S2 E11: "I tripped and fell into a career I don't like. How do I reinvent myself?"

Season 2, Episode 11: “I Tripped and Fell into a Career I Don’t like. How Do I Reinvent Myself?”

If you’re new here, let me get you up to speed: personal finance is personal. And as a result, it’s also often complicated—a Choose Your Own Adventure with multiple right answers and mitigating circumstances.

Which is why it is so easy to feel stuck in your career or financial journey. What do you do when you’re just fine… but you want more? How do you overcome crippling stagnation? How do you justify leaving the safety of your established, safe career… and risk everything to leap headlong toward your dreams?

Alternatively: when is the safe and not-super-fulfilling job sometimes exactly what you need? What could you do with the excess creative mental energy that a boring day job affords?

All these questions (and much talk of Spiderman!) on this week’s episode.

This week’s question

Today’s letter comes to us from Patreon donor Marta. And it’s a long one, but full of the kind of ambiguities and complexities we think y’all are gonna find resonant af. Marta asks:

I’m writing in hope of some advice, or probably just to get out of my own head and get an outsider’s perspective, because I’ve thought about this WAY too much.

I’m in my thirties, and I moved to a Richer Country from a Poorer Country (all within Europe) a few years ago. I had some truly shit jobs for a while, but got incredibly lucky eventually, and landed in my current job in December of 2018. I work for a charity that aligns with my values very well. I have a good boss. I’m paid reasonably well—my salary circles around average for my job title in my city, though I could probably make 20% more in a bigger charity, with the experience I now have.

Trouble is… I don’t really like my job? I’m an office manager/jack of all trades assistant, and I’m damn good at it, but I didn’t choose to do it out of a passion for filing invoices and fixing trivial IT problems. I chose it because I had a wide variety of skills that you don’t need a degree for (I have a degree, but it’s purely academic), and people like me are very appealing to small organizations that want one person to fill all the gaps. It was never going to be a long-term plan; I just wanted something that would pay rent while I found my feet in a new country. I don’t want to be solving other people’s petty problems ten years from now.

Now that my two-year mark on the job is slowly approaching, I don’t know what to do. Moving to a different role in the same organization is not an option; we’re too small for that. Do I try to pursue a career in corporate/charity internal training (very appealing, no idea how to even start)? Do I try moving to a different job despite being comfortable, so my CV doesn’t look like I’m too stagnant? Do I stay and buckle down and write after hours to fulfill my dream of writing a novel? (How do I deal with the emotional fallout of never being able to publish that novel, which is very likely?)

Do I just keep this job and wait until some kind of an opportunity presents itself? I appreciate that no one can solve this problem apart from me, and it’s seven kinds of immature to expect you’ll magically give me the golden answer based on a few paragraphs of summary. But it was kind of therapeutic to just write it out and know someone sympathetic will read it. Your blog has been consistently excellent at filling long social-distancing weekends, so thanks for that! Stay safe, and please don’t let The Evil Chicken bring you down.

– Patron Marta

Many thanks to Marta for acknowledging my horrendous struggles with Tammy Two, the Chicken from Hell.

Want to read more on the topic of career advancement? We gotchu:

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Episode transcript (click to reveal)

Kitty  0:03 

As always we would like to say thank you to our awesome Patreon donors. This time we want to call out Christina, Jacqueline, Sarah, and Mackenzie, and we want to give an extra special thanks to Courtney and Tamar.

Courtney and Tamar look like ordinary blackbirds, but when they walk into a patch of sunlight, you actually see that they are covered in iridescent feathers, and they’re so beautiful it makes your eyes just burst into flame. That’s just what they’re like. That’s what Courtney and Tamar are like. Sorry. You heard it here first.

Piggy  0:45 

(Bitches Get Riches intro song)

Go Sox.

Kitty  1:12 

Go Sox. Go Pats. (in strange accent) Go Pats.

Sorry, when I do accents, they always default to North Midwestern, like Wisconsin, Minnesota.

Piggy & Kitty  1:15 

(in overlapping Midwestern accents) Oh, sure, y’know. Oh my gosh. Oh gosh, yeah.

