June 14, 2007

There are some very nice things about my office job. There are the benefits, which range from a full time onsite chef to full body massages. There are the ridiculously chillaxed hours, and the universal acceptance of an excuse such as, “I stayed up too late playing WoW, I’ll be in around noon”.

My workplace is also, for its all foibles and bumblings, totally sincere. They are an honest lot, and while everyone wants to make a buck no one wants to do it by oil-of-snake methods. We are an engineering-driven company, not a marketing-driven one. No one sits around in meetings assessing the market and brainstorming product specs based on the highest return on the investment; instead, engineers tend to individually decide something is worth building and bang out a vat of code before any requirements are decided upon.

We used to have an employee who called this organic product development. It’s taken some getting used to, but despite the lack of planning and ever-elusive ship dates, it seems to work out very well.

My job is not to work marketing from the front end of the process—I have almost nothing to do with development or product management—but to put a shiny package on the completed piece of software. I write the words that are supposed to make the software sound enticing (someone else writes the words that describe how it actually works), for the most part. I work with a talented designer to create ads, retail boxes, and other collateral stuffs. I have a PR function too, which includes updating our blog with product development news, or sending out press releases.

While I might dip into the Well O’ Hyperbole on occasion (I can’t help it! I love the word powerful), the vast majority of my job is bullshit-free. From a marketing perspective, anyway. I mean I don’t have to LIE, unlike pretty much every other job I’ve ever had.

So: I don’t have to lie, my company is legitimately concerned first and foremost with making a good product, and I don’t work with anyone whose job involves thinking of ways to slowly butt-fuck our customers without the common courtesy of a reacharound. Compared to the place where I had to write about apps that didn’t exist and was micromanaged by a psychotic, pot-smoking husband and wife team who made their money from camgirl porn and infomercials, Workplace both kicks ass and takes names.

However, I keep experiencing what I can only describe as bourgeois career angst, a feeling that I should be doing something more meaningful. As problems go, I realize this one hardly registers past the “Privileged Whining” sector—when you have a good job that pays the bills, your focus should be on thanking the gods (SO SAY WE ALL) for your luck, rather than idly wondering why you aren’t more spiritually fulfilled by your work. I’ve been unemployed, and to say it sucks would be doing a great disservice to the sheer amount of suckage that comes from months of fruitless job searching, the inevitable lowering of standards (“Port-a-Potty sanitation engineer? Maybe they offer training?”), and the resounding echo coming from an empty bank account.

Still. I feel like I should have a Plan, an answer to the question of what I want to be when I grow up. What do I want to be doing in five years, ten years? I don’t know. I have some general ideas: I want to make connections, I want to help people in some way, I want to learn new skills. I do hope to write a book someday but I don’t have dreams of being a full time author in that sense (too isolating, for one).

Then there’s the enormous issue of family life and how to balance that with whatever I’m doing, and how that could change if I were to be doing anything different from what I’m doing now, and boy, I just don’t know.

What about you? Are you where you thought—or hoped—you’d be right now, with regards to your job (“job” = whatever you’re doing for work, which definitely includes staying home with children because if that isn’t work, then brother, I don’t know what the hell is)? Do you have long term plans for what you want to do with your career? Or are you like me, playing things by ear and hoping for the best?

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Christina
14 years ago

I love my job. It is sort of like yours in that there are tons of perks, I can make a boat load of money as long as I work hard, it is great place to work without all of the drama other places have and it is totally not something I ever thought I would be doing ever. I mean I wear carpis and jeans and t-shirts and whatever to work and I can take my shoes off and walk around with them on without a look.

It is definitely not a job one can train for (I am a physician recruiter – headhunter -consultant). It is a challenging job that has made me a better, stronger and much happier person. I do not question whether it is my dream job because it is in so many ways in an odd sort of way. I feel like if I left this job I would never be happy with anything else. BUT I daily have a war with myself. The downsides to my job include that I have no flexibility – it is full time 40 hours (but that is it – our office is SHUT DOWN at 5:00p.) I cannot choose to work part time to flex the time with my husband (who also works here doing the same thing.) I cannot work from home and I cannot change my hours so my son gets dropped off at day at 7:45a everyday and is there until 5:15p everyday.

I feel tremendous guilt for this. I always said if I was going to be mom I would stay home with my kids. I want to so badly I can taste it but on the other hand I love my job and make lots of money in a great place. If I were to leave there would be no going back. This is a small family run place and they just cannot handle this kind of thing. It is so small I first person to have gotten pregnant, went on maternity leave, came back and survived to talk about it. Most of my colleagues are older and have grandchildren or kids in college (or are men with wives who work from home or are teachers with flexible summer hours…) SO I worry and hope that what I am choosing to do is best for my son because it feels good most of the time besides that little war going on in my head.

Oh as for long term if you asked me before I had kids I would have said I will be with this organization until I retire or die. I love it that much! But now with my son and hopes of having another one some time in the nebulous future, I would say the same thing but with a big old fat BUT after that like well if I could find a way to stay home I would and leave this place I love…

Ah rambling, going now.

jonniker
14 years ago

JennB- I think it’s The Smiths, Paint a Vulgar Picture? Do I win? No no, I do not win, because I have no idea about the album.

