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to ask whether anybody else has wasted all their potential?

(173 Posts)
wastedpotential Wed 09-Apr-14 09:00:05

I'm 36 and career-wise, my life has gone nowhere. I don't see an immediate way of changing that, so it's not answers I'm after - but it would make me feel better if I knew I wasn't the only one because I don't know anybody in RL who has messed up like me.

I had a promising start. Passed the 11 plus, did very well at GCSE and A Level, went on to get a 2:1 in English from a Russell Group uni. And that's where it ended.

I've never had a graduate job or used my degree. A combination of immaturity, lack of direction but most of all a massive lack of self confidence meant that I never even attempted to apply for anything or pursue any kind of career. I fell into soul destroying call centre work which I did until I had my DD 3 years ago.

I'm now back at work part-time. It's not in a call centre - it's a far more pleasant job - but it is on minimum wage & I don't see a huge amount of progression in either salary nor responsibility. I do feel grateful to have the job, especially as it was the first one I applied for since having DD, but I can't help thinking that I'm worth more than minimum wage (I earnt significantly more previously but took time out to be a SAHM, and wouldn't have wanted to go back to a call centre anyway.)

Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, I look back on my life and think that in theory, I could have done anything. I am so full of regret. I'd love to retrain in something, but we can't afford fees & for me not to be working. Unless we come into some money or DH gets a significant payrise, I'm stuck. I've got a good 30 years of working left and it's a depressing prospect.

Thank you if you got to the end of this - can anybody relate to how I feel?

Imnotmadeofeyes Wed 09-Apr-14 09:06:33

I definitely can, don't know what the answer is though.

I still don't really know what I want to do when I grow up (I'm 33!) so can't really justify to myself going off to retrain financially so kind of go from low level job to low level job sucking up any training/qualification opportunities as I go.

I've never had a job I was sad to leave!

As the years go by I think I'm just accepting that my niche is going to remain elusive for the time being and look at other areas of my life for fulfilment. As long as I can pay for the basics then I'm content if not happy with my work life.

icepole Wed 09-Apr-14 09:08:31

Yes. I dropped out of my course after getting into a shitty relationship then just wondered around in a daze for years never really doing what I wanted. I am 37 with no career and I can't go back and do the thing I originally wanted to do. I feel very sad about it.

uselessidiot Wed 09-Apr-14 09:09:47

I'm 36, I can pretty much be considered a massive failure at everything. I'm retraining and have decided I'm not giving up trying until it becomes completely impossible due age and/or infirmity.

TheGrassIsSinging Wed 09-Apr-14 09:11:18

If you could - if money was no object and nobody was going to crush your confidence by saying 'you cant do THAT!'....what would you do?

CantUnderstandNewtonsTheory Wed 09-Apr-14 09:12:09

You're only 36! You haven't "ended up" here! If you feel unhappy with your life as it is at the moment do something about it. If confidence is holding you back look into ways of addressing that first and then you can plan what you want to do next.

Sorry for the nagging tone, it's meant in the nicest way! flowers

sarahquilt Wed 09-Apr-14 09:13:59

It's never too late!

sarahquilt Wed 09-Apr-14 09:14:46

It's never too late!

BigRedBall Wed 09-Apr-14 09:16:06

Me too. The only way out I see is by doing a pgce and becoming a teacher. At least the government will pay my fees and I like small children.

You need to chin up and fight for what you want.

OddBoots Wed 09-Apr-14 09:17:15

I'm the same age as you and only half way through my BSc so I'll be 39 by the time I even reach the point you are at now (and then I need a masters and maybe a pHD for the career I want), I keep being assured it's not too late so if it's not too late for me it's not too late for you.

rightsaid Wed 09-Apr-14 09:17:16

A career is only one marker of success. Try and celebrate your other achievements (a marriage and DD- arguably a more significant contribution to society than many so-called successful careers).

You can still 'be anything you want' you just don't have to define it by employment. I do know it's tough because our society is so focused on 'career' but try to think of your job as a way of enabling your potential (be it family, friendships, hobbies, interests or even self-study) and not as the only way defining you.

