What Should I Be When I Grow Up? (long)

Isn’t it about time for another pathetic, self-indulgent, “tell me what to do!” thread? For your amusement, I’ll fill that void.

Do you remember those kids you went to school with who were already self-directed and knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up? Maybe you were one of those people. I used to be. However, in my final semester of college, I decided not to become a teacher, and since then…

…well, eight years is long enough to go without a real sense of direction, don’t you think?

Since college I’ve held three different positions. One of those positions was running a children’s early-literacy program for America Reads. Another was as a para-professional working with disabled kids three-to-six year olds. The third is working for an education assessment firm. This last one I’ve been with for six years.

But it’s time for a change. As much as I like the job, the negatives have begun to out-weigh the positives. Negatives such as no guaranteed schedule, working under an increasingly unstable person, no benefits and, as we recently learned with an air of finality, no chance of advancement. The lack of benefits is probably the biggest issue since I’m now thirty. That’s too old to be without insurance, or so I’ve had a friend demonstrate by breaking two bones in four months…

Six years has been more than enough time to strip away self-confidence, so I’m floundering when it comes to trying to think of what I should do with my life next. I’m pretty much drawing a blank when it comes to things I might be good at that I haven’t done yet.

I’ll tell you what I’ve done, and you suggest things that might draw upon what I’m good at, deal? In real life people just tell me “You’re a good writer, you should write novels!” Which is nice, but I’d rather not starve to death for my art. Got any realistic suggestions?

Skills and Such:

  • I have an English-Teaching degree (without certification) which means that I’ve taken a boatload of literature, writing, education and even grammar classes. I’m still not ready to teach, however.
  • Currently I spend half my time training and overseeing small groups of people, and half of the time setting standards for items, evaluating those items and discussing them with representatives from state Department of Educations.
  • I’ve worked with small children before, and I’ve enjoyed it. It has not been particularly lucrative, however.
  • If you believe there’s anything telling about the Myers-Briggs personality sorter, I’m an INTJ. This description resonates pretty strongly.


  • Once I know what is expected, I’m fairly self-sufficient. But I’m not afraid of looking stupid, so I ask questions when things need clarification rather than just guess and hope I’m right.

  • I love computers and seem to have a better than average general knowledge about them, based on how often I’m cited by coworkers as the person to ask questions because I’m “good” with computers. Besides the basic office-type programs, I also am middling good with things like html for webpage editing and Paintshop Pro etc. (alas my knowledge of several game-related software programs is unlikely to come into play)

  • I learn quickly, especially programs and procedures. I was a good student and in many ways I still am. I learn new computer programs with ease and thus far have also been able to teach other people them too. I’m often the one asked to show important visitors how our primary company-exclusive program works.

  • I’ve been praised by my bosses for being detail-oriented. I enjoy thinking of ways to streamline or improve procedures and can clearly convey those ideas in writing. I’ve also always been good at foreseeing problems and bringing these hypothetical issues to my superiors attention so we can contingency plan.

  • I’m good at analyzing patterns of varying types, be it people’s behavior or an object’s. I’ve been asked to write up issues to be presented to tech support several times because I was the only one who figured out that many of the “random” issues people had with the system were in fact proceeded by specific events. Some of them were able to be resolved once tech was aware of what was happening.

  • I have decent people skills. Though I’m somewhat of an introvert, I don’t have a lot of difficulty meeting new people and putting the vast majority at ease. I usually know when to keep my mouth shut and can play nice with almost anyone - including people I don’t like. I make very few enemies because of this.

-While I don’t adore making presentations, I’m a good trainer. I’m fairly comfortable with training groups (up to 20 people at a time to date) and have had decent pass rates when trainees have been tested. I’ve trained in normal face-to-face group settings and with a conferencing program (iLinc) both.

  • I’m not afraid of confronting the people I supervise when there are problems. Some of my coworkers seethe over the poor performance by people they oversee, yet make little effort to correct the situation - then they give those people poor evaluations. Personally I feel you need to figure out what they’re doing wrong, explain what you take issue with, and help them improve. If you’ve done that and there’s no improvement, then it’s time to seethe.

