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“Help Me Solve My Flippin’ Quarter-Life Crisis!”

I am 25, married, and have no clue what I want to do with myself. I have my BA and no student loans. I am about to start a new job at a popular pancake chain (there’s really only one, ha!) and have been literally sick to my stomach at the prospect of starting this new job. I am leaving a job with horrible management but a lot of flexibility, and I am so scared that I am making a mistake and that taking this job is just agreeing that I’ll be in food service for the foreseeable future. The money is better at this new job and allows me to pay all of the bills and have some fun money left over.

I have my degree in psychology and have thought about getting my masters and maybe going into counseling, but I’m scared to pay for it and take out loans (my dad worked at my college so I did not have to pay, for which I am SO thankful, but I have no clue about how loans work and don’t want to take out loans if I’m not SURE I want to go back to school, or what I would do with my masters once I got it.) I am the primary earner, and my husband and I get our benefits through my job (not an option at his). We would not be able to support ourselves on just his current income. I tend to be a self-defeater, and the idea of taking the GRE scares me, and the idea of grad school just seems so overwhelming.

I worked at a huge coffee chain for four years in college and after college, and would LOVE to go back into management there–so much so that I check their job listings literally daily and have gone to multiple stores to talk to their managers about possible openings. I was given an open-ended job offer as a supervisor, but I’d make considerably less money. My husband thinks I am romanticizing the past and that just because being a barista was fun when I was 19 doesn’t mean I’ll want to manage there. He is very much encouraging the pancake job and is telling me that I am just being resistant to change.

I think I am just conflicted because taking this job is a reminder that I have no clue what I want to do with myself, and I thought I would have some answers by the time I was this age. My parents have both been in their careers their whole lives, so it’s hard for me to shake this idea that I get one career and I’ll do that forever. I feel like a failure who will be miserable serving pancakes forever. - Pancake Flipper

First off, if I make only one point clearly, let it be this: DO NOT go to grad school if you don’t absolutely know for sure what you want to do post-grad school and aren’t absolutely sure that an advanced degree/ further college education is necessary. I cannot stress this enough. Grad school is EXPENSIVE, and, while it may bring you a step closer to figuring out what you do or don’t want to do as a career, there are many more ways to get closer to figuring that out that won’t cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Take it from me — someone who went 50 grand into student loan debt for an MA she doesn’t use professionally — grad school is not the place to find yourself.

So, where IS the place to find yourself and figure out what kind of career is going to fulfill you? Well, the work force is, for one. Working a “real job” will give you real insight into what your skills are and what sort of tasks best utilize those skills. Rather than see your next job — whether it’s at the pancake restaurant or the coffee shop — as the rest of your life, think of it as a paid internship (one that gives you benefits, too). And if you look at it that way, take the job that you think will teach you the most and has the best potential for career growth. If, however, the lowest-paying job of the two doesn’t pay enough for you to make ends meet, that may not be a practical option, and you should discuss with your husband whether you can afford to tighten your purse strings and if making some sacrifices is worth the potential gains.

As for being 25 and not having everything figured out yet, to that I say: NO DUH. You’re 25! You’re not supposed to have everything figured out yet. You’re not even supposed to have most things figured out yet. That you’re even living somewhere other than a spare room in your parent’s home is a step further than a lot of people your age are. Give yourself a break. This is not the world your parents lived in when they were 25, so it’s unfair to compare where you are now to where they were then. We no longer live in a culture where people have one career their whole lives. Sure, some people live that way and bully for them, but, more often than not, it seems that people try various careers, especially as many jobs and industries shrink or even become obsolete as the needs of our world change. It’s not at all crazy to imagine you may have two or three or four careers over the span of your working life. In fact, that seems to be a hallmark of your generation, so you are not alone, you are not a failure, you are not crazy.

Whichever job you choose, you’re going to be okay. Everything is going to work out. You’re still going to come home to a husband who loves you and you’re still going to, hopefully, fill your free time with hobbies and passions that bring you joy. And along the way, you will learn what kind of work makes you feel most useful and brings you the biggest rewards, and eventually, if you’re smart and ambitious, you will figure out a way to get paid doing the kind of work you enjoy. This will be easier if you have a spouse who supports and encourages you, but it can certainly still happen even if you don’t.

My point is, don’t get too hung up on opportunities you think will only come around once. Don’t get so locked in to the idea that there’s one path for you and, if you miss the right turn, you’ll forever be off-course. The truth is there are many paths that can lead you to happiness and one missed turn may set you off-course for a little while, but it could very well be a detour full of scenery you would otherwise miss and experiences that may make you a better traveler in the long run.

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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{ 110 comments… add one }

  • avatar Eagle Eye February 19, 2013, 9:16 am

    Well, as the girlfriend of someone currently going through a quarter-life crisis for the past 6mos to 4yrs – I understand a bit about how you’re feeling. And since I think that my boyfriend is beginning to round the bend towards discovering what actually makes him tick – I’m almost in the situation to give advice.

    Which is to read everything you can and try and do everything you can. Read journals, fiction, non-fiction, poetry – whatever, and try and find that ‘spark’ and then work on chasing down that spark. It will lead to somewhere.

    Also, just try and do everything, say ‘yes’ to all opportunities, see where they lead, again, look for that ‘spark.’

    Also, meditate on what makes you happy and what does not make you happy. When you talk to people, read about, hear about them, do their lives feel fulfilling? Are they doing something that would make you excited?

    My boyfriend has literally hundreds of pages of handwritten notes detailing all of this, and while I don’t recommend that you be as obsessive as him, keep a journal to record your thoughts and feelings so that you don’t forget them.

    Also, WWS said about the degree, an MA is expensive and time consuming – only do it if that’s what you decide is what you want to do. Graduate school is not college in that its not a good place to discover yourself.

    Good luck!

    • avatar Trixy Minx February 19, 2013, 11:14 pm

      How is your boyfriend doing eagle? Has he decided on what he wants to do?

  • Fabelle Fabelle February 19, 2013, 9:20 am

    I really have no advice, because I’m also 25 & have…like…NOTHING figured out. Even though my situation is pretty different than this LW’s, I can very much relate to her sense of confusion & panic (“OMG gonna be doing this forever! I’m a failure! I thought things would be different!”)

    Basically, thank you, Wendy. I just drank in everything you wrote & it was pretty comforting.

  • avatar ReginaRey February 19, 2013, 9:24 am

    Wow, does this sound familiar! Pancake Flipper – Wendy is right. You are not a failure, you are not crazy, and it’s completely understandable that you don’t know exactly what your life purpose is at 25. Trust me when I say that, especially in my line of work, I’ve met TONS of 20-somethings who don’t know what they want to do with their lives.

    But, it’s understandable that you’re stressed, and anxious and frustrated. Lack of clarity leads to a TON of indecision and confusion. It’s only natural. So, how do you get clarity? The first step is to do a little bit of a visioning exercise. What do you want your life to look like in five years, say? What are you doing? Where are you working? Where are you living? Think about and describe it to yourself in as much detail as you can.

    And then, and this is the really important part: Ask yourself “How do I FEEL when I’m imagining my ideal life in five years?” Is it happy? Content? Satisfied? Excited? Inspired? Passionate? Once you’ve pinpointed your core desired FEELINGS, then ask yourself “What makes me feel like that right now?” What turns you on, what excites you, what makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Then, start pursuing the things that make you feel just like that. Life is so much less about what we want to DO, and way more about how you want to FEEL while you’re doing it.

    That’s the first step to figuring out what exactly you want to do with your life.

    • Nookie Nookie February 19, 2013, 10:23 am

      Wow Regina, I’m copying that and doing some writing this afternoon I think! Great advice.

