Jobs you never imagined having but whch you love anyway
September 29, 2008 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Some of us have jobs we've imagined having since we were kids (doctor, lawyer, ballerina...). And some of us have jobs with weird titles we never imagined having or somehow stumbled into (acquisitions editor, paid search marketer, partner services representative, circulation manager, health services coordinator...). Many of us in the latter category love our jobs - either because we're good at them, we get paid well, we like the people we work with, value the company's mission, or all of the above. I want to hear from you happy people with weird job titles.

If you have one of these odd job titles you never imagined holding but find your job rewarding and enjoy it nonetheless, please share your story.

1) How did you find this job?
2) What do you do? (don't narrate your day at work, but give us the essentials)
3) Why do you like it?

This sounds like randomsurveyfilter but I am helping someone quite real with an immediate career search and this info would be helpful. In a career search, looking out into the world trying to picture the job you want, I believe that 80% of the job market is just opaque: the jobs just aren't things most people starting out will even think of. I'm asking for your stories as aids to imagination - as inspiration - as help pulling back the curtain to reveal the bizarre, odd-sounding, lesser known but still great opportunities that are out there but may be hard for my friend to see.

So please help my friend apply some imagination to the process by illuminating your own weird career tale with a happy ending. I'm sure all of them will help in some way, and some of them might be gold. I'm not including specific areas of experience because there isn't a strong investment in any one, and I believe that the stories of maneuvering your way into a weird but great job have applicable aspects across industries, etc...
posted by scarabic to Work & Money (31 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a software engineer, which isn't a weird title. However, I think you might be interested in the job title of some of my coworkers, which is "customer specialist". I've also heard people with similar jobs called "customer advocate".

Their job is to talk to customer support representatives who have escalated a problem to the highest level, find out what the problem is, triage it, and if it's something that's never been seen before they bring it to engineers right down the hall and tell us to fix it. I imagine this is EXTREMELY satisfying work because I've worked support and the most annoying thing about it is the fact that there are some problems that you don't have documentation to fix and you just have to apologize. It would be so cool to be the uber-support agent who can chase down the people who actually wrote the software and make them figure out what's wrong. Customer specialists at my company also look at the results of post-contact surveys and see what customers are pissed off about, and send us a big spreadsheet once a month to help engineers prioritize features and fixes. They also work with marketing because they have contact with customers quite regularly and know what makes them tick and/or drool.

Unfortunately it may be hard to find a job like this - we're the only group in my company that has any, as far as I know, and they've all been in their jobs for many years because they know it's a great gig. They seem really happy. I think most of them at one point worked as support agents and just bubbled up into the role.
posted by crinklebat at 8:32 PM on September 29, 2008


I work for the Geek Squad.

Let that settle in for a minute.

Ok so I know there's tons of bad press around Geek Squad and Best Buy. How we eat babies or something. Whatever. I'm not going to attempt to defend, disprove or argue with any opinion of them. They've already made up their mind. What I will say is that I've never been challenged on so many different levels as I have with the Geek Squad. Intellectually, socially, creatively all of these things come into play on a daily basis.

Specifically, I work in the Data Recovery Department. I've got a pretty odd job title. Super Senior Counter Intelligence Agent (SSCIA). On a daily basis I deal with people that have had their most precious memories, important tax documents, their entire lives flushed down the toilet for one reason or another. It makes me feel incredible to be able to retrieve photos from a piece of media that contains the only existing photos of a widower's deceased wife. I've never gotten the same connection with people like I do there.

Previously I was a systems administrator for a privately owned mom & pop printing company. I did it all. I wired the phones, I ran and built all of their servers. I stretched cable to every conceivable end of their building by myself. It sucked, I was underpaid. Unappreciated, etc etc. I put in my two weeks notice when I discovered that Geek Squad City was opening up.

I've never had active, honest feedback about my performance in a company. Maybe it's because of where I live. I've never had the chance anywhere else to sit down with a VP of a company to pitch new ideas. It excites me. It makes me feel good to put my uniform on every day.

