Designing my next career move
November 22, 2009 2:28 PM   Subscribe

CareerFilter: I enjoy user experience design, and have a successful career at a top agency. Now I want to work fewer hours, have less stress/slower pace, and try something new. Suggestions?

I'm a creative director with nearly 15 years of experience in UX/IxD. I like user research, big thinking/creative innovation, and collaborating with a creative team. I also enjoy mentoring others, teaching UX, and public speaking, such as at conferences.

UX really works for me because it's a great balance between right and left brain thinking. It's one part psychology, one part strategy, one part problem-solving, one part Mad Men advertising concepting, and one part visual design. I also like it because my colleagues tend to be a great combination of smart and quirky.

I like agency work because it gives me a variety of brands and projects to work on, and the clients are well-known brands with wide consumer reach. I bore relatively easily, but in agencies there's never a dull moment.

That's both blessing and curse. The reality of the industry is that the coolest work goes to the top agencies, which are essentially creative pressure cookers. I'd like to get off the treadmill in the next couple of years. I'd like to relax more, take more than 2 weeks off in a year, and take life less seriously overall. I also want to have a kid, which I can't imagine balancing this lifestyle with long-term.

There are bound to be other careers that my skills and aptitude are suited for, right? What else is out there? Please give me your ideas and recommendations.

I know I might be starting over, have to climb from the bottom again, but I'm looking to do something different, so the learning should keep me interested. If it matters, I'm in San Francisco, and I have a degree in Sociology. Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Game design in the casual, social or serious games fields.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:39 PM on November 22, 2009

Some places in the world at least have more annual leave. In Germany and Switzerland around 22 days is the minimum. I could imagine the pace in Switzerland is a little slower, too.
posted by oxit at 2:55 PM on November 22, 2009

Is academia a possible solution for you?

I'm in banking, but in April 2008 left to take an MBA. I'm currently writing my dissertation, will be submitting in January 2010 and expect to receive my degree once the exam board meets a few weeks later.

But I'm not in a rush to return to banking. Since 2003 I had been teaching part time at a University in London and managed to turn that experience into a series of adjunct teaching positions here. While the money doesn't match banking I can't beat the hours, as I'm only working about fifteen hours a week, and that leaves me plenty of time for other pursuits (I'm writing a book on finance and like to take on "interesting" consulting jobs in banking).

Not sure about your field, but the business schools here seem to value professional experience very, very highly (e.g., my current contracts are ranging from thirty six to seventy pounds per hour) and there is no shortage of work, rather the opposite as I've turned down contracts.

Banking? As this question indicates I may never return, at least full time.

I like the pace of teaching and enjoy the freedom to take on short stint consulting roles within banking, rather than sign my soul over to a single firm.

In general I'd suggest trying to stick close to what you know, and try to leverage your current background / experience rather than start over in a totally new field.

An adjunct teaching post might just work towards your goal of less time to work and more time to live.
posted by Mutant at 3:24 PM on November 22, 2009

Did I write this post four years ago? Wow.

I don't have a definitive answer, but maybe it will give you ideas if I explain what I've done since leaving the pressure/stress of agency work: I taught for a bit, web and UI design, then wrote for awhile, magazine articles and a couple of trunk books. Today I consult helping other firms find/screen/build better teams of creative people (which is "as I want it" client-by-client work, so I can take a month off to go to Bali when I wish to.)

I'm also still consulting for a few big interactive clients when they have new websites/films/DVDs/interactive apps coming out, which means something every few months (and an excuse to go back to the West coast in the winters.)

Basically, I criticize and send invoices, which makes it sort of like MetaFilter but with a paycheck. And I get to write off my movie and travel habits as expenses, which is nice. Sometimes I say I'm a consultant. Sometimes I say I'm retired, which sounds better than "bored and lazy".

The downside is that the income isn't steady. Half of my annual income can come from a good month, and I can go two or three months without really billing anything at all. But I've been careful enough with the finances to manage that without any crises yet. You'll definitely want a bit of a nestegg before leaping, especially in this economy.

All that said, I'm not really content: I am getting a bit bored at the repetitive work, feeling un-challenged. I catch myself copy-pasting the same criticisms for different work too often. So I'll bookmark this thread in case anyone else has good ideas on re-spicing a bland career.
posted by rokusan at 5:01 PM on November 22, 2009

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