Let’s Talk About Careers

Because we all know it's not exactly A to B to C.

When I think about my long-term goals for APW, one of my dreams is to carve out more space to talk about Careers. If the collective wisdom of APW at times serves as a surrogate big sister, there is no area of my life where I more desperately needed a big sister in my twenties than in my professional life.

I remember standing in the NYU elevator the month of graduation, talking to someone with a liberal arts degree about their excellent, safe-sounding job that they were about to start in a few months. I was about to have my BFA, and had lined up a place to live in a dicey neighborhood in Brooklyn. That was it. No job, no resources to speak of. I can’t actually remember how I paid my bills that first month or two, though I do remember not having any real idea what a resume was supposed to look like, and realizing I’d never used Excel. I also remember what it was like to show up at 7:00am to sit on the floor of the hallway outside the temp office so I could be ready to take any job that came up last minute (and make a desperately needed $30 if nothing came up).

It seemed that most people in my life who were able to offer guidance had gotten a graduate degree, then a job, and with a few job changes here and there, kept on the same track till retirement. I, on the other hand, couldn’t even figure out what in the hell kind of graduate degree would be a good fit for me, or what track I should get on in the first place. It sucked. It sucked a lot. Now, at thirty-three, it’s easy to say that those ten years of working as a temp, a cupcake icer, a receptionist, a real estate agent, an intern, an operations manager, a temp again, a research associate, an office manager all make sense because I’ve created a job I like, but…is it ever that easy?

Increasingly, it’s not just art students, and people that don’t quite fit the mold who are lacking a clear and easy path to follow. It’s near impossible to nab a job that you’ll stick with for the next thirty years, and even people who took the safe route are ending up with graduate degrees in hand and no clear next steps.

So in Risk month, it seems fitting for an open thread discussing careers. Let’s be each other’s supportive big sisters and answer questions, share stories, and commiserate. Hell, maybe you’ll meet your professional soul mate in the comments, you never know.

Photo by Corey Torpie Photography

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  • Lan

    BA in Sociology, marketing internship which has led to a career in marketing where I’ve found my niche. Ended up having to get my MBA which I am now paying for dearly but it sure would have been nice to have had more guidance in college and some better understanding of possible pathways. I just got lucky that I stumbled into something that I (for the most part) enjoy and am pretty good at.

    • carrie

      Can you recommend good marketing resources for those of us who fell into it? I actually sell/manage exhibits and other revenue for a professional meeting, and have ended up taking on the meeting marketing. It’s something I’ve decent at, but I would love to get some resource recommendations from a marketing professional!

      • Lan

        UC Berkeley online has some courses you can take to pad your resume–you can also get certificates in marketing management, event planning and other things. For more practical courses, try looking at professional organizations such as http://cemaonline.com/, http://www.e2ma.org/ (or whatever else you can google).

        The best experiences I’ve had, though, are true on the job experience. Ask your manager for more opportunities to learn. Take some risks, don’t be scared to fail. If you’re bored at your current job and have nothing left to learn, go find something else. The education gives people the confidence to give you a chance but the real learning opportunities (at least for me) are real life.

        • carrie

          Thanks very much!

  • DanEllie

    Yay! This couldn’t have come at a better time. APW and Meg have read my mind again!

    I’m in my early thirties, and have spent 10 years working a job that’s generally interesting, pays the bills, has great benefits, but in which I have no room for growth. I’m stale and getting increasingly burned out. My spouse has just gotten a dream position and we’re moving. I’m so psyched about the move and the excitement in his voice when he talks about his job and I want that same passion.

    But I don’t know what I want to do, or how to translate 10 years of project managing in a niche HR consulting firm into a resume that’s interesting to a new employer. I don’t want to go to grad school just to go, but I also don’t want to say at a job that’s strangling me.


    • Copper

      What sort of job/career is it you are hoping to transition to?

    • KW

      I think the key is 10 years of project management. That is a transferable skill to nearly any career. See if the worksheet on this link is helpful to you in clarifying what you have done for your resume, then use your cover letter to tie your past accomplishments to how that will help you be successful for the job you are seeking (which means doing research on the company who is hiring, etc).

      • Ditto this. Can you look into getting certified in Project Management? It tends to look impressive on a resume.

      • KTH

        Agreed — I am currently lamenting the loss of the project manager on an app I’m working on. It’s not so much that he was an expert in the thing we are making, he was just very good at keeping everything organized and keeping everyone on track. That ability is paramount to group projects. And, basically, everything in the world is a group project.

        • Sarah

          I got degrees in creative writing and flute performance, so I had a really hard time finding a job in my field when I graduated in 2012. I did a 5-year dual bachelor’s program, so I already was 23 when I graduated. Right now I work in special education in a charter school. I make a small hourly wage with no benefits, and I’m just scraping by. I’m always on the lookout for new jobs. Everyone I speak to says that this is normal in your early twenties, but I’m scared because I really only have one more year left of my early twenties; then I’ll be 25, and my early twenties will be over and I’ll be expected to have a big-girl career. As I mentioned, I’m always looking, but while I can write well, I don’t really have any practical skills. I’m a fast learner, and I want to learn, but just to get any kind of writing internship, you have to have all kinds of fancy software skills–and the internships I have gotten have no possibility of future employment, anyway.

          Moral: Never major in anything you like. Unless you like geophysics, like my best friend.

          • Sarah

            Ugh I meant for that to be a new comment, not a reply. Ignore me.

  • BA in French with no desire to teach high school and no desire to take out even more loans for a Masters/PhD in French literature. I already have enough debt as it is.

    I have been working in the finance industry (retail banking and then at a mortgage company) before getting laid off at the beginning of the month. I know I have experience to get another bank job but I really did not enjoy that. Now I’m basically looking for ANYTHING that might be applicable to my work experience. It’s not easy in the town I live in, which is mostly a military/Defense-based job market. I would love to get in with one of the big Defense-based companies here, but I’m having a lot of trouble finding jobs that I am qualified for as a recent-ish graduate.

    I really just need a job though. Le sigh.

    • MK

      A girl I know is doing translation work (French to English and vice versa) in New York, so maybe that’s an option?

      • i have looked into doing translation work but the options are pretty limited in my city. My fiancé is an engineer with a great company and moving isn’t really a possibility at the moment.

        There is only one translation company here and they’re not hiring. Unless I could find something over the internet, and well… that’s kind of sketchy to me. I am just applying away and hoping someone calls me back. Unemployment only goes so far, ya know?

        It’s going to work out eventually. Just a stressful time.

        • I would reconsider the translation over the internet service. My employer uses remote translators and I understand from liaising with them that it’s increasingly common. International organizations probably use them a lot.

        • AnneTherese

          The freelance/remote route is actually pretty standard for translators (background: I’m working on my MA in translation right now and do some freelance work on the side). There are lots of reputable companies out there that specifically look for freelancers. I would recommend proz.com for researching translation agencies.

          • I’lll look into that. Thank you!

        • Have you thought about tutoring people in French– for the AP exams or just people who want to travel?

          My sister tutored kids for the SATs for a long time and was making a really nice hourly rate doing it.

          If you are interested in doing the masters and it’s just the debt that’s worrying you, there are programs that pay for you to go. My boyfriend was in a PhD program that paid for everything plus a decent stipend to live on.

          If you don’t want to swing the masters for other reasons, I feel you. I have played with the idea of going back for the degree and I always decide not to.

    • Whitney

      A nonprofit I worked for used phone-based translators (you can work from home), and they were always great! I’m sure there are many options, but this website has a list of employers https://languageline.taleo.net/careersection/unitedstates/jobsearch.ftl?lang=en&radiusType=K&radius=1&location=260452967

    • Rebekah

      Sacre bleu! A BA in French! I only have a minor…

      That said, although translation work would seem to be the easiest to make work in your situation, there might be a few others. Some community colleges might be interested in your knowledge if you thought teaching college would be better than high school. Perhaps if there is a university near you, you could do research within the department or help other faculty, or even work in their library. In San Francisco there is a French immersion school, but since I don’t know where you live I don’t know if there is anything like that available to you. Similarly, if you like kids, you could be a nanny and speak mainly French to them if that’s what the parents want. You might offer yourself as a tutor, because it’s less intense than teaching classes full of kids. Another thing you might do is go in search of publishing companies who might need foreign language oversight/copy editing (subsidiary rights departments purchase foreign titles and sell English ones overseas).

      Upon looking them over, these suggestions seem pretty similar. Perhaps you could find a Canadian company that has a branch near you?

      Bonne chance!

      • Very good suggestions!! Thank you! There are a few French and Canadian companies in my town (it’s very tech oriented with a lot of international presence in terms of large companies), but so far I haven’t gotten any bites from them. I’m going to keep on trucking… working for a French or Canadian company would certainly be ideal.

        Also, I will have to look into the departmental research thing. Maybe just in my spare time if nothing else… I really miss academia :)

        I live in a small-ish city in the deep south, so no international schools here. That would be awesome!

    • Kelly

      Have you considered medical translation? The hospitals I have worked for are ALWAYS hiring translators. You would probably need to do a course or brush up on medical French though.

      • Iz

        Important to know that there’s a difference between translators (written langauge) and interpreters (spoken language). The latter can be pretty difficult without any specialist training (I’m a translator).

        • As another translator I’d say that even written translation for non-specific texts is going to be pretty difficult without at least spending some time thinking about / studying translation.

          I know plenty of people who are pretty fluent in another language, but who do not have the sense of culture, consistency, tone and audience needed to get something that reads well as a text in the target language.

          • Iz

            Yes, smittenimmigrant, I agree. I was also a little scared of getting into translation until I did a master’s degree in translation studies. And knowing another language, however well, does not guarantee that you can translate it. A popular misconception…

    • Mira

      I understand completely. I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish & Portuguese. After I graduated, I was determined to become a translator but because of the lack of in-house jobs in the area I wanted to live and my fear of starting my own freelance business, I changed direction a little – I went on to do a postgraduate degree in Information & Library Studies with a view to becoming a subject librarian for languages or something similar. However, those sorts of posts are now very few and far between in my area and I haven’t been able to get any interviews due to ‘lack of experience’ (even though I have tonnes of library experience – it seems to me that employers just want someone who was done the EXACT same job before, but I digress…).

      Long story short, I’ve kind of given up on decent library work so I’m now starting up as a freelance translator (my fear somehow disappeared!). I’m also doing a distance-learning translation course to build my confidence and refresh my skills. This is a really insightful blog post on becoming a translator: http://sal.detailwoman.net/so-you-want-to-be-a-translator/

      If translation is not for you, you might want to look into occupations that use languages but are not completely language-centric like the subject librarian jobs I was talking about or even something like working for an embassy, foreign office or diplomatic service.

      Good luck, whatever you decide!

    • MDBethann

      If there area lot of defense contractors in your area, you might want to see if they need anyone with French language skills. Since many African & Asian countries (in addition to France & Canada) have French as a major language, you might find that the defense industry could use someone like you. Just a thought.

    • Michelle

      I worked in fashion e-commerce. We had US, China, Japan, Canada French/English, and UK sites and hired people to translate and write copy . I suggest try looking up retail websites that have a French site and see if they have openings. Not sure if you can work remotely but doesn’t hurt to research :)

    • Laura

      One question I have is: do you even want to do anything with your French background? What else is interesting to you in life? I’m a college career counselor, so I spend a lot of time with liberal arts students sorting out how they feel about their major and how they feel about their career interests.

    • cara

      Totally random, but there are lots of video game companies where I live that are ALWAYS looking for testers who speak another language fluently. They do require you to know some pretty random words, I guess, but it sounds like a pretty sweet gig. I know a recruiter for one of these companies, and she’s always like, desperate to find people who speak other languages!

  • Laura C

    PhD in sociology, thinking I was going to be an academic forever and ever. Doubt set in during a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in a small town where I knew no one, 100 miles from anyone I did know. My ambivalence let to me undermining myself on the academic job market — and who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten a tenure-track job even if my heart had been in it. I’d been blogging about politics as a hobby, though, and realized there might be work in it. Which there was! After three years of working for a labor and community organizing org doing some blogging but also writing reports and emails and the like, I was hired to blog full-time at the place I’d been writing as a hobby since my postdoc. I took a pay cut, but I still earn a very solid living and since I work from home, I could move to where my now-fiance is in school, I can visit my parents without using up vacation, etc. Plus, I loved my previous job but I love love love my current job.

    I worry a little that if we have kids, there will come a time when the rest of the world, if not me and A, will take the fact that I work from home as a sign that my job is less real than his; starting when he graduates from law school, he will be making twice as much than me, which is quite a change from our entire relationship to date. But at the same time, when I left academia, I worried a lot about my prospects. Now, I feel like, I have a job I love that’s stable, I’m fairly confident I could get another job working for a union or advocacy org if I was ever living in the same place for more than a year or two at a time, and if I really wanted, I could probably also find my way back into some kind of academic work, since I did manage to turn my dissertation into a book with a good press.

    • KATA

      Wow. As a PhD candidate who is supposed to be going on the market this year (but gets queezy at the thought of TT or a post-doc these days), it’s nice to read that. I had a hard time during my fieldwork this summer, realizing that I really don’t love academic research and lots of other things that come along with it. Including the ball of stress I turned into.

      As far as my CV goes, I’m competitive (so says my committee – but that only means so much these days, with all the great candidates), but my heart isn’t in it anymore. And it’s scary to walk away from it, since there IS a path there to follow.

      I don’t know what I’ll do. I return from the field soon, will spend the semester wrapping up my work, while really thinking about life outside the academy and how my skills & knowledge translate. But so nice to see how you’re made a transition elsewhere (and your discipline isn’t so far away from mine!)

      • Laura C

        A postdoc or similar can be a good transition period to figure it out — that wasn’t what mine was intended to be, but what it turned into. That’s also if you can find one that’s a good deal, not basically doing someone else’s work. Mine was a half-time teaching load, which was a good balance of research and teaching for someone coming out of a program where we did very little teaching.

        I know what you mean about a ball of stress. Every now and then these days, when I’m going through a stressful time, I develop various physical aches and pains from sleeping funny due to tension. And when I have them, I realize that I used to have those aches and pains all the time, because I was always stressed relative to what I am now.

      • Jenni

        If you are exploring a transition away from academia, I recommend Put Your Science to Work by Peter Fiske. It’s aimed at science PhDs, but it details the pros and cons of academia vs. industry, and describes how to reconsider the skills you gained in grad school in light of what companies are looking for. He gives advice for how to search out alternative career paths you might be interested in, and find and apply for positions. It’s kind of hard to find but it looks like there is a Kindle version on Amazon.

      • Jenn

        I’d also recommend ” ‘So What Are You Going to Do with That?’: Finding Careers Outside Academia” by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius. It helped me find and obtain a job I really love in academic administration and counseling after being unsuccessful on the English PhD job market.

        • PurpleShoes

          Thank you for sharing the book title!

        • Oh God, as a current ambivalent English PhD candidate, I find this comment endlessly reassuring to hear.

      • Andrea

        Proud PhD dropout here! Not sure if this has already been mentioned, but if you are thinking of the alt-track, you really should check out The Professor Is In (put that right into Facebook and it will take you to her page, with links to her blog and other info about her consulting services). You can walk away – she did, and she was chair of her department! :) Best of luck to you!

    • Tracy

      I understand your concern about the work-at-home aspect. I’m a professional engineer working a full-time salaried job almost entirely from home, for 5+ years now (with brief in-office/fieldwork stints here and there). But I think there are enough of us telecommuters these days that it doesn’t have the same stigma as before – few will say that your job isn’t a “real” job because you work at home. All evidence to the contrary if you are contributing professionally to your company and financially to your household. I’ve struggled with similar thoughts, but come to the conclusion that it’s all in my head. As for kids, it just isn’t possible to give your job your full attention as though you were in the office, without pretending that you are in the office (read: kids are in school or daycare), and this is where you would need to stand your ground.

      • Rachel

        I am currently a full time (40-60 hrs/week) mechanical engineer commuting traditionally in the automotive industry. I feel there are very few flexible or part time options for engineers (possibly because it is such a male-dominated industry?) and am really interested in how other people have worked as engineers from home.
        Would you mind sharing what industry you work in and what kind of engineer you are? Did you start out working in the office and if so how did you transition into working from home?

    • carrie

      To the post-docs, I work in a scientific association where our education folks who work with trainees, career development, curriculum, etc. are all PhDs who were members of our societies (or closely related). Associations are great places to work, generally, with good benefits and can have good salaries. ASAE is an association website with job boards; might be a good place to poke around.

    • MDBethann

      I work for Uncle Sam, and while he isn’t hiring a whole lot of folks these days, there are positions available in various agencies and a lot of the research-oriented ones, like the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Research Service (CRS), the CDC, and NIH, as well as contractors like the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) and RAND all have PhDs on staff, and I’m sure a number of other agencies do to. Try looking into it; you might be surprised. And I think the same thing goes at the state-level as well. And just because you don’t live in the DC area doesn’t mean you can’t get a federal job – most major U.S. cities have some sort of federal government presence & many agencies are really opening up their telework options in order to hire and retain good talent.

  • After getting my BA in film & television and gathering a slew of rad internships and great jobs under my belt, I decided to leave entertainment 2 years ago to pursue a career as a photographer. I picked up two part-time jobs, going back to my original industry/favorite job as a server in a cute cafe and a delicious restaurant. I saved up for equipment and classes, including Maddie & Emily’s COLAB last year which left me feeling energized and inspired. A few months later, I booked my first paid gig with a friend of a friend (they say our extended networks are ripe with opportunities, they’re right).

    I still have to work in restaurants because I like paying bills AND saving up for more equipment, but I love both jobs (photos & serving). I spent the summer working with a restaurant in Rwanda as their photographer and now we’re redesigning their website around my work. I’ll return to LA on Friday to continue to build my photo career, with several weddings booked and a new plan to seek out NGO/social enterprise/nonprofit collaborations.

    Every single gig I had, from age 15 up, has contributed to my success: my experience in the restaurant industry gave me epic customer service skills. My experience in development and production in the television industry gave me strong logistical skills that make me a better creative professional. My job as the hotel front desk on Semester at Sea in the fall of 2007 introduced me to world travel and my great experiences that semester gave me the lady balls to say yes when this opportunity in Rwanda presented itself.

    So I guess I just want to say this, as a piece of advice for whoever needs to hear it right now: if you’re thinking about changing your course, do it. If you’re scared that your prior experience doesn’t lend itself to your future hopes and dreams, don’t be. Take a step in the direction you wish to go in, and remember that everything you’ve learned is coming with you, too. You’re changing gears, not getting into an entirely different automobile.

    • Trinity

      “Take a step in the direction you wish to go in, and remember that everything you’ve learned is coming with you, too. You’re changing gears, not getting into an entirely different automobile.”

      I love this.

    • Maddie

      This is so beautiful, Melissa. I will carry this with me whenever my Nana not-so-kindly asks me if I’m still using my college degree. :)

      Also HOLY FIST BUMP LADY. Way to make the most of every opportunity.

      • aw shucks, thanks Maddie. AND thank you for the jumpstart.

      • I missed out on this whole thread yesterday but this quote completely slays me.

        I will trot this out the next time Chris’ aunt thinks she’s helping by suggesting he go to cooking school. (Because his cousin did that and is doing well, and this writing thing is nice and all, but he needs to make real money. My eyes can not roll back far enough.) or when my aunt seems surprised that people pay us just for taking their picture.

        We are both at the point where we know exactly what we want, and we feel confident enough in our talents to know that what we want is totally possible, and we get frustrated when other people don’t see that. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve stopped caring about the opinions of the masses. I care about the opinions of people further along than us in the world of photography, film, comics, and publishing. I can about the opinions of the people who read our stories or follow our work/hire us for film and photography, and the supportive group of friends I know will give us their honest opinions. Unsolicited critique and snide comments from anyone else has started to roll off my back. Chris is much more sensitive in this way. He takes everything to heart, and is constantly afraid he’s losing time, not doing enough, or wasting time on the path that brings in most of our income (editing video), instead of spending it to advance his writing.

        Is anyone else in a similar situation? Any advice on dealing with that constant anxiety? Or on ways for him to start getting paid to write? (He writes all the comic books we make-12 in 2 years, has written several screenplays, and is working on a screenplay with a friend who has already gotten his work picked up by a major cable network. But he does all this work on the hope that these things will pay off in the future. He gets frustrated at the idea that no one really takes any of that seriously because no one is giving him a paycheck for it. He’s had the idea to start a blog where he writes about specific movies and his personal experience with them -particularly obscure and cult films- to get his name out there more. But any ideas are welcome!)

        Apologies in advance do the novel this has become. I started writing not intending to get this personal. And I’m typing on a phone, so appologies for typos in advance!

        • Granola

          Dude. Start the blog. Write more. It’s the only way to get better and then you just have to take it on faith (that it will pay off later) and enjoy it for what it is (a thing you love to do) even if it never pays the bills. But you never know where the internet will take you, so tell him I said to start it! And if you need someone to help set it up in WordPress, I have a friend who’d definitely get your style.

        • Time to get out the shame blaster!

          I don’t have much to say except I understand how hard it is when people don’t take seriously the choices that you take VERY seriously. so keep reminding Chris that the work you guys are doing IS worthwhile, and keep doing it!

          I totally think he should start the blog, it sounds like a great approach to film history and way more selfishly, I’d love to read it.

  • SarahG

    I empathize with the finding your career struggle. I kinda came to the belief that there is no career “path” for me after spending years trying to get a full time college teaching gig after getting my Ph.D., only to realize (300 applications later) that the best I could hope for was a miserable gig in a one-horse town somewhere in the backwaters of Nowheresville. As a single queer person. And I wanted this why? So I gave up. Moved to San Francisco. Worked a boring temp job that gave me plenty of time to do other stuff. Tried not to listen to the voices that said I had “thrown my career away” at age 32. And tried to build a life outside of work that would be awesome. Which I did — good friends, cozy apartment, dating was happening, it was good times. And then after applying to any local job that sounded vaguely interesting, I got one interview for an OK-sounding position. Five years later, I’m still there, and I love it. It’s exactly the job for me! But I never would have found it without completely torpedo-ing my original career. So when my students (I got to teach college after all) ask for career advice I’m always like… ummm… just try to make yourself happy. (This is always disappointing to them.)

    • KATA

      As a confused PhD candidate (I responded to the other PhD comment above, so I won’t rehash my story here), great advice! SO nice to hear advice from those of you a little bit ahead of me. It feels less isolating!

      • Another confused PhD candidate here! Just wanted to chime in and say that it’s really reassuring to hear that life will not end if I decide to pursue Something Completely Different.

  • Heather

    Timing! I just posted a mini-rant in the “See Jane Invest” post about trying to launch a start-up in the already populated craft-industry. After submitting, this thread had been posted! I am a jeweler struggling to do more than break even and I’m finding it terribly hard to get any sort of attention without paying for advertising that I really can’t afford yet. Anyone making it work in a related business and if so, how did you find outlets beyond your social media? I have my degree in metalsmithing which sounds pretty awesome in conversation but is quite difficult to make fly in the professional world. I came out of my degree swinging, knowing I was going to try my hardest to start a lucrative hand-made jewelry/bridal accessory business using my skills in lost wax casting. I didn’t seek alternative employment save a summer job at a Zales affiliated repair place to bone up on the business side of things. I make enough money off a business I started in middle school to fund this one, but just barely. I am definitely the secondary breadwinner in my partnership currently and I would love that to change. Here is what I posted in “See Jane Invest”, though I’m not sure if it is entirely relevant to this thread:

    I wonder if you have any suggestions for turning a “craft” business into something stable and profitable while maintaining your dignity as a maker? To me it requires a different set of guidelines than service startups. For every inspiring feature you read on a site like Etsy, there are lots of us in a craft business (jewelry in my case) who are struggling to lure in customers because web and print advertising is hella expensive, and if you want to provide an ethical product there’s a huge disparity in cost of labour and materials between you and your commercial competitors. We opt for social media “advertising” and a bit of fairy dust to get a customer base established. I find my biggest hurdle is competing against the vast amount of resources (materials and access) my competitors in commercial jewelry already possess. It’s tough, and the fact that a lot of made-in-a-sweat-shop jewelry is starting to mimic the style of indie “handmade” jewelry is alarming to me. How will people know the difference and will they care if the price is right? I make everything myself by hand, in my very own workshop and I charge as little mark up as possible but I’m still struggling for business.
    What I would have LOVED when I first started out was the ability to be featured FOR FREE on a site like APW or other sane, ethical blogs to get a bit of street cred. Would anyone here consider doing a sort of spotlight on a startup that was less established? It doesn’t have to be me (though I think I would run into a wall out of excitement if that happened) but it would be so nice to give someone with a good product but limited audience a chance. The selection process could be juried by readers even.