Dawn
Dawn
14 years ago

I never thought I would be where I am, job wise or life wise. I am currently a project coordinator for a company that provides stock market data real time to people in different areas of the financial trading world. I love my job because I am always busy, it is very flexable meaning my hours are my choosing and when I need to I can work from home (only when I need to though) and my boss couldn’t be better. The things I hate about my job; it’s a big company with offices all over the world and that sometime complicates getting things done on tight deadlines, the pay could be much better. The worst thing though is my office is 63 miles from my home 1 way and if you know anything about the S.F. Bay Area you know that means a good hour and a half to two hour (sometimes more) drive each way. This is what works for our family right now and it means the girl get’s to spend every day with her grandma and they adore each other so it works. Someday I will figure out what i want to be when I grow up and then I will pursue that.
Who said you could read for a living? This would be the job for me, I could happily read all day every day no problem!

Kait
14 years ago

Your job sounds nice, even if it is a bit boring.

I’ve been working as an administrator for the past year. Boring, to be sure, but it pays the bills… and that’s all I was looking for from a job. Soon, I’ll be transitioning into a new position – Mom. This is the career that I have been dreaming about and wishing for, ever since I was a little girl. I hope that I enjoy it as much as I think I will! :)

Pickles & Dimes
14 years ago

I hear ya. I finally found a great company to work for doing what I love, but I still have this feeling that I could be doing something even more fulfilling that would be useful to people.

Plus, with my job being super busy right now, I’m experiencing the whole “Should I or should I not have children?” conundrum, because right now there literally is not enough time in the day for kids to be part of this chaos.

I wish I could telecommute, because that would be AWESOME.

Josh
Josh
14 years ago

Well when I was younger, before life snuck up from behind and beat the shit out of me, I had a dream of pursuing a career in graphic arts. In fact I wanted to do what you do right now. I still hope to one day make it into college and somehow fulfill that dream. But the harsh reality is, if you don’t go to college directly after high school, it get increasingly hard to do so with every year that passes. I have a hard working, honest job working blue collar repair work for a decent wage. It’s not great, but it is just sbout the best I can snag for now. I don’t know that I will ever be able to pull together a portfolio for college while working full time (plus), attempting to stumble blindly through the pitch black mine field of dating, and still have time to maintain enough of a social life that I don’t go insane. (-er than I already am) I should be graduated from college and started on my career by now. But instead I am poor and uneducated. So no, I don’t feel satisfied with where I’m at. But at the same time, I enjoy working with my hands, and I derive a certain satisfaction from doing a difficult job as well as I can. I try very hard to be content with my status, and resist the resentful urges I feel towards my successful, married, or wealthy friends. I am ok with my life. I don’t hate it. But I still dream of achieving more some day.

Jennifer Perryman
Jennifer Perryman
14 years ago

I’m a Navy wife with an MFA in Graphic Design. The degree came before my husband and I was working in my field when we met. With each move the Navy has forced upon us, I have pulled up career roots and settled for the quickest, closest thing I could find to a decent job in my field. This time, I took a pretty big hit, living in an area with a Seattle cost of living but a 2.5 hour commute one-way if I wanted to work in Seattle. I make a pittance with no benefits (benefits were lost when I returned to work part-time after having a my baby) and barely do what I want to do. I am stuck with a student loan in the very nice BMW range and the prospect of pulling up and moving in another year or so, to try and start my career again.

The sad thing is, I’m not even sure I want to be a graphic designer anymore, though it beats the hell out of what I’m doing now, which is only slightly related. I want to stay home with the baby, maybe have another, and paint, quilt, craft, and otherwise make a living as an artist out of my home. But I stay here because I need to work, I need the money, I need the social interaction, and it’s the only thing going in my area right now.

Jen - Lance's Wife
Jen - Lance's Wife
14 years ago

Ahh… I have so been where you currently are. I have a Theater Degree – with a specialty in lighting design. I did that part time for over 15 years. It was great when my kids were little. I then decided I had enough with Drama Queens and Crazy Directors and got a part time office job with a city.

I love the job – but realized that there are Drama Queens and Crazy Directors in every field – they’re just called by a different name.

When I first got my theatre degree I wanted to go for my MFA and work with jr high and high school kids – I love that age. I have always waited to have show come along or work with an existing theatre. I recently realized that I don’t need to wait anymore -I can make this happen on my own. So! I’m hoping that by next summer my Children’s Community Theatre will be open in my area. It’s exciting and scary to actually say that I’m going to do it – but I’m not looking back. I’m ready to be what I always wanted to be when I grew up.

Taylor
Taylor
14 years ago

I am not even close to doing what I wanted to do or even still want to do. I am a marketing coordinator for a civil engineering firm. But I love the people I work with. I have made some of the greatest friends here, people that I will still be talking to when I’m fifty. An we are spoiled rotten benefits wise compared to the local market. So on the days that I don’t love my job, like right now when we are in the midst of a huge move, I think of the friends here and the fact that I am really good at what I do and if I ever do have to leave they have trained me well.

But I want to go back to school and get my degree. I was in a car accident and had to leave school and ended up here instead. So now its just a waiting game. Taking classes when I can so I can end up in an awesome museum in a great town talking about history and art all day. I am pretty sure it won’t pay as well but hopefully by the time I make it there we will have enough socked away so it won’t matter.

