I hate my career choice. Now what?!

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Coming out of high school, I had no idea what career path I wanted to choose. Artist or teacher? Veterinarian or animator? “How about *insert random job here*?” I knew I wanted to be successful and, above all, enjoy my life, but I had no idea how to go about it.

I decided to train for a career in animal medicine. Then I started working. Man I was excited! I got to put my skills into use, and good use at that. I worked my butt off. And yet, each night I came home and felt wrong. I thought it would pass, but a year and a half later, I still feel wrong. Uneasy. Each time I think about going to work I feel physically sick. I hate that feeling. And it’s nothing my workplace has done per se. Yes, it is high stress, and the doctors demand a lot. But I had expected that. I just am coming to realize that I am not cut from the proper fabric to deal with these things. And that makes me sick, too. To know that time was “wasted” at school. That money was “wasted” on tuition. Time and money that I will never get back.

I just feel so lost and stuck. I am afraid of giving up my current job because, heck, it pays the bills. But I can’t continue living in this state of constant worry and aggravation. I would love to stay in the medical field, but not work with animals. But how can I afford school when we can barely stay afloat now? And I will have to work through school, no two ways about it, but what the heck would I do?

A few words of wisdom, a little snippet of advice, anything, really, would help right about now. -Dances With Cats

Homies? Who’s been in this position and has some advice?

Comments on I hate my career choice. Now what?!

  1. My husband went through a career change a few years ago. He had to go back to school for three years, during which time I supported us. He did occasional freelance work in his old career (filmmaking) but didn’t contribute heavily to our income. It was pretty difficult, but we made a lot of cuts in our lifestyle in order to make ends meet. He sold his car and took the bus to school. We got rid of cable and stopped going to the movies and out to eat. We stopped buying expensive cheese (which sounds dumb, but man we spent a lot of money on cheese.) He took out a lot of loans. In the end, he got a great job right out of school and is just so much happier now. Yes, his student loan bill is pretty large now, but his new career supports the higher bills and financially and emotionally, he’s doing better than ever.
    I think it’s probably a lot harder if you don’t have someone to help support you during this time, but still doable if you find a program with flexible or online classes. I’d say just go for it though. I really can’t tell you how much more satisfying life is now for both of us and while it was hard for three years, he now has the rest of his life to actually enjoy what he does.

    • This is so awesome, and helpful, and encouraging! i totally get the cheese thing!
      thank you thank you for sharing:)

      • Maybe it’s not the ‘what’, it’s the ‘where’…? Perhaps your skills will become a more natural part of your life, if used in a different setting. Things such as lab/research work, pet pharmaceuticals, pet stores, zoos, aquariums, etc come to mind. Maybe you’d be a great addition to a nature centre/preserve, large eco farm, animal sanctuary, or a country vet practice. Academia may be your thing – working alongside of a group or an individual who is tracking migration patterns, or drops in animal populations etc – I know a guy who works for gov’t here in Canada that gets paid to spend a lot of his time out in the wild keeping an eye on turtle populations. I only graduated a few years ago in social work, but I’ve found keeping in touch with old classmates via social media (even the ones I didn’t care for) has shown me the vast amounts & types of work available in ‘our’ field, so I’d encourage you to touch base with fellow alumnae here & there…you never know what hidden opportunities they may know about, or will talk about on their Facebook pages. And attend any conferences or events in your field that catch your eye. I’m a welfare worker & don’t like it the way I thought I would, but a recent event I attended about literacy has lit a whole new fire in me – the stats on children who are constantly encouraged/motivated to be ultra-literate & then escape poverty as adults are HUGE, and I’d rather help ‘build a foundation’ than fix the cracks in people’s walls later…and that’s just a better use of my time/talents, I think….I’m not as good at the super-duper emergency stuff. I’m looking at taking an online certificate in Family Literacy. I’m not sure where that might lead me, but that’s ok – if you’re enthusiastic about something, it’s always possible to find opportunities. I’d say spend a bit of time at the good old fashioned library too, in the non-fiction areas…browse around, & and just read whatever appeals to you. Sometimes we try too hard to answer the big questions too quickly – give yourself a little breathing room & something may come to you. I wish you the best, Dances with Cats!

  2. I know how you feel. In a way, I think it is pretty silly of our society to expect someone, at the age of 18ish, to decide right then what job they want for the rest of their lives. I went to college right out of high school for the career that everyone from my parents to my teachers to my guidance counselor told me I was made for. And I. Fucking. Hated it. Four years of school and 25 grand in debt down the drain. I chose to work a string of dead end nametag and hairnet jobs to make ends meet rather than be miserable in my field. And then I went back to school again. Racked up more debt. Trained for another field, one I thought was my calling…only to find out, like you did, that I am not made of the stuff I thought I was made of and that job isn’t for me either.

