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May 5, 2019 5:18 PM   Subscribe

What is a prudent timeframe for jumping out of a Career Trajectory and into a new one? As in, how long should you be patient with slowly-emerging opportunities versus pivoting into a field with better long-term prospects? (Data edition)

tl;dr: Is a little over one year into a job that you like but feels like the wrong career path a good time to start applying?

Snowflakes: I'm a little over a year into my job as a data librarian in the midwest. Back in September, about six months into the position, I thought long and hard about making the switch into data science/data analysis/etc. I interviewed several places, and even had one (not super great fit) offer. But in the process of interviewing, I realized that I (1) wasn't all that interested in the role of Data Scientist on product teams in a corporate/tech setting, and (2) felt so personally exhausted by all of this life and career-thinking. I decided I would set aside thinking about this for at least another 6-8 months, which I've done!

Okay, flash to the present-day. My job is definitely become more interesting and fulfilling in many ways -- I have a lot of autonomy and creativity in teaching, get to work closely with rad students on tricky data-driven research projects, I've taught myself a ton about R lately, and the benefits are great. I leave work feeling fine. The main issues however are pay, career trajectory and opportunities, and skilled mentorship/growth. I already had a sense this was the case six-eight months in, but in the ensuing months, I've had some more experiences to confirm it: having a request for a raise turned down, learning more about the glacially slow promotion process, etc. I've even been told things like "oh, this will be good for your CV or at a future job", which is partly encouragement for my promotion review, but given the reference to another job, also appears to be a signal for "you're welcome to either accept the terms of pay/position here or go if this doesn't work for you, because we're not going to fight for you." I don't have a mentor person I can come to with these things, as the culture is much more "oh you can be the skilled data person and we'll reward you with total autonomy over your programming" which is kind of nice but also feels like a dead end.

So how I've responded to this is by doing a ton of learning and networking and growth outside of my formal job requirements. I've found more fellow data folx, both within and outside libraries. In the process I've realized that, oh hey!!, there's actually a subset of the data world that is a much better fit for me that's concentrated more around civic tech, research centers & university affiliates & non-library academic units, smaller agencies and consultancies, data science education, etc, and has a really wonderful shared learning ethos. Whereas before it felt like this abstract pursuit of being Good Enough to get Data Science at $HOPEFULLY_NOT_TOO_EVIL_PLACE, now I feel much more encouraged to try to work alongside of the lovely people I've been slowly getting to know (also, some of them do work at non-evil corporations, but they seem to simultaneously identify strongly with their work in developing other community members/organizing and supporting marginalized folks and newcomers. This is *incredibly* appealing to me.)

I've been flirting with taking the all the above from my current position - that is, do the library day job and extracurricular developer/analyst/tech writer thing, and leverage my secure base to keep growing. I guess that's a good way to describe the last four months. I've even started to have a small stream of (modest) extra pay teaching and coding opportunities, two of which I've said yes to over the summer. But I do feel that at some point, I'm going to have to make this jump into another non-library trajectory -- or rather, that's what I think I want to do. And right now the financials aren't going well. Even though I have great benefits, I'm really struggling with my debt payments, which I racked up through two gender-related surgeries and a related set of poor financial decisions (I currently pay $1200 a month in debt payments, mostly on credit cards, which on a $54k salary in a mid-to-high-cost of living city makes me feel like I'm drowning constantly.) I think with my skillset I could be making 70K-90K, depending on the exact industry, and doing so would allow me to pay off my debts within a couple of years which would be LIFE CHANGING. And frankly, as rewarding as my position can be in some ways, I get enough fulfillment out of creative work with data (and even rote-but-complex work) and finding a positive work community that I am not willing to be financially imprudent for the sake of a work-to-live career.

When it comes to timing, I suppose I'm worried that being too rash will be counter-productive in the long run versus continuing to shape my job closer to what I want it to be. I'm already starting to get some extra notice and opportunities. But I dunno, I'm thinking about how the clear implication at my workplace is if I want to move up to a higher pay grade I'll need to change institutions and/or jobs, and thinking of going through that process still within the field of librarianship doesn't make me happy, as lovely and creative and fantastic as the field is in many ways.

I would love any guidance about this. I feel like this is maybe a classic 30-something moment of just like, finally having enough of the big picture that I want to start making much more pragmatic moves, but still not being entirely sure what that looks like. Anything you could add would be wonderful. Thank you!
posted by Sock Meets Body to Work & Money (1 answer total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One year in a job is fine, you've learnt some stuff and now you're looking for growth and career progression and have a better understanding of what does and doesn't interest you. Applying for new jobs while you currently have one takes a whole bunch of pressure off too, you're able to meet your financial needs while you find a better fit.

Start looking and applying! Don't overthink it or try to find the perfect job, just cast your net wide, give it a go and see what happens.
posted by latch24 at 12:50 AM on May 6, 2019

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