Pursued the wrong career?

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Ollie123
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Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Ollie123 » Fri Jun 28, 2019 12:58 pm

Hi all,
Curious if anyone here has had the experience of believing they entered the wrong field and successfully made a switch. Particularly interested in hearing from any who made a substantial investment in post-graduate training (PhDs, physicians, lawyers, etc.) and may have already felt like they were behind when they started. The following will be long, so my apologies in advance (and gratitude to those who make it through the full thing). I think I'm writing this in part to organize my own thoughts on the matter, so any responses are just a bonus.

Background: 35 yo PhD clinician in academic medicine. Married. No kids. Professionally I am reasonably successful by most objective measures. Assistant professor in the medical school of an extremely prestigious institution. 40+ publications, one provisional patent, multiple federal grants and national research awards. Growing clinical practice. We are extremely behind on retirement savings relative to our salaries given my wife immigrated from overseas and I was in school for so darn long (finished post-doc in 2017). That said, we are catching up quick, with a savings rate of ~ 25% of gross and generous employer matches of around 9% on top of that. HH income is around 190k gross + 10k bonus. Nearly evenly split between my wife and I. Only about 190k (combined) in the 401k/403b right now. Another 6k in a Roth. 31k in a Discover savings account. Maxing our HSA contribution, though did decide to use it for a major health expenditure earlier this year. No debt beyond a relatively modest mortgage for our incomes (285k balance) and a 0% car loan with a bit over a year left.

Problem: After working my butt off for a decade to get here...I really do not like my job. A part of this may be burnout and my performance is suffering (primarily on the research front) at a bad time for my long-term trajectory. However, I do think a fair amount goes beyond that to concerns about the field as a whole. Will spare you all my rant about academic medicine in general, but suffice it to say I do not feel the field as a whole is heading in a good direction and am not alone in my complaints. Bureaucracy continues to expand (to meet the expanding needs of the bureaucracy?). Institutions continue to usurp control from faculty without accepting responsibility. We are "soft money" which means I have to fund the overwhelming portion of my own salary through grants and clinical work. This creates some conflict given decisions are being made that I have to spend the money in ways that hurts my scientific work and they don't hesitate to drop faculty like a hot potato the second we aren't pulling in enough grants. Given I feel like the institution is constantly sabotaging my ability to do this...I'm not feeling great about long-term prospects. On the emotional front, I'm angry, bitter, perpetually stressed and don't feel like its worth the effort it would take to succeed here. Some major life events (e.g. kids) are on hold because I can't fathom any additional stressors right now.

Solutions? (you tell me):
Big Picture Options.
1) Suck it up and plunge forward. This is what I have been doing. Keep hoping this is just an adjustment period, but it doesn't come. I have about three years of funding left where as long as I don't commit any felonies and am reasonably functional, I'm virtually guaranteed continued employment. I grew up working class, so even a low six figure salary with generous benefits is hard for me to turn my back on.
2) Stay in the field, but dial it back. Coast through my remaining time here, then seek out a lower tier institution that would hopefully offer less stress and perhaps hard money. My concerns are that this would almost certainly require we relocate, would likely require a small to substantial pay cut and may not solve the problem. I think the broader system is crumbling - it "may" be worse here, but I think academic medicine in general is on a bad trajectory.
3) Find something new to do. I like my overarching field (behavioral health and neuroscience), but that was never really the draw. What I like is coming up with questions/ideas, organizing/curing data and coming up with answers through creative applications of that data. Bonus points if it helps people (what drew me to healthcare). Give me a computer, access to data and time to play and I'll come up with solutions to problems you didn't know you had. There seem like about a bajillion careers where I could do this, albeit with perhaps less freedom in dictating the questions/ideas. Data science being the main "path" that makes the most sense to me.

As you may have guessed, I'm leaning towards #3 right now. I could jump in and try to apply for jobs, but my degree (psychology) doesn't exactly scream "data scientist." My analytic skills are pretty strong for my field and I'm great with techniques common in clinical research, but they are lacking in certain hot areas right now (e.g. machine learning). That said, I have some exposure and am reasonably confident in my ability to figure these out if in an environment where that was my focus. Perhaps this is somewhat mitigated by obvious content knowledge in healthcare in a hot and growing area (behavioral health) and much stronger written and oral communication skills than a prototypical data scientist. I'd consider returning to school. There is a nearby 10-month fast-track master's program that is very well-regarded nationally. The cost is < 30k (total) at present. Average starting salary for graduates is 90k, suspect I could do better given data scientists with on-the-ground healthcare experience are probably quite rare. I question how much I could <really> learn in 10 months that I couldn't get through self-study, but it may check a box that would be important to have on my resume. It certainly seems affordable in our circumstances and if we cut our lifestyle a bit, we could likely subsist off one salary for 10 months - possibly without even needing to touch savings. If we made a concerted effort to build savings up, we could potentially pay the full tuition cost in cash. Even if not, the payback on something like this does not seem hard to justify. My wife is wonderful, supportive and on board with anything that brings me peace and happiness. I do worry it wouldn't be the best use of resources and would set us back further...but at some point happiness (and health given the stress) has to take priority over money. Just not sure if we're there yet. I can certainly start applying for jobs and see if I land something without the degree and it may not be necessary.