    Now, I’m an antique dealer with my own business and my head barely above water, but I don’t have that sick feeling that you describe every day when I get up to go to work, and I don’t have to work for anyone else.

    I say, if you know you’re unhappy, do some soul searching. Decide what your passion really is. It might take you a while to figure that out, but when you do you can focus your energy on making it happen instead of treading water. If you are unhappy working in the medical field with animals due to the sadness factor, I’m guessing that it won’t get any easier when you’re dealing with humans. It’s hard sometimes to decide what you want to do and sometimes you don’t end up where you ever imagined you would.

    Good luck, and I wish you the best. There is nothing wrong with what you are feeling, I think many people are in your same boat. At least you’ve taken the step of admitting it to yourself.

  3. If you’re still unsure which specific path to take (and don’t want to spend more $ with education, etc), I would recommend volunteering or job shadowing.

    You could volunteer for any length of time you need to figure out if that specific field right for you (provided there isn’t a minimum time commitment like a year) and usually you work around your schedule. The job shadowing would just be a 1 day brief this-is-what-we-do. Plus, you might be able to be convincing to a place that doesn’t usually allow people in to volunteer.

    If you don’t have people who know people who could get you in, you could just call them up, state your interest, and see where it goes (even if on their website they don’t have any volunteering / job shadowing section).

    I would also be open to any opportunity, even if its something you never thought of, or don’t think its relevant to you; you never know where the path of life might lead you.

    • I second volunteering and would like to throw in the option to take on a part-time job. If you can see if you can reduce your current position’s hours to help the life balance.

  4. i think that in the short-term, your highest priority should be to take care of yourself and your well being. if that means daily meditation before and after work, a bath immediately when you get home, once a month massage- i dont know, whatever it is that will work for you to lower stress and get you through work *right now*, focus on that. because no matter what you path you take from here, you will have to stay in the job you have now for some amount of time (assuming from what you wrote)- so right now, number one on the list, figure out how to de-stress and balance your life to deal with it.

    • I absolutely agree. I think it is hard to “solve” any life problem without first reducing stress, because a) stress literally affects your ability to think and feel, thus affecting decision-making and b) if you’re suffering long-term stress, your next endeavor might not “feel” any better because your body’s stress response is permanently turned on. I had to quit my job all-together and move in with in-laws, and now I am finding my way into a healthy livelihood. I also suffered for about 2 years without anyone telling me I might be depressed and that rest, therapy, and holistic health counseling (diet, herbs, etc.) could help. I don’t mean to out you or presume anything, but if you have felt bad for a long time, please don’t ignore what your body is telling you. It might not be a new job that solves your problems. It might be a path of healing. In America, we tend to take stress as a given, kind of like you said in your article “yeah it’s high stress…but…” Stress is lethal (great documentary on Netflix: National Geographic’s “Stress, Portrait of a Killer”). It isn’t something you “should” be able to rise above or that you could be cut from the “proper fabric” to deal with. It dampens mood, memory, libido, appetite, anything “extra” that you wouldn’t need to run away from a lion. That creates serious problems when you are not just running from a lion for a few minutes, but constantly stressed for years. I hope you feel better!!

  5. I was you in 2009. I went in to animal sciences thinking I’d love it. I loved my volunteer work at shelters, I loved helping sick animals get better. Then, I got a paying job at a clinic and an animal ER. The ER job was short-lived and had horrible hours and terrible demands. The clinic job had an over-bearing doctor who hated everything I did, even if I was told to do it. I ended up on antidepressants and antianxiety pills. I had stomachaches every time I thought of going to work the next day. I was a wreck.

    I got up the courage to quit that job. I got a basic retail job for a little bit and saved up some money. I then took “me” time and hit the Appalachian Trail for a while. While I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, I took a leap and made myself happy for the first time in my life. While I may not know what to do still, I’m getting by. I have faith that things will always work out. I wish you luck, because I know how you’re feeling!

    • Came to say THIS! I will be graduating with an animal science degree this spring and have absolutely no idea if any future career I have will involve animals at all.
      I love animals, and horses are my life, and have always had an interest in medicine, so naturally I thought veterinarian was the clear choice for future career and originally entered as pre-vet medicine. Except even though everyone tells you how hard it is to get into vet school, you realize IT’S REALLY FUCKING HARD TO GET INTO VET SCHOOL. Not to mention the debt and lack of personal life!
      I switched to animal and food sciences because it sounds slightly less dumb when you don’t actually end up going to vet school and I didn’t want to totally start over. I really can’t complain much because I feel I’m getting a decent foundation in the sciences.
      Problem is I have no idea where to go from here. I am casually applying to grad school, but if I’m being honest with myself it’s more for my parents to feel like I’m doing SOMETHING. At this point I feel like I’d take any job I can tolerate if it can pay the bills and I eventually can get my own horse. Because I figured out I didn’t want to be a vet, I just wanted to have my own horse. Vets tend to have no money or time to themselves unless they’re part of the 5% of the field that becomes ridiculously successful, so that field really wasn’t compatible with my goals.
      I am a planner so it kills me that I don’t know where to go from here, so I just have faith that if I keep all of this in mind, it will work out somehow in the end.
      Sorry I don’t have any advice, I just know how you feel and while I’m not quite as deep into the field as you, I too am not sure where to go from here.

