March 18, 2007 5:47 PM   Subscribe

What do you do when you've hit the wall career-wise?

I'm 40 this year and I'm a claims adjuster. Our company may or may not be bought out. My supervisor dislikes me. The job is stressful. I come home from work and drink. I love soccer and photography and practice yoga twice a week on the positive side of things. I guess in a general sense I'm asking what have people done when they come to a crossroad in their life? Thanks in advance.
posted by philad to Work & Money (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
A lot depends on your finances - if you're not in tons of debt you could consider going back to school for Photography, or perhaps something that would further your career but allow you to move laterally in your industry (perhaps becoming a risk management analyst or something).

Well, to be more clear - staying in your industry might allow you to keep your day job and school at night, so it wouldn't depend as much on your finances.

I thought about an MFA* program in Photography and I think I could have gone, but I couldn't afford it with my mortgage and other family finance requirements. Maybe when I'm older =) It seems like most MFA programs require full-time attendance and sort of preclude much else going on in your life, like a job.

* In case you're not in the states, MFA = Master of Fine Arts, the terminal degree for the fine arts in the US.
posted by illovich at 6:01 PM on March 18, 2007

One time, i found a new job and quit the old one.

This latest time, after agonising for 18 months, and starting part time distance education classes in my preferred field, I quit my job and started studying full time. Best decision I ever made. I got part-time work that paid better from my old employers (and is more fun), and my studies are exciting and interesting and fulfilling.

Life's too short to be stuck doing something you hate with people you don't respect. (oh and I turn 40 this year too!)
posted by b33j at 6:20 PM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Our company may or may not be bought out. My supervisor dislikes me. The job is stressful.

I was in a somewhat similar position after huge success in Australia. I'd doubled my salary in a few years, gotten to the point where I was running a team of about a dozen people really smart people, the product I'd envisioned, designed and brought to market-readiness was wowing the hell out of clients internal and external, I was at the top-'o'-the-heap, and it all started to go to shit. Management reshuffling brought in some clueless people more interested in empire building than building great software and services, and I could see the writing on the wall.

I bailed out, took a 70% pay cut (with lower tax, though), and took up an offer to teach university back in Korea, where I'd lived for a few years before I had gone to Australia. It was hard -- we'd built a life in Sydney, had good friends, the money was really nice, and at 35, I realized that it might have been the last major career sidestep for a good long time.

I was lucky that I had an alternate career to fall back on, and no debt at all -- I'd been veering between IT and teaching my whole life (and a wide array of backpacker jobs like picking fruit and managing hotels), and after a couple of lean but relaxing years, I'm back on top of the heap again, at least as far as teaching in Korea goes. And though the money still isn't as good as it was, I've better than doubled the salary I started with back here in Korea in 2001, and life is pretty good, and much as she liked Australia, my wife is happy to be back in Korea, closer to her family. It was a good decision, on balance, I think

Which is to say, if you're confident that you can kick some ass in whatever you choose to do (I've always been, to the point of arrogance, unfortunately, perhaps), my experience has always been that it's possible to reinvent yourself, and is a good thing, with some luck and some chutzpah.

Now that I'm in my 40s, I'm a little more cautious than I once was, but if I was really hating my life, I'd make an equally major change again.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:25 PM on March 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

I sense no happiness in store for you at that job.

It seems a Western, but perhaps only American, myth that we need to endure pain to be permitted pleasure.

Work can be positive, but if you lack an ability to change it THERE, either go elsewhere and do the same thing, or find a different means of making a living.

I'm puttting my money where my mouth is and leaving a high paying, relatively secure job this week, after concluding something similar. It CAN be done, you will survive, you are worthwhile. Give yourself permission to seek greener pastures.

If you aren't financially able to do it now, persist and save for the next year, while you simultaneously look for different employers or examine self employment. Spend the time you are drinking in the evenings planning your salvation.

Good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 7:12 PM on March 18, 2007

How long have you been where you work? I ask because sometimes simply changing jobs (employers) can change everything. I've switched employers a lot as a software contractor and the difference between the offices I've worked at is amazing. Some are great, some are terrible. So, maybe ask around and simply find a different employer perhaps?
posted by BillsR100 at 7:35 PM on March 18, 2007

Philad, what do you want to do. No, I don't mean in your career or your industry or any of that. I mean: left to your own devices, what do you want to do. Ten or fifteen years from now, where do you want to be? Begin to actively move in that directoin. You're obviously unhappy with your current situation, so why not pursue a dream?

I know this sounds crazy, and maybe unrealistic, but it's the only sure way to be happy. Maybe you have a hobby. How could you make money from it? How do other people make money from it? Maybe you've always wanted to try a different profession — a newspaper reporter or a taxi driver or who knows what? Make your first steps in your spare time. Take a class. Meet with somebody who already has the job you want. Get a taste of it.

Pursue your dreams.
posted by jdroth at 7:48 PM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm in a similar situation as well. Mid-40's, highly paid with lots of under-utilised specialist skills in management counsulting.

I was enjoying my work but had horrible work/life balance a couple of years ago. I made a move to the other side of the planet to improve the 'life' side of the equation and it's worked to an extent. The trade-off now is that work is no longer satisfying in the least and the career is at a stand-still.

I have committed to taking on change again. It's stressful and frought with risk. As a result of that commitment, I've found that I am seeking out trusted colleagues and others that I respect, and sharing openly and as honestly as I can where I am. Those discussions are beginning to bear fruit through better understanding of my own goals and my strengths and weaknesses as seen by others.

Aside from the obvious, family and health, the luckiest people in the world are those that get paid to do what they love.
posted by michswiss at 8:12 PM on March 18, 2007

I hear ya, Phil. I just turned 41; I had been feeling similar to what you describe, about a year ago. I went back to school and am in pursuit of a fine arts degree. I want to second illovich up there, who suggested you consider going to school for photography. Having something that occupies your mind when you're not working (well, and sometimes, when you are) seems to make it all so much more bearable. Good luck!
posted by TochterAusElysium at 10:53 PM on March 18, 2007

My dad was a claims adjuster. He pulled a switch to sales. Very much unusual in that time, it came about due to a friendship. (this was possible in those days, as the company was one of the biggies, where sales and claims were all handled in-house).

Of course, this is only applicable if you can handle sales. I know I couldn't.
posted by Goofyy at 11:29 PM on March 18, 2007

Either change career or become self-employed. Although I'm younger than you, I recently started to work for myself. It took some bravery to make the break, but now I couldn't imagine any other kind of life.

As for changing career, I think you should look for something completely different. Example: A friend of mine went from being an art gallery manager to becoming an psychological counsellor for students.
posted by humblepigeon at 2:01 AM on March 19, 2007

Rotate your morons. I've had plenty of unfulfilling jobs and I highly recommend a lateral move to a different company if nothing else. It might be the same old same old, but at least you will be surrounded with fresh morons, and in all seriousness, that often provides enough of a breather that you can see the next step.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:02 AM on March 19, 2007 [4 favorites]

Travel for a while. When you get back, look at your life with fresh eyes; you'll have a much better idea of what needs to change and what you can life with.
posted by matildaben at 9:54 AM on March 19, 2007

Rotate your morons.

That's great advice. I rotate my morons every 6-12 months. Sure, they complain a little but it keeps them fresh. I also recommend replacing your morons every 4-5 years even if they don't look worn out.
posted by chairface at 1:59 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

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