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Nine Months Later - Career Guidance Still Needed More Than Ever

  1. Jun 5, 2012 #1
    Hi, everyone. I haven't posted on this site for some time...at least seven months or so. I want to "re-kindle" my discussion that I started here:

    My Previous Thread

    The meat and potatoes of the story is that I excelled in Undergraduate School and obtained a B.S. in Mathematics with a minor in Physics. I then came down with a severely disabling mental illness (now diagnosed as Schizoaffective Disorder), which hurt my intellect in two ways. First, the general illness causes so much mayhem in one's brain that higher mathematics is simply not as easily grasped as before. Second, even when the symptoms of the illness are under control, the side-effects from the harsh medications (ie: antipsychotics) make it darned-near impossible to function at such a high level.

    I went into Graduate School ready to get a Ph.D. in Mathematics. I made it half-way through one semester and had to leave due to a re-flare of the illness. I didn't work for the next year. Then, this past Fall Semester, I re-started at the same program but was essentially "forced out" because I couldn't keep up with the advanced course-work in a time-frame that was expected, despite being called "The best T.A. [the Math Department] has had in 25 years". It broke my heart and I frankly am still bitter to this day.


    Fast forward to now. I have used some of the ideas for jobs highlighted on this site to search for meaningful employment. Let me first say that I have not found any. I have not worked since last year.

    The ideas about working in Investment Banking sounded promising, so I spent the first four months after being "let-go" looking into that field. I frankly found absolutely nothing. First, almost all of the very-few positions required four to five years of experience WITH a financial institution. Second, there were NO entry-level jobs to gain such experience. I searched and searched and found nothing. I have no "network" like some lucky people (despite genuinely trying to engage with people socially), but I had one uncle who is an underwriter.

    I flew down to Mississippi to see him, expected to gain some good information. Instead, I got absolutely nothing. He was very brief with me and dare I even say...rude. I left the trip nearly in tears and I am just starting to "recover" from that traumatizing experience right now.

    So I still have no job. I have no job leads. And I am stuck in the same predicament:

    1. I have a good degree and I am objectively very intelligent even with the medications.
    2. I can only handle work that I actually enjoy. If I dislike what I am doing, my illness twists my mind in terrible ways and I end up in a horrible situation which inevitably involves my quitting soon after being hired.
    3. I can't really handle "high-pressure" work or long hours due to the illness.
    4. I also cannot pick up some manual labor job for a few bucks because the medications make it nearly impossible to even stay awake for 8 hours let alone do a physical task.
    5. I have no "network".

    So what would you all recommend that I do here? I want to work (I DO however receive a very very small Disability payment to allow me to afford food and gasoline) and it is degrading to be almost 25 with no job. And I want to do something I LIKE. I want Mathematics to be part of my job. Losing my "dream" of being a research professor has still never been "resolved" in my deepest psyche so this is very important. Thank You much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2012 #2


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    Eigenvalue, I can relate. I entered a PhD program in EE at 23 years old. I made it a year into the program (did ok in my classes and my research, I think) but ended up having a psychotic episode that forced me to leave the program. Later I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. I spent the next year after leaving in shambles and I couldn't find work anywhere. During this year I stopped taking my meds and had further psychotic episodes (very bizarre thoughts, voice in my head, paranoia, etc). I worked out those issues with medication and then decided to go back to the same grad school I left from (which was all the way across the country). I got stuck with a roommate I didn't like and I just couldn't motivate myself to do the work. I got in a deep depression (sleeping for over 16 hours a day) and had to leave again. I came home and finally found a job as a process technician at a semiconductor foundry but hated the work (not challenging at all). I decided to go BACK to grad school again (the same one) but I had the same issues as before. I came home and got a new job but the pay was lower than average and again, the work was just boring and unchallenging. I got a new job at a different place with better pay but the job leaves me sitting around with nothing to do most of the time except read journal articles and textbooks on magnetics. I occasionally do some magnetics modelling with some free software I found online. I still live with my parents and have no girlfriend, which isn't a big deal, but a gf would help a bit. I need to get my act together without a gf first before I can consider getting a girlfriend. Like you, I don't have much of a support network (no life, no friends) outside of my parents and my grandma.

    I want to stop taking my meds altogether thinking it will give me more energy and change my outlook on things but I am afraid that if I do I will have another episode.