The company has a really great history of innovation and caring for its employees. Brad Anderson puts up his own pocket money for innovative ideas from employees. We work with every major spyware and antivirus company to improve their products. We sponsor things like Ideafest. But I guess people only want to believe what they want to read on tabloid blog sites that have an agenda. I'm not going to excuse the actions of bad employees, but there's much more to this company than what most people see.
posted by jackofsaxons at 8:56 PM on September 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


The most fulfilling job I ever had was as the cook for a preschool. No A/C, all the popsicles I could eat, and I eventually persuaded the owner to let me add oregano to the gallon jugs of "101 Sauce" that was used for tacos, spaghetti, and chili. I was 17 and I don't think I've had that much responsibility since.
posted by amtho at 9:08 PM on September 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Medical Biller. Never did I ever think I would be in a job that I had to be good at numbers. This is the girl that flunked math. However, all in all it is a very rewarding field to be in. I work with Internal Medicine and Cardiologist. Knowing how to look up codes and price out certain services is a lot of fun. Keeps the brain working.
posted by JAD'E at 9:42 PM on September 29, 2008


ReadyMade magazine has an "How'd You Get that @#$#%$ Awesome Job?" column in their issues you might want to read.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:16 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


McSweeny's magazine's Interviews With People who have interesting jobs:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/unusualjobs/index.html
posted by spatula at 10:43 PM on September 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


I am a school bus router. I have to get 22,000 kids to 60 schools in a 2 1/2 hour window. I love my job. It is like doing a huge sudoku puzzle every day. I am very underpaid for what I do.
posted by JujuB at 11:12 PM on September 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Associate Director of a career center at a university.

Nobody wakes up in the morning and chooses career counseling as a path, so there's a pretty eclectic bunch of people with amazing, adventurous backgrounds that one often gets to work with.

I like my job because career counselors are one of the few populations that usually consistently work in healthy, sane environments. Mainly because we're one of the few groups that have normalized the idea that different people think differently about work, but for the most part agree that should involve something that brings you satisfaction however you define it. We also can usually talk to each other about how to make work better, because we have a common vocabulary in which to talk about what isn't, well, working for us. Regular, useful feedback is the norm, professional pleasure is not looked down on, and conflict usually doesn't spiral out of control. It's not perfect, but it is healthier.

Basically, everyday I get to talk with intelligent, curious and adventurous students and trainees and help them explore what in the world they might want to do with their time on earth and learn the skills to do it. I help them think about how and what they think about work (you are not your job! Unless of course, you want to be - then that's okay too!), and understand how a healthy, rich professional life evolves over...well, a lifetime. It feels good when you help people understand and feel good about their informed choices.

Personally, I can write CVs in my sleep. In job interviews, I know how to engage people in sincere and useful conversations because I actually understand how and why they can be valuable. In those same interviews, I can usually suss out toxic work environments and people by the time I hit the door. I fear no salary negotiation.

But oddly enough, I cannot leap over buildings in a single bound.
posted by anitanita at 11:44 PM on September 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


1. I'm a technical writer at a soap factory. I got recruited. I have BS in Biology, and as a research tech I had a lot of documentation-type experience on my resume.

2. Mostly what I do is translate engineerese into English for work instructions -- the detailed recipes the production guys follow to cook up a 7000kg vat of Acne-Eliminating Moisture-Rich Face Wash or whatever it is. This is fun. I also revise specifications -- the list of characteristics any given batch of the product must have to be released into the wild, pH X, viscosity Y, Salicylic Acid content Z%... This is boring. Lately, I am doing more and more training materials. This is fun.

3. It's great. Untangling the output of an engineer's brain so a regular person can understand it is surprisingly fulfilling. And when the production guys have ideas for process improvement, I can put those in a form engineers can understand, which is fulfilling too. I get to do some Photoshop, which is my favorite computer game. Hours are very flexible. I'm not advancing Science, but I am helping to make people cleaner.
posted by Methylviolet at 11:47 PM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh whoopsie. And I found the job because I had a work study position in the dean's office when I was in graduate school studying for an entirely different, non counseling degree in a totally different field- and couldn't figure out what the heck I could do with it. When I started to figure out options, I realized that it was nuts that this information was not available to me when I was an student (my career centers at my undergrad and grad schools weren't strong). So a position opened up in a career center that needed someone to help students who were pursuing the area I got my master's degree. (quite common, actually).