Interested to hear anyone's thoughts on the situation. Particularly those who have made the transition (and were either grateful for it or regretted doing so). Probably not enough information to provide detailed advice on grad school vs. not or more nuanced decisions like that, but am open to any suggestions you may have or things to think about.

sambb
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by sambb » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:12 pm

In large bureaucratic environments, at the junior level, i would consider being apolitical, and understanding the mission of the center, and your perceived role. Team player. And not complaining, and working hard, and learning.
Corporate america has the same bureaucracies and politics as universities.

On the other hand, if you dont like your field, you might need to change your whole career pathway or find a new job in the same career.

FederalFIRE
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by FederalFIRE » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:19 pm

I haven't had the similar feeling of being post-grad and realizing you don't like the career, but can sympathize with the long path through a PhD and questioning a bit of whether or not it was actually worth it. That said, I think you should hold off on totally changing career fields, but keep it in mind in what you're doing now. Data science is definitely an "in" field right now, and there are organizations all over that are hiring people left and right who have skills in data analytics, regardless of what their field of study was. I know a number of engineering PhDs who are now working in finance because of this exact route.

That said, you haven't been in your field all that long, and if you really have skills in this area (which you must given the number of pubs and working at a tier 1) I wouldn't give it up after a bad start. Downshifting to a different environment could be very beneficial. Whether that be moving to a lower tier university, a government job, or a non-profit, it would seem that you would be marketable. Given all your time invested, I think it's well worth it to see if staying in the field but operating at a different level would be more sustainable. Being at a tier 1 school is great, but it's definitely not for everyone. It can be soul sucking trying to keep up.

I'm in Federal R&D and really like it. There is less pressure to publish (though it still exists), and a "safety net" if unfunded. I work in an organization that is a lot like a university in that PIs have to bring their own money in, but the pressure isn't quite as high as a uni. There is also much more willingness to collaborate than what I've seen at top universities, meaning the pressure can be spread out more evenly.

Rotarman
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Rotarman » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:32 pm

Have you considered switching to an all clinical role? Close family member is psychologist entirely clinical outpatient at a small place (10ish provider) and loves her work. No middle men telling them how to practice and she gets to do a lot of teaching/supervision. Definitely lose some prestige and your research would be comparatively trivial, but I think you'd stand to gain a 20-40% pay increase. Most importantly you'd be your own boss or at least in a leadership position and the bureaucracy would be significantly reduced.

worthit
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by worthit » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:38 pm

Congratulations on your accomplishments.

Some thoughts for consideration:

1. 35 is still young for a catch up towards retirement. A lot of folks I know in academia started late and had to play catch up and this is a common theme (you get recognition and publications to your credit, but not much in terms of remuneration). So it is not impossible to set your retirement house in order especially with a dual income. It can be done.

2. Have you considered moving from academia to industry and looking for applicable positions where your skill can be utilized? The migration is very common in both directions. Yes, it may take some time to get your foot into the door, but it can be done with some planning and perseverance. I know a lot of successful and happier folks who made the transition from academia to the industry and regret not having done so much earlier.

3. I suggest # 2, because enduring academic politics as supposed to corporate politics is not worth the salary/funding they provide you. At least in the corporate world, you can command a higher salary and possible promotions if you play your cards right. Academia is overly glamorized in some respects and the industry is overly demonized IMHO especially in medicine/healthcare.

4. If this is affecting your quality of life, I would seriously start looking for options to change the situation.

5. Lastly, I wouldn't postpone having kids for the sake of professional prosperity as life happens and you will not get this precious time back. It is just me. YMMV.

