2011/10/18

The horns of a dilemma

I've written before that I'm working on a certificate in technical writing. I'm just finishing up a six-week (half) course called Writing for the Web. It's been a lot of work in a short time but overall fairly interesting. I mean, how can I balk at a course for which one of the requirements is to write a blog? The next half course is called Single-Sourcing for Technical Writers. I have a vague idea what that is. I've heard that it's five weeks of very dense PowerPoint slides with an exam at the end.

Even though I'm working toward something, I'm feeling a bit stuck and a bit in-between. I'm still working full time. It's a good job, and it pays me very well. There's a lot to be said for that. I'm not a big spender, but I do like the things that money can buy—travel, nice clothes and shoes, dinner out, smaller but repeating expenses like hair colour. I appreciate that I'm still fortunate enough to have this job. I would rather wait for the inevitable layoff (when my servers are retired) than to quit sooner.

There's a major downside to hanging on though. The longer I stay at this job, the older I will be when I need to look for a new one. Age discrimination is a reality. I don't look my age, but neither do I look like a fresh-out-of-university 22-year-old. And I might well be starting from the bottom.

Where's the passion?
The fresh start might not be tech writing. Even though I've done that before, and it involves writing (of a sort), and it can pay reasonably well, I'm really not sure that it's right for me. As much as I'm addicted to a good paycheque, should I really take yet another job that I like well enough but don't love? Will I ever get to do something I love? Should I not do that before I retire?

It's good to have a driving passion. My older sister is a neonatal nurse. She came to it later in life, but she should probably always have been a nurse. Caring for newborns is her passion. My younger sister is a college professor in her chosen field. That's what she wanted to do ever since she was young. My brother is a DJ. That job has not always been kind to him, and it gets rougher the older you are, but still, it was a passion that he pursued and was able to fulfill. My niece is a puppeteer and a builder of puppets. Perhaps even more than for her mother, aunt, and uncle, this is a consuming passion for her. And my beloved is an elementary school teacher. She was not young when she finally realized that was what she really wanted to do, but she didn't let that stop her, and now she is doing what she loves.

Unfortunately, I am polyamorous when it comes to career pursuits. My English degree took me into magazine editing. Sometimes I wish I had shifted out of technology publishing into something else in writing and editing, rather than shifting deeper into technology as I did. Writing is something I do because I love to. But that's water under the bridge, and as I noted, I was and continue to be amply rewarded for my choice.

I had a passion for music, but not quite enough. I had a passion for acting, but not nearly enough. At this point in life, there are a few things that get me excited, especially fashion and food (both of which I write about rather often). But does either of those make a realistic career option at my age? I could get training in fashion marketing (I have no design talent), but where would that leave me in an industry that skews toward younger people? I could get culinary training, but again, at my age, would it make sense for me to be an apprentice chef? Would there be room for me? No one should ever let age get in their way, but let's face it—you're a lot more likely to get an entry-level position when you're young than when you're older.

I have even considered getting training to be an administrative assistant. One of the things I like best about my job is being my boss's unofficial assistant, someone he discusses strategies with, someone he bounces ideas off. But as with fashion and cooking, would anyone hire a older admin with training but no experience?

Just like starting over
I'm not alone in being somewhat older and needing to start over. During this recession, such a scenario has been all too common, especially former executives who now find themselves too old to get a fresh start. But being in the same boat with other people doesn't make me feel any better.

When you're facing an uphill battle to get someone to hire you, maybe what older people like me are supposed to do is make their own way. We're supposed to start our own businesses or consulting firms. We're supposed to be our own bosses. We should be hiring other people, not waiting to be hired ourselves. Chef training, then open a food truck in Hanalei? That sounds like a pipe dream, but maybe it would just take some hard work, careful planning, and a bit of luck. OK, a lot of luck. But still, crazier things have happened.

Is it fear that holds me back? Fear of what happens when the big paycheque is gone? Fear of not being able to make something else work out? Fear of not being passionate enough about anything to make it work? I'm very intelligent. I have a lot of diverse experience. I should be able to do what I want to do. But fear is a killer.

This situation is embarrassing really. When you're young, people ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Shouldn't I have grown up by now? I'm sufficiently adult in a lot of ways, but you'd think I would have figured out this career thing long before now. I hope there's still time. It's too soon to retire without a big lottery win.

2 comments:

Anji said...

When I used up all of my unemployment benefit the only way out for me was to become self employed. I was fortunate that we had a hobby that we could turn into a business. I also had the back up of a business creation course which helped me to devise a proper plan and realise all of the pitfalls.

I'm making a minimun salary and keeping in the social security system. It's good to be independant and I'm fortunate to be doing something I enjoy.

I wouldn't have taken the risk had I not been made redundant from my teaching jobs.

Véronique said...

I might need to find a way to create my own business as well. It would be the business part I'd need to learn most about. Glad your business is doing well!