I bet someone's gonna say 'lawyer,' aren't they?
July 14, 2010 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I have discovered a passion for collaborative, research-intensive projects which involve a lot of creative problem-solving and some sort of concrete product at the end. What jobs and/or hobbies should I look at?

I read grumblebee’s comment and tried to figure out what all my favorite classes and club projects have had in common. I’ve been an “artisan” for a small campus theater company, assisting the props, costume and makeup people with the most difficult-to-make items. I’ve also done several school group projects in marketing, advertising, and market research. Eventually I realized that they all had several common threads:

All involved a problem which had to be solved, using both research and creativity. We had to collect tons of disparate information and ideas, but never take our eyes off the goal.
All had major constraints to work within, in terms of budget or client demands… which I was surprised to find I loved.
In all of them, I was part of a team of skilled workers, all with autonomy and responsibility- but I wasn’t the boss, and I wasn’t working alone.
All went through cycles of planning, execution, planning, execution- and finally paid off with a well-developed and elegant product which people were able to use. (Like an ad campaign, a market research report, a media plan… or a wearable donkey head.) The feeling of having gone through months and months of brain-straining work, all culminating in a powerpoint presentation or a few moments of a play, and suddenly it’s all worth it… awesome.

Now, I have a couple of potential career paths in mind, and I plan to stick with theater tech as a hobby… but I’m sure there are lots of jobs and hobbies which fit these criteria, but which I’ve never heard of or considered seriously. So, hit me. What other activities are like this?
posted by showbiz_liz to Work & Money (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You'd be a good grant writer. Everything you're talking about comes into play, and the collaborative nature is a MUST.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:21 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Become a project manager. Sounds like you already are one to a large degree. Being a puzzle solver, good communicator, lateral thinker, and polymath are all part of the job.
posted by bluejayway at 9:54 AM on July 14, 2010

Any kind of consulting. Consulting is great is you have a short attention span because you work with many different people, the problems keep changing and you can evolve your skills. You gain a reputation in area x, take on an assignment that includes a side problem that enables you to learn about y, find another one that's both x and y and pretty soon you can be credible on assignments that are 100 percent y. Lather, rinse and repeat.
posted by carmicha at 9:57 AM on July 14, 2010

It sounds like there are environments in which you'd really enjoy being a computer programmer.

Not the smaller outfits, but in the larger team-oriented development of large applications.
posted by Citrus at 10:02 AM on July 14, 2010

This may be way too hardcore of a career change, but this is pretty much exactly what research scientists do for a living.
posted by sickinthehead at 10:03 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second grant writer and science project coordinator. I am involved in something that needs someone who can bring a large number of people together to reach a healthcare goal. Good luck.
posted by london302 at 11:01 AM on July 14, 2010

Similar to sickinthehead - I thought of community-based participatory research as something you would enjoy. It might be possible to do it as a sort of hobby if there is an academic center near you that does it - maybe as a volunteer outreach worker or something. But to get the kind of enjoyment out of it I think you want, it'd probably have to be more of a career change type thing.
posted by lakeroon at 11:13 AM on July 14, 2010

Museum exhibition developer.
posted by Miko at 1:42 PM on July 14, 2010

I'm an architect. What you describe sounds a lot like my job. I mean, what's more "concrete" than a building, right? We collect tons of disparate information, seek creative solutions to complex problems, work within the confines of budgets, regulations, and the laws of physics (I'm not sure which is the strongest force!), all the while trying our best to create art.

My last project was a vision care center. I had to work with finance people, lawyers and accountants, learn from surgeons about all their ophthalmic stuff (needles in peoples eyes!) and from nurses what equipment had to be within reach while performing surgery in an OR. The waiting room can't be too bright because people eyes will be dilated. Oh, and the chief surgeon doesn't like the color blue and the CEO likes her ceramic tiles to be 6x6 or larger (uh, ok?).

After a year or more of planning it all comes down to a bunch of construction workers and craftsmen who probably don't care about any of that, they just want to know how thick the concrete needs to be, what kind of studs to use, what to do about this pipe that's in the way, and what color to paint where...

Then when all the emails have been archived and meeting minutes shredded, all that's left is the building. Does it "work"? Get too hot or too cold? Is it a nice place to be? Is it depressing? Or does it maybe make me feel a little bit important because this is the place I go to work?
posted by ssimon82 at 2:51 PM on July 17, 2010

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