Topic Author
Ollie123
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Ollie123 » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:42 pm

Rotarman wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:32 pm
Have you considered switching to an all clinical role? Close family member is psychologist entirely clinical outpatient at a small place (10ish provider) and loves her work. No middle men telling them how to practice and she gets to do a lot of teaching/supervision. Definitely lose some prestige and your research would be comparatively trivial, but I think you'd stand to gain a 20-40% pay increase. Most importantly you'd be your own boss or at least in a leadership position and the bureaucracy would be significantly reduced.
Sorry...probably should have commented on this specifically. I enjoy carrying a small caseload, but am not really interested in primarily clinical roles. Just too repetitive. It does offer some upsides like the ones you note, but I just can't see myself giving up research to that degree. Nothing against your family member, just isn't where my heart is.

Thanks to all who have replied so far! Keep 'em coming.
Last edited by Ollie123 on Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

charis23
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by charis23 » Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:43 pm

Working data scientist in industry here.

I don't have a lot of experience with advising someone so far along in their careers making a switch to data science. Although I have worked with a number of data scientists in the past who come from PhD programs. Most of them, rather than doing a master's in data science (which I think most aren't that great as they're essentially cash cows for their schools), they did a program that takes in PhDs and gives them intense data engineering and machine learning training in a 2 month period. One program that some of my past colleagues did was https://www.insightdatascience.com/. They do offer remote programs too.

Separately, you might want to try to do a side-project in building a machine learning model with data in your field to see whether you enjoy the work. There are a ton of resources I could recommend (depending on if you like learning via video, textbook, etc). A good resource is hands on machine learning.

https://www.amazon.com/Hands-Machine-Le ... 1491962291

All of the code is available too as jupyter notebooks: https://github.com/ageron/handson-ml

Feel free to PM me if you have more specific questions too.

Moneta
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Moneta » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:05 pm

I left academia after realizing the cost/benefits just wouldn't work for me, partly due to similar concerns about work/life balance and wanting to be able to start a family. No regrets!

After a somewhat winding career pathway, I ended up in a data science adjacent field and am now a technical program manager in Business Intelligence, working for a large educational institution. It's a pretty sweet spot for me -- the government side means there's a reasonable workload and reasonable job security, as well as benefits and even a pension plan. Whereas the BI / data side means there are interesting problems to be worked on. And the fact that it's for education means that I can feel good about where my efforts are going -- making the next generation more fit to solve the problems of our past and present.

I'd recommend pulling back from your job but staying employed there for the next 18 months while you work on your skills and tech portfolio. 18 months is only half of your three-year runway, and you should know by then if where you're focusing will work out for you. Degrees matter less in tech than in many other fields. If you have a portfolio of work product, you should be able to pivot to another career that would be a better fit for you.

Your path is unpredictable, but here are some things you could experiment with. You're a smart person and I'm sure you will find a path that works out for you in all the right ways!

* Online courses -- to be honest, I tried this and it didn't work for me at all. It turns out I'm more motivated by deadlines and by the fear of "letting down" an authority figure. I needed to abandon the idea of teaching myself by watching online videos in my "spare time." Which led me to --

* A local university's certificate program. The course met one night a week for 3 hours, and there was homework. It provided the structure of accountability I needed to learn about data warehousing. It also provided --

* Contacts. I met new people through this course and friended them on LinkedIn. One of them hooked me up with a part time job in the data world. I also realized I could make --

* A free Tableau public account, where I could upload a couple of small visualizations I created in the Tableau tool (which is also free). This allowed me to post the link on my LinkedIn, along with my part time job, strengthening my application for when I inevitably --

* Began applying to data jobs. I had automatic emails set up to alert me to new positions that sounded good. I kept a file of desired job titles, desired job descriptions. I researched salaries on GlassDoor. I kept a spreadsheet of jobs where I'd applied and what happened, and any companies I was ruling out for any future application (either because I didn't approve of what the company did, or how they operated, or because the commute would be untenable, etc.). I looked deep within myself and realized I didn't want to be a consultant or travel more than 10% of the time, so those jobs were out; I kept a "hot list" of the top 10 or 20 places I wanted to work and I looked through their job listings all the time. I read the "Ask a Manager" blog to understand how job searching works now, and I updated my "base resume" accordingly and then tweaked it for every job I applied to. I also wrote really good cover letters based on that blog's advice. (The cover letter is where you can explain your unconventional career pathway and why it's so ideal for Job X.) This led to --

* A job posting that I applied to, was screened for, was interviewed for twice, was offered, and accepted! Since it was government, that whole process took about 3 months, but it was so TOTALLY worth the wait.