      • Don’t rush into graduate school!! I just quit after rushing into it after undergrad. Take your time and find out what you want first. Really. Things I wish someone had told me 2 years ago…

      • Maybe there are some programs with the alumni department of your school, for example where you could connect with others who got the same degree as you. They might be able to give you some ideas about what kinds of jobs and fields you might be able to go into (or maybe the alumni department has some data about it too). I’m guessing you’re paying a lot of money for your education so if there are any resources like that, take advantage of them. 🙂 Good luck!

      • I completely second (or third, or quadruple) the advice to not rush into grad school. You are way more likely to drop out if grad school if you go straight from undergrad.

        I was in your same situation in 2006, graduating with a fine arts degree in metalsmithing, and realizing I hate the gallery scene, need more financial stability, and already had signs of arthritis in my hands. I was at a loss.

        Fast forward to 2012. It took 5 years of crappy office jobs and a lot of personal soul searching to find something that fit all aspects of my life to pursue as a profession. And it was like a lightning bolt of serendipity. I am now in my second semester of grad school for holistic nutrition & integrative health and feel a peace I have not known before.

        Trust that things will come to you if you are open to them and ready. Focus on giving yourself the best life you can in the moment (take care of yourself) and you’ll be amazed what things come your way.

        It can be tough. My past 5 years culminated in living in my dad’s basement, being 200 miles away from my husband, and being laid off) but I wouldnt trade it for the world because it brought me to exactly where I needed to be.

        Good luck with your journey! Remember to treat yourself well and listen to yourself!

      • And hey your degree doesn’t define what kind of job you have – Mine is in Anthropopgy and History – I work in the tech industry as a project manager

        • So the company youre at just wanted abachelor’s? Im getting a bachelor’s in health management even though im not a manager type. How did you find your job? Did they just say they would train you? Just curious how it works when you graduate in one thing and work in another cuz ill be in the same boat

    • The first paragraph describes my friend’s struggle in the Vet industry to the letter! She’s super hard-working and it takes a lot to make her angry but being a vet assistant just wore her out. She tried a different career for a while but hated that one too (it was a pretty awful field to begin with).

      Seems like the vet clinics in our city either have pretty bad owners and great customers, or great owners but awful customers. She could never find a happy medium, so she moved away for greener pastures.

  6. Great advice so far! I think already you can see there’s a number of angles you need to hit this thing from.

    (a) Look after yourself and try to minimise stress in your CURRENT life, as it is now.

    (b) Do some soul-searching, think about your current skills, think more about skills you might want to learn next.

    (c) If unsure, volunteer/shadow/research like crazy to find out more about other opportunities.

    Only after following the steps above do you need to:

    (d) Make a practical plan. If you’re going back to school, will it be full-time or part-time? How will you pay for it and support yourself? Big questions, but not necessarily ones to deal with right this minute – you can take your time before making these big, stressful choices.

    I’d also like to add one more piece of advice/wisdom that has been helping me in my career lately: don’t think of anything as “wasted”.

    People may pressure you to consider money and time spent on a previous career as a waste. Challenge that assumption! You can say things like, “Well, I’m changing direction now, but I know that I picked up skills X, Y and Z in that time, I met the amazing people A, B, and C who are now my life-long friends, and I feel really proud thinking back on how many animals and families I helped in that time. I’m choosing not to carry on doing that work, but that doesn’t cancel out all the good I did before!”

    Ultimately, the contribution you make in your teens, or twenties, does not need to be the contribution you make for the rest of your life. And if you change track, that doesn’t cancel out your previous achievements.

    Best of luck!

    • As well as agreeing with this comment in its entirety, I’d like to add another thing gained from the path that you have so far taken: learning is worthwhile for its own sake, it exercises you brain and expands your knowledge, and teaches you skills such as writing, research, application (as in applying yourself to work, not as in applying for a position) and concentration skills. You are a richer person having gone through that training even if you do not continue to use the more specific aspects of it.

