I don't know what I want to be when I'm grown up.
June 3, 2013 12:47 PM   Subscribe

30 year old needs a new job, possibly a whole new education. Need suggestions!

Right now I work at a community college in the online education department. I create interactive games for the courses we put online. I love this job. This job is not full time. I recently had my hours cut (healthcare reform victim.) I've been here 5 years. I will be 30 years old in December and I need a little more money in my life then what I have. I currently have an associates degree in multimedia, and I focus on html, css, graphic design with a little video editing on the side. I live in southeastern Michigan.

I guess I'm at the point in my life where I'm not sure what I want to do anymore. I enjoy what I'm doing, but with a job that focuses mostly on Flash and a push to accommodate mobile devices, I'm not sure I want to dive head first into javascript. I just don't know if that's what I want to do.

The smart thing would be to get a bachelors degree with a focus on web design and programming. The stupid thing is that I went to a college that doesn't transfer credits so most likely I'd have to take the whole slew of academic classes again.

If I'm going to start over I don't even know if this is the field I want to be in anymore. But I don't have an idea of what field I do want to be in.

Things I like:
I want to help people. Either through education (but not traditional teaching) or some kind of social work.
I also really like making websites. Back when I first went to school, that was what I wanted to do. Less of a passion now.
I love social media and interacting on it.
I love working on a computer all day.

I feel like I could do "anything", that I only need the education for it. (Other then the medical field, which holds no interest) I am okay with not being rich, but having a job that earns between 35-40k would be nice.

What fields should I look into metafilter? Do you have any suggestions of something else I could do if not go back to school? What is there a demand for right now?
posted by royalsong to Education (10 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Here's my suggestion, check out job training deals through the state. Become certified in some hot software. Salesforce.com, Excel, Access and SharePoint are all good.

You have a college degree, and once you become a guru on some popular software, you can work anywhere.

I sit in my cube all day extracting data from Salesforce and manipulating it in Excel (and soon...Access.) SharePoint is another great thing to learn.

Get certified and slap that on your resume.

Don't believe me? Go to a job site and search on those terms.

Microsoft has on-line tutorials, you may have access to them through your job!

Get the skilz and get paid.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:59 PM on June 3, 2013

You want UX. You already do UX... learn javascript and HTML 5 (Flash is all but dead), and sell your services as someone who understands how people engage with online content. I don't think you would benefit from school as much as you would from hands-on tinkering.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:02 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Bachelor's Degree in Web Design and Programming is not going to open any magical doors for you. On top of that, you will have to waste time on general academics that are not germane to what you want to do moving forward.

Far better to spend that time (and money) on actually learning important stuff and doing shit you can use to market yourself and your skills. Diving headfirst in to something like javascript (among the most valuable and widespread skills in "Web Design and Programming") is exactly what you would want to do! There are countless resources out there that make this transition easier than it has ever been.

As for moving outside of that:
-You have the necessary skills to do web design (freelance or otherwise)
-You could probably be of some use at a PR agency (any agency of reasonable size wants at least one person like you)
-Non-profits are known for having lots of people who want to help and no clue about the technology or new media outreach methods for making that happen... (you could be their Swiss Army Knife)

Those are just a start... you have demanded skills; I perceive the education piece as being an excuse keeping you from taking action :-)
posted by milqman at 1:02 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sounds to me like you belong in the non-profit world. Being the social media, or the access person, or the salesforce or sharepoint person for an non-profit would have you sitting at a computer all day, helping people (maybe not directly, but still), and the pay range is about right. These skills, especially at NPOs, are in-demand - seriously.

Non-profits are notoriously awful at technology stuff. More and more they have specialized people doing membership database management (usually Access, though might be something else), online store/ticket purchasing stuff (Salesforce), website updating stuff, development database management (Raiser's Edge). If you have several of these skills, you might even be able to niche out a role for yourself at the right organization where you'd do a bit of all these things.

Getting a BA would help you stand out, but isn't really a requirement. My advice would be - is there like a non-profit cultural organization you like? Like a museum or the like? Get a job at the box office, tell them you can do this other stuff, and they will move you up, and faster than you think.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:30 PM on June 3, 2013

Instructional design!

