Very many thanks!
I knew you folks wouldn't let me down! One of you suggested that if I really thought about it I'd know what to do - indeed, I did! I'm a long time resident of El Reg, and familiar with the wisdom of the commentarderate, so I created a new account, made a few posts to qualify as a topic starter (no anons allowed, apparently) and here we are. A most useful and entertaining thread, and I thank you all.
I'm not currently low paid at the moment - my compo is probably not far from $100k (not that it goes far in the UK) - but I work for one of those companies whose 'transformation' is just a synonym for making the old guard redundant and filling the ranks with offshore noobs, many of whom are not all that great, as we are too cheap to pay for any of the many offshore guys and girls who are any good.
The impending ax, and the low pay of the apparently available jobs, is what made me ask the question - do I have to go for a low pay role and start working my way back up again, or could I somehow transfer my own experience which, as you can see, is fairly unspecific - and definitely uncertified - to a rewarding role without taking a big pay cut?
Project management has been confirmed to me as an option, though I think the Scrum Master roles look like a more interesting approach here, I will look further into agile certification, many thanks to those of you who have opened my eyes to this path.
Perhaps, as some of you very kindly suggested, I am underselling myself; I just don't feel comfortable about saying, as one of you did, "I know a LOT about everything". It's one thing when your own managers or sales team introduce you to the client as "the smartest person in the room" - and it's nice when colleagues invent vaguely flattering nicknames. But I just cannot bring myself to really, well, I would call it bragging. And it's not completely fair, either. For instance, in terms of claiming credit for things I have done, these are almost all as part of a team. I'm pretty sure my team would have figured out why an FTP transfer mysteriously stopped working when they switched on encryption - but it was me who first realized an intervening smart firewall was no longer able to snoop on the PORT command. How much time / money have I saved over several such instances? I really can't say.
I was once client-facing technical lead on a team on a major production performance problem for a moderately well known financial institution. When we fixed it (which included a major fix to another vendor's well known architectural platform) the head of the division bought us all a bottle of very expensive single malt, and gave me two. When I said this was very generous, the CIO joked that, if the division had the budget, he'd have erected a life-size bronze of me in the car park! But I still wouldn't feel comfortable about saying "I did this" - a team I was part of did it. And again, I feel they could probably have done it without me, I can't be unique, can I? I know we, as a team, saved that institution a bucket load of cash, and rescued a badly broken client relationship for our own company. But I cannot say that *I* did it, and I blushed so much when a senior exec of my own company told me it 'was all down to you' that people just laughed at me.
And what about when you knew it was all going wrong, but you couldn't get anything changed? For instance, working on a major government contract which was going to go badly pear-shaped. How much credit can you claim for "knowing and saying all along" when you could never get any changes actually made?
Some of you were kind enough to challenge me with questions; and some of you were kind enough to be properly brutal. This tells me there is something very wrong with the way I sell myself. I'm not suitable for a 'graduate entry scheme', -- I'm a 50 year old with a 1st class degree, a PhD and two decades of IT consultancy. I call myself a generalist because I really am - no wonder some of you are jaded if you have people telling you they are generalists when they've only done a few years work and couldn't answer some basic questions (though I admit I don't know as much about Active Directory as I should :-).
If anyone is interested, I'm also not someone who can 'barely program' - As soon as I could read C# I spotted that the offshore code I was reading was rubbish because a multi-stage calculation was done pretty much by a single object with a single method, one of whose arguments was an integer which indicated which stage should be performed, and which sometimes called itself recursively - do I need to say more? I realized straight away their config management was wrong because they had branches named after test environments and were moving individual patch sets from one to the other as bug fixes were tested. Whilst resolving this, I gave the client the confidence that it was under control by being simultaneously honest about the problems and clearly explaining the solutions, in terms the business could understand.
Yet I feel uncomfortable even writing this under a pseudonym. It just sounds so bigheaded, and I guess my biggest concern is that people won't like me; I'm dreading the downvotes already. More than anything I want to be part of a team that revels in getting things done well - quickly, reliably, at a reasonable cost and at the highest quality that the time and budget allows. I'm not even that bothered about the money, to be honest (although I can't afford a massive drop), but I want to be doing something interesting, not wasting my time writing Word Documents for a lumbering behemoth whose idea of a solution is to immediately reach for a bunch of other vendors' proprietary technologies and stitch them together badly using hastily assembled teams of not always brilliant offshore labor.
tl;dr: thank you everyone for your input, you have really inspired me. Sorry for rambling.