Man to Man Episode #3: Should I Change My Career Path?

by Brett on November 7, 2010 · 51 comments

in Man to Man

Welcome back to another episode of Man to Man. This week’s question comes from Mark. He writes:

“You’re going to think I’m crazy here, Brett, but I need some advice — man to man.

I’m a student, working toward a degree in library science, and I’ve nearly reached the end of the college run. It’ll be good to be done, I admit. The thing is, though, as the big day draws closer with its attendant cap and gown, I’ve come to the realization that, well, I don’t actually want to be a librarian. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want to be an “information specialist.” I don’t quite know how I came this far without having this realization, but I did. I think denial has something to do with it.

What do I want to do? I want to own a small farm, and run it as a traditional farm, rather than an agribusiness one. Think more along the lines of organic sustainable farming. I also want to do some basic sustainable lumber work during the farming off-season.

Am I utterly off my rocker?”

Watch My Response

What Do You Think?

Alright, its your turn. What advice do you have for Mark? Are you a man who went through college only to figure out you didn’t want to spend your career working in what you majored in? How did you make the leap to something different?

Please keep your comments uplifting and edifying. I want Man to Man to be a forum where men can feel safe asking and answering these questions.

If you have a question you’d like answered on Man to Man, just shoot me an email via this contact form. Remember, it can be about anything!

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Glenn November 7, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I went to college for 2 years, left and joined the work force, thinking that I wanted to do IT work for the rest of my life. I spent 7 years working office jobs and then decided, due to a number of factors, that I wanted to be a dentist. It took me 4 more years of undergrad education to finally get all the prerequisites and get accepted to dental school. I’m now in my 3rd year of the program (it takes 4 years) and I don’t regret my decision in the least.

My advice is to do what you love, but be responsible. your student loans aren’t going to go away by themselves. Best of luck.

2 Mike November 7, 2010 at 9:12 pm

That’s fantastic advice, Brett. The AmeriCorps suggestion is fantastic, as a way to both gain invaluable experience and hedge your bet simultaneously. Whether you decide to pursue farming or not, you’ll be in a great position.

I would definitely recommend pursuing your dream, but either way, your major doesn’t have to define your career path. I majored in economics but haven’t put that to use once professionally, and I don’t think that’s particularly unusual.

3 Delilah Decimal November 7, 2010 at 9:12 pm

You’re not alone! I have a previous dual masters in music and recently started my MLS… My dream? To have sheep, chickens, and a large garden. What I’ll probably do? Some of both. LS is a good field for finding part time jobs…

4 Nathanael November 7, 2010 at 9:12 pm

This doesn’t seem to be unusual. My dad got a degree in physics before deciding he wanted to be a doctor. He went back, took some anatomy and such for a year, and then went to med school. I also got a degree in the hard sciences, but realized my senior year that I would rather write and think. I finished the degree, worked as an editor for a year, and then went to grad school in political philosophy. One of my best friends got her degree in English and is now working in IT.

I do suggest finishing the degree first, as it will provide a way to earn money if necessary. Brett is right that you need to make sure that you can do this sort of farming and that you’ll be happy doing it for the rest of your life.

5 Norm November 7, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Here’s some free advice.

1. Finish out your degree. It’s an incredible achievement (one I don’t have), and a BS/BA in *anything* will set you apart from non-degreed job seekers in the future. It also prepares you for graduate study later, in a related or even unrelated field.

2. I would echo Brett’s advice – go bust your gut on someone else’s farm for a while, working for room and board. Nothing like a little reality to cure you of your pleasant daydream – or to confirm that, yes, this IS what you want to do with your life. I predict that it will be different than you thought it was, and maybe harder. I also predict that you will see connections between your college studies and your new work. Since everything connects in one way or another, I’m sure there must be ways that library science interacts with farming. Finding that connection may give you a new passion for ways to apply your degree, and perhaps spawn a third path which is a fusion of the first two.

Life is a banquet – so go grow some food for it! Best of luck; I wish you much success.


6 David November 7, 2010 at 9:27 pm

1. Get the degree. It’s important even if it’s not what you want to do for a living, but shows folks you finish what you start.

2. Nobody ever said it better than Joseph Campbell: “Follow your bliss”.

7 Jeff November 7, 2010 at 9:33 pm

If you’re attending a land grant college, take some basic agriculture and forestry classes. And be prepared for hard work. Farming is not easy and chances are you’ll have to work and make the farm/logging business more of a hobby, at least until you can get your feet off of the ground. Like Brett said it is a lifestyle. There have been many cold school nights of driving to our small farm at midnight with my dad to herd the cows out of the neighbor’s hay fields back to pasture. Then fixing the fence in the dark. As far as the lumber end of it, good luck. That industry isn’t look good at the moment. I’ll be very lucky to get a job like that when I graduate and I’ll have a forestry degree. AmeriCorps is probably the way to go. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

8 Turling November 7, 2010 at 9:35 pm

My father told me I wanted to be an accountant. It wasn’t until I was making six figures that I realized I hate every waking moment of it. If there is ever a time to decide something is not for you, it’s while you’re young. I’m not saying you can’t do it when you’re older, but when you have a mortgage, stay at home wife and two kids it’s not that easy. I truly wish I had a job that required me not to set the alarm in the morning…and set it on top of the toilet, so I have to get out of bed to turn it off. Follow you’re dream, young man. There are too few people who truly do what they love. Be one of them.

