“Am I Expecting Too Much From My Career?”

Laura is at a crossroads and isn’t sure which way to go. She recently left one industry for another, but things aren’t quite working out. How do you know whether to suck it up and stay the course, or take a risk on finding a better fit?

What's your career history and current job?

I was a British Army officer for eight years before I left to take up my current role as a trainee farm manager at a large dairy operation.

I was successful in the army and the work was initially challenging. But it became increasingly limited in terms of professional development opportunities. There was no way for me to progress upwards and I wasn't inspired by the work anymore.

I absolutely love animals, especially cows, so I decided to look into dairy farming, farm management specifically.

An opportunity came up after I did some networking and that's how I ended up where I am.

How do you feel about your work?

I enjoy working outside with animals in a physically challenging environment (fitness and physical training are really important to me).

The hours are long, I have to work every other weekend, and the pay is much lower than what I was used to in the army, but I was prepared for all of that.

However, I've lost confidence in myself because there are no opportunities to learn.

The farm I work on is relatively small, it's incredibly busy, and there are a lot of demands on me operationally.

There's no time for professional development and no-one with the time or skills to train me.

We have a lot university graduates on the farm, who have the academic skills but not the practical. They can also be emotionally volatile, so instead of being able to get on with the job, I spend a lot of my time resolving tantrums.

I'm naturally an introvert, a systems thinker, someone who thrives on logic, so there's a part of me that worries whether I'm wasting my time in an environment that demands so much of me socially.

I enjoy the operational aspects of the work, I love working with cows, I love being outside and finding solutions to logistical problems, but I don't enjoy all the talking that's involved.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I want to work in a small, professional set-up where people are motivated and focused, where there is a plan and a shared desire to achieve it – that's what I feel is lacking in my current position.

I feel I need something that offers me a clear pathway to a financially stable and challenging career, ideally something where I can develop some skills and still support myself.

I've thought about doing some further study. There are professional courses in agri-business but the jobs wouldn't be in farm management because that's more practical. I'd be more likely to be looking at something like crop analysis.

The upside of going back to college would be that I'd have the support and networking opportunities of an institution, which, for an introvert who struggles with social skills, would be good for me.

That said, I'm not sure the career opportunities after a course at agricultural college really appeal.

I did also consider a career in wildlife photography, but I'd be starting from scratch, it's very competitive, and from what I hear, not very well paid. I'm reluctant to pursue a career where there are such low odds of success.

I'm 34, I want to start a family and make a career for myself, so it feels a little late in the day to start over in another industry.

I wonder if I should separate my career from my hobbies – focus on the operational side of things in my job and stick with farm management, and pursue wildlife photography to give me the chance to master some new skills.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I can't work out if I’m expecting too much from my career, and whether that's spoiling what could be a fun experience for me.

I have so little time to think about things – I get one day off every other weekend – that I can't even think about it fully.

Should I just commit to my current role in the industry I'm in, find a way to focus on the skills I have?

Or do I go back to college and move in a slightly different direction?

I know it isn't possible to 'have it all', but how do I find the right balance?

Can you help Laura?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Laura could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

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