    *sigh* Anyways, I don't know if this helps you or not, but I went through similar experiences. It pretty much ruined my life. I, like you, have wanted to become a professor. I don't even care where...I just wanted to teach at a university. I should have stayed in grad school the first time when I was excelling. I would have been able to pull through it, I know it. But I threw it all away and dropped out. Maybe I couldn't have handled it in the first place, I dunno, but I should have tried. I feel like I just didn't give it my all.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2012
  4. Jun 5, 2012 #3


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    Like you, I can only hold down a job and handle the work when I enjoy it but I doubt I will ever find anything I enjoy anymore. I just don't care about anything. I also can barely stand being at work for the 40 hours let alone put in overtime like my boss wants (not that I have a need to put in overtime since I barely have enough work to do as it is). I am 26 btw. I'll be 27 in July.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2012
  5. Jun 5, 2012 #4


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    Also, I would love to be a high school physics teacher but the requirements to get a teaching credential are ridiculous and it will take me like 2 years of full time study and student teaching before I could set foot in a classroom. That will just put me further in debt (I already have 50k in debt) for a job that barely pays 40K/yr.
  6. Jun 5, 2012 #5


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    Without wanting to kick somebody who is already "down", you have to get realistic about this. Everybody would LIKE a job where they only have to do the stuff they like, there's no pressure, and they don't need to even stay awake for 40 hours a week (i.e. 8 hours a day). (And a salary of say $250,000 a year would be nice, as well).

    But the only people who think they are actually going to FIND a job like that are unemployable dreamers. And that's without having any medical conditions.

    If I sound just like your uncle, maybe it's because both of us live in the real (and non-academic) world.
  7. Jun 5, 2012 #6


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    I'm afraid that any reasonable paying job (and even all the jobs that aren't) are in all likelihood going to have elements of stress and pressure, and parts which anybody will hate doing.

    If an employer was going to interview you, they would screen for this: especially if they are experienced in hiring and have lots of experience with prior employees.

    Also I'm surprised you tried to get into Investment Banking with your goals of getting into a job with minimum stress and hours that are 'not long'. To me it's highly ironic because this kind of environment, even for the technical people is not by any means going to be a walk in the park.

    It's not politically correct to say what I will say, but then again I don't care much for that.

    My guess is that apart from some selective employers, most will not hire you for the reason that most employers want employees who are able to deal with the pressures that come with the job, and can do the job in any capacity which means working the full eight or so hours. They also want people who can work with other people and are able to do this in a high order of magnitude.

    There are however, some organizations and companies that hire people with disabilities (mental) for various reasons. Government departments can hire people with disabilities for office type work. Some companies will hire autistic and other similar kinds of people for various work (like with computer programming for instance, or for testing, or other different things).

    You are not going to get a lot of money for low-stress jobs unless you have connections of nepotism, in which this is certainly something on the cards.
  8. Jun 6, 2012 #7
    I feel as though I am mis-communicating somehow. I get the perception that the above two posters are assuming I am some sort of "mal-adjusted" bad-kid who wants his cake and wants to eat it too.

    No. I am simply a regular person who has a very serious medical condition which is preventing me from living my dream. Thus, I am asking for career advice in the fields of Mathematics and Science so that I don't spend the rest of my life in a job that I hate, stewing in bitterness for the next 50 years about how pissed I am that I had to leave Graduate School on no fault of my own, other than my own genetic flaws.

    So, again, please just assist me in thinking of a rewarding career path that will pay enough that I don't have to live a life of poverty, not being able to enjoy even simple human pleasures such as eating at a restaurant, seeing a movie, or going on a date. Remember, girls don't date guys without some money, and I don't want to die a virgin never having loved or been loved.

    And remember, government jobs are off the table as they won't hire someone with a mental illness of the gravity as the one I have. And HS teaching is out because it mainly consists of baby-sitting and being a political pawn to the Unions, which I have no intention on being the slightest bit involved in.

    So please, just help me.
  9. Jun 6, 2012 #8
    Well, the impression that I'm getting is that you're a sick individual who wants to have their cake and to eat it too. I really don't care what your excuses are. You've made it clear to me that you can't work hard, are incredibly picky about the work you'll do, and are functionally incapable of performing any task I asked you to do. You have a real illness and I sympathize with that, but the end result is a person who is indistinguishable from a lazy, entitled loser.

    This may seem scathing, but the problem is that you’re also coming across this way to other people. Like employers. And probably your uncle. Really, even if you think you aren’t, you are.