    Ok apologies if that last part is certainly not relevant to an open thread, but it is something I am convinced would be much appreciated by anyone in a startup with a small but growing customer base. A freebie of any kind is so hard to come by, and traditional advertising is not easy to afford when you’re breaking even every month.

    • Copper

      Do you do any craft fairs or similar? Or shop your stuff around to retail stores to get placement? I have several friends who have craft businesses, and for each of them the tipping point from “I do this sometimes on the side” to “this is my full-time, profitable thing” was in person sales. For instance here in LA the Unique show (Unique LA, that’s now Unique SF and Unique NY too) helped a lot of people make that jump. Vendors I first saw at one of the smallest tables now occupy a 20×20 booth and have employees. A friend got his product into a couple of cute housewares stores and suddenly his business is booming because the steadiness of that order allows him to develop new product lines.

    • Have you thought about doing some guest blogging? Find some blogs related to your business and write useful posts for them. Usually, you get to include a bio with a link back to your page. Good way to build relationships, share your expertise and promote yourself.

    • KW

      check with your local community college to see if there is a small business development program. This is one located in central Ohio as a guideline to what some of these programs offer. http://www.sbdccolumbus.com/ Even having a mentor that can show you the ins and outs of getting things running can be a boost.

      • LadyCrabtree

        Also, check out your local public library for cheap or even free business workshops. I set up a series of Business workshops at my job at the public library and there were some good free events including how to use Google Places(it’s free), Marketing 101 and networking events. I’ve also helped small business owners figure out how to set up websites, and suggested local events for businesses to approach.

        • Heather

          Thanks for the feedback guys! I think a lot of my problem is where I live. I have done craft-fairs in the past but I am in the worst possible location for thriving local art scenes/businesses willing to carry my work (West Texas). We are hit pretty hard out here and two of my retail store locations have closed in the past few years, with another one on the brink. I have to do a lot of business 5 hours away in DFW to get any movement. I wonder if it’s time to start contacting stores out of state? I tried this in the past with no luck, but I wasn’t bombarding anyone with requests or anything. Perhaps it’s time for a blitz, lol. I really do appreciate all the feedback, I may just try some guest blogging if I can get my foot in the door :)

          • Rebekah

            First off, I wish you had linked to any site you have! I would love to see your work.

            Second, since I don’t know what your work looks like, and my impressions of West Texas comes mostly from Friday Night Lights, would you feel like a sellout if you made jewelry themed more towards the general interests of your area? If you wouldn’t mind playing to a strong buying audience, that could possibly give you the boost you need to really get things going.

            Wax casting sounds really interesting. Could you offer paid classes where people work with you to design things? Or could you partner with any mechanics or welding shops? (Sorry, but I’m unaware of the nuances of cool metallurgy).

            Best of luck! I hope you end up a sponsor soon!

          • Heather

            Rebekah, I didn’t want to look all sneakily self-promotional linking to my site, but since you asked here’s my about page on etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/FauldsForge/about/
            I’m afraid my stuff isn’t terribly Western, but it’s not a bad idea to make the “theme” of where you’re living work for you. Basically my dream is to get to the point where I can afford to run my own “open studio” with classes, demonstrations etc. One of my good friends is eyeing a studio space coming up for grabs in a few years and we’ve talked about doing just this. I have to make some buyout cash in the meantime though and I’m hoping I get things rolling soon! Thanks again, I honestly didn’t know if anyone would take the time to reply to this let alone offer so much advice and support, I love y’all!

    • Isis

      My suggestion, as a person working on launching a wedding planning business? Find and make friends with planners. Especially new, up-and-coming, in-the-process-of-building-networks types. I’d be super interested in gathering information on local handmade jewelry vendors so I could make recommendations to brides.

      I know this only addresses the ‘bridal jewelry’ part of the equation, but it couldn’t hurt.

    • if you’re running an eCommerce site, I’d say S to the E to the O! Which includes like some of the other commenters have mentioned, back links. But make sure they are good ones. Also, get a good keyword strategy for both Etsy and your own website. Best of luck!

    • MDB

      All I can do is wish you luck. My BFF got into metalwork through an apprenticeship to a Ren Faire forge owner (swords, metal ornaments, etc) and then moved on to classes in the more delicate jewelry work. She draws on her MA in liberal arts for inspiration (often ancient European designs) for her work and her jewelry is beautiful, but the market, as you say, is HARD. And she lives in Baltimore. She has tried shows, but to get into the good ones, you need a website, which requires money and some of the other things you point out in your post. And the catch with the shows she has been to is that many of the sales go to the cheap commercial jewelry mass produced in China.

      One route she really hasn’t explored much is the local store route. I’ve talked with her some about going around to some of the small shops in the DC, Baltimore, and Philly metro areas to see if any of them would be interested in carrying her jewelry. I don’t see why you can’t reach out to shops in surrounding states and do the same thing, especially if your local base is drying up. I say go for it and see if you can get some friends to help you promote your wares.

      Good luck – I’ve been watching my BFF struggle with this and as a close observer of a similar situation (are you sure you’re in West Texas?), you have my empathy as well as my best wishes.

      • Heather

        Hey thanks, sometimes it does just help to take a step back and brainstorm with a group. Sometimes when you spend your days in the thick of it you forget to try some “should be obvious” solutions like contacting planners. It is hard right now, but I figure the longer we’re around and the more outlets we try, word gets out and maybe slowly our business will sort of trickle in naturally. My regards to your friend MDB! I’m starting to wonder if I know her since I have a close friend who’s currently living in Baltimore doing probably the same Ren-Faire (it’s her last year doing it) who makes lovely jewelry. Though, she went to school with me here in TX so probably not. Maybe they’re destined to be pen-pals! ;)

        • MDBethann

          Nope, my BFF didn’t go to school in Texas; don’t think she’s even BEEN to TX. I don’t know that she has any plans to stop working at the forge & doing Ren Faire any time soon either, though it completely eats up her fall.

    • Heather

      First off, Awesome that you’re sticking to it doing what you love. I hope to be doing that one of these days! I live in Philadelphia, but my family is from Lubbock. Have you heard of LHUCA – the Louise Hopkins Center for the Arts? Maybe you could teach a class there, or submit your work to be displayed at an exhibit?

  • Steph

    Love this thread! Taking a risk and asking if anyone here at Team APW has successfully transitioned from social work/counseling into something else (or knows someone who has). I’m not positivie about what I want to do next but am open and searching. I’ve also realized that the part about my career I like most is bearing witness to my clients stories. Would love to learn more about digital story telling as a career, and also open to other suggestions. I believe everyone has a story worth sharing but no idea how exactly that would translate into meaningful work.

    Thanks again for this thread

    • Anonymous

      I think you should start an advice column ala Dear Sugar. Since I can’t dedicate the time to get my own degree in counseling (nor am I sure I have the wherewithal to hear tough stories and not be allowed to cry) I’ve often thought I could do a mean turn at an advice column. You’re probably even better suited for it than I am and it would certainly highlight different stories.

      • As a part-time advice columnist, I can tell you, there ain’t much money in this! But if anyone has any tips (or questions, I guess) please chime in!

    • Barbara

      Just wanted to let you know that although I don’t have any ideas or advice for you, I am right there with you! Posted down thread, let me know if you discover any startling wisdom :)

    • One of my collegues is moving from counseling into the wedding industry. She just got offered a position at a wedding dress shop. She’s planning her own wedding, and *loves* weddings and event-planning in general. Our boss hasn’t given her the go-ahead on part-time here yet, but that’s the direction she’s going.

      There’s a lot out there about writing/poetry therapy, and digital art therapy, those may be some options. It sounds like you’re trying to get away from the counseling part of it though…

    • LM

      I got my MSW and worked in counseling for three years at a job I liked but which had no room for movement. My last year there I went through phases of frantically looking at job listings and feeling unqualified for anything other than SW but not liking the SW jobs out there. I ended up going back to my undergrad American Studies roots and now do historical research at a museum (telling stories in a different way). After two years, I’m realizing this is not my new career either, so am searching again. Sigh. But I absolutely do not regret leaving my previous job when I did and taking a chance on this.

      Are you looking to totally leave counseling or would an option where you can provide counseling but in more creative ways appeal to you? For example, in NY there is a program that teaches teenagers to make radio shows about things that are important to them (Radio Rookies), and I imagine there are other similar programs elsewhere using other forms of media or art or another creative approach.

    • soleil

      Hi Steph,

      I recommend looking at Kelly Rae’s work. She worked for years in social work and at age thirty transitioned into art and now she is a full-time commercial artist. Her story is very inspiring and she has written extensively about how her social work translate into her art as a form of healing. Also, this week she featured Rachel Awes who is a psychologist and just published a book. She has transitioned into art as well, and she still sees some clients at her private practice.

    • KW

      I have a BS in psych and a Master of Social Work. I worked 5 years as a licensed social worker doing mostly case management (foster care first, then with a mentoring organization). I then made a career switch into academic advising for undergraduates. The links I gave to others in above comments came from what I’ve learned doing that job. :) I actually use my social work skills all the time, which is good since I’m still paying off my grad school student loans.

    • Whitney

      Kelly Rae Roberts made a switch from medical social work to being a full time artist. http://kellyraeroberts.blogspot.com/

      I also had a great writing teacher who worked as a nonprofit volunteer coordinator while pursuing a MFA, and I think you are right on about encouraging everyone’s story being told.

      You might look into nonprofit communications or fundraising as a transitional step? Being able to tell the story of clients and organizations is a major component of those jobs.

    • Rebekah

      That is such a cool passion!

      I think there are a number of organizations devoted to preserving the stories of Holocaust vicitims, so if that is the kind of story witnessing you are interested in, you might ask in that direction. World War II vets (and even other vets) have similar organizations too, if that helps.

      Good luck!

    • As far as digital storytelling goes, you might be interested reading about the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia in Montreal. http://storytelling.concordia.ca/

      • Jenny

        working for or with StoryCorps?

    • Steph

      Thanks so much for the suggestions everyone! I have some great food for thought now and I truly appreciate it :)

  • Lisha

    Oh how this is a topic I love! I’ve spent the past 10 years working in the career services field and I absolutely love it. I’m super grateful I found a good fit early on and will ride it out until it’s no longer fun. My only concern though is that I want to move up and in order to do so, I would need a Master’s. I would think that I meet the minimum requirements for entrance into programs and hopefully my career achievements would factor into admission but on top of this, how do you go back to school part-time and work full time? And enjoy your newly married life? And try to start a family of your own? And still have a social life?! I’d be interested in hearing from women who have gone back to school later in life and how you found an appropriate balance :)

    • VIOLET

      Hi Lisha!
      While I didn’t go to graduate school later in life, I did attend part-time while working my full-time job (tuition remission benefits, FTW!). And although I was a part-time student, my program required two years of 15 hours/week in the field in addition to classwork, so it was quite a balancing act. One of the things I love about APW is the focus on modern marriage, and how you can actually achieve *more* with a partner’s support. I doubt I would’ve managed my schedule and also, I dunno, *eating*, if it hadn’t been for my partner. He picked up the slack big time, and now that he is going to graduate school (full-time) for two years, I am more than excited to return the favor. So I’d say that for me, a solid relationship actually helped me find the balance, as opposed to being another thing I had to juggle.

      • Lisha

        Thanks for this comment! I had to reiterate this to the hubby the other day as I found out more details about the program i am interested. On one had it’s mostly weekend course/oriented but with potentially throwing a kid into the mix, he would surely have to pick up the slack cause I certainly can’t do it all. It helps to know that it can be done with with having a solid relationship and perhaps this warrants more discussion with him on what our expectations are if/when grad studies is a reality. Oh and yes, tuition benefits by my employer is key to this pursuit! :) Otherwise it would be a rough go lol.

    • SKE

      Ha! Strategise. I’m just completing my dissertation for a 2 year part time masters programme while working 4 days a week. Be clear what you need to do when, do it when you say you will (and don’t think sitting at your computer counts as work if you find yourself on the internet the whole time… er, yes, that dissertation that has to be done in 2 weeks – eek!) and make time for other things, and make sure you do them too. And if you’re a straight-As student, aim for just a pass and then be happily surprised if you get higher. I found actually that I’ve been much more balanced about it because my husband is about than I ever did working for my previous degrees when I was single.

      • Jenny

        I went back for my masters and I was single and it was both easy and hard. I had lots of time that I just devoted to school and work. I had moved for school, so most of my friends and social ness came from ties to my academic program. But it was hard because I was doing everything alone. I ate a lot of fast food/takeout/crockpot meals and the house was rarely clean. I worked for a few years and met my now husband and now I’m back in school for my PhD. I actually have a bit more time because I don’t spend time studying things that I don’t think are relevant- I’ve become a lot better at saying, I know this well enough. He’s also a huge support, dinner is frequently on the table or close when I get home, so that means I can work until dinner and then go home, enjoy the meal and hang out a bit. I also think that hanging out with my husband time makes me more efficient. I made a goal of taking at least 1 day a week off for quality time. During midterms and finals that might get moved a bit, but it means that I’m motivated to write that paper in the 8 hours I’ve given myself. I don’t procrastinate as much, because I have something to look forward to when I’m done.

        Mainly the biggest thing is communication and planning. I try to know in advance when I’m going to be working (school or work) late, or on weekends. I pick a few days that I can make a quick dinner so that he’s not always the one cooking for me.

        Also, as much as possible try to do work at work or school or the library, so that when you’re home you’re home. Or find some place in your home that is a “I’m doing work” area. In my single days I did lots of reading and work on the sofa, and then when I went back to school I’d do the same thing and he’d be trying to talk to me, or put some thing on TV and I’d be like UGH I’m working- but duh how would he know I wasn’t just on facebook.

        • I second Jenny on this. A BIG key to being successful when going back is to adjust expectations on non-school related life.
          A big one in my/our household was chores. You will simply not have time to do it all, all of the time. So maybe one week swap out getting all of the dishes done for a night or two out with friends, etc.

    • Sara

      I work full-time (40-60 hours/week) and am in an evening MBA program with a two hour commute to class. Support from my future husband–what Sheryl Sandberg would call “true partnership”–was crucial for the first two years of school. I still don’t think I’ve ever run our dishwasher or cleaned the bathroom. He started part-time law school this year (while working full-time) and I will be very honest that the year ahead is daunting. But people make it work all the time and we will too. Three things that have helped me:
      1) Figure out how you want to receive love and how your partner does. Coming home to a clean kitchen and a made bed helped me feel sane and organized and that made me feel loved. My husband-to-be needs me to listen to what he learned that day (wanna know the difference between assault and battery? Because I can tell you.) I won’t spend my energy cleaning for him and I won’t expect to interrupt his studying to recount my day. Apply the 80/20 rule here and do more of those things that profess 80% of the love.
      2) Accept that you will no longer be able to give A+ effort to everything. I learned this one from a Chem PhD, healthcare consultant classmate who started the program working full-time with three children under the age of five.
      3) Warn your friends that you won’t re-emerge for a while and make a huge deal of it when you eventually do. I’ve thrown a holiday party every year I’ve been in grad school. It happens around finals, but I close my eyes and hit send on the invitation, thus making sure the big push at the end comes with social interaction as a satisfying reward.

      Good luck!

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        Yes to the close-your-eyes-and-hit-send party invites. I have my Christmas Cookie Baking Party at the end of the 12 days (things are teeny bit saner in January, it’s almost a welcome back from the holidays event) and a birthday party in the summer. Each time I go to the invite list and think, really? And then it’s wonderful.

  • Bubbles

    Got a BFA in musical theater, decided that the life of a performer wasn’t stable enough for me, and am now on my ninth job in eight years, and with any luck will be moving to my tenth in the next month or two.

    I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve considered getting a Master’s in English Literature or perhaps Library Science, but I fear spending all that time and money on yet another degree that won’t do much for my job prospects.

    I definitely feel like in the U.S. educational system you don’t get exposed to enough options before you’re expected to choose a college & major. I was an advanced student, and I never had any exposure to Earth Science or Astronomy as a result. Who knows? I could have been an AWESOME astronomer, but it wasn’t even a consideration for me in high school.

    • Just want to give you a former musical theatre major fist bump. That was my original major in college, but I ended up double-majoring in writing because halfway through I realized that I just don’t have the right personality to be a professional performer, (I take the rejection WAAAAAY too personally and it just wasn’t healthy for me).

      • Bubbles

        Oh, man. I hear you on the rejection thing! When I learned about Cattle Call auditions I had a major “WTF AM I DOING” moment, but I was at a conservatory, so changing/adding majors wasn’t a thing I could do. I powered through the rest of my degree, and started working in offices. Fortunately, I’ve done pretty ok considering the epic shit the economy took, but I would like to figure out some sort of grown-up career now, kthxbai.

    • Cleo

      I know two people who were in your position (BFA in theatre, pursued the life of a performer, decided they wanted more stability) and they both, independently of each other (as they don’t know each other), decided to pursue a graduate degree in speech therapy. One of them is working with kids in schools and the other does vocal coaching, runs seminars in offices about public speaking, and helps performers learn to relax their vocal chords and prevent from straining them.

      I don’t know you from Eve, but I thought I’d throw it out there, as they’re both extremely happy with their choice and come from a similar background.

      • Bubbles

        Huh. Interesting. I may look into that. I’m not a huge fan of kids, but I was a whiz in Voice Production and Speech class, so…

        Thanks for the tip!

        • InTheBurbs

          Know that there are a ton of options in speech therapy besides kids – particularly in the rehab area.

          • M.E.

            Seconded. My mom is a speech pathologist in a hospital, working with inpatients and outpatients in rehab. People recovering from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, etc. She loves it!

          • So true. And in my world, my son’s pediatric speech pathologist is my favorite person ever. :)

        • Kelly

          In my area there are a zillion jobs for speech and language pathologists, though TBH many are with kids. However there are lots of opportunities in adult rehab, hospital settings, and voice work (accents, singers, actors, etc.) depending on where you live.

      • Shana

        I’m currently doing my Master’s in Speech Therapy and we definitely have a lot of people from musical backgrounds in the field. It’s a really beneficial background to have, as there are definitely performance and musical elements in the work, plus singers and actors often have a really strong awareness of voice production. Also, job satisfaction is rated quite high and in many parts of North America it’s a very in-demand profession (there are some over-saturated markets though, so it’s worth looking into that if you’re tied to a certain area). It does have a lot of pre-requisite coursework, so for many programs, you would have to do a full two years of undergrad before being able to start a two year Master’s. Also, it can be very competitive to get into grad programs.

        • KW

          “Also, it can be very competitive to get into grad programs.” Yes, this, to the dismay of many students I have worked with in the past 10 years.

          At my university, the # of students in the undergraduate major that includes all the prereqs (called Speech & Hearing Science here, Communication Disorders elsewhere) has tripled in the last 10 years, and this increase is consistent across all undergrad programs in Ohio.

          The number of slots in grad programs has not increased, even with demand in the profession. The limitation is often due to having clinical instructors, etc. Thus, while the minimum GPA listed for admission on most grad program websites is 3.0, the realistic GPA to get into an Ohio program is closer to 3.8 because the # of students applying is quite high relative to the number of available slots. Programs can afford to admit only the best. I do not know what is realistic in other parts of the country though.

  • Barbara

    So timely! I have been lurking on APW for the past 4 years, but this is the post that will push me into comment land. yay!

    M.A. in Early Childhood Special Education after a (sorta useless) B.A. in Developmental Psychology. I now work as basically a social worker in early intervention, so do a lot of coordinating services for children and families of 0-3 year olds with special needs. The people that I work with are AMAZING, but I constantly feel like I am drowning in paperwork, and that I am being undervaluated (made up word? think so!) for extra work that I somehow always volunteer for. I’m feeling quite stuck, and then feel guilty about complaining when people stay in this job for years and years because it is so flexible and has, again, AMAZING co-workers. I’ve been here for 2 and a half years, and can not picture myself staying here for another year.

    Problem is…. what should I do? Don’t want to teach, which is what many of my colleagues are doing now. I could do private therapy, but wouldn’t really be able to sustain full time work that way. What I really want to do is start a dance company/studio for children and adults with special needs. BUT HOW? Or, work/start a non-profit that provides early intervention services for children in countries that do not have them. IDEAS, I GOT THEM.

    I basically feel really whiney and ungrateful, and then lazy for not doing anything towards the ideas I have.

    • I don’t know how you start it, but when you do start that dance studio please let me know how I can help. Love the idea.

    • Steph

      Hi Barbara the dance studio sounds like an awesome idea! I feel your pain about paperwork burnout as a social worker. Crossing my fingers for you on your career path

    • Do you have dance experience? Whether yes or no, I’d start reaching out to local dance studios to get to know owners/instructors who may be excited about this idea and have the space for it, as well.

    • SKE

      Could you work up some kind of class that could be given to kids in school or after school? I don’t know the situation in the US, but in the UK schools often have after school clubs, whether football or dance or yoga or languages or cooking, that perhaps you could get into it that way – either making up your own and persuading someone to let you try it (hmm, yep, don’t know), or, volunteer with someone/company that already does this, for disabled or not disabled kids and work from there. Incidentally my Mum is involved setting an after school club up now now, she’s a retired teacher, partnered with a yoga person and I don’t know what the other person does. Mum does the education-y bit of it, and organises the other 2 people into submission.

    • rys

      Is there a county parks & rec program you could offer dance classes through, and then see where that leads?

    • Jennie

      Perhaps a good place to start is contacting existing dance studios in your area and seeing if you could start a class/series for people with special needs. You could market the class to special needs school programs and slowly build from there. You could also pair the two ideas. People signed up for your local classes could donate towards an organization that provides early intervention services for children in other countries. There has to be some crowdfunding out there for this.

      • Barbara

        I LOVE this idea so much. Thanks!

    • Barbara

      Thanks so much for all of the responses and ideas! I actually did reach out last year to a few dance studios in the area, and ended up giving a few classes. They were so amazing! Unfortunately, I had to stop teaching there for this yer due to scheduling and a very unorganized and unprofessional owner. I’m hoping to set up some sort of program through work, and my supervisor seems supportive ( although words to action can be hard).

      I think my struggle is more with taking it to the next step. It is scary and I’m not sure how I would do it!

      • Emily

        Barbara, it might be too late of a comment time-wise today, but dance therapy is a whole genre of study in and of itself. There are several great programs spread out in the US – I’d recommend talking to them, looking at certification requirements. There are also dance academics who are working with this very same idea in their research – definitely worth looking into.

    • Remy

      Theatre major turned library school graduate here. *jazz hands*

      I strongly recommend getting actual in-library hands-on experience before starting an LIS degree. Not only will you have an employable edge and connections on the far side of graduation, but you’ll learn what aspects of library work do and don’t suit you. And you may decide that staying as a paraprofessional (without the degree) is a good path.

    • B (the other one)

      I don’t have any advice, but just wanted to say that I worked in ECi in Twxas for 2 years and yes, you do swim in paperwork ;)

      • B (the other one)


        Sorry! Comment moderator doesn’t work on iPads

  • Trinity

    BA in philosophy (7 years ago), and now I’ve worked in (Christian) publishing for over 5 years. I’m a publicist now, and it’s a fine job, but the pay is crummy, and I’m not sure how Fiance and I are going to be able to afford to have a family. I’m starting to think about pursuing an MBA, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the time/money, especially since I don’t really know what I want to do next (other than the long-term dream Fiance and I have about opening our own restaurant).

    • Rebekah

      Well, as someone who would love to work in (Christian) publishing, albeit not in publicity, ack!, I’m a little jealous, but that’s my own thing to deal with :)

      I don’t have any suggestions for you at this point, but I wanted to chime in with support. I feel like it was said somewhat recently that (excuse my poor paraphrase) even if you don’t have money piled away, you can afford a baby. People with less money than you have made it work.