Thursday
14 years ago

I don’t even have a real job to speak of, it’s all gone rather horribly wrong.

squandra
squandra
14 years ago

Get out of my head, too! This very day, I find myself moving from very officially playing it by ear to “Where the hell is my resume?” I’m a TV news producer, and our station was just put up for sale. If someone buys us, it could change … Well, anything and everything, to put it briefly.

That said, I can see both sides of your dilemma. I work at a job I love, but the hours, the pay, etc aren’t great. I knew that going in, and so far — Yes, doing something I care about, and something I consider worthwhile, has been worth it. Sometimes I think I’d go crazy if I didn’t care about my job.

But that’s partly because it doesn’t offer a lot beyond the job itself. There’s really something to be said for the quality of life your job offers you; try not to lose sight of that element at Workplace, either. A little career-ennui goes a long way when it lends you the opportunity to spend the rest of your time living the life you want to live, with your family.

Gah. I’m a big help, huh?

miss val
miss val
14 years ago

I spent several years working for non-profits. It was fulfilling, sure, but the constant worries about funding made coming back to the private sector the best choice for me. I have never looked back. When I am feeling like I am not making a social contributions, I find a spot to volunteer. There are plenty of places in Seattle that need folks for short term projects if you cannot dedicate a lot of time. I get e-mails from Cascade People’s Center after helping paint interior walls there several years ago. You can also go online to the United Way site where they have a large database that you can sort by interest, time available and skill level.

I don’t have kids, but being a good parent goes a long way when you think about the greater good of society… Nice, cool kids are way better than smart assy violent ones.

Liz
Liz
14 years ago

I went to a lib arts school and dicked around in grad school for a few years before deciding that I really wanted to be a doctor and Help People. So I did. I’m about to start my last year of residency. In a lot of ways, I adore what I do. Often, I get to Help People in very concrete ways, and the fact that most of my patients are poor and elderly makes it more so. I love many of my patients and I am honored by their trust in me, and even my crappy resident salary pays me enough to live on. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that I don’t frequently get frustrated by long hours, seemingly impenetrable bureaucracies, unending paperwork, patients who ignore my advice or who show up an hour late every. single. goddamn. time, or patients for whom I can’t do much, but who expect me to work miracles. Today, for example, is the only day I’ll have off this week, and I spent 4 hours of it trying to figure out what to do for a patient who appears to have a parasitic cyst in her liver. I did this on my day off because tomorrow I’ll be on call for 30 hours straight in the ICU and I won’t be able to deal with it then. The point I’m trying to make here is not to garner pity, since I chose my life and I actually enjoy it most of the time, but that no matter how “meaningful” your career, there are going to be aspects of it that suck.

That said, I have come to the conclusion that it is overly optimistic to expect any given part of your life to satisfy all your needs. I am growing more and more convinced that it’s important to sort of cobble together a life composed of different activities in different spheres that, individually, might lack things you want out of your life but that, taken together, cover all the bases. For me, in the future, I hope to create that coverage by having kids and hopefully a happy family life, and by doing some volunteer work in an area that will be TOTALLY UNRELATED to medicine. I, too, someday hope to write a book. We’ll see how it all comes together. I figure I still have 40 years or so to get it all done.

Laurie
Laurie
14 years ago

Much rumination has occurred here on that one. My conclusion is that we don’t have to be all things at the same time. Bills must be paid and children must be cared for, and there is plenty of stress in that. There is a lot to be said for a place to work that doesn’t leave you drained to the point that you can’t participate in your family or cultivate your personal health. Some workplaces just suck the life out of you, and I count myself blessed to be in one that has great people and good ethics. Passion for my work? Maybe not so much, but I have passion for my family (and you do too). I find that after that, there is about two minutes per week to spend on myself, and it is time well spent. For you, don’t ditch the job, but spend your two minutes on yourself instead of being overextended with job stress and not-spending-enough-time-on-your-personal-health. You sound like you are getting to a good place in the personal health department (wish I could say the same!!) with great abs, personal reflection, happy family, figuring out the mom thing, cool home improvements. This takes maintenance once you are there, it’s not just checking it off the list. It’s a good place to be, and people that can stay there are inherently role models for others.

Wow, that was long, sorry! Now could you share with the great abs??? I love reading your thoughts, Linda. Take care. Laurie

ShannonJ
ShannonJ
14 years ago

I backed into my career. Took a temp admin job at a phone equipment company, moved to a permanent admin job at a telecommunications company, then into the corporate world of one of my telecom clients as a network analyst. I still work for the same company, but now I’m in a supply-chain management type of field. Is this what I dreamed of as a little girl playing make-believe with my Barbies? No. Do I think my company is doing something good for the world? Overall, no.

This is a testament to what can happen when you sink yourself into credit card debt in your early 20’s. I moved into the corporate world for the money and the annual bonus to pay off my debts. I did pay them off, which was good, but I am now like a snake, dancing to the charm of the money flute. House, husband and two kids later, it’s too hard to give it up. I don’t hate my job, but nah, I’m not living my dream. Advice to anyone who reads this who is just starting out: use the early part of your career to find out what it is you really like to do and make it work. I wish I had.

alina
alina
14 years ago

I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. My only regret is that I didn’t get to doing it sooner. That said, I have the luxury of being child and husband free…so…there you go.