    The first thing you need to fix is how you present yourself to people. No more excuses. To anyone. Otherwise, even if you find that job (which I believe is imaginary) that you’d actually enjoy, you won’t get it.
  10. Jun 6, 2012 #9
    First off. Your attitude needs adjustment. Sorry, no nice way to say that. You have the gift of an intellect and the curse of a mental illness. At least you're not someone with the IQ of a peanut and mentally sound. It sounds like your illness is controlled with meds, but the meds impact other parts of your life. Having some family experience with mental illness (I'm not a doctor!), I would suggest separating out your problems. e.g. problem 1 = job, problem 2 = sucky life. IMO, if you're unhappy in life, it will be hard to be happy at work. Work is how many of us pay for the things we enjoy in life, if you don't enjoy life, work isn't going to mean much. I work to live, not live to work. Get some professional help on getting your sucky life together. Get outside, walk, fresh air, audit a college class (no pressure learning) and you'll meet people, and get a support network around you. I know many science types don't think much of religion, but they have some super support groups, youth groups, young adult groups, and free counseling. In the south, the Baptists (no, I'm not one) seem to have this covered. Some places the Methodists are pretty big. BTW, in my experience, they don't care what if any religion you practice, so not being XYZ, means little. IMNPO (In My Non-Professional Opinion), surround yourself with people that will not sit in judgment but will help keep life upbeat. When getting a job, attitude is huge. You can’t go at it as a victim.

    Lastly, as the spouse of a teacher, you have it wrong. It’s only babysitting if you are a crap teacher. If you can motivate the minds of kids, the personal rewards are more than money can give. It’s not a bad job, pay is good, many states are non-union (e.g. TX), some paperwork issues, some parents suck, not all roses, but you can make a difference. I watch my children doing things like http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc/ . Major universities have programs like www.rit.edu/healthsciences/cbet , www.ceismc.gatech.edu/studentprograms/high [Broken] , etc. for kids to kindle interest.

    When I see kids years later come to give my wife a hug, well, it doesn’t get much better in life. Be a teacher. Earn a hug.
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  11. Jun 6, 2012 #10
    God. I am so sorry that this thread has turned out as negative as it has. I had no intention of starting so many people's tempers' up. You can ask any of my friends: I am a considerate, fair, kind, and honest person and I am sure you will not believe me about it, but it is true. Integrity and loyalty are the main things I strive for and I am shocked to hear people think I am some sort of "Welfare Queen".

    I am sorry I even asked. Clearly, my perception of the world as a horrifying harsh, cruel place has been validated even on something as benign as a Career Discussion on a Physics and Math forum. I will try to pretend this discussion never occurred and will continue my miserable life the way it is, because it seems like the "real world" holds no place for me.
  12. Jun 6, 2012 #11
    I have to say, I think some comments have been harsh without being constructive. I was trying to be realistic about what I saw in your words. Things like "I re-started at the same program but was essentially "forced out" because I couldn't keep up with the advanced course-work in a time-frame that was expected, despite being called "The best T.A. [the Math Department] has had in 25 years". It broke my heart and I frankly am still bitter to this day." Words like "forced out" because you couldn't keep up in a timely manner. You say you are "bitter". You want them to hold things up for you? Being the "best TA" has nothing to do with being a capable student that can contribute in sync with the class. Your problems are things you need to work out, and you should in no way expect that balance of the class, teachers, and projects to wait for you to "keep up" in the "time-frame that was expected". Unless people are overtly discriminating against you, IMO, you need to look inward for problems and solutions.
  13. Jun 6, 2012 #12


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    Join the club, or the dark force as I call it. :devil:
  14. Jun 6, 2012 #13
    I didn't see anything non-constructive or harsh with the exception of Locrian's post. The others seem to grasp the situation and are offering realistic advice. ThinkToday provided some realistic and, frankly, poingent points.

    It may suck to get the wake-up call, but if you can't perform adequately at higher level maths, then you can't really expect to get a high paying job utilizing mathematics, right?

    If you can't take long hours and stress (not to mention doing things you don't like), then you can't expect to get any meaningful job that relates to mathematics, let alone one that pays well and is (for the most part) exciting and interesting. Applied mathematics is generally quite rigorous, and often menial, repetitive, and boring. That's just the nature of the beast...

    Good luck with whatever you choose to do.
  15. Jun 6, 2012 #14
    So you are all saying that there seems to be nothing "wrong" with the fact that, simply because I inherited a terrible mental illness (and perhaps I didn't quite emphasize how terrible it is, but I am not a complainer - I am lucky to be alive or not serving a life sentence locked up in a state psychiatric hospital...I'll just say that), my entire life's dreams and desires should be crushed to the ground?

    Because that is the essence of it. It isn't because I have a character flaw. Yes. You are right that I am still very much hurt and bitter over essentially losing everything that meant anything to me, but wouldn't anyone else? And for the record, I have been in intensive psychotherapy to address such issues for seven years now. Honestly, not much progress has been made, but I have been told it could take 20 freaking years to view life less hate-fully.