P.S. I’d give my right arm to be a librarian; however, I fear it’s not what I hope, which is to wander around amongst my rows of books all day.

9 Mr R A Bautista OP November 7, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I’m nearly finished a BSc (Chemistry) BA International Studies (Japan) with an incomplete detour through Medical school. Over the years of study I realised that I want to become a Catholic priest (in a particular religious order to boot). With one year left I’m almost completely turned off my remaining studies, but I know I have to finish the job before moving on.

And I can’t wait.

10 Jon November 7, 2010 at 10:16 pm

I agree with the other commenters who recommend finishing your degree. While your first job out might care what the degree was in, from that point on, having ANY degree will help if farming doesn’t work out. If you were only a year or two into the degree, I might recommend switching majors, but if you’re close to graduation, stick it out where you are. As others have mentioned, you can get on-the-job training to help you get the feel for the new career, and it’ll give you a small break (a year or two) from the college grind.

Two anecdotes on this. First, my father spent his entire professional career working in jobs he hated. He was somewhat constrained by not having attended college, so he didn’t have many options. I guess he could have tried some other job, but it took him a few years to really hate it, I think, and by that time, he’d gotten married and started a family. My mother didn’t want to move away from her family, so he did the “traditional” manly thing, sucked it up, and punched the clock for over thirty years. He never said anything, but by the time I was in high school, I could see how heavy the burden was on him.

He never gave up on what he really wanted to do, though (art, music, and literature), so once he retired, he was able to take advantage of the Internet to become part of that community. He now writes book reviews, has written several scholarly papers, and helps doctoral candidates with their theses. So, happy ending, even though the path was long and arduous.

The second story is mine. It took me six years, five majors, and three minors before I got my bachelors degree and, like you, I got right to the point of graduating before I realized that I really didn’t want to spend my life in that field (I got my degree in English literature, but without the teaching certification, since I figured I wouldn’t have the patience to teach anything but college).

I decided to finish that degree and keep working where I was (systems administration for a small startup). I was able to roll together the degree (now listed on my resume simply as a B.A. from the university) with my college work experience, and have been working in computers for nearly two decades, and have loved it most of the time.

To recap: since you’re close, finish the degree, it might come in handy later. Since you’re young and (I presume) relatively unattached, this is also a pretty good time to figure out what you want to do. You can change later, of course, it’s just harder.

Get out there, figure out who you want to be, and be him!

11 Carlos Infante November 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Well I studied Buissness Administration/ Managment, but for while, around 2002 I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do. I love writing, so I thought that maybe I should study Literature, but as it turns out only after a week or so I realized that Literature as a career wasn’t for me and realized that my first choice was the correct one. I still love to write and try to write whenever I find a little time.
So it is important, specially if there is a lack of expireince, to try and see if what you want to do is really what you want to do. Getting the information about something before hand spares us a lot of disappointments.

12 dk November 7, 2010 at 10:34 pm

In 2002 I was looking forward to the end of my Junior Collegiate year when my father suddenly died of a heart attack. My mother wasn’t capable of keeping their house on a single income so I dropped out of school and started doing the only thing I knew how to do: I put roofs on homes and barns. I had worked summers as a roofer and had earned a solid reputation so I put away my IT knowledge for a few years while my mother worked on a 2 year degree and I did alot of learning and hard work. I developed manual and mathematical skills fabricating shingle, slate, and standing-seam copper roofs but I really spent that time learning human truths about managing men and appreciating my accomplishments, even simple ones. I eventually stabilized my father’s house and returned to my chosen field where I have been successful; I also returned to school to expand my earning potential. As a man I would describe myself as self-reliant and it sounds like a fundamental component of your life-ideal is to be similarly self-sufficient.

Working in the earth is a visceral and transformative act. Devoting your life to the quiet of an inhabited world is going to have certain costs but I think that committing to the execution of your inner yearning is not without payment enough. I might complete my degree first, if only to provide potential future insulation, but I don’t think that there would be anything lost and you might gain significantly of yourself.

13 james pressley November 7, 2010 at 10:35 pm

#1— There is no farming off season…

14 Michael November 7, 2010 at 10:36 pm

I’m sort of in the same position. I graduated last May with a useless degree in international studies. I was fortunate enough to get a full-time job but I only recently realized that I wanted to pursue a long-time hobby of mine as a career, computers. I signed up for an IS certificate program and currently go to school in the evenings. It’s a lot of work but worth it if I end up in the field that I want to enter. I’m learning that I can’t fret about lost time but instead look at the realization as refreshing. It’s good to finally know what your goals are. At the moment I’m studying to be a sys admin and will hopefully be able to move on later from my current job which has nothing to do with computers.

