Please give me a job. And a Master's degree.
October 19, 2012 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Be my career counselor: Help me tailor my resume toward a job in higher education administration or research, and a couple of questions.

I want to get a full-time job as either a research assistant or administrative aide, as I no longer wish to work in my undergraduate area of study (nursing). I also want to go back to school to become a LCSW with the goal of being a counselor in private practice. To kill two birds with one stone, my latest idea is to apply for research or administrative positions at major universities within a reasonable commuting distance and, providing I am hired, work while obtaining my MSW. So, my questions:

1) Is this at all realistic?
2) Is seeking work expressly for the accompanying educational benefit a bad idea?
3) How do I tailor my resume toward these types of positions?

My work history includes: staffing secretary at a community hospital (1 year), nursing assistant on a maternity/OB-GYN floor (1 year), seasonal immunization RN (fall season only for the last two years), and certified massage therapist (1 year). As you can see, most of my work has been related to my degree, and I'm not quite sure how to explain the jump from nursing to massage therapy to research or administrative work.

TIA for your help.
posted by constellations to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sure, this is reasonable. People do it all the time. You'll need to find a position that either aligns with your professional background, or where you can leverage the skills you've gained in your earlier jobs. Maybe a program coordinator in a nursing program, or similar?

I work for a major university, and the tuition benefits are a huge draw for young professionals with a few years of experience. It usually takes them 3-4 years to do a graduate degree part time while working. Courses only cost $40 each for staff, so it can't be beat.

For administrative positions in academic, at the level you're looking at, you don't need anything aside from a pretty standard resume. If you don't have one, or want to brush up, you can just Google around and find some great examples at college career services sites.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2012

Also: This is school-specific, but employees getting degrees here don't need to take standardized tests, or go through the application process.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:28 AM on October 19, 2012

I'd say at least a third of university staff are there in large part for educational benefit. It's pretty accepted and not a bad idea at all, as long as you're stil going to take your job seriously. You should be aware that you may have to work for a full semester (or more - check the policy) before you are able to take advantage of tuition benefits. Which isn't entirely a bad thing, it will let you get good enough at your job that you can then more comfortably explain that you would like to work flexible hours two days a week to take classes, or whatever. This is routine among research assistants at the university level. Very possibly admins too, but I know less about that.

Depending on the universities near you, one thought to help with the tailoring might be to expressly look for health-related research programs. In the right research study, it will be an asset that you have experience with people with special medical needs, and/or with infants. Be ready to spin some good stories in the interview about how working in a medical environment was fast-paced and times when you multi-tasked well, dealt with a demanding patient, etc. Maybe you can even spin yourself a good story about how working in a healthcare environment made you want to get into the research aspects of medicine.

But honestly, you'll be fine in whatever area of research you go into if it doesn't need specialized technical skills. A lot of research assistants have a bit of a background that jumps around. They've tried some stuff, they've figured out what they really want to do, and now they're looking to work somewhere steady for a couple of years while they get their master's and then go off and start their new career. That's totally common and expected in research assistants at this level. Research coordinators too, but in that case there's a little more of a concern about making sure you stay at least a couple of years so they get some time to recoup their investment in training you, so just make reassuring noises that you want to find a good fit and stay there long enough to really learn about all the different aspects of research.

I have been, and hired, many a research assistant. Feel free to MeMail me anytime!
posted by Stacey at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2012

Are you sure you want to completely get out of nursing?

My dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. His doctor enrolled him in a clincal trial and the local person running the trial (informing patients, collecting data, analyzing data, writing it up for peer review and publication) is an RN who is using running the trial as the research part of getting a M.Sc.

Less low-level patient care, and when I spoke to her informally she said that her MD and PhD colleagues were wonderful.

Not sure what the best way of finding a M.Sc. supervisor would be for that situation, though.
posted by porpoise at 1:38 PM on October 19, 2012

At my university, the best way is through the temp pool. Start there, temp in a few departments so you get the experience and make a good impression, and eventually a full-time position comes your way if you're good.

It's also a good way for you to get to know what departments you "fit" into. University departments can vary greatly and sometimes it takes a certain kind of personality to fit into that office's culture. But when the fit is good, it's magical.

Plus, you're able to accumulate seniority while you're temping (at least at my institution). I had a former academic manager (from another university) apply for a receptionist job last year and I couldn't even interview her until I'd interviewed the two people who had a few weeks of seniority in the temp pool. (One of them got the job.)
posted by wenat at 6:32 PM on October 19, 2012

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