  7. So, this isn’t an answer for how to change your career path, because I don’t know how to do that. But I found this video today, and it really inspired me. The beginning is a little slow, but stick it through to the end, where she starts to talk about how, yes, you can do it, and yes, you do belong.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

    So yeah, this isn’t about how to completely switch career paths, but how you can fake it until you become it, and until you realize that you can do that if you want to. Because I sometimes feel like I don’t belong at my job either, but I watched this video today, and realized that mostly, I’m just Othering myself into feeling like I can’t do it, not that I truly can’t do it.

    • The “I don’t belong here” feeling that makes you sick every time you think about your work does not necessarily go away when you change careers. I’m not sure if that is really the OP’s issue, but it is MY issue. I am currently struggling with my thesis research because I feel so powerless and worthless and like I don’t belong. Thanks for sharing this TED talk.

  8. No experience is wasted. Do what you can to figure out exactly what you learned from this experience, even if it is just “I hate this, never again.” But, I bet it’s not just “I hate this.” There must of been something that attracted you to this particular job in the first place. Take the time to really think about exactly what you like, hated, were ok with, and what would make you happy to be at work. It might not be as different as you think. You might not HAVE to go back to school right away. You might be able to find a similar job that pays the bills, you don’t hate going to and that allows you to go to school or at least figure it all out.

    I have a degree in theatrical production design. I quit my well paying dispatcher job for a job at a pizza place. I can still pay my bills and I don’t mind getting out of bed everyday.

  9. First of all, no training is ever wasted effort. It can go on your resume, it can benefit you later in really exciting, surprising ways if you know how to spin it. Many employers in many different fields LOVE to have a staff with diverse backgrounds and training.
    Obviously, it depends where you live and what you’re willing to do to get the training, but there are schools out there that can work for you. From work study programs to evening classes and more, there are a lot of options that could fit your life pretty comfortably. I’ve had friends go through nursing programs while holding full-time jobs, and they still managed to have a pretty low-stress life. I think you can do it!

    • Well said! I wanted to add something about classes and schools; even if someone takes a pottery class at the local community college, zie is able to utilize their career services. At the community college where I teach, career counseling has remained virtually untouched in the budget cuts. So, if you do end up taking classes at a community college, consider utilizing the career services available to students!

  10. A friend of mine who is going through a similar struggle recently told me about an exercise she did to put her unsatisfying work life in perspective. She got a big piece of paper and made a timeline of her life. On the timeline, she wrote all the things she wanted to do between now and when she dies. What she realized was that her professional life is actually pretty minimal in the list of those goals.

    Eventually, she ended up quitting the job that was making her miserable and taking an administrative job with a local college. It’s not something she’s interested long term, and she’s not using her degree, but it’s a chance for her to catch her breath and figure things out. I definitely second all the advice to research, job shadow and volunteer. Maybe you could also start looking for a more career-neutral job that would allow you a little space?

    • A career-neutral short-term job will for sure give you some space but it also has the potential to let you develop skills you might not have gained in your current job which may end up being of benefit if/when you do return to school. I was in a similar situation to you a few years back (compounded by long-term health issues). I ended up quitting my full-time job in my field and took a part-time admin job which I wasn’t thrilled with but it helped pay the bills. After lots of soul-searching I went back to uni and found during my Masters and now during my PhD that all sorts of bits and pieces I picked up in the admin job have been pretty helpful in academic life. All the very best to you.

  11. It’ll be OK!

    If you’re unhappy now, how much worse will it be 5 years from now? 10?

    If you know you want to make a change, the sooner the better!

    Also – can you take your current experience and use it toward something similar while you go back to school? For example, if I was looking for a dog walker or owned a pet store, I’d much rather hire somebody with your experience than somebody without it.

    Even if you feel like you have to change job tracks entirely until you’re done retraining for a new career, your current job still looks great on a resume – it shows that you are reliable and responsible, and that you can last at a job for a long time.

    Good luck!!

    • Yes! A very good friend of mine has worked in a number of animal hospitals, and at one point was offered a job as a groomer. It wasn’t what she wanted (turns out she just worked at a crappy clinic, and is at a much better one now) but it’s an example of using current skills to pursue a slightly different career.

    • This is exactly what I was thinking! I actually think it’s a broad social problem that the normal narrative of job-switching is that if the job you trained for doesn’t work out, you either have to start completely over from square one or start your own business. This often gets reinforced by the way people in your field comfort themselves for staying in jobs they don’t love or congratulate themselves for being better than other people because of their jobs – “if I weren’t doing this, I’d have to be a barista, so I’m awesome / it’s fine for me to stay here.” It also has to do with how people in highly-competitive fields talk about success, especially during and in the years right after finishing school. If you “can’t hack it” (either because you can’t get a position in a competitive or unbalanced field, or because you can’t tolerate the position you have) it must mean you’re not good enough, and if you’re the kind of person who’s not good enough, you must only deserve an unskilled, entry-level position. It’s a really deep part of American workforce structures, keeping people in jobs they don’t love and convincing people that receiving good things is all about working your way up to them through the appropriate channels.