Your future holds 30 years of some time spent earning money and at the same time... raising a family, writing, cooking, learning, dancing in the kitchen... Or whatever makes you feel good.

Hugs. Don't feel regretful. Feel hopeful?

Minifingers Wed 09-Apr-14 09:17:48

If I was you I'd do secretarial training, which wouldn't go on too long and wouldn't cost a stupid amount. Then I'd try to get work in a prestigious/interesting organisation. People do move from admin/secretarial roles into management if they have talent and are committed. Your degree would be looked on very favourably if you were applying for work where writing reports etc was a big part of the job.

jumblebee Wed 09-Apr-14 09:20:05

Your situation sounds exactly like mine. I was very good at school, got good grades in GCSEs and A-levels, a 2.1 in English from a good uni, but because I was lazy and unmotivated, I stuck at my depressing retail job. I'm 24 so I know I have time to find a career, but having my 8mo DD I just feel like I'll never have the money to go back to uni and train for something new. I feel like I'll be stuck in my dead end job that I hate forever! It makes me sad thinking that if I remain on the same track, I'll probably never be able to afford to buy my own house, learn how to drive, save up some money for my DD and give her a better start in life hmm

stinkingbishop Wed 09-Apr-14 09:20:28

Been there! It sucks! And no matter how much you tell yourself 'I had kids, not all my peers had kids, that's all that matters, that explains why I'm stuck' I was still Eeyore-like. BUT this was how I got out of it. I'd always said, if I won the lottery, I'd do an OU Psychology course. Then I started thinking, well, do I need to win the lottery for that? Is it financially feasible?

I've found a local Uni that does a Masters conversion for five grand. You can do it part time, so work too. And I've applied for every grant under the sun, so fingers crossed. The MSc gets me professional accreditation.

After that, I do my clinical training, but that's a paid job as you're employed by the NHS. At much more than minimum wage.

That's obviously just me...but it shows you can take stock and change. What do you really REALLY want to do? Let the power of MN work out for you how you could do it!

And PS - a) I'm older than you and b) in Chinese, 'crisis' is the same word as 'opportunity'. Think of this as your Mid Life Opportunity. It could be BRILLIANT smile.

Minifingers Wed 09-Apr-14 09:20:32

Should add, I've got a degree and an MA but only work part time in a lovely job which is well paid, but one where there is no chance of progression. I'm quite relieved to be too old (47) to be worrying about a career now. I have some of my own projects bubbling away and I've not yet lost hope of making a fortune from them. :-)

juneau Wed 09-Apr-14 09:20:49

Yes, I'm very much the same. I'm 40 years old and I have no career. I haven't worked a day since I went on maternity leave with DS1 in Oct 2007.

I too had plenty of potential that I've squandered. I'm privately educated. I passed my 11 plus with ease. I have eight GCSEs and four A levels. I have a masters degree from one of the top unis in the country (albeit in a bit of a fluffy subject). I passed my financial services regulatory exams. I earned £45k the last year I worked. Since then, nothing. I am now unemployable. Why? Lots of reasons really, but the main ones are:

- I chopped and changed jobs and industries every 1-3 years throughout the years I worked, thereby not building up a good CV;
- We moved overseas for six years, which further messed with my CV and gave me an 18-month period of unemployment while I waited for permission to work;
- The country we lived in does not have statutory maternity leave, so my company only offered 12 weeks and I didn't want to be back at work, FT, when DS1 was only 12 weeks old;
- The financial crash happened while I was on maternity leave so by the time I wanted to go back to work, when DS1 was a year old, I couldn't find a job;
- By the time we moved back to the UK we were thinking of having DS2 and I didn't want to job hunt and try to get pg at the same time, as it was too stressful to contemplate starting a new job and having to tell them I was pg within a few months;
- And the real hum-dinger - I've never really enjoyed working. I get bored in jobs very, very easily and I find it impossible to hide my boredom.