So I explained that I worked in student services during graduate school, knew the field and had hoards of knowledge both about career paths and ideas about how to share it with students (since I had just finished figuring it all out during my own job search). They hired me. Pretty lucky, I think.
posted by anitanita at 11:53 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm an auditor. No, I can't do your taxes because I know nothing about tax or accounting. I'm a quality systems auditor and if you suggested at any time in my life up until about four years ago that there was the remotest possibility of me even thinking about the chance that I would end up where I am, I would have laughed in your face. A series of chance encounters led me down this path, really - it's easy to see where the path led from this end but there would have been no way to predict that I would end up here from where I was 15, 10 or even 5 years ago.

Specifically, I do this auditing. I get to work with a great team of people, for a great boss and can feel that I am (maybe in a very small way, but still ....) contributing to society in some way. I've travelled all over this wide brown land, met some great people (and some real arseholes, of course but, you know, swings and roundabouts etc) and had some great times. Actually, as of this week, I'm not an auditor any more, because now I'm a manager, responsible for all the auditors in my state, but I still think of myself as one and still describe myself that way.

If I had to give advice to someone about where to seek a career, I would say to not think to narrow - think about the sort of things that you might like to do and then find an industry or a job that does those things. Think about the areas around those jobs, too, because there are often lots of great jobs at the fringes of industries that nobody knows about and where organisations struggle to get quality staff. We have this problem to a huge extent - although the people in our team love their job and have no intention of leaving soon (if ever), it's really hard to attract people with the right mix of industry experience and personal attributes that make a good auditor. Look around the areas where you think you want to work, turn over a few rocks and see what jobs pop up. You just might surprise your way into that dream job you never knew existed.
posted by dg at 12:44 AM on September 30, 2008


I got some interesting answers when I asked something akin to this in January. I got a lot of great answers from people and it's really helped me with the direction my work life will eventually go.
posted by damnjezebel at 1:08 AM on September 30, 2008


I found my job through "connections". Getting your foot in the door at such a high level of restaurant is very difficult even for Japanese people. I am an 追い回し oimawashi which literally means "run around". What it really means is that I do everything and anything that my superiors tell me to do at a traditional Japanese restaurant. in a given day I can be collecting tuna spines at the market at 5am, killing turtles, cleaning the grease trap, or shredding hundred dollar mushrooms. I like my job because people give me the responsibility to do things I have never done before because they trust that I wont fail.

追い回し oimawashi n.: to chase about, to hang on, to drive hard
posted by Infernarl at 3:15 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I work in recruitment marketing and communications. If you'd told me five years ago this is what I would have been doing, I'd have been baffled.

I worked for an IT consultancy for two and a half years (again, more by accident than design, I did English Lit for a degree), and realised it was the consultant bit that I enjoyed more than the IT part, i.e. working with lots of different clients, doing pretty cool things for them pretty quickly and so on.

Now I work for an agency that works with companies all over the world. I'm in Canada for work right now, for example. I write internal communications, strategy documents, ad campaigns, website copy - all sorts of things. I get to tell very senior client people why the language they use is distancing and corporate-sounding, and how to be more direct and honest with the people they want to recruit. And because I'm working for an expert communications firm, brought in because of our expertise, I get listened to, even though I'm in my mid-twenties. It's an intoxicating and exciting experience.

I think it won't be forever though - I plan on getting through at least one or two more careers in my lifetime, and my next career definitely won't be in front of a computer monitor. No idea what it's going to be, but when you find a job that actively interests and excites you, it's amazing how the little things (getting up on time, eating well, exercising) suddenly become so much easier.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:27 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm the chief Operating Officer for MetaFilter. This is sort of a joke because we don't really have any org structure but at some point we all gave ourselves "chief" titles. Really I'm a community moderator. The job -- which many people are surprised is actually my job -- pays really well. It's full-time where full time means I work about 10-15 minutes of every hour I am awake unless I am on an airplane or in the woods. I spend a lot of time answering email, fixing HTML, writing back and forth to my co-workers on a mailing list or on IM, answering user questions in MetaTalk and trying to figure out what's likely to happen an hour in the future when I decide what to do about what's happening. I put out social fires in some ways.

