Dear Dr. Civitelli,
Hi! I have been an AP English dual credit teacher for the last 6 years, and I’ve been in teaching for 15 years total. However, due to some health issues I had to quit because I started losing my voice. I am currently employed at a law firm and although everybody keeps telling me it’s a blessing to have a job nowadays, I know it’s not my cup of tea. I am very extroverted and talented, get along with almost everybody and people are comfortable to be around me. I am ready to go back to college but don’t have the slightest idea what career to choose using my strengths and knowledge and not spending a fortune again. Please, help me! I am desperate to embrace something new but keep bumping into the walls because nothing seems to fit me. How can that be? When I hear that I can do everything and anything I like, I just want to scream because nobody can define either “everything” or “anything.”
Teacher Changing Careers, Houston, TX
Photo of Downtown Houston, Corner of Main & Lamar by jfre81 on Flickr
Dear Teacher Changing Careers,
The only one who can define a good career path for you is YOU. Here are some thoughts about how to do it:
1. If you haven’t already done this, participate in some structured career assessment. While these self-report instruments may just confirm what you already know about yourself, they can be a good first step because it is likely that the assessments will narrow your possibilities to a smaller universe of possibilities than the 30,000+ occupations that exist in the world (and those are just the ones with clearly defined job titles!). If you tend to suffer from information overload, consider completing CPP’s new career interest assessment, iStartStrong. It reduces the amount of information provided from previous data-intensive reports and it embeds links to career research to help with decision making. You can view a sample iStartStrong report here. The assessment is offered through career counselors certified by the assessment publisher, CPP.
2. When you say, “Nothing seems to fit me,” I’m curious if you mean that no traditional jobs seem to fit. If that is the case, it might be that you are better suited to create a job than to find one. Sometimes it works to decide what you want to do for an organization and pitch a hiring manager to create a job tailored to your strengths and abilities, and other times it makes more sense to start a business and offer a service or product to multiple prospective clients. If you go this route, the most important thing is to find a community of like-minded people who are also blazing a more entrepreneurial path. Barbara Winter leads Joyfully Jobless, and Pamela Slim leads Escape From Cubicle Nation.
3. Consider whether your expectations for a career are tripping you up. I meet many people who are looking for a 100% fit and I honestly don’t believe such an animal exists. The only people I know who are 100% happy with their careers are people whose personalities are such that they want to believe in perfection and they just ignore anything frustrating or difficult. For most people, there are going to be day-to-day irritations in ANY career. The resolution to this is to choose something that feels sufficiently meaningful to you that the minor career annoyances are worth the trouble. People tend to feel satisfied with their career choices when they feel like they are doing something important that is congruent with their values, making a difference, achieving their personal life goals, and spending time with colleagues they like and respect. If you are 80% happy with your career, that’s success.
4. Some people have a personality that causes them to love careers in the learning stage and then they get bored once they know what they are doing. There are several ways to handle this. You can choose a career where you move from project to project or assignment to assignment and the learning curve starts over with each one (like journalism where you cover different topics, advertising where clients are in different industries, or consulting where there is variety in the problems you tackle). Or you can plan your life in a sequenced way where each career runs for a few years and then you do something else. If you choose the latter, you do want to be careful not to invest $100K in education for a field in which you will lose interest before you even pay off your student loans.
5. There may be something about your decision-making skills that could be fine-tuned. Some people feel more comfortable before a career decision has been made than they do with the idea of selecting something and living with the choice. I wrote this article about some of the psychological reasons that people have difficulty making career decisions. See if any of this material resonates with you.
6. You mentioned you are an extrovert and this should be a big advantage in doing career research because you will be comfortable talking to people in different careers to learn from their experiences rather than sticking to online advice alone. Here is an article about how to conduct an informational interview.
7. In my opinion, teaching is a challenging profession and your assessment is likely very accurate that you are talented with significant strengths in several areas. This is a blessing because it is nicer in life to have many aptitudes rather than only a few, although some people in your situation feel like the blessing is a bit of a curse because having multiple talents makes people feel less focused and clear compared to people who have very narrow skills. Make sure you aren’t trying to find a career path that matches ALL your skills…just pick your favorite ones and/or the ones with the biggest payoff in career rewards. Satisfying careers are those that would sync with your interests, values, and personality as well as your skills, so focus on the entire picture rather than just what you are good at doing.
8. If you continue to feel like “you just want to scream,” you might find it worth the investment of hiring a professional career counselor or coach. Here is a list of career counselors and coaches in Houston.
I hope this helps!