I want to change careers, but not sure what to change it to.
October 13, 2010 12:53 PM   Subscribe

I think i'm not in the right career. I've sorta worked hard, and i've been pretty successful, but overall, i'm really not inspired to keep working in the same area. I'd like suggestions for lateral career move - one where i can use my skills in strategy consulting, marketing, facilitation, and presentation. But in a role or industry where it doesn't feel so pointless.

I'm 33, i live in Toronto, and I'm currently the director of strategy at a mobile marketing agency. Prior to this, i've been a strategist at a large digital marketing agency, a 'consumer insight' person in at a major retailer, a qualitative market researcher/consultant, and a marketing/management consultant while living abroad.

I don't feel motivated to put all this mental energy into designing the strategy for another app or website or doohickey. I know that this stuff (and the money it generates) is what makes the world go round, and i'm not anti-private sector or anti-capitalist, but this work just seems so disposable and futile.

I'd like to do some work that makes me feel like i'm doing something useful for the world or for my community. But i don't know what that should be, and i'm somewhat attached to my income level. What else can i do instead of what i do now?

Some facts that may be useful:
- I own my condo, and while i do have a mortgage and condo payments, they are affordable given my current income, so if my income went down, i'd manage.
- I fantasize all the time about moving and working abroad again, but i don't want to intern or volunteer again, and i don't have a foreign passport
- I'm not willing to start at the bottom.
- I enjoy the intellectual challenge of what i do, i just don't appreciate the reasons i'm doing it. I'd like a new industry and a new focus, without completely discarding my current skills and experience.
- I'm open to doing more schooling.

Specificity is appreciated: employers, jobs or job titles, specific industries, examples.
posted by Kololo to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What if you applied your skills to either the public or not-for-profit sectors? You might find rewarding opportunities working for municipal government (e.g., as a city manager), a tourism bureau or a museum/cultural facility.
posted by carmicha at 1:01 PM on October 13, 2010

Non-profit development / management.

I say "management" because often people perceive the non-profit sector to have a disproportionate amount of workers who don't try very hard (even those inside it). If you value "intellectual challenge," it may be desirable to work your way up in the organization further than you might be motivated to in the private sector, to a level where your skills are valued.
posted by rkent at 1:19 PM on October 13, 2010

I've been there. It's already been suggested above, but I think you should seriously look at the public sector. I was feeling pretty much the same as you about 6-7 years ago and, purely by accident, discovered a role in the state government that fitted perfectly with my skills/knowledge and which allows me to take some small satisfaction that I'm serving the community in my own way, rather than lining someone else's pockets.

Where I have ended up is working as director of a regulatory agency in the industry that I was working previously. I am able to use the skills/knowledge that I gained from working in the industry, while feeling that I am doing something to help the industry by being able to bring industry experience to the role. I have also driven an agenda of hiring staff from that industry into the team, rather than the previous practice of almost exclusively looking inwards for staff. Something that I'm proud of is that our team is now viewed as part of that industry, rather than just another government agency telling everyone what to do.

Governments have enormous numbers of people working on policy/strategy and it sounds like this would be a good area for you to target. It can be challenging to get into the public sector initially, but I have found that experience in the 'real world' makes a huge difference when it comes to progression, because you stand above the crowd in terms of attitude and willingness to do whatever the job requires.

It's not all gravy, of course. Things that constantly frustrate me are navigating the mire of inefficient purchasing and HR policies, for example. You have to be prepared to work to do your job the best you can and accept that some things cannot be changed. Despite that, I feel like I've found a niche that satisfies me - important work, lots of mental challenges, feeling that I am contributing to society.
posted by dg at 4:49 PM on October 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback so far! I'm pretty sure that the public sector (or the socially-focused private sector) is the right direction. I'd love some more specific suggestions - what kind of organisations to look at? what sorts of job titles?
posted by Kololo at 5:45 PM on October 13, 2010

Does your local/state/national government have on-line advertising of jobs? Something like this one? If so, browse around there and see what grabs your attention. Do some keyword searches and get a feel for structures and position descriptions.

It might be worthwhile to think about the skills you have and think about where in the public sector those skills would be most valuable. The information you have given doesn't really give me any clues but, based on the little you have given, you could probably fit in anywhere, as all public agencies need people who are good with strategy/policy development. Give some thought to how you want to feel about the work your employer does - would you feel better about working in education than in finance, for example? Get an idea of the salary structures and what your expectations are in this area, then see how that aligns with your ability to demonstrate your capacity for such positions. Keep in mind that recruiting in public agencies is often much differently managed to private sector processes and that, in many cases, there is not a lot of comfort in appointing 'outsiders' to permanent positions because it can be hard to get rid of people who don't work out. Be prepared to consider temporary positions, as they often lead on to long-term or permanent positions.

If you know anyone who works in a relevant area, ask them how the selection processes work. Where I work, there are specific things that you need to make sure you do in your initial application to even be considered and, unless you have that inside information, you may not get anywhere. Even think about applying for jobs that aren't really what you are looking for and ask for feedback on your application after the process is complete to help you prepare for the job you really do want.
posted by dg at 7:02 PM on October 13, 2010

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