I got this job basically by being a superfan, being level-headed and being someone the site boss thought he could trust to make decisions basically in the same way he would make them. At some point I was making a "hey you know what would be great..." suggestion about the site like I always did and he was going away on vacation so he gave me his password and said "keep an eye on things" and I did. When he got back, he gave me admin privileges. At some point I started getting paid regularly and this year I became a bona fide w-2-toting employee.

I like this job because I can do it from anywhere and I have a pretty bad travel bug. My other job-type job is that I travel around the world being a public speaker-type person at library conferences. I get paid to teach librarians about computers and to be engaging and informative. This is higher-stress because sometimes it's fun and sometimes it sucks and you never know which it will be until you get there, no matter how much it pays. When you say "public speaker" people think you mean like Tony Robbins and I think they always look at me a bit like i'm going to try to sell them something, but mostly I tout the benefits of Open Source software and little libraries saving money by learning to use new technologies.

So both job titles -- and I'm also a fill-in librarian at a few local libraries -- don't really reflect what I do much at all and people sort of look at me funny when I explain them, much less when I explain that they pay, and pretty decently
posted by jessamyn at 5:58 AM on September 30, 2008 [8 favorites]


I am a production coordinator.

An easier and more fun way to state it is that I make magazines. I layout articles, deal with the printer in working out the numbers we are going to print, deal with advertisers/designers on getting their ad material and making sure it passes our ad review (I work for a non-profit scientific journal so all ad claims have to be backed up 100%.) I also lay out the actual issue itself, dealing with copy percentage vrs ad percentage (you never want more than 75% of your mag to be ads. Changes what you are charged for postage) as well as flow and keeping competing advertisers away from each other. There's tons more to the job, but that's the gist.

I got it through a temp agency. They saw I had Quark and Photoshop skills and here I am. Groovy job.
posted by Windigo at 6:06 AM on September 30, 2008


I'm a Business Systems Analyst, basically a mix of a Business Analyst and a Systems Analyst. Since the job is kind of weirdly defined to begin with I end up doing a lot of different things, some of which don't traditionally fall to a BA or SA: requirements gathering, negotiating between business people and IT people, system testing, writing user documentation, and other stuff. It's fun, a lot of the time.

I sort of drifted into the job. I graduated from college with a theater degree, and quickly realized that I didn't have what it takes to work a day job and go to auditions and the like. In a bit of a panic, I got a job at [A MAJOR RETAILER] as a bookseller. I discovered I loved the work. Did it for a few years, moving through different positions (periodicals clerk, inventory manager, trainer, merchandising manager, etc.). Eventually I made the move from field work to the home office coming here as an Assistant Buyer.

The group I was working with had some unique product lines and stores, so we had to do a lot of our own reporting and the like to get our jobs done. I learned to mess around with access queries and IBM's "Work With Query" program on the AS400 (or System i as it's now called). This lead to learning a little bit of SQL, and working more closely with IT people than some of the other merchandising folks. When we started introducing some new systems, I was asked to work on the implementation as a full time Subject Matter Expert. After I'd done that for a while, I was asked by one of the IT bosses if I had ever thought of coming over to that side. Why, no, no I hadn't. But it sounded good.

That was a little over two years ago, and I'm still enjoying it. There's lots of different challenges and always something new to learn. There's a chance I'll start learning a bit of the RPG programming language this year or next year, which will be another new and interesting thing, and will probably lead to other new and interesting things.

Basically I haven't been terribly aggressive about following a career path, but I've got to an interesting place by always saying "sure, I'll try that" when someone offered me something new to do.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:12 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a writer-artist-producer-director-adguy-comedian-cartoonist.