Kitty  1:21 

(in Midwestern accent) Can I just tell ya? I’m Kitty.

Piggy  1:25 

(in Midwestern accent) Oh, and I’m Piggy.

Kitty  1:26 

(in Midwestern accent) Oh, and we’re the bitches in Bitches Get Riches.

Piggy  1:29 

It’s true, actually. (trying in a Midwestern accent) We have, we are two … (in her normal voice) oh, I can’t do that accent any more. It’s not happening.

Kitty  1:34 

You know what will center you back in the accent? You have to say, (in a Midwestern accent) sure. Oh, sure, sure. Oh, sure, we are two experts in adulting and personal finance.

Piggy  1:44 

(in a Midwestern accent) Oh yeah, found it, and we’re gonna try to stay one lesson ahead of everyone who turns to us for advice. Our time on this planet is limited.

Kitty  1:52 

(in a Midwestern accent) So let’s get started, yeah. Oh, sorry, let me just squeeze by you there.

Piggy  1:56 

(in a Midwestern accent) Oh. Oh. Oops. Ouch.

(in a Southern belle accent) I feel like I can do a southern belle way easier than I can a northern Minnesota accent. You know, I feel like I could just go Southern so much more easily, you know, bless your heart.

Kitty  2:09 

You sound like a talking cow in a direct-to-video sequel to something that no one had to pay any rights for.

Piggy  2:19 

Exactly. And when you say a talking cow, you mean like a cow that’s creepily anthropomorphized? That I’ve got like eyelashes, like human eyes?

Kitty  2:28 

Oh, yeah. Sorry. This has nothing to do with anything, but we have this thing that we love. Whenever we’re watching a movie or a TV show, especially old ones, we’re always watching for this. When you know the dog is a girl because she’s a poodle and it’s got bows in its hair, and it’s often done to make it very clear that your other dog protagonist has a big case of the not gays.

Like, don’t worry. Like Rin Tin Tin looking motherfucker over here, who’s the hero of our story or whatever … don’t worry, he’s not gay. The dog he’s like chasing or whatever? She’s got pink bows in her hair. She’s poodle, that’s how you knows it’s a lady.

It’s just like my favorite thing. And like when we see it, if you’re standing outside of our house when it happens, you would think that like we were rooting for a sport team. Like, who’s about to win a Super Bowl.

Piggy  3:27 

No, I love this principle because there’s there’s also the unnecessary breasts on anthropomorphized animals. Like if you have a female turtle, and you know she’s female because she has eye shadow, a bow on top of her hair.

And you’re like they’re reptiles. They don’t have mammary glands.

Kitty  3:45 

(faking heavy intensity, while pounding a table) How else will we know that our characters are or are not gay if we don’t put breasts and eyelashes and bows on our animals, damn it?

Piggy  3:56 

God damn it.

All right, so today’s letter comes to us from Patreon donor Marta.

So Marta asks, “I’m writing in hope of some advice, or probably just to get out of my own head and get an outsider’s perspective, because I’ve thought about this WAY too much.”

“I’m in my thirties, and I moved to a Richer Country from a Poorer Country (all within Europe) a few years ago. I had some truly shit jobs for a while, but got incredibly lucky eventually, and landed in my current job in December of 2018. I work for a charity that aligns with my values very well. I have a good boss. I’m paid reasonably well—my salary circles around average for my job title in my city, though I could probably make 20% more in a bigger charity, with the experience I now have.”

“Trouble is… I don’t really like my job? I’m an office manager/jack of all trades assistant, and I’m damn good at it, but I didn’t choose to do it out of a passion for filing invoices and fixing trivial IT problems. I chose it because I had a wide variety of skills that you don’t need a degree for (I have a degree, but it’s purely academic), and people like me are very appealing to small organizations that want one person to fill all the gaps. It was never going to be a long-term plan; I just wanted something that would pay rent while I found my feet in a new country. I don’t want to be solving other people’s problems ten years from now.”