Best of Luck. You’re not experiencing a mistake, you’re experiencing life.

15 Jason November 7, 2010 at 10:37 pm

While its important to recognize your own desire to change; sometimes your career will change you. I graduated high school with no desire to go to college. My father forced me, so I went for Music. Three years into school, I changed my major to History (focusing on Early Christian History) but continued with my music career. By the time I graduated, I was supporting myself with music, but I wanted something to do during my day when I wasn’t playing. I started in banking 7 years ago. Since then, music has become a hobby again and banking an enjoyable career, but at eighteen years old, I would have never believed I would enjoy wearing a tie to work. Even though I didn’t go into a career related to my degree, I still give lectures on the subject. The point of all this is to turn every passion you have into something useful to yourself and others.

16 Ben November 7, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I graduated with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife management and applied for 3 Americorps positions working in the Pacific NW and in Michigan without much luck. Even with my education they seemed to be wanting more leadership experience than I could bring to the table. If you can show them that, I think you’ll have a good in.

Also, if you want my undying envy, you should look into WWOOFing. World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. You need to pay for a membership, depending on the area of the world you want to to this in. Farmers who would like help post their want ads on and then feed and house you in exchange for the work. I am sure there could be some duds, but I am more than sure that most of these will be amazing experiences. There will probably be phone or email conversation that takes place between you and the grower, so be prepared for that. I work with a lot of farmers now as an entomologist and they are very appreciative of a good work ethic, a desire to learn and the ability to do more than asked while keeping a sense of humor (farm life can get backed up easily). You may even end up learning a second language working with other seasonal farmhands.

My loans were bearing down on me, and I didn’t think this was in the cards. But, in retrospect, you only have to do it for a growing season or two, which is a max of 10 months. Then you get a winter break to take a food-service job or something to hold you over.

I hope this was helpful,

17 Sam November 7, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Hey, i got to my junior year and realized that I have no interest in teaching in the crappy school system that represents the American Education Racket, I learned more about how everything runs in this country vs. other countries and realized that it’s horrible. I realized that I want to work with my hands, or even better, I want to be a cop since about 5. I always thought it was a goofy little kid dream, but when I got here I realized that I could actually do it. I’m headed to Pittsburg in a few months for a gunsmithing school, I’m rebuilding motorcycles and crafting guitars, and headed to police academy after I complete the gunsmithing curriculum.

Peace and good luck!

18 Matt November 7, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I’m just finishing up an MLS myself, and I feel the need to point out that there are a number of career tracks that an MLS can get you going on. You say you’ve all but given up on being an “information specialist,” but you’ve developed a valuable skill set that you can put to use in all sorts of arenas. I highly recommend perusing Rachel Singer Gordon’s book “What’s the Alternative? Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros” for ideas on this front.

Also, it’s natural to think of farming and lumbering as individual activities, but don’t discount becoming part of a sustainable living community. I’ve had the privilege of visiting one such community, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri (check out; they live “off the grid,” but a lot of these folks telecommute for their 9-to-5, then pitch in for the community on their own time.

Do some thinking outside the box, and I’ll bet you can find some ways to pursue farming and lumbering without letting your MLS go to waste.


19 Jeremy November 8, 2010 at 12:40 am


I would echo those who have encouraged you to finish your degree. While a degree in library science is somewhat specialized, it still falls more or less under the “liberal arts” umbrella – which basically indicates that for four years (or so) you were able to stay focused enough to make it through your classes, show up for the exams, and pass. My experience has been one that indicates the value of the degree itself is often more valuable than the specifics of what you studied.

(Personal anecdote time)
I’m assuming that you are a traditional student, and that would put you at around 21 or 22 years old, no?
I spent about five years cooking from 19-24 before returning to school to finish my four year degree. I worked part time cooking and doing other odd jobs for the following three years and by the time I embarked upon my current career path (IT Support Services) I had almost ten years of working experience under my belt.

The rest of my $.02 – finish your degree, get a job on a farm and get your hands dirty. I think you’ll find that most of what defines your success in your career will have little to do with what you studied in school and much more to do with the quality of the experience you gain out there in the “real world”.

Best of luck!


20 Shaun Daws November 8, 2010 at 1:12 am

Great post Brett, and btw the Mo looks great ;)

21 Alex November 8, 2010 at 1:33 am

I’m a senior in college taking psychology, and I’m going to stay a fifth year for theater. After that Peace Corps sounds pretty awesome. We’re more diverse than we think, and I think that getting experience is the best way to know one’s self. Hell, I’ll be going Peace Corps or Americorps after all is said and done too.

