How do I get one of those "career" thingys?
December 28, 2005 6:41 PM   Subscribe

AdviceFilter: Help a 34 year old high school dropout start his education/career over.

I apologize in advance if this is long and lacking a true narrative line.

I’m in a long-term relationship with a woman who wants to eventually be a stay-at-home mom, at least until the kids are in school. We’d like to have at least two kids, one or both of which we’d like to adopt. As she won’t be working for a number of years, it will be up to me to be the sole earner for our family. She and I have been discussing ways for me to improve my earning power.

The bad news: I am in therapy for a variety of psychological disorders, including Bi-Polar II & anxiety (I’m on Zoloft & Wellbutrin XL for those), very mild OCD (mainly expressing as fingernail/cuticle chewing), and sex, food & video game addictions. My conditions are well under control, and my partner knows everything about them.

The good news: Not to brag, but I’m a pretty smart person; both book smart and street/common sense smart. I can hold my own in a variety of subjects; in fact, a friend of mine (who holds a number of degrees) called me a “polymath”, which I suppose is sort of a renaissance (not the “faire”) geek.

I dropped out of high school at seventeen, holding a 3.8 GPA; not because I couldn't handle the work, but because I couldn't handle the social aspects. Went to college for a short time, but finally quit and started working full time. Worked a variety of retail jobs, at 24 I started working as a temp/contractor in offices. I am currently on a long-term assignment at a large company, making around $16 an hour, with no health insurance. There’s a good chance that I’ll be hired on permanently in the next few months; at around $42,000 a year plus benefits.

I have great MS Word skills, especially in proofing/editing. I’m okay in Excel & PowerPoint. I would like to work in a more creative field. I handle stress well, and enjoy beating deadlines and problem solving. I consider myself to be a great combination of the creative and workhorse types.

I would like to go back to school and get a degree. I have considered a number of career paths. One thing I thought I might be good at is working as a pharmacist; I am meticulous in my work habits, and skilled at remembering detailed information and doing research. Plus, I’ve read that there is a currently a shortage of pharmacists, and many start at $80K per year.

I also think I might enjoy working as a video/film editor. The meticulous nature, combined with the occasional chance to be artistic seems like a good fit for me.

I’ve also considered a job that would allow me to work at home, like a home-based administrative assistant/office help sort of employment, or some such situation.

From the skills I’ve described above (creative/artistic, great at/enjoys research, analytical mind, great problem solver, good with office software, meticulous), what educational/career path would you suggest for me? Thanks for listening.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
A friend of mine (who could fit your profile almost exactly) decided to become an x-ray technician. In finding that link, I also found there is apparently a shortage of such people. She likes the job, and the training was relatively short. With all those aging baby boomer hips out there, the job security would probably be pretty good.
posted by Rumple at 6:57 PM on December 28, 2005

Agree with the radiology and the pharmacy fields -- in fact, virtually any medical field will likely be well-suited to your abilities. The drawback: they all require formal education and/or training to some degree. Best bet, perhaps, would be to get hired on as a technician (apprentice) at a drugstore, hospital, or large outpatient clinic and begin feeling your way around, learning about the scholastic requirements, and getting advice/intel from the healthcare providers and technicians. And don't forget nursing: there are many 'variations' on nursing in a variety of setttings (long-term care, visiting, hospital, community health), and the "barriers to entry" are most often less than the barriers to pharmacy, radiology, etc.

Also: go to your nearest college (community college, best bet, IMO) and find out what kind of programs are available, and see if there are any education programs that integrate some sort of work-study program, so you can begin earning while learning.

Best wishes -- let us know what you decide.
posted by davidmsc at 7:34 PM on December 28, 2005

One caveat, from one bipolar type two to another:
Get some career counseling and or other outside imput. We tend to be somewhat grandiose in our thinking sometimes -and that can manifest in biting off more than we can chew (oh, how I know how that works from personal experience.)

I think checking into the medical field thing would be great. And I do know that community colleges have resources to help you choose what would be the best fit for you through tests and such.

Please understand I am not saying you are not a smart person. I'm no slouch in that department myself, but sometimes the illness presents limitations and boundaries that have to be respected. Be proactive and analytical about that too. Get the backup and imput you need to be successful.

Oh, and run this by your therapist. He or she may actually have some practical suggestions to help you along-and can help you think through your choices.

Do update this, please-I'm sure we are all rooting for you!
posted by konolia at 8:13 PM on December 28, 2005

Kudos on considering adoption!
posted by phrontist at 8:52 PM on December 28, 2005

And I do know that community colleges have resources to help you choose what would be the best fit for you through tests and such.

I'm sure some people get something from those "testing centers" but for me, and a few friends, it was something of a joke. The careers I was suggested were so far from what I'd want to do or even be good at that they were comical. So use it as a tool, but rely on your own research to pick a field.

That said, anything in the medical field has a ton of older employees just starting out. Either they decided to finally go to school, or they're switching careers.

Nursing is definitely something to look at. If you're a guy, more and more males are becoming nurses. Some emergency rooms are almost fully staffed witih male nurses.

It's hard work, and not for everyone, but you can make decent money and the work is far more dymanic than something like x-ray tech. Of course, dynamic might not be what you're looking for, so ymmv.
posted by justgary at 10:58 PM on December 28, 2005

Do what you love. Take baby steps. Set realistic goals and follow through on them. Reward yourself, but don't punish yourself - life itself will punish you readily enough.

But most importantly, do what you love.

Otherwise a career isn't worth it.
posted by loquacious at 12:00 AM on December 29, 2005

I'm skeptical about the long term viability of a pharmacy career. It takes a bit of time to get a pharmacy degree (typically it's a 5 year undergrad degree), by the time you get out, things could have changed.

Possible changes:

1. Glut of newly minted pharmacists attracted by the high starting pay, the job portability and the option to work less than full-time. This could be mitigated if pharmacy programs are keeping a cap on aadmissions, rather -- I don't know whether they are,

2. Restructuring of retail the pharmacy. This is already well underway. Independant pharmacies are few and far between these days, driven out by drugstore chains and pharmacies that are part of larger chain retailers like supermarkets and discount stores. These affiliated pharmacies have been effected by the consolidation among retailers. In many markets, supermarkets have fallen under common ownership with discount retailers, one result is that pharmacy operations have been eliminated or had their hours cut due to overlap in territory.

Add to that the rise of the mail-order pharmacy, where process and automation allow for economies of scale that minimize the expense of trained pharmacists.

There are lots of options, including pharmacy career tracks that avoid some of the dynamics I've described. Best of luck to you on pursuing a career!
posted by Good Brain at 12:41 AM on December 29, 2005

Don't limit your education choices to community colleges; where I am, the state university has a respected evening-school program, with a ton of degree choices and numerous tuition-waver categories. If your employer will pay the whole cost (many do, if your grades are good), no reason not to get the best education you can.

Medical tech is a good, stable career. Not just X-ray, but all sorts of imaging: MRI, ultrasound. There may be a degree that qualifies you for all of them.

Having more skills makes you a more desirable employee. Having an unusual, but complimentary skill set makes you a sought-after employee.

Good luck.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:54 AM on December 29, 2005

Key to education:
If you're worried take a community college class: you'll rock and it'll give you confidence.
If you take a university night class, do well, after a class or two, it's likely the university will let you 'enter' it's student population. This is a great backdoor that most people don't know about.
posted by filmgeek at 5:10 AM on December 29, 2005

What about library science or information architecture? More creative and definitely detailed oriented. And routes can be both academic and corporate. Smarties welcomed.

Good luck!
posted by mdiskin at 8:25 AM on December 29, 2005

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