What kind of career path should I be considering?
September 24, 2011 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Starting my career path. Help me brainstorm the possibilities.

Asking for a friend:

Like many new graduates I am struggling to find out what my options are and what I actually want to do. I have a bachelor's degree in International Studies and recently interned at a PR firm, working in the Global Issues department. During the three-month internship I realized that I am not a PR person (I don't like being on the phone or pitching stories) and that I also don't want to be in an office in front of a computer for eight hours a day. A friend of mine suggested that I look into the US Foreign Service which somewhat interests me but I don't know if I like the idea of not choosing where I live, or of leaving New York City just yet. If anyone has had any experience working in the Foreign Service I would very much like to hear about it.

What kind of career paths should I be considering? Should I go back to school and do a masters degree even though I'm not sure what I want to do? I graduated magna cum laude and thrive in an academic setting but am not sure that I want to be a student again, or at least not just yet.  

Things I am interested in are: food security, sustainable development, health and wellness (organic food, nutrition, eco-spas, yoga), women's issues, environmental issues, design of all kinds, haute cuisine, fashion, etc. I'm overwhelmed by the feeling that I have to make a choice right now as far as my career path and yet I can see myself going in many different directions. I can see myself doing anything from working for an NGO in NYC to working in eco-fashion--from running a cheap-chic restaurant to doing humanitarian work in Asia. Throw some ideas my way and help me stumble upon the one that is going to make my "work" a labor of love.

Thanks in advance!
posted by seriousmoonlight to Work & Money (5 answers total)
If you don't like talking on the phone or being in an office or in front of a computer, why not just spend some time waiting tables or being a barista or something until you get a better idea of where your interests lie? With your interest in food issues, the restaurant industry comes to mind.

Because like 90% of "career" oriented jobs for people with BA's - aside from maybe teaching? - involve being in an office environment where your primary tools are things like computers and phones. Including the foreign service, nonprofits, and NGOs.

If you hate office type work, getting further degrees sounds like an especially bad idea. Again, the vast majority of white collar careers involve offices and office-type technology/workflow. Even if you became some kind of academic/researcher/whatever, you would spend a lot of your time in an office staring at a computer.
posted by Sara C. at 6:15 PM on September 24, 2011

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pretty much what sara said, but based on your interests, i would focus on something such as health, nutrition, and wellness or entertainment and fashion related jobs. i would stray away from women's issues, environmental issues, etc... i say this because these types of jobs typically require further education and usually lead to jobs in the academic field or non profit organization jobs. although non profit's sound interesting, you usually end up with a career in an office setting with a relatively low salary, land a job as a professor or instructor, or obtain a job doing research.
posted by sincerely-s at 7:01 PM on September 24, 2011

I do have an idea for your friend, OP. although it would require giving up part of the vision of a perfect job for the moment.

You mention that your friend’s degree was in international studies, doesn’t want to be in an office 8 hours a day, and has interests in things such as health, environmental issues, sustainable development etc.

Your friend may want to try something like Peace Corps. It is only a 2 yr (or 2 yrs plus a few months) commitment. You are not committing to a career, but you can test and see if you like some of these ideas or jobs. It will definitely be in another country.

I don’t know anyone who did an office job in Peace Corps and here are a few examples of projects that people did with a BA or equivalent (and don’t worry there is some sort of training for these things, too):
• Fish culture extension (help villagers raise fish—may include helping select sites in the rain forest, teaching people how to raise fish, harvest fish) and you travel between different villages to do this work on a bike or motorcycle, depending on where you live
• Teaching (English, business skills, science – this does depend on your background)
• Working with women to teach business skills (some of the teachers did this as a small project along with teaching)
• Teaching environmental education
• Teaching health in various villages – it may include giving classes, but you also typically travel between villages to do this work
• Construct schools

If your friend is not American, there are similar programs in other countries – volountaires des progress for the French, VSO for the UK, etc.

I also noticed that if you do want to do other types of international work such as working with the UN, they often requested that you previously worked overseas for a few years, demonstrated skills in another language, previously did some sort of development work – so this would help your friend if he or she wants to keep doing international work. But why not first test if they want to live in another country, work with these type s of programs, or even do these types of jobs? It may not be an office job your friend doesn’t want to do, but other characteristics of a particular job.

There are also programs for returning volunteers, including a paid assistantship for a master’s degree in teaching, a master’s degree to do fish culture extension in the states, etc. –so it also opens up those possibilities if he or she likes the job the job that is done overseas.

I really did not realize this in my younger years, but …you don’t have to make a career choice now. You can just try different types of jobs and change every few years no matter what you hear about the economy. Learn how to find jobs, present yourself well, and you can try out lots of job, careers, etc.

posted by Wolfster at 9:16 PM on September 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I second the Peace Corps or something similar. I'd do it if I could (no degree).

How do you feel about outdoor work and science? Food security, sustainable development, and environmental issues all seem to offer opportunity to be outside and they seem to be growing fields. Energy and water issues are going to become more and more important. All these fields also offer potential to use what you've already studied.

Also, I'd try to develop things in a number of stages. Such as:
1. Find some volunteer work that you can get into quickly that has some appeal to you. For one thing, that way you're doing something while you're looking for a job.
2. Spend some amount of time on getting a "meantime" job, just so you can have some cash until you get to the next stage.
3. Explore your possibilities. Read. Talk to relevant professors, your school's career office, alumni, friends and friends of friends, strangers, etc. Find people or organizations who do what you think you might like to do. Then try to learn more about that work, one way or another. See "The Library Vacation," Parts 1 and 2.

A couple other things to consider:
* Working as a tour guide.
* The book "What Color is Your Parachute?" -- good stuff about thinking about careers.
posted by maurreen at 2:17 AM on September 25, 2011

Marine Science! Geology!
posted by oceanjesse at 4:23 AM on September 25, 2011

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