Help me find a career?
April 19, 2010 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me decide what I want to be when I grow up? (Long, sorry.)

I'm a semester short of finishing a bachelor's degree in creative writing. I didn't go to college right after high school, so I'll be just shy of my 31st birthday when I graduate. Considering most writers I know have a day job, I never expect to actually make a living that way. After navigating the job market during my twenties, I figured any degree was better than no degree and chose to study something I love.

I've been thinking about going to library school, which I know will give lots of Ask.Mefites fits. On the pro side, my state has a very good low-residency MLIS, I live within commuting distance of, no joke, more than ten libraries, several community colleges and the headquarters of a national company that makes those barcodes inside library books and must have librarians on staff. Also, I take a lot of joy in connecting people with information and empowering them to be able to find that information on their own. Plus, I just love books.

Cons are that I'd be taking on a little less than 20k more in student loan debt, the market is totally glutted with newly-minted librarians (but not necessarily in my area,) my own local library doesn't even require an MLIS (but isn't hiring now, alas,) and I have fertility... issues, I guess you'd say, and will have to decide within the next couple of years whether or not I want to go through fertility treatments.

I don't know that I would like to work in publishing. I'm not a great editor, though I'm very good at copy-editing and enjoy doing that. (Watch this question be full of errors, heh.) I don't want to teach. I can work with people one-on-one but do not like being in front of groups. I think I might like working in some sort of setting at a community college, like working in financial aid or advising -- community colleges really helped me out -- but I don't know anyone who works those kind of jobs who can tell me if I'm crazy or not.

I'm just kind of at a loss as to what to do next with my life. I have a job as an office manager now that I'm grateful for but the pay is embarrassingly low and the boss is hell to work for. I am literally counting the days until I've actually graduated so I can get out of there. (I haven't left yet because I am able to rearrange my schedule around my classes, which I know is a very decent thing for them to do.)

I'm ten years behind my peers on getting started on my career and I feel like I'm floundering. Is there something else I'm not thinking of? Any suggested types of jobs for me to look at? It's not too early for me to start sending out resumes, I don't think. Career services at my school is not great and I live 1.5+ hours away anyway, so I don't expect them to have much that will give me a livable commute.

My throwaway email: I appreciate any guidance you can give.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
But librarians are awesome. Why would anyone have fits if you wanna go to library school?

You can go two ways with this - find something you really love and can imagine yourself doing for a long time, or find something you're naturally good at (and don't hate, and hopefully find challenging) and just focus on rising professionally in that field.

From your post it seems your problem is that you aren't particularly obsessive about / hugely interested in any one profession. You've also mentioned some things you're not good at or a big fan of. Do you have a natural facility for any kind of work?

Have you taken an aptitude test?

Sometimes people around you can also be surprisingly perceptive about your natural talents - if a few people have suggested the same/similar profession(s) suited to your skills/personality, I'd shortlist those as well.

Sorry if the answers are vague - the question's big so I'm just throwing out smaller ones. Good luck in your search. Go librarians!
posted by mondaygreens at 9:56 AM on April 19, 2010

Do you have large debts, children to support or other obligations that you need to be able to pay? Why not pursue your writing? Sure everybody wants to be a writer, but not everybody has the gumption to try to make a living at it. Why not try?

Any degree is probably better than no degree in 85% of the jobs you might find. Otherwise, I'm sure you could find work somewhere with an MLIS degree.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 9:57 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can you recommend an aptitude test out of interest mondaygreens?
posted by Not Supplied at 9:59 AM on April 19, 2010

H'm, Not Supplied - not online, I don't know from good online.

I meant more like, in high school or college as part of career counseling. That's pretty common, right?
posted by mondaygreens at 10:08 AM on April 19, 2010

Fair enough.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:10 AM on April 19, 2010

What about as an admissions officer at a community college - do you think you would enjoy that? You might have to speak to groups occasionally but I think mostly you'd work one on one. From the jobs I've seen posted you would meet the requirements.
posted by hazyjane at 10:26 AM on April 19, 2010

Considering most writers I know have a day job, I never expect to actually make a living that way.

