What should I do with my life?
June 4, 2007 6:20 AM   Subscribe

What should I do with my life (career-wise)?

I'm a rising Junior in College, and I've known for a while now that I have no idea what I want to do with my life in terms of a job/career. Nothing seems to really fit me. My major is Political Science, but I'm thinking of changing it to Cultural Studies, which is a bit more freeform. I guess the best way to explain this is to talk about the things I've considered doing.

I considered becoming a Political Science Professor. I don't think this will work for the following reasons:
1. I'm lazy in school, and disdain political science - particularly American politics, the more I learn about it.
2. I don't like writing papers in the standard academic format - I prefer more original thought, less citation.

I also considered becoming a lawyer. I think this too is doomed to failure:
1. I have involuntary tremors that would look really bad in court.
2. The amount of work it takes seems inordinate.
3. I don't really want to deal with the loads of grunt work lawyers do: contract law, business law, etc.

Finally, I considered being an English teacher and bumming around Asia. But:
1. I would miss America and miss English speaking friends too much. This is becoming apparent, as I am now in China.
2. There is no way to save enough for retirement in the US.
3. I'm black.
posted by matkline to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Moving back in with your parents, finding a hot ass girl who doesn't care about that and working at a video store is about all I can suggest.

You really need to go talk to a guidance counselor at your college and tell them that you are finding yourself in a position that every junior in every college in the world is already in. You're too young to be worrying, go have a nice summer.
posted by parmanparman at 6:24 AM on June 4, 2007

What do you care about?

(BTW, 90% of any job is going to be scutwork. Resign yourself to this now).
posted by Leon at 6:25 AM on June 4, 2007

We'll you've already ruled out the first two. So I say go with the 3rd, but given you're just in college, (what does that make you? 19, 20?, might be a difference between USA and NZ). I think you've got a long time to worry about that yet.

The third option sounds best, because it's flexible. It gives you option to adapt the 'teaching' element to many other things, in fact if you got over the boredom of academic writing you could work the teaching element back towards political science later.

Also it'd expose you to a lot of things, and you dont have to work in Asia, you could get a good job teaching english in pretty much any country, without needing much grasp of the local language (but it helps, it's call immersion learning i think).

I'm 21, just finishing the 4th year of my Film degree, and I dont actually know what I want to do. I know where I want to be in 10 years time, but once I graduate I dont actually know what I'm going to do.

As for saving for retirement, dude. how old are you? 20 going on 60?
posted by chrisbucks at 6:31 AM on June 4, 2007

Form the information you have given us I think it is hard to come up with a specific suggestion. The best hope is to suggest some steps that you could take to find your own answer. Po Bronson interviewed a large number of people who had made significant changes to their life and he collects some of their stories together in "What should I do with my Life?". I would recommend it as a source of inspiration (it is NOT a self-help book with specific instructions however).
posted by rongorongo at 6:32 AM on June 4, 2007

Most lawyers don't go to court very much, so I wouldn't worry about that. It is a lot of work though, but if work wasn't work then they would call it fun and not pay you to show up.

You sound like a normal college junior to me. Things will fall into place.
posted by ND¢ at 6:41 AM on June 4, 2007

Not liking writing papers is not a good reason not to go into academia. It is much more than that. One other option: get a graduate degree - this will buy you more time and help your chances in 1, 2, and 3.

Incidentally, I did the ESL China thing for a couple years - it was great - but if I had a MA, I could've taught in more coveted positions, like at universities or at publishing companies (I eventually did just this BTW).

In conclusion: think about getting another degree, perhaps even in a field you feel more passionate about.
posted by mateuslee at 6:47 AM on June 4, 2007

Political Science major here (with teaching aspirations, so I'm biased.) Polsci is such a broad topic that there is a lot you can do with it (teaching, nonprofit, journalism, think tank, law school, city or government work, etc, etc.) and since you already have a grounding in the subject maybe you should stick with it?
posted by wfrgms at 6:51 AM on June 4, 2007

I second wfgrms. All of the options you have mentioned are pretty academia related, and 'lawyer' is one of those professions that basically everyone considers.

I think you have a case of "I'm stuck in school and I have no idea what careers there are out there for someone with a degree like mine!" Which I definitely had and which is pretty typical for and Liberal Arts grad. That's ok. The point of your studies is for you to learn how to read, write, and think. These only indirectly prepare you for most jobs, but the skills will benefit you for your whole life.

I think you should plan on sticking with PoliSci (you have already completed a lot of the credits, no?) and plan on getting an entry level position with a company or organization that interests you when you get out. It's not really as restrictive as you think, and it will allow you to get into some jobs that a Cultural Studies major won't. Plan on spending the first couple years out just living in the working world and learning what the different functions are in organizations. You will find yourself gravitating toward one or the other, and then you will know!

