Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Career Introspection

As part of own of my assignments, I have to discuss my career goals. It has been a while since I have thought about this substantially. At my part time job at the University, I am frequently asked what I study and what my career plans are - it is a bit frustrating to constantly give open-ended answers. On the one hand, I'm interested in investigating new career possibilities as they present themselves. On the other hand, I wonder if this lack of a specific goal indicates that I lack focus. At the moment, I tend to think that remaining open to new career prospects is a good thing.

In trying to answer this question, do you know what occurred to me first? The fact that I've just barely tolerated most of the jobs I've ever heard. Whether it was shelving books in a public library back in high school, working my current tech support job at the University, and sadly, this is also true of the archival positions I've worked in. I've often felt either painfully bored by my duties or that the specific tasks I was doing were a poor match for my interests and skills. I've managed to keep going by focusing on duty and the vague prospect that this is a temporary "paying one's dues" sort of situation.1 This assignment has made me realize that this kind of attitude may not be wise.

Like many people, I could talk at great length about what I dislike about work but ultimately that is not helpful in trying to decide a path. What can I say on the positive side of the career interest ledger? I can think of activities that I enjoy and have ability at, certainly. Conducting research (mostly humanities in the past, but I have a growing interest in social science these days) has always been a great delight. I enjoy teaching and working with others on stimulating projects. I need autonomy in my work to follow my own interests - I'm not a bloody cog. Thus far, the only career that matches these interests so far is "university professor," but sadly, the employment prospects in that field are quite poor.

I'd like to have a career (and indeed, lifestyle) of the sort that Richard Florida has described in his books (esp. The Rise of the Creative Class), but I don't know how to go from my dissatisfied present to a happier future... I'm very much enjoying the classes I'm taking this semester (an interesting blend of management, history, policy development and educational theory/technology); perhaps I should pose the following question to my professors: "I love studying this - how can I translate this into a well paying career?"

1. Incidentally, this notion of "due paying" doesn't make a lot of sense in the professional context. This phrase makes some sense if one is aspiring to join a skilled trade as a unionized member. But does it make sense here? If it does make sense in this field, where is the dividing line between "do this uninspiring task to get experience" and "this is a waste of your talents, but do it anyway for a few years; that's the tradition here and we're not going to rethink it."

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