What are some easily accessible, intellectually stimulating jobs for a mid 30s career changer?
November 3, 2012 5:48 PM   Subscribe

What are some easily accessible, intellectually stimulating jobs for a mid 30s career changer? Salary is not a concern. I have a decent passive income, as well as enough savings to last at least 5 years. I don't care about money or benefits at all. I am especially interested in market opportunities. Desirable jobs that for undervalued for some reason. Eg new emerging industries, or understaffed existing industries. I would happily work for free, if the job was structured and stimulating enough. I have built up some healthy passive income streams. And in principle could work for free for quite a while. (Years). My primary concern is stimulation. I have considered just studying for fun, but that seems a bit self indulgent. I've already had my fair share I think. But would happily study a masters if required. My skill set is fairly average. Nothing special or unique. Just a good basic all rounder, quick to pick stuff up, but never going to push back any boundaries. I have undergraduate degrees in both humanities and engineering related subjects. Again, keeping it vague on purpose! I'm very grateful for your help.
posted by molloy to Work & Money (26 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Or.... ** What are some desirable jobs that are undervalued in the market, so there would be more competition for these positions, if only more people knew about them. (ignoring salary as factor)
posted by molloy at 5:56 PM on November 3, 2012

Development (i.e. fundraising) work for non-profits can be quite challenging and stimulating, if you have a flair for marketing and putting together events (or getting others to put together events).
posted by dbmcd at 6:02 PM on November 3, 2012

Get a Ph.D. (that's not just self-indulgent study; it's a job as well as education, there's an opportunity to become a researcher/academic/etc. later). Go to medical school or law school and then become a doctor or lawyer. Plenty of highly stimulating jobs available in both fields, particularly if money is not a consideration. Start a business. Find a job at a nonprofit or a startup you like. Learn a trade and work as a plumber or electrician or mechanic -- that can be undervalued and challenging. Find a political issue you're interested in and volunteer for a prominent organization that deals with it. Work for a politician you respect. If you're religious, join the clergy or something analogous; it's one of the careers with the highest job satisfaction. Learn an art: become a filmmaker or writer or painter or actor or musician. Become a teacher.
posted by shivohum at 6:04 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify, i am looking for accessible occupations. Not a highly skilled profession, or a creative hobby. filmmaker or writer or painter are very desirable things to do as a hobby, even a full time hobby, but competition to do these things as an "occupation" is super high. Even working for free, working as a filmaker is not an accessible occupation. There is tremendous competition even for voluntary positions. I'm looking for non competitive angles.
posted by molloy at 6:10 PM on November 3, 2012

I work for a freight forwarder and I think the work is super interesting! There is a lot to learn but I still think it's accessible because it's not science or math or even writing, it's just new terms and concepts. If you're at all interested in how things get places, you should check out logistics/freight.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 6:12 PM on November 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

Check out 3D laser scanning, it might appeal to the enginerd in you. I do it a lot at work. It's really bleeding edge stuff, but is just exploding in popularity. One of the things I enjoy is taking a point cloud, modeling it up and exporting it into a video game so people can walk around in the models I scan for them.

This pretty much entailed me learning how to use the scanner, register pointclouds together, learn 3ds Max, Revit and AutoCAD as well as a host of other technical programs from scratch in just the last few months. It's been really engrossing and very rewarding.
posted by sanka at 6:14 PM on November 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think you're asking which jobs are easy to get (i.e., low competition), but are still interesting and challenging, if not necessarily well-paid.

Instructional design is pretty accessible with the right education, and it is definitely stimulating. It creates opportunities to learn all kinds of new things and then prepare that information so that it can be taught to others. Sometimes instructional designers also do the training, sometimes not. Sometimes they also build computer-based training courses, sometimes not.

I think Lean Six Sigma/process improvement/process engineering work is similar. If you work in a complex organization, there will be lots of different problems to solve and you'll learn about all the different facets of the organization.
posted by jeoc at 6:18 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you're at all physically inclined...

(The article's a bit longer than the one Shivohum linked, and more of the-essay-that-became-the-book sort of thing, but it's well worth reading both).

Honestly, of all the jobs I've had, I'm generally the least likely to feel bored while farming. And while the pay is terrible, it's not something anyone I know does because they want to get rich- it's an amazing lifestyle. I probably spend more time thinking critically and creatively about my work on the farm, than about anything else I've done.

... And while it's becoming trendy, if you've got some mechanical/engineering skills to bring to the table, you'll easily outshine all us liberal-arts grads looking to find some sort of income.
posted by Cracky at 6:30 PM on November 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

I would actually second getting a
Ph.D. If you have the time and resources it can be highly stimulating and has the potential to be a money maker in the long run. You could do something cool like archeology or marine biology, or whatever else floats your boat. And since you have (apparently) butt loads of time and money, you can volunteer in the field of interest before applying to relevant programs. This is what I would do if I could do whatever I wanted. Well, I actually did do this (without any experience in the field I currently work in) and was lucky enough that it's working out to be an OK financial situation.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:22 PM on November 3, 2012

I am a member of the supply chain team right now. I find it to be both challenging and interesting. Things change so fast, never a dull moment. The supply chain in any company is connected to every department in one way or another. Many many moving parts.
posted by meeshell at 7:35 PM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

teach english in a foriegn country.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:20 PM on November 3, 2012

"Desirable jobs that are undervalued in the market":

Military (some specialties)
Law enforcement
posted by hyperbovine at 8:21 PM on November 3, 2012


We have a shortage of nurses. 2 years in community college to get the job, though.

