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What if you don't have a career to go back to?

(34 Posts)
BabCNesbitt Mon 11-Apr-11 15:39:42

Will try to keep this short: Got a good law degree from a good uni, worked as barrister for a couple of years, utterly hated it, left the Bar nearly 10 years ago ( shock ), had no idea what else to do, dithered about in various other admin-type jobs for a few years, then took a job as a legal secretary a few years ago to pay for a part-time language degree.

I'll be finishing that degree this summer and am pg (due October). I'm planning on being a SAHM for a while, as we'll be moving abroad for DH's job for at least a year, but: what then? What can I do after that? I'd always hoped that I'd find the right career eventually (and I've read all those 'What Color Is Your Parachute'-type books), but it never happened, and I've still got no real urge towards any particular field or career.

I feel now like I've got no real skills (my language skills aren't that great, as part-time means no year abroad), and all I've done work-wise for the last few years is sit on my arse typing and filing. Should I just accept that if I do go back to work (and manage to get a job), I'll probably just be a secretary for the rest of my life?

iskra Mon 11-Apr-11 15:43:09

Oh I'm in this position! Watching with interest. Last job I did was as a medical secretary, & that was 3 years ago - have 2 good degrees though.

leicestershiregirl Mon 11-Apr-11 17:00:52

The question is: are you happy to be a secretary? If you really are, if it's just the case that you feel you should be doing more because you have a good degree etc. rather than actually wanting to, then be a secretary - it's ok. If you're not then for the sake of your sanity you've got to do something else. Whatever careers you've already considered can't have excited you that much otherwise you'd have pursued them - you've done two degrees so you're not lacking in motivation. I would look at new possibilities, but not until after you've had your DC because you may find that changes your whole outlook on life (it's such a cliche but it's true). And not until your DC is at least a few months old - you've got to make the most of those early months, you'll never have that time again and you've got the rest of your life to worry about career/job stuff. (Like yourself, I have a degree but have never really had a graduate job and when I was at home with my DC when he was little I struggled with a feeling of not having fulfilled my potential and an impatience to get back out there and rectify this that interfered a bit with my enjoyment of my time with him (but I did have postnatal depression which didn't help); I really hope I have another baby and that I'm able to relax and spend more time just being in the moment with them).

BabCNesbitt Mon 11-Apr-11 17:19:48

I HATE being a secretary. HATE it! It bores the hell out of me. I really don't want to offend anyone who does this work and gets satisfaction out of it, but this was entirely a pragmatic choice for me - decent salary and being able to leave at 5.30pm for my course. If I thought I'd still be doing this when I was 40 or 50, I'd be gutted!

Leicestershiregirl, have you gone back to work now? Or do you have any ideas what you want to do?

This is interesting to me.

I have a languages degree and worked in marketing til we went overseas, I worked a bit overseas then got disillusioned with it had babies and decided to do a masters, did it whilst pg or with tiny ones, stayed at home til the oldest was 8.

Now I want back in, but even though I have my masters (in a totally different area to the original degree) I have no relevant experience. So I took an admin job. It has been great. I have eased myself back into a working environment, got up to date with technology and office politics and have enjoyed an increase in self esteem. The timings and stress free environment have suited me, enabling me to concentrate on the dc when I am home. Importantly for my career, there are doors opening now and opportunities presenting themselves, in all sorts of different areas.

So my point is, you needn't be a secretary for the rest of your life, have your children first and don't worry too much about what will happen in the future. When you are ready to go back to work you may have a better idea of who/what you would like to do. There is no harm in going back to being a secretary but do it in an environment that interests you where you feel you could move on upwards should the opportunities present themselves. You may find yourself in a career quicker than you think.

I'm sure your language skills are much better than you think. smile

ChupaChups Mon 11-Apr-11 19:27:33

Ha ha! I'm a PA too (with a degree) and I hate it too! I am currently working on my exit plan.

Give up the job, have your DCs, be a SAHM for a few years then see what comes up on the job front. DO NOT GO BACK TO BEING A SECRETARY otherwise you will be one for the rest of your life. Some people manage to use it as a stepping stone to other things but many more (like me) get pigeonholed in a job then find it almost impossible to break free.

JoyceEasterBunnyaby Mon 11-Apr-11 19:40:52

I just wanted to join in and say 'me too!'. What you have all said about that feeling of not fulfilling your potential and not knowing what to do next is ringing a lot of bells for me. I'm a SAHM to a nearly 3yo with another one due in 3 months. I was a teacher but it really wasn't the career for me (despite my mother's insistence that it is/was - but that's a whole other thread!!). I have a degree and an MA in education, as well as various professional qualifications that I picked up along the way. To help our finances, I've been doing some freelance proofreading, but it's very mundane.

I do like being a SAHM (well, most of the time!) but like others have said, my feelings about 'potential' and 'expectations' do sometimes interfere with being able to enjoy time with my son. I just keep thinking how anyone who knew me ten years ago would think I've wasted so much. But I don't know what to do.