  • Skyblossom Skyblossom February 19, 2013, 9:26 am

    I think almost everyone is nervous when starting a new job. It’s a fact of life. So why not give the new job a year and see what you think. Find out if you love it or hate it and why with the knowledge that you can move on if it isn’t a good fit and use it on a resume to make a jump to something you like better.

  • LK7889 LK7889 February 19, 2013, 9:27 am

    I know so many people who went to graduate school just to flunk out or drop out and owe tons of money for the experience and still be no closer to “finding” themselves than they were before they went in. Wendy’s right – don’t go into graduate school just because you think you MIGHT want to go.

    • avatar artsygirl February 19, 2013, 10:15 am

      I went to an expensive grad school in a program for the humanities and a number of people walked away from their degree because they couldn’t finish their masters thesis. The only thing they have to show for it is approx. $55,000 in debt.

      • othy othy February 19, 2013, 12:36 pm

        Oh I understand. My Master’s program touted a 2 year timeline, but when I graduated 4 years after starting, I was the only one in my ‘class’ who had actually finished the degree. Luckily it was a state school, and I worked full time while going to class, so I wasn’t in debt. These are the things they never tell you about when you sign up for a program!

  • avatar MissyC February 19, 2013, 9:28 am

    I absolutely agree with Wendy — if you aren’t absolutely positive about how you see yourself using a graduate degree, don’t do it! I just finished graduate school, in a field where not having a graduate degree severely limits your job opportunities and future growth so I knew it was needed, but I often questioned if it was the right choice for me because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I was finished. (Granted, I’m still not but I’ve got a new job and I’m using that as an opportunity to see if that’s a career I’m interested in.)

    It’s difficult to know, at 25, what you want your job to look like for the next 40-ish years. It’s ok if that changes a couple of times! Don’t be so hard on yourself that you don’t allow yourself to look at what brings you joy and excitement in a job. It sounds like you put a lot of pressure on yourself, both by comparing your situation to your parents and also feeling pressure to be the income and benefit provider to you and your husband. Hopefully you can see this job as an opportunity to try something new and not as a place you have to stay in forever.

  • katie katie February 19, 2013, 9:32 am

    oh, LW, i too totally feel your pain, specifically about food service. seriously, fuck food service. i am in my second year of being out of it, and i even went to school specifically FOR food! i have found a great job, that i love a lot, that is related to food but completely NOT food service, and its great… however, my boyfriend is still a chef, and so i still have to deal with the bullshit it entails. so i feel your pain.

    i think that all it comes down to is not settling with your life. and that doesnt mean that you dont start this job, enjoy it, and excel at it- it means that you dont give up any hopes and dreams for betterment in the future and just resign yourself to do this job for the rest of your life. i have met those people, LW… have you? i never encountered them in my coffee shop jobs, but i (and my boyfriend) absolutely encountered them in country clubs and hotels… the lifetime-ers. the ones who had been doing the exact same job, for the exact same money, longer then you and i have been alive. they are bitter, jaded, unhappy, unfulfilled, and think that they know everything. so thats my only advice- dont become a lifetime-er. even if you do end up working in the food service industry for your lifetime, dont become one of those life time-ers.

    also, seriously wendy- you continue to read my mind. thank you for your response. i hate my life today, and i feel a little better now.

    • katie katie February 19, 2013, 9:37 am

      oh, also- in my life, i find that having money/benefits far far outweighs any other bad thing. being stable financially to me is so important. and, ideally, that happens somewhere you enjoy working…. but you havent even started this new gig! you dont even know if you like it or not. but just the fact that it will bring you financial stability (complete with fun money- never ignore fun money!) should give it some good weight. who knows- maybe you will love it, have more money, good benefits, and itll be a great fit! and if it doesnt work out- your not chained there for life. why not give it a try? what have you got to lose?

      also, i dont know if this is an option for you, but when i worked at a coffee shop and i got my new job, i actually kept working at the coffee shop on sundays. i loved it, i totally know why you love being a barista. its awesome! i wish i still worked there sometimes… i had so much fun there. so maybe you could keep barista-ing somewhere once a week, or even volunteer at a church that has a coffee shop or something, and you could keep that as a hobby you potentially get paid for!

      • avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 9:42 am

        Agree with the money thing. I like my job, a lot. But it doesn’t bring me all of my fulfillment. If I could, I would exercise, eat amazing food, and play with puppies all the time. But I work to live, not live to work.

        • Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 12:11 pm

          I’m glad you said that because I tell my best friends that my ideal job is playing with puppies/kittens all day with a lot of food breaks. Since this isn’t realistic for me, I instead have my day job where I’m honestly happy enough, get paid steadily (modestly, but that’s okay), and have good benefits. And in my free time I volunteer at the humane society/watch YouTube videos of cute baby animals. Win-win in my book.

          • katie katie February 19, 2013, 12:31 pm

            “my ideal job is playing with puppies/kittens all day with a lot of food breaks”

            we should be life twins. that sounds amazing.

          • avatar painted_lady February 19, 2013, 8:37 pm

            Can we all please do this? There should be a puppy/kitten retreat and spa. It would be the best vacation ever.

            • avatar quixoticbeatnik February 19, 2013, 8:38 pm

              OMG, totally agree. That would be the bomb.

            • avatar Trixy Minx February 19, 2013, 11:38 pm

              I forgot what the link was but animal planet had a live streaming kitty cam :)

  • avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 9:41 am

    WWS. I don’t have much to add. I went to graduate school for a Masters I needed, and I still hate the debt that I have because of it! I love my career and my job, but debt totally sucks. Just keep doing SOMETHING until you figure out what you want to do. One thing I can add, is that if you get into a large-ish corporation at an entry level position (think customer service, some admin positions, etc…) you have many opportunities for career advancement in various fields. People in my company move around all the time. From sales, to marketing, to graphic design, it only matters that you are already IN the company and you have a reputation for good work. So that could be an option for helping you figure out what you want to do.

    • avatar Christy February 19, 2013, 10:43 am

      The government can be like this too! It’s not as flexible as a corporation, but you can definitely move between or within agencies.

      • avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 10:50 am

        Good point!

    • avatar Anna February 19, 2013, 11:01 am

      I would suggest researching the company before banking on internal promotions. Find out if they have high turnover and if they typically promote from within. It makes sense but not all companies do that. My employer, for example, does not allow senior customer service reps to get promoted to other departments. Sure, on paper they allow it but as soon as one of us applies for a better job we get called into a meeting and given a verbal or written warning for some bogus thing they made up (because that temporarily disqualifies you to receive internal promotions). I’ve confirmed this with many sources, including the hiring managers in other departments that I’ve interviewed with. They do it because turnover is so high that they would be utterly screwed if they were left with just their small team of new hires that haven’t quit yet. Any time they need a new supervisory position filled, they hire someone from outside who has never even taken a call and doesn’t know the details of our products. Out of 5 supervisors in my department, only 1 has actually been promoted from the ground up. Anyone who knows me on FB can see the name of the company I work for and be warned to avoid it. I’m stoked that I’m quitting very soon.

      • avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 11:17 am

        Ugh that sucks!! Like hardcore! Our customer service reps usually work in the department for a year and then move onto a bigger and better job. We prefer to hire from within. Best of luck in your new job endeavors!

      • othy othy February 19, 2013, 12:39 pm

        Maybe turnover is so high because there is no room for professional growth?

  • Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 9:41 am

    Regarding getting your masters — I agree with Wendy. There are other ways to finance higher education besides loans. I went to law school without knowing if it was THE thing for me and I’m pretty open about that. I had enough interest to go, and it turned out to not be for me. The only reason that wasn’t a HUGE, Life Ruining mistake is because I had a full-tuition scholarship. I came out the other end with loans (from living expenses from college and law school), so I did/do have some debt, but I’m not absolutely drowning in it like many people in the field. That said, three years was a lot of time to spend for a license I don’t use even if it didn’t necessarily cost me 6-figures. I think the only reason I’d encourage you to go to grad school is if you can get excellent funding and the program isn’t longer than a year of your life. Trust me — being 24 and realizing at graduation that you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything and that you’re no better off than you were at 21 isn’t a great feeling!

    I’m 26. I’m not much older than you are. I still don’t have everything figured out. I understand it’s frustrating, but I think Wendy is right that you should look at all opportunities as ways to figure out what you’re good at and what you like. About a year ago I started working as a temp in an industry I am excited about. Temping turned into a full-time entry-level gig. It was unexpected, but I guess my enthusiasm showed. Is this my dream job? No. I’m using it to find my niche, strengths, and weaknesses. Some days, I love it. Some days, I remind myself it’s just the first *real* opportunity I’ve had to figure myself out in this field.

    Best advice I think I can give: try not to compare yourself to anyone else. Not another generation, not your peers, not your friends. I don’t think it’s helpful because everyone walks their own path in life and needs to figure out what works for them. One of my best friends/roommates from college is now a finance manager for a HUGE company. She’s really, REALLY successful while I’m still, in many ways, just starting out. If I stop to think too hard about why I’m not doing EXACTLY as well as she is, I do start to feel down about myself. So I don’t think about and remind myself we’re different people, with different interests, in different fields. That’s all there is to it. I’d encourage you to do the same when you start comparing yourself to others.

    I was a barista for 4 years while in college (woo! Starbucks! Green Apron Behaviors!). I loved it. I actually learned a lot in that job. This isn’t really relevant, but I wanted to share anyway because I truly did love that job! Haha.

    • katie katie February 19, 2013, 9:55 am

      baristas unite!! haha

      • Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 9:56 am

        I really loved being a barista and actually miss making espresso drinks!!! It was like creating a little masterpiece each and every time. Haha.

        • katie katie February 19, 2013, 10:01 am

          i really miss making my own drinks. i have never had a drink made the way i used to do, no matter what i tell them.. lol

          and of course, i dont have multiple-thousand dollar espresso machines at my house, or id just do that and be fine, lol

          • avatar lets_be_honest February 19, 2013, 10:08 am

            espresso martinis, also mmm.

            • katie katie February 19, 2013, 10:10 am

              seriously, espresso anything is amazing.

              im starting to hate my stupid k-cup and whole milk coffees in the morning…. ugh

              • avatar quixoticbeatnik February 19, 2013, 11:38 am

                I was a barista for several years too! It was a fun job, I met a lot of really good friends there. The customers could be really, really annoying though. But making different drinks was fun! Did y’all ever try the undertow? It’s two shots of expresso with vanilla and steamed half and half. It’s definitely a shot of energy.

                • katie katie February 19, 2013, 12:58 pm

                  i only ever use half and half for steaming…. the foam is like whipped cream, its like an orgasm of coffee in your mouth.

        • avatar MissyC February 19, 2013, 10:12 am

          The first time I got a drink with a leaf or other design on the top I was stunned! It totally made my day. I felt like a kid in a candy store! I ordered nothing else for probably the next month. Now I drink black coffee which isn’t as fun-looking in a cup.

  • avatar jottino February 19, 2013, 9:48 am

    I changed my major at 25, because I only discovered the subject I loved among classes (and a major) I despised. Which I was failing. I graduated with honors two years later. Failed at finding a steady job. Now, rounding the corner to 30, I am in my first year of grad school (in said major). And I’m happy.

    Many times in the past 5 years, I thought I was failing & a loser & forever doomed. But I’m not! It’s a process. This is what’s working for me. It’s definitely not “ideal,” or “normal,” but it works. You have to find what works for you & makes YOU happy. You’ll drive yourself crazy comparing your milestones to others’. I found a lot of clarity by giving myself some options. “Ok, in 5 years, I would like a job … or if not, to be on the path to PhD. Or teaching. I would be happy doing any of those things.” And from that, I figured out what I had to do to get me moving toward those goals. Every step might not be in a straight line … some are diagonal, some are parallel … but always moving forward.

    And talk to other people! Your husband, your friends, your parents. Whenever I’m feeling crappy, or unsure, or like a failure, my boyfriend is able to remind me about the fire in my eyes when I talk about my career. How interested I am in research, or describing a certain process, or whatever. I get excited & passionate. Find THAT.
    _____________
    PS: I chose the same career as both of my parents. They were married long before my age, & they’ve both been working in this field for over 35 years. So I know how that feels. It’s a different world now, unfortunately.

  • thewriteway thewriteway February 19, 2013, 9:55 am

    Everyone covered what I wanted to say about grad school. I was considering going for a little bit, even though it wasn’t necessary for me, but once I realized how much money I would be throwing away and what I could be doing instead, I backed off the idea. You’d probably get a better idea of things volunteering in your desired field or making some contacts and talking to them about their background/work experience. Even reading books about what your chosen path would help as a supplement.

    Also, I was going through the quarterlife crisis thing not that long ago. However, then about two months back, I got promoted at my current job, and it’s brought me more financial stability and more fulfillment because my responsibilities increased and I am challenged every day. I mean, I wish I didn’t have self-employment taxes because I am a contractor, but knowing that I can put a little extra toward my bills is a huge comfort. I’m also considering a side job as a Zumba teacher (I need to get licensed first) because it clicked in me that I’ve always liked to help people and be out in the community, so this is a great way to do it.

    Good luck!

  • avatar painted_lady February 19, 2013, 9:59 am

    Oh, Pancake Flipper, do I hear you. Look, I am thirty, and I started the most recent incarnation of my career three years ago. Since undergrad, I have had three careers, or attempted three of them. That’s not counting the make-ends-meet temp jobs or the six shitty months I spent working in construction sites as a faux finish painter. I am done assuming that what I do now will be the thing I do forever – everytime I’ve thought so, I have been so wrong. My boyfriend and I have even discussed at some point my going back to school and getting a PhD in art history.

    There’s no shame in flipping pancakes – actually, nothing else, I bet it’s awesome people-watching. You’re making enough money to live on, and you’ve got a job with health insurance. That’s a hell of a lot more than I had at 25. And you didn’t say, but what does your husband do? Maybe you felt like it wasn’t pertinent, I’m just curious why he can’t also seek employment that would contribute to the household. Maybe he’s a student, maybe he’s incapable of working full-time, I’m just curious because he seems to have an awful lot of say in what you do, and if he’s not doing the same thing himself, that seems unfair.

    • avatar Elisse February 19, 2013, 11:53 pm

      Exactly what you said. I’m 30 too, and I have a prestigious Master’s degree in a very selective field that I thought I loved…until I went to school for it and found that I didn’t actually want to do it. Since then, in the past five years, I’ve had nine jobs. 9. I’m now a business-to-business telemarketer. At 30 with an advanced degree.

      A job with health insurance is a hell of a lot more than I had at 25, too. I say take the job, see how you like it, and go from there. You’ve got so much time. *I* have so much time, too. Take it and see where it goes, and learn from it, and go from there. In this economy, you’re in a privileged position and one for which you should be pretty grateful.

  • avatar lets_be_honest February 19, 2013, 10:02 am

    Those cinnabon pancakes at Ihop at the bee’s knees. Mmm.

    Wws, which really felt like a nice, warm hug when I read it.

  • beelzebarb beelzebarb February 19, 2013, 10:05 am

    I can’t add much except to say I’m 31 and I just figured out what I want to be when I grow up. You’ll figure it out too and from it sounds like, it won’t take you as long as it took me.