I recommend treating this career pivot project like a major effort, dedicating at least 10 hours a week to it for 18 months. You are obviously a dedicated human being who knows how to solve problems. Assuming you live in a major metropolitan area, if you put in the effort to change your skill set and present yourself accordingly, you should have no problem getting a data job in the low six figures with benefits, which would be comparable to where you are now, plus a huge improvement in your quality of life. I can't recommend enough the feeling of job security and knowing that your position will be around, freeing you up to live life while you're young! Don't wait until your 50s for this -- do it. Do it now!!! Also, feel free to PM me if you want to ask more!

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LiveSimple
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by LiveSimple » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:14 pm

I am a technologist, so I do not understand well what your job is and why you are burnt out.

However I can say if you switch to machine learning in your domain you can make 100% more compensation. Also the industry do need people like you with academic skills and apply the technology.

I glanced you mentioned machine learning, so you should look deep in this area.

bernoulli
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by bernoulli » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:20 pm

I have a lot of family members and family friends who are or have been in your position so I think I understand where you are. It is very tough. My own father was in a similar position and the constant pressure to secure funding and publish took a huge toll on him. My spouse tried it and found it unsatisfying for similar reasons - bureaucracy, etc. Do you remember the financial melt down in 2008? Many of my father's friends and colleagues lost funding and therefore their livelihoods. Some survived and some did not.

Personally, I think (2) is the least optimal option. As you are keenly aware, "prestige" in the academic world is key to your success in securing funding and accumulating publication. From what I saw at smaller/less prestigious research environments, the stress is heightened because the competition is fiercer as the opportunities are more limited.

Many went with (3) and seemed to do okay. It is never easy to switch careers but many people do it with night classes or online classes. Getting these new qualifications would not be too difficult for you given your academic record. Those who went with (1) are doing fine also, but I guess if (1) is palatable at all, you would not have started this post.

As for personal finance, I think your numbers are good, saving 25% on an ongoing basis and no debt. Your economical life style and focus on saving are key to your financial success in the long run. So I'd suggest you decouple your career dilemma from your personal finance and see if that brings some clarity into what you really want to do for your career. From your numbers, it looks like your financial future is fine if you stay where you are. It seems to me that what concerns you the most is the stress, the uncertainty, and the environment of your current position.

DarkHelmetII
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by DarkHelmetII » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:23 pm

Find a "data science" gig at a leading Management Consulting, Professional Services, or Technology firm looking for "Smart PhDs" to monetize the math. Position yourself as relevant for particular industries.

HomeStretch
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by HomeStretch » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:25 pm

How about taking a couple weeks of vacation/personal time to recharge before you make any decisions? Only you (in conjunction with spouse) can make this personal decision.

I am old school and would opt to do #1 until I figured out #3 and had a plan/job offer to change careers.

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Sandtrap
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Sandtrap » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:33 pm

duplicate
Last edited by Sandtrap on Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know

er999
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by er999 » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:37 pm

If you’re making about 100k per year, I would seriously consider switching to a 0.5 FTE clinical position that would pay about the same as you make now when you decide what you want to do long term. I assume that you’re in psychiatry.

I’m a hospitalist and there are many moms in my group who work 0.5 FTE. I assume psychiatry is similar pay. 0.5 hospitalist pay is about 8 days per month with benefits and pays around 100k. Even if you don’t like your job having lots of time off makes it much more tolerable. You’d have plenty of time to research a career change as well or focus on your personal life that you likely put I hold during training.

You probably couldn’t easily go back to academic medicine but could easily increase your clinics fte if you need more money. Check out Kaiser or other large groups for these opportunities. It’s amazing to me how low academic pay.

Edit: sorry thought you were md/PhD was initially reading your post. Reading closer saw you were PhD. PhD probably doesn’t apply as different salary range.
Last edited by er999 on Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rj342
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by rj342 » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:38 pm

sambb wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:12 pm
In large bureaucratic environments, at the junior level, i would consider being apolitical, and understanding the mission of the center, and your perceived role. Team player. And not complaining, and working hard, and learning.
Corporate america has the same bureaucracies and politics as universities.

On the other hand, if you dont like your field, you might need to change your whole career pathway or find a new job in the same career.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

Alternately: In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

https://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/jerryp/iron.html

rj342
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by rj342 » Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:41 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 2:33 pm
FWIW: I always thought that I was pursuing the wrong career. Many times. Sort of like spending 12 years at the university figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. Now, I'm retired.

Always a coulda', shoulda', woulda'.
Nobody's immune.

j
I'm 54 and still havent quite figured that out... but FIRE solves all those problems if you can get there sooner or later, (I'm working on it - will prob scrape in at the lower end).

