Midlife Crisis/Career Change

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Jez
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Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#1

Post by Jez » Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:37 am

I'm thinking a lot of my dissatisfaction with life in general is kind of a midlife crisis. After spending close to 20 years as a Technical Writer, I don't think I enjoy it much anymore. So I started thinking. (please, no running and screaming, it will scare the animals and children)

When I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer. Then this thing called life got in the way. I wasn't able to finish college and a law degree is financially way out of my reach. So, I have started looking at possibly switching careers into being a Paralegal.

I would have to go back to school, and from what I could see on the local Community College's website, I would have to take about 10 classes to complete an AAS / Paralegal. That could be done in about a 12 to 18 months, depending on how many of the classes can be taken online. There are also online only programs, of course.

Am I too old to switch careers now? I'm nearing 50, but still have several years left in me. And there will always be a need for a paralegal, I'm thinking.


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#2

Post by Grumpy Old Guy » Wed Dec 26, 2018 11:20 am

I remember a Dear Abby or Ann Landers reply where someone wonders if they should start a new training, considering that he/she would be 30 or 40 when it finished. The reply was that you will be that age whether or not you do the training.

If you want the training, and can do it, DO IT. :boxing: :clap:



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#3

Post by neeneko » Wed Dec 26, 2018 11:30 am

I'm actually pondering something similar. The lab I work in, well, I can see the writing on the walls and doubt it will survive much longer and I am not sure I want to stay in the pigeonhole I have ended up in (damn python...).... so i've been spending a lot of time (but not enough of it studying) trying to decide what to do next and how much of a change I can afford.

But yeah, the general bit of advice I keep hearing is along the lines of Grumpy Old Guy's comment... gonna get older one way or the other, so you can either be older with new training or not. The big question really becomes how much time and resources can you afford to spend on getting the new skills, and of course how well you can zero in on what you want to do.



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#4

Post by Maybenaut » Wed Dec 26, 2018 11:57 am

I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor, and it’s a transportable skill.

The only caveat I would offer is this: being a paralegal is not to law what being a paramedic is to medicine.


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#5

Post by Reeeko » Wed Dec 26, 2018 12:00 pm

My sister's a bit out of my league, but after getting restructured/downsized from a Marketing SVP position with a major retail corp, and spending a year as a consultant with another, she's starting the year-long Advanced Leadership Initiative resident program at Harvard in a couple weeks with a view to getting into something new (she doesn't like the quant/analytical direction marketing has been moving in). Oh, and she's 57, which is pretty typical of her cohort.



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#6

Post by NotaPerson » Wed Dec 26, 2018 12:02 pm

Have you thoroughly researched the job market for paralegals? There may always be a need for paralegals, but that doesn't mean a lot of people haven't figured that out already. Just as there will always be a need for lawyers - you probably heard the stories several years ago of the many people graduating with law degrees who were unable to find jobs in the field. Lots of people came out of law school saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, many doomed to never have any kind of career in law. Maybe things have improved since then, I don't know.

About 15 years ago, I went through something of a mid-life crisis. Actually, the chronic low-grade depression I had been struggling with for decades just got worse. I briefly considered chucking it all and going back to school for a couple of years to become an academic librarian. I discovered it was a field that actually needed people. I've always loved libraries, having worked in one on and off throughout grad-school back in the 80s. But I ended up going on an anti-depressant instead, and quickly enough those thoughts went away. ;)

Best of luck, whatever you decide to do.


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#7

Post by DejaMoo » Wed Dec 26, 2018 12:26 pm

Well, Jez, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has good news about the job prospects in that field:
Employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Formally trained paralegals with strong computer and database management skills should have the best job prospects.
OTOH, it also says the average pay for that job is about $49K/yr. I don't know if that's decent pay by contemporary standards, but you can check it out. Hit the above link resources for employment and wages by state and area for paralegals and legal assistants.

Good luck to you!