  • avatar AmyP February 19, 2013, 10:07 am

    How about doing both the pancake house job and getting a coffee job and seeing if you still like the coffee job? I hear no passion in your letter for psychology, but I hear a lot of passion for food service. Don’t be embarrassed–people have to eat.

    My advice to you would be:

    1. Take all the business and accounting classes available at your community college.

    2. Figure out what working your way up means in your industry. Study your business and think about becoming a franchisee.

    3. Make money and save a lot of it so that you’ll have resources to buy a franchise or start a business.

    4. Have fun!

    I think you’re going to do well.

  • avatar rachel February 19, 2013, 10:16 am

    Geez, I’m 28 and have a PhD and I still don’t feel like I really know what I’m doing with my life.

    One thing that actually has helped me to calm down is listening to the stories of people who have come before me. Everyone thinks you just finish college and work somewhere for 40 years, but that’s often not the case. Finding the career you belong in can be a long journey, you might as well try to enjoy each step along the way.

    • Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 10:42 am

      I’ll second this. I’m one of exactly two 20-somethings in my department. Everyone else is a bit older (30s through 50s) and one thing I’ve noticed is that very few people seem to take a linear path from Life/Career Point A to Life/Career Points B (and C, D, E, and beyond). I work in an editorial department and we have people who were started in journalism, marketing, human resources, retail, law (me!), etc. One woman who is no longer here made me feel better by telling me about her 20s. Her exact words were, “I had terrible jobs and got paid pennies.” On that note, it may help to talk to people who are doing what you current think might make you happy and see how life brought them to where they are.

  • mandalee mandalee February 19, 2013, 10:18 am

    LW, I, and plenty of other 20-something and probably a lot of 30-somethings can identify with where you are now. My parents and a lot of my friends and my husband seemed to have things figured out early on too. So, being a former Type-A overachiever, I too struggle with not knowing where I am going in life. I started out in a crappy marketing job,applied to grad school but didn’t get enough scholarship money to enroll, quit said job, went and started nannying, and after going back for a few classes on one career path, decided I want to go into nursing. It rattles me that I’m married and 26 and should have everything figured out at this point, but I’m starting to accept that I don’t. I

    I say take the pancake job, get the money and benefits, and take your time figuring things out. You will everything get there! Don’t feel any pressure to rush into grad school, especially if it’s not necessary for your career path. I feel like a lot of people think grad school is the next step in “look at me I’ve figured things out”, but it’s a huge investment and is often largely unfunded. You are blessed not to have any undergrad loans, don’t take on grad loans unless you’re SURE. By sure, I mean researched and talked to graduates of a grad program you’re interested in, not the advisers in these programs. They are very nice people, but they are the kings of positive spin.

    I’ve had plenty of friends that rushed into liberal arts grad programs and are nannying right alongside me at the moment because their degree didn’t give them any competitive edge and they’re out fighting for jobs against people with the same BAs they had before they went to school.

    Take your time, figure things out, and work in this job until something else clicks.

  • avatar Addie Pray February 19, 2013, 10:26 am

    Hey, Pankcake Flipper, I agree with others – it’s a waste to go to grad school … if you don’t want or need to go to grad school. But sometimes you can’t really know until it’s right for you until you jump in! … Not encouraging you to jump in right now, but don’t expect to know anything with certainty until you try it.

    You mention that you have “no clue about how loans work” – go ask about loans! There is so much info out there on how loans work and what kind of loans you may qualify for and all that jazz. You also say “the idea of taking the GRE scares me,” but have you taken practice exams online? There are so many little things you can/should do before you go from where you are now (figuring out what you want to do) to taking the GRE to taking out the loans to showing up for class. Of course the final steps look daunting – you’re just beginning! I’d put blinders on and just focus on the first steps in front of you: what do you like to do? What do you want to do? It’s ok if the answer is “work as a barrista and relax a bit while I figure it out.”

  • avatar lemongrass February 19, 2013, 10:43 am

    I have no idea what career I would like or if I even want one! It’s completely normal to not know what you want for the rest of your life, that’s a very long time! I hate when people ask me if I’ll be returning to work because I really have no clue, but that is okay. We’re allowed to not have all the answers, nobody does!

    • avatar Pamplemousse Rose February 19, 2013, 12:35 pm

      People are seriously asking you already? Don’t you have a good 10 months before you have to decide?

      • avatar lemongrass February 19, 2013, 12:48 pm

        More than that! I plan to stay home until all the kids are in school and if we have one or two more it could be another 7-10 years before I go back… If I do! I guess some people don’t like my ‘wait and see’ life plan.

  • avatar emmkat February 19, 2013, 10:54 am

    You’re not really supposed to know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you’re only 25! I graduated from college at 21 with no job because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. Five years later and I still have no clue. After a horrible job that paid almost nothing, I ended up working a job overseas with a wonderful company but in an industry I have absolutely no interest in. I was very lucky during the recession, but I still left that job and decided to go the grad school route because I knew that was what I truly wanted to do. I’m now in the first year of a 2-year MA program at one of the most expensive universities in the country (I’ll leave here with $60-80k in loans for the two years, and that’s with a half-tuition scholarship), and I still have absolutely NO CLUE what I want to do with my life afterwards. Even so, I have absolutely no regrets about coming back to school because it’s something I honestly wanted for myself. I disagree with the idea that you should only go to grad school if you know for sure that it’s necessary for your future career and you know what you want to do post-grad school. It can also be a wonderfully fulfilling experience all on its own, which is what it is for me. That said, I would not recommend it for someone who is not absolutely sure that grad school is what they want or need. There are a few people in my program who came here in that situation and they’re simply miserable.

    Sometimes you just have to be pragmatic and take the job that pays the bills. That’s what I did after college and I leveraged that into a great experience, even though I had no interest whatsoever in the job I was doing or the industry I was in. The thing to remember is that this isn’t forever. You can keep searching for other jobs that interest you more, you can put more thought into grad school if that’s what you truly want. But you are not stuck in one career for your whole life. I just look at the career paths my parents took: my dad started as an engineer then an insurance salesmen and now has his own small business that makes him truly happy. My mother started as a teacher then worked for the government then worked for a software company before finally going back to teaching. Nothing lasts forever and you will eventually find what makes you happy. It’s called a “quarter life crisis” because you still have three quarters of your life to live!

  • avatar AliceInDairyland February 19, 2013, 11:01 am

    LW, please please please take the 20ish minutes to watch this video (like a TedTalk, but different):
    http://vimeo.com/48041227?action=share&ref=nf

    My BF sent it to me, and it honestly made me take a step back and truly evaluate my path and help me make smarter choices about my future. Even though I am pretty much locked and loaded in my professional degree, I still have a lot of choices out there and a lot of uncertainties about what I am going to do once I am free. I have also drank the “Follow Your Passion” koolaid and found that it’s not a very helpful frame of reference. Because what is a passion? What if I don’t always have the same passion? How do I find a passion?

    Instead, try to figure out what VALUES you want in your life. Pick your top 3. For me, it’s 1) Flexibility and good Home/Life balance 2) Helping people/animals in a way where I can directly see results 3) Variety. Then cultivate the skills that can help you get to that point, as you need to be valuable in order to create leverage. For some people the skill is people-skills, for others it is writing, for me it’s a combo of everything mostly driven by my professional degree. Anyways, it’s all really well explained in the video… better than I could do it, SO WATCH!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/jobs/follow-a-career-passion-let-it-follow-you.html?_r=0
    This is an article by the same guy that introduces the subject, if you can’t watch videos.

    Good luck!

