Help Me Find A New Career That I'll Enjoy.
October 21, 2009 5:43 PM   Subscribe

I am 37, female, married and have a BA in Psychology and an MA in English/Creative Writing. Was a public school librarian for years and burned out. I need a career and don't know where to go from here. I've spent too long hating going to work, and I want a job I'll love going to every day.

I like: To create things. I like seeing what other people create. I like working with my hands, be it making something or at a computer. I like crafting things in words too. I like stability. I like a balance of routine and newness. I like coming up with ideas. I like working alone mainly, but don't mind collaborating with people on projects. I like to make enough money to where the bills are paid and we can afford some of the extras (vacation once a year, new TV, etc). I can handle being in a cube farm, as long as I can decorate my cube any way I want and there's windows nearby. I like to dress casually for work. I like workplaces where they don't really care when you come in or leave, so long as you get your 8 hours in, and I like working Monday-Friday. I like to do my job and go home.

I don't like: Jobs that are the same thing, every day, all the time. I don't like working with numbers. I don't like someone telling me what to do all the time. I don't like answering phones, or talking on the phone most of the day. I don't like being the first person someone sees when they walk in. I don't like taking work home. I don't like rigidity. I don't like punching a time clock. I don't like manual labor. I don't want to do something that is just 'tab A, slot B' all day long. I don't like training people or teaching seminars. I don't like being cutthroat, stomping on people to get ahead or being a corporate shell. I don't like wearing dresses and pantyhose to work. I don't like working weekends. I don't like work taking over my entire life to where I'm working 80+ hours a week and run myself into the ground.
posted by miltoncat to Work & Money (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe a profession that makes the most of your library experience, while giving you a more varied, grown-up work environment? You could be an archivist, for example, or someone who works in a department of special collections. You could be a book conservator (now THERE's a fun job-- though it requires some special training. U Texas-Austin has a well-known book conservation master's degree, with good placement rates.).
posted by ms.codex at 6:19 PM on October 21, 2009

This is one tall order! Here is what I can think of that might fill the bill, though of course some skill must be aquired:

Technical writer
Software tester
Graphics artist
User interface designer
posted by Osmanthus at 6:22 PM on October 21, 2009

Well, I work in marketing/advertising for an educational publisher and my job includes several of your "likes"--coming up with creative ideas, crafting with words, creating at the computer, working alone as well as working with others on projects, casual dress, and my workspace is a personally decorated cubicle.

However, there is a fair amount of weekend "take-home" work and/or overtime during busy times when big projects are due.

You may need to make a list of your absolute must-haves for a new career, and another list of things you're willing to compromise on, as I've yet to find or hear of a job that is 100% ideal for anyone.

Good luck in making your change--getting up every day to go to a job you hate is certainly no way to go through life!
posted by bookmammal at 6:25 PM on October 21, 2009

Part of my job involves doing research for a non-profit group. I research potential donors to determine their interest level in our work, capacity for gifts, etc. It is a pretty independent job, that I can do in my own timeframe, but I do get to collaborate a bit with other employees. Your library skills would help tremendously, and since it's all internal work, you aren't on the phone or interfacing with clients, customers, donors, etc.

The work itself is pretty routine (always research), but you're researching new people every day and trying to link together family or school connections.

Bigger non-profits and most colleges and universities that do fundraising have a research team. Let me know if you want more info, and good luck!
posted by JannaK at 7:54 PM on October 21, 2009

With your credentials and experience, have you ever thought about becoming a college professor? Not necessarily the full-time, tenure track ivory tower type, but an adjunct (part-time) instructor of English/composition? This is actually what I do now, with an English BA and MA, and I absolutely could not love it more. I checked out your criteria, and the only part that might not suit you so well is the amount of take-home work that it can entail. However, I can tell you that I have NEVER put in an 80-hour week since I started doing this, and that's with at least 4-5 composition classes per semester. It is never boring, always a challenge, but yet you're working off of a fairly concrete schedule and you really get to know the students over time, which lends the air of stability. Actually, I can break this down a bit more specifically:
PROS - No general public (bleccchhhhh), a great deal of freedom in how you design lessons and assignments. This does vary depending on the school, but not a whole lot. It's more like, "here's what we want them to learn, how you get it into their heads is up to you." Generally very relaxed dress code, somewhat of an ability to pick your own hours (again, depending on the school), cool colleagues to hang out with, and definitely allows you to get creative and see what you can do. And, what I think is the absolute coolest aspect of this job, you can actually make a difference in these kids' lives by showing them how to think for themselves, by getting to know them and helping them along and by challenging them to improve themselves. I cannot imagine anything more rewarding than what I do now.
CONS - Again, the major con is the amount of take-home work. But when balanced with the fact that you aren't physically at work for very many hours in the week (I'm there for @20 with 5 courses, 2 different schools), it doesn't mean that your every waking hour consists of work. Other cons...I guess the only other thing I can think of is that it doesn't tend to pay very well. Again, depending. State schools are usually much better as far as $ per course, but private schools will generally net you students who are a little higher on the ability/motivation scale. Also, you do have some marginal control over your pay by choosing how many courses you want to take on per semester (again, depending....)
I can tell you this - ever since I started doing this (going on 5 years ago), I have never ONCE woken up in the morning dreading going to work. I hope this gives you some thought, and best of luck to you whatever course you take.
posted by lucky25 at 8:09 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

PS - Sorry, I forgot to mention this before, I know you said you don't like training people or teaching seminars, but I've done all that crap too, and believe me, it's night and day. I worked for a bank for several years before this, and I had to train and do the seminar thing and it made me want to kill myself. NOT the same thing at all! Good luck!
posted by lucky25 at 8:11 PM on October 21, 2009

Your lists of things you like and dislike were long on atmospherics -- hours, physical environment, dress code, etc -- and pretty short on job content.