      I hope you do get your restaurant. Maybe food blog in the meantime?

    • Ella

      Hey lady. I also work in (academic) publishing and am considering a move to another field because I feel undervalued and the pay is also crummy. I feel ya on this, and I wish I had better advice to give. :( Best of luck, but I thought I’d give a shout-out to a fellow publishing gal.

    • SLG

      I’m late to this comment thread, but wanted to chime in here: I worked in Christian publishing for several years. You’re darn right the pay is crummy (and I suspect it’s crummy in all publishing, not just Christian publishing). I had wanted to get out of the industry for a while, and was lucky enough to find a position in an entirely different industry that still uses my skill set (marketing/communications). I had to take an almost-entry-level job, but I think I’ll be able to work my way back up relatively quickly (at least that’s what I tell myself :-) ).

      So all this is to say, if you are happy with being a publicist and just want to publicize someone/something else, you can totally do that. Those skills are transferable. You may have to take a step back initially, but it means more steps forward in the long run.

      Oh and one more thing: if you’re thinking about a career change, you might find it helpful to find people who work in the career you’re considering, take them out to coffee, and pepper them with questions. You might be surprised at what you learn (I was).

      But most of all, you can do it! It’s scary but it’s worth it.

  • Ugh, I’ve been thinking about this so much of late! I’ve got a Master’s in writing, and I moved to LA five years ago to try and be a screenwriter. I’m fortunate in that all of my “day jobs” have actually been at least somewhat related to my interests… writing articles for websites, grant writing, etc. But, the irritating thing is that trying to maintain a healthy “work/life” balance seems to be virtually impossible when you’re trying to start up a new career OUTSIDE of your 9-5 it-pays-the-bills job. I either have to become a hermit in order to work on my personal projects, or I let myself relax and enjoy myself and feel like a failure for not working on my writing. Mrrph.

    I feel like there must be a bunch of other folks on here who are pursuing their careers while also working at full-time jobs, (or who did that while starting out). How do you do it and not drive yourself insane by either focusing on your career all the time or “putting off” career stuff to enjoy life? I tend to try to do it all, and then eventually crash and have weeks of being too mentally exhausted to do anything.

    • Cleo


      Besides the masters in writing, you have described my life. I have a 9-7 (work in entertainment) and work on my writing every spare moment. I have basically become a hermit, which I hate, but if I have success with my writing, it will be so worth it (or that’s what I keep telling myself).

      If you want to commiserate, shoot me an email at fastwomenrun[at]gmail[dot]com :)

      • I totally volley back and forth between, “I need to be a hermit for now in order to succeed and later it will all be worth it,” and, in my darker moments, “What if this writing thing doesn’t work out and I look back on my life and wonder why I didn’t spend my free time making the most of my life and focusing on my relationships?” Oh, life. You fickle beast, you.

        • Cleo

          Exactly! I keep thinking “there has to be a balance!” but I don’t know how to make one.

          I’m working on something that I want with every fiber of my being while trying to pay the bills and be a good partner and dog mom. And by the time I get to sleep, my social life has passed me by the wayside.

          My big fear is that by the time I get my book deal/my script optioned/etc., that I’ll have only a handful of people who will want to celebrate with me.

    • vanesssa

      I luckily work part time now, and spend the rest of my time making my (visual) art. I’ve worked full time in the past, and it was definitely more difficult to maintain an art practice, but the work I did then prepared me for the things I’m doing (a little more quickly) now. Embrace your inner hermit. I’ve noticed most artists and writers guard their studio time, and are pretty understanding friends when it comes to being absent for a while, lost in a project. I also don’t think dudes worry about this as much, which can put us ladies at a collective and unnecessary disadvantage. Talking to people is important too of course, but don’t beat yourself up for spending time engrossed in your work.

    • Zen

      I’m a fiction writer with a sometimes-more-than-9-to-5 day job, and I basically do it by having really busy friends! My friends are all doctors so they can never hang out during the workweek, and we just meet during the weekends (if they’re not working weekends …).

      More seriously/applicably, I just try to cut out dead time. I don’t have a TV; I basically only read on my commute or in the weekends; and I do about an hour’s writing every day six days a week, which adds up over time. I think it’s just a question of balance, and finding a balance that works for you. It definitely takes a while to figure out, though.

  • I keep *almost* having a career and ending up with a job.

    Started out in large scale photo printing and was looking at moving into digital image processing (pre-press) then got laid off. Never got back into it.

    Spent 5 excellent years as a substitute teacher. Considered getting my teaching license. Discovered how long it would take, going to school full time, even with my BS. (Then the GOP started gutting education like it was a thing to do…)

    Heading into teaching sex ed with Planned Parenthood and was thinking about going to grad school for my MPH. Then we had a bunch of budget cuts and I was out of a job and I wasn’t in a position to start thinking about grad school anyway…

    Now I work as an administrative assistant for academic departments in a small, private college. It’s a good job and I like it. It pays the bills. I am probably going to look at doing something similar when fiance and I get married next year and move to a new city. I *guess* this could be a career, but I don’t feel that way about it. It’s just a job.

    • Maybe, at some point, I might try to start a small business in photography… I don’t know.

      • aine

        I don’t know if you are still interested, but there are a lot of teaching masters programs that you csn do part time because they are drsigned for people with full time jobs. There were only a couple of months when I didn’t have time to work becausr i was student teaching, and the whole course took a year and a half.

    • Rebekah

      Love, support, and hugs from someone in a similar situation.

      My SO is in medical school. 29 weeks from Friday we find out where we’ll be moving for his Residency. I moved out near him to find work in publishing (HAH!), worked at Costco, as a nanny, and now as an administrative assistant for a property manager in Silicon Valley. I actually really like my job, but I keep getting emails from publishers about openings. I look longingly at most of them before shrugging. Why ruin a good thing? I *would* like to be in publishing, though, if things work out, but 9 months from now things will be all shaken up anyway.

      Since you work for a college, can you take discounted or free classes?

      Also, you’re in/getting married in beautiful Wisconsin, right?

      • I do get to take classes for free and was taking post-bac teaching certification stuff, until I realized that I would be moving out of state long before I finished it. You can do things to transfer teaching certifications from one state to another when you are licensed, but “well, I’ve got some classes towards it…” doesn’t do much. So now I take classes that seem interesting, as they fit my schedule.

        In beautiful Wisconsin at the moment. Will be moving to beautiful Boston after the wedding next year.

        I can totally see the dilemma of not wanting to start with a publisher before you know where you are going to be going in a short time. Very tough call. But good sign that people are approaching you about openings?

  • Don’t Hassle the Haf

    I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Business Administration and am now working as a Transacations Analyst for Oil and Gas companies and it’s just such a mental drain. I concentrated in Finance and Accounting in school because this was after the world went to hell in 2008 and all of my mentors and family urged me to study something that would land me a job (which I thank The Lord I did) but I know that I can’t do this forever.. My husband is getting his masters now in Mech Engineering and will get his Air Force base assignment soon (fingers crossed for Boston or LA) so there is opportunity to jump ship to something but I have no idea what I want to do. An MBA seems extremely premature at this point and then I wonder well do I even want to stay in finance ? Maybe I should get a masters in Statistics (I’ve always been interested in that field)? The other idea I have been thinking about is healthcare administration, like the operations/finance part of a hospital because I think that there needs to be a fundamental change in how that system works in order to bring real change to our healthcare system overall but I don’t even know where to start.

    • Anon

      As someone who works at a REALLY satisfying job in researching/analyzing healthcare (systems, financing, quality), a master’s in healthcare administration is very unlikely to benefit you. That will only set you up to work in a hospital’s finance department figuring out how to maximize billings, or in an insurance company’s finance department figuring out how to minimize “medical loss.” Applying your inclination for statistics will get you really, really far in this field – relevant to clinical data, economic data, workforce data …. there’s so much that the healthcare field needs w/r/t hard numbers right now. And then go work for a gov’t (state or federal), well-funded non-profit (Kaiser Foundation, Commonwealth Fund, etc), or research consulting firm (they get all the most interesting contracts).

      • My BFF got a stats undergrad (we’re Canadian – a masters is less required up here) and is now working for the Red Cross doing… complicated stats and database stuff that she really enjoys, but I can’t claim to understand much of what she does. She had more than a few interesting options with a stats degree. (Even seismic! Which could be neat, if you do stay in O&G.)

      • Don’t Hassle the Haf

        This is extremely helpful. So a Masters in Statistics seems to be a better route which I feel would be more interesting in the long run. In my field it seems that getting an MBA is almost like paying for a promotion but I’m not sure anymore. Thank you so much for the insight,.

        • Whitney

          I lived in Houston, which has the largest medical center in the world and plenty of oil and gas companies. Before putting more money and time into a graduate degree, I would try just applying for some medical jobs. I think you would have a really good shot given your experience at landing one without another degree.

        • MDBethann

          My college roommate majored in Health Science Policy at UMBC (a state school in Maryland) and now works for Medicare/Medicaid doing a lot of the stuff you described. I think a statistics degree would work too and certainly give you a broader range of opportunities if you don’t want to confine yourself to just health care.

      • Jenni

        This sounds like a really interesting career. Thank you for sharing, and for the tips on what type of companies would be looking for such a person.

      • Anon 2

        Lurker here coming to comment for the first time…if you don’t mind me asking, what is your position and how did you get started without an MHA? I am currently doing junior level work in healthcare quality analysis and project management for a health system but am really interested in working as a department administrator at a hospital. From my research, it seems like almost every position requires an MBA or MHA, which I am considering as well, but as my partner is currently applying to med school I’d rather not go into huge amounts of debt. Thanks!

        • Anon

          Without revealing too much, I’m a researcher for a mid-size public policy consulting firm. I got started with an MPH (hated grad school, but it still did good things for me), spent a little time working with a small provider organization that had no analytic capacity at the time, moved into government work for a few years where I got really good at my niche, then leveraged contacts from the projects I’d managed into private sector work (I swear all this was done ethically and didn’t violate any conflict of interest laws). Let me know if you want to email off-line about this – I really love talking about my job and helping out others who are interested in the field.

          • daniellela

            Hi Anon, Coming very late to the party with an interest in healthcare management. If you somehow see this response, can you please email me at daniellecanspell (at) gmail (dot) com? Would love to pick your brain a bit! Thank you!

      • A Regular Reader

        I disagree that a masters in healthcare administration will only prepare to work in hospital finance or insurance. The large, large majority of my class and most of my colleagues with that degree work in operations, quality improvement, strategic planning, or other management aspects of health care. The people I know who work in reducing medical loss, or strictly financial roles have MBAs.

        I would think of it more as a difference between getting an education in healthcare administration and health care policy. The former will prepare you for management roles like the ones I described above. Or you could pursue health care policy, where you’ll get more statistics / quantitative skills and policy / thinking big picture skills. Or you could pursue a strictly analytical field and get some health care emphasis. That education would prepare you more for the non-profit, think thank, policy, research consulting roles that the anon poster describes.

        Both sides of health care are fun, it’s just about which one you like best.

    • Jenni

      I just wanted to say I totally understand where you’re coming from. You know you want something different, but you don’t know what that something looks like, exactly. Maybe you could study the topic a little (buy a book on Statistics), or find someone who works in the field, like healthcare admin. I did an informational interview with a former colleague who had transitioned into a new career field, and I learned SO much in that discussion about her job, the good and bad parts, and what it would take to get into that type of work.

      Also good luck on getting the base assignment you want! Once you have that assignment, maybe certain career paths will fade and others come to the foreground. It’s so easy to worry and fear the unknown, when you try to account for ALL possibilities! And don’t despair if you don’t get what you’re hoping for. My fiance’s first assignment was disappointing and scary at first, but now we love where he’s stationed.

      • Don’t Hassle the Haf

        Jenni thank you for the comment, you’ve put into words what has been going through my head back and forth for a while now! I’m hoping for a big city but am still trying to find all the positives in each place (Dayton, OH? We can rent a house instead if an apartment! Ogden, UT? I can learn how to ski!). And with a new city comes new opportunities and I am hoping I can explore them there. I just have no idea where to even start.

        • Jenni

          It sounds like you’re already taking the most important step, which is to see the positive in any location! I have such a problem with worrying about all possibilities simultaneously (if Dayton, X might happen, which won’t be a problem in Utah but oh wait Y would then be a problem!) and have to force myself to let go and deal with the problems once they are ACTUAL REAL problems. The way the military has of switching plans around at a moment’s notice doesn’t really help with that. If we try to plan for every contingency we’ll never get any sleep at night.

          If for some reason you end up stationed in Charleston, SC, let me know and I’ll help you explore there. ;-)

  • BR

    I’m about to turn 32 and have no idea how to get to where I want to be. I got my BA in Psychology and also have a professional photography diploma under my belt and have spent the last 6 yrs working at two jobs in the field of photography (in an administrative capacity) and I am so tired of it.

    I want desperately to work for a company that I can feel good about, preferably a non-profit doing environmental work (if there were animals involved, even better), but I cannot get a foot in the door. Before I got my current job, I applied to over 100 positions at non-profits, got close to getting hired by one, but otherwise didn’t even get one phone interview. I did the rigamarole of personalizing each cover letter/resume to the job, followed up religiously, networked on sites like LinkedIn, met up with acquaintances and friends of friends to discuss opportunities and…nothing. I got my current job (still doing photo stuff) because I worked with my manager at my old job and she knows I’m a good employee, but I’d probably still be looking otherwise.

    The Bay Area has so many amazing companies doing amazing things, but I just can’t seem to break through the fact that my career path thus far makes me an unlikely candidate for the jobs I really want. I’m starting to think that having a baby would be the perfect excuse to quit my current job and start working part-time somewhere, haha… :\

    • SKE

      Could you get/have you got some volunteer experience under your belt in this field that could bolster your CV?

      • BR

        That’s actually one thing I’m currently trying to work out, but it is surprisingly difficult to find stable volunteer opportunities that don’t require you to be there during normal working hours (you know, the hours I’m at work). I spent a couple years as a volunteer/intern zookeeper at the local zoo, but that hasn’t seemed to help much. That essentially ate up my weekends for two years so I needed a break, but I do miss my little critters and being involved there. I’d love to find something that could be a bit more of a lead-in to a job.

        • SKE

          Hmm. I hate the fact that some many jobs need experience, but without the job you don’t get any experience.

          I think many employers will appreciate commitment – not necessarily to exactly what you want to be, but related. Are there any animal rescue centres that would take volunteers? Does something like the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (google BTCV) exist in the US? Are there any small community groups that want to improve their local park/street/communal flowerbeds? I guess I’m suggesting you think widely and see where it goes. Anything that connects you with people will give you opportunities, even if none of them directly lead to where you want to be.

          Fingers crossed.

          • BR

            Thanks! I’m not familiar with anything quite like BTCV, but I’ll have to look into that a bit. I’m definitely keeping my options open and have big plans for making this a priority soon (I had to get through the wedding first :P)!

    • Bubbles

      Ooo! I just signed up for ReWork.com. They match people with make-a-difference-in-the-world type of companies. They’re just starting up, so it may be quite a while before you get a match, but it might be worth signing up yourself.

      • Jenni

        In case anyone else gets confused, I think the link is actually ReWork.jobs … the other leads to Monster.

        • Bubbles

          ::facepalm:: Yes, this is correct. I spazzed.

      • BR

        Ooh! I like the look of that, I will definitely sign up. Thank you!

    • “I applied to over 100 positions at non-profits, got close to getting hired by one, but otherwise didn’t even get one phone interview. I did the rigamarole of personalizing each cover letter/resume to the job, followed up religiously, networked on sites like LinkedIn, met up with acquaintances and friends of friends to discuss opportunities and…nothing.”

      Isn’t that frustrating? I’ve been trying to find a new, more “me” job for the past six months. I’m being very focused in my search and only applying to very specific opportunities and personalizing the hell out my submissions. I’ve probably submitted 50+ applications at this point, and have only been called in to interview by one. ONE. And I’ve been highly qualified for the vast majority of opportunities. Ugh.

      So, yeah. Solidarity. It’s hard out there.

      • BR

        Ugh, it can get so disheartening, especially when you really think you’d be a good fit for the role. Good luck out there, I hope something comes through for you soon.

    • katie-did

      I got my bachelor’s degree and spent year trying to break into the non-profit sector, specifically at a museum or arts center. (Dual major in fine arts and history of art) At this point I just feel really bitter towards the entire museum/non-profit industry as it is so incredibly this small club that is seemingly impossible to break into. I struggled through applications, interviews, I moved twice for internships that should have led to something paid, and I ended up wasting four years after college.

      Now my resume looks like it has a ton of holes and I’m not qualified for even administrative assistant jobs I am trying to find in any industry… I have a decent job that pays ok, and is just a ‘pays the bill’s sort if thing… But I am still a little heart-hurt that I have essentially given up on my ‘dream job’. :-/

      • Sara

        Did you get any feedback from your internship supervisors about why those opportunities didn’t turn into a paid gig? If you haven’t already, you might also tell them that you’re looking for a full-time position (don’t assume they assume) so that you’ll be at the top of the list if, no WHEN, one of their colleagues comes looking for good candidates.

        You might start on the Development side of things as there seems to be far more churn there than anywhere else in the museum world. Larger museums in particular. Just know that even paid positions barely cover the bills. I’m still sort of appalled by what I made at my first museum job. While in my experience it hasn’t felt insular, it is definitely a small world kind of field and networking absolutely helps. But I think that’s the case in most industries. Good luck!

        • katie-did

          :) Thanks for the feedback.

          Yes! I was actively searching for work at both internships, and my direct supervisors were really supportive in finding me leads (All of them are still references on my resume and we regularly communicate online, in some cases five or six years later.) I spent money out of pocket to go to conferences, volunteered trying to make connections, and I even interviewed with some of my intern institutions, but it was always the case of, ‘Well, we need someone with more experience’ or something.

          These days I’m just kind of not sure if the museum industry was even the right place to be for me. But, ce la vie. I am happier, I think, now just working to pay the bills and doing some passionate hobbies when I get home. :-) It certainly means I have more time to spend with the new fiance and planning a crazy nerd-tastic wedding!

          But thanks!! I will certainly keep in mind the development tip if I do keep looking in the future.

          • Sara

            I should thank YOU! When you’ve been in it a while, it can be far too easy to forget that there are people who would be happy to be in your position. It sounds like that’s not you anymore, but even that it once was is a helpful reminder and makes me far less bitter.

            P.S. It’s much more fun to go to a museum when you don’t work in one!

    • melise

      Is americorps an option for you? It’s essentially a year long commitment to volunteer full time, but you get a small stipend and good experience to put on your resume. After two years of americorps I’m quite broke, but I’ve gotten a few interviews and am pretty well connected in the nonprofit sector.

      • BR

        I’ve never seriously considered it because the stipend wouldn’t cover my rent in the Bay Area. :\ I know a couple folks who did it and really enjoyed it, so I looked into it a bit, but I’d rather not take a full-time job that will cause me dig into my savings to cover living expenses. It’s important to me to be able to contribute to savings/retirement funds at this point. I feel like I could have done it right out of college, but it would be hard now. :\

        • Laura

          How are your interviewing skills? Have you practiced those with someone who’s experienced in the field?

        • HNR

          In case you’re still following this thread, BR, I did a program affiliated with Americorps (a faith-based year-long service corps) and it got me a nonprofit position I never would have gotten otherwise (I believe) and that led to other great positions. Living on the stipend is tough, and yes I can see how it would be especially tough in the Bay Area (I live here too! though I did my service in Chicago). You may also want to check out local fellowship programs that provide training and/or dialogue and/or support for people trying to move their career forward. There are a couple of faith-based ones or ones for folks of color that exist, at least. Regarding volunteering and the difficulty of hours (I hear ya), you may have some skills that can be utilized remotely or with infrequent meetings (writing, social media, design, marketing, etc.) My last nonprofit would very seriously consider driven, capable volunteers of that nature and would even be glad they were working from home. (To that end, think small nonprofits rather than big orgs!) Oh and last is consider getting involved in an environmental campaign in the area (there are tons) as a citizen leader – you could build useful relationships with staff and topical experience that way. Good luck!! (By the way, I would also love to figure out a way to work with animals….you have confirmed my fears about volunteering at the zoo. Thanks for the info.)

  • SKE

    Qualified architect with 6 years post-qualification experience and nearly a masters in historic conservation. I’ve been working where I am for 7 years and have been bored and set to leave for the last few months – not feeling my view is ever sought or valued, feeling I’ve got as far as I can with this practice unless the directors actually want to let go some of their control over every project. Except, a project came in that I’ve really been enjoying, and have actually had a good experience with (partly, it has to be said, because one or other director has been away on holiday and the crazy fast timetable means unless they let me make decisions and move it on, it won’t meet the deadline).

    So. Do I carry on with my previously very certain decision to leave and try something else, somewhere else, potentially getting more pure conservation work, and enter a practice at a higher level than I’m currently being allowed to perform at, but have to start at the beginning again in terms of proving myself, or, do I see this project through (prob 1.5 years, which as we’re considering the baby thing for next year means I actually stay there for longer) while having to really push my employers to let me have more of a go at stuff (they’re stubborn, control freaks and very certain of their own views, but then so am I)…? Thoughts welcome.

    • Kat

      It sounds to me like when your director comes back you’ll just be in the same position as you were before? So, you’re enjoying your current project because you’re getting more decision making power and control. But when the director comes back won’t it go back to how it was before? Will they stop being stubborn control freaks?

      It sounds like moving on might be good for your career – you find somewhere you go in at a higher level (more pay?), do more of the conservation stuff you enjoy and get a fresh perspective. Having to prove yourself again – does that scare you so much?

      The baby thing you’ll obviously have to think more about in terms of maternity leave / benefits / insurance etc. I’m from the UK so I can’t comment on that stuff really, and obviously it’s very personal.

      Just my 2 cents!

      • SKE

        Yep yep… I know you’re right! It’s just when things are looking up it’s so much harder to decide to leave. And the grass is always greener – there will never be a perfect place to work unless I’m working for myself, and that won’t be perfect the whole time either.

        I’m in the UK too and agree the maternity stuff has to be considered, which is part of the reason that I’m not considering self employment at the moment, that and we need to remortgage and therefore prove income in a couple of months. I think that as long as I don’t go into a new practice pregnant then I still get the statutory maternity pay, and that’s all I would get at the moment anyway, directors being generous aside. Though it could be perceived to be a bit rude to start a new job and get pregnant 2 months later! I’d still be relying on them offering me the possibility of part time work after maternity leave so best not to cause too many bad feelings.

        Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Rebecca

      So, as someone working in architecture (US based- not licensed yet! hopefully soon!) who’s done a lot of job hopping, keep in mind that “proving yourself” can take really different amounts of time depending on the company’s culture. The things you’re dissatisfied with at your job now (lack of control, etc.) seem like indicators that it’s the kind of place where it takes a really long time to prove yourself- that won’t necessarily be the case at another company. At my current job, I was handed giant heaps of responsibility (within my abilities, but beyond what would typically have been given to someone with my experience) two weeks after I started- at another one I did basically admin stuff for a month before I touched a project.

      I’m assuming the UK has things like landmark boards (i.e., boards that review renovations, etc. of registered historic buildings for appropriateness)? I know in the cities I’ve lived in landmark boards are great places for younger architects to network, as they’re always low on young blood, plus you actually have some decision making power/ say in what goes down in your city/ jurisdiction.

      • SKE

        Thank you – good points. I keep reminding myself of my first architecture job, where I had loads of responsibility and was at times running a team of 6 people to get an application done on time, and very much felt valued. It’s just not the same here.

        We don’t have quite the same thing as landmark boards, and because I’m in London, which is where the highest concentration of architects is in the UK, the opportunities to get onto things like conservation review panels and design review boards are harder, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

  • Jenni

    I’m a Ph.D. in space physics. Growing up I *knew* I wanted to study space, and from that I followed the ‘expected’ path: undergrad at a tech school, summer research internships, straight into grad school, straight into a postdoc. My research doesn’t excite me any more. I want to do something meaningful, something that contributes to the world. I want to do it as part of a team, not alone all day at my desk, and I want to do it in South Carolina so my fiance and I can end this 6+ year long distance part of our relationship.