“Now that my two-year mark on the job is slowly approaching, I don’t know what to do. Moving to a different role in the same organization is not an option; we’re too small for that. Do I try to pursue a career in corporate/charity internal training (very appealing, no idea how to even start)? Do I try moving to a different job despite being comfortable, so my CV doesn’t look like I’m too stagnant? Do I stay and buckle down and write after hours to fulfill my dream of writing a novel? (How do I deal with the emotional fallout of never being able to publish that novel, which is very likely?)”

Kitty  5:45 

Uh, we’ll get to that.

Piggy  5:46 

“Do I just keep this job and wait until some kind of an opportunity presents itself? I appreciate that no one can solve this problem apart from me, and it’s seven kinds of immature to expect you’ll magically give me the golden answer based on a few paragraphs of summary. But it was kind of therapeutic to just write it out and know someone sympathetic will read it. Your blog has been consistently excellent at filling long social-distancing weekends, so thanks for that! Stay safe, and please don’t let The Evil Chicken bring you down.”

Kitty  6:10 

I don’t plan to, no.

Piggy  6:12 

No, I love that she referenced my, my evil chicken, aka Tammy 2 who is the fucking worst.

Kitty  6:18 

She a monster.

Piggy  6:20 

She a monster. See our Twitter for more. (sighs)

Kitty  6:22 

There’s a lot of different threads here. This is a spaghetti question. There’s all these threads, they’re all tangled together. But I think, ultimately, when you pull back and you look what is this plate of food, it’s the pastas. So the pasta equivalent of this question is really, “I’m in a job where I’m making enough money, and where I don’t hate what I do, but I don’t love what I do. Should I be doing something else? Am I doing the right thing if this is how I feel?”

Piggy  6:52 

She’s definitely not alone in this case. And, you know, I feel a lot of kinship with Marta in this. You know, you can get to a point where you’re like well, I’ve done this, and nothing but this. Should I switch tracks, or just stay with what’s safe? What do I even do?

So she’s feeling really stagnant right now, and I get that.

Kitty  7:12 

Yeah, but my advice to this changes a lot depending on what the current economy is like. So, to just kind of get it out of the way, obviously, this is going to be a different answer if we’re still in the middle of an awful recession, and there’s really high unemployment. Girl, be smart, hang on to that job. Your time to change will come later.

But let’s imagine a world where there’s much more modest unemployment, and moving around is a possibility. What do you look for? How do you know the difference between a job that is boring? Maybe not very challenging or fulfilling. When is that a good thing. and when is that a bad thing? When is that something to flee from, and when is that something that you stick with?

Piggy  7:59 

Oh, totally. And one part of this that I definitely want to get to eventually is her talking about how she dreams to write and publish a novel. And how she’s like, “I understand that that’s an impossibility.” Which, as somebody who has worked her entire career in the publishing industry — yes, it’s really hard to get a book published, but not impossible. And writing a book and publishing a book are two different things.

Definitely encourage Marta to write it. That said, writing a book takes a lot of emotional fortitude and mental energy. And if you’re working super hard during the day, and you’re spending all of your mental energy at your job, the chances that you’ll be able to successfully work on a project on evenings and weekends … it’s really hard.

And I say this as someone who for the longest time worked full time and worked on this blog on the side. And, you know, carries on a freelance business. It’s difficult to divide your energies between ambitious passions and a difficult job.

Kitty  8:59 

Do you remember the Spiderman security guard at our school?

Piggy  9:04 

Yes, oh my God, this is a great example.

Kitty  9:07 

So, we had a very friendly relationship with one of our security guards who worked on our on campus buildings. He worked night shifts, which is to say he sat at a desk out front for eight hours, and that was it. That was his job. And you can imagine that it is a very, very boring job that gives you a lot of opportunities to do other stuff on a computer while you’re sitting at this desk.

We noticed the security guard was always drawing. And over time, as we get to know him, we got to see more and more of his drawings. And he’s just getting better and better. And they’re really good, really good. And he was drawing like fan art of comic book characters, especially a lot of Spiderman stuff.

And the security guard thing, he told us he had taken that job because it gave him the freedom to collect the paycheck that he needed to pay rent while also giving him the time that he needed and the creativity, the mental energy to then put towards something else. I think that was genius.

