Is 28 too old to start over
SZ reader Julius F. asks:
I am 28 years old and have had a pretty steep career after graduating from a private university in business administration. But I was never sure whether my degree was really the right one. I recently met a friend who spoke enthusiastically about her work as a doctor. The old doubts reappeared promptly. I'm now thinking about quitting my job and studying medicine again. What do you mean?
Madeleine Leitner answers:
Dear Mr. F., the medical profession is considered to be the dream job par excellence. The meaningfulness of the job, the associated social reputation and (depending on the subject) also a certain prosperity speak for the attractiveness of the profession. From an early age, some children don't want to be anything other than doctors. In some medical families, the profession has been so deeply rooted for generations that the question of the subject of study does not even arise seriously for the offspring. It is believed that they follow in the footsteps of their ancestors and also study medicine.
Madeleine Leitner is a qualified psychologist and has worked as a therapist in clinics, as a court expert and personnel consultant for large corporations. Today she is an independent career advisor in Munich and Berlin.
But there are also typical obstacles and concerns. Many already fail because of the numerus clausus. Some then try their luck abroad or queue up for a place at university. Some of them need a lot of patience for this: A young man from my circle of friends only got the longed-for university place after eight years of waiting. Many give up or have given up from the outset. There are now doctors who explicitly advise their children not to study medicine. From her point of view, her everyday professional life is anything but rosy. They suffer from increasing economization and bureaucracy, they feel like slaves to the health insurances and complain about fee models that do not do justice to their demands on patient care. Or they groan under the heavy burden of services.
In the past few years I have looked after a number of clients who have shown certain similarities to your career. Their well-meaning doctor parents had financed them to study economics at a private university, the ideal springboard for a well-paid job at a management consultancy or a well-known corporation. At some point, however, my clients realized with disillusion that not everything was going well there either. They complained of extreme working conditions and felt like slaves to their obligations. Compared to the work of their parents, their job often seemed to them to be pointless.
Sometimes it was enough to look for a suitable job in a more suitable industry, for example a clinic, a medical technology company or in the pharmaceutical industry. For some, however, the problem was deeper. They came to believe that at heart they were born doctors. For those called, the idea of working with real doctors every day was almost unbearable because it would have made their pain even worse.
You should first think carefully about what gave you the idea of studying medicine again. Did you flirt with the idea early on? Do you have a fundamental crisis of meaning in your current job? Could it even be some kind of skipping act? It makes a difference whether you've always wanted to become a doctor or whether this is the first time you think about it because you were upset about something in your job.
It is generally better to take doubts seriously early on. Psychologically, people tend to suppress doubts and just move on, "because you've already started". Instead of burying your head in the sand and hoping for better times, you'd better come to terms with yourself. This also includes talking to some medical professionals about their work to get a realistic idea of what it means to work as a doctor. But then you should make a conscious decision of principle. Perhaps you will finally say goodbye to your supposed dream. But maybe they will actually start all over again.
Again and again, people are still studying medicine at an advanced age. A well-known example is Marianne Koch, who became a successful doctor after finishing her acting career. The oldest medical student I know was over 50 years old when he started his studies. He accepted to limit himself financially extremely for this. In my experience, the worst off are people who mourn an unfulfilled dream for a lifetime.
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