    • avatar AliceInDairyland February 19, 2013, 11:06 am

      PS, this goes against a lot of traditional career advice about “exploring, trying new things, etc”

    • avatar *HmC* February 20, 2013, 2:22 am

      I never post stuff on Facebook and I posted that video. Brilliant, thank you for sharing.

  • CatsMeow CatsMeow February 19, 2013, 11:01 am

    I’m 31 (ugh) and spent most of my 20s bouncing around trying to figure out what the best “fit” for me was, career-wise. I, too, was a psych major, which is semi-useless except for the fact that it’s really flexible. I originally wanted to get my Ph.D in experimental psych, but then I decided that social work would be a better fit for me. However, I got a job as a mental health case manager and HATED IT. So then I decided I would run away to Las Vegas (ha) and flailed for a bit until I ended up with a job in public health, which I LOVE. (I never knew my job existed until I stumbled upon it). So along the way, I thought about going to grad school for: Psych, social work, public health, public administration, school psychology, etc. I’m glad I didn’t do any of those things. I don’t think the salary I’d make with those degrees would justify the cost of grad school. With an undergrad psych degree, you can veer off in so many different directions for grad school!

    That said, I’m finally going back to school for nursing. I never would have considered it as a career until I started doing public health, but now it appeals to me because of the job security and the flexibility. I hope to get my master’s or doctorate and be a nurse practitioner. I’m terrified of loans – but there is loan forgiveness for nurses who work in certain areas so I’m keeping that in mind.

    Anyway, enough about me. I guess I’m just saying that it’s OK to bounce around a bit until you find what works best for you. Like Wendy said, most people these days have multiple careers throughout their lives. I’d hoped I would have had it figured out before I turned 30, but if I’d gone with something else before I felt “sure” then I’d probably be stuck doing something I hate.

    Also, when I feel like I’m at some sort of crux I like to read “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck. Check it out if you’re so inclined.

    • katie katie February 19, 2013, 11:24 am

      i also had no idea that the job i really love existed.. sometimes happy surprises and taking chances is awesome!

    • mandalee mandalee February 19, 2013, 11:32 am

      Totally off topic for the LW’s case, but how do you like the nursing program you’re in so far? I’m trying to decide if I should go through an accelerated BSN program which is 12-16 months of crazy, or spread it out more.

      • CatsMeow CatsMeow February 19, 2013, 1:21 pm

        I’m finishing up prereqs and I start the accelerated program full-time in May! I’m nervous.

        • mandalee mandalee February 19, 2013, 2:00 pm

          I’ll be starting my prereqs in the summer, so I may have to make a mental note to ask you about the accelerated program after May. Some of the nursing boards are alarmist about accelerated programs, but I just had a friend do with a newborn. So, if he can do it, I think we got this. lol

          • avatar karenwalker February 26, 2013, 2:48 am

            i did an accelerated bsn program that took 15 months. yes, it’s intense, but it was worth it to just get it done while you’re motivated and in school mode.

            i used loans to fund my degree, and will be using loans to partially fund my DNP, which i start in the fall. i have heard of government programs that offer loan reimbursement, but they are really hard to get. i work at an inner city hospital that met the criteria to be amongst their “first-tier” and even though my income to debt ratio was 1:1, i still didn’t get selected. so while it might be an option, i wouldn’t recommend depending on it.

    • othy othy February 19, 2013, 12:45 pm

      I didn’t know my job existed either! I stumbled upon the public health world while I was in graduate school. I was lucky that my grad school was close enough to my current field that it was actually pertinent, but I realize how rare it is.

      • avatar Trixy Minx February 19, 2013, 11:20 pm

        What are you doing othy?

  • avatar bethany February 19, 2013, 11:03 am

    Something that helps me feel like I’m doing ok in life is to understand that not everyone gets to have a job/career they love, and that’s ok. There are some people who live for their jobs… And that’s fine. But I have my job so I can live the way I want to. I don’t make a ton of money, but I have good benefits, free insurance, and the people here are nice. I leave at 5 every day, and I don’t worry about work when I go home. Yeah, I am not passionate about marketing/administrative work, but I’m passionate about my life outside of here, and that’s ok, too.

    • avatar kerrycontrary February 19, 2013, 11:19 am

      WBS!!

    • avatar HmC February 19, 2013, 2:13 pm

      Such a good point Bethany! I think it’s a very American thing to identify yourself a lot by your job. To the point where people kill themselves “succeeding” at it. It doesn’t have to be who you are and like any other part of life, shouldn’t be the only thing that fulfills you. Some people are perfectly happy doing a job they like and that provides them the life they love.

  • TaraMonster TaraMonster February 19, 2013, 11:12 am

    I’m 27 and have a career in educational publishing and I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. And you know what? For the first time I’m perfectly fine with that.

    I get where you’re coming from. I really want to go to grad school but I’m not sure what to study either. A couple of months ago I decided I was going to “figure it out.” I’m constantly reading about different grad programs, how I would finance it, starting to prep myself to take the GREs. I’m actually having fun doing this. It’s kind of exciting to think of all the possibilities there are once you let go of that fear of making a wrong move.

    Ask yourself this: if you make a mistake what is the worst possible thing that could happen? I bet it’s not really that bad, is it? I’m not saying you should definitely go to grad school; I actually think Wendy’s advice is sound. I’m saying you need to not be afraid of making a mistake. Because you’re human. And because I’d like to be as cliché as possible today: If you never made a mistake you’d never learn anything.

    • Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 11:27 am

      Tara — you work in educational publishing in NYC, right? If yes, how did you do it? I’m in educational publishing in the midwest (the company is owned by one of the big publishers) and would do just about anything to get out to NYC now that I have some experience under my belt. However, I know nobody in publishing in NYC and know that there are plenty of people already living there who want to be in the field. I’m curious and have wanted to ask you for a little while now, but it always felt a bit awkward. So, here I am shamelessly asking you how you got your foot in the door!

      • TaraMonster TaraMonster February 19, 2013, 11:43 am

        The short answer is it’s who you know- so don’t feel awkward! Email me and I’ll elaborate:
        http://www.facebook.com/Taraerose

        • Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 1:56 pm

          I’m going to friend/message you when I get home!!! :) Thanks!

        • Copa Copa February 19, 2013, 9:32 pm

          I friended/messaged you. Hopefully it went to your inbox, but if it’s not there, please check your “other” inbox!! :)

  • bittergaymark bittergaymark February 19, 2013, 12:01 pm

    For now, just go to work and flip panecakes — though I am confused. Pancakes REALLY pays better than coffee? Who knew…? Hey, he happy you’re NOT 41 — trust me! — and somehow, you’ll (hopefully) figure it all out… The coffee gig of DOES sound like you are idealizing the past, somewhat. Hah! I do that all the time about the pizza place I worked at in my 20s… It was fun… Everybody there was fun… Life was fun…

    Be happy you don’t have a job where you think you have it all figured out and will be there the next forty years… EVERYBODY I know who landed that had it blow up in their faces at 35 or 40 and are now REALLY lost. Angry. And pissed… Reality… There is NO loyalty these days from employers — none —— expect none. It simply doesn’t exist anymore. Those days are gone forever. Going, going, gone.

    Grad school is great — but ONLY if you know exactly what you want to make. View this new job as a means to an end — one that allows you a bit of breathing room to sort things out…

  • avatar quixoticbeatnik February 19, 2013, 12:02 pm

    I’m 23 and I’m still figuring out my life! I just graduated with my bachelor’s and I don’t have a job. In fact, I feel like my major in college was essentially useless. Many of the classes that I had to take for my major were pretty much all the same, with a heavy emphasis on religion and how to integrate that with our love of the environment. The major was really a joke, and I do feel kind of bitter about it. Looking back, I wish I would have switched into business or double majored in communications as well. I loved my minor – International Studies – more than my major, but I didn’t major in it because it had a language requirement that was hard for me. Being deaf, I just can’t understand foreign languages at all or speak them properly.