Beehave
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Beehave » Fri Jun 28, 2019 4:23 pm

If you enjoy collecting and working with data to solve specific problems and hate bureaucracy then do consulting work.

If you enjoy collecting data to build a general model of system behavior then you need funding for research which you must obtain the way you currently (with attendant bureaucracy) or do it or by consulting on specific issues to earn money and to provide input to the general model you are building. You also need a way to productize the general system model to earn money off of it.

I'd suggest running the clock on the three years funding you currently have to see if things somehow change for the better and during which time you figure out whether and how to do consulting work.

You may PM me if you wish. I have extensive experience in predicting system behavior based on existing models, and also in collecting data to develop system models in consulting, in research, and in client support (analagous to your clinical work) and would be happy to explain the above in more detail (my experience is in IT and Finance industries - - - also academia but teaching only in academia with no R&D).

Good luck and best wishes. A bureaucracy can grind you up and spit you out, all the while paying for your comfortable life and retirement. I started late and with family that needed a roof and food and stayed with the bureaucracy out of what I felt was necessity. The choice to leave is fraught with all kinds of risk and potential reward and the decision is neither trivial nor easy. But in my experience, the one thing you need to keep in mind is that THE gig that provides the greatest insulation from stifling bureaucracy is consulting to solve client problems. Maybe one way or another you can add some to your current environment and be happier.

artgerst
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by artgerst » Fri Jun 28, 2019 4:48 pm

I don't have a PhD or similar background but in my 50s, own a technology company and interview tons of people.

First I would say (as a 50-year-old with children) what do you want life to be? (Sorry philosophical a bit for an IT guy). When you look back at 60/70 years of age, did you want to just have a good amount of money and "retire" and do nothing OR be happy with the prior 30 years of what you did/accomplished. The answer to me is obvious. Also, DON'T WAIT to have kids. It's not like you have no money. You want to enjoy your children while you are relatively young. Yes, kids are stressful, but life with no major ups and downs is not really life! (to me at least).

So for me I would suggest #3 and as an owner of an IT company I would say while you are working now, build up lots of machine learning, data analysis, real world examples you could show a potential employer. If you need to take some online classes to do that, then do it while you are currently employed in your current career. This will solve several problems, some of which includes seeing if you are truly motivated to make a switch. You then go to employers or head hunter with your resume and your real-world examples and get the best job you can. After 2 years you can probably switch out with a higher salary.

adam1712
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by adam1712 » Fri Jun 28, 2019 5:50 pm

I'm in a somewhat similar position to you. I would say there's two redflags in your post:
1) I'd recommend not falling for the grass is always greener mentality by blaming things on bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is everywhere. Bureaucracy is often the worst part but it's more painful when you don't like the rest of your job. What is different from grad/post-doc to faculty is how many people you have to manage, how much collaboration is expected, how much you're responsible for the financial decisions and backing of your work, and overall pressure to perform. Reading between the lines, you sound like somebody who likes to be pretty independent who doesn't like much management/leadership responsibilities. You need to be honest about your strengths/weaknesses and likes/dislikes and determine what you want to do. Don't get blinded by blaming the system or your administrators.

2) Don't fall into the crutch of thinking you need more education. Education is safe to you because you've excelled at it and it's low-stress. But at a point it just puts you further behind. If I were you, I'd at most consider a 1-2 month bootcamp. I guarantee you know how to learn and pick things up while on the job.

MotoTrojan
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by MotoTrojan » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:26 pm

Side point. It’s best to save medical receipts and pay from cash holdings if you can so your HSA can continue to grow tax-free.

quantAndHold
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by quantAndHold » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:19 am

You have a PhD and work experience. Quitting and going back to school just starts you over at entry level in another field.

Career change isn’t usually an all at once thing. You have a role (professor/clinician) in a field (academia). If your goal is data scientist in industry, think about how you can do it in multiple steps. Can you transition your role to use more data science in your current job? Data science is a newish field, and many, many “data scientists” are self taught. Once you’re doing data science in academia, it’s a much smaller step to finding an industry job that uses your skills. Or on the flip side, can you find a job in industry that uses your clinical/academic skills, then transition that job into being more data centric? The intermediate steps may not be all that appealing, but they are a path to an end goal.

hvaclorax
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by hvaclorax » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:59 am

Retired family physician here. My experience with mid career burnout is that it happens to us all. Some even go through this mess multiple times in their career. You need strong family support. A mentor in the exact field you are in is helpful.
Try not to be bitter or angry as these emotions are taxing and futile. Focus only on what moves you forward. Exercise, meditate, eat and sleep according to your needs. Use your spouse as a thermometer to guide you when you start to stray from the plan of action. I agree performance does suffer at times but not noticeable to others. Don’t hesitate to talk to your physician if necessary. Know thyself.
You can solve this problem. You trained to solve problems. It will empower you to do so.

leftcoaster
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by leftcoaster » Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:46 am

I’ve hired a lot of data scientists from other fields. Results, frankly, are mixed.