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#8

Post by Tiredretiredlawyer » Wed Dec 26, 2018 12:56 pm

Jez wrote:
Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:37 am
I'm thinking a lot of my dissatisfaction with life in general is kind of a midlife crisis. After spending close to 20 years as a Technical Writer, I don't think I enjoy it much anymore. So I started thinking. (please, no running and screaming, it will scare the animals and children)

When I was younger, I wanted to be a lawyer. Then this thing called life got in the way. I wasn't able to finish college and a law degree is financially way out of my reach. So, I have started looking at possibly switching careers into being a Paralegal.

Paralegal means different things to different lawyers because law practice is so different for each field of law. I was a trial lawyer primarily so my paralegals were in charge of organizing and sending needed trial documents according to a system I set up. They had to read all mail, etc., that came to the office regarding the client to which they were assigned and alert me to things they thought were significant or needed. They prepared trial exhibits, trial exhibit lists, made sure that all filed documents from all parties were located in the pleadings folder and assigned a number and date. They did initial interviews for witnesses. Sometimes they attended trials.

I would have to go back to school, and from what I could see on the local Community College's website, I would have to take about 10 classes to complete an AAS / Paralegal. That could be done in about a 12 to 18 months, depending on how many of the classes can be taken online. There are also online only programs, of course.

In Arkansas, and perhaps other states, licensure or certification is not required to get a job as a paralegal. Many legal administrative assistants go to school at night while working during the day at a law firm as an administrative assistant, filing clerk, courier or receptionist.

Am I too old to switch careers now? NO!!!!!I'm nearing 50, but still have several years left in me. And there will always be a need for a paralegal, I'm thinking.
You are the perfect age to be a paralegal. You have life experience, people skills, technical writing skills which will come in handy. Some law firms like to hire and train paralegals for specific work whether or not they have licensure.


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#9

Post by Jez » Wed Dec 26, 2018 4:42 pm

Well, I'm about 83.49% decided. I'm more than likely going to head back to school for something... more than likely Paralegal. I think it would be a good fit for me. Research, writing, categorizing, cataloging, filing, etc. That is the type of stuff that I like.

As for money, I'm very sure that the pay will be a bit less than I'm making now. But truthfully, most companies have no clue what a technical writer does. I've interviewed for jobs where they think a tech writer and a programmer/systems engineer are synonymous. They aren't. I may be conversant in programming and network infrastructure/architecture, but don't ask me to write anything beyond a simple shell script. And you sure as hell don't want me designing your server farm.

It's still many months down the road. I may change my mind as to what I want to be when I grow up, so we'll see. But I can kinda see myself as a paralegal, I guess.

ETA:
Saw one job where they wanted a Masters in Communications or a Bachelors with 15 years experience. Pay was $15/hr. I could make delivering pizzas. Less stress as well.
So, I guess partially I too am seeing a bit of scribbling on the wall. Unless you have advanced degrees, it's difficult to get a position anymore. And even when you do find one, it's usually a contract on a per project basis. So, there is that little caveat. I am getting too old to be panicking about a job every 6 months. I've only got 3 months left on this contract and will begin really scrambling next month, once the holidays are over.


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#10

Post by RoadScholar » Wed Dec 26, 2018 6:39 pm

My 2 cents: if your written English is perfect, cool. If not, take a writing class. I meet bunches of people of all professions, and I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard how hard it is for them to find employees who can write without errors. No matter how good their technical training, people skills, computer skills, and so on, correct writing is now rare and as such, suddenly valuable.


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#11

Post by Reeeko » Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:44 pm

RoadScholar wrote:
Wed Dec 26, 2018 6:39 pm
My 2 cents: if your written English is perfect, cool. If not, take a writing class. I meet bunches of people of all professions, and I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard how hard it is for them to find employees who can write without errors. No matter how good their technical training, people skills, computer skills, and so on, correct writing is now rare and as such, suddenly valuable.
Very true. Before I retired, I supervised about a dozen professional engineers - as the only one in the group who DIDN'T have an advanced degree. However, I could write circles around any or all of them, and that made the difference. You can know a lot of stuff, but if you can't competently, professionally, and effectively communicate it, it ain't worth squat. I'd like to think that I and my "blue pen of death" improved their skills, whether they appreciated it or not.