22 John November 8, 2010 at 1:57 am

Excellent suggestions for Mark. Schooling is helpful, but experience is better. I’ve just wrapped up my 4th year of college, but I’ve gone through 4 majors and a minor, trying to figure out what I want that to do and all I’ve ended up with is my Associates Degree. What I really want to do is become an “Extreme Storm Analyst” (a.k.a. – Stormchaser) and while I’ve got the meteorological knowledge from school, that only takes me so far. I’m saving up for a stormchasing tour with a professional company that goes around for a week and shows the average person what it’s all about. Hopefully that experience will springboard me into that world and I’ll end up living my dream. But on that note, I definitely think that the Americorps and/or finding a farm is a great idea for Mark. Hopefully you choose to pursue one of these (or other) valuable experiences and it will springboard you into your dream!

23 BrettL November 8, 2010 at 4:07 am

Well, I’m a farmer that turned into a Librarian, and a systems librarian at that.

Mark, the practical reality is is that land is very, very expensive near the kind of people that want to buy from an oraganic farm, and not much less expensive near the kind of people that operate agribusiness farms.

Go work on a farm, see if you like it. Alternatively, get a library job in a rural area out in the Midwest or West where you can work with farmers and work on their farms part time. Get an introduction to the 24/7 life of operating a small operation like that.

Apply what you know from your Library Science degree to farming. Research, education, advocacy, marketing. Librarianship involves being a jack of all trades, and operating a small business like an organic farm is the same.

Some of my library school friends were at library school because the liked books more than people. If you’re thinking that farming is going to be a way to avoid the people side of things, you are on the wrong track.

24 Devon November 8, 2010 at 6:32 am

First and foremost, congrats Brett and Kate on the baby! And loving the Movember stache, by the way, every newborn needs a father with a moustache.

On the job front, I’d say go ahead and try the farming out! You’ll have this degree for afterwards in case it doesn’t work out or you get tired of it after a decade or so.

25 Adam November 8, 2010 at 6:34 am

I’m trying to figure out a way to be a barber while still keeping my house, car, etc. I think some of it might have to do with the fact that I hate my boss and he makes me miserable.

All seriousness aside, I truly think I’d love barbering.

The moral of the story? Do what you want while you’re wrong. I’m married with a mortgage and two kids (none of which I’d give back), but the point is it’s much harder for me to follow a dream than it is for you.

If I had known my job would make me this unhappy, I’d have taken a different road at some point.

26 Colm November 8, 2010 at 7:39 am

I’m in a similar boat to Mark but different circumstances. I was all set to start in college last month in International business but I took a year off after Secondary (High, I’m from Dublin, Ireland) school and I did a ‘back to work’ course in a government funded organisation we have over here known as FAS and got paid a basic week (about €200) to go to a course and after it I did Work Experience for 12 weeks which took me right up to when I was meant to be registering for my college course. The FAS course I did was IT Support and when I got to the work experience stage I found I was really good at it and really enjoyed and my employers, as it were, were really impressed with me and said they would look into taking me on permanently.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to but found out that I could apply for a Work Placement Programme and would be paid by a government scheme to wok for them for 9 months and hopefully they’ll be able to hire me full time after it.
In the meantime, I’ve applied for starting in a new college course, part time, next October which means I’ll be able to work in IT 9-5 then do a further course and advance my studies in the evening and I have the support of the guys in my company in doing so

I don’t know if you could do something similar to what I’m doing, is there an equivalent to part-time evening courses you could apply for in like Agricultural business? I think allot of companies, including farms, are willing to support employees in expanding their knowledge base in their line of work so long as they commit to the company for at least a couple of years.

27 Bernt November 8, 2010 at 9:36 am

I finished my college degree over ten years ago, worked odd jobs for a few years and eventually found my way into architecture school. I completely bought into the dream and worked very hard for three years making myself an ‘architect’. I even managed to work at an office for two years after graduation before becoming a casualty of the economy.

Right after I completed my M. Arch I also started valeting part time. It’s a nice source of cash and definitely a godsend since I was laid off many months ago. It also proved to be very important in helping me realize something – and that is that architecture wasn’t a great fit for me.

I love the ideas, the process, and the connection to the human condition that is Architecture (like I said earlier, I bought in completely), but the realities of the business are very very different. I had wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, but found that you actually don’t spend much time with clients and users. In contrast, I loved valeting because I could see the people, ask them how their day was, joke around a little and hopefully contribute a little to their enjoyable evening.

My point in all of this is that for ten years plus of college and graduate study and working, I have missed what is actually important to me. I got caught up in trying to make a romantic ideal work as a reality, and in the process (ironically) ended up depriving the world of something great I have to offer, something others really appreciate, and most importantly something that is simply a reflection of who I am.

To finish the story, I realized love people and making a direct difference in their lives. So I just got a job as a direct care professional working at a home with handicapped and developmentally disabled folks. I’ve never done anything like this before, but when I went to my interview there and met the residents I will be working with, I knew that not only would I be able to do the job, I’ll probably enjoy hanging out and having fun with them. It’s simply who I am, not some image or ideal I feel like I have to live up to in order to justify my degree.

