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What is your job like, really?
October 18, 2012 5:36 AM   Subscribe

Between the hours of 9-to-5, or whenever you work...what are you doing, specifically?

I'm curious as to what the day-to-day work looks like in your field. This question does a great job of covering engineering, but I'm not an engineering student so I would love to hear answers from a wide range of positions, in any field.

Yes, I'm trying to figure out what do with my life.
posted by tooloudinhere to Work & Money (137 answers total) 241 users marked this as a favorite
 
I bet that for most people with an office job, regardless of field, the answer is "reading and responding to e-mails". If I'm not doing that, I'm creating and filling out spreadsheets.
posted by spaltavian at 5:40 AM on October 18, 2012 [25 favorites]


I form companies. Most of my job is walking clients through requirements (by phone or email,) filling out and filing government paperwork, and keeping track of what was sent where and when I expect it back.
posted by griphus at 5:45 AM on October 18, 2012


Spaltavian speaks truth. Although, as a secretary, I also am making travel arrangements for other people, preparing letters/deliveries/packages to other people, compiling expense reports for other people, and scheduling appointments for other people. And with the down time, I am writing and checking in here.

(Note: I am going to be looking for secretarial work in another field that could potentialy occupy much more of my on-the-job time within a year because I am bored out of my damn mind.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Should have clarified: can you also share your job title?
posted by tooloudinhere at 5:48 AM on October 18, 2012


I am a librarian at a university.

I teach classes (sometimes this takes up most of my day, sometimes I go a week without teaching any classes at all).

I sit at the reference desk and answer questions. I also answer reference questions via email and the phone, sitting at my own desk in my office (this usually means googling things and looking stuff up in databases). I also keep office hours in the building where most of my users work. Although I have a lot of time set aside for question-answering, it doesn't actually account for a whole lot of my time - I do other stuff on the list while I'm waiting for people to ask questions.

I read and sometimes answer a lot of emails and phone calls that are not reference questions.

I try to figure out what books and journals my users need and then order them (this is my least favorite thing).

I update the library web page.

I read about my field - blog posts, sometimes journal articles.

I go to interminable librarian and faculty meetings.

I have a fairly large amount of downtime that allows me to answer AskMes.
posted by mskyle at 5:53 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I answer a lot of questions by students who come into the office. I work on planning semesterly events like the advising schedule, the course schedule. I create the schedules when we have candidates for faculty positions come in.I answer e-mails and work on random projects assigned by deans (right now I'm collecting data on study abroad information for the students in my particular major), and I answer a lot of e-mails. I anticipate course offerings for our department a year out, and process reimbursements for faculty travel, check requests, etc.

Just this week I had to resolve an issue for students that involved being mistakenly registered for, essentially, the same course twice in all but name and being charged double tuition. Sometimes I have to assist in resolving grade disputes with students and faculty. I search for part-time faculty to teach courses within our department once the full-time faculty have been assigned, and I'm currently on a committee planning an award's ceremony that a center within the university sponsors each year. I often deal with students who are upset so I have to first try to get them to calm down so I can parse what the issue is and instruct them on how to go about getting it fixed.

But I also spend a lot of time---like A LOT OF TIME---sitting at my desk and reading Metafilter because I will have done all the things.

My title is office coordinator, but it really should be something along the lines of RESOLVER OF CRISES or DOER OF ALL THINGS! I work in an academic department. It's a good job. I like the people I work with. I get a lot of flexibility --- if I were in admissions or financial aid, for example, I wouldn't have nearly as much flexibility. But it's also not what I want to do for the rest of my life, so there is that. But it's good for now.
posted by zizzle at 5:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


[The question as posted was a little vague, but just to be clear, the OP seems to be career planning, and would basically like a precis of what various jobs entail day-to-day. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 6:00 AM on October 18, 2012


My answer will be useful only in the sense that job titles can be meaningless.

I work for the Federal government, and my job title is Graphic Technology Specialist, which is just a title I made up to encompass graphic design and page layout, plus PDF creation and actually producing digitally-printed copies. But now, only about 10% of my time is dedicated to those tasks.

I am currently doing quality control on scanned PDF files. As part of our effort to get rid of needless paper copies of archived documents in preparation for a move to a new building, they are all being scanned and the originals shredded. My job is to review the PDFs page by page to ensure all the pages are there and legible. It's as exciting as it sounds, but allows lots of time to listen to music or podcasts as I do it.

Before that (and probably again in the near future) my full-time task was to use Microsoft Project to create and track schedules for all of our repair, maintenance, and supply projects. (Things like repairs to dam generators, repainting of structures, fixing cracks in dam spillways.) For this task, each project has an entry in Project with a list of tasks, deadlines for each task, and how the tasks are linked together. I get updated information by calling or emailing the responsible individuals and by holding monthly conference calls with 5 different main offices. Our organization calls this position something like Program Analyst.

There's a common joke/truism that job descriptions always contain the phrase "other duties as assigned" which can mean anything.
posted by The Deej at 6:05 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm also a librarian at a university.

Unlike mskyle, my (yester)day consists of one-on-one meetings with my staff, going over budgets, explaining to my student employees that "My Mom said it's okay" does not constitute a valid excuse, hiring new students, assisting my staff at the circulation desk, painting a bunch of Mac powercords bright pink, reading emails, writing emails, arguing with other departments, telling faculty that student resources are student resources so no you cannot turn a study room into a satellite office, ordering books, returning books that should not have been ordered, sneaking off to Falafel King for lunch, troubleshooting IT problems (wireless network, printing), trying to convince IT that said problems are not on our end, telling students that because they stole Reserve items others needed they won't be getting any more of them this semester, checking Mefi/Facebook, going to the gym, processing usage reports, and updating statistics. Such is the lot of Access Services.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:09 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm the office manager at a startup. There is no back office, so I do everything.

All the in-office accounting.
All of the paperwork side of HR.
Make sure we have all our business licenses and contracts in order.
Make sure we've all got health insurance and paychecks and chairs and electricity.
Arrange all the trips everyone takes.
Handle all the job applicants and arrange their interviews.
Make all of the office purchases, from server equipment to the Peapod order to stock the fridge.
Arranging meetings with folks.
Being at meetings with folks.
Emailing folks.
Reading email from folks.
Making phone calls to folks.
Mailing things to folks.
Responding to crises, emergencies, and making sure none of the other employees have to think about anything other than their own job roles.
Tending to the idiosyncratic needs of our two partners.
Etc, etc, etc. Basically, unless it's something that is specifically the job of someone else, I'm doing it.

Some days I just spin around in my chair and read metafilter for hours. Some days, like yesterday, I'm running around constantly from 8 to 5.

I majored in the history of science, so this was just something I fell into when I needed a job. It's perfectly fine, but my happiness is heavily dependent on the fact that I love the guys I work with.
posted by phunniemee at 6:09 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a job that I can't even talk about to my wife. That part really stinks.

But, in reality, I answer emails all day long. When there aren't emails, I do Internet research which involves "playing" on the Internet all day to get more information from stuff.

Yes, it's vague, but that is the whole point of the job, too, if that makes sense.
posted by TinWhistle at 6:13 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm an economist doing urban economic development.

A lot of my job is connecting people and ideas with information, facts and figures. I work with a number of community groups and help them better understand the environment they're working in. Ideally, I wouldn't be needed, but organizations hardly have the time or the skill-set to do it alone.

I meet a lot with people, do around 3 presentations or panel discussions a week, write a lot of articles/blog posts/commentary. I advise leaders in a number of high-level positions on the economic impact of things like community centres, major projects, labour market shortages, whatever. I don't do a ton of original research, but I do project manage a bunch of research projects which build on other people's work or use consultants to get us raw numbers which I then turn into meaningful information for a lot of people.

I also do a lot of special projects: my favourite right now is working with a grass roots organization looking to change the decision-making process on urban development from back room dealings to community consultation projects. It's democratizing the urban development process and my role is being the visionary, connecting piece that helps the organization avoid becoming a special interest group and instead a necessary and important resource that leaders can draw upon. This involves a lot of negotiating, emailing and phone calls.

But yes, to echo at least one person above, most of the job is talking to or emailing other people. Communication is a huge part of my life.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:16 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am a process engineer in a consulting firm that does industrial plant design. The work I do has varied a lot.

Process Design (usually in an office):
I prepare process flow diagrams that illustrate what the overall process of the plant will entail - the major equipment, and material flow paths between them. And I update them after decisions are made in meetings, and by talking with our client's engineers to make sure the process is correct (they know their process best). Same thing with Process & Instrumentation Diagrams, which are done later - they have every valve, instrument and utility connection also on there.

I prepare the mass flow balances to make sure everything coming in = everything going out, which also makes sure our equipment and whatnot is sized correctly. This may/may not involve doing a process simulation with a computer program - depends on the process.

I play process detective and do studies to determine the impacts of changing a process, or to accurately represent what's going on in a process based on existing plant data - helps to assess whether cost reductions can be implemented by combining/eliminating steps, or to ensure the accuracy of my material balance, etc.

I write and review reports, write emails, talk with clients, drafters, document control types, project support types, other engineers.

Other work:
Currently I'm getting into Reliability, Availability & Maintenance modeling (RAM) - we take all the existing knowledge of the current plant, and create a dynamic model (i.e. parameters will vary randomly within a set range). This helps determine the actual plant capacity and where bottlenecks are. Building/updating/running/debugging the model uses computer programming logic, which I find both exhilarating (when successful) and frustrating (when not). The results have to be analyzed via creating charts & tables and writing a report - I have an m.sc. so I'm used to this, the team effort of engineering work makes this a lot more survivable.

I've been the on-site representative for my company, playing process detective on-site to gather data for any modeling/piping/mech. eng. work for my team back in-office a few hours away. I spend my day talking with the operators and research engineers there to get plant data and inspect specific equipment, and relating my findings back to my team.

At most I know what I'll be doing 3 months in the future, lots of waxing and waning in my work flow - some days I'm sitting waiting for stuff to come through, so I have to find/make work for myself.
posted by lizbunny at 6:17 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a quality assurance specialist at a software company; I test our software.

About half of my day is devoted to manually testing issues in our upcoming releases, which includes writing release notes/documentation, talking to developers and designers about the issues, and developing test plans (both for myself and for subject matter experts.) I report issues occasionally; I will also get sucked into writing specs from time to time.

The other half of my day is devoting to writing, editing, and running automated tests.

I love my job; it's almost pure work, in that I receive and send very few emails, and attend maybe one meeting a week. I get to interact with people in different ways, and there's always something to do. It's a great job for people who have an eye for detail, can communicate well, and understand how users will experience a piece of software.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:17 AM on October 18, 2012


My current job is pretty basic—I'm a copyeditor, so I copyedit scientific manuscripts for grammar and style, query authors about major issues, and handle proof corrections, mainly. When I was higher up the production food chain (i.e., before I went part time and started telecommuting while getting my master's), I also did a bunch of website maintenance, cover design and ad layout stuff, some typesetting, and lots of other E-mail-based administrative-type things. Oh, and of course the meetings. There are (were) always meetings.

My undergraduate background was in English, in case that helps.
posted by divisjm at 6:20 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm a professional dog walker. As far as Mondays through Fridays:
My first gig is always at 10:30 am. Before then, I'm home, writing out receipts for the day and monitoring email and cell phone for last-minute requests. After my 10:30, I'm on the road going to clients' homes and walking their dog/s. I'll pick up a Subway or Jimmy John's for lunch to eat en route.
I'm usually home by 3:30 ish, at which time I kick off my shoes, and relax, catch up on the news via laptop, etc. I have a standing 7:15 pm walk every single evening. After that, I'm done for the day. More computer time (I'm an internet addict, which is one reason I no longer work in a cubicle.)

The only humans I see on the job are mail carriers, UPS drivers and the like, and the occasional roofer or lawn service personnel. I can go through the workday without talking to anyone. Me likee.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:22 AM on October 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


i develop phase I and II oncology clinical trials (drug, device, imaging, data collection, tissue collection, etc.) at an academic medical center. i work from 7am to 445pm most days. during the day i:
- meet with investigators who are interested in writing trials (or with whom i'm already working on a trial in progress)
- meet with management about trials in progress (so that the people who are in charge of $$ and research coordinators know how to plan)
- write trials based on concepts provided to me by investigators
- draft consent forms and other documents required to initiate a study
- complete applications for internal scientific and ethical review committees
- correspond with these committees
- correspond with pharma companies about trials i'm working on (if they're providing financial support or drug support)
- correspond with external groups (such as FDA, RAC, etc)
- create research databases so that research coordinators will have places to collect data for the trials i'm writing

any or all of these things could occur during any given day. i start my day (usually) by opening my email, triaging things that have come in, and mentally organizing how i plan to attack the day (based on meetings scheduled, i'll have an idea for whether i want to spend the bulk of the day writing one big project or whether i should work on several short things that can be broken up around meetings -- plus i have regular deadlines that have to be met, so i have that in the back of my head for prioritization purposes, too). i usually check social media accts while i eat breakfast at my desk. then i get started on a project, and go through my to-do list. if something urgent comes in, i drop what i'm doing to put out that fire (and this happens a lot more than you'd think!). i continue to cycle through writing, emailing, and going to meetings. i usually eat lunch at my desk. at least twice during each day, i get up and walk around campus for ~30 min to drop off/pick up forms that need physician signature.

that's about it!
posted by oh really at 6:22 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Although I've held various writing, editing, and strategy roles in digital marketing, I'm currently a contract content manager at a major financial company. I deal mainly with support content. Sometimes I work from home, but like others with office jobs, I spend most of my time on some combo of email, meetings, presentations, and spreadsheets.

-Track and schedule updates to the website (work with writers, project/product managers, and developers)
-Publish those updates in a content management system (CMS)
-Write web content and documentation
-Edit web content
-Edit videos
-Research how competitors and other companies are presenting content through their sites, social media, etc. and create presentations and research reports
-Develop schematics on how content can be better presented or organized
-Develop processes, requirements, and style guidelines for the creation, publishing, and updating of content (depending on what new content types we develop)
-Train others on CMSs and other software
posted by lunalaguna at 6:26 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I make games for online courses to help reenforce concepts taught in the class. Official Title is "Multimedia Specialist" but in reality is mostly "Flash Developer".

I work less by the days and more by the projects. Most days I'm 9-5 I'm writing code. But by the project:

1. Meet with instructor to talk about how the games might help and what I can do.
2. Wait for instructor to write content. In a perfect world, I would have this staggered such that I would have content from other instructors while I'm waiting.. but I often find myself with stretches of time where I don't have nearly as much to do mirrored by times when I have way too much to do.
3. Meet with the instructor again to discuss what they expect and need from the game. Also to clarify what exactly the content is suppose to cover. I ran into a wall with a Calculus class once, where I was having to design a game that teached a concept I didn't understand. not an easy task, let me tell you.
4. Design the User Interface, prep UI elements for coding
5. Write code.
6. Research errors in code and code I don't know how to write.
7. Write more code.
8. Test. Test test test. Make sure it works. Try to anticipate what the student could do to break the game. Repeat 5-8 until it's finished.
9. Write instructions, prep game to be viewed in web browsers.
10. Send the game to the instructor, have them play it, and send me feedback and changes.
11. make requested changes.
12. upload game onto server. Link it in our learning management system.
13. Test again to make sure everything works.
14. Let project manager and instructor know it's complete.
15. Hope to god our LMS/Server doesn't bork and break the game.
posted by royalsong at 6:38 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Like TheDeej, my title of Graphics Specialist is one I made up. In my case, because my company wanted to call us Marketing Specialists instead of Graphic Designers (I think because they didn't want to go by the graphic designer paygrade, but wtf? Marketing is completely different!) I work in-house in an engineering company and my main task is to do layout/cover design/printing for various reports. However, to fill time, I also do a lot of mail merges, spreadsheet creation, and various basic computing tasks. Thankfully, the meetings are no longer too frequent. Email is constant, but is usually pertaining to information I need to do a project. The biggest problem is filling time with something "billable" when I'm stuck waiting for information, like I at this very moment.
posted by Eicats at 6:43 AM on October 18, 2012


I am a self-employed fiction writer.

I wake up around 9:30, eat breakfast, check metafilter and catch up on e-mails. Many of these emails will be work-related--either about the two writing-related blogs I contribute to or messages from my agent or editor on current projects. Then I exercise and bathe (while reading review books in the bath) and finally get dressed and come back to get actually work done around 11:30 or noon.

The actual work depends on what I'm working on. Right now, I'm drafting, so my time is spent putting down new words. Other "job duties" might be picking through an edit letter and applying them to my manuscript, correcting proof pages, chatting with my agent about a new project, rereading recently drafted work and line editing, that sort of thing. Because I am not very focused, all of this will be interspersed with watching youtube videos, commenting on metafilter, reading blogs, and IMing with writerfriends.

I usually take my nose off the proverbial grindstone around dinnertime, eat dinner, and catch up on television. Then I'll sit down for a few more hours of writing. If I have a blog post to do, I'll almost always do them in the evening. I am most productive from midnight to one a.m. and so there will usually be some new words there. Once a week, I attend a critique group in google hangouts where I either give feedback on someone's work or get it in return.

Sometimes I shake things up just to stay fresh, going to a coffee shop to write or writing with friends on google hangouts.

Some writers don't do all of these things--my unpaid blogging takes up a fairly good chunk of time, but I find it rewards my writing so I keep up with it. And even though my day is unstructured, what they say is true: when you work from home you're always working.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:45 AM on October 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am a senior purchaser in the corporate office of a rapidly growing managed services company. A third of my time is spent fixing mistakes other people make (buying the wrong thing, setting up a contract incorrectly, setting up a part number incorrectly). Another third is spent answering questions from less senior people on how to do things (ie, "our accounting system won't allocate taxes", "How do I create an internal requisition", and of course "How can I track shipments?"). The remaining third of my time I place orders and assist other people as needed, focusing on complicated issues that will probably cause problems for less experienced members of the team.

The good part of it is that I pretty much set my own schedule and work independantly - unless something is an emergency, I decide what needs to be done and when. The bad part is that because a lot of my work is putting out fires, I rarely get a feeling of accomplishment since the amount of actual work done is minimal - I have to measure my accomplishments in terms of the "absence of problems" as opposed to the "presence of completed tasks."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:47 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm a lawyer.

I make and answer phone calls, I write and answer emails, sometimes all day long. I'm in family law, which means client interaction is a big part of the practice.
I research legal issues in my clients' cases (couple times a week).
I write briefs, motions, responses to motions for the court.
I prepare for hearings, which includes a lot of going through paperwork (financial and otherwise). I outline the issues I want to address in court. I write questions to ask people on the stand.
I go to court, which is a bit like putting on a show.
I do all my own billing and filing and copying and administrative stuff for my firm, which is a huge time suck and I generally hate.
posted by freshwater at 6:48 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a cell biologist. Most days:
- I read some literature in my field.
- I plan experiments, which involves writing down what I think I want to do, thinking about whether it'll actually work, revising the plan, looking at the literature/internet to figure out if what I'm planning is similar to what other people using the same technique in other systems have done (and therefore whether it's likely to work or not.)
-I execute experiments. Undoubtably the dullest part of the job. Mostly moving precise quantities of liquid from one container to another, waiting precise amounts of time, moving the liquid around again.
-I analyze data. My data is not too analysis-intensive these days, but there have been times in the past when this has involved staring at fluorescent microscope images for hours and hours trying to make sense of them.
-i try to think of reasons why my experiment didn't work and come up with ways to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. This is, in reality, most of the job.
-I write down what I did.

Usually all of this is happening concurrently, since I have several projects going on at once.
posted by juliapangolin at 6:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I manage an outreach/education/prevention program that's focused on preventing Hepatitis C and on getting people with HepC into our agency's clinical program (for monitoring, treatment, etc.)

My days are 'flexed' quite often, so I don't work a standard 9-5 most of the time. Some days I don't work in the morning and some days I work later at night. I'll give you a typical day.

I get out of bed and check email and reply to anything that's important enough to need a quick response at 7am. Then I do the usual getting ready for work things that everyone else likely does.

Around 9 a.m., I arrive at the locked cage (in a building) where we keep our needle exchange supplies and I load up with the items that I need. This may be anything from a small bag of condoms that I stick into my outreach bag to enough cases of needles, water, cookers, stems, sharps containers and other supplies that it almost fills the back of my car and trunk.

By 9:50 a.m., I'm at our first fixed outreach location where I load all the aforementioned supplies into our cabinet and our on-site storage space. I tidy up the cabinet, make sure we have everything in the right place, and get all the stats sheets organized for the day ahead of me.

I'm at the fixed location until 1pm. During that time I'm meeting with people who need supplies - talking to them about their drug use, their sex work, their lives, their kids, the weather, their health, etc. I assess whether someone could benefit from a referral into our clinical program, to another agency, or just needs to be heard. I keep track of all contacts, all referrals, all supplies handed out.

At 1pm I lock everything up, note what needs to be restocked for the next day, and then I usually drive home for lunch for an hour.

In the afternoons, depending on the day of the week, I could be:

- doing similar outreach at other agencies/locations
- running a group for drug users who want to help with harm reduction supply prep.
- running a support group for people with Hepatitis C
- doing home/motel delivery of harm reduction supplies
- attending workshops, trainings, etc.
- giving presentations, workshops, trainings at various agencies
- attending meetings (about community safety, drug use, sex work, parole/probation, etc.)
- doing paperwork (stats, creating brochures/flyers, writing program plans)
- making supplies (bundling needles, wrapping crack pipes, etc.)
- interviewing, hiring, training or re-training peer outreach workers
- meeting with other staff from my agency to talk about agency things, referrals, clients that I want to refer inward for more support, etc.
- giving media interviews (newspaper, TV, etc.)
- replying to emails

In the evenings, I could be:

- at local prisons, talking about HepC
- doing workshops/presentations/trainings - to youth, to adults, at the library, etc.
- hanging out at the local Out of the Cold locations

On the weekends, I could be:

- doing outreach with backpacks on the street (usually in the late afternoons)

Every day, all day, I am attached to my phone - responding to emails, texts and phone calls. I have a Facebook account that I post to for work, and a twitter account (that I mostly neglect, ahem). I also maintain a big chunk of our agency's web site, so there's time spent writing content and making sure we're presenting the right info.

