Ali Pica

YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, ALI: How do I find a job or career that makes me happy?

YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, ALI: How do I find a job or career that makes me happy?
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I am glad to read your incoming letters again, yet I am sorry simultaneously. You know I know what it’s like to have a crappy job and/or be jobless. Being an adult sucks sometimes, especially when you are experiencing career dissatisfaction and indecision.

“Daydreaming until the Weekend” writes:

Dear Ali,

I once heard that if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up by 25, you never will. 10 years after that milestone, I still don’t know! My lack of a career (a word I’ve come to loathe) and the whole job hunting process are two of the most stressful things in my life.

When I was a child of 10, I felt completely sure that I wanted to be an artist and writer. While I still create (not nearly enough), I’ve definitely lost my way, and have never found anything “practical” in the meantime that is tolerable to pursue as a career. In a nutshell, as a teen and young adult, I was quite irresponsible, but managed to get my BA in English by my mid-20s. I studied it because I loved the subject, but never had a specific game plan what I would do later on. I worked in libraries for a while after school, and it was great but low-paying, and I never pursued advanced education for an MLS as I once thought I would. After that, some unfulfilling office jobs that I feel are slowly sucking the life out of me.

Currently, I am in a temporary clerical job that is ending soon, and I have no idea what to do next. I am sure my agency will have more options available, and I have been applying to a few jobs, but all of this fills me with such dread; I feel like a deer trapped in headlights. I don’t want to keep drifting, and this economy (especially in NEPA) and each passing birthday make it much worse. I can’t seem to sort this out for myself, so any input whatsoever would be greatly appreciated!”

Daydreaming until the Weekend

Dear “Daydreaming until the Weekend,”

I completely understand where you are coming from and what you are going through. Maybe not exactly, but I understand what it is like to constantly be working in jobs that you are way overqualified for and have no desire to do and/or have no likelihood in pursuing as a future career. I couldn’t agree with you more that office jobs are most likely draining and unfulfilling.

I also agree with you that it’s frustrating that people say that you need to know what you want to be when you grow up by the time you are basically 12 or you’ll never figure it out. I am slightly exaggerating, but the idea still remains that society puts pressure on adults to “be something” instead of “do something.” Sometimes it’s OK just to do something. A lot of people just have a “job” and find fulfillment in other aspects of their lives. However, you don’t seem to be one of those people that could accept just “doing something” to survive.

Sadly, you may have to “do something,” like one unfulfilling office job after another until you make one of the following decisions:

1. Accept your fate in an unfulfilling position to pursue your interests.

I actually am not suggesting this as a permanent solution, but until you find what you want to do or find a way to do what you want without this job, you may have to “suck it up” for a while. I know numerous artists and writers that have “jobs” that aren’t particularly the most fulfilling, but it pays the bills and allows them to do what they want to do until they make their art profitable, if at all. Otherwise, if you plan on furthering your education, you may have to deal with crappy jobs as well.

2. Accept your fate, sort of…

I have been in your situation before, suffering with a low-paying, thankless, and stressful job for a few years until I motivated myself to finally finish my master’s degree and get a better job. However, I am glad I put my time in a job that was related to my career because, once I graduated, it was much easier to get a job with my degree because of the terrible, yet field-related experience. My point is, if you have to work a low-paying job you don’t like, it may as well be the most tolerable or related to the field you want to pursue – at least you’d feel much more productive with your time.

Also, why didn’t you pursue your master’s degree? I suggest doing this or obtaining more education in some manner to advance your career. Bachelor’s degrees sometimes are difficult to make marketable, so advancing your education and getting related experience is your best bet. I know it’s not as simple as it sounds, but it’s better than wasting your time, being miserable and unproductive.

3. Stop worrying what other people think.

I am also in my 30s and I am working towards my second career. I have been called a “professional student” so many times that it almost seems like something I should put on my résumé. My former classmate laughed at me the other day, saying I have been in school longer than I have been out. I laughed because this is true, but there’s a point to it. Even though I went to school for so long, I have pursued education and jobs that are somewhat tied into everything I have done for the past eight years.

Furthermore, even if you did want to pursue education that’s not related to your English degree, who cares?! It’s better to recognize the need to change than to ignore it, like some people do, and continuously become more and more miserable. I know too many people that hate their jobs or careers but are too scared for change. You are never too old, and if people don’t like it, too bad! “Growing up” is a bit overrated.

Hopefully, this advice will serve you well. Keep pursuing your interests and dreams without worrying what people will say. You are the one who has to live with yourself and your decisions every day. No one else has to. Good luck!

Sincerely yours,


Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Ali is an advice column that runs every Friday on NEPA Scene. E-mail your anonymous question to Ali here to be featured in a future column.