I would strongly encourage you to finish your degree and even more strongly encourage you to get a job on a farm or ranch somewhere. My mom used to farm organically, and it’s hard, hard work but amazingly gratifying for her. It’s also a small community that is well connected. Up here in MN there are a number of CSAs providing the Twin Cities with food, and it’s very well supported by restaurants and local people and grocery stores. It can be done. Get a job doing it and see how you like it. If you can’t get yourself to get a job doing it, I would encourage you to ask yourself why, and be as candid as you can with yourself. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you’ve made a mistake and learning from it (an unexamined life isn’t worth living, you know?).

Best of luck! Remember, this us the good stuff of life where you’re actually living and challenging yourself. As long as you take a step you can do no wrong. In thirty years look back on this and smile with whatever you close to do – even if it doesn’t work out as planned. At worst you’ll have some great stories to tell :).

28 Oliver November 8, 2010 at 10:02 am

Congratulations on having the courage to find meaning in your life. I know it is a rending experience, but I assure you, the growth and personal insight you will gain through the process with be worth all the trouble.

I recently went through a similar experience, dropping out of a masters degree program after one and a half years (of a three-year program) of study because I knew I wouldn’t be happy working the that field. I do not regret my decision at all. In fact, I feel a terrible weight has been lifted from me, despite that I find myself in a far more challenging and uncertain situation at the moment.

There is one point I would like to share regarding decision making that I think is worth some serious consideration. During the past ten years, I’ve made numerous monumental decisions (that’s what the 20′s are for!), and it has taken me this long to finally grasp this simple principle. Do not make decisions (like this one) based on “this or that;” rather base it on “this or not this.”

In other words, you might frame the decision as: should I continue my studies or not? Let that be the decision. Once that is settled, the next, and independent question is: should I go into sustainable farming or not? This is much more manageable than asking: should I stay in school or should I become a farmer? This approach helps cut down on the illusory nature our thinking, which makes the debate slightly more realistic and honest. It also helps mitigate the effects of uncertainty which can stall our decision-making progress.

And remember, whatever you choose becomes a permanent part of your history, and the consequences become an unavoidable part of your future. At the same time, what you choose is really not as important as what you gain through the process of choosing.

Good luck and stay manly!

29 Mark Nelson November 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

Hello all, and thank you so much for your words of advice on this. It’s been a gnawing problem for me over the last year, year and a half, so I’m glad to have finally gotten it off my chest, and doubly glad that all of you have been here to advise me on it.

First, allow me to offer my most sincere congratulations to Brett. I’m overjoyed to hear that you’re a father: few men, I’m sure, will be better at it. Thank you, too, for responding to this, and providing the forum for questions like this to be answered.

When I posted my question, I neglected to mention the vital fact that I already have acreage to farm near a major metro area in the northern midwest — one that Bernt is quite aware of, it would seem! Since the time that I asked it, too, I also decided that I would stick with this degree path and see it out as a combined BSIS/MLIS program at the university I am attending. Thank you all for giving me the support I need with this.

To reply to a few select comments…
James Pressley, you’re absolutely right: there is no true off-season for farming. There is, however, winter. It’s a time where a lot of more “traditional” farmers, in the past, did light-scale sustainable forestry on their property.

Ben, WWOOF sounds great! It’s something I have heard mentioned before, but never really looked into. I agree with everyone who’s said I should get experience working on a farm like the one I want to own — I lived around farmers for the majority of my life at home, but aside from gardening, I never really worked with horticulture.

Matt, thank you for pointing that book out to me. I’ll definitely look into it.

Thank you all again!

30 Travis Barrett November 8, 2010 at 11:16 am

Great advice Brett! My wife started college in pre-med mode and didn’t realize until the end of her schooling she didn’t want to be a doctor. She finished her degree (double major in Molecular Biology and Chemistry), took a two year contract with the EPA for new grads to get experience, and started trying to figure out what she wanted to do. She wanted to be a teacher but didn’t want to incur more debt and go to school to get there. She did the Americorps project Teach For America and has been in the classroom teaching high school physics and chemistry for three years. In the mean time, Americorps and various other programs have been funding further education and is just about to finish her masters in education. Anything Americorps is a great way to go and in this Marines opinion, ranks up there with a Purple Heart for Patriotism.

31 Ralph November 8, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Hi. Since it appears that many of you are in your 20s and 30s, please allow me to share my perspective from the late 40s. When I was in HS I wasn’t sure if I attend college until my senior year when I took my first computer class (we’re talking about the late 1970s here, guys). My main focus in college was get a degree in a field (computer science) which had good employment prospects, which it did.

I graduated in 1984 and was doing I.T. for companies in Calif, TX and on Wall Street for the next 18 years. I had my second layoff in 2002 and was burned out. For the next 8 years I did work in odd jobs barely surviving financially, and realizing the truth about I.T. that skills have a short shelf-life and age discrimination is a real possibility.

Then low and behold a job offer in I.T. came out of the blue and I was lifted out of poverty and back into the ranks of the employed and able to hold my head high again since I was able to (as a man) carry my weight financially.

