Help me find my inner unicorn tamer
January 3, 2013 4:58 AM   Subscribe

Help me consider interesting and unconventional career choices out of university

I'm in my early 20s and I'm going to graduate in politics from a London university in a few months, so I've suddenly been thrust into the world of career choices. I've applied for a few graduate schemes, including the civil service and tfl (as a transport planner), but although I think I'd enjoy these jobs if I got them, I'm pretty sure that anything like that sort of thing is going to leave a large part of me unsatisfied. So I'd like to explore some more unconventional career ideas to see that there is anything out there more in line with my values.

I'm aware that no job is going to make me totally fulfilled, all careers contain hard work and mundaneness and that satisfaction in life can also be found outside of work. Even so, I'd like to see what else is out there, even if the only purpose is to lay my vague ambitions to rest once I realise that they're not so appealing in concrete form with all the nitty gritty brought in. Life stories, personal stories, biographies, advice would all be very useful. The more radical and unique the better, consider it more an exercise in inspiration than practical advice. (Though practical advice about how to set about doing these things, or cold harsh reminders of the pitfalls of such a lifestyle are also very welcome).

I'm looking for this sort of thing:
* exploring the human condition, finding things out about the way we live, attempting to change the way that people live
* being radical and pushing boundaries, experimenting with various alternative ideas about life in a practical way

And then some more generic criteria:
* living in a big city
* opportunity to travel for work
* no set routine, being able to pursue various projects side by side
* opportunity to be in the public eye, high profile
* developing a specialist skill that is useful
* not particularly concerned about money, but I'm not an heir to a huge fortune, so enough to live on would be useful

So far I've thought of gonzo/immersion journalist/documentary maker. I really like what Louis Theroux and Jon Ronson do, in terms of exploring intruiging aspects of humanity. As an insight into my character, it's probably similar to these guys too. Not sure if I've made myself clear here, so feel free to ask some more searching questions!
posted by awesomathon to Work & Money (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How about a city planner? I have no idea what Kim of education you need for that, though.

Or some sort of urban outreach thing - like creating a community garden.
posted by dawkins_7 at 5:05 AM on January 3, 2013

I applied for the civil service myself a few years back, for the diplomatic service. I was convinced it was for me and the more i got through the online tests and regional tests i was quite fired up. But when i met those other students competing at the london assessment centre (junior Boris Johnsons, not many women, not many non-whites) and then reading some diplomats biographies it put me off. I didnt get through the final selection but i chose not to apply again, not exactly for the same reasons you are feeling uncertain about that kind of work but from a similar vein of feeling like it wouldnt actually make me that satisfied. travel would have been great but im not sure what i really would learn or feel of *worth* etc. And i wasnt sure that i really would be meeting/living/socialising with a great diversity of human life regarless of the fact i'd probably be with a number of nationalities.

if you're in london already youre well placed for attempting various things as everything is down there (northerner grumbles!) also if money isnt a major issue and youre in your early 20s then this is the time for experimentation!

Travel writing? (not a great deal of money in it but that might keep you on your toes to develop other skills to finance in tandem (photography, blogging)
Charity work? not charity muggers but proper jobs/internships - lots of international development/aid/ngo stuff based there?
Research - not academic per say, but academic/policy etc for think tanks, charities? There'd be travel in that, plenty of scope for developing writing experience, could easily get you hihg profile exporsure in the long term and generate change for lives, politics and schools of thought....

if i was 10 years younger and had just a little money i would: go do a MSc in animal/comparative psychology or something similar then pack off to africa or asia to study animals in the wild. i'd write scientific papers on my studies but also a memoir. I'd travel extensively over the continent i was living in, get to know local customs and learn an exotic language that could come in handy in future when i was a leading scholar on X, take up photography (and become awesome at it of course!) and get on the gravy train that is the after dinner speeches circuit.

basically i'd be Robert Sapolsky. not great at doing links so google 'a primates memoir'. seriously the most interesting, sweet and funny book i ever read.

posted by moreteaplease at 7:36 AM on January 3, 2013

Do you have talent/drive in some sort of media production that could potentially lead to the sort of high-profile media-driven career you imagine? Jon Ronson, for example, got a degree in journalism on his path toward becoming a journalist. Louis Theroux is the son of one of the most highly regarded travel writers of the 20th century and got his start at a pretty mundane newspaper job as well.

I have a cousin who is a documentary photographer for a UN development organization. Her job meets some, but not all, of your criteria (she lives in Rome and travels extensively to exotic locations, does "meaningful" and personally satisfying work, but she's not particularly high profile). She has an undergrad degree (or possibly an MA) in anthropology and started working as a technical writer in development but was able to integrate her long-term hobby-level photography talents into a move toward the photography side of things after a few years in their publications department. Still, it was a long process with lots of non-glamorous and mundane positions along the way. It wasn't until she reached her 40s that she's been doing documentary photography.
posted by drlith at 7:44 AM on January 3, 2013

Since you majored in politics, what about politics? If you don't want to run for office yourself you could help run campaigns, write speeches, do lobbying, etc. Get access to power and then change the world. These jobs may be low paid, all-consuming, and absurdly competitive, but no more so than being a gonzo documentary maker.
posted by steinwald at 8:32 AM on January 3, 2013

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