      But you can make your own channels! You can use your experience to do something less stressful with animals to pay your way through school, or you could look at ways that you could stay on the margins of medicine without much more training (I know you’d need more school to actually practice medicine on people, but there are all kinds of ways you can be part of the field).. Or you could even look at tiny niches you could fill using your experience combined with whatever hobbies or interests you could have.

  12. I went through a similar situation a couple years ago. I had been unemployed for an extended period of time and didn’t want to go back to work in similar type of job I had worked previously. I knew it was time for a change.

    I took some time to do some soul searching and realized that I wanted to pursue a career in fitness. And then I did a great deal of internet searching to find educational programs. I ended up finding a great program at UCLA Extension, but it was expensive.

    Then I received a very useful piece of advice from a friend: dig around to try to find grants/scholarships. There are a lot of them out there, but you have to do a little legwork to find them. But it’s also possible that what you find may be little known, and you may find yourself without much competition to get it if you jump through whatever hoops they ask of you in the application process. I did just that with a UCLA Extension scholarship that is specifically for low income women who plan on going back to school to change careers – and ended up earning a full ride for a two year fitness instruction program.

    So don’t be discouraged because it is possible to go back to school with a full time job and/or low income – it just takes a little legwork and research. Many universities have great extension programs with evening and online classes (I did a combination of both) and scholarships and grants are out there – you just have to find them.

    Best of luck!

  13. I have a graduate degree in teaching and I’m currently working as a special event planner for a small non-profit. Don’t think that the skills that you’ve gained from your education and job experience have been wasted or that you necessarily have to go back to school to get a job in a different field.

    Think about the skills that you have in a more general sense (this took me a long time because when you’re in school you’re trained to phrase everything for the occupation you’re training for).

    In education, I learened to multi-task, present information to diverse audience, use various pieces of technology, organize a room layout, prioritize, and stay organized with paper work etc–all of which I use in my current job which I love.

    • I am totally with this! I had finished all my coursework in my PhD and had spent money on a trip to London to do research, had invested a bunch in my degree… and I withdrew. I realized that while I loved teaching, I had absolutely no desire to be a tenured professor. Too many things attached to it that did not appeal.

      So what would I do? I was working a low-end admin job and I kept doing that while I applied for jobs. I worked as a sessional lecturer and learned that doing that on top of a full time job sucks. Eventually, I lucked out and found a job that was perfect for me. I had learned a ton in my education that was relevant. I loved researching, I loved teaching, and I could use both. I also love technology and I got to play with that daily. I had never heard of this job before ad could never have imagined it. Suddenly I loved my job, didn’t notice when I was there late, felt like I’d finally made it. Then the job couldn’t continue. So I had to find a new job. I’m working a term job right now, hoping to find something else before my job ends (again), but I also found out what education would lead to my job. If I work at the University, I can take classes for free. So I will work to stay at a university and do my education.

      Sometimes it is about lucking into a position so you find out what works. If you can’t handle staying where you are, think about what jobs you would be qualified for and hunt for one as a temporary measure. Then start cataloguing what you are good at and what you enjoy. What are your hobbies? What skills have you picked up in your work? Start poking around. There may be tangential jobs that you would love that get rid of some of the aspects you do not love. I would not have thought of working in a Centre for Teaching and Learning or working with educational technology or social media (I know, total duh). But it worked out. Entirely. So I am going to do what I can to get into that area again. Now I know what to do education wise, I have contacts who can help out, and I am using the current time to network and do my best at the job I am currently at.

  14. I agree with what Katy, GrimmGirl, and dootsiebug said, so I’ll echo it here: none of what you have done thus far is wasted. While it might seem like that now, the education and experience you have under your belt says a lot about you, and that is important both intrinsically and extrinsically. For your sake, remember that this shows you are committed, intelligent, and hard-working, just to name a few things. From an external perspective, you haven’t been twiddling your thumbs for the past N years, you have been going for it! When you put that type of spin on it, that speaks volumes to future employers, schools, and mentors.

    A quick note about next steps: it is scary, no doubt. Whip out a journal or sit down with a trusted friend (human or of the animal persuasion), and work through these questions:
    -What is one small thing that I can do to get closer to realizing my next step?
    -When could I realistically complete that one small thing?
    -How will I know that I have completed it? What does completion look like?
    -Am I committed to doing that?

    It’s easy to get lost in the magnitude of the choices about your future. Start small and keep moving. You’ve got all the answers within yourself friend. Now go for it!