There’s just one thing. I. T. doesn’t float my boat. I got into it for the money and the opportunities. What I would love to do is be a in general/business aviation as a pilot/instructor. I wanted to fly as far back as I can remember. But for one reason or another I never committed to it. I received my private pilot’s license in 1992 but never took it any further. I was hamstrung by the money I was making and didn’t want to give it up. I have since learned that the money was a justification for doing work that wasn’t me. And I spent a lot of it to distract myself that deep down I was not happy.

I’m in the unique position of having no mortgage, no wife and no children to provide for. So aside from the extra mileage, and life experience, I am very much in the same crowd as you guys just starting out.

In recent years I also learned I have a passion for writing. So I am building a “dream life” where I can fly and also write. The possibilities are too numerous to list here. The nice thing about writing is that it opens so may opportunities. I am, like all of you, too multi-faceted to say “I just want to be this.” Deep down, I’m a philosopher. A man striving to reach his potential. To be a Renaissance Man.

To all of you, and especially Mark. Listen to your heart and your head. Go after your dream but keep in mind that you still need a roof over your head and in food in your belly.

Take care,


32 Stephan November 8, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Hey yo Mark! I think what’s really important is to think long-term. Personally, i would ask myself this question: Can i really live every day of my life farming, for a living? In my opinion, making a living from just farming is probably a very very tough life. It is really backbreaking, and farming includes lots of hours under the hot sun. You may think that the pay might be good if you are to grow cash crops, but the pay is not likely to be consistent as the prices for the cash crops will inevitably fluctuate. It is also a job which is rather vulnerable to many environmental problems. Just imagine, if your crops were suddenly wiped out by a natural disaster, what will you do? there’s not many other occupations you can possibly go into since you’ve spent your whole life farming. In conclusion, i would think that you should continue to work as an information specialist, but if you want you can do farming as a part time job =) hope this helped

33 Leland November 8, 2010 at 2:41 pm

+1 on the AmeriCorps suggestion. I put in 4 years studying Classics before I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life hunched over Catullus. Two years in the Peace Corps and now I’m in international development work, loving life. Finish the degree, then go nuts.

34 Jon November 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm

From the time I was 16 I was convinced my calling in life was to be a pastor, so when it came time for college that is what I set out to be. Three and a half years or so into the first of two required degrees I realized (for a great many complicated reasons) that the clergy was not for me and moreover it never really had been. I had been deluding myself since the start. I set out on a career path in IT, and have been slogging through every day of it, not really happy. Being the economy was so bad I decided to enroll in grad school, and more or less flipped a coin to decide between Business and Law with the coin landing on business. I’m into my first semester of my MBA program and every day I roll out of class excited about what I learned.

I tell the story often and people get this confused look on their faces, asking why on EARTH someone with an undergraduate degree in Theology is now in an MBA program, perhaps the most reviled and hated people in the world right now. I hem and haw and laugh with them about it, but really it’s because I’m happy and excited discussing business concepts, plans, and the finances, in a way that the Theology degree only ever wore me down.

35 Barrett November 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I went to college for theatre production, and by the end of four years I knew it wasn’t for me—so much so that I left college a few credits short of my degree. I worked in said profession for five years, thinking I would never be able to do anything else. When my son was born, it motivated me to find something with more room to grow and less travel.

With nothing more than a clever cover letter and some cobbled-together spec work I landed a job as an advertising copywriter during the worst economy since the Depression, and I’m happier than I have ever been.

It’s never too late to change paths, and degrees are nice, but not as important as drive and determination—hustle. Finish your degree or don’t, but don’t be afraid to try something new. School will be there if you ever want to go back.

36 Gary November 8, 2010 at 5:50 pm

When I finished my photography degree, I wondered what the hell I’d done that for?! What a waste of time and money. Not knowing what to do, and thinking that education was my best chance I did a post grad teaching certificate.

After two years I still didn’t have a job I enjoyed. Two months ago I quit my job and I’m now a full time volunteer at a college. I help students with learning difficulties and young adults at risk of dropping out and I feel that I’m more qualified to help them now than the careers advisers that ‘helped’ me!

I could do all this because I’m still young (25) and I live at home, I don’t know what I would have done if I’d left it till I had a mortgage etc

Good Luck

37 Theo November 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Lot’s of sage advice.

Let me give my 2 cents short and sweet.

Did post grad in Human Resources. Worked in HR for various companies, up to regional manager, for 12 years. HATED EVERY MOMENT OF IT.

Then one day I was with my back to the wall, I sold all I had, and left my country. Sold sandwiches and flowers in Manchester for 6 months.

Then moved to Brazil, not speaking a word of Portuguese.

After some hard work, I found my calling : Teaching Business English. The business is HUGE here and I have never been happier.