Rayne
14 years ago

I have an interview next week for my dream job – fingers crossed. It is for a part time school counselor position where my kids go to school. It will allow me ample time with the youngest one still at home, vacations and summers while still allowing me to contribute something to the world. I said it is my dream job but it is a far cry from what I imagined myself doing 10 years ago. I wanted a big time career with lots of money, responsibility and prestige. Things change.

Erica
14 years ago

I never expected to be a “stay at home” mom. Honestly, before we were married and, in fact for the first 3-4 years of our marriage, never considered being a mom at all. Now, as we are about to celebrate our tenth anniversary we have two adopted daughters (ages 8 and 15), are considering a new foster placement, are trying for our first biological child, and I’ve been at home for three years. I am looking at working part time this fall when the girls are back in school, depending on how soon the pregnancy pans out. As for doing something “fulfiling”, that really isn’t a priority. I am pretty fulfilled by my church work and foster care work, so really all I am looking for in a job is flexible hours, adult conversation and a paycheck.

Melanie
14 years ago

I have a job that is, for someone who didn’t finish college yet and has no real marketable skills except really fast typing, good and stable and well-paying. I have a lot of “freedom” because I work nights and therefore work unsupervised, more or less – meaning I can take two hour lunch one day and bust my butt to make up for it the next day, I can read blogs for a few hours if I feel like it, and I take my breaks whenever I want without worrying about anyone else’s schedule (and having worked at a casino where everything was by the clock, I definitely appreciate that). But that’s not to say that it’s great in the Grand Scheme of Things. I don’t make much money in real life terms, and there’s definitely not a feeling of satisfaction or of “this is what I want to do with my life”, and there’s no room for moving upward at all, even when (if) I finish my degree. Okay, that’s long, but basically my job is good for now and my company is really nice so I could see staying here, but ultimately this job is hopefully a lower rung on my career ladder. Or else I’m pretty screwed.

Bianca
14 years ago

You know, so funny you should ask…

A couple weeks ago my good friend in our IT department got fired. Workplace hired someone who shared an uncommon name with someone I had gone out for coffee with last year. The coffee date (spawned by meeting over the internet) turned out to be awkward. The next day after a few email exchanges (namely where I state I’m not interested) coffee date man flipped out and wrote me all sorts of horrible things.

I thougth about how this new IT person shared the same name “that’s funny! Wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants if this were the same guy?”

It was the same guy, and FYI it wasn’t funny or a kick in the pants, it was highly uncomfortable, disconcerting and just WEIRD. I asked my superiors to please move me and they were unwilling to help ameliorate my situation.

Now, I’d been unhappy for awhile at this place and I realized this was not a job worth fighting for, so given that the place that I put in my hard work and effort in for 40 hours a week wouldn’t advocate for me -well, it was the last straw. I resigned two days after the guy started. He wasn’t the reason, but he was the catalyst.

Now I’m wondering what the hell I will do with my life. What do I want to be? What am I good at and how can I turn those strengths into something that will make me a living?

I don’t know and I’m so envious of people who do. I’ve been hearing though that you don’t really know what you want to do with your life until you’re in your forties. I’ve got about 11 years to go. Either way, one thing is clear to me. I need to figure out what I want to do and go back to school.

Jessica
Jessica
14 years ago

I got a degree in journalism and spent eight years as a newspaper editor. I started to hate it (bad hours, huge egos), so in January I quit to become a high school teacher. So far, I LOVES IT.

Jem
Jem
14 years ago

I have no idea what to do, thats why I’m still studying. Ha. I want to be a singer, and maybe the best way to do that as an actual JOB is to sing in a covers band, which is one of the things I’m going for. Some sort of musician, I guess. I play gigs with violin, I do mystery shopping, I love the random things that don’t FEEL like showing up at a job each day.

Jem
Jem
14 years ago

Oh, and I don’t mean I want to sing in a covers band my whole life, but its a good start.

Jem
Jem
14 years ago

Gah, one last thing, I study violin (I have a Bachelors degree, I’m doing post grad at the moment) so its awesome.

April
April
14 years ago

Oh yeah, I totally hear ya. Problem is, I’m not very good at anything except my job. Fiance tells me that that isn’t true, but I guess it’s better to say that I’m not good at anything that people would PAY ME for other than my job. And I’m not even all that great at that.

Liz
Liz
14 years ago

Talk about timely! I am in the process of relocating to another state so career moves are at the top of my list of things to think about.

I am a registered nurse, working in an outpatient mental health clinic which is rewarding and has good benefits but the salary is lousy by most standards, especially nursing. Still, it has afforded me the luxury of being able to work full-time and be completely accessible to my teenager, my baby, and my husband when he was recovering from heart surgery last year.

Did I ever think I would wind up at a job like this? No. I have a desk. In an office. I can do most of my work sitting down. I always considered myself to be the kind of nurse that would come zooming past you with a bag of IV fluid and a phone on her ear…

But now I have the chance to reinvent my career and I’m thinking about giving the hospital another try. No more babies, no surgeries, just time to focus on my career.