I supervise a team of 7 outreach workers who require a good deal of .. well, supervision - meaning that I'm often replying to emails and trying to sort out interpersonal problems. A good chunk of my time is spent recruiting, interviewing and then creating/presenting trainings for them, creating schedules for work hours, signing time sheets, delivering paycheques, etc. All of the people that I manage have experience with drug use, HepC/HIV, sex work and/or homelessness - some more recently than others - which means it's important to keep an eye on how they're doing, since some of what we do can be incredibly triggering.

Luckily, I also work very closely the outreach coordinator from a local HIV/AIDS agency (since HepC and HIV have similar risk factors) which means we coordinate a lot of things together - but we also have meetings, exchange a lot of emails, text messages, etc. The meetings almost always involve eating cupcakes.

My job is almost perfect for me - never the same day twice, a lot of flexibility around when/how I work, and relatively low-stress. It does require a lot of organization (because no one else sets my schedule) and the ability to assess what needs to be done and how to do it. Self-motivation is huge.. and there's a big emotional drain at times that can make it harder. Over all, though, I love it.
posted by VioletU at 6:57 AM on October 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'm a project manager/business analyst/software support person. My company culture is big on meetings. Most days I spend 4-6 hours in meetings with various groups of people.

For the projects I manage, the meetings are to gather requirements, or give updates to the customer, or get updates from the project team.

In my support capacity, I meet with people to understand the bug they are experiencing, or to answer a question, or find out what change they need to the production system. I also meet with the helpdesk staff to hear about emerging issues and make sure they are responding to the users. I do some training and communication about new versions and features.

Then there are the weekly/biweekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly staff meetings of various types.

In meetings and out, I read and respond to email all day long. I run queries in SQL and provide reports in Excel to people. I analyze software logs to troubleshoot the software. I manage project plans in MS Project and diagram processes in MS Visio.
posted by cabingirl at 6:58 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm a senior scientist, microbiology. I spend most of my time reading and writing papers, reports and grant applications, analyzing DNA microchip data, researching new technologies in microbial profiling.
posted by waving at 7:14 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am an editor/proofreader for a state legislature. My job is extremely different from the usual modern editing job. I spend very little time answering emails and very little time in meetings. I use the computer for statute research and fact-checking and very occasionally for creating Word documents. I mostly look at hard copy. I write questions/corrections on the hard copy. I review the hard copy proofread by others. I hand-stamp things and make photocopies. I also spend a lot of time looking up things in actual books as opposed to online. I often work in groups, so there's a lot of reading aloud and a lot of discussion about the document on the table. It's very old school.
posted by JanetLand at 7:21 AM on October 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm a Data Analyst.

I write queries in SQL against our Oracle database, and format the information for the managers (pivot tables, charts, etc). I write our monthly and quarterly reports. I make data visualizations in Tableau, and reports in Cognos. I train the managers on how to access and use these tools.

I work with teams of programmers to develop software applications for our department to use. I test applications and direct testing groups.

I work with floor plans and building data for several million sq feet of building space. I query database and create labor reports. I think of new ways to track data, and implement them.

I organize our departmental documents, photos, and info, and create Sharepoint sites and Access databases for storage of that data. I build workflows using SharePoint Designer. I clean up data in our various storage systems. I build front ends in Access and work with the Oracle team on Oracle backends. I create and edit reports and queries in our current database. I create and organize systems of information, like our cleaning schedule.

I work with data from several company-wide systems. I keep abreast new company-wide data initiatives and go to training for new tools. I direct our administrative staff on projects, and train them to use our applications and on how to format information correctly. I shadow staff and talk to managers so I can make our new tools efficient and easy to use.

I write documentation. I make process maps in Visio. I manage projects. I build forms.

I update our website. I train people on our software tools, and serve as 1st level tech support for our department.

I go to conferences, do presentations, and talk to people. I send emails. I make training documents.

I shop for shoes and answer Ask Mes when I'm tired. :)

There's probably more, I'm all over the place. Obviously not all of these every day. Ha.
posted by hotelechozulu at 7:25 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm a lawyer1, and I work in poverty law. This means I help people with low incomes with regards to their applications for welfare, disability support, housing issues, and other things that come up.

My days vary, but some time will be given to:
- Answering emails (not much of this, generally)
- Writing and sending letters requesting support from the government, requesting money from landlords, requesting repairs, keeping clients informed.
- Reviewing medical records
- Client meetings, which can involve talking about what's wrong with their apartment, finding out their medical history, comforting them through a stress breakdown.
- Preparing submissions: organizing my thoughts and making it clear based on the governing law and a few major cases why I should win
- arguing before various boards and tribunals (like court, but less formal; it's quicker and more efficient. I don't go to court due to my office's funding and mandate), which is yeah theatrics.
- as we're a small office and I'm the tech-savvy new guy: doing anything that's needed with regards to our new printer/fax/etc, helping people with minor computer issues.
- conferring with co-workers (who are not all lawyers, in this field) about cases, giving opinions, etc.
- Due to my location (northern ontario; very very sparsely populated), travelling to outlying towns to meet with clients.

1: I am not; I'm an articling student, so I have a law degree but am doing my year of apprenticeship, and I don't want to claim something I'm not. But for purposes related to this question, I am doing nothing different than I would as a lawyer.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:33 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a PhD student in physical anthropology. I've not yet taken my candidacy exams, and I have one semester left of coursework. My degree is split about 5:1 campus time:field work.

I typically get to campus between 7:00 and 7:30. This semester, I have gross anatomy 3 days a week, so I'm in lecture or dissecting from 8-12 Monday-Wendesday-Friday. I teach four days a week. I spend between half an hour to two hours/day prepping and grading, depending on what the topic of the day is. I also have four hours of office hours, but generally nobody shows up, so I can either prep for the next day or do my own thing. When I'm not physically in class or teaching, I am studying for anatomy, preparing for my candidacy exams, working on grant applications, or working on turning my MA thesis into a submittable paper. Of course, this is supplemented by time spent futzing around on the internet being remarkably unproductive. I try to leave campus no earlier than 6:00 and no later than 8:00. When I get home, I usually eat some food and then get back to work on one of these things until either my boyfriend gets home or I fall asleep, whichever comes first. I expect this general pattern won't change much when I stop being a grad student and hopefully start being a professor.

In the field, I try to wake up around 4 AM, cook breakfast, eat, do my dishes, and get out to my monkeys' sleeping site by 6:30 to catch them before they way up. I take behavioral observations of the whole group every half hour; between those observations I'm taking focal observations on individual females and collecting samples: whenever possible, fecal samples and botanical samples of whatever they're eating. Lunch is usually around 11 - rice and hard boiled eggs on the go. My monkeys usually relax between 1 and 3, so I can just hang out under their tree and note that everyone is sleeping. Then it's a mad rush while they try to eat all the food until they settle into their sleeping site somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00 PM. I get back to camp around 6:30, cook and eat and do my dishes, play some cards and write in my field journal, and pass out by 8:30 at the latest.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:35 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a designer on a small team currently focusing on some mobile apps. My job is typically 10-6:30 rather than 9-5.

In the mornings I'll spend a while going through my email and any bug reports or tasks I've been assigned in Github. I'll also look through Basecamp to see what else is going on in the company, and chat with people in our IRC channels if I have any questions.

The rest of the day is typically spent alternating between answering questions in chat or Github, creating visuals to solve problems that come up, or doing bug testing. When I have any downtime it's spent on thinking about the next project or reading industry-ish blogs and Twitter.

I like my job but because there are so many distractions I occasionally have to work from home to be heads down on stuff and make substantial progress.
posted by thirdletter at 7:42 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I run MetaFilter. I have about 35 "on desk" hours per week and then I have a few more unscheduled hours when I check in. I cycle through a lot of tasks during my shift, but the day starts with coffee and the flag queue/email and then moves on depending what is going on. My job involves

- reading and answering support email ("is this post okay?" "can you add this update?" "can you answer this question?" "why is this okay?" "Something didn't work right" sorts of things)
- reading and replying to mod communications about policy and scheduling stuff
- maintaining a schedule for four full-time and three part-time moderators so we have consistent coverage (We use a Google calendar for this) especially when people are away or on vacations or over holidays
- minding the flag queue so seeing when the flags come in and evaluating them and seeing if comments or posts need to be deleted, not-deleted or need minor edits
- reading AskMe and "hot button" questions to make sure the answers are coming in okay.
- reading all MeTa threads and making sure someone from the mod team has commented in them and either commenting in them or making sure someone else does. This can sometimes take up a LOT of time or sometimes very little
- reading the threads I have commented in in my Recent Activity - since I leave mod notes in a lot of them this is partly my way of checking up on touchy threads
- checking the back end mod notes and user edit queue to see what has been going on since the last time I was on the job
- communicating with other mods if there's something weird going on
- notifying people if they've asked a question with a sock puppet that's within the seven day limit that they shouldn't do that, happens maybe a few times a week
- approving anonymous questions from the anon queue

If I have free time I screw around on the internet (for work!) or do stuff like read threads on the rest of the site, maintain the FAQ, update the training manual I wrote, check in with the new mods to make sure they're doing okay, that sort of thing.
posted by jessamyn at 7:44 AM on October 18, 2012 [23 favorites]


This may be a little out of date at this point, but when I had this question I was recommended the awesome book "Working" by Studs Terkel. Lots of people talking about their daily job routine, from all walks of life. Fascinating, and probably right up your alley.
posted by Aquaman at 7:46 AM on October 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm an IT manager/DB admin for a mid-sized publishing company.

Im kind of a jack of all trades technologist. If they need computers to do something, I make 'em do it. Currently that means bug fixing and development of new features in our CRM, backend website work, phone/remote desktop support for people in the company with computer issues, purchasing, server maintenance (both local and in the data centre).

So I kind of have a different schedule every day, depending on what's going on. Right now I'm working on a major overhaul to the CRM (actually my assistant is doing most of the work - I probably won't be doing much code until the new year, he's redesigning the UI and we need approval on that before we go deep), getting us software license compliant, and dealing with everyday support issues.
posted by signsofrain at 7:50 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm the Membership Data Manager for a non-profit organization. I'm less than a year into my job, so many of my tasks have a little bit of "learn how to do this" involved. Someday I want to be hotelechozulu.

I have various projects in motion at the moment to help keep our database clean and reporting accurate.

I do a lot of database queries using our AMS (Association Management Software) for people inside the organization. Think: "Can you pull a list of members who are THIS and THAT but have never done WHATSIT?" Most of them are done within the software but many times I end up working with our database administrator to have SQL queries written for the more complicated ones.

Meetings, Excel, Access, email. Rinse and repeat.

That AMS I mentioned? Not very intuitive to use. So I'm learning best practices and spreading them around, which will help clean up the input. I need to write some data entry rules to keep everything as standardized as possible. I'm also assisting IT in getting ready to upgrade that AMS in the next few months.

Weekly reports. Every deskbound job I've ever had involves weekly reports.

I help our members who find their way to my telephone and email box by processing payments and answering general questions. I fill in at the front desk answering phones when needed. I'll sit at a booth at conferences when needed and ask people to sign up. I like these duties - to me it makes our members more than just the bits and bytes that make up their record.
posted by kimberussell at 7:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a small business owner (10 employees). My husband manages the operations and I manage the office. My days consist of:

-- Accounts payable and accounts receivable (paying bills and creating invoices-- bookkeeping, really)
-- Trying to track down PO#s from consultants in the field
-- All HR paperwork (hiring and firing), including managing our benefits program
-- Payroll
-- Government remittances
-- Managing our insurance
-- Managing our safety program
-- Managing our fleet (recording upkeep as required by our safety program, keeping registrations and insurance current)
-- Dealing with customers/answering phones
-- Filing
-- Managing inventory in our system
-- Month-end reconciliations and reporting to our bank (re: our line of credit)
-- Maintaining our website (which I built) and handling all marketing/advertising/corporate gifts
-- Babysitting our employees (getting them to complete paperwork)
-- Cleaning our office and service area (dusting, sweeping, mopping)

This only takes about 2-3 hours daily. I don't deal with a lot of email (maybe 5 per day), which is very different from jobs I've held previously. I do make a lot of spreadsheets but they're not particularly complex. To be honest, my job is tedious and not at all stimulating, and I'm technically very overqualified for my job. It's the after-hours business development strategizing with my husband that I enjoy quite a bit.

If I were to sum up my workdays, they would mostly consist of:
1. Worrying about cashflow (we're a young company and most of our customers pay at 90 days)
2. Reading the internet

A couple of benefits of of being self-employed, though, are that I have no meetings and will never have a performance review. I can also go grocery shopping in the middle of the day and take off early if it's quiet.
posted by mireille at 7:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a freelance web developer and designer.

Most of my jobs last roughly two to six months long; occasionally they'll overlap but generally I'm focused on one at a time. All of them are long-distance, there's nothing local to me.

The daily tasks I do really depend on where we are in the job:

There tends to be a big flurry of emails and conference calls at the beginning and near the end of the job. Used to be companies would fly me in for kickoff meetings, but that's gotten less common (whether this is due to increased familiarity with telecommuting or to them realizing that airfare and hotel is a waste of money I do not know). There is some back and forth email throughout the job, and some of them will schedule regular conference calls, but generally I'm left alone to do my thing. Which, depending on the job, consists of
- digging through their existing code and site and making lots of notes, diagrams, sketches etc
- writing up documentation of What I Think Should Be Done
- building mockups in html /css / js and photoshop of What I Think Should Be Done, which depending on the job range from simple wireframes to fully-functional websites
- lots of back-and-forth communication with their devs and managers where we find a middle ground between What I Think Should Be Done, What They Want Done, and What Their Devs Are Willing To Allow
- working out a process with their in-house developers for how we'll hand off my work to them (this ranges wildly, from checking code directly into their repository to throwing standalone code over the wall so they can mistranscribe it)
- Actually doing the html / css / js / photoshop work
- responding to bug reports and change requests
- writing up documentation, and sometimes training their in-house devs on how to use what I've built for them (you would be amazed at how utterly clueless some dev teams are) via email, phone, or occasionally in person.

There is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait during jobs as I wait for feedback, and sometimes longish periods of downtime between jobs. Freelancers more motivated than I probably use that time for self marketing, attending conferences and so forth; I tend to use it for keeping up with technology by blogsurfing, building throwaway experiments, pretending to work on the Revolutionary New Product I'm Going To Build Someday, and trying not to reload MeFi for the fiftieth time in the last hour.

All this is not terribly different from when I used to work in-house oh so long ago; the main difference is that I get to work on different products instead of endlessly repeating on the same one over and over again.
posted by ook at 7:55 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I work in the collections department of a museum. Things can be very different from day to day - sometimes I'm at the computer all day, sometimes I barely see it.

I pull art from the vaults for the curators or researchers to view. Professors schedule times with me to bring their classes to look at specific pieces of art. I carry out condition reports and arrange for conservation on works that need it, including driving the pieces to the conservator at times. I arrange for photography, unframing artwork, staging it, and setting it up for the photographer. I assemble images for publishing projects. I help maintain the collections database. I answer email questions from the general public and from researchers. Some of them are easy, some of them are people convinced they found a Rembrandt in the trash, some of them are students who want me to do their homework for them. I fill requests for images of our work for publications of all types. I do a lot of paperwork when we acquire new artwork and assist in presenting things to various boards and committees. I occasionally travel with artwork on loan - courier trips - that may mean long hours in a truck. I scan things. I tell people no.

This morning, I helped unframe two large works so a curatorial assistant could check the backs for inscriptions in preparation for a catalogue. Then I spoke with our facilities manager about the progress of planning some changes in our sculpture garden. Right now I'm printing out new object labels.
posted by PussKillian at 8:03 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a scientist at a biotech company. My official title is "bioinformatician."

I spend my days reading papers and analyzing genomic data. I'm more on the technical/statistical end than the biology end -- my work is all on a computer rather than in the lab. I mainly do research on methods for analyzing our data using machine learning and other data mining techniques as well as a smidge of mathematical modeling. I do my work by myself, but also spend a lot of time discussing problems and solutions with my (very smart) colleagues. This is about 80% of my job.

The other 20% of my time is spent attending meetings, writing papers (actually doing the writing based on the research I do the other 80% of my time, not as much time as in academia because a lot of my work is "trade secret"), writing and answering email, and other admin tasks. Feel free to MeMail me if you are interested in this field!
posted by bluefly at 8:08 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I work part-time (9-2, Monday to Friday) as a paralegal/secretaryish type of person, working for one attorney in a small law firm. His practice centers mostly around residential real estate, wills/estates/probate work and matrimonial.

- I draft up all the documents we'll need for the various things we do: letters, e-mails, wills, deeds, mortgages, separation agreements, divorce judgments, probate petitions, etc. Some of I have streamlined down to MS Word merge documents, but some I have to generate from scratch, which is tricky, because if I miss a piece of important information it can come back to haunt us later.

- I do online research for estate work and real estate stuff. When someone dies, even if they have a will, you have to send documentation to family members, which means you have to get a family tree and track down everyone on it. (It's especially annoying when someone dies and they didn't have kids, but had eleven siblings, some of which are deceased. You have to send documentation to nieces and nephews, and they're spread out across the country, and IT'S ANNOYING.) You have to check the chain of title for a property to make sure the documentation you're creating is correct.

- I order office supplies, answer e-mails [my boss doesn't have a computer in his office; it all goes through me]. He doesn't make me answer his phone (which I appreciate). I keep his trust checking account balanced; I tell him when he has to pay the copier bill and the postage meter bill and the office supply bill.

- I go with my boss when he has to travel to an elderly client's house to get a will executed. I messenger packages to the county clerk for recording, to other attorneys for delivery, to banks to payoff mortgages.

My days vary wildly; sometimes I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off from start to finish, other times I IM with my sister and watch movies on Netflix. I'm very fortunate that my boss has a "you can do whatever you want on the internet, as long as the work gets done" attitude.

And today my coworker's roommate brought in their two Dachshund puppies and we all played with them for a while.

I love my job.
posted by Lucinda at 8:12 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a web producer for a large entertainment company's website.

As a site producer I manage small teams of designers, developers and writers to create, update and fix user-facing content for the site.

I spend a lot of time sending and responding to emails and attending meetings. Our company looooves meetings.

I also spend a lot of time on our site whether it's staging new content, QAing existing content, QAing ad media and working with external Ads departments to resolve issues of which there are many.

I have at least 2 browsers open at all times with multiple tabs each. Usually our site, Basecamp for project management and communication, our CMS and VMS, our promotional calendar and possible one or two ad trafficking systems.

I also have a steady stream of people coming in to my cube to ask questions or bring new issues to resolve.

I basically multi-task to the point of distraction.
posted by Constant Reader at 8:13 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm a copywriter at a big ad agency.

10 am: Come in and check emails. Yell at some Planner guy because the brief has holes in it. Read Metafilter. Avoid doing timesheets. Hope that Candy project just goes ahead and dies, because you just can't think of any more ideas to sell stupid candy.

11 am: Go to concepting session for an airline project, selling tickets to England. You and your partner sit in silence and scribble in your notebooks until somebody goes, "WOULDN'T IT BE COOL IF..." Come up with a really neat idea to make a "holodeck" view of London, as a PR stunt in LA. Cross fingers client will actually buy the damn thing. Write the idea down.

12 pm: Get shot in the neck with a Nerf bullet. Seek revenge.

12.30 pm: Present the concept deck you made last week to the Account and the Chief Creative Officer. You really want to make a plane drag a banner made of LED lights for a lighting company, and fly it around big cities. Smart! On brief! CCO loves it! Account team doesn't think it's "viral" enough. Fuck you.

1 pm: Oh shit, you have a client presentation for an insurance company at 2. Ha ha, you forgot to incorporate the feedback from the Strategy team. No worries, just a few tweaks. But that means no time for lunch. You procrastinate, read Metafilter, make changes in last fifteen minutes.

2 pm: Print that fucker out, get in car, go to client, shoot up 15 floors, get grilled by client about things like "KPIs." You have no idea how to answer, start kicking Account guy under the table. Account bro's got your back!

3 pm: Come back to office, joke with Account guy about what juicebox the client is. Grown up frat guy much?

4 pm: Metafilter, Metafilter, Metafilter, coffee. Emails. Oh, god, that Candy project is back. It's like a zombie—it won't die, keeps coming back, and always looks worse. Planner lady wants to make a Facebook app in which users can submit their favorite candy stories. You wish somebody would shoot you with real bullets. You sigh, you let her have her app. Because you don't have any more ideas for this one, remember?

5 pm: Make a more formalized write-up for the "holodeck." Research 360 degree projection capabilities. Find a company who could do it. Yesssss. You want this one.

5 pm: Creative Director laughs at your "holodeck." You ask him why, but he won't tell you. He lets you run with it, and you know he'll defend to the client it when the time comes. Good Guy Boss.

6 pm: Email. HOLY SHIT, THERE'S THIS BRIEF FOR HEAVY MACHINERY AND WE'RE GOING TO BRIEF YOU AT 7. Get mad. Why couldn't they have briefed you earlier? Tell them they can brief you in the morning.

Rinse and repeat.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:15 AM on October 18, 2012 [33 favorites]


I'm a lead developer on a team of web developers for a large entertainment company. My day involves a lot of email, informal discussions with my own team discussing requirements and scheduling, more formalized meetings on topics involving other teams, supporting the rest of my team by answering web dev-y type questions and acting as a sounding board helping them talk through issues, doing occasional code reviews, coming up with big-picture architectural solutions when starting new projects, and writing documentation. And finally, when everyone else has gone home, I actually get to write some code. Maybe. I miss writing code.
posted by cgg at 8:21 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a farmer/educator. We work 12-hour shifts at this particular farm, usually five days a week.

Work starts at 6AM.

so...

6AM - 8:30AM (ideally, can go as long as 10 or 11 on a bad day): Chores. Milk the animals, feed the animals, health and safety checks on animals, cleaning the barn. If we have students, this expands to include cooking to feed children, cleaning up after children, and "whatever the heck I can think of that serves our community and will occupy the next two and a half hours".