  • I hope you can tell that my writing skills are good, despite the fact that I use a casual tone in my posts here.


  • I have never attained any real degree of comfort with making phone calls. They make me nervous and I have to force myself to make them.

  • When I supervise people I have difficulty sympathizing with the surprisingly common desire (almost exclusively from women) for constant feedback about job performance. The longer a person has been doing the job, the more difficult it is for me to hide irritation at daily requests to let them know if “[they’re] doing okay” despite assurances from me that we’ll discuss problems if their performance isn’t satisfactory. I realize that people new to a position feel anxious, but several months of this behavior strikes me as unacceptable. I find it far easier to deal with dependency in children.

  • I do better with deadlines and clear direction. I’m capable of being flexible if things change, but I really want a clear outline of what is expected, in what order if the tasks are not of equal priority, and when they’re needed by. Projects due “whenever” or “as soon as you can” are stressful.

  • I’m not good with down-time. I prefer to be busy OR allowed to amuse myself (read a book, write etc) to being expected to literally do nothing for extended amounts of time. Busy-work like reorganizing the office is better by far than tedium.

  • People mistake my natural inclination to be quiet for shyness. I’m not shy, I just don’t feel much of a need to talk for the sake of talking. I can, but usually don’t unless I like the people I’m working with a great deal.
    Things I Want:

  • I’m open to doing something completely different from what I’ve been doing up until now. It’s not a requirement, but I’m mentioning it because I’m having a really hard time thinking beyond what I’ve already done.

  • I’d rather work with more men than women, or at least a half and half situation. I’ve had my fill of needy female coworkers because I’m not the nurturing type and I resent it being a job duty.

  • I don’t want to work for any more non-profits if I can avoid it. Perhaps there are some non-profit positions that pay well, but I haven’t held one yet.

  • I don’t really care if I continue to manage other people or not.

  • I want a permanent, full time position with such unheard of perks such as health insurance, vacation, and paid sick leave.

So, what should I be when I grow up?

Sounds like law school to me (and I don’t say that lightly.) I know law school is the traditional fall back position, but it sounds like you might like it and be good at it. Or an editing, proofreading job of some kind (maybe journalism/columnist.)

Writers don’t usually write novels, they write anything. Magazine articles, ad copy, internet articles, What stopped you from becoming a teacher? It sounds like you enjoy working with children.

yeah, teaching sounds good. you can start off per diem (that’s a substitute teacher) and get your certification while doing that. That’s what my cousin did. She was bored with working at the unemployment office and this opening came across her desk. That was 26 years ago. Now she’s got “20 above Masters” (half way to a doctorate) and tenure. She loves it.

Oh HELL no. I’m STILL doing it and I’m 41. :smiley:

Seriously, I admit that the first thing that popped into my head when I read that was what denquixote said - law school.

But what do I know? I’m 41 and trying for a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts - I’m gonna be unemployed when I grow up. :smiley:

You could try computer programming, or tech writing/quality assurance. Corporate trainer for software or other systems.

Not necessarily. I took 15 to figure it out.

I was thinking that too. It may be moderately hard to break into with no experience in those specific fields but I and many others have done it.

I decided after an internship that teaching wasn’t going to be for me. Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t anything to do with the kids. The kids were pretty good, even though they were 12 and 13 year olds. It was their teachers I couldn’t handle.

One too many times listening to these grown adults - ones who are supposed to be a student teacher’s role models! - pettily rip into perfectly nice kids, and I had it. Why the hell do people who don’t even like kids teach? Teaching is too hard a job to have to deal with the other staff members demoralizing you, too.

I’m sure there are lots of other schools with less poisonous teachers, but how could you possibly tell before committing yourself to a school year? I’d really be crushed if I put the effort into becoming certified (here that pretty much requires starting grad school) only to end up with more people like that.

That’s where being a substitute comes in handy - unless you’re covering for someone on long term leave, you’re rarely there more than a day or two

Substitutes don’t get any benefits nor do they have a steady schedule.