Sorry for not having any practical advice - but thank you for making me feel a bit less alone about it all!

leicestershiregirl Mon 11-Apr-11 19:49:18

I have gone back to work now, part-time 16 hours a week, as a healthcare assistant. It was out of financial necessity though I also hoped I would meet new people and feel less isolated than I did as a SAHM, but it's not quite worked out like that - the work itself, on an adult medical ward, is good but I have nothing in common with the people I work with and it's a somewhat serious environment, not much banter or chat. It keeps me busy and gainfully occupied anyway. Don't know what my next step should be - have posted about it here: www.mumsnet.com/Talk/going_back_to_work/1189936-Please-advise-primary-teaching-paediatric-nursing-childcare-or-social-work

If you hate being a secretary you should definitely stop, there must be other jobs you'd enjoy more even if they were just to 'tide you over' whilst you work out what you want to do.

leicestershiregirl Mon 11-Apr-11 20:10:11

JoyceEasterBunnyaby, I'm feeling you! The worst thing is going on Facebook and seeing how all the people you were at school/university with have gone on to do loads of amazing stuff.

That said, you have achieved a lot. I thought for me doing a Masters degree might put to bed this feeling of not having reached my potential and am a little surprised you still have it.

violethill Mon 11-Apr-11 20:14:56

If you hate being a secretary, then I definitely don't think you should feel you 'have' to do it.

As you don't know what it is you do want to do, maybe it would help to reflect on what it was specifically that you've hated about the jobs you've done? Why did you hate being a barrister? What do you loathe about secretarial work? If you can clarify in your mind exactly what it is you hate, then at least you can work from that perspective. Also, bear in mind its not always about looking at the PERFECT job, because that probably rarely exists - it's about finding something that's fulfilling and enjoyable enough.

thebestisyettocome Mon 11-Apr-11 20:20:19

I was in a very similar position to you OP. I became a SAHM and found that it gave me time to do some serious thinking. I worked out what it was that I really wanted to do, retrained and I'm now in a position where I have the career I want.
Give yourself time to work things out smile

twolittlemonkeys Mon 11-Apr-11 20:25:33

This is interesting to me too, I have a degree in German and French, briefly worked in secondary teaching but it was making me ill and I stopped and got a ridiculously easy HR admin job which a trained monkey could've done. Within a year I left that to go on maternity leave and 5 years later have only done the odd bit of music teaching at home and evening care-work for a blind lady. I still have no idea what I want to do once my youngest (who is now 3) starts school. confused

JoyceEasterBunnyaby Mon 11-Apr-11 20:31:08

You're so right about Facebook, leicestershiregirl! I know it's silly, but it really does bother me!!

I did my MA part-time while I was working and the fact that it's in education means it's tied up with a career I'm not that keen on returning to, for many reasons. Don't get me wrong, I am proud of my MA - but it's part of my 'old' life, IYSWIM. In some ways, it seems like another qualification I'll waste if I change careers. Although, what else could I do? That's where I feel stuck.

Sorry to moan so much about myself, OP. I think my pregnancy hormones are getting me down a bit at the moment and making everything seem worse. Have you considered retraining for something completely new? I'd love to, but the practical considerations seem too great. I also have no idea what I could do.

JoyceEasterBunnyaby Mon 11-Apr-11 20:44:47

Thebestisyettocome - how did you work out what it was you wanted to do? And what was it?!

thebestisyettocome Mon 11-Apr-11 21:03:39

I asked myself what it was that I wanted to do and realised I was being drawn back to something I had loved from an early age but was sidetracked from doing. Being a SAHM gave me the time to unravel my feelings and the courage to think that I could do it. I feel lucky that I had the space to work it out rather than stay on the treadmill trapped by something I liked but didn't love smile

BabCNesbitt Tue 12-Apr-11 10:43:06

Thanks for all the replies! And although I'm sorry that other people are feeling like this, it's also perversely reassuring that I'm not the only one who feels like they've wandered off the 'right' path, whatever that might be (or whoever made us think that there is such a thing!) I am grateful, though, that I'll now have some time to get a bit of perspective and not feel like I ought to be getting straight back to the career hunt again. I had considered applying for a PhD, actually, and my tutors were very encouraging, but then I suspected that it might just be a way of putting off having to get a real job, rather than something that I was passionate enough about to spend another 4+ years working on - and I'm not sure how compatible a new baby is with full-time study... hmm

ChupaChups, how's your exit plan coming along? I did always intend for this job just to be a means to an end, and that I'd leave once my degree was finished, but honestly, if I hadn't got pg I have a horrible feeling I'd probably just wind up staying on here and grinding my teeth...

violethill, I became a barrister mainly because I thought I ought to try and get a 'proper' job to keep my parents happy, but I hated the old-school bollock-swinging about it, and the isolation of traipsing out to different courts every day. And my current job is just repetitive and mundane (and, just to be difficult, I also hate being in an office all day every day!)

