following your bliss, writing mentor edition
October 3, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Following your bliss, writing mentor edition -- how can positive experiences with mentoring and writing lead me to a career I'll love?

Excuse the special-snowflake phrasing! So college is ending and I'm trying to make sense of what type of work I should pursue. I've enjoyed making little radio documentaries, writing papers for anthropology/conducting ethnographic research interviews, and traveling. In general, I'm happy when I'm pacing around the house piecing parts of an argument together in my head, particularly when I can turn it into something written that I'll be proud of.

But though these are things I enjoy and have done consistently, I've had two relatively smaller experiences that have left me quite literally buzzing with euphoria -- a completely different experience. The first was a brief volunteer position teaching basic computing concepts to community library members, generally recent immigrants. I really liked the earnestness of the whole situation - people laughing at the clumsiness of computers, expressing visible pride in learning this or that. I also have recently been mentoring underclass(wo)men in writing & love, again, helping guide people through overwhelming and silly and rewarding first encounters with the college essay.

I suppose what I've realized, upon reflection, is that while I select for myself individualistic, creative projects (making my own documentary or essay) that I like to do, I'm more compelled and happy when working with other people and encouraging their growth.

I was curious if anyone could relate to this kind of realization, and could point me towards certain types of work (for example, social work, being a teacher?) that might be worth exploring. I'm thinking that, for instance, going to eight years of anthropology graduate school right now would not ultimately make me happy. Also, I welcome 'bah just get a job no need to overthink "bliss"' comments, ha.
posted by elephantsvanish to Work & Money (2 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The helping people achieve growth stuff can feed into any job with career development - I'm an accountant and coaching is a key part of my role. My employer also has a formal mentoring process and I have to mentor people as well as being mentored. So I'd encourage you to think very widely on this one because most jobs involve this to a degree post entry level.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:37 PM on October 3, 2010

Broadly speaking, I think there's two possible tracks for you to take.

One is to take a job that involves being (essentially) a professional mentor. The two you note -- social work and teaching -- are the two obvious examples. Other possibilities include working as an editor, or a director or conductor. (Although in the case of directing and conducting, they're both such ultra-competitive, specialized jobs that if you wanted to do them, you'd probably already know that's what you wanted.)

The other broad track is: take another job, and look for mentoring opportunities within it. For example, lots of experienced writers mentor younger writers-- either formally by teaching writing classes, or informally by offering advice and feedback. I also know writers who teach creative writing in prisons, or who work with immigrants to write down their oral history, etc.

So I guess I'm really just echoing koahiatamdl, in saying any job can have that aspect. If it's important to you, you'll find a way to make it happen.
posted by yankeefog at 8:17 AM on October 4, 2010

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