Pulling A U-Turn Mid Career

Geek Culture

Have you ever thought about a job change? I think most people would answer this question with, “Yes”. I know many people who shop for other jobs while employed. The reasons for this could be because they are under-employed, wanting a similar job with better pay, wanting a job that is higher up the ladder, or they could just be plain old bored with their current position and need a change.

Have you ever thought about a major career change? By major career change, I mean either doing a U-Turn or completely starting over, reinventing yourself in the process. Or changing degree choice when you are one semester away from graduation, having to start over, while putting yourself in further debt in the process.

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, doing so was not that big of a risk. The markets were good. Finding a job, even if part-time for minimum wage, was not a difficult task. Keeping you and your family afloat, whilst trying to figure out your next move, wasn’t as large of a source of stress. Now, the situation is vastly different. If you have a job, one is more likely to hang onto it, no matter how much they hate it. Some parts of the world, it is easier to find a new job. There are other parts of the world where one feels stuck, perhaps even shackled against their own will, in their current job. The choices are extremely limited. Deciding to change the game could spell disaster.

But what if you were feeling so stuck that you could no longer breathe, having anxiety attacks any time a work related e-mail entered your inbox or your boss wanted to speak with you? What if you were waking up in the middle of the night because you are having nightmares about your current situation and you have no escape from work related thoughts? What if the situation was beginning to seriously affect your health, physically and mentally?

A friend of mine just quit her job in Hollywood and packed up her life to move to New York. She has no job to go to. She has no idea what she is going to do. Luckily, she is young and she has no-one to support except for herself. Luckily, she has a friend who has offered to house her until she can figure out what she wants to do, giving her time to find a job where she doesn’t feel like she is dying every time she goes to work. She took a major leap. Some may say that in this economy, especially one where people would give their limbs to be gainfully employed, she should have counted her blessings and stayed put. Or alternatively, stayed put until she had found another job to go to. I think that she is brave. I also think that she is lucky to have a friend who is so very supportive of her. Her friend threw her a life-preserver and helped pull her out of a situation that was threatening to consume her with long-term depression. We could all hope to have at least one friend like that in our lives.

More close to home, I just made a very similar decision. I resigned from my position as assistant general manager and programming director of the radio station I helped to create and decided to build a radio station of my very own. I’ve either made the smartest career choice I’ll ever make or I’ve made the worst decision, to date, of my life.

On the one hand, it is the smartest choice I’ve ever made because the job was beginning to affect my health in ways that were becoming very scary. To date, I’ve helped build two radio stations. Each time, I got burned in the process. I promised myself going into this station that at the first sign of trouble, I would leave and do my own thing. It was a difficult promise to make to myself because I feel as if I’d be disappointing people and letting them down should I make the choice to leave. However, I need to think of my family’s needs and my well-being first and foremost. I’m not of any good to anyone if I am in hospital, as I was a couple weeks ago.

On the other hand, this could be disastrous on two fronts. First, I could appear to be flighty and non-committal. The entertainment industry can be extremely fickle. It is very easy to say or do the wrong thing, destroying any reputation you may have in a nanosecond. However, I do think that my reputation is strong enough, at least with those who it matters, where I should be safe. But new potential supporters may see it as being unreliable and not give my new venture a chance. Second, I need the help of those who, to this point, have supported my career by cheering me on, to help out financially. I need to convince at least 300 of those who consume my various media offerings to donate at least $10 each or I will no longer have a radio show. I’ve created a ChipIn page and elaborated more about my intention and goals, both short-term and long-term, on Geeky Pleasures. Now, I have to hope that I have not committed career suicide.

There are some who think I’m being silly by worrying so much about this. I am being told to have faith and that it will all work out. I am being told that I’ve had to reinvented myself more times than any one they know and I always come flying through, with grace and ease. In return, I thank them for their support and tell them to keep being optimistic, while I remain pragmatic and realistic. In the back of my head, I hear, “That is easy for you to say. You’re not the one who very well could have flushed their career down the toilet.” Then I hear the other back of my brain say, “Shush! You can be so mean! They are just trying to be supportive and let you know they have faith in you.” There is so much conflict when one decides to make a life-changing decision. Now, I wake up in a cold sweat while I wait to find out the consequence of this choice.

I have dreams. I have aspirations. I have things I want to accomplish. I also want to help others accomplish similar dreams and aspirations by offering them a place to do their own shows, providing them with all the necessary software and training. I have a wonderful lady, with an autistic child, who wants to do a talk show about Autism Spectrum Disorder, by parents for parents. A show that tells the reality based side of the story, in an attempt to undo some of the damage caused by Jenny McCarthy and the antivaxxers. I have people who want to do music shows. I am also in discussions about another talk show that is both mom related and geek related. I wonder if you can guess what that is? I have my own shows, both music and the Geeky Pleasures Radio Show. I want to build a place where people can hear the shows they want to hear, whilst talking with those who are providing the entertainment and talking with fellow listeners. I want to give back opportunities that I’ve been lucky enough to have. None of this will be possible without support.