    Anyways, now I am in a certificate program to be a GIS Technician, which is related to my field and would be a useful skill to have if I do end up going to grad school for a degree in planning, which I realized late in my college career would be an awesome career for me. But I’m taking a break because I was just SO burnt out on school. I’d rather take a few years off, try to figure out what I like and don’t like to do and explore different opportunities. Not only am I applying to just GIS jobs, but I am also keeping an eye open for other jobs that seem interesting to me. I even applied to a program that Shell has for recent graduates that is pretty much a training program that will rotate you around different departments in the company for a few years. Trying different things really appeals to me.

    Right now, I am more focused on finding a job that pays me well so that I can do the things I want to do outside of my job. I don’t think I feel passionate enough about anything to make my career my life.

    All of that to say that I agree with Wendy’s advice. I don’t think anybody has anything figured out in their 20s, not even the ones that do! People constantly change. Your priorities will change over the years and what you want now may not be what you want 10 years from now. I used to want to go to law school for environmental law about 3 years ago until I realized that I probably would not like doing law. Definitely do not go to grad school if you aren’t totally sure about it. When I start looking into grad schools I will be looking mostly at in state public universities because I’ll get waived tuition for being deaf. I am taking advantage of that for sure. Don’t worry too much. You’ll figure things out!

  • avatar Jersey9000 February 19, 2013, 12:46 pm

    It is a little sad for me to see all this advice about grad schools needing to be directly tied to a career path on a website that is primarily about self fulfillment and living the kind of life you want. I notice this a lot when grad school stuff comes up here, and to be honest it always bugs me a little. I received my MA in Eastern Philosophy and it has NO relation at all to my career (and I never expected it to). I will say, however, that it changed my life and made me a better, more open person. I have no regrets at all about it even though it left me with tons of debt. To me, it was like buying a house, except it was a house that will be with me forever. While I get why people don’t want to go into debt, education for the sake of education, for the sake of expanding one’s horizons, seems to be falling by the wayside in the States (I say this as a long time public school teacher both in the USA and abroad) and it’s a shame to see those anti-education sentiments echoed here so strongly by some.

    Okay, I am off the soapbox :)

    • katie katie February 19, 2013, 12:55 pm

      would you encourage someone to go into debt for “personal fulfilling” reasons? i wouldnt. be it a masters degree, a year travelling the world, ect, ect- i would never encourage someone to go into debt.

      maybe you are one of the few who are able to live comfortably while paying off your debt- hey, maybe you are serioulsy struggling to pay it off -like approximately 90% of people who have student debt- but you just dont care- thats fine. if you want to go into debt for “self-fulfillment”, that is your choice. i just dont think many people would take the same path.

    • avatar AliceInDairyland February 19, 2013, 1:12 pm

      Okay, I am going to get on my soapbox for a minute because this kind of attitude sometimes drives me crazy. I think you can find a lot of ways find self fulfillment without going into all kinds of debt. For example, what if you wanted to learn more about Eastern Philosophy? There are tons of books out there at various levels of technicality, you could plan trips, I am sure you could find/form an interest group if you live in an urban area to compare ideas. You could become a better, more open person without going into debt. I’m not saying your choice was right or wrong, but I’m just saying it depends on your priorities.

      My motto: Pay it up front. I want to be able to have a life that isn’t shadowed by debt. I want to have children when I am younger and be able to provide for them what they need. I want to continue to grow and learn as a human being at the same time I am on my career track. I want to have a comfortable retirement fund, and then explore.

      You know how we all say to live within your means? Educate within your means as well, there are tons of amazing low-cost ways to educate yourself without adding letters to the end of your name.

      • Northern Mermaid Northern Mermaid February 19, 2013, 1:50 pm

        It is possible to go to graduate school without a boatload of debt. Many programs offer assistantships for at least half of the program, and some schools offer reduced tuition for the years you spend writing your thesis. At my school, once you’ve taken all your credits you can pay 300ish bucks a semester and get through without any (or in my case) very little debt. Many graduate schools are aware that their students work full time jobs, and the class schedules reflect that. The thing about graduate school is that you have to know your program. You have to spend the time to know the professors, the structure of the program, and you have to be willing to leave where you are to go to a program that fits your educational needs. I wouldn’t usually recommend graduate school just for fun, but if you find something that you’re passionate enough about and want to keep studying, I think it’s ok to keep on going in school even if it might not land you an excellent career.

        All that being said, my graduate work is totally tied to a career path/pay scale increase and all of that. But honestly, I know I won’t regret my advanced degree in archaeology whether or not I stay in the field forever. I love it, and I love the opportunity to study the aspects of the discipline I care most about.

        • avatar AliceInDairyland February 19, 2013, 1:55 pm

          Excellent point, and I think it supports what I am saying. You made a decision to “educate within your means.” I mean I don’t have a lot of room to talk about education: I have a BS in Dairy Science, going to have a DVM, and am contemplating adding on MS. But each step of the way I evaluated the benefits I get (interesting, pay raises, etc) vs the costs (time, money, sanity, loans). As long as everyone is aware that pursuing an advance degree may come with a sacrifice I don’t have a problem with that. It’s like every other purchasing decision you make.

  • avatar fallonthecity February 19, 2013, 1:10 pm

    You know, sometimes I wonder if the whole “finding yourself” process gets emphasized way, way too much. Figuring out what you want to do in life in your mid twenties and then staying on that trajectory forever just seems so impractical. I started a job 6 months ago that I love and will hopefully stay with this employer for the remainder of my career… But that’s not all there is to it, right? I’m struggling to decide whether I am going to finish my Masters degree while working full time… Because while I love rocket design and even enjoy the coursework I am doing now, I don’t necessarily want to make my career the focus of my life. I want to make room for friends, family, dating, cooking, gardening, running, riding motorcycles – and, you know, adequate sleep… Especially while I am young.

    LW, I would encourage you to focus a little more on what an awesome life you have outside of work, and develop your passion for your relationships and hobbies, while keeping your eyes open for opportunities that interest you. You’ve got so much time to figure out the career part… Don’t let worrying about that distract you from enjoying the rest of your life.

  • avatar Sistine February 19, 2013, 1:15 pm

    I agree with Wendy. DO NOT go back to college and put yourself into a lifetime of debt if you aren’t sure. You say you would LOVE to go into management at the coffee house but apparently your husband is discouraging it. I have to wonder if that is financially driven? You would make more money at the pancake house but it sounds like you would be happier working at the coffee place. You should do what makes you happy and your husband should be more supportive of that. Would you really be struggling financially if you took the job you wanted over the one that pays more? Would going into the supervisor position at the coffee place eventually lead to more money? Are you not able to negotiate the coffee house to match the offer you’ve received? You don’t sound very excited for the pancake job but you do sound very excited for the coffee one.

    I also think that there’s nothing wrong with working in a pancake or coffee shop. Our culture looks down on service/blue collar jobs and tries to promote the idea that everyone should be working in an office, but to function as a society we need blue collar jobs which often are more valuable/stable than white collar jobs. I wonder if it’s just the pressure our society puts on young people or the fact that you have a BA that you aren’t using that’s making you feel working at a coffee/pancake house is not enough.

    I think that it really doesn’t matter what you do so long as it is legal and it makes you happy. If you love working a the coffee shop, as you say you do, work there. Take the supervisor position and work up to being a manager. That is very much a career job and everyone is always going to need coffee. Good luck to you.