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#12

Post by Jez » Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:31 am

Reeeko wrote:
Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:44 pm
RoadScholar wrote:
Wed Dec 26, 2018 6:39 pm
My 2 cents: if your written English is perfect, cool. If not, take a writing class. I meet bunches of people of all professions, and I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard how hard it is for them to find employees who can write without errors. No matter how good their technical training, people skills, computer skills, and so on, correct writing is now rare and as such, suddenly valuable.
Very true. Before I retired, I supervised about a dozen professional engineers - as the only one in the group who DIDN'T have an advanced degree. However, I could write circles around any or all of them, and that made the difference. You can know a lot of stuff, but if you can't competently, professionally, and effectively communicate it, it ain't worth squat. I'd like to think that I and my "blue pen of death" improved their skills, whether they appreciated it or not.
I write pretty well, know about 90% of the grammar rules and can type at 60+ words per minute without errors. When I worked at Motel 6 corporate, I would help the IT guys with their white papers, making sure the jargon wasn't overwhelming and the grammar was correct. So, yeah, I can write. :D

After the holidays I'm going to get all my academic stuff gathered together (past transcripts, etc) and make a plan. I'll get it figured out. I usually do.

Either that, or win the lottery. But I supposed you have to play the lottery to win it, huh?


I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.

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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#13

Post by p0rtia » Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:57 am

A comment on writing skills and writing courses from someone (me) who's made a living as a writer and editor for over thirty years.

It's not news that engineers, scientists, doctors and other professionals suck at producing polished writing. It's not their skill; it's not the skill they are focused on or being paid for. That's what professional content editors and copy editors are for. Producing effective and polished writing is not a one-person job--though most of the world does not appreciate that fact. Nor do a lot of administrators I've met over the years, who carp at the lack of professional writing skills displayed by professionals in other fields. I worked overseas for USAID and various NGOs for twenty years, and every job but one was an afterthought on the part of the project designers.

Side note: The chances of finding a writing course that will match your existing skill level and improve it are slim. Self study is always good, but doing a thorough job is better. As is a professional approach, good communication, and an understanding of the job. Including what one person can and cannot do (defining what I couldn't do was key for me starting out). My copy editing skills are ordinary at best (I do mainly content editing), but boy howdy can I identify problems and meet a deadline.

Side note 2: There are actually plenty of professional writers and editors out there. From where I sit, the problem is that administrators don't want to pay them (or pay them the going rate); they ignore the reality of writing as a profession and the need for professional editing and buy into the nonsense that any college grad should be able to produce top-notch writing. And when that proves to be untrue, they carp.


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#14

Post by JohnPCapitalist » Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:13 am

RoadScholar wrote:
Wed Dec 26, 2018 6:39 pm
My 2 cents: if your written English is perfect, cool. If not, take a writing class. I meet bunches of people of all professions, and I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard how hard it is for them to find employees who can write without errors. No matter how good their technical training, people skills, computer skills, and so on, correct writing is now rare and as such, suddenly valuable.
I concur. I had zero training in finance when I went into investment management. I understood the industry I was focused on investing in (high tech) from having worked in it for almost 20 years, but I didn't know an income statement from a balance sheet. I was a very good writer (an English degree from a very highly regarded school), and the writing chops turned out to be the key to my success. Every quarter, my clients see 30 earnings reports on Microsoft, all saying more-or-less the same thing, but they tell me they reach for mine because they're easy to read and concise. Plus, they like the way I format my spreadsheets so they're easy to read.

Writing skills were the key to success, even when I was a software engineer -- I got a lot of features included in the product because my design documents made sense and because I was able to present them clearly and convincingly in person.

Regarding "take a writing class," I would second that but would add that the kind of writing class you take matters a lot. Take an intense writing workshop where you polish a 5-10 page piece several times a week for an entire semester. The micro-management you learn about how to make good word choices and how to defend them to other writers, many of whom are better than you are, is the thing that will make you great. And having to revise significantly every two or three days will make you fast. Just going to a night school class or something at the local junior college where they lecture about grammar and organization won't do nearly as much for your prose. There are Meetup groups for writers and private tutoring that will kick you into a high gear if you can't find something through the educational system.