Started out with a journ degree. Worked in a factory. Took the lowest paying job on the planet to get back in my profession. Wrote ad copy. Learned graphic arts because it helped express that copy. Learned radio and TV production because it helped me express my ideas, and found I had a knack for directing/working with actors. Worked for a newspaper. Turned out I was good at advertising. And an occasional op-ed piece. Tried standup comedy to because I always wrote humor but wanted to understand it better. Later in life learned to draw ... apparently good enough to get a comic syndication deal. Next up ... learning animation and getting better at scoring music.

It all seems disparate but it basically boils down to being the guy who has to put something on a blank sheet of paper. All the skills I learned to help me do that better than other people. Clients noticed and ask me to do more. It kind of gathers its own momentum from there.
posted by lpsguy at 6:33 AM on September 30, 2008


I'm an Environmental Consultant. One of the areas I specialize in is Environmental Management Systems (EMS). I just started in this role, as I recently made a career switch from the IT field. Basically, my job is to go into companies and do an evaluation of how they are performing from an environmental perspective and give them recommendations on how they can improve. Then I help them set targets and track their performance, help set up training programs for employees, and help them get certified by an external certifier if that's what they want to do.

There are pluses and minuses to this kind of work. There is some greenwashing going on, definitely, when companies whose core business is inherently damaging to the environment are getting awards for their environmental performance. But really, what I try to focus on is making improvements rather than making judgements because that's the only way things can get even a tiny bit better.

I heard there's an old Arab saying (and I wish I knew the details of this) that says something like "If you can't be a lighthouse, at least be a candle." So I'm trying to be a candle for a living, I guess, working in my own little way on a cause I believe in. The pay isn't great, but it's not terrible either, and I sleep better at night than I did when I worked in IT.
posted by hazyjane at 6:42 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a technical project manager and--more important for this question--an information architect at an interactive ad agency. I don't know if this counts as weird, but I definitely had no idea it was a job until I fell into it.

I basically make blueprints for websites: I spec out the architecture of the site (where the information will live) and specify behavior. I present this to clients, work with the programmers to create the site, and keep an eye on design to be sure the site is usable.

I used to work in publishing as a managing and production editor (overseeing the process of getting a manuscript, edited, laid out, and then sent off to the printer) and I got sick of getting paid beans. I had developer friends who pointed out that a similar position existed in interactive companies and paid better, so I got a job at one. When here, I discovered information architecture & user experience and found out that I was good at it. Since it is a small agency, I've just taken on more of that work and made it "my thing." I've learned that a lot of folks who do this sort of work have degrees in library science and there was point where I was considering library grad school (I was accepted but then got an awesome job an so forewent it); clearly I was circling it for a while.
posted by dame at 7:05 AM on September 30, 2008


This isn't technically a job, but I love doing it anyway.

I'm currently volunteering for the Obama campaign, and doing a ton of canvassing and phonebanking for the downticket candidates in my state.

What I like about it is that I have to do what are known as "influence calls" or the dreaded call where you have to talk to the Undecided/Independent voters in your area and politely inquire if they have made up their minds yet (hopefully for your candidate).

What I Love About Doing This:

It's excellent experience on many levels that have nothing to do with politics: you sharpen your people skills (and thick-skin skills), you learn how to debate in a non-aggressive manner, and learn a ton about the electorate and how people really feel about themselves and their country.

One of the most gratifying things I've done since becoming a volunteer is talking peaceably with someone who's deeply ambivalent about taking part in the political process, and in the course of a 3-minute conversation convincing them to do so.

I find myself to be uncommonly good at doing this, in a way that doesn't make me feel like a shill or a demagogue. I say my peace as I see it, frequently without making use of the "talking points", and there's this wonderful pause on the other end of the line where you can physically hear someone's viewpoint changing.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:34 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Job: factchecker

Found it: I was an intern at a magazine, and their factchecker was overwhelmed by a fact-filled article. She asked me to help and showed me the basics. I got additional jobs through networking.

I worked freelance at various magazines in New York City. Before an article went to press, I would go through and verify all the factual information. Is that really his job title? Did she really say that? Was that play really put on in that theater?

I also would think of missing information: Shouldn't we mention not to do this to a load-bearing wall? Should we remind readers not to feed their toddlers raw carrots?