    But what does that new career look like? I’m trying to decide. I love data analysis, but … software development? Analyst for a defense contractor? Healthcare? Something completely off the wall? There’s so many things I DON’T know, and the things I do are way, way too specialized.

    The biggest struggle has been coming to terms with redefining myself as Not My Job. I’ve seen myself as a scientist for years. Becoming comfortable with the thought that I might be able to find a fulfilling career separate from what my teenage self dreamed of and worked so hard for was … challenging, and took me a year to really get there.

    • rys

      Are you interested in science policy at all? A PhD-trained physicist friend of mine moved out of theoretical physics and into environmental research/policy. Assisting on a couple projects + a environmental policy related postdoc helped this transition. She’s now back in academia but her research agenda is completely different. Given your geographic desires, perhaps it makes sense to see what’s happening in SC and figure out if you could join any projects, even if just for a short-term gig, and go from there.

      • Jenni

        Yes, I think that would be fun! Most of the science policy stuff I’ve seen has been in the DC area (ironically where I am now) but I haven’t yet done a concerted search around SC.

    • Rebecca

      My husband works for a web company, and I know they recently hired someone with a physics degree (I want to say particle physics, but I forget) to do data analysis. I don’t know to what extent that sort of job would make your brain happy, but the company working environment/ culture/ pay can be pretty awesome. He also has a friend that just graduated with a physics PhD who was offered a job doing data analysis for a microbiology lab. Which might be a path that lets you stay in science. Still data analysis, I know- that’s just what my personal sample set of physics people has wound up doing.

      • Jenni

        Thanks for the comment Rebecca. Data analysis is the main part of what I do now and I really do enjoy it. Using those skills for a web company sounds like it would be really fun! It’s so great to hear stories of people doing something ‘different’ and knowing that it can happen!

    • Liz

      I also have a PhD in physics and have gone in and out (and back in) academia, and am married to a physicist that is now working in climate change (who lives in another city at the moment). I know exactly what you mean about the struggle to define yourself as Not Your Job (and haven’t been so successful at that) but will say this: you have a ton of opportunities in the US to do all sorts of things. My advice is to take some time to analyze the bits of science you love, figure out what you don’t love, and see how all of that translates to a job that has a real world impact. Having a job that makes an impact does not necessarily mean you’ll have a job you love (it could be insanely boring, and I speak from experience there) so it may help to take some time to figure out what you do *really* want, what there’s a market for in SC, and where there are the most opportunities. You will definitely find something–you are highly skilled and have a solid understanding of evidence-based decision-making (a very rare quality, from what I have heard), so there are so many places you can contribute. Just take your time if you can, and figure out how your best qualities/strengths could potentially translate to, figure out what you liked best about academia, and see where you can find that in other areas.

      You will find something that fits. It just might take a false start or two, but with each false start / imperfect fit, I hope you’ll find out more about what you actually want in a career. For me, it meant heading back to academia for now, but again, the US has more opportunities than Australia (lucky me, I married an Australian). As you’re searching, make sure to keep your network in place in any way you can. A good network of supporters can help you through pretty much anything.

      • Jenni

        Thanks for the advice Liz! I have done some of what you recommended on figuring out which parts of my job I like the best (and what I’d like to have in a future career). I’m now researching the types of careers I think might be able to provide those components.

        I hope you and your partner will soon be in the same city! I’m pretty curious: how did your partner end up working on climate change? That sounds like a really interesting transition!

        • Liz

          No worries, Jenni, and best of luck with everything! I really hope you’ll find something that works for you somewhere near where you want to live.

          As for your question, funnily enough, he took a job in climate because it kept us relatively close (and they figured his math modelling experience would pay off). So really, I am lucky to be three hours away by car at the moment. :)

    • Amanda

      Another space researcher here! But I’m a mech engineer; I don’t completely understand the hardcore science of it all. It’s interesting to me that you don’t feel like you work as part of a team, because teamwork is very much a part of my job. The company I work for does science payload instruments, and it’s definitely a collaborative process – scientists, MEs, EEs, machinists, technicians, I work closely with all of them. I will say that the scientists are a different breed than the engineers. For either one it’s such a niche industry, but as an engineer I think I have an easier time not being defined by my job, since I could more easily apply my skills in a different industry. I also do feel like I’m doing something meaningful by contributing to scientific research (when I could be making way more money in oil and gas), but I can see how to others it might not seem that way. I don’t know exactly what you study, but could you transition to more of an experimental role, where you’re actually in the labs designing experiments and working with a team? I don’t really have any good advice, just wanted to give a shout out from another space-y APWer.

      • Jenni

        Yay space-y APWers! (SPAPWers?)

        In my field, which is a lot of data analysis and modeling, everyone has their own little project. We collaborate and share ideas, but I’m guessing it’s no where near the level of interaction and teamwork you describe. There are instrumentation teams at certain schools/geographical areas, unfortunately I never had the opportunity to do such work but it sounds really interesting! Thanks so much for sharing with me.

    • Audrey

      I’m someone who thought she was going to get a PhD (in Neuroscience), but eventually dropped out and now find myself at a relatively fulfilling job in web data analysis.

      – I love the day to day combination of basic statistics (honestly I don’t do a lot of advanced stuff, although the “data scientist” type positions are heavier on the math)
      – It’s a great place for someone coming from a different field

      – Yep, not a scientist =(
      – If you don’t think your research is contributing to the world, I am going to guess (based on my personal experience) that many of the things you are thinking of don’t will ALSO not feel like contributing to the world.

      Expanding on that last part a bit, you might need to do a little soul seeking. Maybe you really desperately want to help the health care field or something – but! – maybe you’ll always think that what you do isn’t really contributing to the world unless you single-handedly cure cancer.

      I honestly still struggle with this – I like my job, I like my coworkers – but at the end of the day most of what I do revolves around improving a product that helps people spend time and/or money online. We’re far from evil or money grubbing, but it’s hardly “changing the world”. At the same time when I was in grad school it felt like the problems I was working on were so small that I couldn’t imagine what I personally was going to be able to contribute. I can always find a reason that what I’m doing isn’t good enough. Maybe that’s not you – but maybe it is?

      Oh, and Not My Job is so, so hard. Can’t lie there. but I’m getting there, a little at a time.

      • Audrey

        Whoops, didn’t finish a thought at the beginning (and can’t seem to edit my comment)

        – I love the day to day combination of basic statistics, problem solving, telling people about results, and (a little) programming
        – I think it’s a much easier field to break into than more general software development when you come from a scientific background since often you have the right “mindset” and the tools are scattered and many are relatively new so you aren’t expected to have 5-10 years of Javascript or PHP or whatever.

        • Jenni

          Thanks for your comment Audrey, and you made a really good point. I don’t necessarily want to change/save the world (although that would be awesome). It’s more like … I want to feel like the work that I do matters to SOMEONE. And I want to do it as part of a team. Right now, if I publish a paper on my very small little part of the universe, a very small group of people will read it and maybe ponder how it might help/detract from their own research. That’s it. And I do the work alone for the most part.

          The type of job you describe sounds AWESOME. I love statistical analysis, I love using it to tell results, and I do love programming (but not to do it all day like the software engineers). I keep searching for positions like that–most of what I find at the software/web companies is the type that require those 10 years of Javascript, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled. Hearing that scientists have gone into such work is REALLY uplifting to me and helps bolster my confidence that such companies would actually, ya know, want to hire someone like me.

          • Audrey

            I have no idea where you are, but you totally should be able to find non-Javascript jobs (I know 0 Javascript).

            I would look for jobs with “analyst” + whatever statistical tools you know best. It would likely be helpful to learn some SQL if you don’t already know it.

            If you want more specific advice from someone who is in the field aka me (although I didn’t have a PhD when I started) feel free to drop me a line – apw.5.auddess@xoxy.net

  • I’m currently a PhD student with an immunology focus trying to figure out where I’m headed. I’ve decided I don’t really want to do a postdoc if I can avoid it, because 1) I’m sick of the bench and 2) they pay way too little for the amount of work they expect. I am looking at careers with a teaching or writing focus. If anyone has stories or advice for this career path, send them my way please!

    Another thing with careers: I find that having an illness and relying on employer medical insurance really limits my career options in that. It would be very difficult for me to ever freelance or start my own business, and I find this really frustrating.

    • rys

      How do you feel about medical writing/editing — basically the companies to which research groups/pharma send data and they write up the results in reports or as articles?

      • I’ve actually spoken to a university alum that works as a medical writer. I’m somewhat interested in it, but also somewhat intimidated by it.

        • rys

          I can’t speak to the intimidation factor, but a friend transitioned to it and seems pretty happy with it — pretty regular hours, science but not bench research, etc. Give it a shot!

    • Heather

      Another PhD student Heather here – You could pretty much be my twin aside from a focus in neuroscience, and I still get some enjoyment out of benchwork, although I’m pretty sick of what I’ve been doing for the past few months so I could probably give up the bench pretty easily :) I don’t know where you’re located or how flexible your location is, but one possible way into a teaching at the college level focus (but does require doing a postdoc) is applying for an IRACDA postdoc fellowship- there are a few schools across the US that have them, although not many. You do both research and work towards teaching your own course/developing new courses at a local college and working to support underrepresented student populations in science. It may not be a good fit for you, but its one way to transition to teaching at a primarily undergrad college/university (although you might end up as a lecturer and not tenure track). I applied this past year and didn’t get it, but am hoping to make another go at it next year and be funded! and get college teaching experience (so I can find out if I really, really like it)! and stay in Houston, which is where I’m currently and want to stay for another few years!

      Anyways- I’d love to hear updates since it sounds like we’re looking at similar things- have you ever considered science education policy? It sounds really great to me on a vague level, but I’m not sure how to get into it and feel like getting teaching experience would be a pretty good idea for it anyhow.

      • You really must be my twin, because I’m currently living within driving distance of Houston. Though, the husband and I are hoping to move once I’m done with my PhD, to either coast (I’m a native East Coast-er). I don’t mind being just a lecturer, so long as it pays a living wage and offers benefits. I’m taking a course on undergraduate teaching when the fall semester starts, so I’m interested to see how that goes.

        As for science education policy, I simply don’t know enough about it to even know where to start looking.

  • Margi

    I’d appreciate any help/advice. I’m in my early 30s, currently stuck in a federal job that I’ve already hit the ceiling for – no further room for advancement and I can’t see myself doing this for 30 more years (which is what other people in my job do). I have 2 Master’s – one in Organizational Psychology and one in Public Policy. My favorite job was as a research assistant after college, but that’s a dead end. I don’t want to go back and get my PhD, but every psychology job that has a research component requires a PhD.

    Everyone else my age has found their career and I am still stuck. I don’t know what to do. Do career counselors really help?

    • Anon

      Not every job with a research component requires PhD. Look into private consulting firms that do some research work – big ones like KPMG and Mercer do tons of work for the public sector. Smaller firms can be amazing for culture as well (do you have a niche public policy interest, like transportation or education?). Obviously, make sure you’re not running afoul of any conflict of interest laws/guidelines as you’re transitioning out of government work.

    • californienne

      What about research consulting or evaluation firms?
      I have an MA in policy and have worked in community-based research/evaluation with two separate organizations since graduating. I’d imagine this work is somewhat similar to what you did as a research assistant.

    • I don’t know how your federal government works (slash which country your in), but in Canada a great thing about ours is that if you’re a public servant, you can apply to almost any job in the federal public service (as long as you meet the qualifications). I know people who stay with the same department for 30 years, but it’s becoming increasingly common for people (especially ambitious ones) to jump from department to department every few years, gaining all kinds of different experience and knowledge.

      Of course this is easier if you’re a a general policy wonk/management type rather than a subject matter expert, but even for those it’s still possible as there’s always overlap from various stakeholder departments, especially on broad issues.

    • PL

      Margi if you are considered a full time permanent fed employee you woud be able to apply to most other agencies. I am in your same shoes of feeling maxed out and not really challenged. I am afraid to apply else within my location even just being afraid of the change of office environment. I have mostly easy going co-workers and a modest dresscode of in essence don’t look like complete shit and please shower.

      I am petrified of being micro managed and getting overwelmed with a work load and potentially having co-workers who decide it’s their job to make sure I am not back from lunch 2 mins late. However I currently have a boss who is not a fan of me and it does drain me, but I know how to deal with it.

      I have a fear of change to deal with but struggle because apart of me wants to do something outside of the government, but I know I get a lot of vacation time here in comparison to other places and I have flexibilty here especially in my current office, but should I really let myself hold back for the risk of another hard boss even though she is retiring in less than 2 years. I feel like such a pansey writing that out.

      • Anon for Now

        You aren’t a pansy. I feel like that too at my job some times. I hit the 10 year mark in my US federal job 10 days ago. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been here for ever and other times I find it hard to believe I’ve been here that long. Outside of internships & summer jobs, this is the first long-term paying job I’ve ever had. I could go higher in my organization, but none of the higher up jobs appeal to me and I don’t know that I want to be at my current level forever, in part because the people I work for don’t always thrill me.

        That said, I completely hear you on the vacation time, family benefits, and telework. They are wonderful things. And the idea of sacrificing that to leave my job and go somewhere else is scary. I’m giving myself 5 more years in my job (hopefully getting us through babies/births) and going to build up my volunteer resume in the hopes of combining my project management skills from work with my volunteer skills/knowledge to land a job that’s more fulfilling and closer to home. It will likely involve a pay cut, but I feel like the rest will make up for that.

        Good luck, and you are not a pansy!!

    • Lizzie

      Margi, I know a lot of nonprofits that do public policy work–everything from think tanks to advocacy organizations–would value your advanced degrees and experience. The pay isn’t as good as in consulting, but the work is often more rewarding. If you’re in the US, a good place to start would be looking up your state association for nonprofits at http://www.councilofnonprofits.org/about-us/our-network.
      State associations do a lot of policy work themselves and could also recommend other nonprofits in your area that do as well. (That said, if you’re outside the US that’s no help.) Best of luck to you whatever route you go!

  • Anon for this one

    Heeeeey, this. (I’m only anon because this is the internet and employers are everywhere)

    BA in Theater & Creative Writing, with a minor in computer science. Graduated, got an internship doing PR for a theater company, was absolutely terrible (and still have lingering guilt about how I was at that job), ran a box office for another theater for two years, moved to fundraising, did grunt work there for another year, did high-end ticketing supervision and quality management for another performing arts venue for 3.5 years, then went to higher education doing donor services. I’m now using the tuition benefits to get an MPA in non-profit management, but YOU GUYS I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. I MEAN, WITH MY LIFE.

    At this point, I have a stable enough income that we bought a house and can discuss things like kids, own pets and have a future that doesn’t make me want to hide under my desk. In theory, I could see myself kicking ass and taking names in just about any field, but in reality? I’m a pretty shitty employee, she says, writing this at her desk during the middle of a work day. I mean, if you asked my coworkers, they’d probably tell you I’m good at my job (I hope), but I have a habit of taking crappy jobs that no one wants and doing them well. I also feel like I sit around with my thumb up my butt most days. I don’t have a lot of drive or follow through and I have ideas, but… oh hey, the internet is shiny.

    Part of it is that I am in a fairly toxic work environment with unclear expectations, frustratingly opaque processes and tense atmosphere. It’s hard to want to do your best when only your mistakes get noticed (and not even then). I’m thinking of trying to get into consulting when I get out so I don’t have to deal with implementation. Also, the idea of staying in this job for another two years until I get my degree (or 2.5 if I procreate) makes me want to vomit.

    The field that I am accidentally specializing in is pretty specific and there aren’t a lot of jobs. Plus, the stuff I work on is at the micro level where it’s best to have macro level experience.

    Long story short, I’ve employed myself into a box where the jobs I could do are well below my current salary. I’m trying for the grad degree to put myself into a different field with comparable or higher salaries, but find that I am lazy and unengaged with everything. People of the internet, does this change when you’re in a job you actually care about? Or one where you have a supportive work environment?

    • I have no advice or insight for you, but I just want to say that I’m right here with you. Different degrees, different paths, but exact same angst about feeling lazy and unmotivated, and having boxed myself into a path where a change means an unacceptable drop in income.

      I have to imagine having a job you care about, or at the very least having a goal (whether it’s with respect to a career, or family life, or passion) makes everything better. Having a job where you feel valued and feel like you contribute value probably makes the other parts of your life sunnier. Having a passion (fostering cats? running? SCA?) probably makes having a “just a job” worthwhile since it funds the rest of your life. Having some sort of goal to work toward (having kids? qualifying for the Boston marathon? learning Portuguese?) probably gives your down time meaning and makes the other hours better.

      But I don’t actually know. I also feel trapped in a job that’s pretty okay, but not a career, with absolutely no idea what to do, or what I want, or where to go. These are all things I hope to be true for us.

  • Grace

    This is such perfect timing for me. I was lucky enough to land a job before I graduated college in my field of choice. But now I’m a year in, and I just can’t study for actuarial exams any more. All of my free time is eaten up by studying for these things, and I hate hate hate doing it. And I’ve realized I don’t even like math as much as I thought I did.

    I think I would like to get into business intelligence/data management. The company I work for now even has a department in this area full of people I like. But I have no idea what their day to day tasks are like, or if they can even hire anyone soon. And I have no idea how to approach anyone about it. Do I just waltz up to the department head and ask him to give me a job? Do I need to have a heart to heart with my current boss first? Should I sneakily try and get to know the people in that department better and learn about their jobs before I do any of that? If yes, how on earth is that not the most awkward thing on the planet???

    I feel like if I’m going to change paths I need to do it soon. I can’t keep pretending to study for exams forever. But I have no idea how switching careers even works!

    • Jenni

      Just talk to the folks who are already doing that job–it doesn’t have to be awkward! If you’re comfortable enough with one of the folks in that department, tell them you’re considering a career change and you’re interested in learning more about the work they do in their department. If you’re not as certain, make the conversation about getting to know them/that side of the company better. Take them out for lunch or coffee. What are the parts of the job they like the least, or the most? What does a typical day look like? What skills do they use the most in their job? This is an informational interview–you’re interviewing (or just having a discussion at lunch) for information about the job to see if you’d like it. When a position comes up, you’ll be ready–or maybe they’ll even say, “You know, Grace from _____ was interested in joining our team ….”

    • Anon

      Do you know if your company offers rotations? Some of the places I’ve worked prefer to hire from the inside rather than recruiting outside hires. Many had informal job shadowing or opportunities to assist on projects for folks interested in transitioning between departments. If you could speak with your supervisor or the supervisor for that department about your interest in the field, that could be the easiest way to go. HR could also potentially be able to facilitate it.

  • Andrea

    30th Birthday coming up and I am VERY undecided on what to do next career wise. BA in Spanish Literature that I never used. I’ve worked in Preschools since graduation, and now I’m a nanny. I love being a nanny, but I want to have my own kids in the near future. I think I will need a more stable and better paying “career” job when I have others that need my financial support.

    • Rebekah

      You might see above on the advice for the BA in French :)

  • SarahRose

    What I would like to ask all the smart ladies of APW is:

    1) How much did you think about pay in choosing what jobs to take or pursue? Any reflections on this one way or another?

    2) what makes your job or career worth it for you? Or if you’re in a job or career that you are not so happy with, what do you think is lacking?

    Also Meg THANK YOU for this — like three days ago I was thinking it would be great to have this exact thread. I am just starting my last year in college and am in definite need of some proverbial big sisters — and this community has definitely been that for me on so many other topics.

    • Copper

      1) The last time I made a change (which was also the last time I switched jobs at all) I weighed the pay against how much I wanted/needed the job. I talked to almost-husband about it and we decided that I could take a pay cut of 5k if I couldn’t negotiate it higher, based on a high degree of feeling like I needed to take this job, and some flexibility in our budget. Fortunately it didn’t come to that and they matched my pay for my last job. But I guess to answer your question I go in thinking about what I want, then regroup and figure out what I really need to bring home what we need to meet our financial obligations.

      2) Working on great projects with good people. At this point in my career, I need the portfolio pieces to demonstrate what I’m capable of, and the clearest signal for me to get out of a job is if I look through my book and there’s not much accrued during my time there.

      • Copper

        hm, comment editor not working, but I felt I should note that my answer to #2 is a huge issue for me—the time that I know to get out of a job and need most to get a new job is the time that I’m least marketable because my portfolio isn’t fresh. Keeps me in an awful position WRT salary negotiations.

    • Anon

      Holy crap, what a great question.

      When I first started out, pay was the farthest thing from my mind. Actually, that’s not true – I assumed that all high-paying jobs were soul-sucking, anti-community, unsustainable, “corporate” (what does that even mean?!) wastes of mental energy, and so I only looked for jobs that weren’t high-paying. Education-related, social-work, community organizing and advocacy – all of which are great. I was furthering my education because I didn’t know what else to do, usually not a good plan, but in my case it worked out. I discovered I really like working with data, and that that propensity in the field that interests me is highly marketable.

      Once I realized that the job that was likely to make me happy was also high-paying, salary became much more of a part of how I approached job searches. For one thing, a fierce sense of equality made me push for salaries comparable to my (mostly male) peers. For another, I came to believe that I was worth it. This was hard to come around to, because I don’t think everyone gets paid what they’re “worth,” and I certainly don’t think my job is “worth more” than the person who counsels the homeless. However, just because life isn’t fair doesn’t mean I didn’t build what I have, or that I shouldn’t be proud of it (and well-compensated).

      • Love your answer. I took one of those “corporate high paying” jobs out of university because it was literally the only thing anyone would offer me (I applied for a lot of low paying non-profit type jobs and couldn’t get in – they all wanted people with way higher education and qualifications, ironically). At first I totally bought into the (WRONG, so wrong) idea that jobs with corporations are evil and soul-sucking, but I stuck with it because I didn’t know what else I would do and 3 years later I am SO happy in my “corporate” job.

        You are so right that so many people are underpaid and that can create guilt about making a higher salary. I wish my teacher friends made as much as I do, but I know I work hard for what I made and I am lucky to work for a company that values me enough to pay me what they do.

        • del678

          This. I love working for “the man”. My fiance often asks me if I’d ever go out on my own (my job is easily transferable to being a sole trader. My answer is always no.
          I have so many things that I couldn’t easily get on my own like working with a large number of driven intelligent like-minded people, HR protections, steady salary, training, stability, benefits, mentoring. Far for being soul-sucking, I look forward to heading into my big corporate every day. They take care of me and I work hard for them.
          Sure one day there could be a restructure and I could be made redundant but they would be obliged to pay me a redundancy and training package that would at least help in the short term. If I worked for myself and went out of business or business was slow, there’s none of that.

    • 1) Pay is not only salary. Take a good, hard look at the benefits offered by your company before attempting to negotiate salary. They may offer you an acceptable salary until you realize that your healthcare premiums will be $300 a month, which means that the salary is significantly less than you thought it would be. When do they start matching your 401(K)? What kind of maternity leave do they offer? Do they offer short term disability (which is how many women are getting salary for maternity leave)? How many sick days and how many vacation days? Do they carry over? Do you get a flexible savings account for out of pocket healthcare expenses? Do you get a gym membership? Tuition benefits? Etc…

      2) I’m not super pleased with my job but I’m lacking a) motivation, b) potential for growth, c) meaningful work and d) a healthy work environment. What I am getting is a decent salary and some very good benefits that make a), b), c) & d) worth ignoring.

      • Caroline

        How do you ask about maternity leave policies and what it is like to be a mom at a given company? I mean, I really want kids so that’s important, but it seems like you have to not mention kids to prevent discrimination, is the advice I hear. Do they just tell you? (I’ve never had a job with benefits, but hopefully will get one when I finish school.)

        • Christina McPants

          It depends where you are. I’ve had completely confidential informational interviews with HR during the process where I could ask and jobs where the employee handbook was readily accessible in the Internet so I could look it up for myself. If you’re not comfortable asking, once the offer is on the table, ask if you can see the employee handbook / benefits guide. Or ask what the maternity leave policy and couch it in the ‘not planning, just curious’ language.

