Would Career Counseling Help?

I’m tempted to go to a career counselor, but they’re super expensive and I’m not sure they could help me. I just feel like, even though my current job is great, it’s a dead-end career. It’s one of those hyper-specialized positions where, if I’m good at it, there will (probably) always be a job available, but every (related yet not exactly the same titled) job ad I look at that sounds interesting (even if not for “right now”) the professional and academic prerequisites are nowhere near what I have.

So, I’m wondering how I’ll ever get from point A – where I am now – to any other letter / point in the future. There isn’t really room in my job to explore other options, I pretty much get scolded (or ignored) when I attempt to get involved in something not in my job description. Which is totally fair, it just leaves me confused about how one can move up the career ladder when there’s no where to move to.

Granted, my ideal job (for the time being) requires technical skills that I don’t have yet, that I’m taking classes to learn, but even with that I’m not close to where I’d have to be to get hired. Is it grad school that I need? It seems the whole idea of grad school is already to have the skills, and then to just refine them, to research something very specific, to get a piece of paper saying you did it. Not actually to learn the skills. You need the skills to even get into the program.

I just feel so stuck. Not in a totally negative way because I’m stuck in a good place. But I just think about the long term, and what I want to be doing, and how impossible that goal seems. I want to be an interaction designer, but even that statement alone means so many different things. Even UX designers say that their job is fading now that its becoming more accepted within computer science programs that user experience education is necessary and important. You can major in human computer interaction and learn all about research — but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to spend my entire life as a researcher. You can focus more on the computer science end and be one of those “UX Developers” – the most popular job for the field that I see posted – which basically requires you to be able to code and also create great user experiences. Then there’s the UI Designer, which is more of a graphic design position, one that would require design school. That alone is a huge part of the reason why I’m so confused… do I go to an HCI program? A computer science program? A design program? And realistically, could I get into any of these?

Then there’s a part of me that thinks I’d be better off going for an MBA. Ultimately I want to be an entrepreneur, maybe even a serial entrepreneur if it goes over well. But… I’m not a people person. I’m shy. I rub people the wrong way when I open my mouth. In that sense, I feel like my only option is to become a brilliant programmer. They seem to be able to get away with lacking social skills. But CEOs? Entrepreneurs? Marketers? They need to be extroverts. And I’m definitely not an extrovert. I’m a socially anxious introvert who can’t deal with being alone. I like working in small teams. But I like being in charge. I also acknowledge that in order to be in charge, I need to know what I’m talking about, which is why I think… well, grad school would help give me some cred. But how much can you really learn in one or two years of school? If anything, you get a degree that says you’re smart enough to get into a program and to get through it. It doesn’t say a whole lot about what you know.

Anyway, I just had a minor freak out in front of my roommates… I just started crying and I couldn’t stop. Typical quarter-life crisis break down. I’m very overwhelmed by all the potential options, and the fear that, well, fear of failure will keep me from any of them.

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4 thoughts on “Would Career Counseling Help?”

  1. I'm not sure if a career counselor could help much in a very technical field… I'd start with people in the field, maybe MetaFilter…My personal career counselor is my husband, who is a developer and software architect and ahs seen/touched way more stuff in our field that I have.

  2. Amen! I feel like I'm right there with you. I actually spoke with a Career Coach and I'm seriously considering doing it. I just wrote a post about it if you want to read. Basically a career coach does a lot of exercises with you to help you figure out what you really want to do next and help you get there. The first consultation was free (at least the one I talked to) and then after that you pay. So you can at least get an idea of whether or not it is the right step for you.

  3. @Anna good point. That's my concern about a career counselor. I've done the whole career counseling thing in college and took all the tests. I pretty much know what I WANT to do, I just need to know the steps I need to take to get there. And maybe be talked out of it if it's not what I really want to do.@me in millions: yea, a free consolt might not be a bad idea. Maybe I'll check that out.

  4. Have you done a cost benefit analysis of going to grad school yet? $150,000 is a lot of money. How long will it take you to recoup the investment, not just pay for it up front? I changed careers in my mid 40's, after analyzing how much more I could reasonably make after getting that advanced degree. My return on investment was less than 3 1/2 years. This was an important consideration and is saving my butt now that the economy is in a downturn. The return on investment considerations influenced where I went to school, the course load, getting my employer to pay for part of the education as part of retention plan, and learning new skills through industry certification programs, rather than only through grad school. Get creative, and don't just hide in grad school. You have just started the analysis. Find a mentor in the industry to help. A mentor may have much more concrete insights than a general career counselor. A combination of mentor and counselor may be the most helpful. And, btw, keep in mind that the Bank of Mom & Dad may have taken a huge hit in retirement funds and home equity. Good luck and good job planning for your future.

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