Piggy  10:14 

Wasn’t the story that broke on him, was like in our school newspaper, because they were like, “Hey, you know our security guard, who’s always like drawing? Here’s some prints of his work.” He’s incredible, but I love that you brought up that example because in Marta’s case, if her dream is to write a novel and she can find a job where she has a lot of downtime…

Kitty  10:36 

You and I also started it Bitches Get Riches, when we were both working at a job where we could sneak in an hour or two’s worth of looking busy at computer time, that looked like we were working, but actually we were writing articles. And I think there is a lot to be said for the unfulfilling job that doesn’t request a lot of you in terms of your time outside of work, your creativity, your emotional energy.

It sounds like to me, I’m on the fence in terms of like Marta’s description of her current job. I think it could be that…

Piggy  11:14 

…a paycheck while pursuing your dream Yeah, sorry I didn’t mean to just like jump in there and like steal your thunder but..

Kitty  11:19 

My thunder, give it back!

Piggy  11:21 

NO!

I was picking up what you’re putting down.

Kitty  11:23 

But sometimes the job that starts out being that, the job that left you with a lot of free time and free creative energy, five years later, you may not feel that anymore. You may feel really drained by it. So I think a lot of it comes down to paying attention to how you feel around three o’clock every day. Are you ready to scream, or are you fidgeting full of energy at your desk? I think that’s the easiest way to know if you’re in that golden zone of working in that job that lets you sneak around and do other funner things.

Piggy  11:55 

Totally. Well, I also think we’ve been focusing a lot on the basic job that spares your brain so you can work on other things. And that way you can pursue your passion while being paid.

I think that there’s also something to be said for having a job that really engages you and really makes you feel like you’re doing good work and motivates and energizes your life.

And so, Marta really touches on that when she asked the question, “Do I try to pursue a career in corporate / charity internal training, which is very appealing, but I have no idea how to even start.” I mean, she has this dream of writing a novel, but maybe she also has a dream career. And maybe it’s time that she seriously looks into how to pursue that career.

Kitty  12:39 

Yeah, yeah, I think this is one of those things where I don’t know what Marta’s real dream here is. This corporate training job that she hypothesizes, I kind of hear that as: this is a job I’ve heard people who are very put together talk about. And I think it could be aligned with my skill sets, but I don’t know anything about it. I don’t have any passions for it, or connections to it. I just feel like I should be doing something because I’m educated.

She does mention that she would like to be making more money, which, you know (with Piggy: heeeeey). And I will say I’ve known a lot of people who are very, very high level individuals in major corporations who have a skill set that’s basically this. Executive admin assistants are very treasured employees.

Piggy  13:34 

And well paid. I don’t know what it’s like in Europe, but I have a friend who is an executive assistant who makes six figures in the United States.

Kitty  13:39 

Yes, she mentions working on people’s petty problems. I totally get that, but I think you and I have talked a lot about like, “Oh hey, is Bitches Get Riches getting to the point where we should be outsourcing some of our tasks?” Like what if we had someone else, draft our social media posts for us? Or what if we had someone come in and help us with SEO or helped us with our taxes?

Piggy  14:01 

And this is your reminder, listeners, that we do all this shit ourselves.

Kitty  14:04 

(dramatic) Oh God, we do it all.

Anyway, the thing that I think always stops us besides money, like Patreon, thank you. thank you. You are helping us pay our bills. You are not yet helping us pay anyone else’s bills.

I think, besides the money, the thing that we always run up against is, “Who can we trust? Who really understands why we’re doing what we’re doing? Who really understands how important it is that these tasks get done in exactly this way?”

Piggy  14:40 

Exactly. Listen, Bitches Get Riches is not just dick jokes about money. It’s a very important vocation.

Kitty  14:47 

It’s also money jokes about dicks.

Piggy  14:50 

It’s so true.

Kitty  14:53 

The admin kind of role can be so highly paid and so highly prized because if you have those skills and you attach yourself to someone who’s really a rising star, they will absolutely pull your ass up along with them because that kind of person who really can anticipate needs and mow the grass in front of you as you’re walking along just make it so easy. That’s not a job to sneeze at. That’s a great job to do, and a very appreciated job, but it depends.