  • sobriquet sobriquet February 19, 2013, 1:15 pm

    I’m 26 and started school at the age of 24, because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and thought it was silly to rack up a bunch of debt while figuring it out. I was in the workforce from age 18-24, screwing up horribly, hating lots of office jobs, and ultimately figuring out what I wanted to do. I worked in the food industry, a doctor’s office, for a psychologist, in retail, an elementary school, a wholesale book supplier, a fancy spa/hotel, a non-profit energy organization and a tech company. I even had some temp jobs that allowed me to work for a state representative in the Capitol building, do cold calling for a political campaign, and sit on a computer doing data entry for 5 hours at a time. I even sold knives for a week! I did a LOT of things. If I had the same job for 6 years, I doubt I would have really figured anything out.

    Now I’m in school for a specialized, growing field that is as versatile as it is stable. Oh, and I’m pursuing a degree I would never in a million years have considered when I was a teen or in my early-20′s. I just had to think outside the box, do a lot of research and discover what would bring me fulfillment as well as a nice paycheck.

    Sometimes I wish that EVERYONE would wait until their mid-20′s to go to school. I bet there would be much fewer wasted Comm degrees floating around!

    • Fabelle Fabelle February 19, 2013, 1:24 pm

      “Sometimes I wish that EVERYONE would wait until their mid-20′s to go to school. I bet there would be much fewer wasted Comm degrees floating around! ”

      I think you may be onto something—I know for sure that if I’d started school at this moment in my life, I probably would NOT pick “English” (without even a minor or area of focus to back it up! holla!) as my major of choice.

      :(

      • avatar Addie Pray February 19, 2013, 1:26 pm

        25 should be a legally required minimum age before you: go to grad school, get married, and… I dunno, get tattoos.

        • bittergaymark bittergaymark February 19, 2013, 1:59 pm

          Ugh. Tattoos… The greatest tragedy of future generations… Talk about immature. The designs of most are simply laughably stupid.

          • avatar Addie Pray February 19, 2013, 2:10 pm

            Whatever, the blue dolphin on my friend’s ankle that she got at age 17 in cancun is … spellbinding.
            NOT.

            (^ Let’s bring back NOT ^)

            • avatar lets_be_honest February 19, 2013, 2:19 pm

              Bah

    • iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson February 19, 2013, 1:27 pm

      I think that overall that’s good advice but there are some people that really do know exactly what they want to do. My brother knew at age 7 he wanted to be an engineer and I knew at 11 I wanted to be an attorney. And here we both are. But yes I wish everyone would delay even undergrad if they don’t know what they want to do! The amount of debt people take out for what seems like a hobby to fill 4 years is mindblowing to me.

      • avatar Addie Pray February 19, 2013, 1:31 pm

        At 7 I wanted to be the President of the United States. At 11 I wanted to be a PE Teacher. And I also *seriously* considered tour guide, doctor, mathemacian, smoothie maker, coffee shop owner, professional soccer player, actuary, actor, director, house cleaner, and babysitter. Attorney NEVER ONCE made it on the list until I was in law school – so weird how that happened.

        • iwannatalktosampson Iwannatalktosampson February 19, 2013, 2:14 pm

          Haha that’s funny. I guess when I was 16 I went through a brief period of wanting to be a hair stylist and my Dad told me I wasn’t allowed to. Humpf. So back to attorney it was.

          Although clearly I just wasn’t willing to think outside the box because professional soccer player and smoothie maker sound like great choices.

          • avatar Addie Pray February 19, 2013, 2:33 pm

            I figured I could do both – make smoothies during period of injury.

        • CatsMeow CatsMeow February 19, 2013, 2:42 pm

          After I saw the movie Big, I wanted Tom Hanks’ toy store job. Oh the career aspirations of an 8-year-old.

          • othy othy February 19, 2013, 5:30 pm

            When i was 7, I was going to be a doctor. But not just any type, I wanted to be a podiatrist. Now I find feet really gross.

            From 10-17, I was going to be a lawyer. So glad I didn’t go down that path.

            My senior year in high school, I was taking both Psychology and Statistics. And I decided I wanted to go into research. And all my friends thought I was nuts for wanting to continue in the statistics world. But, at 28, I haven’t regretted it in the slightest!

        • avatar Trixy Minx February 19, 2013, 11:13 pm

          One of my first jobs was at a Jamba Juice and I’ve never had as much fun as I did then. We had balloon fights, costume parties, made smoothies in fruit costumes, spiked our lunch smoothie, played darts in the back, attributed wrapped someone from head to toe and dragged them around in a cart.. Ooh man I kinda do want to go back and work there as a GM maybe. Lol

      • avatar painted_lady February 19, 2013, 8:49 pm

        See, and I was dead-set convinced that I would NOT be one of those college kids who changed majors two or three times – something about the folks who said, “Don’t worry too much about your major, it’ll probably change” that brought out my obstinate side. So I got an entire degree based on not wanting to be a “typical” kid who didn’t know what she wanted in life. I have never used my BS in Psychology in any professional capacity, and I knew probably halfway through undergrad I should have majored in anthro or theatre, but I wasn’t going to be that kid!!!! And then I was that kid, only a couple of years too late. So maybe taking that choice out of my hands would have prevented it. Except I probably still would have told everyone I was going to be a therapist, so it would have been the same story.

        • avatar Trixy Minx February 19, 2013, 11:08 pm

          You may not be a practicing psychologist but you give pretty damn good advice.

          • avatar painted_lady February 19, 2013, 11:32 pm

            :)

    • avatar bethany February 19, 2013, 1:31 pm

      I should have waited a year or two to go to college… Instead I took a semester off in the middle, and it STILL took me 5.5 years to graduate… I wasted so much money!

      • avatar Addie Pray February 19, 2013, 1:33 pm

        Oh I wish I had taken a yaer off too! I was actually going to. I was going to do this Rotary Club thing – I even applied and was selected and had a host family in the French Alps picked out, and I was able to defer my admissions to my undergrad for a year…. But I chickened out and went straight to college. Idiot.

      • avatar quixoticbeatnik February 19, 2013, 8:56 pm

        I wish I had waited a year before going to college, too! I just wasn’t really ready. And I ended up changing schools twice, and I was never really that happy. I won’t make the same mistake with grad school! I also wish I had studied abroad for a semester or a year. I did a summer study abroad, which was amazing, but a semester would have been even better!

    • avatar Trixy Minx February 19, 2013, 11:17 pm

      You sound just like me! I’m 25 and only going to school now. I even sold knifes for a couple of weeks to. Lol though I’ve had the same job for three years now which had kept me stable but stuck inn a rut.

  • sobriquet sobriquet February 19, 2013, 1:23 pm

    Oh, my advice:

    Maybe instead of grad school, think about going back to school for an applied field. It would only be for 2 years since you already have your basics and most programs allow you to work at least part-time while taking classes, so you wouldn’t rack up a lot of debt. A friend of mine in his 30′s just completed his 2nd degree in graphic design. Think outside the box! There are so many industries out there that lack people with specialization and pay pretty well (think social work). If you enjoy working in the food industry, there are applied degrees you could use to help you move up and get the kind of career that would satisfy you. Research!

  • Shell Shell February 19, 2013, 2:01 pm

    Wendy I just wanted to thank you for your beautiful words in the ending paragraph! I’m on the verge of accepting a new job opportunity that is taking me in a very different direction in my field. It’s both exciting and scary. But along the lines of what you said, choosing a different path for a while may help me as a person regardless!

  • avatar HmC February 19, 2013, 2:10 pm

    DON’T GO TO GRAD SCHOOL UNLESS YOU HAVE A SOLID PLAN AS FAR AS WHAT YOU’RE DOING WITH THE DEGREE, ARE SUPER PASSIONATE ABOUT THAT PLAN AND/OR HAVE A FULL RIDE. That’s all I have to add to this.