    Let me review and re-but some of the points being brought up.

    1. I complain about not being able to work long hours - the reasons for this is because I take five psychiatric medications that all list drowsiness as side-effects. Numero Uno would be Olanzapine, one of the most sedating medications known to man. However, I have tried many times to switch to something "lighter" but have ended up psychotic within two weeks. So I really don't know how I could fix this fact in any way.

    2. I complain that I can't get a job I like - well...how would you feel if the job list you could choose from consisted of menial, demeaning, ego-crumbling, professions for which the average person on the street would laugh at and cringe simultaneously. Because that's the facts, unless I am missing something. And if I am- please do tell me...I truly AM trying to get some constructive advice and have not given up on the hopes of finding it, because I know that Math and Physics folks are incredibly creative and smart.

    3. I complain about not wanting to teach HS - first of all, the long hour thing needs to be mentioned. Second of all, I don't want to get involved in Unions, as I view them in a negative light. Also, the majority of my time would be trying to drill basic algebra into people's heads, for which the majority of them don't give a darn. Talk about a stressful trigger for my latent illness! I can't see it going well. Third, people talk down on teachers. Don't deny it. I think teaching is just as important as research but most people DON'T. They think HS teachers are...well...people who couldn't cut it getting a Ph.D. And I don't want to become a freaking STATISTIC!

    So please continue to help me if you all promise to do so in a civil manner. Admittedly, the previous few posts have been more neutral toned, so that is good. I just don't think I deserve to be talked to firmly like a child.
  16. Jun 6, 2012 #15
    You shouldn’t. If you’re a hard working individual with many positive attributes you could bring to a job then nothing we’ve said will change that.

    But let’s review a couple of facts:

    1) You come across to at least some random internet strangers as someone who needs an attitude adjustment.
    2) You’re having trouble getting a job.

    Could be coincidence. I think it isn’t. If you’re really a smart person who gets things done, then I think you’re misrepresenting yourself to potential employers. I think your resume is probably poorly constructed and I'm confident your interviews are a disaster.

    Figure out if I’m right. If I am, you should be able to formulate a plan to improve your image problem. If I’m wrong, what’d you lose, really? A few minutes on the internet?
  17. Jun 6, 2012 #16
    Right and wrong have nothing to do with it. It's about managing expectations; fitting them with reality. Mental illnesses do not generally hand in hand with life dreams...

    You have a right to feel whatever you want. But it isn't the school's fault that you have the mental illness. They have to maintain their standards. You are just one of many people who failed the curriculum. You're reason wasn't lack of motivation or lack of aptitude, but reasons don't matter...if you don't meet the requirements, you don't pass. That's just academia.

    This isn't your fault, but it is something you'll have to learn to live with. High paying jobs generally require hard work and long hours for years before you are in a position to make the moves necessary for top salaries. Virtually no one simply starts at the top without putting in the time. Just another fact of life.

    I wouldn't feel great. But emotion has nothing to do with it. By your own admission, you don't meet / can't handle the requirements that are generally ascribed to the jobs you are seeking. I'm not saying give up hope, because I don't know what obstacles there are to overcome on the path you want to go down. But I'm saying that the things you are complaining about are not anyone elses fault. Companies don't hire on emotion. You may be swell at math and a decent guy, but if you can't physically handle the long hours and rigorous math, they'll hire someone who can...

    Maybe some university professors and HS students think that, but most people do not. Teaching is an important role in the future of any civilization. Realize that many teachers got into teaching for the purpose of teaching HS. The life of academia is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to struggle to get a tenured position and be constantly under pressure to publish...Some people just want to teach.

    I'll go ahead and say don't teach though. You obviously don't want to anyway, and nobody wants their kid to learn math from someone who thinks his time there is a waste, and isn't motivated to get kids interested in the subject.

    Just a final note. If you want only positive remarks, ask us to up your spirits. If you want actual advice (and note that almost none of us are "qualified" to give advice), then you've got to deal with the fact that that advice might not align with what you want to hear.

    Hope I didn't come across negatively, just my $0.02
  18. Jun 6, 2012 #17
    Lots of people have dreams about being a professor and teaching at university but don't get there. Academia produces roughly 10 times as many PhD graduates as the number of positions that open up. Even if you didn't have your mental illness there'd be roughly 9/10 chance that other factors would have prevented you from becoming a research professor.

    Regarding your points:
    1. I don't have any advice for you on this topic, other than to discuss it with your psychiatrist and see if they have any suggestions for treating the drowsiness.

