At a career crossroads
August 26, 2018 7:47 AM   Subscribe

I just finished the master's degree I went back to school for and need to find a new job. Some limitations complicate this, and I feel stuck. I need to figure out what I want and how I can achieve it, but I don't know how. Help, please?

Although I'm 29, I only have two years of full-time working experience under my belt with the rest being short-term odd jobs (mostly language teaching and translation).
I have a bachelor's degree in Japanese and was regarded as the top student by professors and peers, but didn't have the courage to go for a master's in interpreting (which is more my thing than translating) due to imposter syndrome and worrying about the market for German-Japanese interpreting jobs. Obviously I speak English as well, but I know that if there is a surplus of native speakers, I will always lose out.
Instead, I worked at a Japanese embassy as a local employee for two years, was well-regarded by the higher-ups, but bullied by my co-worker and immediate boss, so I quit after my first contract period ended two years in (as documented in my history here).
My husband was only able to find a job in Japan right after finishing his master's due to visa issues, so I moved with him and finished my master's in applied linguistics (that I started and quit in 2013, also documented here), a field I find interesting. Since he still hasn't found a job in Europe, but might next year or the year after, I'm now job-hunting in Japan. He is willing to move anywhere I want to go, but his field pays better than mine, so it doesn't make sense to move for anything other than my dream job, which isn't really on the radar right now. Because I don't even know what that would be.

While I'm "stuck" in Japan, I thought I could start fresh from entry level and gain some useful skills that may be transferable to another job in Europe, because while Japanese companies in Europe (Germany) are often eager to hire me, it's as a secretary or assistant, with no possibility for growth (trust me on this), and non-Japanese companies have no reason to hire me.

The issues are:
1) I need a job that gives me enough time off to fly back home sometimes to see my very old grandma, because not being able to see her these days is making me extremely sad, and I will regret not visiting once she's gone. (She's 96.) My professor has offered to get me a part-time teaching job at the university, which means long semester breaks with no work because it's part-time (i.e. awful pay, but we can afford that), and I would love to teach again because it's what I wanted to do, but I know it won't be easily transferrable to Europe because Europe doesn't have a high demand in non-native English teachers, and I don't want to be stuck in a dead end.
2) I don't even really know what jobs I should look for that offer somewhat transferrable skills. Marketing? Sales? I don't know what I want to do, but I think it's not sales. Husband says I should apply for consulting jobs as they take people from all areas and pay well, and I think I'd have a chance (Japan doesn't care much about your major in university as long as you're trainable), but the issues about transferability and PTO still stand.

On top of this, if one of us finds a better job near grandma, we'd want to take it, and I'm hoping for next year because my husband has some opportunities on the radar. But that also means I'd be an awful job hopper if I started something now. With the university job, I could stay for only a year or even just come here during the semester for the last stretch, if I had to. But then if we don't move, I should have taken a different job.

I've been talking about this to my husband, friends, and therapist for months now, and I'm still so stuck. I know that this is mostly my fault for stupidly choosing a pretty useless major in university, but in my defense, languages are kind of my only strength. That and working with people. I did well at the events my previous job held, children seem to like me, and I'm generally considered smart and compassionate, but none of that is helpful. I realize that I chose the worst major to help me achieve my goal of making the world just a tiny bit better (or at least having a decent job without harassment, which Japan isn't really good at), but I was 18 when I picked it.
I think I should probably talk to a career coach if I can find a trustworthy one, as people at the university seem to be unhelpful about non-academic jobs.

I know that most people don't love their jobs, and I know I need to let go of a lot of pride that comes from being told I was smart and would go places because obviously I'm not going anywhere significant. Maybe I should be okay with being a secretary forever - it's not a bad job, but it does often mean that you're the entire department's doormat because most people think secretaries are stupid women. Someone told me to learn coding languages, which I am considering for later, but right now I've just earned a degree, and I'm also not too keen on working in tech as a woman.

Has anyone been in a similar rut and has gotten out of it?
Should I just move and take any job to be close to grandma, even if it means my career will get stuck for even longer, possibly forever?
posted by LoonyLovegood to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have a full answer for you, but in case it helps you to have someone interrupt a couple of your assumptions -

his field pays better than mine, so it doesn't make sense to move for anything other than my dream job

This obviously depends on your exact financial circumstances, it might be that you literally can't afford to live off anything other than his salary or your dream job, but if you have any leeway, I'd suggest money's not the top priority here - if you have a compelling, time-bound reason for wanting to be back home (which you do), and it's making you really unhappy (which it is), then I'd suggest it makes perfect sense to move for something other than your dream job, even if it's not the optimum financial decision.

even if it means my career will get stuck for even longer, possibly forever?

It's always impossible to imagine yourself getting out of a career rut when you're in it, but it's pretty rare for a career to get stuck forever. These days people even start again from scratch several times through their life, so pressing pause and play a few times over the years isn't the end of the world.

Random thought - is teaching German as a second language an option back home, working with migrants etc.? Or teaching Japanese? I'm sure you'll have considered those but they just leapt out at me as the most obvious options for something more rewarding than admin work might be.
posted by penguin pie at 8:08 AM on August 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

Maybe you could try to find work for a company that is gearing up for the Tokyo 2020 olympics?
posted by wowenthusiast at 8:40 AM on August 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Would it be possible to take a secretary or admin job with a Japanese company in Germany and use it as an avenue to be closer to your grandmother, and to perhaps learn about other job functions you might enjoy? In my experience, nothing taught me more about what kind of jobs I like and don’t like than actually working (in my case, as an intern). An admin job with no opportunity for advancement might at least give you some exposure to different kinds of jobs, one of which may appeal to you more than sales/marketing/consulting. Then your game plan could be how to get into that sort of job.
posted by MadamM at 8:47 AM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

In the long run, what about the German foreign service? (I'm inferring you're a German citizen.) I don't know anything about the German version (or how you get hired for it), but in the U.S. foreign service, languages are important and so, in particular subspecialities ("cones"), is an ability to run events. It's quite a different experience from the "local employee" job.

This won't work for the immediate future, probably, because you'd probably get posted away and only be able to come back at specific times. But if there are, e.g., educational requirements, you could work on them while doing whatever else it is you do while you're near your grandmother.

I know that this is mostly my fault for stupidly choosing a pretty useless major in university, but in my defense, languages are kind of my only strength.

Well, I can certainly tell you've spent too much time around Americans! It's largely the fault of late capitalism for not being able to make use of your obvious talents.
posted by praemunire at 11:10 AM on August 26, 2018

Thank you, everyone!

Just to clarify:
1) Teaching German to refugees doesn't pay enough and requires extra training, so time without income. It also still means husband would have to quit working until he finds something close by he can do, which is really tough.

2) I have tried to use my previous experience as an admin doing other things at work, and I get nothing but rejections. Every job I've been offered so far has been for admin work, and I guess once you're an admin, it's really hard to leave that behind (this isn't my pessismism, this is something people on Ask A Manager say a lot, and especially as a woman in Japan, it's often reality.)

3) I am considering the German foreign service, but as it is notoriously hard to get into (and while I meet the initial requirements for education and languages, I might get rejected for health reasons, which is so unfair), it's not a safe backup plan.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:40 PM on August 26, 2018

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