8:30 - Breakfast. Sometimes this means running a meal for up to 50 kids, which means I don't sit down.

9:00 AM - 3:00 PM - work. Restocking hay and shavings, setting up fencing, taking down fencing, non-daily treatment for animals (treating fungal infections and other small problems, trimming hooves, moving animals around, breeding animals, etc.), cleaning and maintaining animal pens, cleaning and maintaining educational spaces... whatever needs to get done on a particular day. If we have students around, teaching anything from ecology, to dairy farming, to cooking, to breakmaking, to crafts, to who knows what. There'll be an hour of lunch in here, usually. Sometimes that lunch will mean running a meal for up to 50 kids.

3:00 PM - 6:00 PM - Chores. Same as in the morning, milking and feeding and cleaning.
posted by Cracky at 8:41 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm a development manager for a large financial software company. I spend a lot of time on email (I get literally hundreds per day) and on phone conferences (I'm in the UK but nearly all my team are not co-located in my office). I also spend a lot of time in our bug tracking system and occasionally drilling down into the source control. I don't write code anymore but I spent a long time as a developer and I couldn't do this job if I hadn't.

The main activities are:
- planning and scheduling projects and sprints (we use a flavour of Scrum) with my peers in product management and client services
- reviewing the status of current projects and sprints
- removing obstacles to progress - getting A to talk to B, reviewing a specific bug that has got stuck and finding out what the real problem is, expediting a code review, etc.
- intervening in situations that need urgent attention - bringing the right people to bear, and explaining what can be done on what timescale to the account managers for the clients
- (when possible) longer term planning and review to improve our processes - what issues fail in testing? why? What projects overran? What went wrong?
- developing the team, particularly the next tier of managers, to be able to do what I can do now so that one day I can do something else
posted by crocomancer at 8:44 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm a legal reference librarian at a fairly large law firm.

Most of my day involves taking research assignments by email (or phone or walk-in, but mostly email) and working on them. A lot of the time that involves database searching or web searching. Sometimes it involves coordinating with an outside source for material that's not online (like a courier who goes to a court and makes copies of documents). Sometimes it involves calling around and asking questions (like to the state legislature). Sometimes it's telling the attorney what we already have or borrowing a book for them if we don't have it.

Other than research, I have meetings with the department to hash out policies and procedures and whether we're going to buy a particular product. I document things. I write research guides. I help people when they've forgotten their password and arrange to get them access to different databases. I schedule training sessions with database trainers and attorneys.

The mainstay is the research. Which can be all sorts of things in and of itself, really - looking for statistics, searching for legal precedent, finding sample agreements and forms, finding articles on a particular topic, searching news, finding the history of a law, etc. The variation is what I like about it.
posted by marginaliana at 8:48 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a senior manager at a university publishing company affilliated with a large business school in New England. I'm an odd duck - my group doesn't do traditional publishing activities, but instead runs a professional services organization that works with government and commercial organizations around the world on leadership development for senior people. (If we were in a consulting firm instead of a publishing company, I'd be in a Principal or Partner role.)

I manage a porfolio of clients, and my team is spread out from San Francisco to Delhi. At this point, I'm mostly out of the day to day activities of my teams, and I'm focused on higher level activities (client management, financial management, business development, product development strategy, etc.). A lot of my time - as much as I can manage - is spent on mentoring and people development. I also spend a lot of time on internal operational activities - how to increase organizational performance, etc. Active financial management for my projects is not a huge amount of time, but it takes a LOT of mental energy.

Given that my clients and teams are all over the world, the emails never end, and the phone calls are at all hours of the day and night. I typically arrive in the office by 7:30am, and I'm here until 5:00pm at the earliest, sometimes much later depending on what's going on that day. I get 100 emails a day, give or take. A lot of time is spent on that, as well as on client calls and video conferences. A couple evenings each week I'll be on calls between 9-11pm with folks in Asia. I do those from home.

I try and sit in on big meetings and events, just so I can keep a feel for what's going on. I have an open door policy, and people are stopping by with questions and problems non stop. It's great, but it's also time consuming.

When I have downtime, I try and keep up on the academic work being done at the school we're associated with, as well as reading the materials we publish. Free access to all the material produced at our school and in house is a HUGE benefit in my eye.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:59 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a job captain/project manager for an architectural firm. Up until about a year ago, I did this working in an office, but since then I've been working from home, pretty much doing the same tasks. There is really no reason for me to have to go to an office, other than using it as a centralized meeting place. I generally don't have a set daily schedule; I just perform tasks as necessary.

The plurality of my time is spent drafting/modeling in AutoCAD or Revit. Depending on where we are in the life cycle of a project, I'll be preparing presentation drawings and documentation for clients or community groups, or contract documents for the building department (and eventually, contractors). Working on drawings is just my default job mode. I'm typically filling in the details of a design produced by someone else, not of my own making.

When not working on drawings, I can be doing any of the following:

Reviewing drawings from consultants, fabricators, or people working on my staff underneath me for errors and code compliance.

Code review (municipal or building), where I'm poring through the code to see what requirements our building must meet or how certain situation need to be handled and shown.

Phone calls or emails with contractors, clients or consultants.

Site visits - early in a project, this may happen to measure out existing conditions or verify conditions; later I'll go out for construction meetings.

Filling out forms or providing other information for review agencies - to submit for a building or discretionary permit, there can be a huge number of forms for various purposes. In San Diego, for a building permit I'll need an application, a water meter data card that lists all the plumbing fixtures in a building, a stormwater checklist that lets the city know how much potential pollution could be generated by the construction of the project, a hazardous material questionnaire, and if the building is over 45 years old, a copy of the building record from the county assessor and a photographic survey for historical review. After projects go through a round of review, an agency will issue a list of corrections that need to be made for the project to comply with codes; I generally write a letter responding to every comment in the review prior to resubmittal.

Other small parts of my job include comparing bids from different contractors, answering Requests For Information from the field, or product research on different components we may use in a building.
posted by LionIndex at 9:00 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm a quality assurance microbiologist for a small medical device sterilizer.

In the morning, I come in and review batch records from the night before. I check that our sterilizers hit their prescribed targets for temperature, pressure, humidity, and time. If all those check out, I send the file to the customer and we can ship their pallets of devices to distribution.

If something is awry, I have to fill out paperwork describing what happened, why it happened, and what impact we think it will have on the product. Most of the time it's no big deal, but when, say, the temperature is low due to equipment failure, I pray the customer is validated to sterilize their product twice. If not, their stuff gets scrapped and they lose a lot of money.

My afternoons are devoted to supporting a smorgasbord of projects. We're a small organization, so my projects range anywhere from calibration to audits to customer service. Some examples:

-I have to keep up on all our audit findings. Customers and regulators audit us to ensure we follow ISO & FDA standards and make sure the work we do is reflected in our paperwork. If there is an inconsistency, it's an audit finding, and it's up to me to determine how we mend that gap.

-We sterilize devices for a lot of small manufacturers, who often don't know much about sterilization ("in my time, everyone knew about sterilization. Kids these days...") I'll answer their questions, write protocols, and guide them towards the best answer. I have to know the ISO standards pretty well so A) their process works and B) they don't get audited to death because their documentation sucks.

-I plan and write sterilization validation protocols for customers. This involves determining their hardest to sterilize device (imagine long, complicated tubing) and testing it in a worst-case (low temperature, low humidity, lower amount of poison gas) sterilization cycle. If we get full sterility there, we'll certainly be sterile if we increase temperature, humidity, and gas concentration. Following these test runs, I compile the temp & humidity data into a report that the customer will review and sign.

-I revise documents as needed. Sometimes documents are revised because of an audit, sometimes because a customer wants us to do something different to their product, sometimes because we have to review them on a regular basis to make sure the documents remain relevant.

-I'll respond to customer complaints, equipment that's out of calibration, or other small issues that need to be addressed.

Long story short: I'm paid to worry and problem solve.

(For what it's worth, my background is in microbiology. I do zero lab work, but I analyze lab results, and it's helpful to understand how bacterial growth works to fully grasp the sterilization process. I stumbled into a niche of a niche field.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 9:06 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm a speech therapist in the UK. I work for the NHS and my job is split between working on the wards and going out to see people in their own homes.

I get into the hospital at 07:30ish. I check our computerised referral system for new referrals then check the whiteboard we use to keep track of our current caseload and who needs to be seen today. I might check this list against our electronic system to see if anyone has died or gone home. I check the message book to see if anyone was chasing me for things that might change my timetable. Then I load up my pockets and get on the wards.

I go from ward to ward, reviewing medical notes, speaking to doctors and nurses and seeing patients. I spend the majority of my time filling out paperwork or writing notes. I might see 8-12 patients in a day but I wouldn't see all of them directly - some would just be chatting to the staff to check they're doing OK. I usually take about 20 mins for lunch and then spend some time writing reports or phoning people who have gone home before getting back on the wards for the rest of the day. I usually leave at about 17:00 (I technically finish at 16:00).

On days when I work in the community I spend the first hour making sure I have all the notes and resources and know where I'm going, then I drive from house to nursing home seeing people. My appointments are about 40 mins long and I probably drive for about an hour most days. I usually see 4 or 5 people in a day. I don't get a lunch break but I do usually leave approximately on time. On exciting days I might go to case conferences for decisions about putting in feeding tubes and things like that.

I like that I seldom have to use a computer or sit at a desk. I like the patients. I don't like the paperwork and being ignored by so many doctors who think they know more about my specialism than me. I spend a lot of time arguing with doctors and nurses.
posted by kadia_a at 9:10 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm the vice president of a high end adventure travel company that specializes in Asia, South America, and Africa. I typically work from 8 am to 6 pm, but often handle crises in different time zones, which means sometimes I wake up at 3 am to send emails to India or get phone calls at midnight by a client stranded in Patagonia.

The majority of my day is aimed at selling trips. That means I oversee everything from our annual catalog design, email blasts, advertising, press releases, paper and cyber and social media. It's a small company, so I also manage human resources and other managerial stuff - keep track of our insurance and bonds, banking, boring office stuff.

I send and receive emails regarding the operations of our trips to our operators in 15 different countries. I handle phone calls from potential travelers and clients who want to know if they will die trekking in the Himalayas or get eaten by a whale shark in the Galapagos or the ethical reasoning behind traveling to Myanmar or Tibet.

When I travel to our destinations for research and development, that means I am meeting with our operators to make sure they are following our level of standards. I do hundreds of hotel inspections and stay in anything from an eco-lodge in the Peruvian Amazon to a $900 a night villa in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I test out activities that our own clients might enjoy, from traveling across the Thar desert in India by camel, to trying not to throw up as I sail across the Drake Passage on my way to Antarctica, to ziplining in Nicaragua, to caving in Belize, to sitting with Boreno headhunters getting drunk on rice wine. We try to find obscure festivals and cool things to do while you're on a trip with us.

This allows us to design and create award-winning itineraries from all the big name magazines out there - Nat Geo, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast, etc.

I probably won't even talk to you if you are thinking of doing a trip for under $2,000 a person. Most of our trips range around $5,000 per person just for the land portion of the trip, but we also have clients who pay about $15,000 and up. I have had clients who pay one night extra for a presidential suite at a five-star hotel just so they don't have to store their luggage down in the lobby. But I have clients who are toll booth collectors or someone who just came back from a deployment in Iraq who has saved up every penny they have just so they can do one dream trip with us.

I wear jeans to work. My dog can snore under my desk.

I pretty much have a cool job.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:14 AM on October 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


I'm a high school English teacher at a private school. I teach a full schedule but leave before the end of the school day because my employer accommodates my children's schedule; thus, I don't do lunch duties or study hall proctoring, and my schedule is atypical.

7:30am (or earlier): I'm in my classroom giving extra help to any students who stop by.
8-8:40am: My prep period: grading, lesson planning, communicating with parents, photocopying.
8:40-10:08: I teach back to back freshman classes (approx. 20 students in each class).
10:08-10:52: I teach a junior class (22 students).
10:52-11:36: Lunch with colleagues (and grading/emailing, usually, plus posting homework assignments online).
11:36-12:20: One more freshman English class (17 students).
12:20-1:04: One more junior English class (21 students).
1:04-1:30ish: Pack up whatever grading I need to do at home, call parents and/or interact with my dept. head/administration if necessary.

Then I leave school and get my kids. Sometimes I have to be back at school from 2:30-3:30ish for department meetings or to run the yearbook club (I'm the advisor). After the kids are in bed, I usually put in an hour or two grading or reading to keep up with the students' assignments, or go online looking for new ways to present my materials. I also sometimes need to answer student emails if they have homework questions or parent emails about grades and so on.

On weekends, I usually need a large block of time (four hours or more) to grade student essays and write lesson plans. I also do some SAT tutoring every weekend to make extra money.
posted by katie at 9:17 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm an appellate attorney.

I research and write (70%), communicate with clients (20%), and go to court (10%).
posted by snarfles at 9:34 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I run a small product/program/project management team in software. Typically I work 10:00-6:30 but I take calls at off hours for customers in other time zones.

My job:
Come into office, check emails, go to meetings.
Phone calls, support emails, and demos for customers and prospective customers.
Make PowerPoint slides and give presentations - product roadmaps, product line reviews, architecture slides, etc.
Do application building and create demos of the product. I like this part the best.
Manage team - do work item break down for the team, oversee work, plan and schedule work. Manage people - do 1:1 meetings, goal setting, performance reviews. In my case, I work on managing people out.
Manage product operations - high level scenario setting for development team and working on release priorities.
Recruiting and interviewing.
Project management with large customers (more phone calls and web conferences).
I do some product requirements, scenario analysis, and the major UI designs (I like this too).
Test product, file bugs, do triage.
Occasionally blog.
Follow industry trends on web.

Basically it is a mix of desk, face-to-face talking, and phone. Some independent thought work, some people work.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:34 AM on October 18, 2012


I'm an assistant controller. I make life easier for my controller by:

- managing a staff of currently four (mentoring, pro-d, hiring/firing, performance feedback and evaluation)
- problem-solving for issues that come up in our daily financial processing
- meeting financial reporting needs (lots of Excel time)
- taking care of monthly and annual reporting for regulatory bodies
- analyzing sales, budget and other data
- working with IT to maintain and improve financial controls in our proprietary system
- delegating special projects
- managing the transition of financial information from acquired operations into our own
- testing internal controls
- explaining financial information to non-financial managers

I estimate that I spend 60% of my time problem-solving for other people, 20% on reporting, and the remaining 20% on long-term finance and acquisition-related projects. Every day is different.

I like my job a lot. I work on average 40-45 hours a week and my commute is a sweet seven-minute drive.
posted by sillymama at 9:34 AM on October 18, 2012


I am a social worker in a group home. My days mostly consist of completing resident assessments, reviewing treatment plans and other client paperwork, and providing clinical support to the front-line staff. I also do the staff scheduling and supervision. I go to a lot of meetings with guardians, case managers, etc. My job also involves a lot of really random tasks that you wouldn't think of a social worker doing: cleaning bathrooms, laying mulch, moving furniture, providing basic techical support, and a number of other tasks that are necessary to keep a house up and running.
posted by whatideserve at 9:46 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a 9-5, and a part time job.

Job One: Systems Engineer
I work 9-5 in higher-education IT. It consists of:
- monitoring all our production and test servers for problems (low disk space, stopped services, memory usage, etc.)
- deploying new virtual servers for various purposes (Peoplesoft, mail gateways, linux development, you name it)
- documenting changes made to servers, documenting standard processes and procedures for our 4-person team
- responding to support tickets assigned by the university help desk
- responding to help requests from the application administrators, developers, database administrators, etc.
- administrating Enterprise-level storage systems (NetApp, EqualLogic) and backup systems (EMC Networker)
- going to meetings where server/storage/backup expertise is needed
- writing emails to keep my team and my supervisors apprised of what i'm working on, any challenges i'm encountering, etc.

It's not a bad gig, but there's always One More Thing to do and our team has too much responsibility to be spread between four people.

Job Two: Dance Instructor
I teach dance for a local swing dance studio. It consists of:
- planning material for both group classes and private lessons
- actual time spent teaching (and preparing the studio beforehand, and closing up the studio afterwards)
- observing other teachers (taking their classes, noting what they do effectively, and how they do it)
- thinking time (going over a particular move or kind of movement to figure out what makes it work from a kinesthetic/physics perspective, and how to best communicate that information clearly and concisely)
- creating playlists of music with appropriate tempo and musical characteristics for particular classes

I really enjoy teaching, and it's a shame it doesn't pay more.
posted by lholladay at 10:10 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right now, I'm the script coordinator on the pilot for a new TV series I can't talk about.

The last 24 hours have been pretty big (we start shooting early next week), but it's a microcosm of what I do at work all day:

Got to work yesterday at 9. Spent the morning dealing with clearance and legal issues. I'm the point person between our clearance guy (e.g. the person who tells you whether you can name a character John Smith or a diner Al's Diner or the like, from a legal standpoint), various other departments on the production, and the legal department at the studio. This mostly involves frantic phone calls and emails corralling information and making sure everyone is in the loop about what we can and can't do.

I spent a lot of the afternoon getting ready for our official White production draft for the shoot (i.e. the baseline script that is gospel for the whole production, and to which later revisions will be added) - this entails making sure I have everyone's email who needs a pdf version, printing out special labels for the hard copy scripts, and other miscellaneous groundwork that needs to be done so that the writer's new version of the script can get out to everyone who needs it.

At around 6:30, the writer emailed me the script. I proofread, made a couple small changes, then had a PA do a second proofread. While that was happening, I revised my set and cast lists. When we were satisfied with the script, I printed out a copy and had it approved by the producer. I emailed it out to the crew and studio executives, and then the fun really began:

I stayed in the office till almost 2 AM printing dozens of copies of the script for our production meeting, which happened this morning.

I went home and slept for a few hours, then came back to the office so that I could attend said production meeting. A production meeting is where all the department heads, producers, writers, and director sit down to hammer out all the details of everything that will happen on the whole shoot. Sounds fun, right?

I took some notes about further legal issues to hammer out, and some research that I figured the writer would ask me to do (after the meeting, he did), but mostly it was dull and didn't pertain to me.

After the meeting, I chased around department heads to make sure they all got the script email, had a hard copy, and all the relevant people in their department got the script.

Then I made a plate for lunch. It's sitting next to me on the desk right now. And after I hit "Post Answer", I'm going to eat it.

I don't do all of these things every single day, but that's a good snapshot of what a very busy day for me looks like.
posted by Sara C. at 10:12 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a researcher for documentary films (and some TV, etc.). I sit at my computer and look at archival footage and photos, with occasional field trips to various archives and libraries. When I find the right stuff, I present the materials to directors and producers and editors, and then, negotiate rates for use and tinker with contracts and licenses. I also collect home movies and home videos from yard sales and thrift stores for use in films as well.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:13 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a technical services librarian at a midsize public library.

I mostly do the cataloging side of tech services (as opposed to acquisitions) so maybe 3-4 hours of my day is creating original bibliographic records for materials that we've acquired. This can vary, some days it's nothing and some days it's all day long.

I supervise 4 people in my department, so maybe 1-2 hours (in little chunks sporadically throughout the day, which makes it hard to stay on task) is answering questions from them, or helping them problem-solve, or talking over workflow issues.

I regularly do 2 hours per week on the reference desk, and I also pick up an hour here and there if someone else needs their desk time covered.

I also do 2 hours per week of "virtual reference" which means I answer questions that come in via chat or text. I also answer email reference questions throughout the week, maybe 1-2 per day.

I go to a lot of meetings. In-library meetings, county-wide meetings.

I also am the "serials librarian" so I spend some time every day, which varies a lot, deciding which magazines/newspapers to add to the collection, contacting vendors about delivery or invoicing problems, and renewing subscriptions.

And, yeah, a lot of emails. Emails from reference librarians asking about how to structure a complicated search in the catalog or to request a call number or shelf location change of an item, emails from other catalogers in the county with thorny cataloging problems, emails from the people I supervise about scheduling, emails from Admin or HR about signing up for flu shots or flexible spending accounts or the chili cookoff (god, those emails are legion).

I come in early so I can take a long lunch to go to the gym, or I come in late so I can go to the gym before work, whichever fits my schedule better. One of the nice things about my job is my time is pretty flexible, though I end up working a pretty normal 9ish-5ish schedule so I can get home to my family at a predictable time every evening. But if I wanted to, I could work nights, or weekends, or vary my schedule a lot from day to day. This makes it easy to schedule things like doctor's appointments, which is a major plus and it is something the reference librarians can't do nearly as easily.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:26 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am the President of my local (unionized members of my government-funded employer.). I also do my regular job with my employer. I get thousand dollar honouriaim and some expenses paid.

I communicate constantly with my members. Enquiries about their rights and responsibilities under the collective agreement. I also proactive approach members if I sense something may be "off". The contact is constant 24/7 and the expectation is I will respond immediately. My contact, especially email, must be diplomatic and shared beyond my initial contact. It can also be brought into legal proceedings so have to be really careful in what says and commit to. This has been my steepest learning curve.

I schedule, chair, create agendas for and minute meetings about once a week. The meetings can be collaborative or confruntational. I have to do a fair amount of hand-holding for other members on committees. I organise social occasions as well.

I stay on top of current legislation relating to labour law, health and safety, and human rights. I have to be aware of proposed legislation and lobby for/against as it serves my community/members. I also communicate the changes/proposed changes to my members.

I market my union and what it offers to both current members and the community.

I file paperwork and am expected to have a photographic memory of documents that were created decades ago.

I oversee the books - I finally delegated to day to day handling.
My resources have to managed effectively against the greater resources of the employer.

Delegating tasks and ensuring the tasks are done correctly within the timeline. This is a challenge as I have no "stick" so have to spend a lot of energy on "sugar". If the delegated tasks aren't done I have to do it, usually on a really tight timeline.

I try to be proactive versus reactive from challenges both small and large. There is a lot of politics to navigate - both personal (inside and outside the membership) and through all four levels of government.
posted by saucysault at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another legal reference librarian. Much of my day is like marginaliana's- getting various research requests and answering them. That's probably 70-99% of any given day.

