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Looking for career suggestions--where can I be of use?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 5:41 am
by greyqueen
Okay, this is usually not my way with a new group of people, but I'm at a loss, so here there be soul-baring. I wrote this up previously, and it's the best attempt thus far at capturing my predicament. Put simply, I don't know what to do with myself, and neither does anyone else, so wherever I end up seems to drive me crazy sooner or later. I'm hoping somebody (anybody!) has some ideas...

"When I was a kid, somebody once gave me a really misleading explanation of irrational numbers--and upon hearing that the square root of two couldn't be found, I decided that I should help out with that, got a pencil and paper, and began patiently squaring things. I now understand irrationality far better, but the impulse is still familiar.

"At heart, I am, and seemingly always have been, the multidisciplinary homework help, and now, in the real world, I remain a solution in search of a problem. Want to know why your health insurance is fucked up? Let me find the relevant sections of the Affordable Care Act that indicate that it shouldn't be, write up an explanation of the numbering system for those sections, and translate each of them into plain English. Want to make this paper prettier and nicer to read, find somewhere to temporarily house a cat, hear a different perspective on a topic or project, get a concise analysis of this data, figure out a first response when the dryer breaks down? I'm there. In my days as a tutor in college, the questions I didn't know the answers to were the most interesting--chances to encounter something new and think, "Wow, that's devilish. Let's find out!" I'm Siri with more enthusiasm, greater persistence, and slightly better hearing. I will go wherever a task takes me, and I have an undying curiosity to find out where that'll be.

"What I don't have, unfortunately, is initiative. Much of the time, unless I know I'm free to do my own thing, I'm waiting for direction and failing to find it. Starting absolutely from square one without some germ of an idea is something I'll gladly avoid unless that itself is what I'm tasked with doing. This becomes unfortunate because nearly every future-minded adult I've known has seemingly had this hope that I'd find some subject area, ideally the one(s) that rock their world, fall in love with it, and take it somewhere new and exciting. But instead, for years, I fail to commit to any one pursuit, and I struggle to come up with an answer to "what do you want to do?" that isn't the apparently disappointing "what can I do? where can I be of use?" People keep wanting ambition, but that's the one thing I can't offer.

"So lately I've given up on coming up with the right answer and accepted this potentially less laudable inclination to receive external direction. Right now, I want to put these imaginative and analytical abilities (or whatever else--these are what I have evidence of, but I believe we all possess a great deal of potential, so I'd hardly say that's all I can do or learn to do) to use doing something that has some readily discernible net positive effect (so far as we know) on the world. I don't want to create or sell unnecessary things or ideas, and I want to be able to see what my efforts have accomplished. Beyond that, I'll do whatever needs doing. I don't need a very high income at all. I'd like a certain degree of security, stability, day hours, and to not be actively micromanaged. I don't need variety exactly (that I know of), but it seems a way to ensure that I'm properly useful.

"Really, this is all the fruit of hearing my own potential hyped in so many ways and then being left to my own devices when it came time to "narrow down my options." I think it's likely that something will attract my attention in the future and I'll pursue that more actively, and/or I'll get sick of working toward others' goals, so whatever comes next doesn't have to be and probably won't be what I do forever (if that even still happens anymore), but between now and then is this ridiculous, unsatisfying and unsatisfied desire to serve, to help, to stop being called bullshit like "brilliant" and then set loose to wander without direction, mine or anyone else's.

"That said, do you guys have any ideas? I'll provide whatever additional information you want about where I've been or where I'd like to be in at least the near future. Many thanks for considering my situation, and I wish you well in your own pursuits."

Also, a final note: although I suspect I'm not going to encounter this here, for which I'm grateful, please don't tell me, "you have plenty of time to figure things out." I've been hearing this for at least five years, and during that time I got most of a sociology degree and a fast food job where I'm struck with childlike excitement if I get to go outside for a few minutes (even/especially in a rainstorm), but not much clarity. Having plenty of time to figure things out only works out if the figuring is proceeding at a reasonable rate. :bash:

Re: Looking for career suggestions--where can I be of use?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 10:15 am
by Elaine Glimme
I think I'm a little like you. Reading your post sounds like something I would write. I'm at the other end of the spectrum. I'm retired and I'm also looking for a way to be useful.

I identified with your story about finding the square root of 2. Once I was working with an adding machine at my job. (Way before the days of computers.) You'd put in the numbers and what you wanted the machine to do (add, subtract, multiply, divide) Then pull the handle and it would go "ka-chunk, ka-chunk" quite loudly and print out the answer. 'What would it do,' I wondered, 'if I told it to divide by zero?' Answer, it would go ka-chunk, kachunk and never stop. Even if you pulled out the plug. When you plugged it in again it would keep trying to divide by zero. This was really embarrassing because I wasn't alone in the room, and I had to finish my calculations. Eventually, I pulled out the plug, left it unplugged for a long time, and it stopped.

I have a couple of ideas that might help. There's a book called "What Color is Your Parachute" that helps people find out what they want to do. It might give you an idea.

Also, if you haven't read Barbara Sher's "Wishcraft" (you can download it for free) you could see if there's something there for you. In one of her exercises, she asks you to describe your job from hell and then your job from Heaven. Her book, "Refuse to Choose" is popular with scanners.