You could very possibly get a job doing that based on your current experience. Start brushing up on ID and its terminology (know what ADDIE stands for, etc.) and how what you are doing contributes to workplace learning - - not so much the technical side, but rather the relationship between the needs of the student and how you can engage students' minds to think about the content/material in interesting ways.

During an interview, present a "portfolio" of projects you've worked on (maybe just printouts of screenshots..include before-and-after images, etc.) and keep focused on the "higher" goals of the project, not necessarily your technical chops. (The technical stuff certainly won't hurt, though.) Finally, make sure everything you present is well-written and that the graphic design aspect is tasteful.
posted by see_change at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could work for the media group of an educational (e.g. textbook) publishing company. A lot of old media companies like these are aggressively trying to move online to survive. I would recommend getting your bachelors in "CS or a related field", insofar as the BA/S is the new high school diploma. I know that you can be a superlative programmer without one, but as someone who's hired a handful of folks, it's an easy way to sort people (for better or for worse). This will be truer the larger the company, I suspect.
posted by seemoreglass at 1:47 PM on June 3, 2013

Have you looked at other community colleges or universities? Or even job postings at yours?

I think you should really look to see what's out there — milqman makes an excellent point — your skills would not only be be of use to PR agencies — they would also be of value to PR departments in universities or colleges. I work in such a department and your skills are indeed very relevant.

Plus, moving to another job in the post-secondary sector would be easier — in my opinion — than moving to private sector. Get networking and meet others in Higher Ed -- I'd suggest getting involved with the HighEdWeb Professionals Association for a start.
posted by Lescha at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2013

Echoing see_change: instructional design.
posted by Riverine at 2:05 PM on June 3, 2013

You've gotten some good advice already, but I realize you may be looking to get more hours and money somewhere for the immediate future. If that's the case, look around for jobs at learning/tutoring centers. I've been working at a learning center as an English, reading, and writing tutor for the last four months, and I love it. The pay is so-so and there's sadly no digitization in the center I'm in (my one gripe!), but I love working with the students on a one-on-one basis. This is hourly work that fits around my schedule and other work, so you might find something similar that would complement the work you're currently doing if what you're really wanting is to do is figure out a way to stay there.

As for web design, particularly on the graphical front, I feel there should be a word of caution. So many people get excited about this field because it is a tech field, which means there are jobs available, but it's also one of the most frustrating, I think. Half the time a company looking to hire will say they want a UX Designer (or similar), but they also want you to know PHP...which is not design. Many companies and individual clients view design as a nice-to-have, not a must-have, and it shows in how they really only want to hire a designer if he or she can also perform half a dozen other duties. This problem is getting better with time, but it's got a long, long way to go.

As a freelance web designer, I've found most frontend design work is a mix of Clients From Hell and companies that don't know whether they want designers or programmers. If you don't want to freelance and instead get hired by a company that actually knows what they want when it comes to design, you can have an okay time of it, but you still have to deal with clients who won't listen to your expertise to their own detriment (one of the most frustrating things I know).

The main reason I'm telling you this is that if you're the type who wants to avoid traditional teaching (as I am), that suggests to me you don't like dealing with frustrations of "the system": the politics, the cringe-worthy idiocy, etc. If that's the case, you should probably think long and hard about web design, especially if it's less of a passion now than in the past. It can be incredibly rewarding to see a finished product go online, but there's often a lot of soul-crushing BS along the way.

If you want to go for something entirely different and start from scratch, I have a strange suggestion: psychology. It's an industry that is growing fast, it's more conversational/educational than it is medical (though obviously some medical understanding is needed), it really does help people, and you might be able to work your way up to having your own practice and hours. Just an idea.
posted by iamfantastikate at 3:50 PM on June 3, 2013

I'm not sure what job prospects there are in your area, but your background sounds appropriate for web development or UX (sort of usability-focused design), depending on your interests. If you are interested in going that route, getting into more programming is probably going to be important for success in interviews – pretty much everybody knows HTML these days, and Flash is totally dead and legacy. That said, many design studios hire people with a technical background who also can handle some design work.
posted by deathpanels at 9:49 PM on June 3, 2013

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