Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A compass is no good if you don't have a map

A definite advantage to working in a group full of contractors is that they're very happy to give careers advice. This is not something you get normally: the average co-worker, unless they're very chilled, will not tell you to ditch your company and strike out for greener pastures.

I've got a fair number of interesting ideas off them. In addition to searching for conventional jobs, one guy suggested that I take up contracting myself. On that front, I'm probably pretty employable: certainly the work I'm doing at the moment poses little challenge. Also I have an actuarial exam* under my belt, which looks damn good on a CV.

This option would probably do wonders for my bank balance. Contractors quite often get a stupidly large pay packet compared to conventional employees. There are two downsides, though. The first is reduced financial stability, which might be a problem if we hit a recession. The second is lack of career development, which is a massive issue for me. I would honestly rather hammer railroad spikes through my skull than do boring job after boring job for years on end**.

A second option, which I've just spent a fair chunk of evening discussing, is say "screw it" and go get an MBA or something. This idea holds a fair amount of interest. Technical skills for me are pretty much a solved problem, whereas managers tend be be confronted with challenges that involve people and are hence much weirder and more interesting.

My worries here are (again) twofold. Firstly, I'd hate to feel like I was running back to university as soon as it looked like the real world was putting up a fight. It is important to me that I retain my self-esteem in this area. When I feel like I'm on top of the world and everything is going consistently well - that's the time to go back to uni. Of course, at that point I may not feel like I need to.

Secondly, I read Dilbert. I know what people think about the stereotypical MBA, and I would hate to have them think that way about me. I've been in the real world for slightly over two years now, so I'm not a complete n00b, but it would worry me to study an entire course about management without ever having, y'know, actually been a manager.

I'm bouncing off the walls trying to figure out what to do next with my life. Some of those walls are figments of my imagination - for example, financial stability isn't really an issue for a young single male. This doesn't help much, though, because I don't really know which of the walls are illusory and which are solid and waiting for me to bust my nose on them.

Basically, I think this situation calls for a bit more self-confidence... and a lot more reading the job pages.

* Possibly two - fingers crossed for the November exam results!
** Which of course is why I'm doing the job search in the first place :(

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