I failed an important exam multiple times and I am unemployed

I grew up in an Asian family of high achievers. So naturally I gave myself a lot of pressure to do well academically. I had worked for a year at a prestigious firm for a year after graduation, and on the outside it really did seem like I was doing well. But I was really stressed out. I had no interest in the field of work I was in, and the workload was immense. There was no work life balance at all. So I decided to take a year off work, convincing myself and everyone else that I needed time off to pursue a professional degree, to build up my CV. But instead of obtaining the certification as planned, I proceeded to fail the exams multiple times. And my mental health is gradually deteriorating. Now a year has passed and I have yet to accomplish anything. No certification, no income. I feel useless. I know that my feelings are mainly attributed to my environment and upbringing. I cannot seem to shake off the feeling that I am ‘obligated’ to be ‘successful’. I am currently actively applying to jobs in the same field I have no interest in, only because I don’t know what other jobs I am capable of doing. None have responded, and to be honest, deep down I really don’t want a response. I don’t want to go back to that sort of work environment. Some might advice me to give up on my current field and pursue a different career, but my family had never raised quitters. With my current mental state, I don’t know how to deal with the criticism and judgement from them.

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That is a lot of pressure for your family and yourself to have high expectations on you. the work you initially pursued has a great workload that takes away from your work-life balance. And trying to work towards improving your CV has only met you with repeated failures. Attempting to get back into the workforce hasn’t had any results which is extremely discouraging. You’re feeling like you’ve let everyone and yourself down, but you don’t want to back to that stressful lifestyle. You don’t want to feel like a quitter if you pursue a different line of work, but it makes sense to pursue something that invigorates you rather than something that drains you. You want to live a fulfilling life.
I don’t know if it helps, but rather than thinking of changing your field as quitting, it could be thought of as a course correction. It’s okay to prioritize your needs over your family’s expectations.
Whether you stay in your current field or not, I believe you have the power to choose the best outcome for you! Hold fast.

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I think that you succeeded at holding a job in which you were unhappy for an entire year, was quite heroic. That accomplishment alone provides pretty strong evidence that you are not a quitter. Even though you held on with tenacity for a year, then continued to struggle in a program that would lead to a career that you already had a pretty good idea that wasn’t going to be fulfilling, you still didn’t quit.

It sounds like you are at a crossroads now. One road leads to stress and unhappiness, and the other road isn’t quite known, but has the potential of leading you towards at least some degree of happiness.

Another way of looking at the choice is deciding whether to turn away from the overbearing burden of family expectations, or to abandon pursuit of your own fulfillment. One problem with the expectations of others is that they often overlook an individuals need for a reasonable amount of fulfillment and happiness.

Another perspective may be to ask, “do I want to pursue someone else’s agenda and fail, or pursue my own interest and succeed?” Another problem with pursuing an unhappy career is that when not happy in the job, the work itself suffers.

My two brothers and I are extremely different. If anyone of us attempted to work in the others chosen field, it would have been a disaster. Family members may have things in common, but each member is a unique individual. If you have siblings who are also subjected to the same parental expectations, and you choose your own career direction, they may feel similarly emboldened to choose their own careers according to their talents and interests.

As far as your family not raising quitters, would they want you to quit on yourself, and your pursuit of a career in which you can succeed?

Have you ever taken an aptitude test, or pursued career counseling? That can be a very productive first step.

Additionally, you have mentioned being stressed and having deteriorating mental health. Therefore, I hope you have some mental health or therapy services available. I think you would benefit from such services, and you may even find it more comfortable to make decisions about your future.

Please check back in and let us know how you’re doing.