In any given day I might also: catalog books, get our invoices ready for approval, renew our subscriptions, deal with problems with our various vendors, research online and print products that we might need to consider purchasing (or research them because an attorney put in a purchase request), put together user guides and training materials, work on our library intranet site, shelve books, check in our mail, run attorney trainings for online databases, and supervise an intern. No two days are ever the same.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:52 AM on October 18, 2012


I am a senior principal life sciences consultant. My expertise is in quality oversight of pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device manufacturing. My work depends on my clients' needs. I travel to the client site, which means I am away from home for 3 weeks, then home for a week (schedule subject to change based on client needs and location). I observe the manufacturing processes, coach/mentor the client's employees and update their Standard Operating Procedures to reflect best industry practices.

At some sites, I supervise validation engineers, develop metrics for them and interface with the client on their progress. Projects can last from 3 months to over a year. I also develop remediation plans for clients who need support to meet FDA expectations. I create training materials and teach classes on Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Documentation Practices and many other GxP topics.

I do a lot of expense reports.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:28 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am a grad student in chemistry. I do research on new methods for mass spectrometry--I build prototype machines to analyze chemical specimens and hope that they work (and work better than what already is out there.) The nature of the research is such that my daily work tends to vary a lot, and that is one of the things I like best about my job. Here's what a typical day for me might look like:

--Come into work, drop by my adviser's office, ask him some questions about problems I encountered the previous day, update him on anything that's happened, progress or setbacks. Check email (usually just spam from equipment manufacturers, but occasionally notice of a seminar or university event, or some administrative things with ordering parts, getting them fixed.)
--Get some coffee and start working on assembling the parts for one of the instruments I'm building, a fairly manual process that usually involves hauling around pieces of solid steel machined into various funny shapes, bolting them together, hauling over rack-mount electronics, climbing under and around the metal cart that I use to hold all of this together so that I can correctly wire everything.
--Now caffeinated and slightly sore, sit down at a computer so I can try to wrangle LabView (which is kind of a "programming-lite" software suite that often manages to be more frustrating than actually programming.) into doing the data acquisition/analysis process that I'll need.
--Eventually wander away and eat lunch. Come back. Find out that there's a problem with the control program on a labmate's machine and that they'd like my help looking at it. Help them fix the problem.
--Solder together a simple circuit to help filter out some of the high-frequency noise that's screwing with one of my components. Get frustrated because the solder we have is crap that isn't wetting properly to the electronics.
--Put in a purchase order for new solder.
--Test the circuit. Doesn't work. Either ask my adviser about it if he hasn't left for the evening, or make a note to do so the next day.

I have classes about 10 hours a week as well, and the attendant homework, which takes up some time (usually pushed to evenings or weekends), as well as some other miscellaneous commitments (giving departmental talks, preparing for preliminary defense, etc.) I'm not teaching undergraduates this semester, but when I did, that usually takes up about 10 hours a week of time spent in teaching labs and office hours, plus about another 15-20 doing grading and prep (reading over the assignments, making notes of what problems might come up, meeting with TA supervisors.)
posted by kagredon at 12:05 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a registered nurse, specifically working in the labor and delivery specialty.

I spend a lot of time touching people, sometimes in very intimate ways both physically and emotionally, and a lot of time washing my hands.

I am frequently exposed to various kinds of excreta and bodily fluids. Sometimes cleanup is as easy as washing my hands. Other times I need a shower. Once I had to throw away my underwear because I made the mistake of sitting on the bed while I caught a baby and ended up sitting in a puddle of amniotic fluid and meconium. I spent the rest of the shift going commando under my scrubs.

I spend a lot of time answering the same small set of questions (When will my baby come? Does it get worse than this? Is my baby OK? I'm afraid of pain and I don't want to feel anything, can you make that happen? Do I have enough milk? Does my baby need formula?) over and over again to different people. It is really remarkable how these few questions transcend languages, life experiences, and cultures.

I do a LOT of writing via filling out tiny boxes on poorly-designed flowsheets. Fetal heart rate analysis and uterine activity analysis is done and recorded every 15 minutes during active labor. Blood pressures are charted every 15 minutes once an epidural is placed. Every conversation I have with a doctor or midwife needs to be recorded. Every pain assessment, intervention, and response needs to be written down. "If it's not charted, it didn't happen" is the conventional wisdom of nursing and is very true, especially from a medico-legal perspective. It doesn't matter what I did, because if I didn't chart it no one will believe it happened and it is the only thing proving my safe and appropriate nursing practice in the event of a bad outcome.

I do a lot of teaching. Student nurses, newer staff RNs, patients, families--all of them have things to learn about the process by which women have babies. There is a shocking amount of misinformation out there.

I do a lot of learning. The state of the science changes rapidly and there's always a new study to review and new evidence-based practices to implement. And I learn a lot about the human condition, every day.

I start a lot of IVs and draw a lot of blood. I also assist with a lot of procedures, like placing a fetal scalp electrode or intrauterine pressure catheter, doing a sterile speculum exam, placing a cervical foley bulb, placing an epidural, performing neonatal resuscitation, or helping during a shoulder dystocia.

On any given day, I could assist with a vaginal delivery, actually catch a baby (not on purpose, as that's outside my legal scope of practice, but sometimes those babies decide to come before anyone else is in the room), circulate in the operating room, scrub in for a c-section as a surgical technologist, spend the day doing antenatal non-stress tests and amniotic fluid indices for patients with high-risk conditions like gestational diabetes or hypertension, or very rarely sit on my butt and do nothing because it's a slow day.

I do a lot of coaching ("You can do it! Push down in your bottom like you're trying to poop!"), encouraging ("You CAN leave an abuser, we will help you"), negotiating (for example with a patient who doesn't want something they really need, like IV iron before a fourth c-section when they're dangerously anemic), and advising when asked (no, the guy who kicked you in the stomach to try to make you miscarry isn't a great choice for life partner). Despite the fact that every baby eventually comes out in one of two very specific ways, the process of getting there is as unique as every women and family is, and I spent a lot of time calibrating my interactions to that uniqueness.

I do a lot of assessing for safety. (In real life this degree of worrying about and preparing for worst-case scenarios would be called pathological and I'd be encouraged to get therapy; at work it's called being a good nurse.) Are the fetal monitor cables tangled? Is her blood pressure dangerously high or low? Is the bed locked? Are those antibiotics running too fast? Is there a clear path to the door so we can push the bed to the OR if needed? How is her hematocrit? Is she at risk for hemorrhage? Do we need blood crossmatched? Do I have all the hemorrhage meds in the room, ready to be used if needed? Who's the surgical assist on call? Does anesthesia know about her low platelets? Is the baby tachypneic? jittery? grunting? blue? Was the surgical field contaminated? I could go on and on about the things I "worry" about every minute of every shift. It can be hard to turn this off when I clock out.

Sometimes I and the other team members save someone's life, though it's nowhere near as glamorous as you might imagine.

Sometimes I cry. Mostly it's out of joy and relief, but occasionally out of real heartbreak.
posted by jesourie at 12:24 PM on October 18, 2012 [31 favorites]


Thank you all for these great, detailed answers--particularly as work can sometimes be a very personal and private matter. I've really loved reading your stories.
posted by tooloudinhere at 1:42 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


My title is "Community Development Coordinator" with a local branch of an international not-for-profit. More specifically, I work in Disaster Management, which includes managing a large volunteer corps. My job is ostensibly 9-5, but if a disaster happens it can mean working as long as necessary. I don't make a lot of money, but my job is flexible, varied, interesting, and makes me feel useful.

--I spend a lot of time reading and responding to email, and filling out spreadsheets. I track all the disasters we respond to, who we helped, what we provided, how much that cost, and what follow-up is required.
--I respond to phone requests and often meet clients at coffee shops, hotels, disaster locations, grocery stores and elsewhere.
--I do a lot of disaster preparedness outreach, which means creating and delivering presentations to diverse audiences: one day I'm at city hall talking about the minutia of hotel and catering billing during a major event, the next day I'm working with an interpreter to teach brand-new Canadians (who don't speak English) about staying safe in winter.
--I manage our disaster response inventory. This involves more spreadsheets.
--I manage a volunteer team. This involves advertising for new volunteers, interviewing, conducting reference checks, arranging training, maintaining files, and conducting performance reviews/goal reviews.
--I attend a lot of meetings - internal meetings, external partners, regional, provincial, volunteer.
--I do fund development. In a small office, everyone does. For me, this involves a lot of grant writing, report writing, program assessment, and meeting with funders.
--When a major disaster happens I'm not usually an on-the-ground responder, that's what the volunteers are trained for. I am in the Emergency Operations Centre acting as a go-between for the city/county and the reception centres (which are staffed by our volunteers). The volunteers are setting up and managing the reception centres, conducting needs assessments, tracking the evacuees, and providing what are called Emergency Social Services (food, clothing, shelter, information, family reunification, etc). I support all that work and ensure the volunteers have all the resources they need.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:56 PM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have two jobs.

Job 1: Dedicated Support Manager for a digital video CMS. 'Dedicated' means my team and I only work with specific clients (right now those are two very large international telco's based in Europe), 'Support' means we triage issues and fix them, and 'Manager' means I have direct reports and have to take responsibility at times for junk I don't want to.

a typical day:

- 4 days a week, wake up at 2AM, shower, inhale tea and toast, walk two miles to the office (buses aren't running) or ride my bike to be in by 3AM.
- if something has broken in their time zone overnight, I immediately jump on the phone with the clients to calm them down and act like the voice of reason and responsibility while buying time for me and my team to figure out what happened and fix it.
- REST/CL/SQL/Splunk queries, digging through logs, chatting with the project managers in their time zone to find out what happened, and crawling through Jira tickets and spec documents to help keep my team herded in the right direction for the issue.
- lots of emails, in and out. Probably 40% of my day is emails.
- maintaining two spreadsheets tallying open issues for each client.
- escalating issues to development.
- after the rest of the office has gotten in around 9AM, I have meetings to talk with them about the issues that happened overnight. Prioritize escalations for patching and deployment fixes.
- Scrum'ing with a few different teams.
- boring admin stuff related to my team, like managing training or doing reports on their progress or talking with them about ways to improve.
- writing documentation for my team and the related (non-dedicated) teams to use.
- go home at 1 or 2PM. Because I work 10-11 hour shifts, I only work 4 days a week.
- a few times a year I go to the clients and work directly with them. Sometimes this is a week or two, sometimes it's five or six months. When I am on-site my job shifts to more of a technical project manager role, since I don't have my team with me, I do a lot of meetings with the client and write documentation while I have access to their environment. When issues happen while I'm there I get to be a support tech again and sweat while I'll race to fix the problem while the client is standing over my shoulder.

Job 2: I have my own business as an apparel pattern maker and small-run sewing contractor. This is what I actually went to school for and is closer to my 'dream', but unless I scale it up a lot it will never pull in as much money as Job 1. So for now it is closer to a paying hobby.

a typical day:

- 3 days a week (when I am not working Job 1), I head to my workroom around 6AM. The workroom is a 500sqft studio 'condo' in an old apartment building that I bought earlier this year for stupid cheap. In it I have my massive pattern making table, four sewing machines of varying types, several garment racks that hold completed items and samples, and several shelves and bins full of fabric, notions, and specialized tools like a plotter printer for printing patterns and dress forms. Because it used to be an apartment, it also has a tiny galley kitchen and a bathroom; I've co-opted the bathtub to use for dyeing. There's also a futon for when I pull all-nighters.
- make tea and toast, email clients, plan my day.
- work is cyclic; right now I'm doing more patterns than sewing. Depending on the job I do the pattern by hand (if it's something complex and small like lingerie or bags) or in a CAD-like program. Hand patterns involve a lot of esoteric work like digging through stuff I've done in the past and transforming it to work again; calculating angles and curves based on measurements; swearing and erasing lines and wadding up paper; making paper and tape models to figure out a weird geometry problem; tracing and re-tracing lines; and sewing up samples out of muslin to test my pattern.
- fitting appointments with the client
- sewing
- maintaining my machines (oiling, cleaning, vacuuming out junk, re-threading the sergers, re-calibrating things)
- cutting fabric. unequivocally my least favorite thing to do. I save it for the afternoon, when I can have a glass of wine or two simultaneously.
posted by par court at 2:00 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a game designer at one of those big studios. I think my job title is "Designer" but titles are not standardized beyond departments (i.e. design department).

I work 10-7 normally, longer during crunch (right now I work late half the week, and 6-8 hours on Sat & Sun). I spend most of my time at a desk, or walking back and forth among others' desks, or getting coffee/drinks/snacks.

I'm in charge of ~1 hour of gameplay (a level) plus some systems shared across the game (like skill trees, leveling up). I spend most of my time in a 3D editor and scripting gameplay - objectives, managing combat setups (enemies), dialogue, setting up checkpoints, and a billion other little details. I stare at a screen similar to this and this most of the day. The rest of the time it's email and excel spreadsheets.

Early in a project there's a lot more of what people typically think of when they think game design. That's when a project gets hammered out and gets an identity and there's time to prototype and play around with new ideas to discover what mix of elements is actually fun. That's when I'd be making 2D layouts (similar to this or this or this) and iterating on them, trying to figure out what the objectives are, what the pacing is, what the player will be doing. We'll also come up with proposals for new designs for systems: minigames, skill trees, avatar customization, etc.

I'd say most of my job is defined by its interruptions, because making games is a team effort and big part of my job is problem solving and making sure all the little pieces fall into place. Examples:
-The tools are broken/unresponsive, so I talk to a tools programmer to debug the problem
-Another designer asks me to show them how to set up a helicopter to drop off enemies
-I need to ask another designer to show me how to set up enemy turrets
-A cinematics artist needs my help for timing dialogue during a scene in my level
-The environmental artist needs to work with me to get an animated door working
-Our publisher needs to know what's on the bonus list for people who preorder the game from Gamestop/Amazon
-The audio and FX guys need a trigger so that their sound and FX go off at the same time as an event I've scripted
-An enemy is stuck and running in circles, so I need to grab the AI programmer, who will then tell me to talk to the navigation programmer, who will then tell me to talk to the AI programmer, but eventually it will all work out
-Sudden impromptu meeting in which someone lets designers know a feature has been cut and now needs to be removed from everyone's level
-A QA tester needs to know how a system (like leveling up) works so they can figure out if something is a bug or works as intended
-My lead sends me an email asking me for a list of every objective and needs it by noon
-I get a bug that says my level is broken and you can't beat it anymore and I need to fix this ASAP before we send the latest build to our publisher
-OMG the pumpkin pie eating contest is about to start!

In between the interruptions, I can work on major tasks and polish - like making sure the next 2-5 minutes of gameplay is fun and feels right, or going through my bug list for things to fix, or playing through other designers' levels and giving them feedback.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:16 PM on October 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm a general library assistant in a tiny academic/museum library. I have one other co-worker, who's also my boss, and because I work in a small team I get to do a little bit of everything, which is cool. I'd divide my job into three areas: laundry, people stuff, and background stuff.

Laundry, in my mind, is the stuff you have to do regularly and which never ends. This includes shelving, receiving journals, inputting invoices, opening and closing the library, shelf tidying, cataloging and classifying new books, creating displays, occasional book moves.

People stuff: I'm on the circ/enquiry desk all the time. I help people use our library (photocopy and computer help, "where's my book", registering new users), find information (where can I find out about this dissertation topic; I'm teaching a class on [topic] this afternoon -- what should I read?), access electronic resources, and in general muddle their way round the university's byzantine library system.

Background stuff: things that are not in the job description, but which I do when it's quieter and need something to keep me occupied instead of hitting refresh on Ask Mefi. At the moment I'm going through a cataloging backlog. Before I started cataloging my vision of it was someone sitting amongst a bunch of dusty tomes wracking their brains, looking cerebral and maybe doing something arcane with a card catalog. In reality it involves searching a few massive databases and creating records according to finnicky guidelines, referring -- in my case frequently -- to documentation (cataloger's desktop, classification web, and a bunch of local documentation).

How much time I spend on what depends on the academic year. Term started a couple of weeks ago, and I'm spending more time than usual registering new library users and helping people who look a bit lost. In the summer, when it was quieter, I did a lot more cataloging.

For more library stuff, see the library day in the life project. If you're interested in reading people talking about their jobs, I recommend Working by Studs Terkel.

tl;dr: working in a library is more than shelving, but still, there is shelving.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 2:47 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh wow, everyone has such fancy jobs! I am between jobs so I don't know what my new one will be like (but I could fill you in in November) but the one I just left was similar, I think.

I worked in Import Traffic for a freight forwarder. In the morning I'd come in at 8 and check email. Then I'd print off my reports. My reports would show me all of my relevant shipments, both air and ocean. I would check each shipment to see where it was (on the water, on the rail, ready to deliver, etc). I noted all the files which would update our website so the customers could see where their shipments were. If something was ready to deliver ("something" meaning a 20' or 40' container or even just a couple boxes), I had to make sure it was released for delivery (meaning it was paid for, cleared through customs, etc) and then set up a trucker to pick it up and deliver it.

A lot of the day was emails and phone calls, both to customers and vendors. Sometimes I'd be done by 3 and sometimes I'd be there til 5:30, but I usually left at 5. There was almost always something to do, but it was the kind of job where I could feasibly be done for the day (i.e., I could have checked on all my shipments and none were ready to deliver and all my emails were answered) and there was rarely anything to accomplish after 5.

Prior to that job I did all kinds of customer service, and I'd say the most recent job was the most enjoyable. Freight is interesting, to me, and it's a solid industry. If you have any questions feel free to MeMail me!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:56 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I unbold things all day.
posted by mathowie at 3:01 PM on October 18, 2012 [41 favorites]


Mostly sitting at a desk. I'm a systems administrator for the software development / R&D division at one of the top four energy services companies.

I spend my day in meetings, taking care of trouble tickets, user requests, and managing servers and storage systems located everywhere from Houston to Bucharest. Come December, I will have been here ten years.

Previously, I did much the same job at a Bell telephone company's hosting and colocation facility and internal datacenter in Austin. Before that, system administration for a number of ISPs.

In high school, I was a board op / air jockey at a country radio station in my hometown for four years.
posted by mrbill at 3:13 PM on October 18, 2012


I am a senior data analyst at a financial company.

I usually have very regular hours, starting work at 8:00 and logging off at 4:00. During projects with crazy timelines, my hours tend to go towards 8:00 to 6:00, not never after 7:00. Because I'm effectively on early shift, I spend the first hour in the morning reading and replying back to email, creating ad hoc reports, analysis or data extracts that need to be fulfilled by our team first thing in the morning.

I am project based so I usually have a standup or touchpoint meeting of some sort by the time 9:00 rolls around. Most of my work is done during the early phases of the project: that's where I poke around various databases, do data analysis, look for quirks, summarize business rules, reach out to data vendors, etc. The data I work with can be anything from trade books, transaction masters, security data, credit ratings, marketable security prices to tic data, depending on project. Often, I have to learn on the spot and ask lots of questions to the people who own the data/system, while recognizing that that every hour of them is probably worth a few thousand dollars. During the latter half of the project, I usually support the other teams that use my analysis and help them understand the data.

Most of my work end up as email, large spreadsheets, requirement & specification documents and/or flow diagrams. Outside of project base work, I have several financial data areas that I am the specialist on the team for so sometimes a business unit or systems support team will ask us to help with troubleshooting and understanding unexpected data. (ie. we thought this event type can never have have this value in this attribute, it doesn't make financial sense, can you tell us what it means and if it will happen again?). I also handle vendor relationship management for certain business units.

I quite like my work but because I work with so many business units, I have to be very careful about what I communicate, who I talk to, and how I say it. Off the record Office Communicator chats are a godsend.
posted by table at 3:51 PM on October 18, 2012


I am a remote tech for a local IT company.

Every weekday, I come into the office at about 8:30. I make my coffee, black with two sugars. I check my email, then start the ticketing software to see what tickets have come in after I left the previous day.

For the next nine hours (except for a largely theoretical lunch hour) I call people in the list and try to assist them with their computer problems. Our clients range from little old ladies who need help with Word so they can publish their memoirs, to law offices who need new employees added to their email servers, to manufacturing companies who need help making sure their backups are working properly.

The complexity and urgency of these tasks vary wildly. I'm a generalist; many times my job requires me to solve problems in software I've never seen before but which can figured out either by experimentation or by applying general principles, or even by consulting the manual (!). When I can't figure something out, I can usually either get help from one of my other coworkers or else refer the client to the people who can help them.

At 5:30, I'm done. I go home and try to avoid thinking about work (with the exception of rebooting a server after hours occasionally). I do not check my work email and I do not give clients my cell phone number, so as to maintain my sanity.

It's challenging, but generally I like the work. I'm rarely bored (stressed out from having the phone constantly ringing and people demanding my immediate attention, yes, but not bored).
posted by JDHarper at 4:18 PM on October 18, 2012


My official title is Senior Product Manager, but the company I work for is very small so my actual duties fall somewhere between real product management, project management, operations and account management depending usually on the time of year. Right now our products, both subscription-based, are in their major renewal periods so I'm spending a lot of time actually doing account management work: webex demos with clients, account changes and updates (which involves internal tools and basic HTML), reporting and invoicing. I'm spending maybe 2-3 hours a day actually talking to on the phone or emailing with external customers about their actual accounts and their (hopefully!) upcoming renewal, then the same amount of time executing all of the necessary work that comes from the meetings. The conversations are great - and really helpful and in line with the PM part of the job - but the follow-up is kind of a drag.

The rest of the time - and what would usually be more of my day - is in conversation (email, in-person, phone, IM are all in play) with my coworkers. Mostly programmers, whose work I manage and direct. So I'd be answering questions about new features, bug fixes, testing, etc that's ongoing. Cajoling for updates and being that annoying person who says "well, you did say you could do it today... so... I told them it would be done today... so....". I'd also be bringing in and meeting with other people who need these programmers time on something they're working on or need done/fixed. I also update our internal documentation for all of this.

Sometimes I will meet with, negotiate with and report to our vendors, particularly around content usage and licensing. I'm responsible for making sure we meet our contractual obligations (which I've also negotiated for the most part).