It was interesting, the pay was fine, and it used the same part of my brain that crossword puzzles do. I worked on articles by Arthur Miller and the guy who played Billy on Melrose Place. I spoke to the CIA (about terrorism) and Buckingham Palace (about the Spice Girls).

I don't do it anymore, because I moved from NYC and there's not much of a call for factcheckers elsewhere.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:23 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm a Communications Manager at a very small science museum, which is a title I sort of made up for myself. I started out my current career in the Education Division of a large art museum and then, when I moved away, landed at a much smaller art museum where they had no openings in Education but were hiring an office manager. So I went for the office manager job and discovered along the way that I liked it and slowly, over the course of five years there, it morphed until I was doing a lot more than the original job description. That was when I originally changed my title to Office/Communications Manager. Nonprofits can't afford to hire people for every single job, so every employee ends up wearing a ton of hats and your title never really reflects what you actually do. At the art museum I was the event planner, handled PR & marketing, wrote all the press releases, started doing some small design jobs - in house flyers and posters and so on - did accounts receivable, tracked all the employee hours, distributed paychecks and a whole bunch of other disparate duties. For a while I was the volunteer and membership manager too.

I got hired at this museum because of what I had been doing at the art museum. The job is essentially the same, although I've had to learn a lot about geology and general earth science (my degree is in art history & studio art, with a second degree in art education) which has been really interesting and opened up a whole new area I knew very little about. I also am the only designer here, which is what I really enjoy. What do I do? Well, I handle all the PR and marketing, which is to say I write the marketing plan, such as it is, buy ads, write and design all the ads and brochures and flyers and signs and so on, compile, write and design the newsletter, update the website and in general create the public face of the museum. I'm also the defacto HR person and the IT person until we need to call in a guy who really knows what he's doing - as it is, being the only person who's comfortable with computers here, I do complex stuff like reboot the server now and then and answer questions about why people can't open those files with, you know, that little gizmo drawing on them. (.pdfs. Don't ask.) I also track statistics and donations and handle the membership database, send out donation thank you letters and membership renewals and then, because we are so very small, I sit at the front desk and take tickets and talk to school groups and crack geodes (this is big fun) and once in a while when needed I teach classes. Oh, and I'm still the event planner, so I don't really get bored.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:44 AM on September 30, 2008


I'm a Web Content Designer for a big pharmaceutical firm of which you have heard.

1) I am a contractor, and applied for the position after seeing an online ad. (But I have been doing similar work for years.)

2) I do updates of websites, I produce graphics upon occasion, I design and edit Flash, I do a bit of marketing and product writing and editing, I work with video once in a while, I send email blasts, I wrestle with two content management systems, I talk to users and doctors both here and abroad, etc. Many different hats to be worn.

3) I like it because it isn't the same thing all the time and I can use a lot of my skills. Some days I don't know what the hell is going on, some days I am The Man. I like my co-workers, though the corporate structure leaves a great deal to be desired. (I am also a bit overloaded these days because two other contractors recently left and one other was hired on as permanent employee; I have inherited projects from all three of them.)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:44 AM on September 30, 2008


I've spent the last year consulting the largest NGO (spend-wise) working in the 3rd world on how to strategically manage their supply chain. I'm currently back in the US but I have a few opportunities in my lap to move into longer term management of relief / development supply chains in the 3rd world, and am trying to sort out the right one. If its in the cards, I'll be back in Africa and possibly certain Asian / South American countries in the near future.

That may sound kind of boring, but at the end of the day, doing my job right (or even better) means more people will get food or clean water that wouldn't, otherwise; or a malaria prevention kit, or an AIDS treatment facility, or a school, or emergency medical treatment after a natural disaster. I find it to be both higher pressure and higher meaning than delivering shareholder value and better CEO bonuses.

1) How did you find this job?

I spent about 8 diligent years in industry, just trying to do a good job, making my promotions and so forth, not really knowing where I was supposed to go in the future. I started getting a lot more aware of the bigger social issues on our planet thanks to the internet, movies, and a lot of books I was reading. I got particularly concerned with some of the crises in Africa and started researching ways I could translate my experience in the movement of products to market into the movement of products to those in need. I was incredibly blessed - the company I was working for at that time has a small not-for-profit practice where they offer the same consulting services they do in the first world to orgs working in the third world on relief / development type stuff. I took a salary cut, spent the last year in a dozen or so countries in Africa, and have never worked harder or felt more rewarded in my life.