  15. It depends on what you want to do. There are lots of options for education. If you want something in the medical field like nursing, try looking for an externship, where an employer will pay for your training, and then you agree to do paid work for them for x years in exchange. Also, if you want something in the medical field that isn’t as intensive, like an x ray tech, an ultrasound technician, a medical assistant or a physical therapist, those programs are relatively short and can be found at community colleges and trade schools for a relatively inexpensive rate. Figure out what you truly want to do before you do anything, you don’t want to wind up here again! I feel your pain, I am in the same boat. But no one is ever stuck.

  16. I’m in the middle of a career change. I graduated with a degree in Economics and Business in the middle of the big recession. No jobs for anyone anywhere at the entry level. None. So I upped sticks and moved to Prague, where I trained to be a TEFL teacher. I stuck with it for two and a half years, getting more miserable by the day. At the very end, it took everything I had not to just bail on my last two weeks of work, I was so burnt out and unhappy with it. I moved with my husband (then fiance) to his hometown (London!) and tried to figure it out. After an unpaid internship with an online discount retailer, I realized that the areas I’d gone to school for were interesting, but not for me. I loved learning about Economics and Marketing and all that lovely stuff, but the actual job was not something I enjoyed.

    Fast forward to my husband asking me, “If money and time were no object, what in your heart of hearts would you like to do?” and the answer was easy- acting. It’s always been acting. But, being from a middle class background with very sensible family members, I opted to train in business instead of my dream career. Fat lot of good that did me ;). So now I’m acting. I gave up worrying about income and rely on freelance web editing and proofreading to help pay the bills while I pursue my dream. So far, it’s gone well. I’ve been at it since October and have landed parts in two feature films and a TV pilot :). I wouldn’t say it’s a career yet, but it’s getting there, and I didn’t have to go back to school for it. I do the odd workshop here and class there to help, but it wasn’t necessary to do a full degree to get roles.

    So, it’s doable. You need to be prepared to rely on someone else (parent, spouse, etc) to help you financially for a while. But I think most importantly, you have to search your soul for what calls to you and makes your heart sing. That’s how you find your dream job. And then it’s about figuring out how to make it happen (easier said than done, I know). Good luck!

  17. First, see what, if any, college credits you can transfer. If you’re interested in human medicine, having already taken bio and chemistry can give you a leg up if you decide to get another degree.

    I made the opposite switch from you – Became an EMT almost as soon as I was old enough to take the class, did it for four years, burned out, quit, and started volunteering at a limited admission shelter. Now I work at a municipal animal control shelter and I pretty much love it. I can’t say if it will be my life long career, but for now I’m happy with it.

    One other tip – if you do switch to human medicine, look at your local community college for short training programs. EMT was 18 weeks and about $1,000 when I took it (eight years ago), Phlebotomy I think is one semester, and CNA can range from four weeks to one semester depending on the program, and is a prerequisite for nursing school. All three are part time programs, and usually have day and night classes to accommodate people who work. They’re a smaller time and money investment than something that requires an Associate degree.

  18. The other amazing thing about making a positive move/pursuing what you love/talking the leap towards happiness is that you are actually happier. And you notice. And other people notice too. In my experience jumping from the field I thought I wanted (marketing) to the field I adore (massage therapy) made me happier. And that made me more confident and likely to talk to people. Opportunities opened up more easily. The more I pursue what I love the richer my life feels. And when I go back to marketing to make ends meet (as I am doing now) I can tell my quality of life decreases a little even though my pay has gone up. I guess what I am saying is that pursuing what you love seems to make everything in life a bit brighter and happier, at least in my experience. Good Luck! Don’t be afraid!

  19. I spent years in grad school only to opt out of that world, so I feel your pain. A few thoughts:
    – if you can, see a professional therapist to process your feelings, and consider seeing a psychiatrist if your anxiety/stress feels relentless. this was crucial to me.
    – read What Color Is Your Parachute. it’s full of excellent exercises and can help you find a new path that will work for your personality. i found it very helpful.
    – talk to some advisers at schools — CC, or U. see what your options are.
    – keep an open mind and start asking around. tell people you’re thinking about a career change and see what comes your way.

    GOOD LUCK!

  20. Thanks for all of the advice. I earned my master’s (Art History & Museum Studies) back in 2011, but still haven’t been employed my field of study. While I knew it would be hard to get a job–especially with this economy, I somehow thought it wouldn’t be as tough as it has been.

    I have had a couple of (miserable) jobs since then, where I have felt a lot of self-loathing for having spent so much time, energy, and particularly MONEY for a degree that has in many ways gotten me nowhere. I have always felt the need to justify my position in the “well, I work here, but I actually have a degree in _____.” Since quitting my last job a few months ago (and being unemployed), I’ve been doing a certain amount of soul-searching, trying to determine if what I studied to do is REALLY what I want to do–especially when I live in a virtually non-existent market for it (and where my husband has a stable job).