It depends on if it’s meeting your needs. We already know you can meet other people’s needs, but is this what you want?

Piggy  15:34 

Yeah. Well, it sounds like it’s really not meeting her needs right now, and that’s sort of the issue. She asked a lot of questions, but at the very base of it all is, “What do I do next?”

You know, she’s feeling stagnant. She’s at a point in her career where she can maybe pivot. She doesn’t know how. And I think like the best advice we can give her is really to gather information, do her research.

I think a really undervalued tool in the toolbox of those who are trying to advance their careers is the informational interview. When you’re at a point where Marta is, where she’s trying to pivot between a couple of different decisions, you can go a different couple of different ways, it really benefits you to seek information from those who have already walked those paths.

She talks a little bit about this sort of dream position that she could maybe have, or that she thinks she has the skills to get, but she’s not sure where to start. Honestly, LinkedIn is useless for a lot of things, but it’s pretty good at helping you find people who already have the job that you want. And I would say she should reach out to people, finding people who went to your alma mater, or who have friends in common who have this job. And then just reaching out to them and being like, “Hey, I was kind of thinking of maybe pursuing this as a career. Do you have five minutes to tell me a little bit about what you do?

Shout out to our girl Tori Dunlap at Her First $100k. She has a whole webinar about how to seek out informational interviews, and why and how useful they are. So definitely talk to somebody who has the career that she’s maybe looking into transitioning to. She needs to talk to somebody who has the career she already has, but at a higher level, so she could see where the future lies for her.

And she needs to talk to a published novelist about their experience in getting there. That might be the hardest one to find somebody to talk to, not just because — I’m not saying that there are so few people who get novels published — but more that published novelists have a lot of people who want to talk to them for various things. So maybe start with a forum for writers at that point.

Kitty  17:39 

I think there’s a big difference between liking the idea of something versus liking the reality of doing it. So, if you’re thinking about throwing it all away to pursue some dream career, this is kind of applicable advice to anyone. If you think of throwing it all away to become a musician, or writer. or an actor, like, bitch, you had better be writing. You’d better be making music now. You better be in community theater right now.

Because otherwise, it’s really easy to fall into this trap of, “I think I know what that would feel like.” And then the actual experience of sitting down to write for hours and hours every day, you may love it, you may loathe it, but you need to know it. So if you can know it for free without changing your whole career trajectory yet, figure that out now.

Piggy  18:30 

Kitty’s absolutely right, you just need to start practicing now. You need to start doing the things you want to do in the future right now. Because if you delay, you will probably never get to them.

So I think it’s Dr NerdLove who says that the person you are today is the person you will be 10 years from no. And what he means by that is, if you’re not practicing the healthy habits that you want to be part of your life right now, then you won’t in the future. If you’re not working towards writing a novel or being a musician right now, you never will.

There’s no time like the present. And I do want to acknowledge the privilege that I have in saying that because I am a person with means, and I have plenty of time to work on my hobbies and whatever. But not everybody does. Some people who work 18 hours a day or whatever, they don’t have the time or the energy to really dedicate to those things. So for people in that position, I think the goal there is to create more time and build a financial safety net so that you can eventually become the person you want to be.

Kitty  19:34 

Yeah, yeah. And it sounds like Marta is probably feeling comfortable, maybe a little underpaid, but comfortable. And that is the point at which your brain will start to kick on and ask different kinds of questions than what you ask when you are desperately impoverished. And those questions are more fun to ask yourself, but they’re also a lot harder to answer.

So this kind of generalized feeling of (frustrated moaning sound) not quite sure exactly what it is I should be doing right now is a really normal feeling that I think probably everyone feels. I mean, I feel it. I feel it, and I assume that everyone is like me because I am a narcissist.

Piggy  20:19 

That’s not true. Well, hmm, it’s a little bit true.

Kitty  20:23 

(peppy sarcastic) Thank you.

Piggy  20:24 

(peppy sarcastic) You’re welcome.

