Ugly Truths about Plotting a Career Change, Pt. 1

I’ve been pretty honest in this blog about my (so far unsuccessful) career change machinations – but as my partner reminded me tonight, there is a saying that “There’s the truth, and then there’s the TRUTH.” Tonight I’m all about cracking open that all-caps truth, in the interest of confronting and hopefully transcending it.

1) I’ve been in my career for fifteen years and have a graduate degree and often teach myself niche and sometimes fairly complex things, and I STILL feel like I have no marketable skills. One reason for this is, I’ve spent exorbitant amounts of time mastering an insular, antiquated DOS system and esoteric industry concepts. Another is that I usually choose to spend all my precious time outside of work making art in isolation. Yet another is that, despite all the literature waxing poetic about the indispensability of soft skills (which I have in abundance), it sure seems like hard skills, with their sharp outlines and known quantities, still make HR folks waaay more comfy that they know what they’re getting.

2) I’ve traditionally had one of those resumes that went into way too much detail just listing my job duties, because most things you could call accomplishments have been my gracefully handling what someone threw at me that I didn’t want to do. That, as opposed to some sexy scratch project or innovation or value-add. Though I may look and sound pretty good doing it – I essentially check boxes, y’all. Also… it’s risk assessment for a too-big-to-fail insurance carrier, for goodness’ sake. I can’t pretend to care that much.

3) It has taken me a good while to recognize this, but admittedly a lot of my reluctance to make a daring move is, indeed, concern over other people’s opinions. I carry an intense awareness that, to quit, I’d basically need a good enough story with which to address people’s probing questions. And if part of that story is my having a substantial savings and no debt, there’d be judgmental chatter about that, too. I’m embarrassed to say that, at times, that concern even outweighs the real-world, existential-threat stuff. It’s one thing to conclude it’d be absurd to shake the golden handcuffs for a part-time job with no benefits – but I can’t lie, part of me is kicking myself for not going after, say, a low-wage but potentially interesting full-time gig and looking for freelance writing jobs and other sources of income to supplement it. (Kicking myself might be an understatement.)

4) I’m not usually the type of person who feels regret, preferring to look at most things as valuable learning experiences. But I am starting to feel the pangs of almost-regret, particularly over the fact that in, say, 2015 – when my job was less in-your-face but still felt like a dead end, and I was exhibiting real signs of burnout – I didn’t start taking aggressive measures to network and see what else was out there. Early thirties and starting over looks HEAPS better than forty and starting over. Of course, there’s no way I could have forced early-thirties me to have the perspective or slightly enhanced confidence of current me (let alone college-freshman me to leave the state and pursue something totally outlandish). There is no point in retreading – it is completely illogical – yet I find myself doing it anyway.

5) I hesitate to speak freely about my job search and ask people for help, because I don’t know how to help them help me. This is probably a common issue among shifters – I can’t tell them what job title, or even what industry, I am seeking, because I surely don’t want more of the same, but I also “can’t be what I can’t see” (thanks Careershifters for that gem).

6) I worry that I am simply exhibiting a spoiled restlessness, and that I should just check my privilege, focus on the security and indulgences my job affords, and suck it up. Doubts of this variety do not tend to inspire forward motion.

7) Finally, perhaps the ugliest capital-t Truth is this: all wheel-spinning aside, deep down I believe I will end up retiring from this company.

Now, I have never said this blog was motivational. In fact, it sometimes verges on demotivational. But I did promise radical honesty, which I firmly believe is necessary for positive change. So, there you go.

(If any of you consider writing this type of content, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you listen to Magnetic Fields’ Realism? while you’re doing it.)

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