Job Hunting, It Defeats Me
July 18, 2012 8:32 AM   Subscribe

I really need to find a better job, but I don't know where to start. How do I even figure out what job to look for? It's pretty clear that there is no promotion path for me whatsoever in my current job, and there are rumblings that my entire department is about to get transferred to someplace where I don't want to be. The only reasons I'm still here are inertia, fear of the terrible job market, and the fact that self-promotion makes me queasy.

I've been a full-time employee here for eight years, after having been a contractor for a few years before that. Management rotates every nine months or so, so I never get a manager who'd be willing to go to bat for me.

My general pattern with work has been to come in well below my competency level as a contractor and then pick up extra job duties as I go until (a) I am buried under a pile of random tasks nobody else knows what to do with and (b) I'm officially placed about two levels below the payscale of the job I'm actually doing. On the positive side, everybody knows I know everything, and if a roadblock issue comes up I can generally figure out how to fix it, get it to the right people to fix it, or come up with a plausible workaround. On the negative side, all of that stuff distracts from the job metrics I actually get measured on. Also, the credit for that comes in the form of co-workers having faith in me, not any kind of credit getting passed up to management. At my current job, I regularly see my managers getting praise for things I got done that I'm not even sure they knew about during the actual crisis.

The whole job hunt thing just defeats me because all of the advice starts with "tailor your resume for the job you want" and I don't don't even know what job I want. Or, rather, I kind of suspect I need to look at other careers, and I don't have the first notion what I can do that matches up with actual work that exists.

I'm not a coder, but I can hand-compose HTML and CSS and I can at least read PHP/JavaScript/etc. and make educated guesses about what's going on and what needs to be fixed. I'm not a trainer, but I've done departmental level training and I do a lot of one-off help when co-workers struggle with our systems. I'm not a manager, but I've helped out people in neighboring departments when their managers are nowhere to be found. I'm not a writer, but I know how to write documentation other people can actually use, and I've maintained procedures documentation a number of times. I actually have been a departmental secretary (the largest department I did that for was fifty people, but five to ten is more normal) and I was good at juggling schedules and making everything run smoothly, it's just not challenging enough to be interesting between crises. I am perfectly capable of doing telephone support, and I can be as patient and cheerful as needed; I just hate it. The only thing worse than having to talk to random strangers at random intervals is being made to cold call strangers.

My favorite temp jobs were the ones where I came in to a disaster and left smoothly running clockwork when I was done. Maintaining the clockwork doesn't really interest me, but I really like solving problems.

I know I'm not happy and I strongly suspect that I can do better than this, but I don't even know where to start figuring out where to start.
posted by Karmakaze to Work & Money (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
this is kind of the go-to, default answer, but finding a good therapist, or perhaps a life coach, would be a good start. this sounds like long-term pattern behavior, which people don't tend to just snap out of after getting some good advice. there are also private and public career counseling centers that might be useful.
posted by facetious at 8:39 AM on July 18, 2012

Have you looked into becoming a technical manager/producer? That would use both your management and coding skills. For example, on the web team I primarily work with, the head engineer tends to be the primary point of contact until late stages of development. Really, she doesn't have the time to deal with the coordination. Someone like you who has the time and bandwidth to understand client requirements and also knows the tech team's requirements would be ideally situated to manage technical production. I know for a fact this is not a unique situation.
posted by smirkette at 9:12 AM on July 18, 2012

Taking a stab at this because I've changed careers a few times. My first ask metafilter question was also along the lines "suggest a new job/career for me--nooooo idea what I want to do" so I can empathize with you.

This is how I went about finding a new job/career last time, and I'm poor at self-promotion, so extrapolate what you can use from this (as always, YMMV):

• Brainstorm a few possibilities based on interests/skills (its sounds like you have already ...I'll suggest trainer and technical writer based on some of what you said, but there may be more interests that you have, too, or other skill sets). You may want to consider this as another ask meta a week from now if you give us more details.

• Make a list of really important criteria that you want in your ideal job and that are also things that you don't want to do. It may be things like salary, little training/no new requirements for schooling, where you live. On your things you don't want to do, it can my no phone support or little phone support. Make your list and pick a few important things plus deal breakers.

• Now find people with the job titles of your potential careers. Some places that you can look are linkedin, your former college if they shares lists of professionals in the field, or you can even email people who you find who have your desired job titles. Do an info interview with them but the goal is to truly find out 1) would you even want to do it? Does it hit things on your list? 2) can someone with your background move in there with minimal background? 3) What would you need to do if you wanted to enter the field or are there related fields. Now I tend to be a bit of a coward and these are some of examples of how I found people, asked pple to do these, etc (info interviews). 4) Where do you find these jobs? Are there other job titles? etc.

Now the self-promotion part. To be honest, I don't really do self promotion IMO during interviews or job hunts. I do list things that I've done or am enthusiastic about (so you could list HTML/CSS if they ask about coding). However, what I've discovered along the way that works well for me ....Do research about the potential company and people. A lot. Do you find things that you are curious about and find fascinating? Do they fit in with your background? When you go the interview, ask questions about those things that you are interested in. So what I've found is that enthusiasm/passion that you have for something can bubble through and give the other person/potential hiring person a positive association with you. If you find things that you are passionate about and are asking questions, do mention if you have similar experience or are interested in doing those things. Also, OP, it sounds like you have coworkers who can speak to this. Put one or two of those people down as references, so they will speak positively about you.