H
H
14 years ago

Sadly, I am where I expected I would be because I always end up doing what people expect of me and what is practical — and I’m not a risk taker. I have to support my family because my husband’s salary alone would put us below the poverty line. Well below the poverty line. He loves his job, however. He’s in sales and has made sacrifices (lower income) to avoid having to be on the road all the time, which has been great for the kids. At heart, I’m a creative person and I want to change the world, but that won’t pay the bills and I guess I never believed it would. I hope that as soon as we’re done putting the kids through college, I will be able to leave Corporate Hell and do something I love.

As I’ve read all the comments (and I’ve read every single one), it makes me worry about my son, who will start college in August. I just don’t think it’s so easy to know what you want to do when you’re 18 or 19 and colleges want you to choose your major so quickly. Plus, as a parent, I can’t afford to help with his tuition for years while he figures it out. But what do I tell him? Do what you love? Find something practical? Hurry up because I’ve only got so much money saved for your education? What IS the right answer?

I guess for now, I’m going with the theory that you do what you have to do to get by and if you’re lucky, you’ll also be good at it and enjoy it to some degree. And some day, if all the puzzle pieces come together, you may be able to find a job, a volunteer opportunity or a hobby that’s rewarding. Also, as others have mentioned, your job/career is only one aspect of your life.

H
H
14 years ago

Also, we’ve chosen to raise our kids in a smallish city, which limits our job opportunities. And, although my job “fits” me and I do it well, I wouldn’t say I’m fulfilled. I’m not sure how my kids view this or what kind of role model I am for them, if I am one.

Jen
Jen
14 years ago

Im at a place right now careerwise where I am tied down for at least 2 years in a field I hate. I hope when im done “serving my time” I can find something that, if not fulfilling, is at least something that I can leave at the door and go home without carrying the job with me. Also, can I say that I have a little comments crush on Josh?

Roz
Roz
14 years ago

I’m lucky. I’m 51, and have manage to have at least 15 different jobs over the years, always doing stuff I enjoyed and making enough money to make it worthwhile. I have a couple of degrees, but none that I’ve used in more than a general sense. BUT, my proudest accomplishment is the job I did for 13 years. I stayed at home and homeschooled both my kids…allowing them the opportunity to have the time to study whatever they wanted (along with reading, writing, and the rest)to whatever depth they desired. One of my kids is a Truman Scholar and was a Rhodes finalist. He lives in DC and is working in HHR policy before going to law school, makes good money and is happy doing it. The other one teaches ballroom dancing, is great at it, loves it and lives hand to mouth, has no idea what he wants to do with his life beyond what he is doing now, and is totally undisturbed by this and happy. He feeds, clothes and has a roof over his own head and that of his girlfriend, so I consider him equally as successful.
Here is a funny for you…DC son shares a house with 5 others, 4 guys and 2 girls, all of he same general level of achievement as himself. The first time I visited, over a period of time, I asked each one what they planned to do after this fellowship ended. I got answers ranging from law school, to foreign service, to policy work….until I got to one girl…the one I fully expected to say she planned to start her rise to running for president as soon as she turned 40…but no, the answer I got was “I’m looking for a Senator to marry, so I can paint all day”. And she wasn’t half joking!!

thejunebug
14 years ago

I’m working in a library, which is great fun. It’s an academic institution, which is even better- great pay, excellent benefits, and job security so secure that the fucking rock of Gibraltar has nothing on my job.

But…

There’s so much crime here. Maybe I’m just not used to it, being from a small town, but we saw a team of medical examiners/homicide unit poking at a garbage bag stuffed in the trunk of a car that’d been sitting by the side of the highway for three days, in the middle of the city, and do you think there was a word about it on the news? Nope. Some guy was at a soccer field with his kids in our neighborhood, walked out to his van to pack up, and was mugged in broad daylight. The people interviewed were like, “Well, it’s gotta happen somewhere. Why not here.” Do I really want to keep living here?

We’re here for a few years at least till my husband finishes his degrees, then I think we’ll start looking at other parts of the country (including yours! I’ve family in Eugene). Giving up that rock-solid security will be very, very hard but hopefully the country will be in a better economic state.

Once we’re settled, I’m going back to school. I’d like to still work in libraries, but I’d prefer to work in an elementary school library. I plan on getting my teachers’ certificate as well as my masters in library science. I don’t plan on doing this for a few years- we’ll have kids first, and then I want them to be old enough to go to school before I go back myself, but it will be fulfilling.

I guess I just want to be in a place where people will remember me.

Amy
Amy
14 years ago

Right now I’m in commercial lending, and I hate its guts. I drive by a hospital each morning and find myself insanely jealous of the nurses headed in with their cute scrubs on, coffees in hand, and ability to make a difference daily. So yeah, I’m thinking nursing school… maybe starting spring of 09, hopefully after baby #2 (what is taking so long!?!?!?!?)…..
A lot of my girlfriends are nurses and they swing it so that it actually looks doable, and it sounds so damn fulfilling!

Kristin
Kristin
14 years ago

I think it’s sort of “grass is always greener” thing, you know? I love-LOVE! editing, and I was the editor of various trade magazines after I got out of college. But I felt kind of stifled…like my skills were mainly editing and paginating magazines, and shouldn’t I be doing something more? Something…grander, leaving more of an impact, whatever. Then the opportunity came up to work in my family’s business. We analyze oil, like out of your car, truck, airplane, boat, etc. Now I own part of the business, and I can pretty much do what I want. It’s very flexible and casual, and I mostly enjoy the people I work with (though working with family certainly has its moments). I still sometimes feel like I should be doing something more, but really, I’m very blessed and fortunate to have what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else any time in the near future. I still freelance some, but kids have greatly cut into that time.