    It’s hard, because we can hardly afford to have me not work, but I’ve noticed that even the general job listings for my region tend not to be things that I can do (mostly medical or technical). I also worry that my education might be off-putting to a lot of employers (the idea that if I have a master’s 1. why don’t I go for a job in that field? and 2. since I have a higher degree, I might expect more money than someone straight out of high school or undergrad).

    Reading the comments here are helping me realize that I’m not alone in my situation. Yeah, I love what I studied, still, but I’m just not sure that it’s really a viable career option. I’ve done volunteering, but even there, it hasn’t been the same as my experiences as an intern. Perhaps it really isn’t the right field for me, after all.

    • I have left out my education in job applications for this reason. I’ve also been declined for jobs that I wanted because I was over qualified. It’s incredibly frustrating. But I have learned that a resume is intended to be relevant to the job you want. So do your best to tailor it to the job you are applying for. Leave off education that is not relevant unless you absolutely have to list it. Mention it if they ask but otherwise, it’s none of their business.

    • I totally echo the sentiments you write here.

      My background: I did my undergrad in history. I didn’t want to teach and based on my skills I decided law school was a good idea. The economy crashed my 3L year and law journals started reporting that the legal profession was contracting and there was an oversupply of law school graduates. Awesome. I graduated law school and took the bar exam, which was quickly followed by a “I’m done with the bar exam!” pregnancy. Took another state’s bar exam while I was pregnant, and took a little time with my daughter.

      I’ve been actively looking for word for two years, legal and non-legal. I’m over educated and under experienced. My husband barely makes enough for the three of us and it’s a lot of pressure on him, especially when the understanding was that I’d be working. Volunteering and such is out because we can’t afford daycare unless I have an income.

      My inability to find a law job, and frankly apathy about whether I find a legal job makes me wonder if that’s even what I want to do. I don’t really have a passion for it, law school was just part of the “plan”. I’m thankful to be able to stay home with my daughter, but I can’t help but feel really lost as far as career is concerned. I appreciate this topic and all the advice posters have given.

    • I would recommend taking your masters off your resume. I fill the gap by saying I was a ‘teaching assistant’ during that time but not having the masters there… depending on the job of course.

    • Hi,

      I wanted to chime in here as I also graduated from a masters program in museum studies in 2007.

      Let me disclose that I’m writing this from my office in a museum. A job it took me five years to land. A job I realize I don’t want.

      It’s tough. I don’t know what your specialty was in school but I personally was in it for exhibit development, ranging from curatorial to technical work. Instead, due to the lack of jobs in the field and the desire of most museums to promote internally, I’m working a position with minimal curatorial work and lots of data entry. Not really what I dropped a shit ton of money to do, you know?

      Now, I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that if someone offered me the type of job I want that I wouldn’t take it. However, the years are passing me by, the opportunities are not there right now and I’m tired of being unhappy trying to make a living.

      I’ve also come to realize that as much as I love advocating for the arts – I love working with people. I sit in my office all day doing admin (maybe research if I’m lucky). I’m rarely in the galleries and my interactions with people are limited to who may drop by that day. I want out.

      I know I have a passion when it comes to justice and if it weren’t for the saturation of law grads out there I’d consider law. The good that has come from my own internal discussions about law school is that I now know I want to help. Someone. Maybe animals. Maybe kids. But I need a job that allows me to work with/for people and that allows me to give them some kind of support.

      I sometimes lament that it took me so long, and so much debt, to realize that I would find more fulfillment helping someone improve their situation rather than commit to preserving art for the coming generations (not saying it’s not important – it’s just not the most important thing to me any longer). But hell, at least I came to that realization. And at least I know, and can be proud of that fact, that I continue to grow as a human being.

      Sit down with yourself and look for your real passion. But be prepared to accept that it may not pan out, financially, and that you may need to just do something that gets you through your day with little stress so that you can apply yourself to your passions at a later time.

  21. Hello! I’ve got some advice for you!
    Where I go to school at, our animal science and regular biological science (premed stuff) are very similar. I’m doing cellular biology, but I end up in a lot of classes with my animal biology friends. The core classes are usually the same. So if you did go back to school, you aren’t looking at 4 years of do overs (which means saving $$). The first step if you are really hell bent on going back would be to talk to school councilors from schools you are looking at again. Ask what would transfer, and what it would leave you with. What you can do for scholarships or loans. And in my experience if they aren’t helpful, look up the science/health professions college website from that school (or just ask) and see who the professors are and go talk to them. 9 out 10 times the professors know their stuff 100% better than some vague lady at a desk who hates her job too. They can tell you what exactly you need to go where and might even have some inside tips on work if you’re lucky.

