What comes after Plan B?
October 8, 2012 11:29 AM Subscribe
I’m finishing a Ph.D. in political science. I don’t want an academic career, and I’m having trouble figuring out what to do next. Snowflake details inside.
After graduating from college with a B.A. in government, I spent two years working for a government contractor in the D.C. area. I got bored and wanted something more intellectually stimulating, so I went to grad school to study political philosophy. I knew this was very risky, so I had a backup plan to study quantitative research methods if philosophical study didn’t work out.
Sure enough, I ended up following plan B. To shore up my quantitative creds, I also picked up an M.S. in statistics last May. This summer, I finished writing my dissertation (on how to model social influence) and will graduate this December with a Ph.D. in government.
The problem is that I’m not sure what to do next in terms of a career. From reading various AskMeFi threads, there seems to be two major camps in defining a career: Do what you love, or do what you are good at. First, I don’t have what people call a “passion” or a calling. The closest thing I had to that was political philosophy, and I have decided that will be a hobby from now on. Second, I am not sure what I am good at anymore. My self-esteem crashed and my self-perception warped during grad school; time will heal, I’m sure, but I’m having trouble figuring out what to do right now for job hunting purposes. With these caveats, here’s a summary of who I am and what I can do:
1. I’m the competent person in the office. I can be counted on to get things done, especially if it means learning new software or using available tools in unconventional ways.
2. I’m an INTJ. I’m a woman, but I prefer working with men, especially IT guys, military men, and economists.
WHAT I GENERALLY LIKE TO DO:
1. I like investigating things. I was an investigative reporter in college, and I really like talking to people, digging up numbers and facts, and exposing or reporting about an issue that most people don’t know about. This is also what I like about statistical analysis. But I don’t have a “cause” or a specific area of interest; in general, once I figure out the interesting part of a problem or issue, I lose interest and want to move on. This is not an insurmountable problem; I lost interest in my dissertation about six months into it, but I still managed to finish it.
2. I like working with “magic.” I like using software to get things done, whether it’s making graphs, building a database application, or getting estimates via statistical computing.
3. It is important to me that I become a contributing member of society. This means that I prefer producing something or improving something, rather than advocating a cause or doing research for its own sake.
WHAT I CAN DO:
1. I can do standard statistical analyses. I can run regressions and conduct various statistical tests. I can derive basic estimators. But I don’t have practical experience doing these things.
2. I can explain complex subjects, whether philosophical or statistical.
3. I can make anything look good in Excel and Access. I have a good intuition for what kinds of information to emphasize, and I have (or can easily acquire) the technical skills to do it.
4. I can learn almost anything but only if there is a goal to be accomplished. For example, I have taught myself how to use several types of statistical software because I had to train other people how to use them. I taught myself linear algebra because I needed to provide remedial math lessons to some students. I taught myself VBA and SQL because there were things I needed to do in Excel and Access for work. I am currently learning Python but it’s going slow because I don’t have a more specific goal than learning it.
WHERE I AM:
I am in Houston, TX and don’t plan to move.
What sort of careers should I look into? What kinds of jobs can I realistically get without more education or training?
Help me, AskMeFites! You’re my only hope!