So did I make a stupid choice? Or did I make a necessary choice to preserve my well-being, even if it carries a lot of risk? Am I brave for doing so? Or am I a git? Should I have waited? There are so many questions to ask and answer when one faces a game and career changing decision.

So again I ask you, have you ever had to make a similar choice? What did you end up deciding to do? What played a factor in reaching that final decision? Would you do it the same way again or would you have made a different choice?

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19 thoughts on “Pulling A U-Turn Mid Career

  1. I am totally doing this. Right now. As we speak. Leaving a great-paying job, moving 500 miles with no definite prospects… Just an idea that I’m going to do something more fulfilling and that it’s going to work. (There’s a bit more to the plan that that, but that’s the bird’s eye view.)

  2. I’m actually making a big old career U-turn right now. After college I did what many a smart kid with a high GPA and no real idea about what to do did – I went to law school. It seemed like a really good idea at the time because I loved the subject. And law school turned out to be great. I had a wonderful three years, made great friends and excelled academically. I landed a job at a prestigious New York firm and then discovered that I absolutely can’t stand being a lawyer. I still find the field and issues interesting, but the day to day life of being a lawyer is basically the opposite of my personality type (INFJ).

    At one point last fall it got so bad that I couldn’t come into the office without having massive panic attacks, and I spent all day crying in my office with the door closed. I had to take a leave of absence. Luckily I got some good therapy and friends and a husband who supported me and made sure I got the help I needed for my depression and anxiety.

    In therapy we talked a lot about my passions and what really makes me engaged. I was able to rediscover my love for making things. I am such a crafter, but I had let that fall by the wayside to focus on academics. I eventually decided that it would make me really happy to spend all day making things, so I am starting a handbag company where a portion of the purchase price of each bag will go to the charity of your choice.

    Right now I’m still in the early transition period. I am taking classes at the fashion institute (benefit to living in NYC) and still working at the firm. But this winter I will officially launch. I can’t wait.

    Lots of people think I’m crazy, but I refuse to spend the rest of my life doing something safe but miserable.

    Good luck on your U-turn!

  3. I hear you! When I graduated high school, I went to a four year college thinking I wanted to be an occupational therapist (OT). After two years, and too many skipped classes (I was a bit goofy then) I ended up at a two year community college and got an associates degree in OT. I worked for a time and then we moved to California. I couldn’t find a job I wanted or liked. I worked briefly with older patients and it was just not my thing. I was depressed and hated my job. So I quit and re evaluated what I wanted to do. Went to Siggraph, thought about computer stuff but ultimately decided my heart was working with kids.

    So I took a job as a teacher’s assistant in a speech therapy based preschool. BEST IDEA EVER! I loved that job and it was here that I found my true purpose. I went back to school, got my master’s degree, and haven’t looked back. I have worked both in schools and in private practice but always with kids. I love the job and am thankful that while I was figuring out what I wanted I had a supportive husband who was working so I could go back to school and do what I needed to do.

    So my advice to anyone would be if you are not happy in your job, figure out what you need to do to be happy. If you have truly found your calling, work isn’t so much work anymore πŸ™‚

  4. I’m actually trying to convince my mom to finally make the U-turn she’s been contemplating these past few years as we speak. She’s always focusing too much on financially supporting everyone around her and making everyone else happy. I think it’s time she focused on herself and I’m hoping she’ll push aside her fears and just do it.

    I recognize that it’s not easy and I recognize that the shift will require a lot of courage and hard work…but, like you said, her health and happiness are on the line. She’s been doing okay, but whenever she takes that next step up her current career ladder…it’s just a vicious cycle. She keeps doing the same thing and getting the same result, while expecting things to change. She gets the chance during the transition to recover from the previous job, becomes excited and happy once she begins her new job, slowly and unknowingly allows her job to take over her life, and then she’s back where she started…trouble sleeping, working all the time, answering her cell all the time, spreading herself thin, neglecting the other aspects of her life, putting up with jerks, etc.

    I say way to go! No matter what the result, I believe following your heart will always lead you to your happiness, whether directly or indirectly. Just stick with it, be flexible, and know that, eventually, it will all fall into place…just because you can’t see the connections being made and the progress being made, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

    πŸ™‚

  5. I actually resigned from my Administrative Director position 2 weeks ago yesterday. I’ve worked at the same company for almost 12 years, worked my way up from the very bottom to admin for the VP. I became a mother 3 years ago and my priorities changed. And honestly, so did the company. I felt like I was drowning and was missing out on a lot of important family things. I was back at work when my daughter hit 6 weeks and became a workaholic and lost myself in my job. I finally took charge of my own life and now stay at home with my baby girl. I went from super corporate business mom to SAHM. The plan was for me to find a new job (I quit without having a new job lined up) and work parttime but the husband and I have sat down, looked at all of our bills and finances, and decided I can stay at home. This has been the biggest life changing decision of my life and I have no regrets, no shame, and no anxiety about it. I can finally sleep at night. I no longer have to worry about having my Blackberry on me at all times 24/7. Having the power to run my own life is amazing.

