Time For A Career Change

Ever since I can remember, I knew I was going to be a scientist or engineer.  When I was very little I wanted to be a doctor, but the idea of undergrad, med school, and residency turned me off.  Then I discovered chemical engineering  in the 8th grade & thought “Jackpot!”.  Since then, so much of my life has been devoted to the chemical sciences: summer programs & serving as the chemistry aide in high school; majoring in chemical engineering & then switching to chemistry in undergrad, along with numerous internships & research opportunites; academic research in graduate school; and now, almost five years experience working in corporate chemical labs.

Yeah…I’m over it.  Officially done with being a chemist.

Being in the lab doesn’t give me the same excitement & satisfaction it once did.  It used to be a time where no matter what aggravation & idiocy I had to go through at the job, the joy of science would it make it worthwhile.  I really got a sense of accomplishment from those “Eureka!” moments.  But over the past year those moments have been few & far between.  Its gone from “Eureka!” to “Ehh”.  And without that excitement about the scientific process, without the thrill of solving the problem or uncovering the mystery, I have no excitement for the lab.

My love for science used to get me through, but now everything that’s related to the lab is irking me.  My biggest pet peeve are the people who ask me to run tests but have no clue what they are talking about & how much work goes into getting them what they think is a simple answer.  Nothing is simple in the lab, and every test ends up being more involved than you expected.  And I pride myself on being a good scientist, so I don’t hand out results or draw conclusions frivolously.  But that’s what people expect of me. *sigh*

Beyond falling out of love with the lab, I’ve fallen out of love with the corporate world in general.  After 4 years, I’m no longer optimistic & full of energy, ready to climb the corporate ladder.  I’m pretty jaded about the corporate world in general now, which is unfortunate.  When I was younger I had grand visions taking the corporate world by storm…and now I’m just over it.  The drudgery, the repetition…its wearing on me.  Frankly, I feel like an woman who is 38 instead of 28.  I have to go to bed at a certain time each night, so I can be up at a certain time, so I can be in the office at a certain time…and I’m just over it all.

What I’m longing for most is some fluidity in my life.  I live the same day five days a week, 52 weeks a year, not including my lame two weeks off that my employer affords me.  I want to have more flexibility in my schedule, even if its just the ability to work from home sometimes.  There’s no way for me to do that as a scientist, so its time for a career change – STAT.  As much technical knowledge as I have, I want to try my hand at something else.  And really not be chained to a desk or a lab for the rest of my life.  I don’t want to look back and wish that I had taken a chance when I had the opportunity.

I have so many ideas, I don’t know where to start.  But I know that I have to make a move.  So to do that, I’m starting with working on the side hustles & making a big push to pay off my non-student loan debt.  I want to be prepared so that when I walk away from this job, and hopefully Corporate America altogether, I can do it as prepared as possible.  My plan is to be doing something entirely different by the time I turn 30 – so I have a little less than 2 years to make it happen.

Anybody else gone through this?  Felt like you needed to completely change it up?  How did you handle it?   Got any tips?

  • M.

    I have seen a few people who are feeling a little scatterbrained. I think its just natural because we are constantly seeking a challenge and the opportunity to go to the next level. I would say communicate with your boss when the timing is right about possibly working from home. If you get approved to work from home, try to work in a remote location and not just at home. Coworking spots like Hive at 55 (http://www.hiveat55.com/) are taking over and allowing for coworking, networking, and a good place to work besides starbucks.

    Also, you may need some vacation even just a 3 day weekend. We all need to change up our surroundings every now and then. I think its all a combination of the city you live in, the nightlife, and a change from Florida that is producing the need for change.

    Lastly, if you want to get some entrepreneurship things popping, a great website and magazine that I have read for years is Inc magazine (www.inc.com). They have great articles, such as this (Are we programmed to work 9-5 http://ask.inc.com/is-the-8-hour-5-day-work-week-the-most-productive), case studies, strategy information, etc.

    Check it out and hang in there!

  • Jeannie

    Funny I went through the same thing shortly (less than 2 years) after completing my chemical engineering degree. I just knew it wasn’t for me.

    I moved over into academia. I feel that working in a student support services role was a good fit for me. It certainly isn’t routine and while I have scheduled hours no two days are the same and there is certain amount of flexibility available in my job. Given your education and background, I would suggest checking out a local community college for a potential side hustle. You could probably score a gig teaching chemistry courses – if that would be of interest to you. It would also help you develop your skill set for the next phase of your life.

    After six years in the higher ed game, I’m feeling a wee bit over it myself. I think its a natural part of growing as a person to have a shift in ones interests. The things that excite and inspire us will change over the course of our lives.

    I wish you the best of everything in your journey. *Hug*

  • Mimi

    This exact same thing happened to me. I’ve been out of the lab for 12 years now. I moved over to IT to support the software that the plant and lab used to formulate and QC. Then 2 years after that I worked with the regulatory software group. Finally I couldn’t deal with scientists and engineers anymore so I went over to the finance software side. Then I jumped ship for an IT manager job at a different company.

    Moving to IT was liberating. My daily work schedule could vary as long as I covered the core hours. When my daughter was younger I worked many split days. I could work from home whenever I wanted. And home is defined as anywhere with an internet connection. I’ve worked at my relatives house, parks, the beach and many, many, hotels. I traveled a lot internationally as we made our systems global.

    Every other career change I looked at would have meant a reduction in compensation for many years. I have had many offers to go into consulting but have declined. I’ve never found that a masters in chemistry has hindered me the IT field.