Danell
Danell
14 years ago

I love my job…I can’t even call it a “job.” I am a veterinarian. It is absolutely what I always wanted to do. I work for the most spectacular boss. She is generous, flexible, understanding, and has a sense of humor (most of the time.) She hired me as a new graduate AND PREGNANT (meaning I was probably viewed as fairly useless to most other practice owners). My commute to work is about fifteen minutes and rarely involves any traffic. My sons daycare location is one block away from my office.

So now that I’ve made it sound perfect:

Because I was never a great student and spent most of my time in undergrad at bars, getting into vet school was an arduous task. I spent many years working part time and trying to get my grade point average up to a point that any vet school wouldn’t chuck my application out the window. It is really hard to make a dent in a sucky GPA when you’ve got four years worth of credits making up that GPA. When I started going grey, I decided to try a different route; I went out of the country for vet school…to “one of those carribean vet schools.” This gets one of two reactions from people: 1)Ohhh, you must’ve loved living in paradise for school! Two weeks in the carribean is paradise, three years is not. It is a third world country. Electricity and clean water were sketchy. Studying by candlelight without showering for three days never felt particularly luxurious. 2) Ohh, you must not have gotten a very good education at a school like that. Actually, the faculty at our university was a conglomeration of retired US university professors and visiting professors. We learned the exact same material that these professors teach in the US. Plus, we complete our clinical rotations at US universities.

Despite completing clinical rotations in the US and passing the National Board Exam, caribbean vet school graduates are still required to pass another clinical exam before we can practice in any state other than NY or Ohio. Which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize this exam is four days long and costs over $6000. And it is only offered at a few locations around the country, none of which are close to NY. Since it cost me close to $200,000 to go to vet school (not including undergrad!), I don’t have a lot of spare change laying around for the extra exam. Soooo, I live in NY where I can practice legally. Shockingly, my boss and clients seem to think that I am a perfectly capable veterinarian. In fact, they seem to really like me!

While my job is nearly perfect (for me), I have a few complaints. NY is more than ten hours away from “home” for us. We would desperately like to move back South. Not going to happen until I can pass that exam. I feel bad watching my baby grow up so fast so far from the rest of his family. And having such a massive student debt is painful; it eats up most of my paycheck every single month. So, despite the fact that most people think that veterinarians are rolling in money, it’s not true for the most part.

Well, I really didn’t mean to write that much…do you like really long, blathering comments or the short snippet ones??

Cat
Cat
14 years ago

I have a Ph.D. and three years of postdoctoral experience in a field in which I do not work. I now have a shitty job that pays badly because I am limited to this geographical area (which is expensive and not “into” science); I spend a lot of time being a “glorified secretary” to righteous MDs. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but it sure as hell isn’t this.

Good luck with the job search. I’d kill for your job — do you want to trade? (ha ha ha!)

Cari
14 years ago

I went to college and studied art; four years into it I decided it was totally impractical and I had no motivation or imagination so I quit. Then I went to school to become a massage therapist. I rocked at that and I got nice benefits at the spa where I worked (like free haircuts and dirt cheap products; the “real” benefits sucked ass) but I had to work like a dog to make a decent salary. I got pregnant and quit the spa and decided to go to school to become a court reporter.
The schooling is tedious and often boring, but there is a lot of potential in the field. I can work in court or do captions on television (from my living room! Who knew?) or help deaf people in schools or workplaces. I just hope I like it when I am done. It’s really hard to get the work done when I’m home with my 4-month-old, though. It’s also hard to get the work done when I read blogs all day, too, but I put most of the blame on the kid…

Amy
Amy
14 years ago

Although I always feel weird commenting on intensely personal entries like the ones you’ve been sharing lately, I do feel compelled to put a little preface in here that I’ve especially enjoyed your blog this week. I understand being turned off by the isolation of a full-time author, but lady, you have a way with words.

I’m totally winging it, at this point. Before Jacob was born I had a very secure, pretty lucrative, enjoyable career with a clear advancement path. (I managed a computer security research project for a DoD contractor.) I loved my job, and agonized over how I would balance work and family life once our child came along. I had all of these horseshit super-mom dreams involving making VP by 45, lovingly baking for my children after they went to bed, etc. etc. etc. And then when Jacob was born, everything changed. I just couldn’t handle the thought of anyone taking care of my child(ren) except me. I had to work part-time for a couple of months while we set up our move to this new life. Jacob was with his *grandmother*, in our *home*, and I was still a basket case. So we moved, I quit my job (although now I do some small contracts for them), and my primary career for the next n years is “mother”.

I get more fulfillment out of it than I expected, and overall I would say I love it. But I’m also very aware that to be good at this, truly good at it, I need something more. I need other interests, things to sink my intellectual teeth into, so that I don’t simply fall into living through my kids. And once they’re all in school (can you tell I want another? :), I’m going to need to do something else. I have NO idea what that will be, other than “not a computer security research manager”. Hopefully our financial situation will continue to make a salary a secondary concern–I’m toying with quirky portrait photographer, yarn shop owner, going back for a law degree, studying foreign languages…

…yeah. To say that I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up is an understatement, I guess. :) Thanks for asking us all! I’ve loved reading your experience and all of the responses.