    2. I don't think the average person on the street would "laugh at and cringe simultaneously" at very many jobs. Since you have a degree, you probably can find some job other than cleaning toilets or picking up garbage. There is something to be said about having a job that pays you enough to do things you do enjoy, even if you don't enjoy the job itself very much.

    3. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to teach HS. You don't have to justify it. Some people like it, some people don't. Personally, I don't like being around teenagers very much, so that's it for me. If you don't want to teach HS that's fine.

    A few things to keep in mind: for any profession out there, you can find people who talk down on it. There are people who talk about university professors being pompous and out of touch with reality in their ivory towers (and there's some significant truth to that). You can't pick a profession based on the fact that some people will talk down about it, otherwise you'd never end up doing anything. Also, no matter what you end up do you will be a "freaking statistic" in some measurement or other. You can't judge a job based on this, because all jobs will be a part of this.

    Another thing: the job market stinks right now. Finding your ideal job is going to be nigh impossible at this point. Once the economy gets better it may become easier. My advice to you is to focus on what jobs are out there, and try to apply to anything that you're more-or-less qualified for and might not hate. Like others have said, you need to change your attitude towards what work you will be willing to do.

    Oh, and:
    That's not true. My sister has dated more than enough losers who had no money or jobs to disprove that. And I guarantee you that she's not the only one. Some girls are like that, for sure, but if you want a lot of money to date girls like that you will be left wondering whether she is dating you because she genuinely likes you or because of the money.
  19. Jun 6, 2012 #18
    Ok. I am still left, however, with the main question un-answered despite everything else (be it good or bad that it was discussed):

    What type of rewarding jobs could I look into getting? And by rewarding, think of yourselves in the job, considering most of the folks on this forum tend to have a similar outlook on things and many also want or have wanted/dreamed of being a research professor.

    As for my "attitude problem", I think that in "real life" no one has any idea, other than my immediate family and friends, of how miserably bitter and hateful I am. I have many, many years of practice for "putting on a smile" and all of that stuff that people enjoy. I simply felt that, since I was seeking advice on an anonymous forum, I would "let my guard down" and express my true emotions rather than mask them like I do for the general public.

    As for my actual resume, it is very good. The only flaws being that I have random gaps of time without work experience, but I can't fix that. That would require finding a cure for Schizoaffective Disorder that doesn't turn one into a walking zombie.

    As for the fact that I am so bitter about it and everyone's suggestion that I "see my psychiatrist about it", like I said, I have been in therapy for nearly a DECADE trying to come to terms with this horrible condition. I have made next to nil progress despite trying harder than I tried to make it through those Analysis problem sets. In fact, I have had to switch therapists at least five times because they all get to the point where they literally admit: "I have no idea how I can help you anymore. Sorry". And frankly, that scares the crap out of me.

    It is such a shame that I was born into a lower-midde/working-class family and not some sort of aristocracy. For the aristocracy, not having a job is seen as a good thing and not a character flaw!!

    If you feel you have some sort of "wise advice" you could give me about how to settle my bitter mind, feel free to tell it to me. I am not hurt anymore by harsh words than I am hurt by the raw reality of how unlucky my life has been. Nothing on earth could hurt more than that realization.
  20. Jun 6, 2012 #19
    As far as your medications and their side-effects go, I doubt anyone here is any more qualified than a psychiatrist to give you advice on it. I assume you've already looked into any sort of government assistance for disability, or any job placement for people with psychiatric disabilities, but if you haven't that might be something to look into.

    And I know it's hard to change your attitude. The thing is the negative and bitter attitude will likely continue to make things worse for you. It's a vicious cycle; bad life circumstances -> bitter attitude -> worse life circumstances -> even more bitter attitude. You have to break out of it. I don't have any idea how; you've probably tried all the SSRI's and whatever else is used to treat depressive disorders that's out there. But if you don't find a way to turn it around it will be difficult to improve your life circumstances.
  21. Jun 6, 2012 #20
    I think most people have talked a bit about their job- and the common factor is all jobs have mundane tasks. Personally, I do data analysis for an insurance company. Lately, its been about 20% fun and exciting, 80% routine task. This is a similar mix to graduate school for me (I loved starting new projects and that difficult period of trying new things to find what works, I found writing up the projects to publish fairly mundane, as was dealing with reviewers. I loved lecturing and office hours, but absolutely hated grading, etc).

    Basically, even the best jobs have a lot of mundane tasks you have to do. You have to have the maturity to do the mundane tasks that need doing.
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