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#15

Post by Bill_G » Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:17 am

p0rtia wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:57 am
A comment on writing skills and writing courses from someone (me) who's made a living as a writer and editor for over thirty years.

It's not news that engineers, scientists, doctors and other professionals suck at producing polished writing. It's not their skill; it's not the skill they are focused on or being paid for. That's what professional content editors and copy editors are for. Producing effective and polished writing is not a one-person job--though most of the world does not appreciate that fact. Nor do a lot of administrators I've met over the years, who carp at the lack of professional writing skills displayed by professionals in other fields. I worked overseas for USAID and various NGOs for twenty years, and every job but one was an afterthought on the part of the project designers.

Side note: The chances of finding a writing course that will match your existing skill level and improve it are slim. Self study is always good, but doing a thorough job is better. As is a professional approach, good communication, and an understanding of the job. Including what one person can and cannot do (defining what I couldn't do was key for me starting out). My copy editing skills are ordinary at best (I do mainly content editing), but boy howdy can I identify problems and meet a deadline.

Side note 2: There are actually plenty of professional writers and editors out there. From where I sit, the problem is that administrators don't want to pay them (or pay them the going rate); they ignore the reality of writing as a profession and the need for professional editing and buy into the nonsense that any college grad should be able to produce top-notch writing. And when that proves to be untrue, they carp.
:like: :clap:



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#16

Post by Bill_G » Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:27 am

Jez wrote:
Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:37 am
Am I too old to switch careers now? I'm nearing 50, but still have several years left in me. And there will always be a need for a paralegal, I'm thinking.
I've told people young and old to find a way to make a career out of what they liked as a child before puberty. Whatever it was that you enjoyed and excelled at eight, that's what you should be doing.

For me it was Erector sets and building tree forts. I became an engineer. One of my brothers loved dinosaurs. He became a geologist and hydrologist with a minor in paleontology. Another brother knew he was going to be a veterinarian even as a child. Our one sister became a realtor. Her fascination as a child: playing house and getting everything just right.

So, think back to those early days. What skills do you have that bring you satisfaction whenever you allow yourself to flex those muscles?



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#17

Post by Jez » Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:45 am

Bill_G wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:27 am
I've told people young and old to find a way to make a career out of what they liked as a child before puberty. Whatever it was that you enjoyed and excelled at eight, that's what you should be doing.

For me it was Erector sets and building tree forts. I became an engineer. One of my brothers loved dinosaurs. He became a geologist and hydrologist with a minor in paleontology. Another brother knew he was going to be a veterinarian even as a child. Our one sister became a realtor. Her fascination as a child: playing house and getting everything just right.

So, think back to those early days. What skills do you have that bring you satisfaction whenever you allow yourself to flex those muscles?
When I was 8, I loved street football, boxing, hockey, and playing kick the can. Oh, and I liked drawing and painting. Being an Artist doesn't really pay the bills very much and it's been years since I picked up a brush or pencil. And I might be a bit too aged to play football. I read a lot as a kid as well. We didn't have the TV going 24/7 like a lot of homes did. It wasn't our babysitter. If we were "bored" (as only a kid can be), my mom would tell us to go read a book or draw something. So, I would read.

Start at about age 9, I decided I was going to read our Encyclopedia Britannica set. And I did. Took me about a year, but I read every entry. Read through my dad's collection of Harvard Classics as well. He had the entire set, so I read Marcus Aurelius and Shakespeare at a young age for fun.

Yeah, I was a boring child for the most part. Then computers hit. I had found my element. Especially hardware. I loved mucking with the hardware in the computer. I've built computers for my own use, fixed my friends' PCs and I'm still my dad's personal helpdesk (each call usually begins with 'did you run the antivirus').

I loved rocks as a kid too. Not sure if geology is viable at my age though. Takes a lot of years and post graduate work to become a Geologist.