Some never get over the fact that they are no longer neuroscientists/astrophysicists/etc. if you make a career change, then make the change. Learn the craft. You’re working in software engineering. / computer science now - what does “good” look like through that lens?

Someone mentioned Insights Data Science, which is a school for wayward PhDs who realize they want to get paid. I’ve interviewed people from there and some were solid because they made the change with conviction and humility. Yes you have a PhD. It’s totally irrelevant to your new path but for the fact that you’ve shown the ability to gut out a hard problem for a long time. That’s valuable, but don’t overestimate it.

Other people coming out of that program wasted their time and money. I remember one who presented a project I can best describe as ... frivolous.

Attorneys are much better career changers than scientists. I’ve met many who are non practicing and who aren’t constantly bringing up credentials that aren’t relevant to their current role. There’s one woman I’ve worked with who is a brilliant cryptographer. I didn’t know she had a law degree for three years and only found out from someone else. She’s still never mentioned it.

Data science is a made up field that will look very different in 5 years, as CS undergrads with AI/ML concentrations are unleashed on the world. You have an opportunity now, but you are going to need to work hard to make up gaps - how are your debugging skills in distributed, big data environments? - and you have a new field to stay abreast of. If you want to turn the page, do it! But you’ve got to really turn the page or you will get crushed.

hightower
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by hightower » Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:12 am

I very much understand how you're feeling. I'm 37 and have been working as a physician in a primary care field (hospital medicine) for the last 8 years. I realized long ago that I didn't like my career, but really had no choice but to work and pay off student loans. I've learned a lot about myself over these years and I know without a doubt that I'm in the wrong career. As a strong introvert, being a clinician is just not a good fit. Add to that all the corporate medicine BS that has taken over physician's careers and it's just a terrible place to be. I haven't been able to make a switch to anything else yet though.

There's no way I'd be able to make what I make now in any other field. And I'm okay with that in theory, but it's hard to pull the plug, especially since it will mean that we need to sell our house and downsize our lifestyle a bit. I'd also be working more days per month if I got a "normal" job. As a hospitalist, I have the ability to work as a little or as much as I want each month. This month I'm only working 11 days. Next month 9. However, in March I worked 18 days and it burnt me out.
I keep going back and forth between just sucking it up and working as long as I can at a level that doesn't stress me out too much vs pulling the plug and trying my best to find a job that I at least enjoy a little. 11 days a month is pretty nice, but I still hate my life on those days. I know that I need to find something else, but it's not easy to do.

Sounds like you've been very successful and would have a very nice resume to help you in your search for a new job. I don't have that. I have a very basic resume that is essentially college -> med school -> residency -> work. Not much else.
For me I'd love to do something completely non-medical (I really dislike it that much). My original interests in highschool and college were in biology. I think I'd like working in a lab. I did a brief internship during college in a virology lab at Purdue and actually enjoyed the work. But, I don't want to go back to school. I'd have to settle for a lab assistant or something like that which pays about 50k a year if you're lucky. Not an easy pill to swallow when you've become accustomed to a job that pays close to 300k a year. Even with that, it's still something I'm strongly considering. That's how unhappy I am.

I'd love to have better advice to give, but if you're unhappy, it's not going to just magically get better. I've learned that much at least.

chessknt
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by chessknt » Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:25 am

From an academic side why not throw yourself in to a smaller pond that is looking to develop their research front in your field? As a new guy from a big name you will probably get treated a lot better and supported as well.

Jon H
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Jon H » Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:09 pm

I gave up research (less successful than you) at 39.

Completed residency/fellowship at 44.

Took an all clinical job with people I like.

Going to retire at 60 1/4. 2000 days from today. Probably not quite FatFIRE.

I have chosen happiness over career advancement/prestige at this point.
Consider gain and loss, but never be greedy and everything will be alright (fortune cookie)

StandingRock
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by StandingRock » Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:22 pm

Try to schmooze your way into a data scientist role somewhere. I know people with no education or background in IT who have jumped into UX positions or Director positions etc., areas where you can skate by without really knowing anything. If you actually are interested in the subject you will probably learn it quickly enough to be competent.

