Recommend a career path for an odd Doper?

Preface: I’m not really trying to base major life decisions on random Internet responses, just tossing a question to a pool of clever people and seeing if anything interesting bobs to the surface.

So, here’s me: I’m in my late twenties. I have a BA in Philosophy from a mediocre university and no real desire to pursue that discipline further.

I spent four years out of college working as a one-man IT department and gofer for a small-but-succesful law firm (hooray for family connections). I currently work for a major cellphone provider doing tech support. This mainly consists of listening to customer complaints and either filling out requests to our serious tech guys or sending the customer a new phone if that’s the problem. It pays the bills, but the hours mean an awful social life and I’m not really interested in progressing further in the company because I don’t want to become a technician.

I want to find a career path that won’t make me jump off a tall building.

My strengths:

  1. I’m creative. My brain is constantly bombarded by ideas for art, stories, products, services, inventions, political theories, etc. It’s occasionally overwhelming. These ideas are frequently confirmed by outside sources as good, viable ones, so I don’t think I’m JUST in love with myself.

  2. I’m likeable and seemingly authoritative. People often find me easy to talk to and nice to be around, and people generally seem to trust anything I tell them because I’m good at delivering information and opinions confidently.

  3. I have a very, very broad knowledge base. I know more about most things than most people. I’m conversational on a very, very wide range of topics, and genuinely enjoy talking about things. I’m not a know-it-all, though – I’m very happy to acquiesce when speaking to a true expert, and love picking their brains about things they really know.

  4. I’m excellent at analyzing and critiquing things. I can easily spot the strengths and weaknesses of nearly anything – art, literature, fashion, food, products, services, floorplans, arguments.

  5. I learn very quickly, and can handle technical and complicated tasks pretty easily. I’m also good at figuring things out – I’m a good guy to call if you need to put together your ikea cabinets and lost the little instruction sheet.

My weaknesses:

  1. My knowledge base is shallow. I love learning, but focus too much on diversity of topics. There’s nothing I have anything approaching true expertise on, especially since I learn mainly from weak secondary sources.

  2. I have no self-discipline. If there’s no external deadline, I’ll never get it done. I’m also a terrible procrastinator; if there IS a deadline, I’ll get it done five minutes before. I’m improving this lately, but it’s still a huge problem. I’m also incredibly disorganized – I suspect these are related.

  3. I don’t like blogs or twitter. It seems like everybody creative is supposed to, but I don’t.

  4. I’m bad at networking (but, again, trying to improve). Not to put too fine a point on it, I’ve been a social outsider my whole life. I’ve always found it easy to be on the periphery. I’ve never really had a circle of friends, certainly not since high school.

  5. I get bored easily. Part of the reason I lack specific expertise in any one field is that my attention shifts a lot. I feel like my ideal job is one in which each day is pretty much a new task entirely.

So, does anybody have any suggestions for somebody in my situation? I’m not necessarily looking for a dream job, just trying to gather ideas.

I’m considering law school because several lawyers have told me I’d be suited for it, I have family connections, and I feel like it’s a career where I can actually make a difference, even if a small one. I’m worried about monotony and lack of creative output, but feel like that’s mitigable depending on specialization and possibly hobbies.

Your #2 weakness is a deal breaker for most careers, I would think.

Were it not for that, (and that is something you should work diligently at improving), I would have suggested an advertising agency. Besides account executives, they have many different jobs, most of which are quite interesting. You might have to start as an intern, but if you are good, you can rise rapidly.

It strikes me that most of your weaknesses may be due to your age, but all can be overcome if you are willing to improve yourself. Well, perhaps not #3, as I also have nothing to do with blogs or Twitter, nor Facebook for that matter, and I cannot see how using them would be at all beneficial. :slight_smile:

Certainly, and it IS something I’m working on. Dumb as it sounds, it’s really only something I’ve become aware of lately.

