I don't fit in to the speedy culture.
August 29, 2012 12:46 PM   Subscribe

What are careers that value perfectionism and meticulousness over speed?

I need everything to be perfect. If I'm doing dishes, I'll recheck and rewash several times to make sure I haven't missed any specs. When I try to hurry through them, I inevitably see specs of food, and I've noticed the same when others do too.

Problem: This trait makes me unsuited to speed-based work like retail and restaurants because I spend too much time making sure everything's perfect. I know the work looks great, but I often get complaints about completing things too slowly. I've tried to turn this off and haven't been able to, it's something ingrained in my personality.

What careers should I be pursuing? It seems likely that I should do something creative, because I've taken classes in art, photography and graphic design and have been praised for my work. The problem is I really can't stand work that doesn't involve a lot of human interaction, and most people I know in these fields are freelancers.

Help? What are some other avenues should I be considering?

Note: So you have an idea of the emphasis my culture places on speed, I'm in the USA.
posted by Autumn to Work & Money (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you can apprentice with a watchmaker?
posted by Loto at 12:49 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

My daughter is a pharmacist. Her undergraduate degree is in graphic art. She could only find a part time job after graduation, mostly in front of a computer, so she went back to school and became a pharmacist. She is also a people person and loves her new job environment.
posted by francesca too at 12:53 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Art restorer.
posted by 8dot3 at 12:53 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Copy editing and proofreading are very detail-oriented; the tendency is toward hiring freelancers, but staff positions do still exist. That said, speed (at least efficiency) and the ability to meet deadlines are equally necessary.
posted by scody at 12:59 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could be a jeweler.
posted by punchtothehead at 1:02 PM on August 29, 2012

[Folks, OP is not anonymous. If you have non-answers to the question, please feel free to email/MeMail directly.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:07 PM on August 29, 2012

Medical device R&D.
posted by Bruce H. at 1:08 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've tried to turn this off and haven't been able to, it's something ingrained in my personality.

I know I probably sound like a broken record, but therapy, and probably cognitive behavioral therapy, sound like they would be useful to you.

Seriously, if you have perfectionism that keeps you from completing a simple task like washing dishes in one go, that's not a personality quirk; that's something that gets in the way of your life.

Being a watchmaker or a jeweler or an art restorer or a violin maker or an antiques restorer is about taking the time to get things right, absolutely, but it's not about perfectionism. At some point you have to let things go.

So, yeah, if you want a work environment that is focused on excellence rather than speed, those are all things to think about (book conservation is another). But obsessive perfectionism is going to result in failure in those fields as well, so you should be working on acquiring the key life skill of deciding when something is "good enough" and moving on with the help of a therapist.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:09 PM on August 29, 2012 [11 favorites]

This sounds like how a friend (and fellow mefite) described being an angry little space peon when she was busy shooting the space shuttle into orbit. It sounded like perfection was not a goal, it was a requirement.
posted by jph at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Scientific laboratory technician.
posted by grouse at 1:20 PM on August 29, 2012

Software QA?
posted by jquinby at 1:20 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

High-end cabinetry and furniture carpentry. Possibly interior finish carpentry, although you may have trouble getting people to pay for the level of detail and attention that you think the project deserves.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:30 PM on August 29, 2012

Film editor, but you still will have to let go of perfectionism, if you want to keep getting hired. Re-washing dishes sounds more like OCD, and I'd seek professional help.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:31 PM on August 29, 2012

If you are able to control this tendency when necessary to meet deadlines, then I would say paralegal.
posted by prefpara at 1:33 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Scientific laboratory technician.

No, we do not have the time or money to pay someone to do something four or five times to make sure it's perfect. I've worked with someone like that, they were a disaster and ended up changing careers (not exactly by choice). A good technician will focus on getting the scientifically relevant things really right and let the rest be simply good enough, and it takes some degree of good judgement and scientific understanding to understand which is which.

If you like and are good at the creative stuff than that's probably the best thing to follow up on. Hopefully being good at it will help you have the confidence to let your work go when it's good enough rather than go over it again and again aiming for some level of perfection.

But any time you move into a job where you're working with clients they're going to want you to complete things in a reasonable time scale, so this overly obsessive perfectionism will be a liability. So working with people is going to be an issue for you. I'd also say that anything that requires further eduction will run into problems with this, because you're always going to have assignment deadlines and timed exams to get through even if the job you;re aiming for is slower. So you probably need to address this whole issue if it really is as you're describing,
posted by shelleycat at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

High end photo retouching.
posted by leigh1 at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2012

I bet you'd be a great dental hygienist! At a private practice, anyway, where they emphasized quality work, not at one of those dental factory places.
posted by jabes at 1:36 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have the talent, resources and ambition: Professional Accountant, Actuary, etc.

If not, then any sort of administrative clerk involving sensitive quantities, e.g. accounts payables / receivables, benefits, taxation, etc.

But keep in mind that it is never an absolute this vs. that -- you will have to balance all priorities. I.e. speed *AND* accuracy.
posted by wutangclan at 1:37 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think software QA is a good option either, necessarily. Our QA people are both under tremendous time pressure, and also frequently asked to accept imperfect things as part of a tradeoff. Maybe in medical devices or aerospace you actually get to take your time and achieve what seems like perfection (it, of course, never actually is), but even then I'm not so sure.
posted by primethyme at 1:41 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like the book "Do What You Are," which makes career recommendations based on your Myers-Briggs type. There are some quizzes at the front to determine your type, and then for each type, a description, and dozens of job recommendations.
posted by pompelmo at 1:42 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Neuro Surgeon? Though, if you don't feel like going back to school for the next 15 years you might consider a celebrity level personal assistant. You would be that person who has to make absolutely sure everything last thing is in order to impress someone else. Not so sure how realistic that might be...

The barometer of success in today's job market is tied to productivity. This being the case, it might be time to address the issue instead of looking for ways to exploit something that is holding you back.
posted by bkeene12 at 3:34 PM on August 29, 2012

I'm a bicycle mechanic. This is a great trait to have. Actually, my mandated mantra (imposed upon me by my WHOOPASS master tech) is "Count to ten."

Do it perfectly, don't do it fast. Do it perfectly enough times and the speed will come. But always strive for perfect.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:49 PM on August 29, 2012

Seconding paralegal. I'm a lawyer, don't have this trait, and wish I did. I am endlessly grateful for detail-oriented paralegals who can help fill that gap in my skillset.
posted by ewiar at 8:43 PM on August 29, 2012

Angry little space peon would like to clarify that not only was perfection a requirement, we had to be perfect on time, the first time. When stuff is moving at 7000 m/s, there isn't really the luxury of going back and taking time to get it right.
posted by casarkos at 11:40 AM on August 30, 2012

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