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beyou
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by beyou » Tue Jul 02, 2019 6:06 pm

This may not be what you want to hear, but I think that some of your reasons for the change are going to be true in many careers/industries.
Most people I know tell their kids to go into a different line of work, because by the time you are old enough to give career advice to your kids,
you are past the point of enthusiasm and focused on obstacles. Obstacles can be poor management, poor economy, negative trends in common business practices, indecision regarding what would make you happy, and many more issues.

I don't disagree with the suggestions to consider Data Science as a career, seems you skills may well be transferable.
But do not be fooled into thinking you will be in heaven either. Mostly data science roles are open in corporations where you may
not always find the subject of the studies so interesting (think marketing, clicks on websites). There will be constant reorgs, relocations, outsourcing overseas, changes in priorities, HR, and other aspect of corporate life that can be draining. I survived by focusing on two things, the details of my roles and the money. If you can ignore that less qualified people get recognition, tolerate nonsense meetings, year end reviews and put them in perspective (means to an end) then go ahead and pursue a new career for a fresh start.

But also consider more incremental changes to your existing career. Maybe change the mix between research and clinical practice.
Maybe change to a new research focus ? Maybe a new city at a new institution. Maybe go to some conferences that you wouldn't normally attend
to expand your horizons and meet new colleagues. Maybe make time for a hobby that distracts you from work. Frankly if I had stability and decent income, I wouldn't look to completely start over again, even though I think the data science is an option for you. Someone suggested you incorporate that with your current job, I like that idea. Volunteer for something at or outside work. Change something but you don't have to change everything.

From a purely financial perspective, you want to be in your peak earning years soon, so if you are going to make a major change, make it and maximize earnings asap. As an academic maybe you could keep going to 60, but that's tough to do in the corporate world. See all the threads here about layoffs in your 50s, that is the reality in the corporate world. You need to have some level of retirement readiness at 50, and if lucky improve your finances as long as you can, but that may be shorter outside academics. I see older doctors and professors than I see people working in data science or any hands on corporate role.

Topic Author
Ollie123
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Ollie123 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:02 pm

Many thanks to you all and I apologize for the long delay in further response. A couple of you mentioned this and it was already on our radar, so my wife and I decided to get away for a week and spent 7 days in the mountains hiking, rafting and recalibrating. Now feel in a much better mindset to tackle this issue.

I am still undecided about the best path forward, but at the very least I think active exploration of other options will be a good thing. I can realistically carve out some time for data science as part of my present role without completely "not doing my job" or putting my future in jeopardy if I do decide to stick it out. This has the added advantage of allowing me to bide my time a bit. I do worry a bit I am in a "grass is always greener" scenario as there is much to be said for my present job. I do think if I felt secure the bureaucracy would be more tolerable - I think my biggest stressor is feeling that I am solely responsible for bringing in my salary but am constantly being hindered in doing so. My present role feels a little like being a salesman on commission with extreme restrictions on what they can do to close. Its a little frustrating and needless to say...isn't what I envisioned.

I will likely be sending PMs to several of you over the next couple weeks for some follow-up discussion.

I am grateful to all who replied.

JoeRetire
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by JoeRetire » Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:11 pm

Ollie123 wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 12:58 pm
Curious if anyone here has had the experience of believing they entered the wrong field and successfully made a switch
I changed careers a few times.

I was in IT, starting out as as a programmer/analyst, then went into IT management.

I ducked out of corporate tech for a while to help my family build and grow their food business, then went back into tech.

When I saw the writing on the wall, I decided that I would never again be part of an overhead department. I transitioned into Quality Assurance and R&D leadership roles that were always part of the revenue side in startup companies.

I consider my career change the best thing I ever did. It wasn't easy, and was a bit scary at first. But in the end it was both interesting and lucrative. For me, liking what you do over a long career is important.

Texanbybirth
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by Texanbybirth » Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:20 pm

Yes, I often feel that I pursued the wrong career. However, I'm good at what I do, it doesn't make me sad, and it affords me the ability to care for my family. I've tried to fill as much of my time as I can with other things that bring me great joy, and it has mostly worked out well so far (34 years old). I do not see a viable path forward to change things now, so I don't stress over it.

"Regret's been known to give a man a beatin'." goes an old song. :beer
Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow, | Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow. | None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master: | His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.

bernoulli
Posts: 107
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by bernoulli » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:22 pm

I did the same hiking/traveling when I hit a huge road block in my career. Being in nature and away from work always helps to clear the constantly chattering mind.