Mostly this is email and IM. A couple of quick stand-up type meetings every day (15-30 minutes max total for anything internal thank god), phone calls and bigger meetings when necessary. Communication, communication, communication. Then documentation, the other important part (so many user stories!). I travel a bit - far less than I used to - mostly to conferences or sales meetings with international agents. I start at about 9am and am usually done by 5pm, though sometimes I take work home since it can be distracting to be in the office if I need focused thinking time.
posted by marylynn at 4:20 PM on October 18, 2012


I'm an assistant professor (up for tenure this year!) in psychology at a small liberal arts women's college. My days vary a good bit, but a typical day will include some teaching, a little course prep, grading, and then meeting with students. We're a teaching-focused institution, so there's occasional research or writing thrown in there, but not to a huge degree. A couple of recent days have looked like this:
Monday - in around 8:30 for a 9am class. It's a common session for our first year class, and I'm not leading it this week so I just relax and watch a colleague do his thing. 10am is office hours, which generally means time to catch up on email and online things. At 11am I teach my second class, which has 5 upper-level students in it, so it's more like a conversation than a lecture. At noon I have a weekly meeting with other faculty who are teaching the first-year experience classes. Then my last class is at 1:30. It's in my primary area, and I could really just talk about it all day. After that class I have a chunk of 2-3 hours that I use for prep, grading, etc. Sometimes I just duck out early and go shopping. We're required to have 5 office hours/week, and a presence on campus, but there's no strict monitoring beyond that. If you're competently getting done what you need to get done, then you've got a lot of flexibility in how you do it.

Today (Thurs) - in around 10:45. I don't have class on Tues/Thurs this semester, but there's an author on campus giving a talk that I wanted to see. Tuesdays and Thursdays are popular days for committee meetings too. After that I went to lunch with colleagues. Around 1:30 I went back to my office and worked on committee items and grading until 6 or so.

The days vary, but I end up working around 40 hours or so a week. Some of that is time grading at home, or attending evening events on campus, but most occurs during regular 9-5 hours.
posted by bizzyb at 4:26 PM on October 18, 2012


I'm a technical writer.

The hours are pretty regular, about 9 to 6. Most of my day is spent at a computer, using back-end systems to track how our developers have changed our software, and what bugs have been fixed/functionality changed. I also write help systems, diagram new features and functionality, and write documentation for new patches and other updates to the software. My job requires a lot of deductive reasoning and attention-to-detail. I also copy-edit for the other tech writers.

I work with a great team of people--we work hard but have a sense of humor. I'm sure software companies vary a lot, but after a couple false starts, I'm pretty happy to be where I am now.

I used to think that the most important thing about my job was *what* I did. But I've come to realize that who you spend your day with matters at least as much as what you spend your day doing.
posted by celare at 4:40 PM on October 18, 2012


I work sort of 9-5 as a library assistant at an off-site storage facility. (Sundays I'm in the office by myself from 9-630, M-W are 9-5, and Thursday is 9-1.)

Our place is open 7 days a week and only closes for a couple major holidays. We receive requests electronically (email, ILLiad (a specific computer program for that sort of thing), faxes, and through our online catalog). There's a whopping total of 4 people in my department and we drive 2 forklifts in a climate controlled stack area (50F and 35% RH) that contains something like 2.2 million volumes. (And microfilm and other assorted goodies.)

So, a typical day (M-Thursday) is something like this:

9am--get to office, boss tells me anything unusual that's going on (disaster planning committee starting, new environmental monitoring system, etc.)

Put away yesterday's articles into the filing cabinet and put yesterday's paperwork onto my desk to input into our statistics workbooks.

until 10ish--check all queues (email, both ILLiad workstations, fax, pull list) and retrieve anything from the stacks. Make photocopies of articles that we are delivering electronically and send them.

The first courier will arrive at around 10-1030. He takes items that are going to the main campus, including Special Collections materials, which can only go with him.

After that courier leaves, there's a bit of a lull. This is where I'll do the stats and deal with any other issues that may have come up (because by this time, the other 2 coworkers will have arrived).

At some point around 1130ish, the courier for the other university will come by and grab their box of stuff.

We'll keep checking the queues (roughly rotating between who actually goes and gets things) until the next courier arrives at around 130-2. This includes photocopying articles and dealing with books that need to be shipped via UPS. This courier takes items that are going to all of the university's campuses.

Also in this general time frame (until 230 or so), if I have Special Collections work to do, I'll go work on that. At the present moment, I have to shelve boxes since I just finished organizing a collection of an economics professor's papers. I also have a selection of boxes that I pulled out for a WW2 pamphlet collection that was on my list of things to process, but I received notice that a manuscript collection on microfilm was arriving that was going to take priority.

At 230, the boss leaves and I take lunch. We all take lunch at various times during the day so we can keep covering the queues and whatnot without letting a huge backlog appear. The work is very feast/famine-like. We can go through stretches where several hours will pass with only 2-3 requests, or we might get a chunk of 50 requests in 2 hours. There is some fluctuation that goes on with the school year (and midterms and medical board exams), but we receive requests constantly.

At 3 (when I get back from lunch), I check the queues and deal with all the things.

Then I get a little bit of a break and check the queues at 415ish, which is my last check of the day when I'm only there until 5.

And I'm out the door at 5!

All of us work staggered shifts. The boss likes to come in at 630 and leave a 230 since his wife works the same sort of schedule. One of my coworkers comes in at 930 and stays until very late. The other coworker has the Tuesday-Saturday schedule, but he's not in the office as long on Saturday as I am on Sunday. I was only recently bumped up to full time hours and that was to deal with the Special Collections materials.

Overall, I love my job. However, the pay is not great (although the benefits at my university are fucking fantastic). We also are often forgotten about when it comes to sweeping changes because we are off site (and about 45 min-1 hour away from the main campus). This does work in our favor sometimes though because we are insulated from some of the bureaucratic drama.

There are only 4 of us too. If one of us gets sick or goes on vacation, there isn't a whole lot of people left to pick up the slack. (One thing you won't see on my schedule is shelving. I typically don't do any of the book shelving unless I have serious thinking that needs to be done. The other two coworkers do most of that shelving. I shelve the microfilms once a week.)

My job would suck a lot more if there was more politicking and drama. I'm blessed with a drama free group of dudes.

Also, since we drive forklifts, we could kill each other and make it look like an accident. :)
posted by sperose at 4:45 PM on October 18, 2012


I'm a behavior analysis tutor, I work with kids with autism in a center for kids with developmental delays.
We have small team meetings for 20 to 30 minutes then we get assigned the specific kid we will be working with in the morning and afternoon. We prepare for the kids/ bum around and talk until the kiddos arrive at nine. Then I do all sorts of things such as potty training, working on social skills, dealing with behavior issues, and general early learning things like recognizing colors and letters. And play in the gym! Then the kids go to recess and I go to lunch. Then the tutors who were out with the kids on the playground switch and go to lunch while I supervise the kids' lunch with about 8 others. After lunch the afternoon is the same but with a different child. They go home and we do things like data entry, restocking supplies, cleaning, and organizing teaching materials for 45 minutes.
posted by missriss89 at 4:53 PM on October 18, 2012


(Disclaimer: I have a job I actually like now, but I'm only a contract employee, and the job market is rough, and I have been mostly unemployed/ in various shitty low-paying jobs for the last 7 years or so...)

I'm an analytical chemist in R&D at a pharmaceutical company (I work in the nuclear medicine group, but don't actually handle radiation generally). Tuesday and Wednesday I spent most of the day in the lab. I was using an ICP to check imaging products for lead contamination. It took me about an hour to warm up and calibrate the instrument, and about an hour and a half to prepare my samples. The instrument has been acting up and I had to do a couple minor repairs to get it working right. (Read: change a bunch of parts, swear at it, and turn it on and off again several times...) After samples are prepped it takes about 2 hours to analyze them (although I don't have to stay and watch, I usually go back to my desk and catch up on little things, popping back in the lab to check on it every 20 minutes or so.) So after 2 days of analysis, I spent all of today doing the other part of my job. I made spreadsheets and did statistical analyses on my data, making sure my analysis worked like it should. I document everything in a lab notebook (just like high school chem, only way more in-depth ). I actually cut and glue-stick in graphs I've made on excel and whatnot. Everything has to be very specific, and due to FDA regulations about paperwork tracability, etc., signed, dated, stamped, numbered, and initialed. So it took me all of today, and will take me most of tomorrow. to get all numbers crunched and results documented. After that, one of the guys in my group will write up a report about our findings, proving that this analysis works for this product.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:58 PM on October 18, 2012


I am a telemarketer and I also handle customer service (i.e, customer complaint) calls for a large and very successful corporation. When I come into work, I spend about five minutes checking and answering emails. Then, I spend the majority of the rest of the day making outgoing calls to potential customers who have filled out a form on the company's website requesting more information about our company and/or our product. For the most part, these calls go well because the potential customer has requested information and is excited to be talking to me about the product, but about 25% of the time, the people I speak to on the phone are rude, angry, etc. This can be very tough and demoralizing. What is worse, though, is that most customers in our queue do not answer their phones when we call. This is bad because telemarketing is very goal-oriented. For example, at my job, I earn a weekly bonus if I complete a certain number of successful calls per hour. I often do not reach this goal because very few people pick up their phones. Still, I like to spend my day making as many of these outgoing calls as possible because these calls count towards my goal and because it means that my line is not reachable for customer complaint calls or questions.

When/if I do receive a customer complaint, I assist the customer by filling out a complaint form. When the complaint form is complete, I send that form out to the appropriate store where the customer bought the product. If the complaint is not handled in the appropriate time frame (3 business days), I help the customer by transferring them to the appropriate regional manger for their area. Most people making complaints have good reason to be complaining, but these calls are annoying because they take up a lot of time that I could be using to make outgoing calls.

We have stores all over the United States, so a small portion of my job is helping customers who call into corporate to find the closest store to them. All other incoming calls are simple questions about the product, most of which are easy to answer.

Despite the way this answer might sound, I actually really do love my job, even the incoming calls.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 4:59 PM on October 18, 2012


I'm the Vice President of a non-profit trade association. Because it's a small office, I do a bit of everything - whatever needs doing, and you pitch in where you can. But my primary work falls into six categories:

1. Research (online and on the phone, in books, by attending relevant events, etc.). I spend an hour or two a day keeping tabs on what's happening in the foreign country that my trade association covers. That induces reading news, keeping up with new government regulations affecting businesses, compiling trade statistics, keeping an eye on the government agencies we deal with both at home and in the foreign country, etc. Also includes research on companies for our member development efforts.

2. Writing/Editing. We publish a number of information products for our members, so I spend a good part of the day writing on a variety of topics. I'm also the editor/brand manager, so I have final say before something get released. This includes soliciting and receiving/incorporating analysis feedback from our members, working with designers and printers, and monitoring how reports/papers are received both in the media and broadly. Lately, this has also included planning/executing social media outreach. Occasionally, I do Public Relations work too - writing/distributing press releases, answering questions from the press, etc.

3. Communication. That means spending several hours each day answering emails and taking phone calls from members and non-members alike. It generally entails following up on information requests, answering random questions, writing and editing letters, etc. Includes a lot of mail-merging, helping with database updates, and creating lists and list and list of groups of people we are communicating with - including vendors.

4. Event Planning/Promotion. We do a large conference and several small events each year. This part of my job includes both "macro" tasks (such as identifying/working with venues, drafting agendas, and inviting speakers) and "micro" tasks (like writing/sending out the event announcements, creating table-tents, printing name tags, welcoming attendees at the check-in table, etc).

5. Financial. A small part of my job includes daily oversight over the organization's finances, working with our accountant and auditor, tracking bills/invoices, making financial decisions, etc.

6. IT and Web management. I'm the closest to an IT person we have, just by the virtue of having some interest and experience with it, so I spend at least a few hours a week doing our in-house IT management - troubleshooting computers, phones, copiers, mail machines, door chimes...

Yea, it's a bit more eclectic than the work than I thought my MBA would get me. But because it holds so many different components, I get to walk into work every day with a variety of things to work on - it never gets boring!
posted by gemmy at 5:08 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm looking for a better-paid and less life consuming job, but I currently work as an environmental educator to groups of kids who come out on school field trips.

mon-fri
8:30: come in, plan and get materials ready for my first lesson
9:15- 12:00: teach a lesson like geology, wetland ecology, forests etc. Usually I sit the kids down in a classroom for a half-hour intro, then take them on a hike while filling their heads with knowledge on the chosen topic, or we fish around in a pond with nets.
12-1: eat lunch with the kids, stop food fights from breaking out
1-4: second lesson of the day, just like the morning only a different topic

One or two nights a week I get to go home at four or earlier depending on when the kids are leaving. If they're staying overnight, I get a break from 4-6, usually go home and eat, exercise, hang out with coworkers. If the group is staying overnight, I go back at 6 and do some sort of evening activity or lesson with them, then get home at around 9.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:19 PM on October 18, 2012


I am an early childhood special ed teacher. I work ~8 hour days, sometimes staying a bit later at work or finishing something up at home. I work in a public school in a large city. This is my 2nd year teaching.

I see two groups of 3-5 year olds, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, five days per week. The max number of kids per group is 8, although sometimes they throw in a 9th just for fun. The students have a wide, wide range of needs. The higher functioning students may have a speech delay, articulation issue, or emotional/behavioral issue. Other students are medically fragile, with issues like seizure disorders, hydrocephaly, shunts, and so on. At this age, the kids are put together into one setting, which can be fun, but also challenging as you watch a burly, stumbly 5 year old with daily seizures step dangerously close to the wee girl with a hydrocephalic head and a shunt.

Teaching itself consists of using picture schedules, lots of prompting, encouraging social interaction, teaching vocabulary, creating art projects, leading a daily community group (singing, dancing, academic concepts), facilitating mealtime, initiating transitions, and so on and so on. Data collection happens based on each child's IEP. I have two special ed assistants in my room who are awesome and who will take data, work individually with kids, do PCA logging, take the kids next door to the bathroom, clean up vomit, and much more. I would be lost without them.

I also collaborate with specialists at school, such as speech therapists, PTs, OTs, DAPE teachers, and so on.

I write each child's IEP (individual education plan) annually, complete periodic reviews 6 months after each IEP, attend each child's annual IEP meeting with the social worker, service providers, and parents, and communicate regularly with parents through phone calls, notes home, and visits at school. The paperwork part of the job is like a second job, truly. IEP writing is tedious and time consuming. It feels so good to get one done and print it off and send the darn thing home. I also do evaluations for students who require one (every 3 years), as well as for students who are moving on to kindergarten. I take part in decision making for next year's placements for current students. I do some other assessment type stuff for each kid which is required for the district (checklists which ID certain skills, etc.)

I'm available for conferences twice during the year, as well as Open House before the school year begins.

At the beginning of the year, my staff and I are responsible for putting our room back together and then taking everything back down in June. We also do PDPs (professional development projects), attend staff meetings and trainings, take part in PLCs (professional learning communities), and other things.

So, to sum it up, a typical day looks like this:

Arrive at school around 8:20am

Take down chairs, prepare art project, check emails, put our wheelchair, talk with teacher next door, check mailbox in office, print off anything as needed, tidy up classroom and desk, possibly eat breakfast

Kids arrive at 9:35

2.5 hours of student time (table work, guided choice, data collection, service providers come in to take kids out or do groups in the classroom, mealtime, DAPE once per week (gym), reading time, group time, get ready for bus)

1st group leaves at 12:10

12:10 -- 1:35 I have 30 minute lunch and then prep time

1:35 2nd group arrives

2.5 hours of student time (same as above)

2nd group leaves 4:10

Check emails, make any necessary phone calls, tidy up the room, close windows, put out trash cans

Leave school around 4:20 or 4:30

Last year was the first year that ECSE teachers had students M-F. It used to be that Mondays were used for planning, curriculum development, home visits, paperwork, and more. Now we have to fit those things in somewhere during the day. It's freaking hard. But I stuck out the first year and now year 2 is noticeably easier!
posted by sucre at 6:20 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a deputy director at a small (12 full time employees) art museum that runs an exhibition program, an artist residency program, and arts education programs. We don’t have an art collection.

My days are never the same, and I work all kinds of hours including evenings and weekends. That said, a typical day might generally look something like this:

I get up at around 7 am and check my email and respond to anything urgent.

Because we have a lot of evening events and/or work late, and because the museum does not open until 11:00 am, we never have early meetings or commitments. I usually get to work at 9:30 am and I am the first one there. I settle in and walk through our galleries and public spaces just making sure everything seems ok. This is also my time to say hello to the art.

I check my calendar and read and reply to email for awhile. Usually I am replying to emails from the Executive Director or a board member, from other museums community organizations with whom we collaborate, or with funders.

Part of my job is to build partnerships so I then spend some portion of my day making phone calls or meeting with people who can partner with us: other museums, funders, government reps, artists, universities, etc. Meetings may involve me getting out of the museum or hosting people at the museum. I have a lot of lunch and coffee meetings as well. I spend a lot of time meeting with other people with positions equivalent to mine at other cultural institutions.

Part of my job is also to manage staff so I always spend some portion of most of my day listening (spontaneously, I have an open door policy) to the problems staff are having or hearing about the projects they are working on. My job is to provide direction and remove roadblocks, mediate between departments, make decisions, and allocate resources. Topics staff bring me are related to exhibitions, art loans, various kinds of contracts, education programs, financial management issues, event planning issues, PR/marketing issues, or what have you. It’s a huge variety. In this role I am a problem-solver, a facilitator, a sounding board, and to be honest a therapist. Matters that require my attention and input include both concrete practical matters related to our operations and finances as well as completely abstract and creative/intellectual matters related to our art form. This is the part of my job I love the most and it is utterly, utterly exhausting and rewarding at the same time.

I also meet one-on-one with key staff members every other week for structured updates and briefings.

In the evenings I often attend events at our museum or at other museums or cultural venues. I also usually have one such event to attend every other weekend at the very least. Sometimes I am attending events for the majority of evenings and weekends in a given month.

Depending on the day of the week, I could also be spending chunks of time, usually in the afternoon, doing the following:

- representing the museum at community functions where I may give presentations, remarks, or participate in group discussions
- reviewing exhibition proposals and related budgets and contracts
- reviewing and editing communications/marketing/PR materials
- writing proposals and contracts
- writing or preparing remarks, presentations, or similar things
- preparing for and attending board and committee meetings
- preparing for staff meetings
- preparing for and securing the partner meetings described above
- doing miscellaneous paperwork
- attending to issues related to our physical facility (way more of this than people might think)
- researching topics related to the exhibitions and artists we present
- trying to keep up with what other museums are doing and what is happening in our field

There is a moment each day when I hate my job. There is a moment each day when I love my job. There is a moment each day when I feel like I am on top of my game. There is a moment each day when I feel like I do not know what the hell I am doing. I don’t spend nearly as much time with actual art or artists as people might think. When a new exhibition goes up I am always amazed and awed.
posted by beanie at 6:21 PM on October 18, 2012


I'm an online campaigner for a nonprofit advocacy group.

My work goes in cycles, so sometimes I'm in a planning phase and sometimes I'm in an implementation phase.

During an implementation phase, I'll typically spend a couple of hours in meetings, either checking in with members of various teams I work with or planning a later project. These are usually over the phone because I work for a national organization with offices all over. I probably spend a couple hours each day emailing people or responding to other people's emails about projects I'm working on. I'll also typically spend between an hour and three developing content, which can be writing online advocacy pieces (ie, emails and web pages), editing someone else's work or incorporating edits to mine, or actually producing content using our CRM.

During the planning-intensive phases, the content-production portion of my day is spent more on the "solitary" parts of planning, like research, writing plans, crunching numbers, etc.

I think it's pretty good work because, despite the amount of time I spend in meetings and writing and reading emails, most of the work is at least somewhat creative - about 50-70% of what I do in a given day is either writing or problem-solving (sometimes both, as in "how do we take this really technical/dry-sounding issue and make people want to take action?"), both of which I find challenging and rewarding.
posted by lunasol at 6:21 PM on October 18, 2012


I'm a freelance film, tv, and art-video editor.

I think I'll just talk about the film part for now, since each can be really different (and it's taken so long just to type this part up). There's also the stay at home wasting time part that happens between jobs, but you probably don't need a blow by blow of how that works.

When I'm editing a movie (once every couple years, it seems; NYC independent), if it's during the shoot itself I'll come in at 9 or 10 in the morning and decide whether to start by a) watching the new footage that came in overnight from the lab, taking notes on first impressions, deciding whether there's anything the director or others on set may need to know about; b) looking over scenes that I've already roughed out but have tagged in such a way to indicate more work is needed (I'll color code scenes to indicate, say, "this is still totally awful," or "this is waiting on music or sound effects") ; or c) begin roughing out scenes from footage newly organized by the assistant editor during her night shift. During the shoot, those are pretty much the main tasks apart from a daily call from the director, communication with the assistant editor about what her tasks should be that night, and maybe some miscellaneous email or phone calls with other departments on set -- likely Sound or Camera or the Script Supervisor; sometimes there will be an emergency and we'll need to expedite getting a new scene shaped up to make sure a known-problem from that day's shoot is surmountable). I might finish up anywhere between 7pm and 9pm, making room for the assistant editor to come in. (Others work on multiple edit machines simultaneously with their assistants, but I like it this way. If I feel like I'm falling behind -- the goal is pretty much to keep up to speed with the shoot, finishing your first roughcut/assembly within a week or so of the shoot wrapping -- I'll come in on the weekend.)

A week or so after the shoot, the director will come in. We'll watch the first roughcut/assembly together, talk about any broad-stroke changes that might already be apparent (if it's already clear that, say, an entire storyline should be cut out completely, then it'll save a ton of time to make that decision now and skip working on those scenes in the coming weeks), and then start the next day by diving into specific scenes and recrafting them together.