As a reference point, I was a Sociology major. I spent my first few years out working as a research assistant for a Consulate, second two working in operations for an environmental non-profit, and I'm going back to school in the fall to get an MBA in Sustainable Management. If I had gone back to school right after I graduated, I would have gone for a PhD in Sociology, which was all that I knew, and I knew that I was good at it. The few years out gave me the perspective to realize that I would be better at some other things-- now there is one less PhD Sociologist competing for all those elusive tenured positions!
posted by paddingtonb at 7:24 AM on June 4, 2007

If I had to do it all over again, I'd skip the advanced degree I earned in English and go straight into cabinet-making or the construction trades.
posted by notyou at 7:34 AM on June 4, 2007

Well, the advice I wish I'd been given is:

Whatever job you do, you'll probably end up hating it. So, just aim for whatever job will get you the most money.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:37 AM on June 4, 2007 [5 favorites]

Don't take anyones word for it, find out for yourself. Get a part time job or do some sort of volunteer work where you will do actual work with people in the jobs you suggested. There isn't anything that can substitute for real observation and experience of what its like in these jobs day to day.

A job might sound good on paper but then 5 minutes into the real thing you realize "Oh my god what a pain in the ass!" or "holy crap, i do not want to dedicate my life to this!"
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:47 AM on June 4, 2007

I think we need more black lawyers, personally.

Law school is easier than you think. It's probably one of the easier terminal degrees and doesn't involve math, a thesis or a research project, just a lot of reading and grunt work. And it's only three years!

I have seen some pretty stupid and lazy people get through it. You can always get into Jerry Falwell's Liberty U law school if you can't go anywhere else. They'd probably take you right now.

Once you get through the bar exam, you're set for life. It's a high status occupation and knowing your personal rights as a citizen is a damn good thing, particularly if you are black and in the USA. It's a good springboard for public office. Don't rule it out! It's not all courtroom crap or boring business crap. There is a lot of potential to be of service to society, if you are armed with a legal education.

Good luck! (Don't be hard on yourself because you don't know what to do right now, either. Most of us didn't at your age and many still don't!)
posted by FauxScot at 7:52 AM on June 4, 2007

Don't make yourself crazy. Every junior in the whole world is in your boat. Those who Picked Their Career already...most of them will be very surprised as to where they end up in five years.

(BTW, 90% of any job is going to be scutwork. Resign yourself to this now).

Seconded. The key is figuring out grunt work that you're good at and how to apply it to a fulfilling outcome.
posted by desuetude at 8:49 AM on June 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Would you ever consider blue collar work? Smart people with the right skills can make a lot of money if they plan things right. Heating technicians can make $80,000-plus within five years, and they get paid for on-the-job training. There's a critical shortage, too. Plumbers make bank. Mechanics do to, and they have a much more computer-intensive job than most people realize.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2007

90% of jobs people end up getting aren't the careers they imagine so clearly defined when in college. Lots of people end up as middle managers at countless types of companies, but no one ever plans on that as their "career path".

Instead of careers, think of what elements you would find engaging. Are you a people-person? Do you work best alone? Do you like structure, or do you need to do something new all the time? Want to be outdoors? Wear a suit and feel powerful? etc.

Career paths are often fuzzy and uncertain. Don't be afraid to bounce in the wind a bit, but if something interests you, try it out. Trying to live out the perfect career path will only make you unhappy.
posted by lubujackson at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2007

Also, don't be a lawyer because you're unsure what to do with a Politics degree. I've never met one person who's "taken a leap" into law and was glad they did it.
posted by lubujackson at 9:07 AM on June 4, 2007

Spend your life putzing around MetaFilter. Works for me.
posted by bicyclefish at 10:53 AM on June 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

You are probably going to do a few different things in your career lifetime. This isn't a now-or-never proposition and doors you choose not to walk through will not be closed forever and padlocked.

Instead of careers, think of what elements you would find engaging. Are you a people-person? Do you work best alone? Do you like structure, or do you need to do something new all the time? Want to be outdoors? Wear a suit and feel powerful? etc.

The above is totally true. If you are into political science but haven't done anything with it [student government, local campaigns, non-profits] then you may want to ask yourself why. Also think about the location you want to do work-- do you like one city, do you want to travel for work, do you want to be able to live almost anyplace?

If nothing sounds interesting right now, and you feel like you have a good sense of what might exist in the world of jobs, then I second "So, just aim for whatever job will get you the most money" not everyone has a calling, and if you don't, you may as well earn money. This works best if you find something that pays well but doesn't require additional student loan debt.

Lastly, most schools that don't suck have recruiters come to campus. Meet with them. Most large companies look to hire recent grads from a lot of disciplines, and they then will usually rotate you through several departments to see what works. So it's like a series of internships. Only you get paid better and the company probably paid for your move to wherever.
posted by Mozzie at 3:07 PM on June 4, 2007

« Older How bad is it to dump someone because of how they...   |   Equation solving help for the intellectually... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.