Is this something that you are interested in?

You know there are day jobs as a writer (in my former life I worked fulltime at companies as a writer). Also, don't necessarily think you won't earn much. There are specialized niches for writers that pay much more (e.g. medical writer, business writer, whatever).

If this is something that you decide to pursue, not only are there specialized niches, but types of witing within those fields (copywriter, advertising, regulatory, scientific/technical). To get these jobs, the main thing that you need to do is take a writing test at these potential places of employment (and if well designed, they take ~ 1 hour max).
Just throwing that other possibility into your mix. Most of these companies also hire copyeditors etc if you decide to do that instead.
posted by Wolfster at 10:44 AM on April 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lots of libraries in your area? Try to get a job as a paraprofessional first. You will get a first-hand look at the profession, possible tuition reimbursement, and maybe a place to work after you graduate. I would not recommend that anybody take on 20K of debt for library school nowadays, just so that they'll be qualified to compete for the scant handful of jobs that are available at any time.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:46 AM on April 19, 2010

But librarians are awesome. Why would anyone have fits if you wanna go to library school?

Do a search for librarian or MLIS on AskMe sometime. The gist of it is that it's damn hard to find a job in the field (especially public librarianship) without prior experience.

That said, I would not discourage the OP from pursuing this, but I would strongly recommend volunteering at one of those many nearby libraries, to start off.
posted by asciident at 11:11 AM on April 19, 2010

Work in a library work in a library work in a library.

Our biographies are pretty close--creative writing BA and all, though I graduated when I was 22. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do either when I graduated, so I went to my public library, told the manager that I was interested in librarianship, and asked if she'd let me intern. She was nice enough to let me sticker books in a basement for her for a few weekends, which was enough experience to get myself a library assistant job at a local community college (where I'd once been a student!) when I graduated. So I'd recommend you check out any local colleges for library assistant positions, even part time ones. Don't be afraid to say in interviews that you're considering librarianship as a career. In my experience, library hiring committees love that (and here I have to pimp both and a search for the word "library" on have way more options than your local public library.)

My experience there was mixed, for a variety of reasons, but okay. I eventually got my MFA in creative writing and am now working full time at a job with "writer" in the title. It's aight, but I really miss the public interaction aspects of working in a library and sometimes consider returning to it/getting my MLS (I wouldn't get my MLS until I had a library job, though, because sometimes workplaces will pay for the degree; I have debt, too, and find it difficult to justify paying for a professional degree right now).

However, keep in mind that any jobs you're likely qualified for--working in some kind of publishing or copyediting or as a library assistant or at jobs with "writer" in the title--tend not to pay so well. I mean, I've had good benefits at my jobs, but the pay hasn't been stellar. That's the life of the creative writing major, really. You'd have a more lucrative career if you went into something like accounting--but hopefully, you knew that going into your BA.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:47 AM on April 19, 2010

Whoops, lisjobs is a .com, not a .org. Still, a very useful resource for job postings.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:54 AM on April 19, 2010

I'm a librarian and wish I'd become one way sooner. I love it. I think right now it's a bit hard to find jobs but there are an awful lot of librarians at or close to retirement age. I agree with the other posts that recommend you get a job, any job, in a library.

Although my kids were grown before I became a librarian I work closely with another librarian who has a young child. As workplaces, libraries tend to be supportive environments for parents of young children, a serious consideration if you're hoping to have a baby or two.
posted by mareli at 12:08 PM on April 19, 2010

Can you afford to take two years to try to write for a living? That should be long enough to complete (but not necessarily sell) at least two novels, unless you're a very slow writer (and if you are, then you can't make a living at it unless you're immensely lucky). If you're considering taking out a loan anyway, why not take one out to do what you actually want to do?

I know personally a couple of people who actually make their livings as writers -- it's a hard life unless you find a partner with a steady job, but immensely rewarding.
posted by novalis_dt at 2:21 PM on April 19, 2010

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