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unclescrooge
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by unclescrooge » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:34 pm

hightower wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:12 am
I very much understand how you're feeling. I'm 37 and have been working as a physician in a primary care field (hospital medicine) for the last 8 years. I realized long ago that I didn't like my career, but really had no choice but to work and pay off student loans. I've learned a lot about myself over these years and I know without a doubt that I'm in the wrong career. As a strong introvert, being a clinician is just not a good fit. Add to that all the corporate medicine BS that has taken over physician's careers and it's just a terrible place to be. I haven't been able to make a switch to anything else yet though.

There's no way I'd be able to make what I make now in any other field. And I'm okay with that in theory, but it's hard to pull the plug, especially since it will mean that we need to sell our house and downsize our lifestyle a bit. I'd also be working more days per month if I got a "normal" job. As a hospitalist, I have the ability to work as a little or as much as I want each month. This month I'm only working 11 days. Next month 9. However, in March I worked 18 days and it burnt me out.
I keep going back and forth between just sucking it up and working as long as I can at a level that doesn't stress me out too much vs pulling the plug and trying my best to find a job that I at least enjoy a little. 11 days a month is pretty nice, but I still hate my life on those days. I know that I need to find something else, but it's not easy to do.

Sounds like you've been very successful and would have a very nice resume to help you in your search for a new job. I don't have that. I have a very basic resume that is essentially college -> med school -> residency -> work. Not much else.
For me I'd love to do something completely non-medical (I really dislike it that much). My original interests in highschool and college were in biology. I think I'd like working in a lab. I did a brief internship during college in a virology lab at Purdue and actually enjoyed the work. But, I don't want to go back to school. I'd have to settle for a lab assistant or something like that which pays about 50k a year if you're lucky. Not an easy pill to swallow when you've become accustomed to a job that pays close to 300k a year. Even with that, it's still something I'm strongly considering. That's how unhappy I am.

I'd love to have better advice to give, but if you're unhappy, it's not going to just magically get better. I've learned that much at least.
Can't you become a pathologist? My mom was an introvert and forensic pathology suited her just fine.

bernoulli
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by bernoulli » Fri Jul 19, 2019 7:49 pm

unclescrooge wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:34 pm

Can't you become a pathologist? My mom was an introvert and forensic pathology suited her just fine.
I just talked to my colleague/friend who used to be a pathologist and he told me he hated it so much that he learned how to say "I hate my job" in about 25 languages, Russian, etc. He is a big introvert.

il0kin
Posts: 254
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by il0kin » Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:05 pm

I’m in the healthcare data analytics field at an academic employer and can assure you if you retooled through the data science program and learned Python/R and SQL and could demonstrate your capabilities combined with a PhD you would have no problem finding a job with starting salary of 90k, possibly more. Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss more.

texnic
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by texnic » Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:01 pm

Perhaps I missed it in your description, but I have one question - is your position a tenure-track one? If so, maybe you could hang on for a few more years, after which at least part of pressure will be off? Then you will able to reassess the situation from a better perspective.

AKsuited
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by AKsuited » Sat Jul 20, 2019 12:45 am

Texanbybirth wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:20 pm
Yes, I often feel that I pursued the wrong career. However, I'm good at what I do, it doesn't make me sad, and it affords me the ability to care for my family. I've tried to fill as much of my time as I can with other things that bring me great joy, and it has mostly worked out well so far (34 years old). I do not see a viable path forward to change things now, so I don't stress over it.

"Regret's been known to give a man a beatin'." goes an old song. :beer
Same here; I'm not in "love" with my IT profession but I don't hate it either. Like anything else in life; there are great days and bad days and the pay is fantastic for what I do. It's impossible to find the "unicorn/perfect career" but people keep searching. A lot of young people have been sold that there's a perfect career, spouse, mega corp, and life out there if they keep searching' that is not true and it's not realistic. As they say, grass is not always greener and there is bureaucracy everywhere you go.

OP needs to have a deep down self reflection on what his goals/needs/wants are and why he got into his field. After a long a deep reflection; I've realize I don't have the resolve/time/dedication to take the leap of faith and change careers. To me; it wasn't worth the time/effort and lost of salary to make the change.

Instead I decided to focus on what I can change and find the silver lining in my career and ride it out. I'm so much happier once I was able to change my perspective.

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market timer
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Re: Pursued the wrong career?

Post by market timer » Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:12 am

I like the idea of #3; however, given your experience, you should not aim for a data scientist job. You should be looking for a job managing data scientists or analysts and solving problems in healthcare.

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