line up with your interests to find out if you want to take the plunge into another field; you're not ready to make a change until you've actually experienced the career. Given your interest, I really like your idea of working at a summer camp. I had a friend who did that for several summers, and it eventually led to a real passion for teaching (not an anonymous internet post wanting to "work well with the students and inspiring them"), so now he has a career. For me, working at a summer camp was fun, but taught me that I did not like being paid to teach my hobbies instead of just doing my hobbies for fun - it kind of ruins the relaxing "hobby" aspect.
posted by Tehhund at 7:33 AM on June 29, 2011

I have also considered being a lawyer, as some folks mention that it would be a great opportunity to help people, sociable job for the most part, and I don't mind reading/writing as I'm doing much of that now.

This kind of thinking will cost you 3 years and six figures. And you're still going to have to find an acceptable job in a market where a job, period, is not a given. Also I'd describe it as closer to anti-sociable than sociable.

You need to be more specific.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:22 AM on June 29, 2011

I worked for a year doing what I had wanted to do since grade school. It suited my strengths and my interests, and I expected it to be very, very fulfilling. A toxic work environment and crushing workload meant that I was coming home tired and frustrated much more than I was coming home fulfilled. I had more bad days than good days. Now I'm working much more of a day job. Still suits my strengths, and to a lesser extent, my interests. It's a professional day job, but a day job. When I'm not at work, I spend time with my fiancee, go kayaking, or grab a drink with friends. I realized that I am a day job person. I would much rather have a plesant work-life that gives me plenty of time for the rest of my life than a position that is more difficult, more time-consuming, and more of a life than a job. But that's me. Think about whether that's you too.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:36 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

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