I’m currently at a point where I think I’m dilligent enough to work a job / go to school, but not enough to pursue something completely self-starting. I always wanted to be a writer professionally, but every time I start a short story or novel I get 10-30 pages in and shelve it. Not gonna happen until I learn work habits. Part of the appeal of law school is simply that it’s hard work and you can’t fake it. I got far, far too good at faking it in college. Serious case of “too smart for my own good,” I think, and I was so antisocial nobody called me on it.

Your post is interesting, since advertising IS something I’ve been interested in, but my assumption is that it’s impossible to get into.

I suffer from #2 myself. I recommend you consider freelance nonprofit fundraising. You work for yourself, and there are quite a few positions open.

Mostly on street corners. All you’ll need to start is an empty cup.

Have you considered teaching? It’s an incredibly creative career: you are always trying to come up with new plans and methods and ways to reach people. It helps tremendously to be a good speaker and to enjoy talking with people. A broad range of knowledge is useful because it allows you to create analogies and make connections between fields.

Deadlines tend to be hard and very external. Schools are, by nature, highly structured places.

I don’t know where you live, but many states have alternative certification programs that are designed for people exactly like you. To qualify to teach a subject, you need a certain number of credit hours in a subject area, and a B.A., but the BA doesn’t have to be in the subject. They will do a transcript review and advise you about what you could get certified in today, and also what courses you might need to take to qualify. For example, my sister had a degree in business admin with a minor in biology. She had to go back and take 3-4 science courses at the local junior college to reach the minimum. After that, it was a semester of teaching classes and then she could get a job–so about a year from “I think I want to be a teacher” to entering the field, and not a lot of tuition to pay for it.

The pay is not awesome, but it’s not terrible: starting teachers around here make 45K or so. That varies a lot by area. For us, medical benefits are lousy but retirement benefits are very good, and summers off are . . .delicious.

It is a lot of work, especially the first three years or so. And while the starting pay is good, it doesn’t really change much: retiring teachers here make about 130% of what starting teachers make, which is not a lot of progress over 30 years. But there is an administrative career path if someone wants to pursue it, and wages are better there.

I have. I have two teachers in my family. I don’t think I could be satisfied at it. The notion of zero progression really turns me off, and I’d like to pull in good wages someday. If my wife was an heiress or interested in high-paying professions, I’d be more interested, but I’m going to be the breadwinner for the foreseeable future, and I’d like to win some bread.

Also, I feel like like teacher kids wouldn’t be my skillset, teaching high school would be frustrating and depressing, and teaching college is out of reach, academically. One of those three-year teaching-as-career-building new graduate programs would have been awesome four years ago, but I think I’ve missed that chance (and probably couldn’t qualify).

Game design.
You sound like you would easily get a grasp on programming, and also be able to develop a game working on multiple levels. Creating the “storyline” for video games is something that many designers struggle with - they might have a vague notion of the type of game, and the major characters, but get bogged down with the various paths and options.
Actually, people with degrees in Philosophy have often been recruited for computer based projects - databases, artificial intelligence, etc. due to their ability to perhaps following different approaches to solving problems and coming up with new strategies.

Just an idea - but might be something you want to look into.

What about being a principal, then? There would have to be a few years in the classroom, but there IS a career progression there, and honestly, the admins who got into it to be admins often work out better than the ones who just hated teaching and wanted out of the classroom.

Administrators retire making low six figures, typically. ETA: obviously, superintendents and other central admins can make much more.

Not trying to bend your arm, but it bothers me when people see no career track–as I mentioned in my post, there is one.

Right, I’m just so much less interested in the admin side. I can imagine DOING it, but I’m hesitant to start a career path where the top level job is so far from my dreams.

Interesting suggestion. I used to do some amateur game making back in junior high, and started highschool intended to be a compsci major for that reason. I enjoyed my highschool’s compsci classes much less than anticipated, and backed out. I’d love to be a game designer, but I don’t think I want to be a programmer, and I feel like I’m already too old to try and start down that path now. I bought books on C# a couple years ago hoping to learn to program for the homebrew XBLA stuff. Any other route into the biz, as I’ve come to understand it, is borderline impossible unless you’re an artistic savant, a published writer, or a level designer. And I have no idea what becoming a level designer entails.

