Why should extroverts have all the fun?
November 16, 2012 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Are there any good non-desk, non-computer-based jobs out there for introverts?

I'm so tired of staring at a computer all day. I'd like to do something lightly active that has me moving around. I've seriously considered going back to school to be an occupational or physical therapist...except I'm very introverted and suspect the constant face time would kill me.

It seems like all of the frequently discussed non-cubicle jobs are ideal for extroverts (teacher, nanny, nurse, the aforementioned phys and occupational therapists). Are any good, reliable, decently paying careers left for introverts? What am I not thinking of?

Bonus points for jobs that don't require one to be a mechanical genius or require travel/relocating (I'm in the Midwest). My only current skill/strength is in writing long, boring research papers on arcane aspects of the English language.
posted by silly me to Work & Money (16 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Gardening/landscaping/park ranger.

Animal training/wild animal rehab.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:32 AM on November 16, 2012

One thing that came to mind was being a phone company installer.

They'll teach you how to do the job, they give you a truck and you drive around installing phone lines all day.

Most of the time, you're on your own at the cross-box in the neighborhood, or on the outside of the house. Sometimes you might go in the house to wire a jack or something.

So if you could deal with about 10-15% face time with customers, many of whom will not be very interested in talking with you above, "It's there in the kitchen", that might be a thought.

Same for electric company, gas company, cable company installer.

Excellent Union wages, lots of overtime, especially with Sandy restoration.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:33 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

requiring a rather high level of manual dexterity:

Art Conservation or Restoration

But the pace of work, required interaction with others, allowance of deep study, lack of computer screens, lightly physical... all fit your criteria.
posted by French Fry at 9:34 AM on November 16, 2012

Related to your physical therapist are massage therapists. A quick conversation at the start, then an hour of quiet time.
posted by CathyG at 9:53 AM on November 16, 2012

Geophysical technician, conducting ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic surveys for buried objects. You'd have some interaction with consultants who are hiring you or your firm to look for objects, but it can be minimal. Lots of being outside and moving around, and jobs are available anywhere there could be old buried tanks or other objects.
posted by pie ninja at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2012

I work as a technician in the r&d lab of a company. Most of the time I work by myself or maybe with one one other tech if the job is really big. Personal interaction is mainly limited to talking to the requesting engineer or the test engineer regarding feedback or questions about test setup and reports.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2012

One thing to consider is the difference between your "work mode" and your "personal mode." You can still be an introvert but learn to operate in an extroverted role for a few hours a day to accomplish some task. A guy I used to work with did this. He was a manager who had to constantly be pushing people to stay focused on a project, but outside of work he was rather laid back and quiet.

Also, if by "introverted" you mean solitary, I would suggest that you might want to reconsider that definition. Every job is going to require some degree of collaboration with other people, because every job is providing a service to other human beings. There are very few truly solitary occupations, and most of them don't pay very well. So I would suggest that you look at this as a sort of trade-off. If you had to work with other people, what environment would you work best in? What kind of people would you like to work with? What if you worked with a group of introverts, and you only checked in with each other once a day?

Or you could get a job planting trees in Alaska. Or become a delivery driver for UPS. Or a bar back. There are lots of jobs like these, but I don't know if someone accustomed to writing long, boring research papers is going to find a lot of enjoyment in them.
posted by deathpanels at 10:11 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Panel technicians at engineering firms? Had some guys part timing while they went to college at some previous workplaces so you may be able to get in wo experience. Looking in the long term you may gain troubleshooting skills that allow you to get into field troubleshooting and other more technical positions, if you so desire.
posted by Muu at 10:11 AM on November 16, 2012

How about surveyor for a structural engineering company? You would work with one other person, either operating the GPS equipment or holding the prism thing. Lots of fun outdoors, minimal social interaction.
posted by cccp47 at 10:17 AM on November 16, 2012

Most factory and warehouse work satisfies "non-desk, non-computer job for introverts". Many factories will push beyond "lightly active", though.

However, there is a whole category of low-impact factory work: light assembly (glue a few pieces together and pass it on), packaging (take one of each thing and put them in the box), quality control, and mail sorting. Take the Hostess factories, for example: I doubt those jobs were as physically taxing as working in a steel mill.

