Career Changes

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Hates his job but afraid to start over

Feb 2005

My partner is on the verge of quitting his job. While I support the concept, as he is miserable with is current situation, he needs some directions as to how to move forward with seeking employment. He is in management for a large corporation, which has gone through several mergers and he has survived several layoffs. But he hates his new accountabilities and dislikes the culture of the new company. So what next? He seems immobilized by his current situation, is afraid to quit without another job and doesn't know what he wants to do ''when he grows up''...He has always been interested in social services, but landed in the corporate area by default over the years. He's been down the career counselor path, therapy is not the answer right now either. Does he go to a head hunter? How have others approached this search - especially when one is unclear about what he wants to do?!?!?! This is complicated by the fact that he has had the luxury of working at home for years now which has been a huge advantage to our family. We can tolerate him earning less - but giving up the flexibility is another story... Thanks for any wisdom you may have to offer! Anonymous

We have been through much of what you mention in your post. My husband has had a few job changes in the last few years and has been trying to decide his career direction as well. It is important for him to separate his desire for a new career from his current income generation / job change. He should look at them as two separate projects.

For the job change he needs 1) an exhaustive list of his skills and accomplishments. Resume writing has changed a lot in recent years and is much more focused on results obtained, rather than job history. Once he has the list of his skills and accomplishments, hiring the services of a good resume writer can help make the big step to putting himself on the market for a new position. 2) In addition to his resume, he should keep his own list of the things he has liked and disliked about his past positions. He can use this to screen new positions. 3) In preparation for his interviews, he should write a list of not only the standard interview questions but also the questions he anticipates having difficulty answering (like, ''where would you like your career to go?''). Next he should write one or two answers for each question and review it with someone who will give him honest feedback. 4) He should practice responding to the interview questions, as if he is in an interview. You could read the questions to him and have him answer them and then give him your impressions of how he came across. My husband even videotaped himself answering the questions and reviewed the tape himself. Interviewing is an art in itself and oddly has little to do with how good he might be at the job he is interviewing for. 5) There are many resources for job hunters (like Craigslist, monster, etc.), but the most important resource is always your husband's contacts. He needs to let his friends and previous co-workers know that he is looking for a new position, what kind of position he wants, and give them a copy of his resume with a request that they pass it along to anyone they think might be interested in his services.

Now, about career change? We have had a lot of experience with career counselors, personality assessments, etc. The best advice we have is this? put yourself in a situation that will put you in contact with people from the career field you are interested in. Attend a trade show for the profession; take a class (like a continuing education class or a UC extension class) for members of the field; do some volunteer work in the field; arrange an informational interview with people currently working in the field. You will save a lot of time and be surprised at how quickly you can find out if this direction is right for you. Good luck, kjm

I would like to give you information about the Life Work Center, a non-profit in San Francisco, that helps people find ''more than a job''. They have a program that meets weekly in groups, an intensive weekend format is going to be offered soon, and it is a carefully thought out structured program. They have an open house coming up on -- Wednesday, February 23, 2005, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m and -- Saturday, February 26, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Contact information is: Tom Finnegan, Executive Director Life's Work Center, Inc. 109 Bartlett St. San Francisco, CA 94110 415/821-0930 e-mail: tom AT Web: Yvonne
A good career counselor can help your partner figure out how to combine skills and interests with financial and other needs. I would recommend Dena Sneider at the Bay Area Career Center in San Francisco:; dsneider [at]; (415) 398-4881 ext. 353 She sees people in SF and in the East Bay. She was very helpful in helping myself and many of my friends figure out how to use our interests to find a rewarding career. anon
Although trying a new career is seductive, changing from management in a large corporation to social services is a major step. My husband never has been happy with his carreer choice (human resources), but it has presented a reasonable living for us and he's good at it. We've recently weathered him having an absolutely unbearable job. Simply getting a new one has changed everything.

