Friday, May 14, 2010

Looking for a career

I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I can certainly carry on writing reports about buses going up and down streets and making turns. I can write more reports about bringing large items and mobility aids and strollers on buses and trains. I can write even more reports about land use planning and long range community development plans. And I can write copy for public involvement pieces and marketing efforts for transit agencies. But could there be more?

I meet people who tell me about the jobs they have. They work as attorneys, which is appealing because they make buttloads of money, but reciting legal text and crafting tenuous arguments based on legal precedents isn’t exactly what I would consider one of those things that gets me excited. I do that every day anyway and I don’t have to memorize the documents that I reference. I talk to my friend who is a Director of Service Planning at a major US airline, but most of what he does is make decisions about where planes go based on gobs and gobs of data – pretty much what I do for buses – and if I’m not eager to continue planning, then that seems like the wrong direction for me. He has great benefits – flights around the world for free whenever he wants to go, but I fly all over the place too. I look at my sister’s career, at a major consumer products company that produces all kinds of crap that you really don’t need to buy, but that advertisers make you think you need, and so you buy new things to spray or to reduce the fat levels in your body or to wipe your ass. She creates diapers that parents will want to buy. Her job sounds interesting, but working for a multinational corporation, nothing happens very fast and her decisions must percolate up and down before they ever get carried to the next step.

I look at my friend who works for a major animation studio. She’s always excited about the ultimate product: the films the studio produces. But the day-to-day grind involves managing people and managing data backups and doing lots of things that are way behind the scenes, keeping her far from the cute characters that grace the studio’s screen.

I used to always want to work for a chamber of commerce or convention and business bureau promoting a community I liked. And the person I know who does exactly this is responsible for getting major employers to lay off their employees in California and move to Texas to hire the locals. He can tout cheap labor and a low cost of living. If I were to work for the San Francisco chamber, I would have to promote high costs of living, a business-unfriendly climate, and don’t think I would be too successful at luring businesses based in places like Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Utah and Arizona. And then, I confess, I don’t know if I really would want lots of people from those states to move to San Francisco, so I would most certainly be a failure in that job.

My father and my friends who are doctors have too much non-doctoring to do to make their jobs what they want them to be. They seem to like working with people and trying to help ill people find solutions to make their lives better. But the part of my job that I hate the most – billing and dealing with invoicing my clients – that’s what they have to do for every patient they see, and with the US government’s screwy Medicaid reimbursements (or lack thereof), that’s what just drove my primary care doctor to bankruptcy. And nurses always seem to be great people: helpful and considerate and knowledgeable. But dealing with patients’ shit and doctors’ shit makes that seem like a job not worth pursuing.

The authors and writers I know seem a little overwhelmed and depressed all the time. I write all the time myself, and I get fed up with it from time to time, but I have lots of different outlets: I can make presentations and create graphic images and boss people around. But writers write, and writing all the time can be a lonely job. I don’t want a lonely job.

Educators generally seem happy with their jobs, but state cutbacks and dismal work environments make teaching less and less appealing. My spouse and friends in the world of education appreciate their long summers and shorter workdays, but also have to put up with archaic computer systems and dreary schools, along with more and more children who come from terrible homes. And educators don’t get paid enough for what they do.

And so I’ve written off most of the careers of the people I know. I neglected to mention pilots and water quality regulators and environmental policy enforcement specialists. I didn’t mention real estate developers or IT project managers. I know people with all of these jobs too, but they’re not for me. I’m too hasty to take after my friends who are architects or landscape architects or engineers.

And so I look again at the multitude of different things that I do, and the incredible flexibility I have and the ridiculous number of frequent flyer miles I accrue and wonder what else should I be doing. I speak at conferences, I write reports that are published, I help seniors and people with disabilities get to their doctor, I create logos, I write advertising copy, I design things, I calculate things, I lead focus groups, listening to regular people and making recommendations based on what I hear.

If you have any suggestions for my next career, please let me know. And if you have expertise in bakeries, delicatessens, acting, art, or retirement before age 45, please let me know.

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