      • 1. I completely second this. I took my current job primarily for the benefits (i.e., I looked for a a state university job in order to qualify for a tuition reduction for my husband’s medical school tuition). The pay is relatively competitive for a fresh-out-of-college job in this city, but the benefits are outstanding. I have full healthcare, dental, and vision benefits for an extremely affordable cost, gym membership, free counseling resources, 401k, maternity leave, disability, life insurance, and most of all tuition reduction that can be used for BOTH my husband’s medical school tuition and my future grad school tuition. All in all, the benefits package puts us in a better place financially than almost any other position I could find in our city.

        2. I have a supportive workplace and a lot of independence to pursue projects and training. Excellent co-workers and a healthy workplace culture mean that I enjoy going to work everyday. The independent aspect of my job lets me pursue unique projects to add to my portfolio and to get training that adds to my resume and potential for future positions. Plus there is potential for me to move up in both pay grade and responsibilities in the future.

        Right now, I’m in a sort of building phase– this isn’t the kind of job I want to stay in forever. But it is a job I can work at for the next five years and substantially build up my portfolio, resume, and skill set.

    • 1) For me, pay is important in the sense of ‘will this job pay me enough where I can live comfortably, pay my bills, and afford things like travel sometimes.’ Once you’ve got enough money where you don’t have to worry about something small wiping out all your money and putting you into debt, and you can start saving for things like retirement, I don’t think actual amount of pay is super important. Also, I would want good healthcare benefits and adequate sick leave and vacation time as part of my ‘pay’.

      2) I don’t have this now, but what I’m looking for in my next job is a good flow (which is a game theory term describing something being adequately challenging but not frustratingly difficult), satisfaction in the actual work, along with some semblence of work-life balance.

      • Erin E

        Yes. In agreement with Heather L. here about both issues. I know everyone places a different value on their career and what they want it to mean to them – and this can sometimes take a while to figure out! I realized sometime in my mid 20’s that work/life balance meant more to me than high pay or a top management position. So my goals have been to find interesting work that pays enough for me to make a living and still save some $ (this also takes a while – figuring out what kind of lifestyle you want and can afford), but also gives me flexibility with hours and time off.

        I think it’s also important to keep in mind that there are tradeoffs in any career situation… it’s pretty impossible to have your ideal job AND the ideal salary AND all the time off you want AND great hours/benefits, so thinking about what your priorities are in those areas can be really helpful in identifying a path.

    • Emmy

      1) Pay doesn’t influence me much, in part because I look at the entirety of a job. I work in marketing and communications in higher ed, and I could probably make more money at a corporation. But in addition to fabulous benefits, I actually don’t work that much (a solid 40 hours a week) and I’m rarely stressed about work at home. Plus, my job is very flexible and my boss really understands work-life balance. While I make a nice living, my job also allows me to live a nice life. That’s priceless to me.

      2) I love that my job makes a difference. I work with young people, which is amazing. I also get to do a ton of different stuff and work with talented people. I get paid to write and I get to tell some amazing stories. Every time I interview a professor, it’s like I’m still in school. The atmosphere at a college is exciting and many of my coworkers share my values (creative, liberal, progressive, etc.). My coworkers and bosses care about me as a whole person. At the end of the day, we’re not chasing profits. And the benefits are effing sweet (hello, tuition remission!).

    • 1.) As a 25-yr old living with her grad-student partner in a really, Really affordable city, pay is not much of an issue to me, as long I feel I’m valued. I’m currently transitioning to another job/field entirely, and the most important thing for me in taking the new job was that it fit my lifestyle, my strengths, and my personal needs best. This job fits me so well that I’d take it even if the pay sucked. Not everyone has that luxury, financially, but my rent is ridiculously cheap, my partner is fairly compensated through grad school (another unique-to-his-program benefit), and I have few other expenses. Money is becoming more of a priority now that we want to save for a wedding and I’d like to put a big dent in my student loans.

      2.) As I alluded to above, a job has to fit my personal needs. I need to talk to people, I need to move my body on a daily basis, I need to be able to express my personality, I need time to experience some sunshine daily. So any position, no matter how awesome the organization or how qualified I may be, that has me sitting at a desk by myself or with just one or two other people around, will not work for my mental/physical health. This is one of the major reasons I’m thrilled to transition from my current position to being a dance instructor. Along with all that, my position needs to have a concrete connection to the community. I need to see and live in and around the work I do on a regular basis– this is why I do community work. My tasks and responsibilities may end when I’m off the clock, but I need to feel both in my job and in my personal life like an engaged, active community member.

    • SarahG

      Awesome question!
      1. I had a threshold below which I would not go because it wouldn’t allow me to pay rent and student loans and remain solvent… other than that, I’m an educator, so I don’t pay too much attention to pay, since my expectations are low :) Sometimes it’s a pain, but I get great quality of life with my particular position, and that’s priceless to me.

      2. I do believe I’m making a difference in young people’s lives, and that really motivates/energizes me. But honestly, I love my job because of my coworkers. Coworkers can make or break a job for me — even one that seems “just right” can be ruined by one miserable nutball.

  • Audrey


    I am into day 3 of full time housewife (or maybe ‘starving artist) after a move to a new city. My career has been all over the map, from directing a small museum (to big) to providing support to people who submit data to a federal agency (to boring). In our new city I really want to get back into non-profit/museum work and am nervous that it is going to take quite a while.

    In the meantime, I’m hoping to find a volunteer gig for the experience and networking and since funds are tight, something through a temp agency. I’m also considering opening up an Etsy shop (anyone want some custom stained glass?).

    I’ve seen people write above about not knowing exactly what they want and I AM THERE! How do I translate all my experience into something that I love to do (that pays the bills), I’m not sure. I can’t go back into a corporate environment, I need to feel like I am doing something positive for my community again. It will happen, I’m sure it will happen, but I’m a bit stressed that it’s going to take some time.

    Does anyone else have any great advice for career changing, and figuring out how to make a living doing what they love? (of course you do, this is APW!)

  • Stephanie

    I went to college for a CMT (composition and music technology degree) but the head professor suggested I do something else that I wasn’t cut out for it. Since then I’ve realized it was a hobby and I am going back to finish with an English degree. Hopefully a creative writing degree. I’ve been thinking about teaching and as noble as it is, I don’t know if I could deal with kids who don’t want to learn or purposely try my patience. In magical dreamland I think I’d like to be an English Professor at a University. But that’s a lot of time and I don’t know if I have it in me to be that competitive. I want to do something with english. Something with writing. I’ve actually almost finished a trashy romance novel. But I don’t know what job I can get that I’ll enjoy and can pay the bills with. I feel like whatever creative job I’ll enjoy wont pay, and what ever job will pay I won’t enjoy…
    :I Stuck…

    • Amanda

      A bit of commiseration here! I have a BA and MA in English (the MA is a concentration in creative writing). I worked in publishing after both programs, and I’m currently freelance editing and half-assedly looking for a full-time job (just found out today that the one I was interested in was filled. Fan-freaking-tastic.). I like editing enough, but it’s lonely being home by myself all day and there’s no variety or challenge. My previous job was way too much work for way too little pay. I have no advice, but from someone who also feels stuck, I am sending internet hugs your way.

    • p.

      I don’t know that this would be satisfying to you, but many companies now publish blogs or newsletters and they need people to write and edit those publications. I was a Literature major and this is essentially the work I do: I write for the company’s newsletter(s) and blog, and I edit all other content.

    • Ann

      Sounds familiar.

      I started college as a music performance major, but in spite of the fact that I was doing fine, I was miserable. I realized pretty quickly that the lifestyle I would have even if I managed to be very successful would never make me happy (auditions, weird schedules, moving around to whatever big city I could get a job in…), so after 1 semester I picked myself up and transferred schools to one closer to home with little idea what to do next. I started majoring in secondary social studies education, mostly because the school had a great education program, and the idea of teaching history didn’t sound awful. After about a year of that I realized that my education classes were pretty useless and I wasn’t much looking forward to teaching, but I was enjoying my history classes, so I switched majors to history. Literally about a month after making that switch I had this sudden clarity that I wanted to write fiction. Whoops. At that point I could not even think about changing again; I just needed to get my degree done, so I finished with my BA in history.

      Next, I got my MFA in creative writing. I knew it wouldn’t lead to much of anything career-wise, but I felt like it was something I had to do for me, and honestly, I loved it. I finished that degree this past May, and am working on polishing up my novel to hopefully pursue publication, but that still seems a ways off.

      Meanwhile, the student loans are now in repayment, and while I am so incredibly fortunate to have a husband who makes a decent salary that we can live on AND is understanding of the choices I’ve made for my life, we are now stretched very thin financially. I’ve been working part-time teaching and tutor for SAT/ACT prep for the past couple of years, which is okay, but I’m hardly making anything, and it’s getting a little boring since the curriculum doesn’t change at all. I’ve been job hunting in earnest since March now. Applied for hundreds of jobs, I image. Had 3 interviews, no offers. I am getting really discouraged. I would love love love to do something writing or editing related, but I’m still applying for pretty much anything I’m even vaguely qualified for (administrative assistant, HR, marketing… almost anything!).

      Does anyone have any advice, other than just keep applying? Has anyone done freelance writing or editing work who could advise me on how to get started doing something like that since finding a full-time position is proving nearly impossible? I’m getting to the end of my rope here, and it is so frustrating. Sometimes I want to scream “I am intelligent, hard-working, and capable, and I have a graduate degree… someone just take a chance and hire me already!!!”

  • BA in Studio Art with a minor in psychology and a varsity track athlete (I throw the hammer), then straight into an MA in Art Therapy and Mental Health Counseling. It took me 7 months to get my first job out of grad school in 2007, and then the market imploded. I was living and working in Boston, had just gotten out of a toxic relationship and was floundering. I worked at a therapeutic after-school program with teens, and did fee-for-service work at a Boston high school and middle school. I worked 4 part time jobs at one point to try to get my loans/rent/food paid, and after 2 years of that, moved into a super-hard, but super-awesome job as a clinician at a girl’s juvenile detention facility. I was there for 2.5 years, learned a lot about myself, and about racism, classism and what it’s like to work in a majority minority work place (I was one of 2 caucasian staff, and the other one was the Program Director.) Shortly after I started that job, I met my now-husband, and 6 months into that relationship began trying to figure out how to move from Boston to Albany without taking a massive pay cut.
    Along the way, I got my Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in Massachusetts, and then in New York. I’m working on being a Registered Art Therapist, and getting the creative-arts therapy license in New York as well. I currently work as a school-based therapist in a poor urban district, through a large non-profit mental health agency. People out here didn’t want to hire me without my LMHC and many ignored me because I’m not a social worker. I’m trying to figure out how to balance this job with starting my own private practice, and transitioning fully to private practice in the next year or so and supplementing with teaching counseling at a local college.
    Balancing private practice, Jarak’s job (he works evenings) and finances is going to make buying a house and starting a family tricky-at-best. I’m grappling with the duelling desires of wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, and also not wanting to leave my career, both for the money and for the fact that I’m damn good at what I do, and I will likely want to talk to grownups more often than if I was a stay-at-home mom.

  • Breck

    I graduated in December with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Creative Writing and have been working as an A/P admin since moving to the Bay in February. Today is my last day at this job since we move to Venezuela next week for my boyfriend’s job.

    Reading this thread and the See Jane Invest post compounded with the last day of work thing has me majorly stressed out. When my boyfriend finishes this program he’s on in 6-12 months, and we’re back home, I know I want to start my own (catering) business and not go back to work at a desk, but I am terrified of failing and losing my little savings nugget and being back at square one. I am so, so scared. I keep telling myself the things Kelly and Meg echoed about baby steps and not expecting perfection right away, but I can’t seem to get past this fear.

    • KC

      Being back at square one is actually not horrible.

      If it helps, a catering “sideways” entrance can be assisting a caterer or restaurant on weekends or some evenings. You get to know the ropes, even if you’re mostly bussing plates, and have a better sense of what the margins and potholes and whatnot are. It would probably be most ethical/straightforward to work for a caterer or whatever who would not be in direct competition with you when you left, though (so: if you’re thinking tacos, go for someone who doesn’t do tacos) – this way, you can potentially recommend each other if you get clients who aren’t a good fit for you but would be a good fit for X. :-)

      But also: square one is not a horrible place to be.

    • Rebekah

      Well, since you know your time is limited in Venezuela, I hope you use that as a license to take more risks. I hope you totally immerse yourself in their food and your own kitchen and really put yourself out there, because if you fail, so what? Then you move back to the States and have tons more experience and perhaps even a new outlook on life/food/catering/your abilities.

      Be safe! But be awesome.

  • Melissa

    Graduated with my BA in Journalism and Mass Commuincation, minored in Management. Spent a year in Austin trying to work on trying to do media, mostly radio. The radio market was so small though. A lot of media jobs are being doubled up and condensed. It was tough. This happened in 2007 right before the 2008 recession. Jobs were scarce. So I did what everyone thought was the answer. I went back to school. I have my MA in Communication Studies with a focus on Culture. I did teach after I received my MA. Public speaking is an important skill if you didn’t know. But mostly I have always been interested in Event Planning. I did in when I worked for a group of radio stations in Austin. It’s known as promotions. For the past 3 years I have been immersing myself into what is needed. Like I said I did teach but I didn’t feel like it was for me. The pros was I mostly set my schedule. Sure there were times it was demanding but it was ok. My heart is always in Event Planning. I currently work at a nonprofit planning events, which don’t get me wrong is fantastic. I guess I’m feeling like I miss setting my work schedule and would like to know if I’m heading in the right direction. I don’t know what the next step is. I know I have done smaller events to larger ones and I think I enjoy the smaller ones a lot more. I would eventually like to get into primarily wedding planning but would do gala’s and things like that as well. I’m currently working on our biggest event and it’s tough. I don’t feel like I can count on some of the people and if it was just me doing everything that would be easier but it’s not. So questions would be what is my next step(especially in regards to planning weddings)? Is it worth it to start my own business?

  • Allo

    Man, I’m loving what you guys are putting out there today. I have a BA in poli sci, no desire to do more schooling at this point, and even less desire to incur more debt to do so, when it wouldn’t guarantee me a job. (I’d actually argue that would be irresponsible – for myself, at this point in time.) I have a job that I dislike and am bored by, but pays decently – so decently that any other job in any field I’d be remotely interested (and I’ve stretched that definition – TRUST) barely comes close. Unfortunately, partner and I aren’t in a position where I could take a pay cut. So… I’ve started volunteering in a field that I’m interested in (women’s health) and have made an effort to cultivate other areas of my life (friends, family, food). Yet I’m still feeling like there’s a huge gap in a significant area of my life that’s leaving me really unfulfilled and leaking into other areas of “happiness” – if that makes sense. It’s also hard for me to wrap my feminist-minded head around the fact that my partner is super successful in his career and I just can’t make it work and am stuck in an admin job – it’s definitely a pride thing.

  • I walked around high school confidently stating to anyone who asked that I would one day land my dream job of globe-trotting policy wonk. I applied to one university program specifically designed for that career, and realized I hated it after one semester.

    Then I transferred universities and programs (from international politics to environmental studies) and wrote off the dream job. I did a BES and an MES focusing on local food, sustainability, communities, and complex systems, and hoped to ride the local food trend into a job with a municipality, or failing that, a restaurant.

    During my graduate studies, though, I heard that the dream job was hiring, applied on a whim, and got it.

    I have a hard time explaining how my education is *directly* related, but in broad strokes (interdisciplinarity, complex systems, stakeholder engagement) a lot of skills translate quite well.

  • LadyCrabtree

    I have my Masters of Library and Information Studies, and I graduated a year ago. I have had an amazing job as the Community Co-ordinator at a rural public library for the past year but my contract is now up and I’m moving in with my boyfriend, in a different city. We’ve been living in different places for the past year because I wanted to have a full-time job and this was the first one that came up that also paid me more than $13 an hour. I’m now moving to Montreal in 10 days, and I still don’t have a job lined up. I am a bit scared, but I have planned for this for a while so I do have a small financial safety net and I can speak French (very important!). I am just going to keep on trying until I get something but it’s nerve-wracking to not know what’s coming.

    • I moved half-way across the US for my partner’s grad work with no job lined up, too. It’s hard for a while, sometimes for a long while. What worked best for me is just getting out of the house as much as possible, get to know people, introduce yourself and ask for what you want. Takes a lot of energy, but it worked well for me.

      • LadyCrabtree

        It’s good to know that it worked out for other people!

    • YAY for another APWer in Quebec! (I am in Quebec City, but spent 10 months in Montreal when I first moved here.) Good luck with your move and your new life in Montreal. Is your boyfriend from Montreal?

    • PS. You might want to take a Francisation class. I spoke French too when I moved here, but the Francisation class was really helpful because I had studied French from France and there are some differences here. Plus it was a great review.

      • LadyCrabtree

        My boyfriend is from Ottawa, but he works in video games and all the industry is in Montreal. I definitely will consider the Francisation course. Currently all my coworkers are Franco-Ontarians so I do get some practice but I don’t want to miss out on opportunities because my French isn’t good enough.

        • Good luck with the transition. I found it super hard to use French in Montreal, by the way. People in Montreal tend to switch to English pretty quickly when they are the Anglophone accent. (Even if you continue using French, sometimes they keep using English, haha.)

    • MJ

      Just wanted to give you some Canadian love! My partner and I had great jobs in rural Yukon (redundant?) then moved to Toronto a couple years ago – him with a job lined up, me with no job lined up. It took some time, but I got there. Right away, I got involved with volunteering at the AGO, and that really helped. Kept me busy, met people, and got more connected with my new city.

      Wishing you all the best in the transition!

    • Lizzie

      Way to be gutsy, Ladycrabtree! Mad props. I know a lot of folks who got their MLIS and went into the field of prospect research (a part of nonprofit fundraising). It’s a growing field so Montreal may have some positions, usually in universities or hospitals. This association –> http://www.aprahome.org/p/cm/ld/fid=123 has a Canada chapter and some contact info. Could be an interesting route for your background. Good luck with your move!

  • LM

    After getting my MSW and working in Social Work for 3 years, I left to do museum research. It’s been *almost* two years and I have ruled it out as a long-term career. I miss some things about SW, and might go back for the *right* SW job (more autonomy/creativity with as little paperwork as possible for a SW gig), but this would also mean a pay-cut and I wonder if I’d run into the same dissatisfaction that led me to leave in the first place.

    I have been toying with getting an a MA in Spanish and doing a program where I could live abroad. I speak it pretty proficiently and used it as a social worker, and the idea of spending a year getting really fluent appeals to me. But then I’m like ‘what would I do with this new skill?’ What if we go abroad and all the changes put too much stress on my new marriage? My husband can work remotely, but would he get lonely and resentful? For what it’s worth, I am a worrier and this is not something my husband seems concerned about.

    Additional worries: Am I just kicking the can down the road by getting a masters before knowing what I want to do with it instead of having a more solid career plan? Will I just be surrounded with people just out of college? So many [anxious] questions and yet…after months of trying to figure out a next step, this one seems to have more staying power than some of my other ideas. I’d love to hear from anyone who went back to school later or moved abroad for a while with a spouse who didn’t speak the language when you did, or had an experience with anything I am thinking about…

  • Anonymous

    I am so grateful to have found this post today. My fiance and I are both attorneys and we are both absolutely miserable. But we feel trapped because of money. We make a decent living but struggle because of student loan debt. We know what we want to transition into but don’t know how to go about doing it. There’s almost this sense of paralyzing fear that is preventing us both individually and as a couple from taking the leap. Our stress and unhappiness in our professional lives is affecting our health (hello, expanding waistline and booty) and our relationship. It’s horrible. Any advice?

    • Speaking as someone who left a very lucrative career to one far less lucrative but didn’t suck my soul dry I will offer what advice I can. What helped most for me was to give myself a long term plan of attack. As much as I hated my job, it paid very well and I lived a lifestyle commiserate with that. So first I started an aggressive saving/debt reduction plan to minimize the jolt of changing jobs. I basically spent a 18 months “planning my quit” if you will. Ducks are wily. Focusing on what I was doing to make my life better in the future helped get me through the daily grind of the soul sucking job.

      Also, I gave myself a hard quit date. I picked a day a year in advance and promised to quit my job. It’s amazing how you can make things happen with a deadline (even if it’s one you made up yourself).

    • Sara

      Debt is just money, but you cannot buy good health and happiness (not directly, anyway). It sounds like you need to just suck it up and let those student loans accumulate interest, or go into forbearance, if that’s an option for you. The other possibility to explore is income-based repayment: if your monthly income drastically changes, so does your monthy student loan payment. Touch base w/your lender and figure out your repayment options before committing yourselves to a lifetime of personal and professional unhappiness.

    • rys

      Can you take the leap one at a time? Is it the work of law or the particular jobs you have that you hate — that is, is there a version of legal practice that might better suit your life? What makes risk more comfortable for you — a financial cushion, a deadline, a fallback plan, etc? Can you plan for that as the interim move?

    • Gina

      I am completely in the same boat as you! No wonder job satisfaction among attorneys is so low, huh? Crippling student debt keeps me from leaving, too. I think all the suggestions here are helpful. I would look into federal loan forgiveness, which kicks in after 10 years at a non-profit or government agency (if you think you’d be happier being an attorney at one of those places). Also ask your law school financial aid office if they have any programs that assist in paying off debt. I am counting on both those resources to keep from being completely sucked under by my (ever-growing) student loan debt. And yes, Income-Based Repayment. Do that too.

    • MT

      As a former absolutely miserable attorney, I thought I would chime in. I took a law firm job right out of law school, but after a year or so, I was desperately trying to figure out how to get out of it. I did not really know what I wanted to do instead; I just knew I wanted to be doing something else. Eventually, I picked a new career field to try, and then I started to plan my escape.

      I agree with Addie that making a plan to quit is really helpful. Like Addie, I also adopted an aggressive saving/debt reduction plan. I set some goals for myself: 1) to get a little bit ahead on paying my student loans, and 2) to save a certain amount of money that I could live off of for a while if I needed to (or at least to serve as a financial cushion). In service of those goals, I lived fairly frugally (cheap apartment, old car, etc.) and stuck with my law firm job until I had saved enough/paid ahead enough that I felt more comfortable about my financial situation. When I did find a new job that I wanted to try, I ended up taking a huge reduction in salary, but oh, it was so worth it for me. Thanks to my plan, I felt like I was capable of taking the financial risk of leaving the legal profession. Getting comfortable enough to make this move was a very big deal for me, as I generally consider myself to be super risk-averse.

      When I took that new job, I thought of it as a temporary pit stop on my way to figuring out what I *really* wanted to do. Instead, I ended up falling in love with it, and I’ve been in higher education administration ever since. Eventually, I even paid off my loans. Unlike my darkest days at the law firm, I don’t cry on my way to work now…in fact, most days, I am pretty happy about going to work. So. It can get better! You can find a way!

      • Kate

        I’m about three weeks into my Radical Repayment Strategy (RRS for short). I’m 4 years out of law school (class of 2009 – right into an awful economy- represent!), with a great firm job that I know I can’t do forever. A few weeks ago I had an awful realization that I need out, but that I can’t get out with my current debt level. I sat down with my husband and we eeked out a plan to triple my monthly student loan payments, so I can be done is 3 years, 10 months (instead of 16 years, if we kept paying as we have been). We’ve cut back our expenses hardcore (no more wedding travel! no more cable! homemade pizza and no more friday sushi!) but I feel better already, knowing that we have a plan in place.

        I’m also looking for opportunities at work to learn skills that will transition well outside of a law firm. For example, I mostly do commercial litigation right now, and that might be a hard sell in explaining my skills outside of the firm context (I can … write letters? call law clerks? use Summation?) So I’m trying to transition to employment law and counseling, which has always interested me, and might be more useful outside of the law firm environment. I joined a new inn of court, and starting networking in different ways. This makes me feel more in control of my career, even though I know I need my firm job for now.

        I think the biggest thing, even if you have debt, is to take control of where you are. You’ll feel so much better, even if your options are still somewhat limited.

        PS -IBR is also great, but unfortunately the vast majority of my debt is through my state government, which does not offer any IBR-type programs for government service (which is a crock, I know – because I feel like government service is where I really want to be!)

