Give me a career direction!
June 22, 2009 11:36 AM   Subscribe

What kind of job can I get with this business degree that would let me have a degree of autonomy over my work, interact with my coworkers, and provide a measure of stability in this unhappy economic climate?

I'm going into my third year of undergrad at a Canadian university in Ontario, currently working towards a Bachelor of Commerce with a BA Minor in Sociology. My tentative plans after graduation include getting a CA (Chartered Accountancy), working a few years, and then maybe studying law if I'm still interested at that point. I don't think that I want to stay in Canada indefinitely, mostly because of the climate, and I'm toying with the idea of either working in the States or going to Australia.

For the past two summers I've worked at a federal government job. The department I'm working at is related to my field in name, but not so much in practice. Mostly I've been doing clerical and documentation type work - writing procedures, updating files, translating, etc.

I am a very risk-averse person. I picked a Commerce degree in favour of the traditional liberal arts education that I probably would've enjoyed a lot more because I was concerned about my future job prospects. I'm also not your typical "passionate" person - not to say that I'm wholly emotionless, but I tend to subscribe to the philosophy that you can find enjoyment and misery in any job, no matter what it is, and I figure I don't really love one thing enough to give up stability in order to pursue that one thing wholeheartedly for 30+ years. That's also the main reason I would be getting the CA designation. I haven zero interest in investing and trading, but I don't mind accounting and find the policy kind of interesting. I think I might genuinely enjoy law, but the high cost of tuition makes me want to wait and see for now. I will be taking two business law courses next year to give me a better sense of what the field is actually like.

My rationale for working in the public service involve finding a job that I can leave at the office once I do get off work, leaving me enough disposable income to enjoy my hobbies without too much concern about financial shortcomings. In my spare time, what little there is currently, I read, draw, write, play and listen to music, and get too invested in reading interesting online debates. At school I'm part of a debate team, an auditing committee, an international affairs club, and some volunteer gigs. I have a pretty solid social circle, but we're the nerdy video game type, and don't go out much - I've always also considered myself a fairly introverted person. Being in Commerce and fielding the associated networking events I find that I've gotten much better at staying calm in unfamiliar circumstances and talking to people I wouldn't otherwise have talked to, but I don't thrill at these situations by any means.

However, recently I've realized that as much as I like my alone time, the cubicle-farm environment of your typical office job kind of depresses me. Things are very much isolated in my current work environment, and apart from giving me assignments and receiving my finished products, I don't interact much with other people in my office. I've tried to reach out and chat to a few of the younger workers, but while they're always friendly, there's been no overt reciprocation of friendliness. Everyone is pretty much content keeping to themselves.

I had an interview with an ad agency earlier this summer and I really liked the casual, friendly atmosphere at that office, and I feel (perhaps mistakenly) like that type of atmosphere is mostly prevalent in the private sector. I think I would like a job that allows me control over my final output and the quality thereof, but still lets me interact with other people on the team/in the office. The Canadian government has a system of bridging in summer students, and this is most feasible if they worked at that department summer between third and fourth year. My questions are as follows:

1) Given the above back story, what type of work is out there? I'm sure there are tons of jobs I haven't even thought of, beyond "accountant", "investment banker", and "office drone".

2) Would it be unwise to give up a two-summer history with this department right before my final summer (and thus potentially crucial bridging term) and try to go for a private sector job for next summer, when the private sector is unstable and will in no way guarantee me a position after graduation?

Any input is appreciated. Thanks very much!
posted by Phire to Work & Money (5 answers total)
banking regulator/central bank, but it's still office work and not an office I've experienced so I can't speak for the culture. The regulator in Sydney was looking recently too I believe.

re 2) depends on whether you intend continuing in public service.
posted by fistynuts at 11:59 AM on June 22, 2009

Consider the things you like, particularly in the realm of consumables, and look into finding jobs with companies that make whatever it is you enjoy consuming. For instance, since you like reading and writing, you could look into jobs with publishers (this is my personal example since it's what I'm looking for). I'm not entirely sure what a Commerce degree entails, but most the most common job openings with publishers are in publicity and marketing, which will involve promoting and marketing books, obviously, but the marketing departments also frequently are involved in evaluating potential acquisitions for saleability.

Since publishing is such a low margin industry, people who can make those numbers-based evaluations are important, particularly if they're working for companies who have a lot of idealistic editors working for them. You'd also be working with and promoting books, which are a product you enjoy. The other side of this is that because it's a low margin industry, your pay is probably not going to be as good as working for an actual ad agency or as a marketer in some other, more boring industry. I have no idea how many publishers there are in Canada, since most US publishers operate in Canada as well. I imagine there are some.

In the same way, you could look into jobs with music or video game companies. Marketing and accounting probably make up the largest proportion of jobs for those industries, too, though they're outside my realm of experience so I don't know as much about them.
posted by Caduceus at 12:09 PM on June 22, 2009

I work at a public library in Ontario. A three year degree can get you a job working the reference desk for about $25-30/hour. Stable, secure union job with an Omers pension and generous vacation/sick time. My work is a lot of fun and have amazing co-workers. I work with customers and I love my job but I leave it at work at the end of the day. There are also jobs in administration that may be more suited to a commerce degree. A MLIS would take you further though. You might also find something in a municiple/regional government. The problem is, these stable, well-paying jobs are extremely popular right now. I have also always been very conservative in my education employment choices (legacy of graduating secondary and university during the last brutal recession) and I am glad now I always went for the safe bet. I'd do the third year with the federal government personally. I think it is easier to switch from the public sector to private versus the other way 'round. Why not take the fed job for the summer and see about picking up part-time/freelance work in a few different industries to network and get a feel for them?
posted by saucysault at 12:51 PM on June 22, 2009

The work environment in the public sector can vary widely. Four instances I know of:

A man in his late 20s, who now finds he gets along better with his older coworkers than with the younger ones. The degree of interaction can be fairly low (input/output), but once you're seen as a peer, there's more chit-chat.

A woman in her early 30s, who just loooooves interacting with her bosses, and spends a good part of the day chatting with them, joking, etc.

A woman in her mid 20s, with a student position, answering the phone. She spends most of her off-time chatting with her coworkers (she loves to talk).

A woman in her mid 30s, with an analyst's job (and a MBA), who's very nice to everyone, but tends to keep to herself; she's otherwise very outgoing in her life outside work, which is very full.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:16 PM on June 22, 2009

Hey guys...I'm friends with Phire, and (with her permission) I'd thought I'd share my take on her personality so you'd have an outside opinion about what she's like.

Phire is incredibly driven, so much so that I'm a little amazed at the workload she takes on during the school, both in her studies and in her extracurricular activities. (And I mean stuff like Debating, not Kayaking Club.) She's frighteningly mature for an undergrad and remarkably articulate, but she's also creative and funny and down-to-earth. I know this sounds like a recommendation letter, but it's true: she's smart and ambitious without being a jerk or a creep or a robot.

I think the idea that she might enjoy working in a non-creative role in a creative industry is a good one. (For example, I think she'd be a phenomenal account manager at an ad agency.) Maybe others can make some suggestions along those lines?
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:12 PM on June 22, 2009

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