Also please know that most people who graduate from college don't know what they want to do with their life. It's not just you.

"This is not your real life. This is a practice life. If it were your real life, it would have come equipped with instructions." :lol:

Also, your post reminded me of something we do in our writing group (and most people do in writing groups.). If someone puts a blank pad in front of me and says, "just write whatever you feel like," I'll probably freeze up. So we make up prompts. A prompt can be anything, a photograph, a title of a book, a famous quote, absolutely anything. My friend brought a deck of Tarot cards, deal three cards and used that as a prompt for us. And the prompt gets us started. Often first few sentences are useless, but it gets the juices going and we can write. I'm not sure what a prompt for a job hunter would be. Maybe something like, "I know I was born to be an itinerant giraffe trainer because.. ."

It sounds as if you like to learn, and you like to help. Does teaching sound like an option for you?

And even though your wish is very serious, you wrote with just a touch of humor. Please don't ever let go of that.

Re: Looking for career suggestions--where can I be of use?

PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:56 am
by SquarePeg
Welcome! Really, I'm writing this post to "bookmark" it so I can come back later when I have time to respond (and think of something meaningful).

But to make it a bit meaningful, I'm accustomed to a writing prompt that was based on reading a passage or sentence chosen at random from a book. Specifically, one at a time, each member would close his or her eyes, open a book to a random page, place a finger on the page and read whatever was pointed to.

Re: Looking for career suggestions--where can I be of use?

PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2016 12:41 pm
by Elaine Glimme
Perhaps a job hunting prompt would be to find an organization that you really admire and volunteer there for just an afternoon. Just to see if it gives you any ideas. Helping seniors prepare taxes or tutoring kids in math comes to mind because you seem to like working with numbers. (I'm getting this from your story about looking for the square root of2.) There's a woman who advocates for people denied health care to which they're entitled, but that's probably more time than you want to invest at this point. A friend of mine used to usher (as a volunteer) at the opera and got to see operas for free. Or spend an afternoon on a hobby like photography or painting.
Please don't get discouraged. Life is a journey, and the fast food job is only your first step. And it is a step.

Re: Looking for career suggestions--where can I be of use?

PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2016 4:41 pm
by emspace
Instead of asking what do you want to do/be when you grow up, why not ask yourself, who do you want to help? In other words, who do you want to be a hero to?

Elaine’s suggestion of What Color is Your Parachute? is a good one. It will help if you focus on your skills and capabilities and talents, plus the kind of workplace you want to work in and the kind of people you want to surround yourself with.

I would also suggest looking at some metric profiles, such as Kolbe, DISC, or Strengthsfinder. These might not help you get a job directly, but they will help you with the language you use on resumes and in interviews to describe how you create value for a company or in a job.

It will also help you settle into being the type of person you are, especially if you suffer from “why can’t I be like my sister Mary who became auditor general of the state at the age of 36?” syndrome, comparing yourself with where other people are in life. When you realize how different we all are and how we are each amazing in different ways, it helps give you confidence in your strengths and lets you let go of beating yourself up over the things you’re naturally weak at.

From there, you have to open yourself up to the possibility that there isn’t a fixed job title for the kind of work that would be right for you.

Some people have a hard time with that because they can’t tell their relatives, “I’m a [doctor/lawyer/lion tamer]” which people automatically get. If you say, “I’m a project investigator for a community service non-profit” no one knows what that means and some people might not think that’s a real career. Would that be a problem for you?


I love that you’ve described yourself as a living Siri! I’m right there with you! I like to find answers and to make it simple for other people. I think that’s what I’m doing when I design, when I coach, and when I respond on forums like this one.

Have you tried to start up a Living Siri hotline? Could be an email thing, not phone. But, like an advice columnist, you can offer to help people with Siri inquiries, breaking complexity down into understandable information. You could offer levels of service from free to pay. The free could be entry level stuff, just getting people to rely on you (say a weekly or bi-weekly answer blog). You take random questions and answer them on the blog. But you’ll also do more in-depth discovery and breakdowns as a service, perhaps tiered based on how much work it is, or perhaps an hourly thing. You can use the examples you used here.

You can monetize some of the free answers by preparing a more complete paper/diagramme/cheatsheet/illustrated version of the answer that you sell for a couple bucks as a download. As you go on, you can prepare more in-depth documents and put them on your site for $10-20. Eventually, you might want to write up a course or workshop material that you could provide for upwards of $60 to $450 (?). Really, it’s up to you.

I see a lot of potential in this idea, but I would caution you to take it slow and be prepared to do the free work for a while until you develop a following and a reputation. If this sort of thing is genuinely fun for you, you should be able to do this for a long time for fun without expecting to be paid. As you build an audience, you can start putting out material for sale.

Wow, now I’m totally excited about this idea and if you don’t do it, I might! :lol:

Re: Looking for career suggestions--where can I be of use?

PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:27 pm
by SquarePeg
There's a firm called Nerac that a former coworker went to work for. It specializes in research. Sounds like they hire human Siris.

Maybe there's a company like this near you?