The key is cross-skilling (combine stuff nobody else does) and finding your passion

38 One Backpack November 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm

There’s some good advice here. I don’t know that I’ll add anything new, but I’ll go ahead anyway. Finish the degree. It’s never gonna hurt to have that in your back pocket. You’re doing nothing but opening doors by having that.
And then man, right after you walk across that stage, start going after this dream. I agree that you shouldn’t dump all your money into it before you even know if it’s really what you want to do or not, but your young and unattached (not sure about your student loan situation)…but barring stuff like that. You’re free right now to jump into your dreams with two feet. Go after it and then no matter what happens, you won’t think back and wonder “what if”. People are gonna call you crazy and try to talk you out of it…but if that’s your dream, then go for it!

39 Lawrence November 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

Good to see I’m not the only person who has similar issues!

I attended college, studied computer science first, switched to artificial intelligence later, but eventually dropped out. I worked as software engineer for two years with three different companies, but I hated each one of those jobs, as they were linear, repetitive and quite below my capacities, causing terrible bore-out. But mostly, because I couldn’t stand that all the people I worked with seemed to care about was money and making more of it. I went back to college to study sociology, which I liked, but I ran out of money after a year, so I had to leave again.

Now, I’m frankly just puzzled about what I’m supposed to do with my life at this point. I get offered jobs daily, but they’re pretty much a repeat of what I did before, so I don’t see any chance of progress in that.

Rather, I’d love to work in an environment that is related to sustainability and/or cloud computing, but such an opportunity just doesn’t seem to exist here (Amsterdam, the Netherlands). If I could afford it, I would go back to college to actually finish it and get a degree this time, but I have no way of financing it. I also thought about emigration, but again, financing is problematic right now.

It’s quite depressing to be regarded gifted by your environment, but not being able to deliver, since everything seems to be lacking any meaning. Some regard this to be an adolescence crisis.

Advice, anyone?

40 Amanda November 9, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I’m not a man, but I had a similar experience at the end of college.

I was studying microbiology, planning a PhD an a life in the lab. One summer internship cured me of my Nobel prize fantasy. As 5-7 years in the PhD program began to sound more like a jail sentence, I dumped all my grad school applications in the garbage and instantly felt immensely lighter in spirit.

After a year working in eyeglass sales, a random comment from a colleague sparked my interest, and after another year I began Optometry school.

Today I own a practice which specializes in Pediatrics and Vision Therapy. I love it. My vision therapists often come to the field without a clear plan for the long term, but I require a Bachelor’s degree, as some previous posters have mentioned, because as an employer I want to know the candidate can follow through.

Find something you love, and do it now rather than in 20 years, because you never know what the future brings. Be happy now.

41 Henry November 10, 2010 at 7:10 am

Judging from the number of posts, this is a very common occurrence. I also believe that you should finish your degree. There is much to be said about completing something so challenging. I personally find college to be a way to learn how to “learn.” Much of what you experience in school gives you a set of tools for “real life”, and helps you find your passions. It seems to have done that for you. Nothing in life and school is useless. We embody everything we encounter… good or bad. Make the best of it!

In modifying Ghandi’s comment, “Be the change you want to see in the world”, I propose that you Be the person you see in you mind. Be the farmer, be the lumber..dude…guy, whatever he’s called. ;). Only then will you see if it is truly your passion. Don’t just dream your life, live your dream!

I hold a Bachelor’s of Architecture that took me 10 years to complete…mainly to satisfy my father’s dying wish. After working a few years in the field, I realized that I was dying. I jumped into Graphic Design and did many jobs without any formal training. I had all I needed from college and my side jobs…work ethic, time management, software experience…etc.

A big move for my wife’s career gave me the opportunity to teach Computer Animation part time, Nile I was studying Character Animation. I found my passion for teaching. I still teach and am now a trainer at an Architecture firm. Although I don’t practice architecture, I am still familiar with the field to train on it’s software.

I currently own a startup animation studio, and I still teach animation at college. My future is looking very bright now that I am “following my bliss!”

My past provides a foundation, my present is where I am building my life and my future is where my passions are driving me toward. Good luck with your choices. Everything will be amazing if you allow it to be. Above all else… Be Happy!


42 Jay November 10, 2010 at 11:46 am

Life is too short to have regrets. You should chase your dreams.

I took my undergrad in civil engineering…worked at that for 3 years. I then moved into a high paced finance/stock market position. I then followed that up with an MBA, and now work at a high paying Private Equity firm. That being said, constantly chasing the mighty dollar doing “office work” isnt for me so I have now applied, and been accepted, to the police force of a major Canadian city. Life is an adventure. Live it!

43 Chris Peterson November 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm


Two of my friend and I are in the same situation. We all did four years of undergraduate in philosophy, and after graduation decided that what we really wanted to do was farm. We are pursuing it slowly, but surely, but you definitely aren’t off your rocker. I agree with everyone else, you might still finish your degree, but definitely pursue what you really want to do first and foremost. Americorps and Peace Corps are both wonderful, but also check out WWOOF (world wide opportunities on organic farms) That is a great way to gain some experience and figure our where to go next.