2) What do you do? (don't narrate your day at work, but give us the essentials)

Generally, I try to help people understand where they could achieve efficiencies that they are not currently recognizing. Classic example: an NGO has National Offices (NOs) in 30-some countries in Africa, all of the most struggling ones. Each of the NOs needs trucks to move their products from their in-country delivery point to the extended delivery points in the field, and on to the beneficiaries from there. Each of these NOs procures these trucks independently from XYZ truck supplier in Japan, at $XXX per truck. But what if the NGO consolidates its NO truck needs for all 30-some countries in the Africa region into one procurement negotiation with XYZ truck supplier? Answer - a smaller overall price per truck. This is just one example, there's lots of other ways to bring 1st world best-practices to bear in 3rd world more-difficult environments. That's what I do.

3) Why do you like it?

It helps people. I, like a hundred million other people on the planet, have been watching in horror as my 401k simply evaporates in front of my eyes over this past month. My hard-earned money, gone. My future security up in smoke thanks to corporate greed and gross governmental mismanagement. But you know what? There's a couple billion people out there who will never have a bank account. Most of them will never have electricity or running water, or basic medical care. I am in the richest 1% of people on the planet.

I know it sounds kind of preachy, and I don't mean it to come off that there isn't meaning in a million other types of jobs (web design, chef, teaching, HR, admin, whatever). The point is that this type of work isn't for everyone - everyone needs to find what fits for them. But this fits for me and I work with some amazing people who are doing amazing stuff to make the world a better place for those who most need a little bit of that in their lives. That's why I like it.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:32 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Official job title: Sr. Public Administrative Analyst.

Unofficial job title: Research Administrator

What I really do: Figure out every day how to ethically conduct clinical trials while fighting regulatory bodies for overstepping their scope.

How I got here: I was the director of a very large state HIV hotline and when our governor cut our funding, I moved on to a major university for more HIV work but more on the clinical side of things. Slowly, I learned how to navigate the ins and outs of human research protections and here I am.

I NEVER thought I would be doing this. I was training to be a rabbi. While still technically in the field of ethics -- very different from what I imagined.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:51 PM on September 30, 2008


Hi, my name is Spatula, and I spam old people.

Sound terrible? Well, that's probably because it is. The older and more vulnerable, the better. The byline on the business card reads 'Direct Marketing Database Analyst' and I don't actually spam the old people, I'm more of a facilitator in the spam process. (I do direct marketing analysis for a Medicare/HMO provider.) I make other people's spam as efficient and cost-effective as possible. I identify particularly spam-receptive populations of individuals, try to identify the most spam-receptive members of any given household, make sure the old people have enough money to be worth spamming, make sure we only spam each unique person once, make sure they are found at a spammable address, etc.

If 2% of the elderly people we paperbomb with spam generate a sale, we clap each other on the back and pop the champagne bottles, because in this business you let X equal the cost of spam and Y be the revenue generated from said spam, and if X <>

I interviewed for the job because I had some SQL experience and was interested in similar work, and was currently unemployed. I knew nothing about the direct marketing industry before this.

I like it for a couple reasons, actually most of which are environment-related - The consulting company I work for is very small, and I definitely feel part of a tight-knit team. Everyone likes each other and there are no toxic work politics. The projects we work on are challenging but not overwhelming. The timelines are usually 1 day to 10 days for a project. I get to play with rocketship-powered servers with more cores than my car has cylinders.

The day-to-day is part set theory application, part SQL Server DBA, part reports/web developer, mostly SQL scripting.

Of course, at the end of the day, I have to block from my mind the fact that all my day's work turns into geriatrically-targeted, unsolicited, unadulterated spam.
posted by spatula at 1:27 PM on September 30, 2008


I'm not inclined to share specifics about my current job which is - in theory - a dream but!