If atmospherics are more important to you than content, then you should track down companies which seem to match your atmospheric requirements and connect with some employees doing jobs you might be qualified for.

Informational interviews, especially if you know the right types of questions to ask, can tell you a lot. Chances are, one or more people will describe jobs that you find very appealing.
posted by DrGail at 8:22 PM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by Jacqueline at 9:07 PM on October 21, 2009

Maybe a staff editor/writer at a small publishing house? My dad runs a small outfit that publishes trade magazines and all his employees work from home. The work is varied and you learn a ton about the subject of the magazine. Of course, right now is a hard time to be publishing anything, but if you get a job with a reasonably healthy company that has low overhead in a not-too-poor-right-now industry you can probably assume it'll stay afloat for awhile if it's stayed afloat so far.
posted by crinklebat at 10:27 PM on October 21, 2009

I would like to second what lucky25 said: I work in a school having worked in numerous other types of workplace, and I love the school thing. It has its frustrations but they are *nothing* compared to the hum-drum, workaday, incessant, crushing boredom of working in cube-land. I have never lasted more than 2.5 years in an office, but worked at one school for more than 7 years. One thing is you get to meet and interact with clever people, who are often individualists and appreciate that you, too, are not a machine.

I am not a teacher though, but an IT systems administrator. There are other jobs in schools (dare I say, librarian?) which also give you plenty of space to do your own thing while contributing to one of the most important things any individual can do: educating others. (I have also worked in adult training but it's nothing like the same.)
posted by BrokenEnglish at 5:28 AM on October 22, 2009

Good luck getting an archiving job in this economy.

On a more encouraging note, kinda, what about copyediting/proofreading/developmental editing? (Jacqueline's "editor" above was vague; there are a lot of different kinds of editors.) Depending on your employer, whether you work on staff or freelance, and various other options, there can be some repetitious aspects, and with "old-fashioned" paper-and-pencil editing, there's definitely an inbox/outbox routine to the average day: the unedited MS pile is higher at first, and gradually the edited pile gets higher. Then you start over with another one. On the plus side, there can be limited human contact, meaning you usually don't have to dress up (a huge, huge draw for me too!), and you definitely get to leave your work at home after your eight hours (ditto on the attraction there). Again, it depends on the specific situation. If you edit for a glossy magazine, you'll stay late when it's deadline time, but you might get comp time the week after. If you work for a law firm onsite, get out the suit. If you work at home for a science publisher, don't bother getting dressed at all and set your own hours. Seriously, explore this. I went the other direction (publishing to libraries) and I did so precisely because of the similarities. Memail if you want more input, or if you want to tell me to shut the hell up already.
posted by scratch at 7:36 AM on October 22, 2009

I favorited this because it sounds like I wrote it... I am careerless-but-content and it sounds like we have very similar work-personalities. Man, I'd love to have a career creating things. I can't wait to see all the comments.

I will attempt to contribute by stating though it's not really a "career," I find that my current job in academic administration (at a University, at the Department level) meets a lot of our overlapping requirements.

- 9-5 Mon-Fri, work to live NOT live to work, leave your work at home, no working weekends
- Casual dress
- No corporate high-strung bullshit; relaxed, friendly atmosphere
- Stability and routine (I work on a somewhat predictable Academic Year cycle)
- People around here are late, go on errands, take long lunches, but all is well as long as you get your work done and don't procrastinate too hard (though I do get a good deal of procrastination in)

Does not necessarily check:
- There's a fair amount of phones, but most of my work is done through email.
- Professors can be difficult to work with, though I guess the "easy" ones balance out the "tough" ones
- Your work is paperwork based. Not a lot of pride there. But hey, like I said, it's work-to-live (plus extras) and not live-to-work
- Doesn't really qualify as career, which I think of as a ladder-climbing, taking-on-new-responsibilities, aiming toward management type stuff. Not really my cup of tea right now.

All this depends on the type of position... obviously any form of entry-level, hourly-paid, reception position or a financial admin position (I want nothing to do with managing $, either) would blow, but if you can avoid that, it's a happy life.
posted by mostlybecky at 8:31 AM on October 22, 2009

I think you should start your own business. And I don't think it really matters what the business is, other than something that you can start now, on the side, very cheaply.

Running your own business is, in my opinion, a creative process whether or not the product or service is creative. And if you're involved in every aspect of the business then you'll definitely get the chance to put your creative muscles to work in a specific fashion as well.

And, naturally, you get to determine your own work environment.

Good luck.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 11:08 AM on October 22, 2009

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