    • Wow thank you so much for this comment. One of the issues I’m having is that I’m so highly compensated for what I do now & I don’t want to take a huge pay cut. I have a great interest in areas like technical recruiting & sourcing, but I don’t want to cut my salary substantially. I also have a masters in chemistry so your comment was very timely. Thanks so much.

  • tdixonspeaks

    We’ve all been there. Being a grown-up isn’t glitz and glamour. I’m rebelling bedtime by reading blogs. Ill pay in the AM.

    Someone recommended academia-which was my initial reaction. You could adjunct or teach part-time. Or, you could teach those very programs you participated in when you were younger.
    Have you considered consulting? I’m not sure how that would work, but you’d have rotating projects so maybe that could take the monotony out of your day-to-day.
    Perhaps its the company you work with. Corporate doesn’t exist in a bubble, nor does nonprofit. Yes, you will probably experience a pay cut, but perhaps you can find related work in chemistry as you transition out of it onto something new. The drudgery and repetitiveness happens to most of us.

    A chapter soror of mine is in engineering-works with airplanes. Maybe a slight shift in your discipline? Might require a bit more school…

    What if you combined writing and chemistry? You could write for scientific publications? I dunno, just throwing out ideas.
    What exactly are you into? I’d be interested to hear.

  • We’ve all been there. Being a grown-up isn’t glitz and glamour. I’m rebelling bedtime by reading blogs. Ill pay in the AM.

    Someone recommended academia-which was my initial reaction. You could adjunct or teach part-time. Or, you could teach those very programs you participated in when you were younger. Since you’ve worked in a lab, maybe you can run a university lab?

    Have you considered consulting? I’m not sure how that would work, but you’d have rotating projects so maybe that could take the monotony out of your day-to-day.

    Perhaps its the company you work with. Corporate doesn’t exist in a bubble, nor does nonprofit. Yes, you will probably experience a pay cut, but perhaps you can find related work in chemistry as you transition out of it onto something new. The drudgery and repetitiveness happens to most of us, regardless of industry.

    You could try pharmacy: is that somewhat related? You can still make money there.

    A chapter soror of mine is in engineering-works with airplanes. Maybe a slight shift in your discipline? Might require a bit more school…

    What if you combined writing and chemistry? You could write for scientific publications? I dunno, just throwing out ideas.
    What exactly are you into? I’d be interested to hear.

  • Lauren

    I’m feeling those same growing pains now. Although I haven’t jumped ship yet, I have to keep telling myself it is going to happen. Speaking of a side hustle, you should check out the blog/site http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com. He talks about the side hustle that turns into the permanent hustle, as well as taking a hold of your finances.

    I read your blog periodically, but typically don’t comment. As you continue your journey towards fulfilling your purpose, I hope to read about it and find guidance, solace, and strength in your words.

  • I went through something like this about 2 years ago. I was so sick of working with rejects and children and decided it was time to go. I’ve never had a problem getting a job but what I really wanted some my dream job. One that allowed me to balance motherhood and my career without it being a strain on either one. I found it 8 months ago and I couldn’t be happier.

    What worked for me was creating a vision board at the beginning of the year. I spent new years eve at home, with my baby in bed, working on my plan for the next year. Once you put out in the universe what you want, you get it. I’m fortunate to say that I’ve paid off my car, bought my first house, got my dream job and reached my 2nd salary goal all before the age of 30.

    Grab you a board and get started. 🙂

  • Henrietta

    Corporate cultures can be a pain in the a**! Do you know where your true interests lie? Do you prefer to work around people and the socialization that brings? How important is the “high compensation” factor for you? I think you should write down a list of the pros and cons of remaining a scientist. Complete another list with your interests, skills and abilities. I recommend comparing the pros and cons against your other list and see if something stands out to you. Teaching chemistry is always a possibility as well as consulting. Maybe going back to school and getting your MBA would afford you more opportunities in management. Heck, maybe a total career change is in order. I admire your maturity in understanding that you’ve reached a cross roads in your life and a change is needed. Above all else, continue to pray and ask God for guidance. Stay strong and encouraged!!!

  • I was wondering when/if you’d blog about this. Keep your head up, and start making moves! 2 years is a good window. Consider it ganked!

    As you know I’m going through the same stuff at my job. Boring work, tired of the daily/weekly grind, may need a completely new career. I know that I at least need a job that deals with people more than my current isolated engineer job.

    Tips: try not to get discouraged, you’re never too old(or too anything else for that matter) to make a change. Society breeds us to be worker bees but we know we’re destined for more. Imo it’s not natural for a person to live these regimented lives that are pushed onto us.

  • i’m definitely going through this now and i’m still in school. for as long as i could remember i wanted to be a biomedical researcher. now not so much. i’m tired of bench work and i definitely don’t want to be fighting for grant money for the rest of my life. at this point i would love to go to law school when i finish this degree and pursue intellectual property so this degree doesn’t go to waste. i could combine both degrees.

  • TraveliNupe

    JET,

    You know I am behind you 200% on this. I think we have talked about this everyday now for well over 2.5 yrs (in my case). The most important thing is you have set your priorities and now have a time-frame to implement them. I am right behind you, after I finish school (AGAIN).

    FS

  • tux

    if i knew chemistry like you, i’d move to mexico (where hard drugs will soon be very legal) and set up a methamphetamine lab.

    dont go back to school unless you just want to socialize.

  • LisaLisa1908

    You already know I feel you. Engineering burned me out and I know for a fact that the situation I’m in now is on PURPOSE.

    I’m transitioning into IT and I’m pretty pleased about the opportunities. I think you should look into finding a way to transition into a less lab-oriented situation and possibly move into research. Good luck and keep us posted!

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