They're not exciting, they're not mentally stimulating, but they can pay a decent wage, especially if you get into the union. It would definitely work for introverts: just you fiddling with your repetitive task until the shift ends.

I don't know if they would provide a career; they are mostly about practicing a trade. Just wanted to point out that there are plenty of jobs out there where people toil alone. (Take agriculture, for example; but those are typically very physical). Usually the more mentally demanding the job is, the higher the likelihood of desks, people, and computers being involved, though.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:22 AM on November 16, 2012

This recent AskMe might help you; some of the low-computer/low-human-interaction jobs discussed are dog walker, museum curator, independent sewing/pattern-making, signal tower operator, archaeologist, theatre designer/tech, and field geologist.
posted by kagredon at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2012

Heh, my answer is the one linked in the previous comment as "museum curator," so perhaps I should clarify. I am a registrar, not a curator. Logistics vs Scholarship might be a way to think about how our jobs differ. I do have less face-time with visitors, board members, etc, but I do interact with a small team in my department as well as the rest of the museum employees on a daily basis. Curators also spend a lot of time doing research and thinking about the art, but are generally called upon to give lectures, socialize with donors and board members, etc. So not constant face time, but a need for charm and social graces are important at certain times.
posted by PussKillian at 11:11 AM on November 16, 2012

Some random ideas: Security guard; truck driver; courier; plumber (or similar trades like electrician); musician; landscape architect.

If you don't mind spending spend part of your time at a desk, and want to take advantage of your writing skills, maybe you could choose something like journalism or freelance writing that would involve some field research and some writing.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:43 AM on November 16, 2012

I'm pretty introverted, but I generally like people. I have found that as long as I'm not dealing with groups of people, large turnover, or in confrontational situations, I'm OK interacting with people at work.Tutoring and teaching small classes (4-5 students at a time) was tiring, but I enjoyed it a lot too. On the other hand, I'm pretty sh*t at jobs like waitressing, and suspect I'd be terrible at things like nursing, police officer, etc - where it's really (and really randomly) in your face. I have doubts about security guard, as the anxiety of actually having to confront someone would weigh on me.

I actually think occupational or physical therapy might be a really good choice - especially if you got a gig seeing patients 1-1; and saw 6 people or so a day? Pretty sweet. Maybe a physical therapist can comment on the likelihood of this? You could also start with massage therapy and see if you like it... if you do, you could start school for physical therapy. Complimentary skills and all that.

Best job though? Apprenticing on a small organic farm. Lots of time alone, out in a big open field, thinking, watching the weather come and go. Friendly chit-chat here and there. Physically tired at the end of the day, but emotionally and mentally recharged to read/study/hang out with family. Two of my gigs paid $1000+ month & housing + veggies; in the end, I made more doing this than working my crappy computer-based $10/hr job. I can recommend a farm outside of Chicago if you're interested. Mostly produce, but I also worked on a flower farm... loved that too! Likewise a lot of jobs in horticulture, nurseries (plant, that is!), botanic gardens, etc. tend to be pretty low-key.

Printing can also be a job, and running print jobs is a solo task... especially cool if you get into letterpress & stuff. Someone does this at my work, and he sits in a basement studio all day printing books and leaflets and things. (I work for... well, it's be like working for the City or County.)
posted by jrobin276 at 5:30 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Tutoring and teaching small classes (4-5 students at a time) was tiring, but I enjoyed it a lot too.

As a pretty introverted person, I second this. I've both taught (25-student lab classes) and tutored (one-on-one), and while I really, really dislike teaching, and honestly kind of suck at it, I both enjoyed and did quite well with (if my evaluations were any indicator) tutoring. One-on-one work, somewhat paradoxically, tends to feel a lot more focused on the subject, which I think makes it a lot easier; I find that if I have something fairly specific to talk about, and the other person is also pretty focused on that subject, that it's a lot less daunting than more free-form interactions with a lot of weird uncertain interpersonal variables. I'd imagine that would carry over to some extent into physical therapy, but I have no specific knowledge to speak from on that.

(Sorry for the inaccuracy, PussKillian! Also, your job sounds really cool.)
posted by kagredon at 5:45 PM on November 16, 2012

Thanks everyone for your answers! It would be great if I could do physical therapy, so I'm intrigued by the suggestion that it might not be as not as taxing as I'd thought.
posted by silly me at 4:13 AM on November 17, 2012

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