I’ve spent a lot of my life playing videogames – way too much, in fact. I feel like they’re a big reason I’m so far behind where I want to be. I spent hours of my “prime years” sitting at home analyzing games. I wanted to understand the artform, and one of the various unfinished books I started in my early 20s was a book on how to approach art criticism regarding videogames and how criticism different from review.

At this point, I look at the entire field with pretty mixed feelings. I want to still love games, but trying to find the time to experience them without feeling like I’m simply wasting time has become impossible. It’s probably something like a recovering alcoholic trying to become a connoisseur of whiskey or beer – you can DO it, and you can still appreciate it, but there’s an overwhelming sense of precipice.

Don’t go to law school.

Law school is a dumping ground for liberal arts majors who had insufficient self-discipline or ambition to do something better. I’d say, conservatively, 70% of my law school class regrets their decision to go to law school. And I’ll bet that satisfaction rate is on the high end of schools. And the 30% who are happy? They would have been just as happy and successful in other fields.

There are two kinds of people who correctly choose law school: (1) people who absolutely must take a shot at their dream of doing something only lawyers can do even if it means giving up better opportunities to do it (many of whom will fail, even if it was the correct choice to try); and (2) people who are very risk-averse, want to make a decent upper class wage by working 60 hours a week, and can get into a top law school. Virtually everyone else who goes to law school could have had a more fulfilling career doing something else. From the sound of it, you don’t fall into either category.

Instead, try starting a small business. You say you’re good with ideas. If you put your mind to it, you could probably come up with three plausible business ideas by February. Talk to people, narrow it down to one solid idea, and write a business plan. Try for a small business loan. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Or take the State Department Foreign Service exam. Or go work for a Congressman. Or become a private tutor (you can make very good money tutoring, and you can spend some time helping those who can’t pay too). But don’t join the legion of smart but lazy people who think law school is the golden ticket to a satisfying job, but soon learn that they would have been just as happy at the other desk job they could have landed without all the debt.

Since, like so many before you, you probably won’t heed my advice, let me say this:
at the very minimum, do something risky before taking the fallback option of law school. Take 3 months off, eat ramen noodles and live at home, and write a novel. Or start that small business. Fail at doing something that would be really satisfying before deciding that being a lawyer is better than starving.

I get this advice a lot. It seems like a good sign to me that I don’t want to take it, but I certainly appreciate the advice.

I’ve known lawyers and judges my whole life, and, to a one, they’ve all told me they thought it’d be a good choice for me. As much as I always dreamed of a job in the arts or entertainment, I very seriously care about justice and fair representation and contracts. I love debate and constructing arguments, and I’d love a job that allows me to engage my community. Working as a defense attorney or a state’s attorney seems like something I could deeply enjoy, and I could see myself liking more “desk job” law as well.

I’m not treating it as a last resort nor entirely as a “fall back.”

Trying to start a business sounds great, but I have absolutely no idea how to do it. I also have terrible credit, and absolutely no money of my own. And, while I have a few business ideas I think could work, they’d all require knowledge and resources I simply don’t have. Not sure how one approaches that hurdle.

I’m not giving up on my own creativity – I’m hoping to attempt standup in the next few months, I have some art projects I want to start (but need to afford materials first), and I’m trying to mingle myself into some more creative / artistic social circles to at least get some sense of how to approach such.

I do appreciate the foreign service suggestion. I looked into it; not for me. I like having a home to come back to, and I’m really, really bad at learning languages. Awesome suggestion though, and it’s good to confidently say it’s NOT for me.

Advertising might be too hard to get in to (at least, you will need more, specific schooling yet) but you could do SEO (search engine optimization).

