I’m a former academic who would like to focus on self-driven writing and creative projects, but I’m not ready for self-employment. I’d like to find a low-stress job that will leave time and energy for my creative work, but I have some health restrictions and complicating factors. What should I do?
I’m a writer, web geek and former academic with a jack-of-all-trades background. I have baccalaureate-level education in psychology, philosophy, and accounting, and my previous work experience is mostly academic, computer- and office-focused: light web stuff (mostly HTML/CSS coding), tax prep, psych research assistance, teaching assistance, proofreading, and administrative. I’ve also done restaurant work and home caretaking/nanny work back in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Frankly, I’ve had my fill of academia, and conventional career paths are not for me. I’m clear about what I want: I’d like to focus as much of my time and energy as possible on my writing and other long-term projects that support my "green" values, such as learning permaculture and eco-friendly homemaking skills. At some point, I may be able to generate sufficient income through self-employment. In the meantime, however, I need another source of income, and am therefore looking for a job.
My priorities and preferences are: low stress, low public contact, light-to-moderate physical activity, job site accessible via foot or public transit, and a good working environment. The working environment is even more important to me than my job duties, in fact. For a really good employer – one with good management, fair pay, and employees that are capable, smart, and down-to-earth – I'm willing do whatever is necessary to get hired there: wash dishes, serve coffee, haul trash, you name it. If it's a "sick system"
place to work, it doesn't matter if I’m paid a six-figure professional salary and am doing tasks I love all day long, because I know I won’t last long there.
I’m fine with lower status, repetitive tasks, short-term temp or contract work, and shift work or odd hours, and while I'd like to make decent money, I will accept lower pay if necessary. I live simply and frugally, have low expenses, am single and child-free by choice, and don’t need intellectual stimulation in a job since I get plenty of it through my autodidactic and creative pursuits.
Ideally, I’d like to work in an office, hotel/motel, private home, or restaurant, alternating among tasks like office cleaning, filing/sorting/data entry, or organizing closets or stockrooms. I love organizing! I also enjoy computer/tech work and computer geeks a lot, but since I spend a lot of my free time in front of a computer, I’d rather not spend my entire paid workday there as well. (Doing computer work for part
of the shift would be fine).
I’m reliable, punctual, respectful, trustworthy, self-motivated, organized, hard-working, and a quick learner, and I’m good at finding pleasure in many different kinds of work. I’m confident that I’m a good employee, and I have good references. However, I have some factors that are complicating my job hunt:
1) I have a knee injury. While it doesn’t prevent me from doing most physical activities, I’ve been advised by a doctor that putting strain on it through repetitive stooping and kneeling isn’t a good idea, so this rules out certain jobs.
2) I’m asthmatic and I have allergies to animal dander, some kinds of pollens and particulate matter, and many kinds of scented products. This means I can’t work anywhere with indoor pets, I need to wear a respiratory mask for certain kinds of cleaning jobs, and as much as possible, I need to avoid workplaces where people wear heavy perfumes.
3) Job-related travel is not a possibility for me right now, since I’m living in a family-owned condo and have agreed to occupy and manage it for the foreseeable future.
4) I don’t drive or own a car – I get around by foot and public transit exclusively. I love living this way, and it generally doesn’t pose a problem since I live in the downtown core of a city (Portland, OR). However, it does pose limitations in terms of the jobs I can accept, since many job listings state that applicants “must have reliable vehicle.”
5) I’m very introverted and easily overstimulated, enjoy solitude and privacy, and have found that I don’t do well in high-profile jobs with heavy public contact or large groups of people. My job performance is best when I’m left to my own devices, or working with a small group in a back office or similar environment.
How should I approach job-hunting, given these conditions? What kinds of jobs should I be applying for, and what are my chances of getting hired? How much of my background should I reveal, and will I be considered "overqualified"? And in particular, how do I find a healthy workplace? Are there tell-tale signs of a “sick system” working environment that can be detected by outsiders who might be interested in working there, or are there other ways to find out beforehand what the workplace culture will be like once I’m inside?
Personal anecdotes are welcome. I feel kind of stuck in my job hunt right now, and I could use some encouragement and hope. If you have a background and priorities similar to mine, and are happily working in a job of the type I’m seeking, I’d love to hear about your experiences and how you got the job.
Lots of questions, I know. Thanks in advance for all suggestions!