I used to be an assistant to Mr. M*viefone... yes - *that* guy who also did a guest speaking role on Seinfeld and who you hear when you dial 777... for movie film times. My title was 'Assistant to Mr. M*viefone' although Mr. M*viefone has a real name. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that was my title. I believe I record it as "Administrative Assistant' on my resume though because it would be silly otherwise - and it's been 10 years since.

I didn't enjoy the job at all (stayed about a year) and got it because I was in New York at the time (where the head offices are) and just out of college.

That is all.
posted by eatdonuts at 1:35 PM on September 30, 2008


I'm an Adult Services Librarian. No, I don't do dirty things for people with fetishes for support hose, eyeglasses, and hair up in a bun. I'm just a librarian in a public library. For adults (as opposed to children or teenagers). The title is pretty common in public libraries, and I think it's pretty funny, so I don't mind it at all.
posted by Rykey at 3:42 PM on September 30, 2008


I do not have a job title. There was a great deal of humor in the group when we were ordering business cards. Not have a title makes my card look like the card of VIP, but really it's because my job wasn't that well throught out.

1) How did you find this job?
Recruited from another job in the same organization (that I had been recruited into after doing some work for them during a break from what was my alleged career at the time, said career was also an accident.)
2) What do you do? (don't narrate your day at work, but give us the essentials)
Basically, I pitch hit, keep things running smoothly, keep things from slipping through the cracks. For 8 and only 8 hours a day - with time for lunch and to get in all the coursework that's required. There's some (very minor) database work, documentation, and a weensy bit of analysis. Starting to do more with financials in this group, but very low-level.
3) Why do you like it?
I have tremendous respect for the people I work for in this group and this organization in general has accountability all around. You know those people who spend way more time and effort kissing up and kicking down? I don't work with them. You know those endless, incomprehensible vision speeches? Not subjected to them. You know those management sessions where you have a sit down, and your manager puts in writing exactly what you are supposed to do and how it will be measured, and then six months later when you've do it all and more and have the documentation (including raves from clients) to prove it, and they throw all that out and demand that you start doing something entirely different that doesn't even make sense for the organization and is a little bit dicey from an ethics standpoint? Starting to forget what that feels like.

I realize that's vague. There are kind of some client issues. Sorry.

In answer to a question you did not ask, when I was a kid... let's just say I was not raised with the idea of having a career.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:55 PM on September 30, 2008


Like dame, I'm an information architect. It's kind of like being a librarian/building architect for web sites, and I happen to work on multiple large, related web sites, so there's a meta-architecture thing going on as well.

1) I started in hand-coding HTML in the mid-90s, made a living for a while at that, and then realized that IA is a niche of the umbrella term of "web design." I found my current job when I decided I couldn't tolerate my old job after 10 years. I told everyone I know that I was looking for a new situation, and a friend who works at my current company in a non-IT capacity turned me onto some IA openings and personally referred me.

2) I talk to the clients (my team can be considered an internal design agency for our large firm) about their business requirements for the site. e.g., We want to downplay our relationship with xyz subsidiary, we want to encourage people to use our online reservation system instead of the phone, we want to increase revenues next fiscal year by 10%." I marry that with what I know from years of doing this, of reading literature, and of participating in communities of practice to make recommendations about the best way to merge the business's goals with how a user can best meet his or her goals on the site. A typical day includes meeting with clients from the business side of the firm, meeting with developers on my own team to gauge the development effort of what the solution I have in my head, collaborating with my fellow IAs to bounce around ideas about the best design for the situation, and creating wireframes/blueprints that are drawings of the proposed logical layout of the site (or internal application). I'm also called on to be an expert advisor of sorts within my own team on an ad hoc basis. A good wireframe deck is essentially a storyboard showing how both the business and the user can get what they want if there's good navigation, browsing, searching, content organization, link text, content writing, url naming conventions, etc.

3) I like it because I find hard-to-use sites frustrating in the extreme. It doesn't just run to web sites, however; I also get overworked because of usability problems with maps, airport signage, driving directions, parking decks, product labels--anything that's made seemingly without considering how it needs to be USED.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:49 AM on October 8, 2008


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