    • Mezza

      Have you looked into income-based repayment? It basically saved my life after law school. I went straight into a theatre career, which pays waaaaay less than law firms, and IBR cut my loan payments to about $100/month. Granted, I was making very little money, but it was certainly enough to make those payments. And while I didn’t have any private loans, I did have enough public loans to cover 3 years of Ivy League tuition, so the regular payments would have been about twice my monthly rent. In New York City.

  • As a former “success kid,” I crashed and burned a bit when I hit college. I graduated with a degree in Community, Environment, and Development. I am still passionate about community development work, but still feel like I shortchanged myself in college by not pursuing more challenges or more internship experiences. Anyway, I spent a year working retail/waitressing until my partner graduated, then we both moved for his graduate degree.

    In my new city, I knew I’d have a hard time finding jobs, so I just started showing up. I saw a posting for a community farm non-profit, so I emailed about volunteering. When I showed up to my first hour of volunteer work, one of the other staff members said they were looking for AmeriCorps members. I was pretty desperate for employment at this point, and I applied to the AmeriCorps program, which is administered through the Parks and Rec Dept. I kicked ass at my interview with the non-profit. . .and then didn’t get the job. That sucked really hard. I then had an interview at an after-school program, which I felt went so-so. I got that job, spent a year miserably working with children (NOT my thing. At. All.), though I had great reviews from my boss. Through AC, though, I basically got paid for volunteer hours put in anywhere, so I started volunteering my time on the committee coordinating the local Earth Day Festival, which is a major community event. Through that work, I met nearly all my coworkers for my current job, Outreach Coordinator for a grant program administered by the Mayor’s Office. (Having lived in the city for not quite year at the time, 5 people interviewed me, and I already knew 4 of them.) Thanks to bureaucratic bullshit, waaaaay too much desk/screen time, and a manipulative grant coordinator, I have been ready to leave this job for months and finally found a posting for a ballroom dance instructor.

    I’m now training to be a full-time ballroom instructor, and though I don’t always see eye to eye with my new boss, she’s a responsible employer and this job fits me so, so well. I will be moving my body and talking to people all day. I will have my mornings free, with time to myself, allowing my partner time to himself at the end of his day (instead of me, starving for interaction, chattering at him as soon as he gets home). I always thought I’d be employed in community development and dance as a hobby, but it turns out I will be dancing as a job, and pursuing community development volunteer work on the side. This is the first job since college where I can see myself staying for more than 12 mos– I can hardly wrap my head around that. Plus, it feeds directly into my pipe dream of owning my own dance studio, as I can learn by example and counter-example while I instruct.

    What has always served me well is just showing up. I get told that I give away too much of my time for free, and that claim has merit, but it also opens doors for me. I show up to volunteer (as a teen, I never would have guessed I’d like to volunteer some day. I thought volunteering was always soup kitchen kind of work), I show up to community events. I email people, facebook people, set up meetings. I attended a marketing conference while in AmeriCorps, because it sounded like a good career option, then proceeded to meet about four marketing professionals for coffee over the next couple months to get more info. I ended up not going that route, but I got tons of info. I even set up meetings at two universities to talk grad programs and sat in on a session of an MBA class.

    Later, I showed up at the kick-off party for a brand new coworking space downtown. I way overdressed (showed up in a cocktail dress, not knowing how formal a “launch party” might be, then got asked if I just came from a wedding), and I didn’t know anyone. I stayed long enough to introduce myself to one of the founders and said I wanted to help in any way possible. I got a call two months later asking if I could help man “office hours” in exchange for free space to work in. I was very involved in the project for about four months, then could no longer devote my time to them only for trade. I no longer work there, but am now acquainted with the start-up community in my town and know where to find a ton of resources. I follow people on social media, I shake hands and say hello, I do my best to just show up and introduce myself, and it has worked really well for me for the most part. Now, when my new boss talks about her goal of getting the studio out into the community more, I can come up with five ideas/people/places to start with right away.

    And just to really drag out this story, I can say that the past three years of having five or six jobs have been torturous because I’m impatient and picky. I know what kind of lifestyle I want, but it’s hard to find jobs that will suit me (as opposed to being slave to the job) at an entry level, and even more difficult when I think through the day -to-day tasks that I really hate, even in a field I enjoy. I have zero patience for transitions in my life, and I want to get to “Best Ever” right away, not spend months in the daily grind until I get there. Even now, I’m having a hard time finishing up my grant position before moving into full-time dance instruction. I’m a firm believer in just Going and Gettin’ You Some, which often has roadblocks. But that’s what gin was made for, right? Thanks for listening, ladies.

  • Mezza

    On Monday, I’m running away to join the circus.

    Okay, so it actually doesn’t require any relocation at all, but I really am joining a circus cabaret company as their new business manager. It’s basically the job I’ve been waiting for, with a higher salary than I ever expected, since I started in the theatre management industry four years ago. And that was a rough four years of hopping from job to job (in commercial theater, every employee of a show loses their job when the show closes – actors, musicians, managers, everything) and being very grateful that my partner is a tenured teacher, but it’s finally starting to seem worth it.

    Also, three years ago I graduated from a very fancy law school, with all of the accompanying debt. I already knew that I wouldn’t be practicing law, and at the time it didn’t seem like a disadvantage, since the market was a mess and law firms weren’t hiring. It’s been kind of discouraging to see many classmates finally get steady jobs and start raking in the law firm salaries, and I was definitely starting to wonder if I’d made a mistake. I kept reminding myself how much I loved the theater industry and how much I would hate practicing law, which is true, but it’s really nice to finally feel like I didn’t screw myself over financially by pursuing a career I love.

    So, while I’m trying to remain calm and practical because I haven’t actually started the new job yet, I’m pretty much thrilled that my career is falling into place two months before my wedding. And I hope I can be an example of how a risky career can eventually pay off!

    • That sounds awesome, congrats!!

  • ash

    PERFECT Timing!

    I’m 27, graduated in 2008 with a Bachelors in Political Science & Sociology. Thought I wanted to go to law school but was scared of the commitment. Started working as a records clerk, admin assistant, secretary, paralegal – 5 years in, I hate it and don’t want to do it anymore. I’d been volunteering in pediatric cardiology at a local Children’s Hospital. I love it there. So I got a job at the hospital, but couldn’t find one in pediatrics.

    Fast forward one year – I think I want to go back to school to learn how to do heart imaging on peds cardiac patients. Everything’s great – THEN I find out the waiting list for admissions is 2 years. 2 YEARS. I’m stuck in a job I like, but have hit the ceiling and have nowhere to go. I don’t think I can do 2 more years, and my husband and I want to start a family. School is full time, with no exceptions, and lasts for 2 years (6 semesters), so I’d have to stop working anyway, lose all my benefits, half my retirement and hope they give me back a job when I finish school.

    What do I do?? Anyone out there in healthcare struggling to make this decision? Anyone work in a Children’s Hospital?

  • APW readers are hands down the smartest women on the internet. That is all.

    • Also, if anyone is in South Florida and wants to work for a growing health and wellness company, we are so hiring. I know this because one of my second banana jobs is the HR department and APW readership is absolutely a great reference.

      • JLB

        I am probably relocating to South Florida (Boca Raton) in November. I would LOVE to work in health and wellness, I am just about done with my ISSA personal training certification and I know I love fitness stuff so that would be right up my alley. How do I get in touch with you?

        • you can check out our company website to see if it seems like a good fit:


          and drop me an email addie at v-artofwellness dot com

          November in South Florida is when things really get started so you’re coming at a good time. If we aren’t a good fit I can still probably help you find a place. Or at least tell you where NOT to work.

          • JLB

            OMG yes! Emailing.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        APW readership is absolutely a great reference.

        The whole exchange is great, but this line is fantastic.

  • Amber

    The timing on this thread could not be any.more.perfect. I am 30 and (almost–one more monthish!) a PhD grad in marine science. I love research. I hate teaching. Perfect job = some sort of research in a government (state or federal) lab, or doing research in a musty basement of a museum. Yeah. But, right now, I am so sick of my research and this niche that I’ve kinda placed myself in through my PhD work, that I really don’t want to do anything other than sit at home, knit, and start a family. Or plan weddings. Or make wine (I have no idea how to do this, it’s just something that sounds fun!).

    About a month ago I saw a post for a research job, in a state lab, that is actually pretty perfect in terms of what I want to do and would be a great stepping stone to get into a good research job in the future, but it’s in another state. My partner and I have a couple more moves in our future as we’re both finishing PhDs at universities across the country from each other, and there will be postdocs and such before permanent jobs are found, so we both really want to make sure that we take advantage of opportunities that could help make it easier for two scientists to find careers in the same location when we are ready to settle down and buy a home and all that. The job sounds really great actually, is in a nice location (well, nicer than where I am now), and while the pay isn’t fantastic, it’s wayyy better than the research stipend I’ve been living off of. The kicker is that I just moved back in with my partner a few months ago after a two-year stint of long-distance, and I really don’t want to have to move away for this amazing job. We’ve been together 10 years, and can definitely handle long-distance. But I just don’t want to. And we would like to start a family soonish, which means that I need a job with insurance (and ideally we’d be living together!). So I’m stuck with trying to decide if I should move four states away for a decent paycheck and a job I am actually excited about doing, or stay put and hope to get a retail job or something that will likely pay min. wage as there is nothing in a two hour radius that is in my field. Ugh, the choices. I think I’ve made like a bazillion pro/con lists already, and I just don’t know what to do. I’m so burnt out, but I don’t want to go off on a tangent after working so hard to get a PhD, and in the sciences, any time you take off from doing research is seen as a major detriment to your career (often referred to as ‘publish or perish”).

    • Jenni

      Have you actually applied yet? If not, do so. Once you get the offer, you can weigh the pros and cons (maybe they love you so much that they work a deal to get your partner a job too … okay unlikely but ya never know). My endless realization this month has been that it’s SO much easier to worry about the “what ifs” and try to account for every single variable. It’s better to get a REAL job offer/potential move situation, and then evaluate from there. If your partner is finishing their PhD as well, maybe they’ll be able to move to where the research position is. But, you won’t know any of that, unless you first apply.

      Second–I encourage you to apply to everything that you might be interested in. Part of me regrets not applying to jobs after undergrad and just going to grad school because it was ‘expected’. I definitely regret only applying to one postdoc and wish I had explored other options. Now I’m finally looking at other careers (also trying to resolve a long-distance stint) and looking at LOTS of jobs and thinking, ‘would I be happy doing this?’

      There’s a few suggestions upthread about looking into something like science policy. There’s probably a lot you can do with your skill set that isn’t marine science specifically. I recommended Put Your Science to Work to another PhD up there, maybe it will help you.

      The two body problem isn’t easy. I hope your situation gets resolved soon and happily.

      • Amber

        Thanks for your thoughts–I should have said *I applied for* and not just that *I saw*, as yes, I have applied. I’ve actually applied to loads of jobs, and most of them aren’t marine-related as I have a pretty interdisciplinary science tech background. (I did the same thing after undergrad and before grad school; I wanted to get some real-world experience for a few years before I committed to grad school and get a better idea of what I wanted to do.) The supervisor/person in charge of hiring for this position has given me a verbal offer on the job, though I haven’t received anything in writing yet so nothing is really set in stone I guess. I definitely held off on thinking about it too much until I talked to them yesterday and got the verbal thumbs-up, so now I have to seriously think about it and make a decision soonish.

        As far as the possibility of bringing my partner along for a job, she still has two years to go in her PhD program so there is no way that she could come along in the near-ish future. And job-wise, we are in very different disciplines of science; not only would there be no job she would be even remotely qualified for at this lab, she would be completely miserable working there.
        We had been somewhat planning on the possibility of me having to move elsewhere to find an appropriate job, but we hadn’t planned on it happening this soon (we were thinking like 6 months from now), so it’s a bit of a panic-inducing thing to think about. I’ll have to check out that book–I think I’ve read something similar and found it very helpful.

    • Caitlin

      I think you might as well go ahead and apply to the out of state job. If you don’t get it, fine. If you do get it, then you can start in with the pro/con lists. Good luck!

  • Boy do I need this post today!

    I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and History. I majored in those subjects because I liked them – I had no real “career path” in mind at the time. Which has proven problematic. I was lucky enough to get an internship senior year at a non-profit and gained very vague experience with a donor software system. After graduation my then boyfriend moved to the Midwest. Well, apparently no one in Missouri knew this system, and though my knowledge was limited, I was the only person of 60 applicants with experience. So I got an entry level office job.

    I have since moved departments and still do office work – it’s by no means terrible – and the benefits are great, but I just don’t feel excited to go to work. So, with an arsenal of APW posts and other blogs, I started a blog this week. It might turn in to something, it might not, but for now it is filling my creative void.

    • Friendly reminder: POST THE LINK.

      love, one of your helpful early readers :-)


    I guess I’m in kind of a weird place at the moment, because my life has always been so planned out and now I’m getting to the end of the planned out bit and I’ve (almost) got a great job, but I’m worrying about what comes next.

    Rewind … I have a BA and got onto a graduate training programme in local government, which is also paying for me to get my MSc (which I finish next week!). The training programme finishes in September and I’ve managed to line up a super job in the social enterprise I’ve been on secondment to for 4 months. This job could probably last me about 18 months before I’ll feel ready to move on I think. I love the organisation and the work (helping people!) and there are loads of exciting projects coming up and it’s a Project Manager role, so one up from what I was expecting. ALL GOOD!

    But …. then what? There is no career progression at this job as the company is so small (next step would be chief exec lol) but I’ll get loads of transferable skills. So I don’t think I’ll struggle to get another job, I just don’t know what kind of job I want. Where do I go next? Do I stay in project management? I can only get so far with that. Do I try something slightly different to get a wider set of skills,? Or do I specialise? Do I stay in the non-profit sector? Never going to be rich. Do I go back to local government? Argh politics and bureaucracy. Do I go private sector? Hmm but I want to help people, not make money for fat cats.

    I know I should be focusing on the great job I’ve got lined up (only salary negotiation to do this week and then we should be set :) ) but I can’t help wondering what comes next. Someone asked me where I saw myself in 5 years time / what my aspirations are …. and I couldn’t answer them. I genuinely don’t know. Other than personal things like owning a home, getting married, maybe a baby, work life balance, comfortably well off, not fat.

    Anyone else get this feeling??

    • I’m finally training for a position where I could actually stick around for the next three years or so. In the recent past, I’ve had all very short-term positions, with not idea of what I’d be doing in a year’s time. For me, I just had to be open. Learn about every new organization/position/field you come across if it interests you, find out what’s going on in your field/community, and buy a coffee/cocktail for people in fields you want to learn about. Explain to them “I’m doing this, which I love, but I’m looking for new stuff down the line. Can you tell me more about what you do/your career path?” I’ve found people are generally really willing to share their experiences this way. 18 months is a long time, a lot can happen, and frustratingly enough, you might find an answer in the next three months, or not until month 17. Or both, with the answers being vastly different. Hang in there, absorb and enjoy where you are, and keep your eyes open to anything new that comes up! (I know, easier said than done)

    • Chiara M

      I’m just finishing up my Masters (see below), and I feel exactly like you. I’ve always been about three months ahead of myself with my planning, knowing where I was going to be next, knowing how long it would take. And as I approached the end of my program, I felt more and more terrified because I didn’t know what was going to happen when I graduated. I have no idea what next month is going to look like let alone next year, and it’s terrifying.

      But I had a great mentor at school who was managing to do many of the things I’ve thought of doing and feeling fulfilled about it. The thing she told me was that she had spent a lot of time thinking about the future and had had to work really hard to live in the here and now. To be present and embrace what you’ve got going on right now. And that was working out for her.

      It’s so easy to become wrapped up in what the future is going to bring. I’ve been trying really hard to internalize her advice. It’s tough, but if you’re feeling like I’m feeling, maybe what you need to do is take a deep breath and enjoy your (almost) great job. And see where it takes you. Who you meet. What jobs are posted in the future. What skills you pick up. Just roll with it, friend.

  • Chiara M

    Question: Have any of you had to decide whether or not you even want to work? How did you decide one way or the other? It doesn’t feel like a common problem in our current economic climate, but you all sound so sure that working is the right choice. Is that purely for financial reasons or is there something else motivating you?

    I’m in this awkward position right now where I’ve just finished a professional program, but I don’t need to start working.

    I got the degree, because it felt like a good idea to have some sort of career option available to me, for a backup in case being a home-maker/farm wife/mother doesn’t pan out. Right now I feel like I should be applying for jobs in my field, to work until I start having kids. There are jobs available and I’m sure I’ll get one soon.

    I’ve got some money saved up to be able to pay my student loans and my partner can support me if I don’t want to work. And I don’t want to work! I’ve been in school so long and I’m tired and living on a farm is lovely and relaxing and there is more than enough to do to keep me occupied. But I’d be relying on my partner for my living. And I won’t have any actual career experience in case I want to go back in the future.

    • I work mostly for financial reasons, but also because I like the structure of a job.

      I’d be really hesitant to take a lot of time off after school, because it gets exponentially harder to get a job the further out you are from school. That said, though, I did take 3 months off after college to travel and decompress before starting a job the next fall, so certainly a “vacation” time has its benefits.

      But if you’re not sure you EVER want to work, I’d look for a middle ground right now. Maybe look for a part time job in your field, or volunteer your time as little as 1-5 hours a week. Stay current in your field, keep your skills practiced, and develop professional references, but if you don’t want to and don’t have to do the 40 hour thing, then don’t.

    • Remy

      If I did not have to work to support my baby family, I wouldn’t. I would do all sorts of volunteer work — some of it similar to the work I’d do in the industry where I have my fresh-minted degree — but it wouldn’t be full-time. I’d spend more time at home, raise kids, and be more involved in their schooling. I’d become more involved in local community and sustainable living. As far as I can tell, though, that’s never going to be an option. I will be working for the next 30 years, so I’d like to enjoy some of it.

    • It’s never actually occurred to me to consider life without a job.

      I leave so much space there because I’m actually kind of floored. I have a butt-ton of angst about needing to find meaningful work, and cultivate a career, and find and do something meaningful and stable so no matter what I/my family will always be okay.

      But. I just. I think I don’t want to work. I bartend right now, and I like it well enough, and I think if I didn’t have to work, I would still bartend a couple nights a week because I actually really like it. But if the pressure was off? If finances weren’t an issue and I didn’t provide our healthcare? If I could let go of the semi-crippling worry that I’m wasting my life away by merely bartending?


    • ruth

      I’m in a similar situation. I am working – but not currently earning any money. I’m committed to making writing a viable career, and my husband, who makes far more money than I ever did in my corporate days, is happy to support me. But I’ve been feeling so guilty about not earning money. I’ve been looking into writing tutoring as a way to bring in some money, while working part-time and on a flexible schedule. I second the other comment about the value of volunteering in something you’re passionate about (I became a trustee of my favorite nonprofit. It’s been amazing work experience, even though it’s unpaid.) I think I’m just having all this guilt come up, and feeling like I’m somehow failing at feminism, because my husband and I look like such traditional gender roles right now – and that was never what I foresaw for myself. I’ve been worried about what other people will think of me for my choices – but, of course, the harshest judge is me.

      • Chiara M

        That’s sort of the way I’m feeling. But you’re working to build something tangible in a career. And I guess my struggle is that our society places such store in a “career” and they don’t really deem home-making and supporting a partner a “career”.

        I feel like I need to be independent and making my own money, because that’s feminist and smart and, because I’m feminist and smart I should be using the skills I’ve developed to benefit my community. Because I could be damn good at my job.

        But then, I could also be damn good at taking care of my partner and helping him at his work, and keeping house and being a brooder (our term for my desire to have loads of children). And that’s feminist too. And that benefits the community too.

        The thing I’ve always had trouble with growing up, was people telling me, “You’ll do amazing things, you’re going to go far, you’re going to help people.” And I’m struggling with that pressure. Because for some reason staying at home to be a home-maker/brooder seems like I’d be letting all those people down.

        • ruth

          I’m really glad you brought this up. I think the messages of feminism have gotten twisted in recent years, to make women feel like there’s only one way to be an empowered woman – and that way is to work outside the home. That was never originally the idea. Originally (at least from the biographies of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton I’ve been reading :) the idea was to give women the choice – and both a home/family based career or an outside the home career were considered equally valuable, equally respectable pursuits (I believe Stanton even pushed for pay for household labor.) I think we’ve lost sight of that. I was actually brought up with the idea that I was supposed to be a stay at home mom and housewife when I grew up and not have a career (but that’s because my folks are quite conservative.) In that instance, it was something enforced by the outside – but if you love homemaking and being a ‘brooder’ (I love that word!) if that brings you fulfillment and joy – don’t let the societal voices get you down. I feel like there are ‘voices’ out there that will give us grief whatever we choose – be that stay home or work outside the home – and that’s where Rachel’s post’s attitude of “I don’t care what you F&8cking think” comes in handy :)

          • aine

            I was raised with the idea that I would probably *want* to stay at home with any kids I’d have, but that I had to get a job because 1) staying at home is boring and will make you crazy (acto my Great Grandmother) 2) you never know what will happen to your husband and someone needs to keep food on the table (also according to Great Grandma, now that I think of it.) It was never ‘this is the feminist thing to do’ but ‘you need to have a backup income’.

  • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

    The advice I gave my younger sister a year ago* was to apply to Hacker School. I want to put a loud plug for it for anyone that’s considering looking at a computerish career that requires coding knowledge. (Just because I couldn’t find anyone above soliciting the advice doesn’t mean I don’t want to give it. It was my BEST big sister act ever.)

    To be clear, my sister’s awesome. But she wasn’t getting interviews for software engineer positions that she wanted. She took the three months of HackerSchool to develop her skills. And when it was done, she was hired for a cool company to do work she’s excited about. And I get to keep bragging about how awesome my sister is.

    *More like 13 months ago. They have a deadline tomorrow, so hop on it.

  • PurpleShoes

    I graduated with a PhD in American Studies (minor in Ethnic Studies and Popular Culture) in the last year and I’ve been on the job market for 2 years. I met my husband in my program so he’s also in the exact same boat job search wise which makes things even tougher. It’s been incredibly hard to find a job because apparently tenure track jobs in my field are like unicorns, or rainbows and leprechaun. If I let myself get excited about applying to a job I’m competing with 300+ other people. Don’t even get me started on how our parents don’t understand the strange and cyclical nature of our job market. We had to move into a younger sibling’s basement for 6 months after we graduated. (They were so kind to let us live there.) We currently scrape by on not always consistent from semester to semester adjunct jobs and substitute teaching at a local high school on the days when we’re not teaching college in order to try and make ends meet. I LOVE teaching college. Because we substitute teach our relatives ask us about possibly teaching high school instead (which is something I was on track to do 10 years ago) the competition is still 300+ people applying to one job. I just, I feel lost, and like a failure. I worked for 10+ years to get achieve this goal and what I thought would be a promising teaching career at the college level doing something I’m passionate about and it’s looking more and more like it’s not in the cards, especially if we want to ever get a pet or have kids (which we really really want to do and would do if even one of us had a full time job.) We’ve both decided to start looking more seriously at jobs outside of academia, but it’s hard to even know what I’d be good at because in our program we were always pushed to think about teaching in the future and little else. I also feel like I don’t know what else I would be good at outside of academia – which seems silly and ridiculous, and yet it’s a totally real and anxiety inducing feeling I’ve been living with.

    • Laura C

      Oof. Yeah, I was an undergrad American Studies major and decided to go to grad school in sociology because it would be a better job market. Not that I ended up with a tenure-track job in soc, as detailed in my earlier comment! But it’s brutal, there are so few American Studies programs that hire a full faculty rather than having mostly courses crosslisted in from other departments. And really at this point, all grad departments in fields where the non-academic career track isn’t already 100% defined should be talking more to their students about other options — mine certainly didn’t and that’s something I’ve heard a lot about from other alums who left academia.

      If you love teaching college, maybe look for jobs in colleges — administration, even clerical work — where teaching a course would be accommodated and understood as a thing people do and you’d be able to make connections within your college? Or look at college writing programs that hire people to teach first-year writing seminars; I think sometimes those jobs are at least full-time even though they’re not tenure track. Or is there some kind of popular culture market research or consulting firm you might be able to find some work with? I have a friend who took her sociology PhD and worked for a market research firm for a while, another person I once met had an anthropology PhD and did some kind of research for…I think like a furniture or design firm? And he ultimately did find an academic job.