We'll see what happens. I need to look at my options, my interests (which are quite varied, actually) and figure it out.

Thanks everyone for the advice and encouragement. I do appreciate it. Things are not looking quite a bleak as they were.


I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.

~Khalil Gibran

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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#18

Post by Bill_G » Thu Dec 27, 2018 9:51 am

Jez wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:45 am
When I was 8 ...
You were definitely not a two dimensional child, but the bright and inquisitive ones never are. And we don't easily succumb to the socializations thrust upon us. We leverage them. In my case, I learned how to cook and sew out of necessity. Our mother was the world's worst cook. We didn't starve, but we didn't enjoy her meals either. And she wasn't the least bit perturbed when I started taking over the kitchen when I was twelve. I needed the height and physical strength that the early teens gave me to push the pots and pans around. By the end of high school, it was My Kitchen.

While those skills yielded an income while getting my degree, I soon recognized it was not the life for me. The pay was too low, and I wasn't enough of a narcissist to succeed as a chef. And I absolutely hated the business side of restaurant work putting fingerprints in every nickel in order to make a margin. But, cooking has remained one of my favorite activities as an adult.

Likewise, doing the laundry and fixing tattered clothes became one of my chores as a kid. I became quite proficient with the sewing machine, and absolutely fell in love with a serger the first time I saw one demonstrated. When home making was offered in high school, I enrolled in class, and made top marks, but at a cost socially. You can imagine the ridicule I got in the mid-60's as a boy in a girl's class, especially from my father. He was not pleased AT ALL. But, mother wore the dresses I made her, and I wore the trousers I made to church each week. I made scads of money off the beachwear I made and sold each weekend in Pensicola. I just about ruined our pots and pans dying cloth to get the exact fabric colors I wanted. The stove and floor were a disaster. Stitching became a side business in the Air Force sewing chevrons and name tags on uniforms, and fixing torn sleeves by hand.

I never pursued fashion as an adult, but my eye for the line has translated into ergonomics and beauty in the installation - utility, practicality, and pleasantry. I want a rack of equipment to appear balanced and symmetrical while also being pleasing to the eye, and quickly comprehensible. The wiring must flow like water, but be as solid as plumbing.

This is how I made what I loved as a child turn into a living as an adult. Everyday is play for me. I wish you all the best in finding your perfect profession.



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#19

Post by kate520 » Thu Dec 27, 2018 12:58 pm

Jez, DO IT! Many of the things you loved at 9, minus kick the can I think, can be incorporated into a paralegal job - reading, computers, rocks. :lol: Plus interesting co-workers. That’s the big thing, the people you’ll work with. Most lawyers are more fun than most programmers*

You are a darn good writer. I’m sure you can find exercises online that can help you sharpen those skills in a legal focus. You’re a tech writer, which means you’ll be able to explain legalese mo’ better once you get there. Your personality and skills, jez, no matter what you think, would be an asset in any office setting. Present your best tech writer work!

That Ann Landers comment that GOG posted upthread is my favorite answer to your question. You’re going to be that age anyway, you might as well be 50 with mad paralegal skillz!

Go, jez!

* Present company, of course, excluded


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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#20

Post by Flatpointhigh » Thu Dec 27, 2018 1:06 pm

RoadScholar wrote:
Wed Dec 26, 2018 6:39 pm
My 2 cents: if your written English is perfect, cool. If not, take a writing class. I meet bunches of people of all professions, and I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard how hard it is for them to find employees who can write without errors. No matter how good their technical training, people skills, computer skills, and so on, correct writing is now rare and as such, suddenly valuable.
so copy editing and proofreading would also be in-demand jobs?



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Re: Midlife Crisis/Career Change

#21

Post by RoadScholar » Thu Dec 27, 2018 5:33 pm

They should be. But my point was not so much about writing per se, but that whatever arena you operate in professionally, if you can write without errors you could very well be the one who gets the raise, the promotion... or the one who stays when others are laid off.

Managers have been noting that an organization or business that puts out written material riddled with errors is perceived as lazy or stupid or both. It may not be so, actually, but impressions count. A lot.


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