Of course, finding a new one is a challenge. Some advice: Don't quit first. Look for work on your lously employer's time/dollar (within reason). Also, while headhunters and web sites can help, everyone I know has gotten their next job from networking. There are simply too many people looking to get noticed. Tell everyone you and he know that he is looking - there's no shame in it.

Finally, if he's miserable, he needs to get himself emotionally ready for a job search. He needs to remember what he's good at and what he liked doing (back when he liked it) and he needs your support.

Good luck to you both. Been There

Frustrated highly gifted husband can't find challenging work

July 2003

I may have some bias, but my husband seems to be so smart to me. He is so good at problem-solving, and very scientifically- oriented. Although he dropped out of high school, he managed to enter the best college in our country. If he is interested in anything, he'll learn it right away. Anybody closely working with him thinks he's a genius. The problems are he is easily bored; never keeps good grades; so afraid of failure --he is a perfectionist--most of all, he does not really know what he wants to do. He was a science teacher in our country and was employed in a computer company in Bay area before the company can't afford to keep him any more. Overall, he is a creative, kind, warm, and cheerful person, but quite unhappy because he can't find a chellenging work. He came to this country to be with me while I am studying for my Ph.D.

Now he is considering a totally new career: he wants to apply for MBA program. I have some questions. Can he get admission although he has very low GPA?--I think he could, but he is so afraid of failure that any success story would give him positive feedback. How can I support him? I want him to be happy whatever career he choose. Especially, I would appreciate anybody who can give a good career suggestion. Thank you in advance.

Your husband may want to consider law school over an MBA program. One of the joys of law (particularly for a sole practioner like I am) is that each client has a unique set of problems. I may be overworked at times but I am never bored! I think MBA programs tend to be more focused on grades and job experience then law schools. When I was applying to law school, general life experience and a high LSAT score counted as much or more then grades counted. Certainly this sounds like your husband's case. He can contact admissions at Boalt, Hastings, USF or Golden Gate and sit through a class to see what he thinks about law school. (Note during summer I think only Golden Gate and USF have classes). I worked for a large accounting firm before I went on my own and worked with many MBAs. If he is easily bored he should really spend some time considering if business school is the right choice for him. If he wants to talk about this I would be happy to talk with him. John
Has your husband ever seen a good career counselor? It might help for him to identify specific reasons why he gets ''bored''. (i.e. Is it the nature of the work? Does the work need to be more ''meaningful'' to him? Is he a people-person stuck in a solitary job situation or vice versa?) If he can get clear on what ''inspires'' him and what keeps him engaged as well as what turns him off and gets him bored, he may be better able to find a good match in his next job. An MBA is no guarantee that he will be more engaged in future work. (A tip Find a really good career counselor, one that will understand your husband and work with him. It may take some time.) Been There

Unhappy with my UC Berkeley job

March 2003

Hello, I started working at UC this past summer and I am miserable. The person who hired me didn't provide an accurate description of the job, made promises regarding training/advancement that have never materialized (despite my attempts to persue). In addition I work with some very unmotivated people and I am going crazy! Currently I am working providing desktop support and would like to get back into networking I worked in Seattle doing network managment/network security. I feel like my networking skills are starting to wither away since I am not really using them right now and have not is some time (I quit my job in Seattle 3 years ago to move here with my husband and took some time off after the birth of my son). Does anyone have any ideas how I can move into another area in the University? Is it difficult to do? I very much want to get back into networking and would like to find a more positive work enviroment. I have signed up for career counseling and am taking a couple of classes through the CDOP program, but thought I would ask if there are other avenues I might not be aware of. Thank you in advance! anon please

Having also worked in a job where the reality didn't match my expectations, I have an idea of what you're feeling. I suggest you look up the hill above campus to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. I've worked as the communications manager for the Lab's Computng Sciences organization for 6 years and it's the best place I've worked. We are UC employees, but my perception is that the pay is better at the Lab. Our organization provides computer support and networking for the 4,000 employees at the Lab, runs an international high-speed network (OC-192) and operates one of the world's top supercomputing centers, so there's probably something to both interest and challenge you. You can learn more at our Web site ( or contact me. Jon