The process from that point is largely that: doing a pass through all the scenes and then eventually watching the resulting roughcut. Often that'll mean carefully watching all the possible options for a specific line of dialogue (helpfully strung out in order by the assistant editor) and choosing which picture take to use and which sound take to marry with it. As a scene takes shape or as the movie takes shape, these decisions need to be revisted to reshape a character or reshape a story moment. And to keep things running smoothly, it's sort of important to be able to rapidly make a scene watchable again after tearing it up and putting it back together using different performance options. If something's going to take more than 5 or 10 minutes to polish, it might be best to have the director take a break. If you can get your director hooked on an Flash game, bully for you. But you should be fast, anyway.

Oh, all this is done on a computer these days, but you probably already knew that. You're watching and manipulating video files that have been created from the film negative (or source video format, if shot digitally). Working quickly means doing as much as you can on the keyboard and as little as possible with the mouse. And making minute decisions quickly, of course: precisely at what moment to cut from one image to another, precisely how much pause to create between each line of dialogue, etc. A lot of this is collaborative with the director, but at a low, minutia level, it's sort of beyond what's possible to effectively communicate about and you just have to (quickly) do what it takes to make it play well.

That's sort of the mechanics of the general day-to-day. I've left out how much of the job after the shoot is psychological, trying to predict what your director wants/means, keeping everything on an even keel. (You're in a room full-time with one other person for at least a few months and there will likely be swings in how the project feels like it's going.) There's also running feedback screenings, screenings for the producers, etc. And toward the end there's a lot of communication with the sound editor/mixer, the visual effects house, the music supervisor, the composer, etc., and there are various specialized files that travel back and forth between those departments and the edit room. Sometimes the Post Production Supervisor will act as a conduit for a lot of that communication (and usually the assistant editor will take care of making/receiving those specialized files), but as editor you're ultimately responsible for the workflow, so I like to do a lot of that myself. At the very end you might sit in on the sound mix for a couple weeks or the final color session for a couple days. And then you're done and can go back to the stay at home wasting time part.

(Ideally you're getting paid enough when you're working to be able to have a bunch of downtime without worry. Plus movies above a certain budget do payroll as W-2 through a payroll company, so you can collect unemployment for a bit until the next job comes up. And if you want to stay picky about what movies you work on, working for video artists is a great option.)
posted by nobody at 6:31 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I work in the registrar's office at a university. These days I spend my time typing up requests for transcripts and education verifications (i.e. proof you attend here, for scholarships and whatnot) and letters of certification (i.e. proof you graduated, especially since it takes 4 months for diplomas to come in the mail), as well as putting in people's addresses as to where to mail said diplomas. And charging people for this stuff. Sometimes I print and mail them myself, sometimes students do it.

Periodically they stick me at the front counter where I do a lot of the same typing stuff, along with other random typing involving name changes, withdrawals, diploma pickup, changing their status, blah blah blah. About half the time people ask me random questions that I have no idea how to answer them because I have only been doing this type of job for a couple of months.

Officially I work on graduation stuff, checking to see if people have their stuff in order to graduate, fixing records, ordering diplomas, going through all the diplomas and marking off who hasn't paid their fees and thus they don't get their diplomas until they do, mailing out some of the diplomas if you asked for it to be mailed. Occasionally I deal with e-mail, depending on who I have to ask to check someone's graduation stuff first.

I am basically on call for 8 hours and can have stuff dumped upon me at any time, which means that sometimes I am busy and frequently I am just sitting around surfing the net until someone hands me something else or gets back to me about something. There is even more to the job than that, but they are training me slowly.

Before that, I have done scheduling for classes who wanted extra time/study sessions, made ID cards, fixed students' self-entered transfer work so that it will automatically equate to class credit here, written text for a webpage, and tested computer systems to see if they worked. I have somewhat gotten around a lot in the last couple of years.

I usually say "data entry lackey" when asked, though. Who really wants to know all this information? I think my mom dozed off when she asked the other night...

I am at my volunteer job right now. I work at the front desk of the college craft center. Mostly answering questions, checking out tools, directing people to the bathroom, advising people on craft projects, ringing them up for classes, and cleaning the building. I also teach a glass mosaic class about once a year, which boils down to showing people cool mosaics I took pictures of around town, showing them how to cut glass, then letting them figure out what they want to make. Eventually I teach them all how to grout their projects to fill them in around the edges. Like someone else said, I wish this could be my day job, but alas, it cannot due to lack of budget and they will be down to one adult paid position at the end of the year as is.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:55 PM on October 18, 2012


I'm a lawyer. I do compliance work for financial institutions.

I probably spend about 3/5ths of my day reading regulations and responding to emails.

I spend about another 1/5th writing (initial) emails.

The other 1/5th of my day is spent billing time for writing and responding to emails.
posted by lalala1234 at 7:11 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a lawyer. I do compliance for a employee benefits consulting firm.

I get to work between 7:30 and 8:30. I have usually at least seen any emails that have come in since the day before on my phone, but may spend a little time taking care of administrative tasks (expense reports, monthly reports to boss, etc).

I spend a lot of my time responding to our consultants' targeted questions related to actual client situations, which means plucking things out of my memory ("this is what the ERISA disclosure regs require") and research into things that are new or that I don't know/remember.

I also, in a given day, might:
--write/ give a presentation to various audiences around the country on health and welfare plan legal compliance topics (employer groups, national organizations, individual employer/clients)
--write and/or review a client-facing article on health and welfare plan legal compliance topics
--talk to clients on the phone if they have a particular problem that is beyond using their actual consultant as a go-between
--talk to carriers on the phone/email if I disagree with a legal interpretation they are giving a client/consultant
--call a state or federal government agency if I have a question about their position on something

I eat lunch at my desk, and may pop around the internet for mini-breaks throughout the day.

I leave between 5:30 and 7pm, but may also check in from home to put out/prevent client fires.
posted by Pax at 7:27 PM on October 18, 2012


I direct applied research studies. I have a Ph.D. in a social science (the best one). Here's what a typical day looks like for me:
--trouble shoot design issues (depending on the stage of the project, these might involve study design, questionnaire design, analytic design, etc.)
--interact with, respond to and manage clients
--various administrative paperwork (depending on the time of the year/month, it could be staff reviews, budgets, proposals, contracts, schedules, etc.)
--attend and often lead meetings (these are usually focused on one or more of the design issues mentioned above)
--mentor/advise/manage junior staff
--write (memos, proposals, reports, papers, etc.)
--read and respond to email
--much of the above is done via e-mail (except for the meetings, those are face-to-face), the rest via hallway conversations and ad hoc meetings

I almost always eat at my desk. I work 50-60 hours per week, most weeks, although I am expected to put in more hours than that when the workload spikes (2-3 times a year).

My job is awesome. I get to do a wide variety of things every day, and the issues I research are important and matter to me. Some (not all) of my studies have had a positive, demonstrable effect on the world.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:07 PM on October 18, 2012


I currently work 2 jobs, as well.

Job 1: Circulation Clerk at teeny-tiny library. We have a dedicated director and children's librarian, but everyone else is a clerk and does a bit of everything.

-Regular, every shift stuff includes: shelving, pulling holds for inter-library loans, checking out and checking in items for & from patrons, answering the phone if it rings
-Occasionally, the director gives me projects: deleting books from the system that haven't been checked out in 3 years, re-creating the old outdated list of DVDs for patrons, creating seasonal displays, etc.
-Sometimes I create my own projects. I just created a social media campaign including twitter, facebook, and pinterest. I think up something I want to try and pitch it to the director.
-Sometimes there are new items to process with all the correct stickers, labels, and protective covers
-I also answer questions as needed - from reference type questions, local history questions, "do you have this book" questions, what is facebook and how does it work, etc.

Job 2: I recently started running an online bakery with my brother and sister-in-law. Each day is different, but can include:

-Monitoring orders as they come in.
-Obsessively check the internet (our website, facebook, twitter, forums, google, and our kickstarter page) for reviews or comments.
-test new recipes
-eat cookies that are too deformed to ship
-tweak the business plan
-shop in BJs and Stop and Shop and Hannaford, a lot.
-Scale and mix and bake and clean and wash dishes
-pack and ship baked goods
-brainstorm t-shirt and poster ideas
-eat more cookies when the caramel leaks out
-keep track of all expenses

And in between those two, I'm driving for 40 minutes and scarfing down whatever fast food I can get my hands on at the time.

Great question!
posted by firei at 9:28 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm working in South Asia. Currently I'm Program Officer for an International NGO.

The majority of the time I'm in head-office, where our days are 9-5.30. I start the day checking email, preparing my TODO list and greeting people in the office. I also try to do some non-vital reading of publications etc connected to my work or area but not directly needed for the work I'm doing at the moment.

Work in head-office is a lot about meetings/emails/phoning/writing reports/planning. Some people are very good at reading/responding emails; others aren't for various reasons, including not so great expression in written English. So with many colleagues I often start off by phoning or meeting someone face-to-face before writing an email. The routine of the day can be quite peaceful - working on own stuff, or gentle cooperation - or quite hectic. Something will be needed, to get it you need to talk to several different people, sort things, etc. Often I am working on several different things in one day.

Some time each week is devoted to stupid paperwork - getting permission to go on a trip, use a vehicle, claim an allowance. It's not always clear what form is needed to be signed by whom, or someone half-way down the chain might change what you're doing so you start again from the beginning.

Oh, and checking up and micro-tasks. If you need something to be done, or ask for it, you probably have to check in to see its status. This is with minor requests as well as major requests. If you don't check in, you might not be informed that there was a problem fulfilling the request. Micro-tasks are various: as people's English isn't so great there's editing, or say, people's computer skills might not be so strong so you need to support with a spreadsheet / formatting a word document etc.

When we have external meetings in the same city we normally go by office car. And given traffic it can take over an hour each way, so that can whack most of your day. When we go to workshops/seminars/etc lunch is included. Sometimes people call this type of work "eating, meeting, cheating", but I am not involved in the cheating.

Sometimes I get to go into the field! Awesome. This can involve a day of travel (normally by car) there and back so two days are gone. "Field"-work can be just sitting in someone else's office having meetings there. But sometimes I get to go into communities we're working in to meet with people or groups. I love either type, as I love when I am able to support the staff working in the field and I love meeting people we're working with. I speak the local language, so in either case I am speaking 80-90% of that and 10-20% English; in head office I am probably speaking 70-80% English.

It can be quite an existential shock, though, to go out of your airconditioning, go to a house of someone who's very poor, hear about their problems and then be back in your airconditioned car within an hour. My ideal job would be working more closely with field-staff or field workers.
posted by squishles at 11:18 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a postdoctoral researcher in phonetics.

One thing I love about research is that there's a lot of different stuff to work on, so if one thing gets tedious, you can move on to something else. At various times I: I'm lucky in that I don't have to teach, so my time is 100% research. I set my own schedule (woohoo!) but this can mean anything from 12-hour days if I'm working to a conference deadline, to unusual-but-pleasant circumstances like yesterday when I got on a roll, wrote a huge chunk of a paper I'm working on, and went home after 3 hours to eat chocolate in celebration.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 4:21 AM on October 19, 2012


I'm currently a freelance translator, working from home. Most days I start work around 7 am and work until 2 pm or so, then do another stint in the evening for a couple of hours, but it's pretty flexible. Most of my clients are translation agencies who coordinate between their end clients and their roster of freelancers in various "language pairs."

I read/reply to emails first, takes about 15 minutes. Some of my biggest clients are in Europe, so the e-mail tends to pile up first thing in the morning. Fortunately, I only spend about 30 minutes total each day dealing with email; most emails are short and rote: can you do this? yes/no; here's the thing I did, let me know if you have any questions. 98% of client communication is via e-mail--phone calls come in less than once a week. I also spend about 15 minutes a day doing billing tasks. A few times a week I might have to sign something (NDA, W-2, QA form), scan it, and e-mail it to a client.

The rest of the time I spend translating written documents--mostly technical/engineering, and then proofreading/fine-tuning my own work before returning it to the client. I use software known as a CAT tool - computer assisted translation - which breaks down the source text into units (sentences or smaller) and puts them up in an interface where you can type in the translation, see any glossary matches from my personal glossary, etc. If the document is a PDF, it can take a few minutes to set it up to work with in the CAT tool.

I also sometimes review the work of other translators, and I have one client that routinely sends me work involving adapting text from UK English to American English.

When I'm working on a document, about half the time is actually typing in the words for the translation, and the other half is spent researching terminology, usage, or the operating principles of whatever piece of equipment I'm dealing with. I use Google, Google books, tons of online bilingual resources, translator's websites, monolingual references sources on technical topics. So my day involves huge amounts of internet research.
posted by drlith at 4:26 AM on October 19, 2012


from the blue-collar corner: I am a signal tower operator on a commuter railroad, which entails operating a large (and antiquated) switch-and-signal machine. I am required to know the destination of every train in my coverage area and decide the best manner of getting it to go there, i.e. which switches and signals to have the train pass. If there are extenuating circumstances such as a blockage on a certain track, I need to re-route as necessary. I am capable of making mistakes that could hurt many people (have never done so in 28 years) or inconvenience many people (by unintentionally sending a train on a track from which it cannot possibly get to its correct destination). I have a lot of power in my hands.
posted by RRgal at 5:34 AM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


In my current software testing assignment I'm working as a test coordinator on large scale chain tests for various projects, all related to the implementation of the Single European Payment Area at a bank that shall remain nameless.

This starts with a high level overview of what we're proposing to test and roughly what it will need for resources, based on whatever documentation (solution outline, functional design etc) is available. Usually this happens a couple of months before the scheduled implementation date, with our chain test a month or so before said date.

If the test goes ahead, I write a test plan, which fleshes out the proposed test scope, resources, test cases and such. This in turn forms the base for a detailed spreadsheet with the data for all the test cases, another sheet with expected results, a deliverable overview and progress sheet with the planning. All of this is a somewhat formal way of testing and I've had assignments where what I did and documented was much looser.

Once everything is written and reviewed by cow-orkers and the various business partners have signed off on it, the test files are written, various resources (sys admins, programmers, other lower lifeforms) are assigned and the final planning is made.

A week or so before the test period we tried to see if everything is in readiness and everybody who needs to know we're going to test, knows and is available (always something that can trip you up).

The testing itself is usually frantic, as we tried to route around unrelated environmental issues, understand why this perfectly valid test case keeps getting rejected, filing bug reports, explaining to various programmers or architects that no, they're doing it wrong, as well as documenting all the things.

Finally, this documentation is used to write a test report, with our recommendations.

Basically therefore fifty to seventyfive percent of my time is writing documents or e-mails, chasing people up by telephone or instant messaging or *shudder* actually talking to them in person, with only a minority of my time actually testing.

Like most of my coworkers I rolled into testing by accident, as an entry level job once I failed actually doing something useful at uni. What you really need to be a good tester is to be a good allrounder, a speaker-to-management as well as programmers, able to find your way around code even if you can't really write it yourself, but not getting hung up on details, precise when needed but also able to let go of bugs if there are bigger fish to fry. It can be incredibly boring and incredibly stressfull, sometimes at the same time.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:13 AM on October 19, 2012


I'm workforce management at a call center of about 250 people, and I also handle payroll, FMLA management, training planning, and ID management.

Payroll data feeds automatically out of our time management system every two weeks - the only things I have to touch manually are things that were not right in the time management system when it fed to payroll. There are only a few days per two-week pay cycle in which payroll is open for me to make updates, and usually we don't have that many, so payroll is not a huge amount of my time though I may receive occasional disputes on other days.

FMLA approvals for people come in maybe once every few weeks (and I think this is on the high side), and I record them in a spreadsheet so that my coworkers and I all know who has an active approval.

ID issues may come in once a week or so, and otherwise we have a new hire class starting every six weeks or so and I have to set up all the IDs for them. None of this takes a huge amount of time or research, mostly lots of copy-pasting and ticket submissions.

For training, I run a brief conference call once a week in which I talk to our trainers' supervisors and our training analyst about what's coming up and who is training what. We don't have that much classroom training outside of normal new hire classes, but in the event we do, I get everyone scheduled and send out meeting makers and notify the trainer of what the schedule will be.

I also am the de facto expert, I guess, within my call center anyway, on how our time off system and attendance corrective action works - all questions get routed to me and I guess my previous boss dubbed me admin when he left? It's not hard, though sometimes I have to dig through the Help files.

During the rest of my time, my four coworkers and I split the duties on processing time off requests that come in via email or voicemail, recording tardies and OT from the previous day that we found on the PC login reports, and managing intraday staffing (trying to make sure everybody is doing what they're supposed to be doing, and offering OT or early release if we look like we are going to be short-staffed or overstaffed). My coworkers also have a few reports they run on phone time and how well the agents followed their schedules, as well as headcount reports.

I have an exorbitant amount of downtime, like really at least 80% of my day. My other coworkers do too, really, though they might be more at 50% or a bit lower. Part of this is that I am a very fast worker (I've taken over duties from three people who left and were not replaced) but considering most of my duties are not things I have to do every day I think that anyone who is organized and has a good handle on rules and regulations could do this job pretty easily.
posted by agress at 6:20 AM on October 19, 2012


I'm an Art Director for a small advertising agency in the Midwest. I'll summarize what happened yesterday, as it was a very typical day.

Get in to the office at 8:00. Get coffee, get machine booted up, go through emails that may have come through from yesterday.

Help out a fellow Art Director by doing some tedious photoshop work. One of our clients has a real clown as a mascot (I'm totally serious about this, and NO, it wasn't my idea). We designed the clown costume and recently had a photo shoot with this clown. There were about a dozen keeper shots. I spent my morning carefully clipping the clown off the background, color correcting, doing minimal touchups and saving the file in a variety of formats for use in ads down the road. This takes about three hours. I listen to music and drink coffee while I do this.

I have a meeting with the Creative Director (my boss) about an upcoming ad campaign for a new client. We each come to the meeting with some ideas of our own that we "pitch" to one another based on the brief that the Account Manager wrote up for the job. Our discussion inevitably leads to more ideas. We wrap-up by formulating a plan for action: Deciding which ideas are the best to pursue and when we'll look at mockups. The client presentation is in a week. This meeting takes about 45 minutes.

I eat lunch and walk around the park near the office for 45 minutes.

I come back to my desk and begin combing stock photography sites for images that support the ideas that we came up with in the previous meeting. This also leads to googling for reference material, looking at what competitors have done, and other visual metaphors. Of course all this internet browsing eventually leads to peeking at MetaFilter, Twitter, and so on. This takes 3-4 hours.

Before I wrap up for the day, I set up a blank InDesign document for the ad based on the specs for the pub. I also pull the new clients brand standards, download their logos/type/colors and get everything setup so I can come in to work the next day and start putting together layouts based on all the assets/ideas I've collected this afternoon. Inevitably while working on layouts I'll do more photoshopping of images to get them to fit into my layouts.

By this time its about 5:30 so I fill out my timesheet for the day (which documents how much time I spent working on which projects—for billing purposes) say good bye to anyone still in the office and head home.

As an Art Director I also spend some time scouting locations for shoots, reviewing casting talent for shoots, actually attending and art directing shoots, or meeting with a client to present work. Our Creative Director handles these duties the majority of the time, but I'd say I do this at least 3-4 times a month, and when I do it takes anywhere from half of my day to all-day, to multiple days at a time, depending on the location and the complexity of the shoot.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 7:17 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Client Service Manager for a small HR software company.

I spend a fair amount of my day responding to requests from current clients (changing the configuration of their software or updating information). I spend time training new clients on our system, constantly finding ways to clearly convey concepts and tips about using the system. I assist with the set-up of new client accounts (sales reels them in, I get them going). I worked for 10+ years in HR, so try to draw from that knowledge as well. I also work to translate what the client wants into requests for our technical team to implement - this is tricky.

My company is huge into simplicity, so I try to spend time each week figuring out how to make a process, a form, a feature of our software more logical/seamless/effortless. Clients also offer up good ideas ("It would be great if the system could do this."), so I try to figure out if they are worth implementing system-wide or if there is a way to get what the client wants based on what the software can already do.

It's a lot of problem solving, learning a lot about our clients to anticipate their needs and keeping up in the industry to make sure our offerings are meeting the needs of our audience.
posted by Twicketface at 7:18 AM on October 19, 2012


I'm a "Government Affairs Compliance Specialist" for the US subsidiary of a foreign state-owned multinational corporation.
That means I'm the one who keeps out lobbyists in line. :)
-I spend most days reading state statutes and administrative codes;
-creating and updating training presentations that I give to employees in about 15 different states on what they can/cannot do re: interactions with federal and state elected/appointed officials and employees.
-collecting data to file the variety of state and federal disclosure documents.
-filing those documents. A lot.
-answering (or finding answers) to employee questions
-"clearing" sponsorship of events, site visits for elected officials, etc.
-keeping my "ear to the ground" aka being nosy, so I can attempt to spot issues of concern (finding out that we're running some sort of event. with crappy thank you gifts. and inviting elected officials from State X. Easier to deal with at the beginning than the end).
I also do special projects for our Legal team, since once I finish law school, I'll become a member of our legal team, taking most of my current portfolio and also doing boring contract negotiation stuff.
I leave at 5pm everyday because of school-so I frequently work some hours on the weekend. I've found that for me, the work is always great as long as the people are great. When the people suck, the work sucks.
posted by atomicstone at 7:44 AM on October 19, 2012


I follow and assist refugee, trafficked and asylee children for a couple of years after their arrival in the US.

I help their parents understand the school system, enroll the children is school, assist families with any behavioral concerns, etc. Part of every day is spent visiting homes, talking to families (through interpreters), to teachers and principals.

The time that I don't spend with clients I use for updating my files, reading and writing emails, pimping my database and trying to put together little mentoring and after school programs for the students. A couple of times a year I must write reports to the state and I have to present in a couple of state conferences to talk about the trends of the refugee community.

My qualifications for this job? I'm a forest engineer! But I speak a couple of languages and assisted an anthropology professor, so I guess that gives me relevant experience.
posted by Tarumba at 8:13 AM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll add my experience as a cardiac intensive care nurse as an addendum to jesourie's post. I love my job because every 12 hour interval is absolutely a different animal. I take care of two (or sometimes one very unstable) patient, and as a permanent night shift RN if you ask any physician I work with at my academic teaching hospital, the goal on a night shift is "to keep the patient alive through the night." A lofty goal, at times.