Good luck!

44 Jacob November 10, 2010 at 9:31 pm

For organic/traditional experience, check out WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

Farms put up open positions for hands. They work you anywhere from 8-12hrs a day, 4-6 days a week, and provide free room & board in exchange for good honest work. A great way to get practical experience for cheap.

45 Tarcas November 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm

As others have been saying, finish the degree regardless of the path you intend. It will give you a safety net in case you need it.
My recommendation is to not plan to make your hobby into your primary job. I had 5 years of undergrad and 2 of grad school for computer-related studies. Computers used to be my hobby, but now that I do it 40 hours/week by necessity, it’s no longer fun even at home. I run another business on the side (in the real estate industry) and intend to make that my main source of income in a couple of years, and retire from IT work. I expect that when that happens, I can have my hobby back.
My recommendation is to take up farming on the side. My uncle bought a farm while he was working as an engineer, and over the years increased the size of this side business. He retired from his engineering job early, and now farms in his retirement. He works for other farmers too, and loves it. As I’m sure you know, the farming business is not for the feint of heart. Many farmers invest their life savings in their crops year after year, and one bad year can wipe them out completely.
Also, as I’m sure you know, “organic” farming requires a number of certifications, as a lot of standard practices are forbidden in order to market the product as “Organic.” As Brett suggested, other farmers will be able to help train you (but don’t expect much if any pay) however organic vs. non-organic may be very different. You would be well-advised to do any training with an organic farmer. If you can’t find one, consider why that is before assuming that it either means there’s no competition, or conversely, that it can’t work in your area.
Also, study the business side of farming. There is a lot more to it than plant, harvest, and sell. As somebody mentioned, farming is a lifestyle. However, it is also a business and must be run as such. Whatever you do, don’t forget that.
Regardless how you choose to proceed, I wish you luck.

46 Jimmy Proulx November 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm

This has nothing to do with the post about the change of career but I wanted to congratulate Brett on the birth of his child. I have a boy and he is six months old. There is nothing like being dad. You will enjoy it.

47 Doug November 13, 2010 at 10:45 pm

I met a friend who wwoof’ed abroad, I’ll vouch for its effectiveness.

Myself, I burned through 3 separate majors in school, then graduated into a job (read: paycheck) that I initially liked for a short time then came to despise. Throwing caution to the wind, I left the office & traveled the world before coming back to the states to become a writer – without having ANY training whatsoever. Truth be told, I don’t know if there’s really any single thing that I’d want to do for the rest of my life; I imagine this could be the case with your farming adventure as well. But do it while you can, you’re better off regretting the attempt than regretting the choice not to try it.

48 jared November 17, 2010 at 3:11 am

Its remarkable how we all go through this over and over again. I believe whole heartedly in answering th calling voice even though i am now terrified to do it. I have done it before but 8 years in to a 20 year career i know there is smething else i need to be doing.

49 jake June 5, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I feel your pain brother. I’ve been in the military for 11 years. I changed my job a few years back from a combat career where I learned, applied, and taught the skill set that got me through the shit. I changed my job for my ex-wife and now I rot behind a desk for 8-10 hours a day. I’ll be 32 this year and want so badly to get back into the fray but my rank and time in service is preventing me from getting back to the life I love. My advice for you, do something you love. Forget money, comfort, and pleasing others. If you love what you do it isn’t a job it’s a career. Finish up your college, pursue your dreams and if they turn out to be a nightmare at least you’ve got your degree to fall back on while you search for your calling.

50 John June 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Before I can offer advice on this, there are a couple of ‘why’ questions that need to be answered. Why did you choose library science as a major in the first place? If it was to appease someone else, then by God Almighty change your career path immediately. If it was because you have a passion for reading or educated women, does your passion for farming reach that same level of intensity, and is it sustained? And then, why do you want to be a traditional farmer? Be completely honest with these answers, because if you aren’t, you will never be satisfied with your life.

Then my advice would be to complete your degree. Nobody wants to hire a person who is going to quit when things get difficult, or circumstances change. After graduation, get a job on a farm. Learn all you can from the farmer you work for. Be the first one at the job site. Do a better job than anybody else. Work hard.

Then, if you still want to be a farmer, develop a real plan of action for you to become the farmer that you want to be. Then take the steps to follow that plan. When out on your own, work harder. And when you become successful, invite all of us to a picnic by the pond on your farm. Good luck, and God speed.

51 Will Stevens July 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I think the best move for Mark is to go ahead with his library career, while moonlighting part time in some of the trades he wants to shift toward. This way he can learn his new trades while paying off his student loans or saving up to buy land and tools. He’ll need this money up front if he wants to start his business without too much debt. Besides that, study hard! The more skills and knowledge you have, the more successful you will be with farming and forestry. If you ditch the career right away, you’ll have a very hard time raising the capital needed to buy land. And if you can’t buy land, you can’t farm. Brett is probably right that debt is the biggest threat to most farmers.

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