Good jobs for graduating BA/psychology student seeking work-life balance?
November 3, 2010 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Good jobs for graduating BA/psychology student seeking work-life balance?

I will be graduating in the spring with an Honours Arts degree, majoring in psychology, and I plan to get a job when I graduate. The question is which job.

My big thing is this: I want a job where I can work weekday day time hours, and leave work at work at the end of the day. I really am a workaholic, so I know that I need a clear distinction between work and the rest of my life in order to have balance.

At the same time, I would like a job that’s challenging/interesting, and that will allow me to have a positive impact on the world.

I’m interested in marketing, and I was looking into sales jobs because I am well qualified for that and I do enjoy sales, but I also find it stressful. In some ways, I’d be great in a sales job because I’m ambitious and hard-working and motivated by money, but I don’t want to feel guilty whenever I’m not doing something work-related. I work best with structure (ie set hours and schedule).

In the summer I worked as a receptionist/administrative assistant – most of my job was filling out forms, filing, updating the database, etc. I found it very boring but I loved being able to separate work from the rest of my life.

I enjoy tutoring, and I have thought about teaching, if I could do work with someone one-on-one as opposed to a large class. I’ve ruled out teaching in the public school system because I strongly disagree with the overly-liberal policies towards teaching. But I am interested in hearing about related jobs.

So….I know what I want…my ultimate question is if this job exists?

-work set day-time weekday hours; leave work at work
-I will be qualified for it upon graduation
-have a positive impact on the world
-pays a reasonable wage (ie: not minimum wage)

…And if I can have these things too….
-some interaction with people
-rewards for a job well-done
-something where I can focus on a small number of tasks at a time

I enjoy:
-coming up with creative ideas to get people to change behaviour
-coming up with creative ways to market a product or reduce costs
-brainstorming ideas

I do not enjoy:
-organizing events
-writing research papers

My experience:
-ran a business making and selling jewellery; I sold mostly at malls, festivals, and famer’s markets, and I had some experience selling to store owners
-some office work

So, that’s very specific, but please let me know your ideas even if it doesn’t hit everything :D
posted by Jade_bug to Work & Money (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I also have a BA in Psychology. And an MA in the same. I also have a HS teaching degree which I am using now. I hope you find a great job, but it's tough out there. I will also be reading the comments in case I hear any inspiring advice for me!! (Teaching is very tiring, believe me, the liberal-biases would be the least of your problems...). Good luck finding the perfect job!!
posted by bquarters at 1:46 PM on November 3, 2010

Something that might make a difference for the kinds of careers people might suggest would be whether or not you can create the structure of a 9-to-5 workday for yourself, or whether you want to have that imposed by the structure of the job. You say you don't like writing research papers so you should *definitely* not do what I did and go to grad school. But despite its reputation as an all-consuming occupation, grad school also has enough flexibility in my case that I *can* create a work-life balance for myself by setting regular work hours, working at my office or testing sites rather than home, and so on. In contrast, I know people who work in office settings but are at the beck and call of anyone with their email or blackberry number basically 24/7.

Would you be happy in a position with less externally-imposed structure provided you could 'unplug' at the end of every workday? Or do you want to be part of an office or other setup where everyone shows up and leaves at pre-set hours?
posted by heyforfour at 2:06 PM on November 3, 2010

I hate to say it, but you should be realistic in your assessment of how much of an asset your undergraduate degree in psychology is going to be for the sort of job you want.

There are positions that specifically ask for a degree in psychology — research assistants and lab technicians. I don't think you're looking for an academic, "stepping stone to graduate school" job.

You will probably have to focus your attention on jobs that just require any college degree, such as an entry-level paralegal job with a small law firm. These jobs are quite stressful.

Alternatively, you could try tutoring, which you mentioned. At least up front, it will probably fail to give you the balance you're looking for. The hours are semi-irregular and the work load is high. Most tutors working for the large tutoring companies seem to earn most of their money from one-on-one tutoring, and it takes time for the word to spread and your private clientele to grow.
posted by Nomyte at 3:24 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "Cheap, Fast, Good: Pick Any Two" seems to apply here.

You'd like to:

1) Find a job within a short timeframe (fast)

2) Find a job that you will be qualified for without much experience past graduation (cheap) and that doesn't require you to stay past normal office hours (cheap)

3) Find a job that is rewarding, interesting, challenging, pays a decent wage, and allows you to have a positive impact on the world. (good)

I'm going to say that you probably could get any two of those if you really work your tail off.