Cavu
14 years ago

Even though you realize you have a cool job, it’s okay to want something that fulfills more of what you longing for out of your life and efforts. Wanting more does not mean you don’t appreciate your current situation. There is value to the kind of discomfort you’re feeling–it fuels progression into something that might be more right. Wanting to contribute make a difference through your work is a value I think more people should honor.

I agree with what people have said about non-profits being often romanticized, but there are lots and lots of businesses that help the world that aren’t nonprofits–I do a job similar to what it sounds like you do, and I work in the medical industry. I feel like I help more people writing for medicine and surgical products than I did working for a literacy education nonprofit for half the pay, and it is an industry I fell into and ended up loving.

Jenny
Jenny
14 years ago

Before I had my daughter I worked at a somewhat cushy office job for a local branch to a huge mortgage company. The money was good, the perks were nice, the freedom to do pretty much what I wanted when I wanted was sweet . . . but at the end of the day I felt like something was lacking. I didn’t feel rewarded. I didn’t feel like I really did anything that meant anything. Ever. I figured after my daughter was born I would take off some time and eventually go back, but after taking care of a kid and at the end of the day feeling like I was being rewarded, I was doing SOMETHING, I knew I couldn’t go back. Stay at home mommy isn’t the path for me, so I’m back in school for the first time in almost 10 years. I’m learning again, with the actual desire to learn and it’s satisfying feeling like I am bettering myself. I don’t think I’m cut out for mundane office job, I feel like there’s more out there . . . for me. Some folks feel perfectly satisfied with what they do every day and find it rewarding to have their offie jobs.

el-e-e
14 years ago

Wow, I’m not alone? Pretty amazing.

I’m in a job I can stand, but never would have imagined for myself. I’d rather work part-time for the same company or just write full-time (I’d probably get most of my writing gigs from… the same company). But I just *cannot* decide. Or make the leap of faith.

We’re trying for a 2nd curtain-climber, so I’m just praying that works out, and then I do plan pick one.

As for career aspirations? They pretty much went out the window when my son was born. Why would I want to be a “success” corporately when I can aim to be a success at parenthood? If I make enough to help us pay the mortgage (and the Internet bill), AND have time with my hubby & kid(s), that is going to be enough success for me.

Ideally I want to be a secretary at my son’s school (read: summers off), and write/edit on the side. I think that’ll work just fine. :)

kj
kj
14 years ago

So strange how you totally mellon-balled that little synopsis right out of my own personal “what do I want to be when I grow up” struggle.
I think I’ve never honestly known what to expect of myself. I knew quite clearly what others expected of me and have successfully managed to live up to at least that. When it comes to what I want for me though, I get that empty-glass tinkling sound that reminds me to sit down and actually start thinking about it. You know, any day now.
I’ve always lusted for another degree – me with my lousy little BA in liberal arts and being the LEAST educated little nugget in my entire living family tree – but I have a mortage now, and a fiancee (with his ever-advancing and hoity-toity PhD on the way) and a cat and gee whillikers why don’t I just settle into my matronly little HR position and just start, like, developing the REST of my personality for once?
But still there’s that urge that begs me for more academia. And there’s that little nagging 1960’s feminist in my head that screams “you can do better than this, sister!”
and so I scrunch my eyes closed and grab onto some gratitude for my current spoiled place in life and shake my head around until I stop thinking about it. doesn’t take much – I’m easily distracted these days. Oh look! Monkeys!

anyway, I think (according to the 88 comments above me) this is a significant little neurosis that we’re all facing at the same time and just plumb not knowing HOW to feel about it.
Kudos for giving us the venue to vent about it!

el-e-e
14 years ago

I also really agreed with the commenter who said, “Forget wildly happy and personally fulfilled. Work is work sometimes.”

It’s a job. It’s not everything, and I get intellectual/community fulfillment in other areas/activities.

Barbara
14 years ago

I’ve been working in nonprofits for 10 years and I completely love it. It’s not for everyone. I’m well paid for what I do in a nonprofit – but you would probably make at least twice what I do in a for-profit. Aside from that – while we need people to work in nonprofits, we also need people who don’t who can be philanthropists, who can donate time, money and expertise to what we do. If you’re looking for a way to “give back” find a nonprofit whose mission you care about and call them up. Ask them to let you do whatever it is you want to do. Give them money. Believe me, we appreciate that! Find something that thrills you and work on their behalf. You can make a difference in the world without giving up everything that you love about your life. You can also email me if you want specific suggestions and/or “how do I do that” sort of conversation. I’ll happily direct you to a lovely nonprofit wherever you live. :)

ang
ang
14 years ago

Two words for you: insurance agent. If someone had told me at age 33 I’d be an insurance agent, I would’ve first exhaled my big hit from the bong(told you-eventually we can joke about our addictions) and then laughed maniacally. But, the money pays the mortgage, lets me save for the kid’s college, and gets the family to Mexico once in a while. Oh wait, that last one is my husband’s money. So I’m down for just mortgage and college.

McWriter
14 years ago

I have known I wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl.