Simic Tue 12-Apr-11 11:28:09

I also went into a "proper job" just because I thought that was what I SHOULD do. I've hated it for years and am now finally getting out. I want to retrain but can't manage full-time study with small children. I will probably wait until both DCs are at school - so it's going to be years until I'm actually qualified. Still, maybe that's not such a problem. Financially it won't be as DH had dreamed (my present job is well paid). But, personally I think a few years as SAHM followed by retraining and my start into my next "career" is the best way for me.
I agree with what people have said that having children changes everything. I would put off thinking about your "new direction", BabCNesbitt, until your DC is a bit older. You will probably have met different people by then (also if you're going abroad), have a whole different network of contacts, but more importantly I think it really changes your priorities and you have to use different skills etc.. It does give you some different insights into yourself! :O

Sariska Tue 12-Apr-11 11:43:36

Gosh, you sound a little like me. Am also a now non-practising barrister who has spent 10 years dithering around in what I used to refer to as my fur-lined rut. I do still work in law (but for a law firm, although I have not cross-qualified) but, like you, I will be gutted if I am still doing so at 40 or 50.

I do now have an exit plan and children were actually a very useful kick up the backside for me, and certainly helped my reassess my priorities. I hope you can work something out too but don't panic if you can't see the answer right now. What about doing some voluntary work or evening classes, although I appreciate they might be tricky to fit in around a new baby, just to see if anything sparks your enthusiasm or gives you a new idea?

GrendelsMum Tue 12-Apr-11 11:50:23

Couldn't you be a 'better' sort of secretary? Could you find an admin position at a company that has some moderate dealings with international businesses, and who would welcome someone who can deal with an email or a brief phonecall in French, say, but doesn't need you to be able to translate technical documents into a foreign language?

My DH's company would welcome someone like you with open arms.

thebestisyettocome Tue 12-Apr-11 12:23:43

Bab.
I think I should also say (and I could be completely worng here) that you sound a bit bruised by your experiences as a barrister. Giving yourself a bit of time out may help you get over things.

FlamingJamie Fri 15-Apr-11 20:48:12

I was in EXACTLY the same boat as you.

And I agree with thebest. I was extremely bruised by the "failure" of my chosen professional career. Hadn't realise how much much my self-image I'd invested in it. So much so that I remained a SAHM for 10 years

My saviour was volunteering - which I took up after the DCs were both at school. It's a risk0free way of trying out differnt things. In my case it confirmed for me that I didn't want to go back to what I'd been doing, and that office work was not for me. I realise now I wasted a lot of time thinking about what I ought to do given my educational level. For a time those feelings spoiled the time I was very lucky to have as a SAHM. At the other end of that SAHM period, and with loads of volunteering under my belt, I know have a plan and a direction and hopefully very soon a new job. And having children really has changed me as well, as Sariska says.

Give yourself time and enjoy your maternity leave

stealthcat Fri 15-Apr-11 21:03:41

Like Grendelsmum I was also wondering if a different type of secretarial work might be more interesting, have you tried medical secretary work - that can be very interesting, and require a range of skills, including communicating with patients.

FlamingJamie Fri 15-Apr-11 21:07:52

What about temping for a Charity? I know the sector's probably on the ropes ATM, but the admin skills could be your 2in" to a more interesting job. But I'm guessing that you might want to try something non-officey

do-it.org is a good volunteering site (I mentioned volunteering earlier)

GoInky Thu 21-Apr-11 22:33:55

Couldn't agree more with most of you. Facing a life of doing work you don't enjoy at all is no fun. I know. Some things that helped me figure out what I wanted to do was randomly cutting out jobs from newspapers that seemed attractive (this is before the internet...) then after 6 weeks looking back through the pile and trying to find the common thread. This was: teaching adults, consultancy work and research. Jobs I have worked in have always combined these areas somehow and even my secretary-type job after having a baby was as a secretary in a thinktank.

However if you are frustrated now, don't wait till the baby is due, as you might get distracted have fun with the baby, then 3 or 6 years down the line still be in the same position and frustrated forever.

Do spend some of your time now to figure out what you want and could do, you could continue the process after having the baby, and/or start building experience by volunteering, re-training once you have some ideas in which direction. It's much easier to get started if you have already given it some thought now.

foxhill Sun 19-Jun-11 04:28:51

Not sure if this thread is still going but it's so reassuring to read. I've been having a panic all day about finding a 'suitable' job or idea for a business while regretting my past career decisions which have meant that despite two degrees and 12 years of work experience I still look at job adverts and think 'I'm not qualified for ANYTHING!!' In the past I boomeranged from job to job, with no real linear progression so after 4 years as a SAHM I'm now terrified of committing to any job or training in case it turns out to be not for me and I've just wasted more time. We're just coming off a year abroad which has been like a nice little holiday away from real life so now I'm dreading coming back to the UK and facing up to sorting out my future. FlamingJamie The volunteering idea sounds like a great 'toe in the water' idea. Bab - have you had any more thoughts?

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