No, I feel like you’re absolutely right. Like, who do I know who hasn’t gotten to a point in their career where like — should I keep doing this? Like someone who hasn’t gotten to that point is incredibly blessed and lucky to know themselves.

Kitty  20:40 

Or possibly has no internal life.

Piggy  20:46 

I also want to say there’s a difference between your job and your career, and I think that a lot of what Marta is struggling with. Because your job is like the actual tasks that you do day in and day out.

So in her case, one of the parts of her job is solving stupid IT questions, which, like, girl, I hear you, that sounds miserable. But your career is the outcome of everything that you do. So, the career that she has in this case sounds like being a problem solver. She is a creative problem solver, and that’s a really valuable career that she can pivot, I think, into other positions.

Kitty  21:24 

Yeah, and I think a lot of times the way that you position yourself now is how you will get hired. So if you go into a new interview, and you say, “Well, in my current role, I’m just a jack of all trades,” like, if you get that job, expect for them to want that jack of all trades who will just keep fulfilling that role. Make sure you’re positioning yourself in potential new opportunities, that you’re not putting those feet forward.

Or if you are, you’re saying, I’m a jack of all trades in my current job. And I’m really looking to move on because I would like to start specializing more in this area, and that area. Make sure that you’re communicating that, otherwise you’re going to get more of the same.

Piggy  22:05 

Exactly, exactly.

Oh, that was such good interviewing advice.

Kitty  22:09 

(nasal persona) I agree.

Are you good with that?

Piggy  22:11 

I am good with that.

Kitty  22:12 

Listeners, if there’s a question you would like us to answer in season three of our podcast. Which definitely will happen at some point when the weather is cool enough again that we feel like sitting in the hot closet.

Piggy  22:24 

Yeah, weather permitting, there will be a season three.

Kitty  22:26 

And at that time, to get your question answered, you’re gonna have to go to bitchesgetriches.com and click Ask the Bitches.

Piggy  22:32 

There is only one way to guarantee that will answer your question, and that’s to become a Patreon donor.

Kitty  22:37 

If you like what we do, and you want us to keep going, please become a Patreon donor. Support us with whatever donation amount you’re comfortable with.

Piggy  22:43 

And we also have a merch store, which I cannot recommend highly enough because there, you can buy t-shirts and printable worksheets and more. And spoiler alert, we will be adding new items before you know it.

Kitty  22:55 

Oh God, I hope we’re able to cash this check that we’re writing right now.

Piggy  22:59 

It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine.

Kitty  23:00 

We definitely haven’t had new merch items on our to do list for like three quarters.

Piggy  23:07 

It’s fine, I’m putting it out there.

Kitty  23:09 

Pay no attention to the man behind the wall. The curtain? The door? You know, that guy. The Wizard of Oz, ghost in the wall, get out of there.

Piggy  23:18 

No ghosts in the wall, just the Wizard of Oz. He’s behind a curtain.

Kitty  23:22 

Finally, there are some free things you can do to say thanks.

Piggy  23:26 

Hey, if you haven’t done these things, please, please, just go rate and review us on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, whatever the hell you use. It bumps us up on the charts, and it makes it easier for other people to come and find us. And then you can follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest. And you can subscribe to our articles. You will never have to go a week without hearing our hilarious and insightful thoughts on finance, feminism, and the lack of fucks we have to give.

That’s true. All of that, at bitchesgetriches.com. Hey, is there anything else we should know?

Kitty  23:57 

Yeah, I thought about this. The three best interviewers in podcasting, right now. Anna Sale. Phoebe Judge. And Sarah Gonzalez.

Piggy  24:07 

Good to know.

Piggy & Kitty  24:08 

Bitches out.

Piggy  24:10 

That wasn’t even close to in sync.

Kitty  24:13 

Okay, wait. Let’s try again, ready? All right, but no countdown. We’re just gonna have to do it, all right?

Piggy  24:19 

Bitches out.

Kitty  24:20 

(substantially later) Bitches out.

Piggy  24:21 

Oh my god.

Piggy & Kitty  24:21 

(laughter)

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