On any given night within five minutes of coming on shift I could be: running to a cardiac/respiratory arrest anywhere within the hospital and then transferring said unstable patient to our unit for further management, making sure your confused/delirious loved one doesn't successfully get out of bed on their own and fall, wedging a balloon in your pulmonary artery, reminding a new doctor, three months out of school, that a dose they're ordering for your loved one exceeds the maximum safe dose of any medication, and in general making sure anyone on our multidisciplinary team doesn't kill you.

I learn everyday, whether it be via evidence-based practice or merely how can I best build a rapport with my patient and allow them to trust me to help them when they are at their most uncomfortable moments.

The overarching theme motivating all of my actions is the fact that I am an advocate for my patient.

I provide end-of-life care for patients and respect their wishes to die peacefully with their families by their side. I hold the hand of the wife of my dying patient while she reminisces about the best moments of their 48 year marriage and cries in my arms. When the patient passes, I then care for their family. I remember that every patient I serve everyday is a unique human being and that I have to customize my care to achieve the best outcome for my patient, whether curative or palliative. I see amazing life-changing outcomes and devastating loss, and as long as I can balance my time at the bedside with a bit of both, that's okay.
posted by Asherah at 8:29 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Although I'm currently on extended medical leave, my job up until now has been as a medical language specialist, the new-fangled term for a medical transcriptionist.

I work for a large medical center and I work from home every day, using a dedicated computer that is supplied by the hospital. Although I'm working from home, I still have assigned hours that I work, so that we can provide 24/7 coverage. My usual hours are 2:30-10:00 Tues-Sat and I usually work through my lunch period as I don't like to break my concentration once I get started working. I often work an entire 8-hour shift and only get up from my chair once (bad, I know). I have daily production goals I need to meet and if I go beyond those goals I get incentive pay in addition to my usual hourly pay rate.

My hospital has recently gone to a voice-recognition dictation system which means I no longer listen to a report dictated by a provider and type that report. Instead, when I sign into the computer system I get routed a job which consists of a voice-recognized document and the matching voice file that the provider dictated. Listening to the voice file, I work through the document correcting the version on the screen to match what I am hearing. I have to pay close attention to context, watching for sound-alike words (discrete/discreet for instance; there are many many others), getting drugs and their dosages correct, and making sure the lab values I hear match the ones in the report. If I have questions, there are several resources available to me. I can check the patient's electronic chart for older records, pharmacy records, lab reports, etc. The internet is a great resource for spelling and defining unfamiliar terms although you have to be careful to separate the wheat from the chaff. I also have to format the document to meet the facility style guidelines. Once the report has been corrected and reads as the provider intended, I send it off to be reviewed and electronically signed by the dictating provider and then it is incorporated into the patient's electronic medical record. As I send off the edited report for signature, I am routed another one and begin the process over again.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 8:43 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm back in IT right now (hopefully just temporarily), but when I was an archaeologist working for a developer funded archaeology unit, this is what a day would tend to be like:

Work would be from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM with a 30 minute tea break around 10:00 and a 30 minute lunch break around 1:00.

Show up, change into field garb, including PPE (personal protective equipment) - steel toed and shanked boots, hard hat, hi-vis vest or jacket and gloves. Grab the tools needed for the task at hand, which would include the likes of: mattock, hoe, shovel, 30 metre tapes, dumpy level and staff and whatever paperwork and then head out on site.

We'd be assigned an area of responsibility by a senior arch or the project officer for the site. If we were working in single context mode, things would go roughly like this:

Excavate the context (i.e. a single deposit that's essentially uniform). This would be the actual digging part of things - mattocks, shovels, trowels, etc. Speed and vigor would be determined by how distinct one context was from another also by whether there were or could be any breakable artifacts in context. One got pretty good at precision mattocking after some practice.

Artifacts that did come up would be bagged and tagged or discarded as determined by their type and the finds policy. Ceramic building material (i.e. bricks and roof tiles) might get sampled, but most of it would end up on the spoil heap. Other things would tend to be kept - pottery, metal fixtures, etc. They'd be sorted by type and labeled by context, date and who bagged them and would eventually be shipped back to the finds processing lab to be cleaned and sorted.

After a context has been excavated, it'd be written up on a context sheet and also planned. In general, there'd be two types of contexts - cuts and fills. Planning would involve laying out a baseline tape along the excavation and measuring along it with a hand tape. The plan would be tied in to a grid plan for the site (or just tied in to some known points for a smaller excavation) that was measured in by the unit's geospatial survey team. Usually plans would be done at a scale of 1:20. Also, profiles or elevations (i.e. plans with a vertical orientation) might be appropriate, usually done at 1:10.

After a plan is drawn up, levels would be taken - i.e. the height of things on the plan - by using the staff and dumpy level, noting the height of the dumpy level from a known benchmark.

After an area has been taken down to 'natural' - i.e. there's no further cultural material to excavate, the various contexts would all be organized together in a matrix to show the order of the stratigraphy. This would usually involved drawing up a big chart of the various contexts showing how they all relate and would often involve running around trying to find someone who'd dug something that abutted or intcut or what have you with stuff you'd done. This is also the time when you go through all the context sheets and such to sanity check them.

Then you'd move on and start all over again.

So, what we'd be doing is converting archaeological deposits into a collection of finds, context sheets and plans. Once it's dug, it's gone, so you better do a good job recording it.

Also, lots of dirt and mud. Especially if it's raining. A little bit of rain in England is no reason to stop digging, mind. Waterproof trousers are wonderful things.
posted by ursus_comiter at 9:40 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have two jobs. I am the Executive Director of a small foundation that supports charitable intent, and I am the Director of Finance & Development for a religious denominational headquarters that spans three states.

I pay bills and make deposits, set up and manage various charitable instruments (trusts, gift annuities, etc), respond to emails and phone calls, schedule visits, answer lots of questions about various kinds of insurance, work with vendors, work with Board members, print stuff that's important enough to file away, help our small office with technology problems, answer (deflect, actually) questions about various tax implications, wince at my ToDo list of items I don't want ToDo, be a cheerful presence at the front desk when our admin assistant is away, talk our bookkeeper off the ledge, encourage volunteers in their work, make decisions about money, wrangle human resources issues, travel occasionally, manage projects, moderate listservs, and read a lot of stuff about all of the above. I'm sure I've missed something. Basically it's operations and administration management all day long.

Most days I come to the office with just a couple of "big" things to accomplish. Sometimes both things get done, usually just one. In the interim, I am bombarded by lots of small, one-off tasks that are unforeseen, but not unexpected. Sometimes, when I really need to focus, I close the door to my office.
posted by Slacker Manager at 10:09 AM on October 19, 2012


I'm a nanny in Paris, France.

I attend French classes from 1:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon. They're required for me to keep my visa, as the French government would like for me to have a working knowledge of French while living here.

After I get out of class, I take the metro to my employer's house. I pick up the little girl I look after from school, at 4:30. When we get back to the house I'll make her a snack, and afterwards we'll play until 6:00 when I run her bath. While she's taking the bath I'll run back and forth between looking in on her and cooking her dinner. We eat, and her parents get home from work at 8:30. The parents and I usually spend a few minutes discussing what we did during the day, and they let me know what I need to do with her the next day or if they'd like me to work late or something. French children don't go to school on Wednesdays, so I work all day, from 8:30 in the morning to 8:30 at night. This means I have to keep the little girl entertained for 12 hours (and the family doesn't have a TV.) This can include playing hide and go seek, coloring, supervising her while she rides her bike on the road outside the house, taking her to the park or the local pool, and watching her and her friends when they come over to play. Sometimes I will work later and watch her until midnight, when her parents are out.

I'm working on developing her English language skills. While I have a working knowledge of French, the main reason why I was hired by her parents was because I'm an EMT (English Mother Tongue) nanny. At the moment, I'm teaching her basic English things like the letters, numbers, colors, and animal names. Things that a four year old likes learning.

The job can be frustrating at times with the language barrier, but I do enjoy it- I get to color while I'm working, cook (I love cooking), and I have a lot of free time thanks to not working most mornings. That means I have lots of time to explore Paris when it's not as packed with tourists like it is on weekends.
posted by mollywas at 3:07 PM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am an attorney at a firm that does almost exclusively civil litigation defense. Our practice is atypical in that 80% or so of our cases are out of state, so we travel quite a bit.

On non-travel days, I'm usually in by 8:00 a.m. and out by 6:00 p.m. Most of my time in the office is spent discussing cases with other attorneys or occasionally clients, researching legal issues, and drafting either briefs/pleadings or memos to the clients updating them on what is going on. Some time is also spent on preparing experts or clients for hearings or depositions. If I have a deposition coming up, I'll spend time preparing for that, though a lot of that is done when I'm on planes and trains. Most of the emails I field are from our attorneys or other attorneys on our side, kicking around ideas for strategies, motions, etc.

When I'm on the road I spend a lot of time preparing for whatever hearing or deposition I am traveling for. The time spent doing the actual "thing" (the hearing or the depo) is always much shorter than the prep time.

I don't spend a lot of time on the phone, though I generally don't like spending a lot of time on the phone.

Occasionally, I am actually in trials or mock trials, and when those are up and running they are all-encompassing.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:19 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a graphic designer working for myself. That job is hard to describe, because it's very busy when I have work, and not so much when I don't. My other job is kind of interesting to describe though...

I work as a contract graphic facilitator during corporate meetings. A consulting firm hires me for anywhere from half a day to 5 days at a time to work a meeting. If it's a 3-day meeting I come in the day before to do prep work (come up with a theme, get the space set, run through the schedule etc.), work during the three days then come in for a post-day where I organize the files and clean up the space. Hours range from 12-16 hour days and I am paid on a day rate. What exactly I do depends on the other contractors and what role I've been given that week. I could be in charge of the visual aspects of the meeting, of running the tech/music, keeping track of all content produced or even just deciding how the space will be set up and moving tables, chairs and walls to fit my space design. It's fun to have such variety in roles, and work with such a variety of people. Every meeting I work it's a different combination of co-workers.

Sometimes a meeting just needs some support and I am hired alone. If it's a half day gig I may come in around 11:30, get my computer set up, check that the music machine is hooked up properly, get a camera ready just in case and test the TV screens. Once my consultant contact is ready I meet with them to go over what the meeting is about, the schedule and what they would ideally like me to do. Sometimes they have unrealistic expectations of what can be done in such a short time, but I always try to get it done.

From there the clock is ticking and I may have only an hour to get everything prepared before everyone arrives for the meeting. I set the main area with the exact number of chairs as the number of attendees. I make sure each is a hand width apart and slightly arched. I then move walls around to make 4 breakout areas, each with 1/4th the number of chairs in a nice arc. Then I start drawing on the whiteboards in each area to add graphic interest to the breakout, put up any printed materials I've been provided and try to make boring charts and PowerPoint slides look fun.

By now someone has come in with changes and I re-plot the big poster I've already hung and run into the main room to write the agenda and other details on a white board. I take another white board near the office entrance and write "welcome!" and add the event name and date and some kind of drawing reflecting the theme that has been chosen for the event. Sometimes I have fun with it and get clients to go with a Star Trek or Transformers theme, but half of the time they pick sports. I've learned tricks for drawing soccer balls quickly.

People are starting to arrive and I go to the back of the room and quickly put together a playlist in iTunes of music appropriate to the age group of the attendees that will be played. When we're ready to get started I crank up some "energetic" music and then head to the front of the room. At this point the graphic facilitation kicks in and I start writing and drawing the main points that the speaker is saying. I often have no idea what will be said so I have to concentrate and not drift off because I need to be listening to the next point while still writing the one I just heard. During the 3-day meetings sometimes this lasts for 2 hours or more. When they're finished there's a big drawing in the front of the room. I turn on music to signal everyone to go into breakouts, during which I shoot a photo of the drawing and clean it up in Photoshop.

Although it seems like I have downtime I'm timing the meeting and playing music every 20 minutes to make sure they switch breakout areas. At this point, when I'm ready to finally eat my lunch, someone comes over and tells me they've decided to add a fun "exercise" into the meeting and I go onto iTunes to buy some music they have requested. It finishes downloading 3 minutes before I need it. While they're in the main meeting area I run around the breakout spaces, clean up and get it looking like it did when I came in. I take photos of any notes that they have written on the walls and make a PDF of the images for the client.

Finally they're ready to wrap-up and I re-set the entire space, make sure I've downloaded and archived any photos or files I've created. Sometimes at the end of the meeting they want something to "walk out the door" with. In this case I would have taken the photos of the whiteboard notes, retouched in Photoshop so they look clean and placed them into a PowerPoint with a layout that references the theme and printed out copies in little binders to hand out. Most people are impressed by the real time turnaround, and it's a frantic day.

I may work really hard like this for 5 days in a row, then not have work booked for weeks. On the off weeks I work on my graphic design jobs, go on long bike rides, enjoy the perks of self-employment and try not to worry about when I'll get hired again.
posted by Bunglegirl at 5:17 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I’m a freelance theatre technician and designer so my day is different almost every week. I mostly work as an electrician, which is in the theatre means hanging, cabling and focusing lights.

For every show there is a lighting designer (which I also do but it doesn’t pay much at my level) who, working with the director and the other designers and based on the script, decides how the show should look and thus where the lights should be placed to achieve their goals. This is communicated by a light plot which is a drawing with the lights laid out on the theatres hanging positions.

My job as an electrician is to interpret the drawing and physically placing the lights where they need to be. This mostly involves climbing ladders carrying 20 lb lighting fixtures to clamp on to pipes that are permanently hung in the theater. After that all the lights need to be cabled back to the dimmer, which will power them. This can be easy in new spaces with permanent circuits or hard in older spaces with 100’+ runs of cable back to a closet somewhere backstage. Then comes the troubleshooting, finding blown lamps, broken cables, broken dimmers, ect. and fixing them. All of this means climbing ladders or laying on catwalks in awkward positions.

Once everything is working the designer will come in to focus the lights. Basically the designer will stand on stage where he wants the light pointed and I will point it at him. We will then do this for each of the between 20 and 250 lights hung for the show. After that Tech rehearsals start which is when all of the elements of the show, the set, lights, costumes, sound, and actors figure out how they all fit together. For the bigger theatres I work at this means I sit and program the light board. The designer will call out a light and a level and I will set that in the light board for each cue, or look, in the show. The last show I designed had about 40 cues, the last show I programmed had about 450. Techs are usually 10 of 12’s which is 10 out of 12 hours a day.

I also sometimes do stage crew for shows, which can mean doing any number of things during the show backstage. This week and last I have been working on the National Theatre of Scotland’s Blackwatch* as the pyro tech. My day consists of coming to the space two and a half hours before the show and turning on the lighting system and fixing any blown lamps or other problems that have happened. I then sit in the greenroom until near the end of the show when I put a blank shotgun shell in a firing tube and, when given my cue by the stage manger, I hit it with a hammer. Once the show is over I clean up the firing tube and after the audience leaves I shut down the lighting system. This is by far one of the better gigs I’ve had in my life. I’ve also dropped huge bags of shoes from 30’ in the air onto a stage and made sure people falling off of a ladder landed properly and safely.

Most of my days I also spend on the internet looking for my next gig as they tend to be short lived. I also tend to do most of the housework as my wife has a day job.

*If at all possible go see Blackwatch. It is one of the most moving, beautiful, and theatrical shows I have ever seen. It's in Seoul next week and then Seattle in April and May and San Fransisco in May and June. It's worth full price tickets if you have to.
posted by Uncle at 6:03 PM on October 19, 2012


I am civil Engineer at a small municpality in Oregon.

I was hired to review development plans and act as a project manager for developer built infrastructure.

Mostly what I do is provide technical advice and solutions to people about how to build things.

Sometimes it is working with other engineers in the private sector who need guidance on building code compliance or just flat out how to do something (a lot of engineers are specialists in one basic thing like how to design a street and have no idea how to design the sewer underneath it, or vice-versa). Most of my technical assistance is in how to make the new development less polluting and a better fit for the neighborhood and city.

Sometimes it is working with individual homeowners who have a problem like a plugged up sewer or retaining wall that is falling over or how to build a small cottage for their sick parent to move into (all specefic questions in the last 2 weeks).

Since the housing boom went bust we have been dealing a lot with how to keep foreclosed homes and develops from turning into trash dumps and stripped of anything valuable long enough to get someone to buy it (and have been largely successful usually because of helpful neighbors). This problem appears to be coming to an end(which means we might be seeing a decent economy soon).

I also work a lot with the economic development team about how to keep redevelopment costs down and how to make a good business idea successful for someone (this are are really the same thing).

I review our local building codes and update them as needed (usally about every 4-10 years depending on the code).

I work with whole neighborhoods to get them urban services like sewers and paved roads. This means I get to try to convince a group of people to spend several thousand dollars they don't really have on making their neighborhood better.

And so many other things. I like this job quite a bit, but sometimes I miss doing all the actual engineering design work I did for the first 5 years of my career in the private sector. That is a whole different set of daily tasks.
posted by bartonlong at 6:55 PM on October 19, 2012


I'm an exploration geologist for a mining company.

I live in Australia but fly to Papua New Guinea where I work for 3 weeks straight before a 2 week break back in Australia. At work I spend a few days at a small base camp in a small town organising field gear, getting the team ready, making up maps that I'll need, figuring out which questions I'll need to answer when I'm out in the field.

When it's all set, myself and three or four local guys get a helicopter ride to the prospect - these are always quite remote, helicopter access only villages in the middle of the jungle. We land there and either stay in the village or hike out a few hours and set up a small camp there. We hire 6-12 locals from the village as assistants. The work days consist of hiking around, walking up streams and recording the rocks and taking small samples. Pretty physical work, but outstandingly beautiful country - lush rainforest, waterfalls everywhere, incredible insects. The day starts at 7am and we get back around 3 each day. At night I'll put a few more points on the map, then read or embroider or play ukulele or whatever I've got to amuse myself. Very few of the locals speak English, but I've learnt Pidgin so we hang out and chat quite a bit.

At the end of 10-15 days in the jungle we'll call the chopper back and fly back to base. I'll write up a report and make a few maps and so forth, thinking about the rocks we saw and trying to turn that into an interpretation of what was going on 4 million years ago, and whether that means any copper or gold could have been deposited there. I'll also muck around on the internet and catch up on what happened in the world during the previous two weeks. Lots of metafilter.

Then I'll fly back home and have two weeks off, which I normally spend travelling around catching up with friends in different cities.

I like it.
posted by twirlypen at 8:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm an IT Trainer.

On days when I have a class I'll get there before them, prepare the room & look over my notes. During the main part of the day I'll deliver training from the front, using PowerPoints & demos, asking them lots of questions & helping them link new concepts to previous knowledge. I'l also give them exercises & assignments & assist them to complete them. When the students have gone I'll prepare my notes for the next day & run over any demos or exercises to check that they work & I remember how to do it.

On days when I don't have a class I'll either be preparing for an upcoming course or I work on keeping my own skills & knowledge up to date. I'll be reading technical books, researching things on websites & practising stuff on virtual PCs & networks.

I also have to do some of the standard reading & responding to emails.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 12:03 AM on October 20, 2012


I work at an office that manages some aspects of medical billing for hospitals. We mostly get bills related to injuries due to accidents, in the workplace or otherwise, though there's also some weird health insurance denials or underpays that we're expected to fix. We don't do collections, however--self-pay files get routed back to the hospital. Most of my job right now is for worker's compensation, or where there's both worker's comp and another liable party, such as when truck drivers get in an accident.

My typical day involves: And more! Most tasks are similar to the above, though. I really like my job, since there's a lot of problem-solving and puzzles involved, and there are so many little tasks to do that I can switch between them whenever I get restless.
posted by mismatched at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2012


I am the manager of a medium-sized public library branch.

Yesterday was pretty typical, so here's how it went: Arrived at the building, picked up a little trash outside, emptied the bookdrop, grabbed the newspaper, prepared the cash deposit and cash register, logged on the public computers (this all happens nearly every day).

Met briefly with my boss (this happens in person once or twice a month, although we communicate by email or phone most days), met briefly with my assistant manager (happens most days) (this meeting was interrupted to troubleshoot a computer problem), emailed or called various administrative people about things like outdoor lighting, library programming and the new person I just hired, emailed some other branch managers seeking or giving advice, emailed some people on my staff about policy things, days off, etc. (it's not always about the same stuff, but it's always a bunch of emailing).

Helped a patron with some Blackboard and Microsoft Word issues, helped another one sign up for a Gmail account and then fill out some job applications.

Stepped out of the building to pick up a sandwich and an iced Americano for lunch.

Repaired a couple damaged books (next week, I'll train the new person to do this), mailed a form letter telling someone they'd be charged for a book that their kid wrote all over (well, I hope it was their kid), wrote an email asking the collection development people to buy a few titles for the branch (once a week or so for both of these things).

Did some statistical and records-keeping kinda stuff (a little bit every day, with more around the end of the month and end of the year), and read some professional blogs and journals, while working a couple hours at the check-out desk (some days I don't work at the check-out desk at all, others I spend most of the day there--it averages out to about two hours a day, though).

Met with people from the election commission (my library is an early-voting site--they were here to set up the machines), had a long phone conversation planning an upcoming staff training session, put on a video-game program for the kids who come in after school let out, talked with one of my staff members about topical book displays.

Made a few closing announcements, logged off a bunch of computers, counted the money, turned off the lights and locked the doors.

(I probably forgot some stuff, but that's the gist.) (And if you like Studs Terkel's Working, you'll also like the 2000 book Gig.)
posted by box at 12:56 PM on October 20, 2012


9:30-9:50 - have coffee, prep for morning class block
9:50-12:10 - teach kindergarteners reading, vocabulary, and phonics
1:00-2:25 - teach kindergarteners art, gym
2:25-3:20 - prep for afternoon class block (grading, choosing homework, printing, designing projects that bring units of learning together)
3:20-8:00 - teach classes in 40 minute sections, which vary depending on the day, but are mostly writing

Most of my day is spent encouraging kids, grading, giving stickers, chatting with kids, acting out examples, sneaking learning in by fun, saying the name "Alex" at least 50 times, remembering to assign or check homework, remembering the names, details, and minor dramas of about 300 kids, and trying to instil in them that all this work that seems useless, is for various reasons, not.
posted by nile_red at 6:16 PM on October 20, 2012


I work as a quantity surveyor, essentially means we are construction cost consultants.