It might look good, but say if you get #1 and #3, chances are you won't be qualified and will end up overwhelmed and without any balance in your life.

Most people in your shoes are better off planning to have a really happy job situation within 10 years. Even then, that doesn't address the workaholism, which as you know can be a huge problem.

I would suggest that a job where you can work weekday hours and then just leave work behind will probably not help you with the workaholism or balance issues, beyond the short term.

Most people who have problems with balance find that external "enforcement frameworks" can only go so far before their natural habits really kick in and they're back on the old habit. I know people who have joined the military so they have a built-in scheduling and balance system, but man, talk about clipping your wings! Better to learn how to do it right and practice small steps of the right behavior over time.

OK, so much for the constructive stuff that probably sounds like criticism.

My suggestion:

1. Admit that you're in a weak position and work up from there. Stack the deck in your favor by meeting with counselors at your school or in your community who can help you prepare to find a job that will be suitable.

2. When you find the job, set up an automatic savings plan with your financial institution to help cover any deficiencies in the "reasonable pay" area. Put aside 10-20% each month, more if possible.

3. Schedule periodic appointments with career counselors as you find them. Keep looking in the job field.

4. Once you have 6 months of income saved up, schedule your first meeting with a business or career coach. This person should be paid -- you should be paying them, and they should have a good rep.

5. Tell your career coach that you now have savings and a stable job, and you'd like to work on a really awesome plan that will take effect over a 7-10 year time span.

6. Tell your career coach the extent of your current problems with life/work balance, and ask for help in achieving better balance.

This will get you the results you want. Give yourself some time for this all to play out and you'll love your life 10x more. More info from a previous comment.
posted by circular at 3:26 PM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

BA in psychology = minimum wage. Have you thought about continuing on?
posted by WhiteWhale at 4:35 PM on November 3, 2010

Not to be discouraging or anything, but don't be too surprised if at first you end up in a field you didn't expect and in a much lower position than you had wanted (unless you have someone else to foot your bills for several months). I have friends with amazing resumes that worked at donut shops or as receptionists while looking for something, ANYTHING, that required a degree/paid more than minimum wage. There are a lot of people with social sciences and humanities degrees out there and extremely few jobs that require a specific one of those degrees.
Good luck!
posted by Neekee at 6:47 PM on November 3, 2010

Response by poster: Hi everyone,
So first of all...thank you! This is my first time posting a question and I didn't realize how quickly people respond....
posted by Jade_bug at 8:39 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: WhiteWhale, you might be right, and going back to school is definitely an option, but at the moment,
1. I absolutely need a break from school, at least for a year.
2. If I can find a job I enjoy that doesn't require more education, I'd rather do that.
3. I expect that working will help me decide what to go back to school for, specifically.
posted by Jade_bug at 8:42 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: At this point heyforfour, I think I need set hours. That being said, I'll take any tips on creating work-life balance.

What are you doing now in terms of a career? And when you say that I shouldn't go to grad school if I don't like research papers, do you mean because that's what you do in grad school, or because it leads to research-paper-writing jobs?
posted by Jade_bug at 8:48 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: Another question: when I'm looking at job postings, how do I know if it's the kind of job that I can leave at a set time as opposed to taking work home/staying late?
posted by Jade_bug at 8:50 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: Nomyte, I'm totally fine with an "any degree" kind of job - I just specified that I was taking psychology so people would know.

With the tutoring companies - do you mean that people tutor with the tutoring company and then hand out personal cards to their clients? How would that work, legally?
posted by Jade_bug at 8:58 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: Haha Neekee, I am all too aware of that scenario - I'm searching out this info so I can start applying and TRY to prevent it :)
posted by Jade_bug at 9:08 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: bquarters, my dad is a teacher. He's written books and done speaking engagments and all kinds of things. If you have expertise and an entrepreneurial spirit, there's lots of stuff you can do. I sent you some more info. :)
posted by Jade_bug at 9:14 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: circular, really good information, I have more questions for you after I read your additional posts. Thanks :)
posted by Jade_bug at 9:16 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: Ok. Career coach - any difference between a career coach and a guidence counsellor? And just so I'm clear on your thinking, circular, what is the purpose behind saving up 6 months of income prior to finding a coach?
posted by Jade_bug at 8:43 PM on November 13, 2010

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