So, you're not the only one OP.

lollerskates Wed 09-Apr-14 09:20:53

I can relate OP. I have a good degree from a RG university, I'm 37 and I'm pretty much on minimum wage. If I knew what I wanted to do for a living, I'd make it happen, but I don't, so I just keep drifting.

wastedpotential Wed 09-Apr-14 09:21:00

I know it's not too late in principle, but it's finances holding me back now. We scrape by hand to mouth as it is - there's nowhere to cut back on to enable me to retrain.

If I could do absolutely anything, I'd do a law degree and become a solicitor.

Nocomet Wed 09-Apr-14 09:22:45

Utterly, got my degree did some post grad stuff. Got PG and have been a SAHM for 16 years.

Beastofburden Wed 09-Apr-14 09:23:04

Chin up. You are 36. Remember being 6? well, that's how much more time you've got left before you retire. 30 more years. It's bloody ages.

You don't have to do everything by 36, it's really not necessary at all. There is nothing wrong with concentrating on your DC and your home for a bit longer. Do a bit of quiet career planning, think about what you would enjoy and what you could do well. Pick something where there is work locally to you. Or something that you could do independently. If you have no clue where to start, pay to see a good career counsellor.

I have friends in your situation who retrained once their DC were old enough- midwife, teacher, even an actress.

There will be training grants and all sorts available; once your DD is old enough not to need paid childcare (say, secondary school) this will all seem so much more manageable.

You can easily get twenty years of a rewarding career, even if you don't start for another decade, before you retire. That's plenty.

PumpkinPie2013 Wed 09-Apr-14 09:23:28

If you could choose what would you do?

You're only 36 - you have a lit of working years ahead of you and it's not too late to have a change!

My own dad didn't have the opportunity to go to uni at 18 (he was bright but family circumstances meant it simply wasn't possible).

He finally went at 40 and trained to be a nurse. He was/is very successful at it and although going back to education wasn't easy he is very glad he did it.

Have a think about what skills/qualities you have (are you good with people/customer care skills/cash handling etc). Then think about what you would like to do.

Have a look at your local FE college for part time/evening courses related to what you want to do and start there.

Good luck x

RunnerFive Wed 09-Apr-14 09:23:54

I'm nearly 40 with a first from a very good university and qualified in a lucrative profession which I've never practised because I jacked it in for a minimum wage job which I loved. Then I had babies and became a SAHM.

My youngest is about to stay school and although it is very scary having to start a career effectively from scratch when I have roughly the employability of a naive school-leaver along with all the complications of childcare, I'm actually pretty excited about it all. With any luck I've got 30 years of working life ahead of me, which is still plenty of time to do something interesting.

ksrwr Wed 09-Apr-14 09:25:27

you sound like me!
went to a very good school, one of the best in the country academically, did well in GCSEs, A-Levels, Degree, but then just did admin jobs from leaving uni until now, with a smattering of ski seasons inbetween - again only doing admin roles.
i too had a DD 3 years ago.
BUT after sometimes reflecting on how little i've achieved since leaving uni, i congratulate myself on having a happy life, with a happy healthy family, and a job that enables me to leave at 5pm every day with no real responsibility!
it sounds like you're actually a lot more motivated than me, in that you are clearly hankering to "achieve" more, which already puts you at an advantage, and makes me think you probably will go on to achieve more, to fulfil this need. so have a think, find something that inspires you and go for it...

littledrummergirl Wed 09-Apr-14 09:25:29

I gave up a very good career in sales when ds1 was born. I have tried working my way back up the ladder in my current workplace but it wasnt compatible with my homelife. I have now stepped back to part time moving back down as they couldnt have a part timer in the role.
We are all much happier but yes I also feel that I have more to give.
I am job hunting.

Enb76 Wed 09-Apr-14 09:27:42

This is where the OU is my lifeline.

I did the good grades, great education etc… and then fell into secretarial work and never really had the gumption to get out so here I am at 37, working in a crap part-time secretarial job which I've always hated. In London it paid well but here? Peanuts.

I am retraining - I'm going to be a teacher and a superb one. You are never too old.

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