  • Emily Emily February 24, 2013, 12:43 am

    Look at this as a journey rather a destination. The more you stress, the worse you will be at making a decision you can be happy with. I’d set a timeline for myself say 6 months to a year where I worked at the pancake job and then reevaluated everything. Be open to the unexpected. You never know when opportunity will come knocking or what she will look like when she knocks.

    I have had lots of conversations with people over how they found their careers, including one last night. There is one theme running through these conversations: some people know exactly what they want to do and are able to make it work–then there are the rest of us for whom lightening has to strike. I still love fashion, French, and teaching but found my calling in accounting through a fortuitous banking job and at present work for a paint company. The point I am making is be open to new experiences and serendipity.

    As you’re working think about stories you could tell in an interview (even if you love your job.) Salary and benefits are important but there is also the issue of corporate culture. What do you know about the corporate culture of the pancake company and how do you see yourself fitting in? What do you have to offer and how could you serve best? Sometimes working will be a drag even at a good job but it’s called work for a reason. You can always find a job that fulfills other needs later on when you can afford it and you know more of what you want.

  • avatar Greg February 25, 2013, 1:41 pm

    The rule of thumb for grad school is that you shouldn’t be paying for it yourself. If neither the school nor an employer will pay for it, then either there’s not much demand in that field or you’re not considered a strong candidate. Either way, paying the costs of the degree will be a serious problem if you’re not already wealthy.

  • avatar jim February 25, 2013, 1:45 pm

    Don’t knock grad school. If you go to graduate school in a STEM area, then it will likely be paid for (via research grants by your advising professor) and you might even get a stipend for research assistant work. I got my MS in engineering and left with more money in the bank than when I started.

  • avatar BobB59 February 25, 2013, 2:12 pm

    News flash. When you are 25, it’s all about you. Look at how many times the word “I” was used in your letter. My advice is take the IHOP job. Figure out how best to be of service to them, and by extension the customers. It is possible to work thorough a large organization and make real change and impact. Study what the CEO at McDonald’s did. BTW he was trained as an electrical engineer.

  • avatar Larry J February 25, 2013, 2:15 pm

    I came here via InstaPundit to see what a Quarter Life Crisis was. Please indulge me for a couple minutes. In a few weeks, I turn 56. While age doesn’t necessarily give anyone wisdom, it does provide the opportunity for perspective. I’d like to offer you some perspective.

    It’s perfectly normal not to have everything figured out when you’re 25. Hell, I still don’t have everything figured out and I’m more than twice your age. My advice is to take the job and learn what you can from it. Don’t look at any job you take at 25 as being where you’ll be for the rest of your life. That seldom happens to anyone today. As an illustration, I offer my own work history:

    1. Bagged groceries while in high school.
    2. Joined the Army to be a paratrooper at age 18.
    3. Went to school to become an electronics technician.
    4. Switched to the Air Force at age 20.
    5. Left the Air Force at age 25 to go to college full time.
    6. Got married while still in college, taught school for a year then went back into the Air Force as an officer.
    7. Stayed in the Air Force until the Big Drawdown in 1992. At age 35, I had to start all over.
    8. Went to school for a masters in software engineering, didn’t take on any debt and completed the degree in 9 months.
    9. Was hired more or less at entry level by a major telecommunications company.
    10. Two years later, I switched jobs to a defense contractor. I stayed with them for the next 17 years through two buyouts until losing my job last year.
    11. Relocated to my home state and took a new job last July.

    My point in saying all this is that I planned almost none of it. Instead, I took advantage of opportunities as they came by. There’s an old saying that “Man plans, God laughs.”

    So, go ahead and take the job while looking for something better. My father always told me that it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. He was right.

    And for goodness sake, treat all debt as a mortal enemy! Live on less than you earn. Save and invest as much as you can. Because, one day you’ll wake up and find yourself approaching your 56th birthday. The only alternative to getting old is to die young. Getting old beats the alternative.

    • avatar liz953 February 25, 2013, 6:19 pm

      I too came here from Instapundit, and I could have written a post just like Larry’s, with the same advice. My work “problem” was after 3-5 years doing one job, I had learned enough to know I had no interest in advancing any further: I was bored. So I have had many short careers, each being more interesting than the last, and kept me on a lifelong learning curve, which has been very satisfying.

      I’m 59, and my advice is to take the pancake job and relax. Be positive, show up, do your job honestly and well, and get to know your best customers who may offer new paths. There are opportunities out there if you keep your eyes and your mind open.

  • avatar J1 February 25, 2013, 5:12 pm

    Larry has good advice, but his post is a little oblique so I’ll be more direct: If I’ve ever seen a letter that screamed “join the military” as loud as this one does, I can’t recall it. You need some direction, responsibility and ideally, somebody who’ll pay for your grad school (and pay you while you go).

    • avatar Larry J February 25, 2013, 7:11 pm

      Joining the military worked for me but of course it isn’t for everyone. What I was trying to say is that you may think your career is going to be one thing only to have something completely beyond your control throw you a curve, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union leading to a 25% reduction in the military in my case or your company going out of business. Stuff happens. Be ready to adapt to changing conditions. Don’t be too hung up on your plan because stuff happens. Use the stuff you learn in one job to help you gain a better job. And while you’re at it, take time to enjoy the ride as much as possible. Believe me, 56 will come far sooner than you can imagine.

  • avatar Icur February 25, 2013, 9:58 pm

    And then you get pregnant and have kids. Can do it all but not at the same time!

  • avatar another john galt February 26, 2013, 8:04 am

    interesting read this morning.
    i have helped raise 3 neighbor kids + 4 stepkids. Oldest is now 30, youngest of the crew is 20. 2 have babies (25 yr old soon to be married), and one baby + child (23) lives with us.

    all, repeat all have had this issue. it took the oldest to drop out of college, deliver pizzas and crash and burn with no healthcare and no money to realize his way was not working. one child refused to go to any type of school after HS, and moved out of state to ‘play’. came home with a baby. her way didn’t work. only one of the remaining brood stayed in school, double majoring in engineering and comp sci.
    my verbal advice to them was essentially not taken, as i was an ‘old dude’ who just didn’t get it. as i was humbled by my arrogant stupidity in my youth, so they are being/will be too. The difference is, my parents made me deal with the consequences. Providence kept those consequences below a fatal level, and , we ‘ancients’ in the house provide counsel and shelter to ours as needed.

    summary: 2 are in college- one tech career and one in health care career (not med school)
    1 finished college/2r program and is teaching overseas.
    2 with no higher ed, working in customer service (banking) and cybercecurity – both being trained by their employers.
    1 in the nuclear energy field, trained by his employer.
    1 did 3 tours in the litterboxes with the marines, and now finishing training in law enforcement. also does construction as well.
    my point – only one of my ‘kids’ started out on a path and has stayed to course so far. all the others did not start out to do what they are doing and are dealing with the consequences. What I learned is the same thing that worked for me and the mrs: what we did in the sandbox as a kid is how we’re wired. I did not have all these kids under my roof when they were babies, but as growing teens and young adults, it is the same for them. look for something that you are talented at – people skills, technical, art, building, animals, etc. go that way if at all possible. what did you play with as a kid?

    1st rule – no debt. it will kill you and make you a slave. school debt is almost never worth it.
    2nd rule – strive to live on 80% of your income/time, and save 10% and give 10%. so much of what we have now in things and relationships have come directly from the last 20%. it means smaller apartments, older cars, rice and beans, weekend vacations, less stuff – at 58 i’m glad i didn’t get all the stuff i wanted, but i sure have gotten what i’ve needed.

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