    But if you don’t really want to go back to school, and you might see what you can do with your degree. Maybe it’s just the clinic you work at, or the stress of dealing with sick animals. Only you can determine that. But some places you might see about taking you in would be: pet stores, grooming or boarding, zoo’s or animal parks, shelters or rescue centers, training schools, or wildlife reserves (game wardens). Or maybe even a new clinic.

    Or maybe a technical school would be a better path, it would be faster and cheaper and you could get training as some sort of nurse. A few of my friends who are going into the med field have done that first so they can work through school. You might look up courses for something along that line.

    I hope you find something in here that makes you feel better and breathe easier. There is a way if you have the will power!

  22. I was there! Wondering why I chose the career I did and proceeding to work in anything but (there were no jobs for theater majors, who would’ve thunk?). I was able to change my path, despite having a not too helpful degree.

    I had no idea what I wanted to do, I had no way to go back to school (even part time was beyond my financial means) so I decided to get jobs that just paid the bills. I signed up for jobs that sounded interesting and gave me a living wage. I took jobs that included room and board and moving far away. I had jobs just because I needed to make ends meet, and I had jobs because I thought I might be good at them. And some of them SUCKED to the nth degree and had me crying before work and after.
    I learned from all of them. I learned that I was not going to be my job… that there was more to me than that. I learned what my skills were, what I liked to do, what I was good at and what I sucked at doing (and how to avoid being in a situation where I would need to do those things I suck at doing). I also used one theater skill throughout: fake it till you make it.

    Through trial and error I came up with my own personal list of things that I want from a job, and things I will avoid like the plague. What helped me find my new career path (which makes me very happy) was to think what my bottom line was. It turned out that I didn’t much care WHAT I was doing, just how. Your list is most likely going to be quite different, and mine was different when I got started with it, I’ve added and modified it as the years have gone by.

    It began as “job that pays the bills”, then I realized that I also needed to not be miserable while paying bills. I didn’t have to LOVE my job, but at least be able to function without crying. I discovered I’m actually an introvert and suck at office interaction and forced socializing. I found out that even if work was monotonous, if it was for a good cause, I was happy doing it. I learned that I did not want to be my own boss (it is WAY harder than it seems), but I wanted bosses who did not suck and who respect their employees.

    My personal list of things to look for in a job looks like this now:

    a. Makes me feel that I am helping the world be a better place.
    b. pays me enough to live well and be able to save up and travel.
    C. Is not all consuming (I want time for me, and to not feel tied down or overly stressed).
    D. Does not require me to conform or be less myself.

    In summary, there is great advice in the comment threads:

    Hang in there, don’t be afraid to branch out and find other stuff you’d like doing. Search for grants, fellowships or training programs that will hire you and train you. Figure out what you ARE looking for in a job and try to search in that direction. Maybe you can work with educating pet owners instead of working with the animals themselves?

    • Turns out we’re very similar in what we want in a job. Now at last, I know how to formalize what I want!!! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  23. Try looking for jobs at colleges. At a lot of schools, employees can take classes for free. That would allow you to take classes in some different fields to explore areas you’re interested in. And if you do decide you want to pursue another degree or certification, you can use that free tuition to go through the program part-time. It might take you a little bit longer, but getting out of the high-stress environment you’re in now, still making money, and not having more student loans might make the extra time worth it. It really depends on the person/situation, but could be a good option! I wish you the best!

  24. After 12 years as a social worker, Im now studying law due to a couple of reasons including health issues and needing to know I have other options. My current job is paying my study fees for the next job so its not a waste. Also my first degree will help me in my next phase of working life.

    Here is a presentation by Alain De Botton that I have found helpful when thinking about career and meanings of work.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_a_kinder_gentler_philosophy_of_success.html

  25. WOW WOW WOW. I’ve been there and I’m there again!

    I didn’t do the college route at all- in High School, I went to the Career Center and graduated HS & also got my Cosmetology License. I worked for 6 years in a salon, 43 hrs a week, killing my self (literally it turned out) to earn a paycheck. I found out I was allergic to MANY of the chemicals used in a salon and was told 3 times by my doc if I didn’t quit I could go into an allergic coma and die. I fell into a job in the Travel industry (doing data entry)and now have 10 yrs experience as a Director of Operations. My husband came along 3 yrs ago and my child a year and a half ago, changing my idea of working completely. I’m currently working my last full week and am just staying on 2 hrs per day to finish off a project. I’m letting my Husband have some breathing room since he’s been a full time dad the last year. He’ll finish his PhD and grow his business while I have found happiness in Tupperware! NEVER NEVER NEVER discard any opportunity that comes your way as you don’t know how it will benefit you. My years in the salon taught me people skills that have helped me develop relationships with my vendors in the travel industry. My email and phone skills that I perfected dealing with hotels and bus companies are helping me progress fast with Tupperware. Most of all, I’m able to appreciate the time I have and will have with my little girl. Chin up, you are not alone!

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