Finally at 32, I have a chance to come up for air and I need to focus.
February 15, 2012 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Big changes are coming and I'm not sure how to make the best of them. I am not enthralled in the least in my current career and would like to take a chance on something new, but should I go for something that is very risky that I love, something practical, or something that uses my mind, or is there some kind of career that embraces all of this that I am not aware of? Man this gets long!

My SO is joining the Navy and it looks like we are going to get married, woohoo. Anyhow, this whole Navy thing has kinda taken me by surprise and I am both frightened and elated as it seems like it COULD be a really cool opportunity. I could play it completely safe, keep my home base in Atlanta and keep my job(s) and save money, but really doesn't appeal to me on several different levels.

I may really have the opportunity to travel, live abroad, and most importantly, be free (to some extent) to pursue new avenues. I have a BA in History (History of Ideas) and a MPA in Nonprofit Mangement from a school of Public Admin. I worked for years in museums doing education and outreach and I really loved it, but after working with Preservation groups I ended up doing Planning stuff and now for a state agency doing planning work. I have a couple of months and my job pays for one certification, if I was really on it, I could get a AICP certification or a project management certification, but I really, really don't enjoy my line of work. I also bartend and have for about a decade, I'm good at it, customers like me, whatever. Neither of these are "me" though, when I was younger I was convinced I was either going to be an artist or a scientist. These are what I consider "me" and I work a lot. I have every other Monday off due to a compressed schedule which means I work an average of 6.5 9 hr days a week, which blows.

I really have an engineer's brain, I love systems and processes and logic and I'm reasonably good at it. I was a presidential scholar at Georgia Tech, but I left Tech after two years. I was studying an adhoc biochem program (they didn't have an official one), I have always been intrigued by why people think what they think and how they come to different conclusions. I really wanted to explore the chemical nature of this, then later decided to study the historical view of this and changed majors. This was not a choice that led to any real monetizing career. :)

All along the way, I have been painting, making paper, encaustics, etc. I haven't sold a whole lot, but I have sold pieces and been in respected venues here and there. I am good at making stuff, be it art, craft, or say, a deck. While this is handy and fulfilling around the house, once again, I've never really found a way to turn this into a living.

So now there is this, the Navy and at least four years of most likely moving around and not having a stable job. There are some "Spouse" career opportunities, but, um, meh. There are also scholarships and programs to assist in spouse education, so I would have the opportunity to pursue further education if I desired. I am looking for a job that is flexible in terms of geography, satisfies me, and is tenable for the forseeable future. Whew.

These are the careers that interest me right now: Coding No real experience, but I can look at tables and scripts and see how it is working, doing Codeacadmy right now. Nursing the work, hours, and flexibility appeal to me, but the power dynamic does not. Physicians Assistant See above, but with a better dynamic and more schooling. Artist Very exciting, but um, money? I would like to get another BA if I did this to have a better footing in theory. Nonprofit Policy Advisor my title right now is actually Policy analyst. Project Manager I do this a lot right now, enough to qualify for the certification, I just don't like doing it here.

Jeez, that's long. Do you have any insights here? I don't want to waste this opportunity. I really just want to make stuff, all day. I love making art, but that seems rather frivilous. Please help me be a good steward of this gift of time.
posted by stormygrey to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Congrats on getting married!

Have you thought about being a Project Manager/ handle the logistics aspects of a creative firm, such as an architecture or design firm? You could use your engineer's brain and work with "systems and processes and logic," while working in a creative environment. You mentioned not loving project management as your current line of work though, so that may not work.

What about learning graphic design? It would involve art and there is need for it in almost all fields. It wouldn't be making something tangible, but it would occupy you to learn (plus, it's something you could do remotely as a freelancer).

Since you will be moving around, you could meanwhile teach/assist art classes in community centers in cities where you will be.
posted by ichomp at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2012

Nursing the work, hours, and flexibility appeal to me, but the power dynamic does not.

Meaning the dynamic between doctors and nurses? I don't know about human medicine, but in veterinary medicine I have worked in places where the dynamic was much more collaboration between equals than superior/inferior. In the teaching hospital where I currently work there are technicians (veterinary nurses) with dozens of years of experience working with interns (doctors) who are fresh out of school, and the dynamic can be very... interesting. It's not always smooth sailing, and you do need to know when to step back and take orders, but it is definitely not the kind of power dynamic you might expect.

As far as "making stuff," you don't do that, but when you save a life, or nurse something back to health, or even end a very sick animal's suffering, you certainly feel like you are making a difference every day.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:06 AM on February 15, 2012

I don't have to "make stuff" for a living. If you picture a venn diagram of Stuff I Like, Stuff I'm Good At, and Stuff I Can Make Money at, it just needs to fit somewhere in there, perferably overlapping 2 if not 3 of them. :)

I definitely meant power dynamic between doctors and nurses, I can be aggressive, "mouthy" to use a more sexist, old school term. I think I'm pretty good at being a good team player and knowing when to shut up and be an efficient part of the process (like pass the right tools in the right order) but its just a facet of my personality that has gotten me in trouble, that and the lack of poker face and subsequent eye rolling.
posted by stormygrey at 9:39 AM on February 15, 2012

You could be a nurse for a VA hospital, where duties are much more clearly defined, and thus there are fewer power struggles between doctors and nurses.

In a lot of ways, you sound well on your way to being on the Project Manager career track. Quite possibly this would work well for you if you found an environment in which you enjoyed doing it.
posted by deanc at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2012

Sounds like you should seek out local hackerspaces, you apparently have quite a broad base of skills and interests and would be a real asset to somewhere like that. Also it might lead you on a path of unique little projects (for example a friend of mine has been setting up a distributed urban orchard with a communal cider press, I know people making iphone apps and campaigning for data freedom).

If you've been doing museum education becoming a freelance art-worker may not actually be much of a leap (that said I don't know much about whether these types of jobs exist due to funding in the states). Helping kids, teenagers (especially troubled ones), people with mental health problems, mental disabilities (or anyone really) fulfil some kind of creative potential might be very rewarding, and I don't think it's as necessary to be up on theory.

Oh and congrats btw.
posted by pmcp at 10:18 AM on February 15, 2012

Thanks everyone, I didn't get many answers, but the ones I got were all well thought out and interesting.
posted by stormygrey at 12:53 PM on February 28, 2012

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