  6. I don’t mean to nitpick, but did anyone edit this article before it was posted? There are glaring grammatical errors (one sentence, for example, describes the same person using the pronouns “you”, “one” and “they”), and also turns of phrase that would make any decent editor cringe (vis., “More close to home” should be “Closer to home”). I only mention this because when you are asking people to invest in you and your ability to execute a new venture, the words you use to describe your vision matter, and people will judge your ability (fairly or unfairly) by the care you take in making sure you put forward the best presentation of your idea that you can. This is because success in a new business venture generally depends on your sweating all of the myriad details, and unfortunately, sloppiness in one realm is likely to be reflected by sloppiness in others. And it’s not enough to say, “well, I’ll get it right on the details that matter” because you never know what ends up being the really important decision — as the saying goes, “for want of a nail, a war was lost (for want of a nail, a shoe was thrown; for want of a shoe, the horse was lame; for want of a horse, a battle was lost; for want of that victory, the war was lost)”.

    1. Well, Danielin, you succeeded in making ME want to donate to the radio station πŸ˜‰

      On a different note: Julia, will programs from the station be available as net-radio or as podcasts? Having a son on the autism spectrum, I’d love to be able to download a talk show on autism. But I fear that whatever wavelength you’re on, you won’t reach me here in Norway πŸ˜‰

      1. Yes, Hege. Talk shows and interviews will be made available as a podcast. Music shows will not as it violates loads of copyright laws.

        Also, living in Norway is not a barrier to being able to listen. You will be able to tune into the station from any device that allows you to connect to the internet, including smartphones and iDevices. The only thing that may be a barrier from listening live is timezone difference πŸ™‚

        1. Great! Looking forward to listening! I used to be a radio-person, chosing radio over TV and leaving the radio on at most times. But building a life around someone with special needs, with schedules on one hand and his needs for peace and quiet on the other, I’ve been more or less off radio for a while. -Untill I started downloading podcasts that I can listen to commuting. Finally, radioshows are allways on my shcedule AND I can listen to NPR or BBC from Norway πŸ™‚

  7. I’ve already done it. I bailed on 15 years of IT and started a non-IT job in March. I’m much happier for it.

  8. My main problem is figuring out my area of interest. I like too many things. I got an engineering degree and it just didn’t fit me. I wanted to use my more personal skills so I ended up recruiting, but I didn’t like that either. A huge part of me wants something with interaction and there is a side of me that feels nothing but science will do. I don’t even know where to begin. I would be happy to do a U-turn if I knew which direction that u-turn was in.

  9. About 2 years ago I left the banking industry. I’d always worked in business administration but knew I needed something different. Something fulfilling. It took some time, but eventually I settled on a vocation I’d always wanted but never thought “pratical”–writing. I’m now working my way through my first novel. Will it be published? If not, eventually one of my books will be. But every day I wake up happy because I am doing something I love. I’m extra blessed that my spouse can support us while I work towards publishing. I say follow your heart. The money will flow to where your passion exists. So cliche, but life really is too short to spend the bulk of your days working in an environment that is unhealthy for you.

    I left banking and office administration after being held up at gunpoint… twice. I’m just sorry it took the second incident for me to make the jump into a new career and a life I love.

  10. I want to say thank you to all who’ve shared their stories so far. It really helps to know that I’m not alone here, that others have made similar scary choices and managed to survive them.

  11. Before kids, I sort-of-(but-not-relatively-dramatically) u-turned. I knew I wanted to be a children’s librarian all along (if you don’t count that I always always wanted to be an author– but I figured I needed a practical job as well), but I went through the school certification track and became a school librarian. I thought I could do it, but I’d long had evidence that I’m actually pretty sucky in the classroom setting. I thought practice would help, but the truth is some people just are not cut out, personality-wise, for classroom management. And not only was I a teacher-librarian, I was a teacher librarian in a particularly “bad” middle school (the local “alternative” school opened a branch classroom IN OUR BUILDING just to serve kids from our school who had been sent there), in the largest “classroom” in the school, with no aides. The stress had gotten to the point where I was having breakdowns in front of the class, and, after a two-week leave, my doctor actually gave me a paper saying I needed to quit my job for my health! I went back in the meantime to my former part-time college job at the children’s museum until I got a job in an actual public library. I felt guilty at the time because we’d just bought a house, and without my teacher’s income we were barely squeaking by.

    But now my husband is miserable in his factory job. He comes home in a rage, claiming he either nearly quit or nearly managed to get himself fired nearly every day. It pays him so little that, even though I also work (making very little also), he has to work an additional weekend-and-holidays job for us just to pay the bills, which means he literally NEVER has a day off. He is in terrible, terrible shape, much the way I was when I quit my school job– but now we have two kids. He can’t quit until he has something else lined up to take its place… and he can’t find it. It is nearly as frustrating for me as it is for him, and I don’t know what there’s left to do. πŸ™

    1. How extremely frustrating πŸ™ I wish I knew what you could do. I just hope that he is able to find a different job, sooner rather than later. One of the worst feelings, at least in my experience, is feeling stuck, powerless and feeling like you are without real options.

  12. Well done & congratulations on taking such a big step in your career!

    Making decisions about your career doesn’t always have to be complicated. If you have spent time getting to know yourself and researching different opportunities, you should be able to make a sound decision.

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