From reading your description of yourself ...several years at one job, problem solving - I think that you have potential. Because you have a job right now and you can wait until the right job comes along, find out what the appropriate salary would be for you in field X. Hold out or negotiate for the salary if the job is offered to you (I would guess you are not negotiating from the "doing the job/2 pay scales below"). Or come back when you get call back for interviews and find out how to negotiate this.

inertia, fear of the terrible job market

One more comment here - lots of people have this and end up in analysis paralysis with no movement for years. Even if it is a terrible job market, remember that the majority of people are employed. You also need one job, not 10. You don't sound happy so you have nothing to lose other than ....making things better.

Feel free to memail me if you have other questions or want another perspective as you do the job hunt. Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

When they say tailor your resume to the job you want, they don't mean invent a job in your head to want, they mean, when you find one you're going to apply to, tailor your resume to it.

Start with going through job sites and looking to see what jobs are out there. IT hasn't taken the hit other industries and titles have, mostly because we're all still gurus and the muggles are afeared of us.

Challenge yourself to apply to one or two new jobs per day. Stretch your definition of what job you're qualified for. Typically I aim for about 80% figuring that the other 20% is an opportunity to learn something new.

Most employers don't expect you to know everything right off the bat, in fact, most employers think they are special snowflakes and that they'll have to train someone to understand their oh-so-special ways of doing things. Go in with the attitude that you're a problem solver and that what you don't know, you can research. Everyone's comfortable with that.

As for tooting your own horn, get over yourself. No one is asking you to brag. They want to you explain what you know and how you use it. When you're asked in an interview, "Tell me about a time when you saved the day," you'd better have an answer. And it's not bragging, it's informing!

You have a job, you're not desperate. Start by going to LinkedIn, Simply Hired, Career Builder and Monster. Do searches using your geography and specific skills. See what pops up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:08 AM on July 18, 2012

This sounds a lot like my quarter-life career crisis. I have a degree in chemistry and was a chemist for about 5 years before I realized that I was never going to be able to get a job I actually wanted to do without getting a PhD and that I wasn't willing to go back to get a PhD. I floundered for awhile, trying to figure out what I actually wanted to do and what kinds of jobs I could actually get. I'm like you in that I get most of my job satisfaction from problem solving.

What parts of your job specifically do you enjoy the most? Managing a team, working with data, building things, etc? For me, I like analysis and room for growth is very important. So I just started looking for "analyst" jobs until I started getting calls from headhunters for marketing analyst jobs. When you start going on interviews, I would put "what would a typical day like for the person who fills this role?" on your list of questions to ask.

When you work on your resume, rethink your experience and the words you use to describe it. For example, at one of my chemist jobs I did a lot of work on the company website. I'm not a coder either, and would never think to mention it if I was applying for another job in the same field. But it was a huge bonus when I was applying/interviewing for marketing jobs. Also things that might be implied/understood in your current field may not be in the field that you end up aiming for. So in my example, instead of just mentioning data analysis and report writing, I talked about identifying trends and working with large data sets. Make prospective employers see how your experience applies - really spell it out for them.

I would also recommend adding an "objective" line on your resume to make it crystal clear that you are looking for job y and not another job in the same vein as job x.

Lastly, I do not recommend using a functional format or any other non-standard format (e.g. not chronological) for your resume. It's harder for hiring managers and HR to read and it looks like you're trying to hide something.
posted by tealcake at 11:32 AM on July 18, 2012

I'm a Digital Project Manager, in the advertising industry and this role engages literally all the skills you've mentioned. This role can also be called Digital Producer, Project Coordinator, etc. I've had experience with these roles in digital publishing (i.e. for a daily website) and marketing.

PMs are necessary in these industries because they require the coordination of complex pieces of work through multiple departments, clients, and vendors in very quick time spans to get things done. Key skills and work include:

* Managing schedules, budgets, vendors, and teams, needed to get work completed on-time, as promised, and within budget.

* Technical oversight, not actual coding, but the ability to understand requirements, work, assets throughout the project and give insight on whether they're correct, potential issues, and to know where to pull additional help from. i.e. The webpage has an issue, find an HTML developer.

Much of this is technical "translation" to many teams (such as Sales) that don't understand the abilities of technology, or perhaps developers that don't have an understanding of the business requirements.

* Strong communication, leading, and writing skills to rally many different levels of resources to bring projects to fruition. As PM, you don't have formal authority over staff, just over the work.

I find it rewarding, stimulating. While Project Management is a large industry, within the digital marketing space it's a bit of a niche, which is both good and bad when looking. Please feel free to MeMail me if you'd like to ask any questions.
posted by artificialard at 4:12 PM on July 18, 2012

« Older How do I explain an 18-month career change I don't...   |   What is my dog? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.