Science teacher.

We have a shortage of science teachers. Teaching jobs can be gotten with an emergency certification if the local need is great enough.

Both jobs pay like crap relative to the amount of thinking one has to do, but are stimulating to the point of exhaustion.
posted by pmb at 8:26 PM on November 3, 2012

You have skills in identifying income generation opportunities, it looks like. Perhaps entrepreneurial skills as well. Increasingly, there are lower income groups in your own town who could do with an angel/incubator/advisor to help them with small businesses. Sort of like a Kiva but IRL and with guidance/mentoring. Social and economic development within the US is undervalued as attention tends to go to more glamourous Africa or India.
posted by infini at 8:28 PM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

The challenge would be to see if you can come up with a model that can scale.
posted by infini at 8:30 PM on November 3, 2012

Dogs body in a start-up engineering firm working on cutting edge development in energy efficiency. Work for stock.
posted by the fish at 9:02 PM on November 3, 2012

I second the idea of teaching English in a foreign country. Immersing yourself in another culture, possibly even learning the language, would be stimulating, challenging, and rewarding. Imagine all the possible interesting places you could go, from China to Chile, from Romania to Rwanda.
posted by Dansaman at 11:28 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

talent scout for vc angels. charge % both sides
posted by the noob at 11:49 PM on November 3, 2012

Teach others to set up passive income streams? I'm sure there's a market for that.
posted by tatiana131 at 11:54 PM on November 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

There are certain programming languages that have at least localized shortages. For example, here in Baltimore, Ruby on Rails developers don't really compete for jobs. Employers compete with each other to hire them.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:52 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

My favorite job ever was teaching English and literacy in the US. It's amazing how many people there are who need help with literacy, and what diverse backgrounds they come from. I know someone who teaches English at a community college for a dollar a year. Does doing this amount to a possible career change for someone like you? Hard to tell in the absence of more detail. Maybe you could do something like run workshops for some of the many people who need to improve both communication and finance skills.
posted by BibiRose at 7:32 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I could pause time to learn one skill(set) that I think would pay off immensely in the long run, it would be to learn CAD and CNC machining, potentially with some low voltage electronics on the side. I would love to be able to create any crazy contraption that inevitably pops into my head.

Machining also has to be the epitome of an occupation that has become undervalued in a service economy. It is an occupation that seemingly also has a fairly low barrier to entry, but will become more valuable with experience, knowledge of techniques/feasibility, and computer aided design.

For someone with a knack for creating passive streams of income, having the ability to prototype a niche widget that people don't know they need yet could potentially be very rewarding, financially and intellectually.
posted by clearly at 12:06 AM on November 5, 2012

3D printing shop/maker bot/ fablab style?
posted by infini at 2:09 AM on November 5, 2012

To expand on the 3d printing idea... some people in town here run a local maker/hacker space. Running that is incredibly stimulating, interesting, cutting edge, and good for the community. There are surely low paid gigs, though they do get volunteers to help too.

2nding that nursing is understaffed. You could get in rather quickly as a nurse's aide.

Teaching sort of sucks (in some people's opinion), but you could get into development of alternative charter schools which are a growing industry. (Link goes to one that recently opened here in the Boston area.)

Generally growing areas are those related to sustainability and green energy, lower cost and alternative health care management (e.g. home health options), anything related to mental health (e.g. behavioral health counselors, occupational mental health related services). If you like to interact with people one on one, there are some emerging service related jobs. Professional organizer, medi-spa work (non MD or nurse aesthetician jobs like giving laser treatments), medical tattooing. Energy efficiency consulting.

Counseling for holistic, alternative and non-pharmaceutical medicine, jobs in medical offices specialized in that sort of thing. There is a legitimate area between big pharma and quackery where there are legitimate treatments live, but that are not patentable and not under the umbrella of big pharma.

You can get into organizing and facilitating overseas medical tourism.

Definitely emerging for the future: genetic counseling. The genetic future is upon is, 10 years out everyone will have their genome sequenced. Mark my words, as someone working in science.
posted by kellybird at 5:19 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

molloy: "Even working for free, working as a filmaker is not an accessible occupation. There is tremendous competition even for voluntary positions. I'm looking for non competitive angles."

This just isn't true.

My old roommate left his accounting job to go to film school, and became fairly successful at it, eventually finding a niche in the documentary world (and producing films for nonprofits on the side). You've probably never seen any of his work, but he's not struggling by any stretch of the imagination. It's possible to make a living in the film world without becoming super-famous.

It's hard work, and you're not probably never going to produce a film that gets famous. However, there's a ton of film/video work out there, with a lot of very specific niches. It's true that there's a whole lot of competition at the top (ie. Hollywood), but I wouldn't consider it impossible to get a foothold further down on the ladder.

A lot of film projects never reach completion, so you do need to stay involved in multiple projects at once, and not get bummed when a project fails or stalls. However, these failed projects usually make good portfolio pieces, and my roommate always seemed to be able to find consistent enough work to pay the bills, even if his own personal projects weren't reliably making much money.
posted by schmod at 9:27 AM on November 5, 2012

Oh, and in the current economy, you're not going to find very many "accessible" jobs that don't require a very specific skillset. Everybody is looking for work.

You're going to have a lot of competition just applying to be a burger-flipper.

That said.... maybe you'd like to learn how to build things, and just spend a year working for Habitat for Humanity, City Year, or Americorps?
posted by schmod at 9:33 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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