by Kassandra Lamb
When the year is new, our minds may turn to evaluating our careers. And sometimes we decide we need a change. This can be a good thing, but only if we choose wisely.
I’ve had four careers in my lifetime—clerical worker in human resources (striving for but failing to break the glass ceiling), psychotherapist, college professor and fiction author.
Choosing a career is both complicated and life-changing, and yet I believe that we as a society give people far too little guidance in making this important decision.
When I taught psychology, I always included a unit on career choice. I emphasized that you really needed to walk not just a mile, but a whole year, in the moccasins of another. I suggested that students interview someone in the career they wished to pursue and ask them about a typical day, a typical week and a typical year in that field.
Here are 4 careers I opted not to pursue after checking them out.
Elementary School Teacher:
As a teen and young adult, I loved small children. I entered college with the intention of majoring in elementary education.
In my junior year, as I started taking more courses in my major, I realize that K–12 schoolteachers had very little autonomy. There are principals and vice principals and curriculum supervisors looking over your shoulder at every turn.
Being a cussedly independent person, this did not sit well.
I dropped out of college and got a clerical job to support myself while I tried again to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I discovered that I actually liked the administrative tasks involved in running an office, but eventually I got frustrated by that whole glass ceiling thing (this was in the 1970s).
Daycare Center Owner:
Still enamored with small children, I took several night courses in child development while investigating what was involved in running a daycare center.
What I discovered was that the owners of such facilities were buried in paperwork and administrative duties and spent little time interacting with the children. And the teachers in such centers—while they did get to spend all day with the kids—tended to not make a living wage.
This was a no. I was already struggling on a secretary’s salary (this was before they were called administrative assistants).
Fortunately having a child of my own seemed to shift my desire to spend all day with other people’s toddlers.
My maternal instincts satisfied, I moved on.
Several years into my career as a psychotherapist, I became fascinated by the legal field. I’d encountered a few cases where my clients were dealing with legal issues—divorces, lawsuits, etc.
The law appealed to my analytical brain. And I certainly had the people skills, grasp of language, and chutzpah to do trial work.
But I also had a couple of clients who were lawyers. Their descriptions of law school and the long, tedious hours they had spent in law libraries doing research as junior associates soon disabused me of any desire to change to a law career.
I do not deal well with tedium!
This one actually made it to the business-cards-are-printed level—“Antiques by Kassandra” they proclaimed—and my basement was piled high with old furniture and glassware.
Ironically, the law was a big part of what burned me out as a therapist. Over the course of three years, I had four clients who ended up in legal battles, each one nastier than the one before. I went to court with them and held their hands, and in two cases, ended up testifying. It was the final straw. I didn’t want to hear about nor watch people going through misery anymore.
I appreciated antiques, so I decided to become an antiques dealer. Fortunately, I tested the waters before closing my therapy practice.
I had no desire to open a shop, but I could buy and sell—I’d always loved flea markets and yard sales and such. I soon discovered that being the middleman in the antiques business was not a great role. The owners of retail shops wanted to tear down the quality of what I had to offer, in order to get it at a cheaper price and then resell it for more.
I loved old things. I did not want to hear, day in and day out, how these things were practically worthless because they had a scratch or a ding in them, especially since I knew the person denigrating my stock was only doing so to get a better deal. And to me, the scratches and dings enhanced their value!
Fortunately, around that time, I landed my first teaching gig at the college level. I soon discovered that I loved being a professor, and I was off and running in that new career.
And then of course, after retirement, I had the time and financial security to finally pursue my life-long dream of writing fiction.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one of my careers, and I’m grateful that I managed not to go too far astray down these other paths.
What career changes have you considered? Did those pursuits turn out good or bad?
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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.
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K.B. OwenJanuary 10, 2017 at 1:24 pm
Very cool! I had no idea you were into antiques. I can see how that wouldn’t be fun, though. I hate haggling. I started out in college as a pre-med major, but decided I didn’t want to make the sacrifices necessary to become a doctor, and I just couldn’t get past the blood and goo.
I was a secretary for a while, but never seriously thought of it as a career. I was just an in-between job while I figured things out. Secretaries have to deal with so much crap, then there’s the whole blame game.
I loved being a college professor and teaching lit part time while my kids were little, but the full-time tenure track opportunities were getting thin and I had no interest in relocating to a remote location, especially when my husband made better money where we were. There’s a lot of esoteric scholarship out there from people who just wanted to be published to build up their vitae to get hired. I was only interested in a small range of subjects in my field.
But I’d always wanted to write a mystery novel. I wasn’t thinking of it as a career at first, until I discovered that I LOVE doing this full time. And I have many more books inside me, if you know what I mean.
I’m glad you found the path that makes you happy, too! Cute pic of you and your “baby.” *wink*
Kassandra LambJanuary 10, 2017 at 3:02 pm
Wow! Never knew you originally wanted to be a doctor. That would’ve been cool but I get it about the sacrifice, blood and goo. Those would’ve been turnoffs for me too (especially the goo).
I also loved being a part-time college professor, but never wanted to deal with all the pressure to publish or perish and such of being full-time. My mom was a college administrator and my brother was also in academia. I’d heard too many horror stories about the politics. Ick!
So glad you’ve got lots more stories in you ’cause I want to read them!!
Vinnie HansenJanuary 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm
This was fun to read, Kassandra. I can totally imagine you as an attorney, but even after the struggle of law school, I think the job would be a burn out. Were you considering criminal law?
When I was a senior in high school, I worked full-time in a hospital kitchen and it was the first time I saw a career that I thought might appeal to me: dietitian. My life didn’t take me in that direction, but if it had, I think I might have enjoyed the job.
Kassandra LambJanuary 10, 2017 at 7:35 pm
Hmm, I can see you as a dietician. And yes, I agree. I think I would have burned out even faster as a lawyer than I did as a therapist.