So, I went to undergrad and double-majored in Communications and Philosophy, because, well, no one majored in writing at Boston College. So, I got my M.A. in Writing right away and upon graduation, I found myself amid many sub-par jobs working with OTHER PEOPLE’s writing. So, I went to Craigslist and started writing freelance on my OWN stuff … emphasis on the “free.”

After doing that for a couple of years, I wound up with my dream job: writing ad copy for a national retailer – FASHION copy at that. Today, as I sit at my “dream job,” age 27, looking at the tattered back-to-school paper I wrote when I was 7 that reads, “I want to learn more about writing. I want to be a writer when I grow up,” I can’t help but laugh.

I do enjoy what I do, for whom I do it, and with whom I work, but when friends and family ask how the (relatively) new job is going, I say, “It’s pretty good, but it’s not like I’m saving the world.”

‘ve got to give myself a break – I’ve worked hard to live my dream and maybe just saving my own little world is enough for now.

Shannon
Shannon
14 years ago

From 1997 – 2005, I had a well-paying job that I was very good at, with great benefits and one of the most generous vacation packages in the Puget Sound region. And I hated my work, oh lordy, how I hated my work. It was depressing and soul-sucking at times and made me even more cynical about humanity than I was before I started it. I used that job to save up money and buy a house, which I did. And then I asked myself, “Now what?”

I figured there are three things about a job that are important: the pay, the work atmosphere/coworkers, and the work itself. If one of those is bad, I can deal with it. But if two of those are bad, it’s time to move on. Once the office atmosphere started going downhill, it took me a year before I made the Very Scary and Unpractical Decision to give my two week notice WITHOUT HAVING ANOTHER JOB LINED UP. So I did. I cashed out my retirement and took a 7-month “sabbatical” (ie. no one hired me during that time). It was the best 7 months of my life, despite my nail biting! I got engaged, planned a wedding, got married, adopted a kitten, and learned to cook. I relaxed and refocused. Eventually, I was hired at the U. W., which is where I wanted to be, doing fun work, with lots of potential to move around to different fields and heck, even get my Masters degree for free if I want!

Jessica
Jessica
14 years ago

I was having a lot of this “what am I doing with my life” angst around the time that both my sisters-in-law were expecting (2.5 yrs ago). Thankfully, I came to the realization that I didn’t need to have a baby in order to leave my job and find something else. But at the time, with the baby-crazed brain, that seemed like a really good option. Like others, I volunteer a lot, I’m also taking courses part time, and thank god for the Canadian social net – I’m currently on leave due to mental illness, I know if it wasn’t for that ability to take a break and reassess I’d be a lot more miserable now.

Sadie
Sadie
14 years ago

Your timing with this topic is uncanny…just the other night my boyfriend and I were discussing my career path, and how I should probably put some thought into it. He is a planner, an orchestrator – every move he makes is a chess move that gets him further ahead. I admire that and sometimes aspire to it, but other times I hate the thought and effort it requires.

I went to college and had a general field in mind, but no real concrete career goal. I took a job in media because I wanted to stop waitressing, and worked my way up from an assistant to an account executive (read: I am now a salesperson). I am very well-paid relative to the amount of work I do, but the pressure is ceaseless and annoying: every quarter is another budget to hit, an initiative to sell – and you’re only as good as you’re performing right NOW. That said, there is a lot of potential for me, and my salary has allowed me to buy my own house at 26 and live a much more comfortable life than I had imagined for myself. DO I love my work? No. Am I helping people? Not really. Am I okay with that? For now.

Tara
Tara
14 years ago

Boy, looks like you hit a nerve with this one. I have a relatively comfy, decently paid corporate job, but I also struggle with the meaninglessness of what I do. Okay, so I could find some meaning in it if I wanted to, but it’s sort of like that “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” thing–you can draw the connection between my job and doing something good for people, but by the time I’ve done all that rationalization, I could have made just about anything sound like it does good for somebody, and it all loses meaning.

Anyway. I’d like to pursue something totally different, like becoming a nurse or a physician’s assistant, and REALLY helping people in a very direct way. But that takes at least 2-3 years of school, which means time & money that I don’t really have right now, with a 2-year-old at home and a mortgage to help pay for. But once the mortgage is paid off and the kid’s college education is saved (or well on its way), I might take the leap. I’ll only be in my mid-40’s then–that’s not too late. And I want my son to see that it’s never too late to try to find your happiness.

Gah. Got a bit syrupy there, but I think you know what I mean.

Melissa H.
14 years ago

I just gotta pop in and say that reading these comments (and of course Sundry’s post) has made my day. I started out as a marine biologist (no, I didn’t play with the dolphins, and yes, I always got asked that a lot). Did the whole grad school thing and everything. I spent most of 2004 underwater (scuba diving), got to travel to cool places for free, etc. etc. It was FANTASTIC. But then I graduated and spent almost 6 months unemployed because science jobs are freaking hard to come by (amen to Cat’s comment a little further up the page). The job I did land made me more miserable than I’ve ever been in my life. I thought I was meant to be a scientist, but I just couldn’t make it work. It was unbelievably frustrating.

The hardest thing about this whole phase of life was letting go of my “dream” and even just considering a another career. To make a long story short, I fell into an IT job, and I’ve not once looked back. It’s such a good fit that I laugh at myself for not taking a chance on a new career sooner.

By the way, Sundry, your blog rocks my face off.