I normally get in to the site office between 8 and 9am and try and deal with the immediate emails, then into the main business of the day.

Currently the main project I work on has a contractor/builder appointed and is actually nearing completion, this means our principle role is liaising between the contractor and our client the developer on the costs.

Most days will involve atleast one formal or informal meeting with the client discussing how the budgets for various elements of works that are being done and being considered are sitting.

Atleast every other day will be a meeting with the contractor assessing how much they should be paid for the various items that were either not fixed in the original contract or have been changed since.

Both of these types of meetings often get very heated and involve fair amounts of negotiation, tact and strategy!

In between the meetings I normally work on putting together what the costs should be which is essentially prep work for the meetings, this can range from quite high level budgets or the full detail of measuring quantities with a slide rule and ringing up potential suppliers etc. This requires regularly meeting up with the rest of the professional consultant team, so the architect, project manager etc to stay abreast of what is happening.

We also keep track of where the various budgets sit and what we are paying out against them, in the various different formats that different parts of the client organisation like to see. This involves a lot of spreadsheets!

Every month we issue a couple of reports which take about a week to produce and pull together what has happened in the month, so in that week of the month I am concentrating on the report when not in a meeting.

Occasionally I go back to the head office on the other side of town to go to an internal team meeting or something similar.

Lunch is normally at the desk, looking the internetz or firing off some emails.

Usually finish sometime between 5.45 - 6.30pm. Sometimes we will have a late or early meeting or a deadline which pushes outside these hours, these can be a couple of times a week or none at all. I'm currently doing an MSc ouside of the day job, normally I try and get an hour or so in before going in in the morning if possible, previously I used to go running.

I like that I work in the site office so there is a lot of direct in person communication, and you are able to have big and small ad hoc meetings as and when they are needed. Where we aren't based in such an office most of the communication is over email with a few regular big meetings, which I don't think are as effective in getting things done and actually communicating. Having said that I am not an extrovert and by the end of the working day I have normally had enough of talking to people!!

Fascinating thread.
posted by Albondiga at 6:25 PM on October 20, 2012


I play with long dead chunks of animals every day at work in a giant fridge.
posted by Samizdata at 7:15 PM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm an ESL teacher. I spend my day (1-9) prepping classes, teaching classes, reviewing new books, grading homework, researching language learning games, teaching, reviewing resumes if we're looking to hire, writing curriculum proposals, teaching. Well, you get the picture. That's not my current job (I'm the only foreign teacher) but I spent 4 years doing that at other schools.

These days it's prep, teach, dinner, teach, prep, home.
posted by kathrynm at 2:20 AM on October 21, 2012


Abbreviated version of Urban/Regional Planning: work with people who want to develop something, and the people who are against such projects, ranging from additions to single family residences in urban areas, to new development in rural areas, and commercial projects located anywhere. Time is mostly spent in front of a computer, but you get time to go in the field and meet with people to hash things out, either informally or in a public hearing.

Longer version: I was a urban/regional planner for a county for the past 5 years. Coming out of college (with a City and Regional Planning BS), I spent the first month getting acclimated to the local procedures and the scope of work, which involved a lot of going to sites with co-workers as they visited project sites to review what was on the ground today, vs what was planned for the site. I also ate a lot of cake, as the assistant director for Planning was retiring, and everyone loved her, and wanted to throw a party in her honor.

But soon the site-seeing and cake-eating came to an end, and my days were filled with reading local regulations, comparing the rules vs what people wanted to do, calling them and telling then "no, you can't build your new bedroom that close to your property line," or "if you want to remove 10 oak trees, you'll have to plant at least 40," and hashing out how their dream designs could meet the local regs and applicable environmental law. Once everything met the required standards, I wrote up my findings in a staff report, which was then reviewed by my supervisor. If it was a small enough project, my job was done, so long as no neighbors were interested/upset in the project.

For larger projects, I also had to review the project's potential for impacts to the environment, including agriculture, air quality, cultural resources, geology, emergency access routes and response times, water and septic availability, traffic, and anything else that might be of concern. Here I could get involved with state and/or federal agencies regarding their thresholds for concern, and how they'd like to see the potential impacts mitigated. Once I have all that information, and the agencies are all happy, I wrote an environmental report, stating how the project either had no chance for negative impacts, or if there was a potential for impacts, how they would be mitigated below applicable thresholds. I had to get the applicant(s) to agree to the mitigation measures, or hash out alternative measures.

Once all that is done, I presented the project to a hearing body, representing the project in neutral fashion. Hearings are not open discussions, but a chance for various parties to make their case before the hearing officials, who had some ability to provide leniency for special cases, or could send a project back to be re-evaluated.

I worked on a variety of projects, from reviewing decks in coastal communities, to huge grading projects, and some commercial development. I also was a liaison to a community, where I would visit them once a month with new projects that were coming to their community, and I would field questions of the community planning sort.

Depending on where you work, you could be the sole planner in charge of everything from writing the long-range plans for the community to review of individual projects and answering questions from the public at large, to one of many and you could focus on a specific area for a while. Either way, the ultimate authority is generally a group of elected officials, meaning you might have to shift your position or interpretation of a local standard, should there be a significant change in the elected officials. Also, depending on where you are, other agencies might have significant impact on how you do your job. For example, in California the California Coastal Commission is the final authority in coastal communities, which can lead to some contentious discussions about how a project is reviewed.

Lastly, this sort of planning is only one of many areas in the larger field of Urban/ Regional Planning. Planning.org is having issues (for me) right now, so I'll point to these archived pages: What Is Planning? and major planning divisions. Missing from that second page is the intersection of public health and urban planning, which is its own field, Health Planning, in some areas.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:00 AM on October 21, 2012


I am an economist with a small U.S. Federal regulatory agency you've never heard of. It pays well, but I would much rather have Rodrigo Lamaitre's job.

I spend most of my time at my desk
(a) reading email and answering minor policy or data-analysis questions,
(b) doing research, creating spreadsheets, and producing documents related to economic analysis of our office's activities and the quality of our data,*
(c) editing or re-editing those documents because the executives don't understand or want to put their stamp on something, legal is concerned about clarity, or something in the external policy environment has forced us to change our tack,** or
(d) reviewing or editing other people's work (since the previous reference to "other duties as assigned" is particularly true in an organization where it's hard to hire or fire people, so if for example you are competent with written language or interpreting numbers you will be valuable to management beyond what your job title actually implies).

Very little of my time is actually spent interacting with other people. The majority of that is sitting in meetings;*** occasionally it involves giving presentations on or defending my work (either before the higher-ups in my department or OMB, who serve as the gatekeepers to regulatory publication). I probably use my phone about twice a week.

*This is often the most engaging part of my job, yet comprises a pretty small portion of my overall time.
**This is the worst. I have approximately 30 drafts of an evaluation for a proposed rule that has been a hot button for three years now and transmogrifies every six months. Also, when you are the office's only quantitative analyst, you quickly learn how much other people hate, fear, and fetishize numbers.
***Check that, this is the worst.

posted by psoas at 8:26 AM on October 21, 2012


I am a software engineer in a mid sized company that contracts with the (US) government. I also act as the development lead on my project and as a group lead for a few engineers.

I spend most of my time in the lab that houses my project. While there, I:
(a) keep track of what the other engineers on the project are doing
(b) keep an eye on the bug tickets and task ticket to make sure nothing's slipped through the cracks
(c) test the system we're building to see what needs to be addressed, e.g., is it fast enough, thorough enough, sufficiently stable, do old known working test cases still work
(d) write code (the single largest task and the most enjoyable)

Since I'm the development lead, I also:
(e) make sure the tech lead and program managers are informed on the progress and status of the project
(f) provide tasking to the engineers on the project
(g) make decisions about how we will solve a particular problem
(h) determine whether an observed behavior is a bug (and its importance)
(i) keep a mental model of how the system works and how its components interact
(j) track and manage the staffing and schedule of the program

Since I'm a group lead, I also:
(k) talk with the engineers I manage to make sure they've no issues that need addresses
(l) talk with the engineers I manage to tell them things they should know (mostly information about what the rest of the company is up to)
(m) meet with other group leads in my department to find out what I should know and if there are larger issues that need addressing

Additionally, I:
(n) occasionally get called on to interview or phone screen candidates
(o) try to keep up with the research in my field, which usually involves reading whitepapers and talking with other engineers at the company about those whitepapers
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity at 9:14 AM on October 21, 2012


I'm a prof teaching art and humanities at a college. A typical day has me lecturing or teaching in the studio for 2-3 hours, holding office hours and meeting with students for an hour or so, grading, researching or prepping classes for 2-3 hours and messing around talking with colleagues if I have some time to kill. There are occasional special events and various meetings.
posted by Cuke at 5:47 PM on October 21, 2012


I was recently hired to work for a check cashing company.

Very thorough background check / drug screen
and had to get fingerprinted (digitally)
because the job required a sub-agent insurance license that required fingerprints on file.

I'm finding counting large sums of cash interesting and dirty all at the same time.
posted by TangerineGurl at 7:02 PM on October 21, 2012


"intern" architect, meaning I work on architecture but am not yet licensed. Hours are generally about 10-11 hours/day at my current office - other offices can be less or more. My time breaks down similarly to LionIndex's. I spend the vast majority of my time overall documenting designs in AutoCAD. Depending on phase, I also spend a lot of time developing designs in 3D (SketchUp) and creating client presentations. I do some rendering occasionally. Up until construction begins, almost all of my time is spent drawing in 2D or 3D.

But, right now my project is under construction, which means I spend lots of time putting out fires via phone and email, releasing design sketches, reviewing code and budgets, reviewing contractor drawings, and generally making sure what we drew is really what they're out there building. There are many site visits. There is especially a LOT of problem solving, since the real world never looks exactly like your drawings. You have to come up with solutions on the fly to any design-related construction issues as they arise, and you have to come up with them FAST since there are probably between 10 and 50 people needing your direction to proceed on schedule. I also have to keep drawing in between all of this to keep our documents up to date. "Fast paced" is an accurate description.

Overall, there is pretty huge variety in the sort of tasks I am responsible for, depending on project phase, which is both good and sometimes intimidating.
posted by annie o at 10:23 PM on October 21, 2012


I work as a webdesigner and photographer.

I push pixels in Photoshop to make designs.

I code HTML/CSS mockups.

I have meetings with clients. I spend a fair amount of time driving to clients.

I code interactive prototypes.

I solve bugs in existing sites (sometimes).

I answer e-mail (mostly about new projects).

I organize photoshoots & shoot.

I test new cameras.

I write blog posts & tweet.
posted by wolfr at 1:39 PM on October 31, 2012


I'm a software engineer at a giant software company. I sit at a desk all day other than one 1-hour meeting. Probably 2-3 hours of my day is spent writing code, the rest is organizing write-ups, trying to reproduce problems, sending emails.

The nice part is that I have a lot of flexibility -- I can take off for a couple of hours or work from home for a day whenever I feel like it, as long as I get the work done. Lately I've been taking off in the middle of the day to run home and take my dog for a quick walk, which is pretty great.

But I'm also jealous of my friends who have jobs that they can forget about when they go home. I'm often answering emails at midnight or thinking about some crazy solution to a problem at 2 am. I had a bad cold this week and couldn't take any time off because I had an upcoming deadline. There's a great deal of pressure and I'm always afraid I'll miss a deadline and get yelled at. So it definitely has its ups and downs.
posted by miyabo at 8:14 PM on October 31, 2012


I'm also an English teacher, in Japan, at a junior high school. Many junior high teaching jobs involve teaching once weekly oral communication course, but at my school, the foreign teachers are in the classroom for all six hours of English classes a week, for each group. I'm currently teaching two third year classes (essay writing and speaking skills) and one first year class (general English, including grammar, speaking, writing, reading, pronunciation... and on and on). Third year is equivalent to 9th grade in the States, first year is 7th grade. I have three classes a day (the two third years, and the first year) Monday through Saturday. On Mondays I've got the third year planning meeting, and on Fridays I run the first year planning meeting. I'm supposed to have the lessons for the following week ready at the meeting, and then run through them with a team of eight teachers, both native speakers and Japanese teachers.

On any given day:
-get to school before 8
-check emails for anything that might pertain to my classes
-enter any scores for homework that I took home to check
-answer students' questions before first period starts
-teach three 50 minute classes
-work on adapting lesson plans from last year to fit a) this year's calendar, and b) any changes in focus we've adopted
-prepare the weekly quiz (for Friday), because it needs to be checked by a couple different people
-answer students' questions at lunch time
-check homework, which could be just a simple worksheet, or weekly tests, or third year essays
-make sure the lessons are ready for the next day, make copies of handouts that will be needed for first year
-answer students' questions after school
-work on long term issues, like scheduling speaking tests, requesting video cameras, booking rooms, getting ahead of the final exam by doing as much prep as possible beforehand

I usually leave anywhere from 5:30 to 7:30, depending on how much I've got on my plate, and how much help I've gotten from other teachers. I almost always take some checking home with me. I'm usually pretty tired by the end of the day. It's an exhausting job, and one that isn't very common here anymore, as many schools hire companies to supply them with teachers. At the very least, for however much longer this lasts, I'm working for a school that cares enough about its English language learning program that they hire their own teachers, and let us plan the lessons.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:39 AM on November 11, 2012


I am an officer in the Israeli military. I train cadets who are going to become officers themselves, from all branches of the military.
I wake up at 0500. I greet the cadets, who are standing at attention outside their barracks. We start the day with breakfast, and then cleaning of the barracks.
During the rest of the day it depends - some days are loaded with studying. I teach them about the military, about war and about leadership. I accompany them to lectures given by higher-ranking commanders. Some days we have field training, which is very intense. For about a week every three months we sleep in tents in the desert and have intense field training regimens.
We have "phys-ed" every day, usually running. They start off running 2km and by the end of their training run 6-10km.
Sometimes we have guard duty, which means sleepness nights for us commanders as we patrol around their different posts.
One week every few months we spend in Jerusalem learning Jewish and Israeli heritage.
I also spend a lot of time one-on-one with the cadets on their different projects. I usually go to sleep at around 0100 after some desk work that I do once the cadets are asleep.

It is a very fulfilling job - every three months I release 15 cadets to undergo the rest of their training, knowing they are one step closer to becoming good commanders we can build the army on.
posted by alona at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a business analyst at a mid-sized software company. You can't buy our product off the shelf --we sign multimillion dollar service contracts with air, rail, and other travel providers. Our "product" is actually a suite of software products. I only work on a small piece of the whole system. My day almost always consists of the following:

1. Emails
2. Meetings
3. Writing Software Requirements*
4. Lunch
5. Water-cooler shenanigans
6. Occasional Internet Diversions
7. Sometimes I travel to customer sites for additional meetings and research/consulting

It's an 8:00-5:00pm kind of job with about an hour for lunch. Work schedule is fairly informal and because I work with clients all over the world sometimes I come in early and sometimes I stay late, and sometimes I work from home because I just can't be arsed to put on pants.

*Essentially this means I work with our clients to discover their business objectives, then interface with my team of developers plus any other software vendors we may need to implement with and we come up with a document showing what the customer wants, what limitations there are, and ultimately how we propose to build it. I do a LOT of reading and writing mildly technical stuff.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:16 PM on November 12, 2012


Late to the party, but...I'm a 24-year-old freelance foreign correspondent, travel writer, and photographer.

This all sounds sorta sexy, but the day-to-day is usually...answering e-mails and harassing people people into giving me quotes. Then writing. I often don't leave my house/hotel room/coffee shop hole during the day when I'm on deadline and subsist primarily on hard cider and potato chips. I blink when I enter the harsh light of the day.

About 20 percent of this time is spent writing, and the other 80 percent is spent watching cartoons on Youtube or reading blogs as I wait for genius inspiration to hit me.

When I had an office journalism job, the day to day was also...answering e-mails and harassing people. Also being upbraided noisily by my superiors, which is pretty normal in this industry.

Here in Southeast Asia, journalists (even competitors) tend to clock out and meet up at the bar. As hanging out in bars has actually done a lot for my career, I like to pretend this is also incredibly important work. Involving Jim Beam and dirty stories.

The other 10 percent of my job is indeed exotic travel, meeting interesting people, eating weird food and chasing rights protests on the back of motorbikes, so I can't complain too much. Although I have decided to just stop worrying about the parasites and roll with it.
posted by cheberet at 4:49 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am an Exhibit Developer for a private exhibit design and fabrication company. I mostly make interactive science exhibits, although the firm I work for makes interactive devices for any field. We do everything from concept design and prototyping to fabrication and installation.

My day varies depending upon what phase of a project we are in.

During the development phase I spend time researching topics and brainstorming exhibit ideas. This phase involves lots of meetings.

During the design phase I spend time building prototypes (I do carpentry, electronics and a small amount of programming. Additionally, other people in my firm do programming and graphic design). Prototyping includes designing the physical elements and involves user testing for some parts of the exhibit, depending on client requirements. This is a fun phase. I spend a lot of time in the wood shop putting things together. I also design and draw out custom circuit boards (which takes patience). Sometimes I get to draw things in a CAD program to be produced on the CNC machine, which is quite satisfying.

During the fabrication phase I spend a lot of time soldering. We do primarily custom electronics fabrication and multimedia. We work with other firms for cabinetry and other physical elements. This phase includes meeting with and installing things with those other firms.

During the installation phase I put in very long days at the client site using hand tools to put things together, adjusting programming on micro controllers, connecting wires and moving things around.

My work is great and each project offers some unique challenges and new ways to learn.
posted by keeo at 7:57 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am Director of Communications at a small renewable energy company. I sit in a lot of meetings where my role is to consider and report on how various current and planned initiatives will play with our various stakeholders. I write a lot of advertising, web, and sales copy personally. I follow the industry news and send out daily briefs of relevant developments to the entire company.

I write or edit a large portion of the emails and other communications that nominally originate from the CEO. I manage a Twitter account. I spend time talking to reporters, building relationships with them in order to get the CEO quoted, the company mentioned, and, ideally, to play some small role in shaping the way renewable energy stories are covered in the media.

I pitch in with whatever needs doing when we have the sort of all-hands-on-deck moments that all small companies occasionally have.

It's a great job.

I also, after hours, serve as Editor for an SFWA-accredited science fiction magazine. In this role, I spend a lot of time on the front lines reading amateur science fiction. A lot of it is terrible, but it still truly feels a privilege to read it. And it is an incredible thrill to find the excellent stories among them. I spend a lot of time sending personalized rejection emails because, as a writer, I know how valuable they are.

When we find a good story, I suggest revisions both large and small to the author. When an author disagrees with my suggestions, I sometimes spend a large amount of time bouncing ideas back and forth in order to find a story we can both be satisfied with.

I also commission illustrations. We really need to bring someone on to get that off my plate, as I am far from being an art specialist.

I go to three or four conventions and conferences a year where I represent the magazine, manning a table and usually also serving as a speaker/panellist.

It is wonderful.
posted by 256 at 8:03 PM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am a criminal lawyer. In my jurisdiction, the profession is split between solicitors (who prepare the case, liaise with the client etc) and barristers, who specialise in appearing in court. I am a barrister.

My day begins at 7am or so as I catch the train in to work. I triage my emails and try and do anything that can be done on the spot. I also try and review what's going to be happening in court that day.

Get into the office at 8am or so. Coffee. More emails. Depending on what's on in court that day there might be some last minute legal research. Court is usually at 10.15 or 10.30am. As 10am drawn nearer, I print out my notes for the day or sync them to my ipad as a pdf. I get changed out of my jeans and t-shirt and put on a white shirt, dark suit pants, my bar jacket, jabot, wig and gown. Throw all my stuff into a bag and lug it to court.

Court might run till lunchtime, or it might run all day. It's hard to describe exactly what might happen in court as it varies from case to case, but it will always involve concentrating insanely hard, listening to what's being said by the judge or other parties, making notes and thinking about my response. Sometimes I will have a very simple sketch about what I'm going to say and I will rely on the 'vibe' to shape what I actually say; other times I have something much more rigid and structured. It's never written verbatim however.

Assuming the matter is over by lunch, then it's back to my room where I will usually eat last night's leftovers sitting at my desk while I deal with all the things that blew up while I was in court.

The afternoon is usually spent in meetings with solicitors - providing advice on matters, preparing upcoming cases or reviewing decisions. It's also the time that I write memos to people explaining the outcomes in court and providing advice on the merits of appeal proceedings. Finally, it's the time of the day where I can organise conferences with clients - either in person or by video link to prison.

I try and get home on time every day so that I can cook for my family and get the kids off to bed, but that does mean that when I am in a complex matter or a trial that I need to take work home with me. I usually start up again at about 9pm and then work for an hour and a half or so.

It's a very draining, very stressful job. Most, if not all of my clients, have complex mental health or disability issues and the cases themselves can be very confronting: think serious sexual assault, homicides etc. It's also nowhere near as glamorous as the media might want to make it out. But on good days it's amazing fun, and I work with a selection of the brightest, smartest, funniest people you could possibly imagine. Even amongst the quotidian routines I have described above there are moments of ribald humour, black comedy and improvised chaos that you just couldn't script if you tried.
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:34 AM on December 28, 2012


My job title is Bid Manager, and I've had it for 15 years.
It means the person who project manages those insane government tenders, or when Wells Fargo lets a tender for ATMs or similar - purchasing on a big scale that needs somebody to help the sales guy.
It is fairly lucrative, because you are close to sales so tend to get their perks, but more secure because you typically don't have a target.
A typical day is made up of project management style meetings with various people who will work on delivery, long meetings with sales managers to talk about what will motivate a purchase and about 50% technical/copy writing to complete a response.
It's one of those roles that the right person can step into with no particular qualifications, yet it is fairly high paid. I would suggest if you are an engineer or a project manager who thinks sales guys job is easy it would be an avenue to pursue.
posted by bystander at 6:34 AM on March 26, 2013


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