You get to talk to/work with a variety of clients, do some writing, do some art, maybe even some programming. It’s a rapidly changing field so you will always be learning something new - SEO techniques are not the same this year as they were 3 years ago, etc.

Get in with an existing firm instead of going it on your own. If you start your own business, you need to be disciplined.

That should tell you something. Either lawyers have some universal flaw in their judgment or their character that causes them to give bad advice, or their experience in the profession tells them that the majority of people who go to law school regret it, and the odds of regret skyrocket for wandering liberal arts majors who just sort of end up in law school.

You may be thinking, “well, it’s probably good advice for most people, just not me.” No! You’re exactly the person for whom it is good advice. See:

It’s not that every law job is bad or soul-sucking, though many are. One of the main problems is that the legal market is flooded with lawyers. The middle-aged lawyers you know entered into and still exist in an entirely different career universe from the one you would face as a new graduate. I know Harvard and Yale grads from recent classes who are taking non-law jobs because the legal market is just that bad at the moment, and may not get any better. For most of the law jobs that are available, compared to similar jobs in which you can debate and construct arguments or engage your community, the hours are either substantially longer or the pay is substantially less, or both.

With a sufficiently solid business plan, you can get a small business loan. And bad credit is temporary, if you start re-building your credit now. Law school debt is forever (or at least it will seem like it).

Ok, I’ll let it go now. Good luck in law school. :smiley:

SEO is an interesting thought. I’ve heard of it, but always assumed it was very dry work that mostly consisted of coding and reading click-through analysis reports.

Well, I have no idea how to write a sufficiently solid business plan. But I won’t write it off. While I plan on taking the 2011 February LSAT (and am currently studying for it), I’ll likely wind up having to wait and apply to 2012 since rolling admissions makes it tough this late in the game. So maybe I’ll have some inspiration between now and then. :wink:

Law school debt is less of an issue for me than most. I have a conveniently wealthy father who will pay state law school in full and would probably take a big bite out of private school tuition, any chances for scholarships aside.

That’s good. At most, then, you waste three years doing some interesting reading.

Are you sure he’d be willing to fund more education, but wouldn’t fund a business idea? Just a thought.

You’re right to hold off until the 2012 cycle. Good luck on the LSAT!

How about grassroots politics and non-profit work?

Oh, wait. You said you had to make some good money. Scratch that.

Personally, I’d go the law school route given the fact that 1) you seem interested in it 2) you have some tangential experience with it that hasn’t turned you off to it and 3) (and most important) you have a financial backer to pay for it!

It sounds like factor 2 might also help you get a job in the field after school and/or help with summer internships that will prove very good for a resume. Is it soul crushing? Maybe if you are going out of desperation, or lack of anything else. Meanwhile, I believe law school will provide you with the discipline you need to either become a lawyer, or at least provide you with the legal background should you start a business with your other great ideas. Hell, become a patent attorney and you can patent your own great ideas.

Another route you might consider is business school, which is the way I went. Right now the market for them is awful, but two years from now, it will likely be better, and from a financial backing/time commitment, you’ll find it a lot easier. Hell, the GMAT is even easier than the LSAT, and that will also provide you some good grounding for a future small business you may open.

Personally, I know a lot more teachers who are punching a clock and hate their jobs/prospects than lawyers or businesspeople. But your mileage may vary…

Thanks everybody for the contributions. Given me a lot to think about. I think mmy current plan is take take the LSAT but mainly consider 2012 enrollment unless I get in somewhere great on a fluke. :slight_smile:

In the meantime, I’m going to look for alternate employment in an office that does something I’m more interested in than cellphones. Id love to find a mentor in advertising and see if its a good path; living in Chicago, I should probably be able to find something to try. I don’t hate my current gig, but I hate feeling like my wheels are spinning.

As a secondary question, are there useful / reputable / affordable career counseling centers? I’d love to get a “pro” opinon on this. The only career advice I’ve EVER gotten was mu high school counselor. Who told me to go to art school. Which I think should be a criminal offense.