      Oh! And one other thing: when I was changing careers, I found out that my undergrad college had a career counselor specifically for alums, and I had a phone conversation with her where I talked through my thoughts and what possibilities I saw, and she told me about some resources the college had. Maybe either your undergrad or grad institution has something like that.

      • PurpleShoes

        Thank you for all the good advice!! Yeah, all 3 of my degrees are in American Studies. I was dedicated to this field if nothing else. :) When I started grad school there were jobs. When I started my PhD program they had something like 92+% of people finding jobs in the field so I felt like it was still a thing that was totally possible, but when the economy tanked it just got SO MUCH worse and only continues to get worse.

        You’re definitely on to something with jobs on campus. I’ve been trying to look at other jobs that might be on college campuses – working in libraries, teaching consortium, even study abroad offices. I guess it’s also tough because it feels like we have to just up and give up our career aspirations (and something we’ve dedicated so much time and MONEYYYY to) if we want to have a family, but we really want to have a family. It’s just sad there can’t be more of a balance. Thank you again.

  • My job is slowly crushing my soul. I actually burst into tears in my boss’s office on Monday and basically told him that I want to quit but don’t have any other job prospects (not in those exact words, but that was the idea). I have a couple of ideas I’m exploring, but it really doesn’t look like either is going to be able to contribute enough of a paycheck to make it possible for me to quit my current job.

    My husband has been a great support, and I know that together we’ll get through this. It’s just hard. And I’m also kind of terrified that when I do finally jump ship I may end up somewhere worse.

    • The internet might make this sound meaner than it’s intended but… I think crying in your boss’s office is already worse. There’s pretty much nowhere but up from there.

      Also, internet hugs. I have been there. It gets better.

      And I really, really didn’t mean to sound mean or rude. Just that it sounds pretty awful where you are now, so anything has got to be better.

  • Caroline

    I love this! More careers talk all the time please. I went back to school o get my Bachelors two years ago. (I’m 23, I only started a couple years late.) I’m heading into my junior year, and I just have no idea what I want to do. Everyone says find your passion. Which is fine and all, but I have a million/no particular passions, including Judaism, reading, dance, math, and learning new things, among many. I’m very much a renaissance person, and I pick up new interests quickly and also drop them quickly. I don’t have a field I want to work in. My career goals are: A career, which I find challenging and stimulating, which does good (working on a great product would fit this, it doesn’t have to be like, Amnesty International), where I don’t have to move (from the East Bay of the SF Bay Area), which pays decently to well, where I can achieve a semblance of workable work-life balance.

    I’m majoring in math, because I love it and it is beautiful. I don’t know what I want to do with it, and when I ask people what I can do with it, they say “Anything” which doesn’t exactly give me a starting place. I just know I don’t want to go into academia. (The odds of having to move are too high, ) and I don’t want to teach. I did an internship at a Jewish educational non-profit last summer, and as a dev this summer. I loved both. I feel like figuring out where to point myself towards getting a job after school is so hard and no one has good guidance. The career counselor just looked at my résumé.

    • Caitlin

      I don’t want this to come off too cynical or discouraging, so imagine it in a loving big sister tone: if you’re choosing between math and a liberal art, stick with the math. Working as a dev will pay much better and give you many more job opportunities. Other things you love can be hobbies, but stick with the math – and maybe add some computer science courses. This is coming from an anthropology major who is now in a computational science.

      • Caroline

        I’m not rely choosing between the two. I love math and am definitely majoring in it. I did the non-profit internship before I declared a math major. I do so much Jewish stuff in my non-professional life, it doesn’t need to be my career, and right now I don’t really want it to be. But I have NO idea what to do with the math. I’m so overwhelmed with options, none of which are really concrete, I know what that is and how to get there and what an internship/entry level job is called options.

        • Emmers

          Have you thought of engineering? It’s very math, but has lots of practical applications (and lots of good jobs, depending on which type you choose).

          PS, I love that you are in love with math. My partner (an engineer, and a big fan of using math in this context) is also in love with math– so not something I can relate to, but it makes me smile to hear him get all googly over equations.

          • Emmers

            PPS, you can also use engineering for lots of nonprofity type things (like designing hospitals for third world places). or you can work for a city, so you’re essentially working for the good of the people.

            can you tell I’m in love with an engineer? :)

          • Caroline

            I have thought of engineering. I think it might be a very interesting field for me. I don’t think, at this point, that it really makes sense to switch my major (My understanding is that engineering is an intensive major which can’t be transfered into late. At my school, an Engineering major takes 5 years from the time you declare it. I can’t afford that much time at my expensive undergrad school). I’m very interested in , but really REALLY daunted by, trying to find a master’s in engineering program I could do with my math bachelor’s. I’d want to make sure I like engineering first though, and I don’t know how to try it out. I don’t think I can get an internship with no classes in it. Any suggestions?

          • Emmers

            if you can’t do an internship, could you try doing an externship in engineering to test it? ie basically job shadowing someone for a bit while you’re still in school? or do some “informational interviews” of engineers? I’ve had some currently in college peeps do this with me– they basically called me up (since that was a better way to get my attention than email) met with me, in my office (so it was easy for me), and then picked my brain for 15 min or so about my field.

            My guy started out a physics major, ended up doing some non-related work for a small engineering firm (ie chainsawing trees for them), and then found the world of engineering because of them. So I’m definitely biased, and it could be it’s not the field for you. It also took him like 10 years to complete his degree, but a lot of that was him being pokey.

            maybe ask your career services at your university to see what they recommend, if you’d like to explore w/o the expense of an additional degree.

            And so much good luck– it can be scary exploring careers. I hope you get to find a way to continue to use the math that you love– engineering or otherwise.

        • C

          Although engineering is great, I agree with Caroline that it might not be an option here. Math is transferable to a bunch of sister disciplines, but I do think you need an engineering degree to work as an engineer.

          I use math to model infectious diseases. Would something like that, an applied math application, be of interest to you? You mention choosing jobs is a challenge – I recommend just casting a wide net and applying to anything and everything that looks remotely interesting. It’s okay if you have to try out a few (or lots) of jobs before you find a good fit.

          • Caroline

            Thanks C. I definitely think that’s a good approach, but it’s really hard to figure out how to do. My college’s career center is really really not geared for technical/science-y people. Most of their jobs are more… geared towards people in the liberal arts. I’m not so sure where to even start with casting a wide net. I feel like I don’t know where to start. What types of job titles to be looking for, what types of companies and where to find them, where to look for jobs/people to do informational interviews with.

            I think mathematical modeling would be a great field. I have come to also love theoretical math deeply, but applied math was my first love. (Our program is tiny enough that we don’t specialize between the two and everyone takes both applied and theoretical math. We have about… 18 math majors I think). Do you have suggestions on where to start (titles especially, or companies or other places to look) in casting a net in the direction of mathematical modeling?

          • C

            Definitely! It might be easier to chat over email, if you’re interested (no pressure). You can reach me at apw@hmamail.com

    • Heather

      I think this is something you can get into with a bachelors, although it might be different work that what’s talked about to recruit from those that have an advanced degree (PhD, MD, JD, MBA, etc), but you might look into working at a consulting firm. I attended an informational session at my grad school for one of the big firms and I remember a substantial amount of the people from the firm who came had degrees in Math. Also- you mentioned that you like doing many things/learning new things, so something where you’re working on different projects/in different fields might be a good option for you to change things up every few months.

  • Lady K

    Timing is oh so perfect. I’m actually less than one month from quitting my comfortable, decent paying admin job to go back to school full time for graphic design. After graduating 8 years ago with an environmental studies degree, and bouncing from one unpaid internship to the next, I got stuck in hotel hospitality and office admin work just so I could pay the rent. Other than some perks and the great friends I’ve made, I’ve never felt proud, happy, or satisfied at any of my jobs.

    In-between the day jobs, I volunteered, took night classes, and applied for grad schools. All the while hoping it would lead me towards the kind of career I would be happy to talk about at cocktail parties. But everything I tried eventually fell through or led nowhere. After a few years, a lot of tears, and some soul searching I’m starting to feel confident enough to tackle school again. And while moving from a BA to an AAS is backwards (according to FAFSA), I’m actually looking forward to designing ads & layouts, staring at photos and computer screens all day, and pushing myself has hard as I can…if it helps me find a career that challenges me.

    The career change is also a big gamble for me and my husband, since he’ll be supporting us while I’m in school. Since all of our friends went straight from undergrad to grad/career, I don’t know anyone who can relate to the challenges of going back to school, and switching career paths, AND trying to support 2 people with 1 income. Reading about others going through similar experiences is really calming the nerves. I would be curious if any designers or people in the design field started their career late, and what challenges they faced. Besides building an amazing portfolio and networking your butt off, was there anything else that helped?

  • You guys. I’m getting ready to maybe, possibly, perhaps do the job I’ve been dreaming about for almost a decade – open my own bakery and café. In Spain. OMG. I’m terrified. I have no money, but I can sense that this is the time, and that it’s what I was meant to do. The signs are everywhere!

    For those of you who have your own businesses, what did you do for funding? Loans? Savings? Mom and Dad? Most of it probably won’t apply because Spain’s rules are so different, but I’m interested in hearing lots of ideas. Any other advice? It’s absolutely the scariest thing I’ve ever considered doing – much, much scarier than getting married. :)

    P.S. Holy cow, what a smart bunch of ladies!

    • PurpleShoes

      OMG – how exciting!! Where in Spain? (I love Spain and lived there for a hot minute after my BA.)

      I’m sending so much good ju-ju sent your way!

      • Northwest Spain, in Galicia…unfortunately, we’re still feeling the full effects of the crisis, while I think the US has begun to recover a bit, so that makes it feel even more risky!

        • I meant to add, thanks for the good juju!

    • Breck

      Are you hiring? I’m a great cook and baker!

      • Breck

        And I love Spain!

        • Haha, oh how I wish! It’s still in the very beginning stages…embryo stages, I’d say. But…if I ever need to hire somebody, APW would be a great place to look!!!

  • I would love some help from Team APW right now. I think my biggest issue is that as the breadwinner for a stay at home husband and a toddler, I’m feeling very risk averse.

    Where I am right now: low pay, great benefits job as a nonprofit volunteer coordinator. 6 years experience in volunteer coordination. I like the day to day aspects of my job but don’t feel like there’s any room for growth, and I could REALLY do with a pay raise.

    Where I would like to be: better pay, first off. Probably moving out of the nonprofit field, since I don’t want to go into development and that’s pretty much the only thing that pays well. I love problem-solving, especially people problem solving, so I’ve been thinking HR or organizational development.

    My problem: how do I get there from here?? Five years ago I would have taken a paycut or tried out an internship, but now, you know, toddler needs to eat. Husband could go back to work, but going from one to two full time workers and starting daycare would be a big stress for our family just for me to try out something that might or might not pan out. I’ve thought about going back to school part time for a MA in training & development or organizational development, MBA, or MPA, but I’ve heard so much about advanced degrees not being worth the huge cost in today’s market. I’ve been looking around at job ads, but so many mid-level jobs are so specific about requirements, looking for 5-7 years experience in EXACTLY what that job is doing, not related experience.

    So… how do I make a career jump? Can I dip my toes in the water somehow, without putting in 3 unpaid/low paid years of “paying my dues” or school? Are there career possibilities I’m just not aware of that might use my current experience but pay closer to $60k than $40k?

    • Caitlin

      I’ll admit I know very little about the field, but have you tried applying for jobs in human resources or other personnel management positions? It seems to me that would be an easy lateral transition that would leverage your skills and experience, wouldn’t require additional education, and would offer better pay.

      • I’ve been looking! I’ve had a hard time finding positions that aren’t entry level, but don’t require years of experience in specialized HR knowledge (benefit administration, legal issues, etc). Maybe it’s just a question of waiting til the right position comes along. I really can’t afford a paycut for an entry level job.

        • Audrey

          A quick recommendation –

          Even if a position says it needs 1-2 years of HR experience you might want to consider applying anyway. Your resume will clearly show them what you do have (so if this is a hard requirement they will simply not contact you), but the reality might be that a great fit with someone who has a lot of related experience would be fine.

          I hate to generalize, but I’ve heard women are much less likely than men to apply for the stretch job, or the job that requires just a little more experience than they have. I even ended up having interesting conversations with my (male) boss about whether to put something in a job ad as a requirement in case we screened out good candidates. He was pointing out to me that he would happily apply to jobs where he fulfilled most but not all of the “requirements”. Maybe you just need to stretch a bit more?

    • CP

      I have another option for you: higher ed alumni relations. Technically it is development (don’t run away!) but lots of offices need people to manage boards and alumni (and student) volunteers while development officers ask for the money. My former colleague did this and then transitioned to working for a hospital where she now manages hospital board members/volunteer boards. If you want the money, it’s there in higher ed or to healthcare development but you don’t have to actually do the development-y work. Yes, pay could be close to $60K if you’re going for a manager level position. And I did get a master’s degree and then (re)started my job search in the nonprofit field. Employers were impressed but cared more about the experience I had and what I would bring to the table. Good luck with everything!

      • Thank you! Alumni work sounds appealing, I will look into that.

    • katie-did

      I think one of the worst things to happen with the job market since 2008 is that open positions seem to require so much *specialized* experience. 5-7 years of experience to be a secretary? Wtf.

      I mean, there are so many applicants that they will probably find someone with that much experience, but as you say, as the breadwinner in a family I don’t have the luxury of taking a paycut and starting from the bottom again while taking care of my family.

  • Robyn

    I don’t have children yet but have lately started to consider the idea of keeping my job after I have kids. This doesn’t sound shocking obviously except I am a shift worker – I fly to my job site for a week at a time, and then have a week off, then back to work again. Half of my life is away from my family and my friends. I have always said that I’d quit when I had kids so I could either stay home or have a job where I live, but I really love my job (this is a new development, I used to be pretty “meh” about it) and at this point can’t think of a work environment that would make me quite as happy.

    Has anyone done this, or know anyone who has? It’s pretty common for men to do as I work with a lot of dads, but I don’t work with a lot of moms with kids at home. I can already imagine the judgement I would get if I did it, and luckily it is likely a few years away before I have to make the decision.

    Working this kind of schedule has actually done some great things for my relationship with my husband (having space and alone time is amazing, and learning to not flip out when we hadn’t seen each other for 2 days was excellent), would it be similarly helpful for my relationship with my future children, or would it be bad to only have their mom at home for half their life?

    • Irene

      I’m sure you are correct that you’ll get some harsh (and undeserved) judgment if you keep the job, but children are resilient!

      When I was a kid my mom had a job for 8 or 9 years where for most of the year she had normal hours (perhaps slightly more flexible than most, but full-time), but for about a month in the summer she worked ALL the time. I mean, she slept at home, but that’s about it. Because of that, in the summers we had a little extra independence and responsibility regarding entertaining and feeding ourselves.

      My advice, as someone who does not have kids yet either: if you love the job, keep the job! Don’t just focus on that time away from your future family – for every week you’re away you will have a week to be more present and engaged than might be true otherwise. I think it’ll be trickier to balance things with your husband, so that he doesn’t have to do all the disciplining while you’re the “fun parent,” for example, but it sounds totally doable to me.

      Also, I don’t know if I have EVER seen one of my parents love their job, and I think that would be worth a lot to the hypothetical kids as well as you.

    • My guess is it would be easier to do with school-aged children or a full-time stay at home spouse.

    • Copper

      So my dad did extensive business travel when I was a kid (like, almost every week he was gone mon–fri, home on the weekend), and I’d offer the following concerns:

      1) make sure that the kids don’t play you off each other, or conversely that decisions don’t fall into a gap between you. Know who’s in charge of what and that neither of you will veto or override the decisions of the other.

      2) Be really honest in your evaluation of your spouse as a parent, and going forward, the effect that this all is having on the kids. I think it’s fine to try it, but if it’s not working for whatever reason, you have to be willing to prioritize the kids and make a change. Honestly my mom was a bit crazy, and my dad traveling so much meant that she and I became a strange little codependent pair, because I didn’t know any better and he wasn’t stepping in to change things. I’m assuming your spouse doesn’t have genuine mental health issues, but either way, be really honest with yourself whether you’re willing to have him be their whole world for a lot of the time. If there’s anything that makes you hesitate, listen to it.

    • Jenn’s Mom

      Working week on/week off actually has some real benefits once you have children. Instead of being at work all during the school week, you’ll be available every other week to attend day care or school during the day. It doesn’t mean that every time there is a school play or a field trip or parent teacher interview etc that you’ll be home to participate, but it certainly raises the probability.

  • Liz

    Partnered, queer-female with a masters in library science working as a director of operations for a progressive Christian church in perfect little city seeks dream job. All of these comments ring true with one peice of my truth or another. Good conversations. I easily got into my dream grad program right after completeing my undergrad, then landed my dream job while finishing up my degree. The Monday after I graduated I was told they were laying off 5 full-time employees and me as a part-time due to massive state budget cuts. Shit. So at the ripe age of 25 I had already had and lost my dream job. I keep hoping, and they keep promising, that I will get back there soon. In the meantime I work for a rad progressive church and have started a non-profit. I’m contemplating seminary but as my denomination doesn’t ordain queer folks that seems a bit crazy, not to mention expensive. So, I wait. Pray. And see what happens. Eventually I’ll have to start paying back my student loans and saving for babies. My partner is finishing up her undergrad and looking to start a masters in counseling. There is a lot to be said for living in the moment and being open to life and opportunities as they happen, but I’d be pretty happy with a little more clarity anytime now.


    I’m about to turn 32, have been married for about 2 months and am about to start trying to conceive. I’ve been a practicing attorney in a major metropolitan city for nearly 4 years and for the first time in my life, I’m not sure that I even want a career. I’m on a “career track” (as in, I could stay at my current position until retirement if I wanted to — crap pay but great benefits and loads of job security) but the more I think about it, the more I want to move to the suburbs, have babies and be a stay-at-home mom who does part-time volunteer legal work. It’s the exact opposite of “leaning in.” I can feel myself actively wanting to lean out and away from the “career” life. As an ambitious person who has always been actively seeking the next achievement (school, work) this is a very unusual feeling. Has this happened to anyone else? (Also, as a female in a male-dominated field, it feels very anti-feminist to even admit this out loud.)

    Unfortunately, like most young lawyers, the six figures in student loan debt lingering over my head make this nothing more than a pipe dream. Perhaps that’s part of what makes it so appealing. We always want what we can’t have right?

    • Lizzie K

      As a fellow young lawyer with a boatload of debt, I’ve thought about the same thing, even though I’m not ready to have kids yet. I’ve been practicing for two years now and I’m about to turn 29. Lately I’ve had the urge to be a stay-at-home mom, and it is an unusual feeling. Part of me thinks I’m just mourning the fact that I will never be a stay at home mom.

      I think there is a happy medium though. We may have debt, but we also have a marketable skill. I know there are some lawyer moms who run solo practices from home…while it’s not a profitable as working at a firm, it’s better than nothing and may provide a way to make some money and have flexibility in terms of spending time with kids. Another thing I’ve noticed is many suburban firms are much more flexible. I’ve worked in both NYC and the nearby suburbs and there’s definitely a difference. There’s even a difference when you get to the outer reaches of Brooklyn and Queens.

      Bottom line, in my opinion, there is hope for us lawyer ladies!

      • SarahRose

        “I know there are some lawyer moms who run solo practices from home.”

        Saw this and couldn’t resist mentioning — Elizabeth Warren did this! Part-time at first, then full-time, and later down the road she ended up at Harvard law school…and then, oh yeah, the Senate.

      • april

        The other thing you might want to think about is government and (paid) nonprofit work. You won’t get paid as much, but the hours are usually better — you could probably even go part time — and you might find the work more rewarding.

        I worry when I hear people at the beginning of their careers talking about giving it up entirely to raise a family. My fiance’s mom, for example, is an extremely intelligent lady who gave up her teaching job to raise him an his brothers. 22 years later she found herself divorced and with a resume that was basically blank …

        • april

          Addendum: if you do go the government/non-profit route, check and see if you are eligible for any loan repayment assistance programs. I’m in Maryland, and I know both the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the DC Bar Foundation offer loan repayment assistance to lawyers who choose the public service route. Your law school or state bar organization should be able to hook you up with options in your area.

  • Ms. Cardigan

    I didn’t read all the comments, so forgive me if this was brought up before, but I would like some advice on how crazy it would be to have a baby before going to grad school (for public health), and going back to school once the kid is 1-2. Most people I propose this to say it’s nuts, but they don’t have experience with grad school or a baby, so I’m not sure how much to believe them.

    I know having a baby is HARD work, but I feel like I would like to do it sooner rather than later, and that after I graduate school, I just want to keep that career momentum up, make the most of the networking opportunities and internships, and dive right into work. It doesn’t seem to make sense to graduate, then immediately have a baby because I would probably want to take some down time.

    Any advice from folks who have an MPH, or who have gone back to school with a baby?

    • I read an article a while back about how it is more common in Sweden (I think?) to have kids first before beginning a career. It was really interesting, but I unfortunately can’t find it…

    • I have a 1.5 year old and am hoping to go to graduate school part time within the next year. I anticipate it being hard, but not nuts. However, my husband is a stay at home parent. I think if both of us were working full time, or if I was trying to be a stay at home parent while also going to school full time, that would be really difficult. One way to look at it might be to consider how many full time jobs you and your partner would be doing between the two of you–full time work, full time school, full time child care?

    • C

      Oh I can help with this one! I just finished my MPH, and I’m currently pregnant (and still in a PhD). I think it’s totally doable. A lot of MPH programs are designed for working professionals – most of my classes were first thing in the morning or at night. The course material was sometimes challenging, but I still had plenty of time to do my research so my time wasn’t totally consumed. Also, your time in grad school is very flexible, so in some ways I think it will be easier than juggling an 8-5 job. Feel free to email me if you want to talk more, my (temporary, for this purpose) email is apw@hmamail.com.

      • Ms. Cardigan

        Wow, thank you so much! I am getting married next week (ahhhh!), but after all that distraction is out of the way, I would love to contact you. Thank you for the offer! Just curious where you’re from? I’m in the Bay Area.

        • C

          Congrats on your upcoming wedding! That temporary email is good for 60 days (and then it is automatically deleted), so no hurry. I’m on the East Coast – I need to find more APWs near me!

    • kmc

      Yay MPH folks! I am actually heading in the opposite path you’re thinking of, Ms. Cardigan, getting my MPH and then probably trying to conceive. Hopefully it will all turn out ok, but I do agree with your sentiment of keeping the career momentum up after grad school. I’m coming into contact with lots of potential work contacts and opportunities in my program and would hate to lose them if I take even a 6 month-a year break.

      But I also have an incentive to stay at my job and get my degree first — I work at a university with lots of benefits, including reduced tuition if I stay at my current job and get my degree part-time. Hoping to transfer to another, more public health-focused, part afterwards, considering I’ll probably still need those great benefits post-kiddo.

  • Maria

    I graduated last month with my BS in Respiratory Care. In March I was informed that I’d need to take both board exams to even find a job in my area. I wound up getting a job offer at the end of June! My boss has been totally awesome with me taking boards– I took the first one before orientation started and will be taking the second one next month. Out of my class of 14, only 4 of us have jobs! It’s a pretty scary market in healthcare in my area, but if you make the right impression, you’re good!

  • “… and even people who took the safe route are ending up with graduate degrees in hand and no clear next steps.”

    Ouch. This struck a nerve.

    I didn’t think getting a graduate degree felt like the safe route at all. In fact, it felt incredibly risky to say, “I am going to take a pretty flexible undergraduate degree and turn it into a much more focused graduate degree, go tens of thousands of dollars into debt so I can get a job in a notoriously low-paying field (and in a super saturated market) because I love this shit.”

  • d.

    I graduated in 2007 with a WS degree and currently work in sales with a focus on project management. (I went as anonymous as I could for this one and still receive reply notifications), and well, i need something new. I’ve been in the same job for six years and I am ready to move on to something with a marketing, social, editorial context that lets me manage projects – something I’m really good at.

