Career anxiety
August 25, 2012 12:08 PM   Subscribe

From public policy research to software consulting... tips how to find my niche?

Two years after earning my Anthropology degree (I'm 24), I worked hard to develop skills and build a resume tailored to a career in public policy research and analysis. My long-term goal was to gain enough knowledge and experience so I can move back to my country and hopefully start a think tank/consulting firm.

I recently left my policy job - due to dysfunctional leadership, emotional burnout, feelings of futility, the environment was just wrong for me - and I'm now in software consulting. A former colleague who owns her own company offered me this job and was willing to take me under her wing. She trained me and talked about the possibility of teaching me senior-level skills in the future. I am grateful and see it as an opportunity to grow and diversify my skill set. My short-term goal is to do well, develop expertise, and build valuable connections.

I still want to go back to my country someday and start a think tank/consulting firm... but after being disillusioned at my last job, I feel pretty lost about my next step in achieving my long-term goal. At this point, I am "exploring" avenues where I can combine my interests in strategic research, public policy, law, politics, and development economics. Now that I am getting my feet wet in software consulting, I am not sure how my experience in this field will fit in the overall "equation."

I am not expecting concrete career advice, but I am interested in your suggestions/thoughts on my situation.

Many thanks.
posted by twentyfoursummers to Work & Money (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about trying to combine everything by finding find some sort of software that is useful in public policy research where you'll also be able to apply the software consulting expertise you're developing? (Or at least claim that it's relevant to future clients/employers, even if in practicality it isn't.) GIS is the first thing that comes to mind.
posted by XMLicious at 12:25 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're in too big of a hurry. You have lots of time.

You didn't stay at the policy job long enough to really learn much. You're employed now part-time and receiving training and consulting in software. I'm not sure how that works, but you've not been in software long enough to really know the ins and outs.

My advice is to slow way down. Stick with something -- anything -- for at least 5 years. That'll put you at about 30. Spend your 30s increasing your knowledge in a more specialized area of the field you chose and making connections. Then, at about 40 you may have enough experience for people to take your think tank seriously, and you can work on that for about 25 years.

But first, just stick with a career for 5 years. The rest will become clearer to you as you gain experience and knowledge. You're not supposed to have it all figured out right out of college.
posted by Houstonian at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2012

Now that I am getting my feet wet in software consulting, I am not sure how my experience in this field will fit in the overall "equation."

It gives you experience working with stakeholders, it gives you experience with end users, it gives you process experience, it gives you the delivery experience policy work often doesn't get to. Industry experience is valuable for the kind of work you want to do later.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:09 PM on August 25, 2012

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