    Waht I’m dealing with in all of this is some crazy imposter syndrome, and not knowing exactly how to job hunt or how to network. Ideally I want something in the creative field – I love writing, I love photography. I studied both before going into Women’s Studies in college. I’m struggling with how to figure out freelancing and how to job hunt, so any tips that anyone can offer would be.. helpful.

  • Hmmm

    Hmmmm, thought this was a wedding website…can we get back to planning?!??

    • C

      I disagree! I eloped two years ago with zero wedding planning – yet I check APW almost every day. It’s these smart, thoughtful conversations that keep me coming back. Not every post applies to me (obviously), but I just move right along when I’m not interested.

      • Caroline

        I agree with C. I LOVE this type of posts. I am planning a wedding, but APW is one of the few places I go for smart, thoughtful discussion online about being a woman today, not just planning a wedding. (Actually, despite currently planning a wedding, I don’t really come for the wedding stuff/skip over it. I’m not in the middle of wedding challenges, things are going fairly smoothly (it’s early), and the wedding content feels LESS relevant than before I was planning when I was only dreaming, oddly.) The background of having read APW for years is helpful for wedding planning, but I mostly want the smart ladies discussing their lives content.

  • elsie

    BA in math, master’s in architecture– but graduated with such timing that entry level jobs in architecture are still very few and far between. Honesty, my ideal job at this point would be part time so that I can spend some extra time with my baby– but also get out of the house and stay relavent professionally. I’m finding that what few architecture jobs exist have salaries too low to pay for childcare, so I’m also trying to think of what else I might do. Any suggestions?

    • Rebecca

      In case you weren’t aware, a summary of the latest AIA salary survey is now available on the Architect Magazine website (search for AIA Compensation Report). That should help to give you an idea if the salaries you’re seeing around are in fact typical for your area and if that kind of salary is doable for you.

      A way to get out of the house and stay relevant professionally is to get on a planning board- historic review, land use, etc. They don’t generally pay, but the networking opportunities are usually pretty good. I’ve seen more than one part-time entry level job around lately- what area of the country are you searching in?

      The reality is that you probably won’t make enough to cover childcare initially, but if you don’t start working you’ll never see the salary increases that would make childcare make sense. In three years of working experience (with a master’s of architecture in the middle), my salary has increased pretty dramatically, so there’s hope that you won’t be making “no money” forever. From what I’ve seen, people who get off the architecture track tend to stay off- so, for example, I’ve seen architects move in to city/ government jobs, but it’s pretty rare to see someone transition out of that job into a more general architecture job.

      Email me if you want to chat- I’m not all that much further along in my career path, but I’m happy to help in any way I can. beaks1234 at outlook.com

  • katie-did

    I just want to thank APW for posting this and asking these types of questions. :-) I think this is completely relevant to being a modern, feminist woman who is or was in the process of wedding planning, where all of these thoughts of life, careers, family and future are very present, at least for me.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but after feeling bogged down with standard wedding sites and television shows and most of pinterest, I find it so refreshing to find places like APW where I feel like I kinda fit in and have relevant conversations and vet great ‘big sister’ type advice. ^_^

  • Anneka

    During my degree I worked as a bartender, a cleaner, an assistant to a science journalist and a waitress. I completed my studies after eight years with a PhD in Immunology and got offered a postdoctoral position in one of the most prestigious labs in the UK. My career was totally sorted! Wohee! Everyone told me how lucky I was. But before I handed in my thesis, I had already (and after a lot of commiseration) decided that I didn’t want to be a professional scientist. I love doing research soooo much but I think I realised that BEING a scientist meant to sacrifice my sanity and a healthy work-life balance. So I turned down the postdoctoral position, enrolled at a third-rate university on a BA in photography and that was that. Well… I quit after five months, because I hated every second of it. I ended up working at my local pub for five months while photographing, well, not a lot. Then a friend of a friend asked me to shoot her wedding. That was my break and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Three years (and a few shitty part-time jobs) later I can proudly call myself a professional full-time photographer. And I’ve never looked back.

    People always tell me how ‘brave’ I was to turn down a secure job and do what I love instead but it doesn’t have a lot to with being brave. It’s just that I realised that it’s ok to change direction, to say no to the obvious choices, and to be ‘unsuccsessful’ and to not have a highflying career. There’s no shame in being a cleaner or waitress. Heck, I was a waitress with a PhD! For me it was about being patient, having faith in my own abilities, and not listening to those around me who focus on a more conventional career path. Eventually, we all get our break it’s just a matter of keeping at it.

  • Jen

    One of the greatest struggles of our relationship has been my career. *sigh* It kept us separated while I was working on my dissertation research. And that PhD in Adult Education, which allowed me to get a job doing professional development for teachers making great money while we were apart, kept me unemployed for 7 months after I moved home to be with my sweet husband. I took a job working in proprietary education because it was literally all I could find, and I’ve pretty much hated it ever minute that I’ve been here. And now I’m at the point that I’ve got to get out. My health has been impacted to the degree that I never know when I’m going to have a seizure (stress related and induced) or if I’m going to throw up (again, stress related and induced) or even if I’m going to have a job at the end of each day.

    My husband and I have talked about it, and I’m willing to take up to a $10,000/year pay cut just to be out of here. While I loved my course work and my professors and my research, I wish I’d never gotten my doctorate. I could be relatively happily teaching math or English to 12 year olds right now.

    I interviewed yesterday for what I think would be the perfect job, and I think I did well. A friend who works for the same organization, in a different department tells me that I meet all of the desired qualifications, which few other applicants did, and they are very interested in me. I hope that means good things.

    I’m trying to maintain the faith that things will work out the way that they are supposed to. That someone out there is looking out for me, that I’m going to be OK, that we’re going to be OK. This last year and a half of hell have made it really hard to believe in myself and my abilities…and I think that’s the worst part of this whole mess.

    • Good luck with the interview process and the future (fistbump)

  • Graduated in 2007 with a degree in Ancient Greek and Latin and fell into a job the day after my graduation at the department I worked for as a student doing finance. That job ended and I turned to another opportunity at the university, running the work-study program. I love the great benefits and the somewhat flexibility of my job and I have been able to complete some graduate coursework in journalism and, now, ultimately decide to pursue my masters in nutrition. I’ve just finished all of the science pre-reqs and am beginning “real” classes in the fall. But I’m just sort of floundering in the meantime.

    I need to work full-time while going to school because we make too much to qualify for any need-based aid, but too little for us to afford everything if I were to quit or take a significant pay cut. But I’m SO bored at my job. I keep reaching and applying for new opportunities and nothing bites or nothing ultimately hires me. I’ve even tried applying for other things within the university I work for, and while I always get the interview, I don’t seem to get the position. I can’t fathom working here for another 4 or 5 years while working towards my degree, but just don’t know how to get out.

    I’m trying to stay positive and focused on the larger picture, but in the day-to-day muck of my job, being here every day is at best frustrating, and at its worst, soul-crushing.

  • B (the other one)

    So this is for all of my fellow UK readers! I moved to Cornwall from Texas with my British fiancé about a year and a half ago. I’ve been unemployed/underemployed ever since. I have a Bachelor’s in Social Work and have my registration to practice here. Recruiting agencies wont work with me because I don’t have 2 years UK experience, and the same for working with the government/council. Since I’m down in Cornwall there isn’t exactly an influx of non-profits to work for so my only option is social care.

    Part of the dilemma is how long do I try to find work here before I give up and say we move back? Also, I feel like I’m up against a brick wall. I can’t find work to get UK experience because I cant find work without UK experience. Any ideas? tips?

  • Marianne

    I’m so happy to see this discussion. I’m two months into my first real “career” type job (although its grant-funded) an older, established non-profit, and I’ve been wondering if I want to do this after all. I’m working from home or in the field most days of the week, so I only see coworkers 1-2 days each week. I work weekends and have my off days during the work week. Honestly…I’m just not enjoying it at all. I just got my M.Ed. and with the school year rolling around, seeing many of my friends making 10-20,000 more than me as teachers has me wondering if I’ve made a big mistake. I suppose I could always complete my licensing requirements and try to get a job, but there’s also a part of me that desperately wants to own my own business. I’ve had 1-3 business ideas bouncing around in my head for awhile now, but I have no business background and the prospect of me starting something new terrifies my husband.

  • grace b

    Have NOT read through the (what are sure to be awesome) comments yet but any AmeriCorps volunteers here?

    I am 24 and next Monday I start work as an AmeriCorps State (Texas) volunteer. I’ll be working at a literacy non-profit, helping to run one of their sites. I’ll be teaching adult basic education (just got certified!), administering GED tests and tutoring one-on-one. I’ll also be acting as a liasion between my organization and the community we will be serving (as we are in a new location, one of 5 satellite sites).

    I’m super psyched. I’ve taught formally (riding lessons at a summer camp) and informally (tutoring) and I love it. While in the Episcopal Service Corps in California I taught classes to mentally challenged adults (LOVED IT) as well as tutored students one on one. It’s one of the only things that I have ever been naturally good at. So this service year is SO exciting.

    All of this to say, if this is my career for the next few years I am not disappointed about it in the least.

    • Katie

      Enjoy! I have a few friends who did AmeriCorps when we first got back from Peace Corps and loved it. Where in TX?

  • Laura

    What I know for sure after 6 years of being a college student career counselor:
    1. Your major, or your degree, is not your destiny.
    2. You don’t have to fulfill all your interests in the same opportunity.
    3. Gather your courage and reach out to someone new-it’s not as scary as you’re making it out to be in your mind.
    4. Learn how to interview, and take the time and effort to really do it well. It’s not just about practicing responses to canned questions, but also being able to tell an effective story about yourself.
    5. And for those of you that just just graduated, look at your first step after college as a way to do some real hands on work, learn from others, and build good relationships. Don’t make it have to be the “perfect job.” That doesn’t exist when you’re searching!:)

  • Erin

    THANK YOU for this. I thought APW would be irrelevant after the wedding but I couldn’t be more wrong!

    Anyway, I’ve been really struggling with this one lately. I have a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication and quickly decided I hated working in the media (saw corruption everywhere, just generally didn’t feel like me, etc) so went to get an MSW. Now I’m working toward an LCSW. There are some aspects of counseling/ psychotherapy that I genuinely like, but I don’t think this is my life’s work. I think I was put on the planet to write. And that is TERRIFYING. It is already a career where it’s difficulty to establish oneself and I opted out for my 20s so who knows what I can even get at this point. My new litmus test for happiness at work lies in the ability for time to pass quickly and I find myself listlessly staring at the clock over my patients’ heads, waiting for the day to end. I took a writing workshop recently and it confirmed that its my true love. How do I get back into it? Even part time?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Hannah B

    These threads always come at interesting times…I am a recent Master of Music grad, opera, and I took a financial leap and moved to NYC to a) be with my fiance and b) pursue my dream. Trouble is, my dream costs a lot of money on top of the loan repayments. For anyone who is interested in what an opera singer’s career path looks like, this is the best article I’ve come across that breaks it down for the unfamiliar (which is, apparently, most people! Like my temp agency lady, who was like “You’re an opera singer? Do you get paid for that?” And I’m like…haha no! The arts, am-i-rite? ” Link:http://auditioningforcollege.wordpress.com/vocal-performance/what-does-an-operatic-career-look-like/)

    So I’m new to the city, new to this living in gin-and-sin arrangement, new to being in a world where I’m not sheltered by school assignments and the opportunity handed to me to perform, and each audition costs anywhere from 25-100 bucks to APPLY for and they might not even see me (unlike in theater, where Equity bans companies from charging for auditions) and then I’m competing with the best of the best in the City of Dreams/the American Mecca of Opera.

    But I love it. I love performing, I love singing, I love competing volume-wise with the trumpet player in the apartment below me and the violinist across the hall when we all seem to practice at the same time. We should form a wedding group, and then come APW wedding band vendors, haha. So, even though it’s an uphill battle, I’m happy to be looking for a job that just pays the bills and gets me a health insurance plan that isn’t 400 dollars a month (health reform is gonna help the single-payer “artist” type, right? Hopefully?) so that I can sing and perform and direct and create magic and beauty and art on stage. Oh, and plan a wedding in the same state as my FH.

    This comment is late to the party, but it feels good to type it all out. Best to all those who preceded me with their stories of struggles and inspiration! :-)

  • anonymous

    Late to the party but still want to chime in.

    B.A. in Spanish Literature and psychology. Graduated May 2013 with a master’s in social work. Initially entered SW thinking I wanted to become a therapist, worked for a few years as a psycho-educational counselor and a year at a psych hospital, decided mental health wasn’t for me. Interned as a lobbyist for social/environmental issues–somewhat satisfying but too stressful to be appealing long term. Decided I ultimately am not passionate about social work as a career but finished my degree anyway because that’s how we do it. Married last June, partner grew up really poor and never thought college was an option for him. Finally decided college might be an option and he’s passionate about mechanical engineering (he’s brilliantly mechanically minded). I want to be able to financially support both of us while he goes to school. Through planning our wedding, I realized I am really, really good at event planning and working with space aesthetics (i.e. event styling, interior design). More than that, I absolutely love both–I feel really proud of the work I produce in planning parties and designing spaces and the work energizes/feeds me.

    After our wedding, two job offers fell into my lap without much effort from me, and now I’m basically a discharge planner at an eating disorder treatment facility. I had a minor depression when I first took the job because I knew in my gut it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but I also questioned whether I was just too used to privilege and getting to do what I want to do. Also, I didn’t/don’t feel that what I really want to do (event design/planning and interior design) are realistic ways to support my family. Due to his history, my husband is very afraid of leaving his job to go to school and I’m pretty sure the only way he’ll actually follow through with school is if I have a reliable job with a steady income–otherwise I’m afraid he’ll drop out to go back to work for the sense of security it provides him.

    This is rambling, I know–it’s just hard to talk about. I feel more than a little shame that I got a degree I don’t really want to use and that I don’t feel more grateful that I was basically handed a job (granted, a job that pays much less than I think I deserve–it’s $4/hour less than I was making 4 years ago as a bachelor’s level counselor). I also am afraid I’ll lose that creative spark I ignited over the last year in wedding planning and designing my parents’ house. I also think I’m still mourning our wedding–I was so happy during the planning and nearly always felt fulfilled/gratified/excited about the project. Sometimes I feel like this is normal for my mid-twenties and I try to remember every job I’ve had has led to something bitter. At the same time, I worry that this job is setting me up for bigger things I’m not interested in (i.e. becoming a therapist, a program director, etc.). I question myself and these choices all the time, which isn’t like me–usually I know what I want and can figure out a path towards it. Angst!

    • anonymous

      I also love to write (I started a hobby blog) and teach Pilates–both lovely and enjoyable and growth-inspiring, but neither with an obvious path to a real career. I’m happiest doing a few different jobs, but those usually don’t pay super great.

    • Can you find jobs that maybe aren’t 100% what you want to do, but are 50% or 25% what you want to do? Event planners at large hotels or other popular facilities can make pretty reasonable salaries, I think. It’s probably more contract negotiation and less space aesthetics than you’d prefer, but at least it might feel more like a career path you can see yourself following.

  • JennyM

    SUPER late to the party (just got back from honeymoon week – woot!) but hoping this conversation is still rolling..

    MA in English, BA in Secondary English Ed here. Taught high school for a year and few months, which made me more anxious than I care for and have been an adjunct at a Community College 1 or 2 courses a semester, while pursuing the 9-5 job that came my way. I’ve taken random positions all within the same organization for the last 2.5 years at this 9-5, but as I’ve turned 27 and just got married and am seeing friends experiencing professional success I really wonder what I should be doing with my life. While I certainly understand that I don’t need a high-paying career to be happy, it’d be nice to feel like I have a “career” instead of just a job. And ya know, to be able to snap back at the never-ending comments about not utilizing my illustrious teaching degree.

    I try to brush it off as a quarter-life’ish worry – my thinking about a “career”, but I really don’t want to feel like I’ve settled, as I do now. Any advice or commiseration is certainly welcomed!

    • I’m 28 and have found myself thinking I wish I was getting my BA and starting my career now, rather than 6 years ago, because I finally kind of know what I maybe want to do!

      Most of the most interesting adults I know only have a “career” in retrospect. At 50 or 60 they can look back on their working life and see how it fit together, but in the moment it made no sense. When my dad was my age, he was a phlebotomist, and got roped into doing tech support for the lab computers because he was the only one who understood the things. He ended up getting in on the ground rung of IT and having a very successful career, but it certainly wasn’t anything he did on purpose.

  • Jesi L

    I spent all night reading these comments when the thread first opened up. I am right on the cusp of a promotion in a job I just kinda happened into right after college 3 years ago. I really (actually) love what I do. As a recruiter for a private duty nursing agency I get to put women in a position of providing for themselves and families at very nice pay rates and get to help medically fragile kids live longer more enjoyable lives at home with their families rather than in nursing facilities. It gives me a sense of fulfillment and I’m pretty good at it and after reading all these comments I feel I’m pretty lucky to have such a nice gig.

    So here is the thing, if anyone is still reading. My life long “when I grow up” dream has been to do research in the field of neuropsychology. I thrive in academia, did great in my undergrad (and the GRE) and really really love research and the idea of exploring an undiscovered frontier that weighs no more than 10 lbs and exist inside our measly skulls. But now I engaged and my SO would really like to get his BS before I get any more schooling, which is an idea that I can totally get behind. my only concern is that he is not taking any steps towards that goal, and Im worried by the time he’s ready for me to go back to school it will be too late for me. That and I worry but us incurring more debt because it’s no longer just ‘my’ debt it’s ‘our’ debt.

    Also, there have been a ton of post about people really regretting going back for a PhD which surprised me. Most people said they didn’t want to do the tenured prof. track or couldnt find work. With the field Im interested in I don’t think employ-ability should be that much of a problem, and I think I’d love teaching. Anyone who went that route and it all worked out okay?

    Any thoughts would be appreciated but regardless I am really thankful for this thread and the insight it gave me. Good to see so many others are struggling with decisions that seem like they will have such a heavy impact, and others who’ve made those decisions and survived any fall out. I’ve never had a big sister but dang, APW you make a great one!

  • Heather

    Wow, it feels fortuitous that I found this! I’m getting married in 2 weeks. And I told my mom the other day, “I need to get out of my job more than I need to get married.” Which if you knew me you’d know that says nothing about my love for my partner, and everything to do with my job.

    I am a relatively new nurse. I’ve worked as a nurse on a cardiac/stroke floor in a hospital for 2 years – I’m at my second hospital job now, same kind of floor – been there for7 months, which I hate more than the first and didn’t realize that it was possible. I am extremely overworked and under-appreciated. I cannot give good care because I have too many patients, I take no breaks in 13+hr shifts and still can’t get it all done. I think the stress level is aging me (I am 30 years old).

    So, I’m desperate to get out but not sure where to go. Nursing is the first job that’s supported me well financially. But, I am willing to take some pay cut to have a good job, a good life.

    I’m a perfectionist, and really love dotting my is and crossing my ts. I was a math/science person in school. I love going to school, and often tell people I wish I could be paid to go to school. I’m really smart, but like to be slow and meticulous which was great as a student not so much as an employee. I’m a decent writer (but again, perfectionist and meticulous, so probably not a good full-time career). I’m an introvert and tend to get overwhelmed by all the demands coming from multiple people, and ringing devices in the hospital. And I also really like people 1-on-1. I like hearing people. But don’t have time to devote to making people feel listened to in my current position. (and wouldn’t want to do that full time either) I also really like working as part of a small, good team. Ideally I’d like a mix of it all. I am really interested in health, and healthy food, and accessible exercise. I LOVE food. I also have a degenerative disability, so need a career that will be okay with my eventual need to use a wheelchair (definitely not floor nursing – I thought I could eventually find some nursing job outside the hospital, research or something.) Mostly my disability seems like a hard obstacle to have to overcome (which I guess it is, and will get harder).. but when I’m hopeful and bold I think I could use it as relevant experience when educating or role-modeling health. (like this paraplegic yoga instructor: http://www.mindbodysolutions.org/)

    My first degree was in education, which I dabbled in but never worked full time as a teacher. I worked in non-profit development (which I said I hated but didn’t know what hate was until this most recent career), and as a barista in a local coffee shop. Barista’ing was probably my favorite. And, my customers are a community I could use for networking if I figured out what I want.

    When I dream big I think of becoming a yoga instructor, or a health coach in an alternative/holistic health center, for people with disabilities. Or, opening a food truck, selling healthy affordable food to people. Or a cafe (although that seems less immediately do-able). My partner and I talk about moving to Hawaii, or Puerto Rico, and opening a bed and breakfast (we both love the beach). We both dream of being able to grow food and raise chickens and live a slow life that still supports us and hopefully one day a kid or two. I’d like to make honey, or cheese (could I make money from that?), working together to make money off our land. Something where I could feel good about what I’m doing and be meticulous and perfectionist and not deal with bureaucracy.

    My rational hat tells me to move slowly. Get another nursing job, or find a field that a nursing degree/experience would be useful, like medical research, or move outside the hospital to homecare or school nursing. Leaving this job right away will look bad for my resume, especially if I don’t stay in the next nursing job for a good while. So, I feel pressure to not leave unless it is to a nursing job I’m sure of, or out of the field completely (starting my own business, I won’t have to worry about a resume!)

    I’d love to hear your thoughts!
    Thanks APW!

    • I would absolutely look for a different nursing job in a different environment ASAP. From what I’ve seen (my husband’s an RN) it seems relatively common for new nurses to work in a hospital for a year or two and then be able to move elsewhere. Start looking for nursing jobs in a private clinic, administrative healthcare jobs requiring an RN license, or maybe using your education degree and doing RN training. Get an idea of what’s out there. You don’t have to jump straight from this job to your ideal job, but I do think it’s important to do something you don’t hate ASAP. Doing a job you hate, deep in your soul, makes it almost impossible to do the job well, and that’s something your supervisors will notice sooner or later. Staying longer will not necessarily look better on your resume if your references have to say, “Yeah… she was really nice, but her performance slipped the longer she stayed.”

  • Ok, I’m totally late to the party, but I clicked on the “Entrepreneurship” posts because I was just thinking “Man, I wish I could talk to Meg about this…”
    Here’s the situation:
    Want to run my own business, have been sort of half doing it for years. Event Planning/Social Media and Marketing Consulting for wedding businesses (I’m trying to cut down on those annoying music pop ups girls!)
    The problem:
    We need my income and more importantly need my insurance. I have been trying to piece together what a away to earn a steady income while getting this off the ground and I’m kind of stuck (I have some ideas, but they’re imperfect)
    My job now is lovely (really!) but the hours are killing my soul. I have no time to work out, get mentally healthy, or try and launch a business. I’ve been looking for admin jobs, but I fear that any full time employment will eventually lead to soul crushing hours. (This job is supposed to end at 5 ever y day. I haven’t left the office at 5 in months)
    I guess I’m looking for ideas? Support? Kind words of encouragement? I just need something to keep me going girls.

  • Hayley

    I love the idea of supporting us young woman via career. I think it’s hard… I am one of those that started what I thought my “dream” gig was and 2years in realized not so much (advertising is just not for everyone!). Now I’m just finishing up grad school this month, and getting my business off the ground *very slowly* while planning my wedding NYE. It’s a difficult gig. I enjoy it all, but sometimes it’s hard not to get down in the dumps, especially when it seems everyone has decided to take an “easier” route and just marry and have children.

  • LH

    I just want to chime in that I got an M.S. in physics, then moved to a new city without a job, worked as a barista, temp, customer service rep at a health insurance company, all while completely filled with panic that I was wasting my degree, screwing up my life, etc., because I hadn’t gotten my PhD in physics, and hadn’t gotten a physics-based job yet.

    I taught physics as an adjunct while I worked at the health insurance place. Continued to panic. Then I was a research assistant at a big university while adjuncting. Still panicking. Switched out the research with adjuncting at another college. Adjuncting sucks. I was still mildly panicking.

    It took four years before I found a full-time job teaching physics. But I love it. And four years sounds like a short stretch now. I wish I had enjoyed those four years more, and not tortured myself so much.

    It’s rare that people graduate and immediately get their dream job. It’s okay. Don’t panic and berate yourself constantly. Take small steps towards what you want.

    I just want fewer people panicking. :)