What kinds of jobs should I look for other than admin/office stuff?
June 12, 2013 5:01 PM   Subscribe

I've mostly done generic office work but I would like to expand my job search to include more specific things. What fields (with jobs available) would be a good fit?

I need a job. I'm intelligent and educated, but I feel like I don't have a lot of specialized job skills. I've mostly worked in offices in pretty generic positions (administrative assistant, receptionist, etc) and while I'm looking at more jobs like that, I'd like to branch out in my search. Are there other niche things that wouldn't require me to get additional training first? Areas where there are actually jobs open? Positions that will train me on the job are fine; I just don't want to do much training in the hopes that someone will hire me when I'm done. (At least not right now.)

Part of my this is that I'd like something more interesting, but also, it seems like everyone and their brother is competing for admin jobs these days and I'd like to have more options/branch out/maybe do something where my skills/education give me a leg up or even a chance at advancement.

-I have a BA in biology (finished a few years ago) from a great school but have never worked in a lab. My school's program leaned toward human biology/health and cellular stuff. Unfortunately I don't feel solid enough in my physics/higher math/chemistry knowledge to tutor those subjects or do jobs that count on having a great current working knowledge of them.
-I'm good at finding information.
-I enjoy math in the sense that playing with numbers and graphs for things like helping with inventory planning (in a past job) was fun and easy for me.
-I'm good with computers (using software/learning new programs and troubleshooting) but don't know how to program.
-I'd prefer to have some amount of people contact and I like being helpful but I can be awkward/socially anxious at times.
-I'm somewhat interested in healthcare-related stuff (I might go back to school in the healthcare field eventually.)
-I am open to jobs that require travel.
-I live in the SF Bay area (and am in theory open to relocating, but I don't think I have the kind of skills that would lead to employers hiring me from afar.)
-I have no retail experience.
-I'm not necessarily looking for a career--something for now is fine. I'm open to things that don't pay very well since I am currently making about $0, though if it's poorly-paid I need for it to be something I could quit without feeling too guilty OR something where I can work my way up reasonably quickly/easily.

Things that won't work:
-Jobs that involve writing (I'm told I write well, but churning things out on a deadline gives me severe panic attacks.) Editing is fine.
-Jobs that involve convincing people to buy things they don't need. (Cold-calling, retail jobs with quotas or on commission, etc.)
-Jobs that will wreck my back (constant repetitive lifting of heavy boxes and the like--I'm fit but I'm a smallish woman and I'm not superwoman.)

I'm not sure there are any good options that fit these parameters. If so, fine--I can keep looking for admin jobs and whatever else pops up on craigslist. But it would be great to know if there's some random specific area I'm not thinking of that would be a good fit.

I'm especially interested in fields where there's actually hiring going on right now. (Something like working in a library would be a great fit, but there aren't a lot of jobs, so that's not very helpful.)
posted by needs more cowbell to Work & Money (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
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posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:03 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

In healthcare research, they hire people to administrate studies. For clinical research, this often has to be a nurse, but for public health research you don't need clinical training. They involve typical administrative skills but are often more interesting than straight administration. I coordinated a study for a year: I booked interviews, mailed information packages, tracked participants, designed a database, supervised (and did) data-entry. I also did literature searches and edited our papers and reports. If you have any statistics training, you may be able to do some analysis as well.

If you're interested, I would look for jobs at hospitals and universities with the keywords "research".

Working as an admin in healthcare research is also a great way to learn about healthcare in case you want to go on. I learned a lot about occupational therapy when I was fetching articles on it.
posted by jb at 5:12 PM on June 12, 2013

This may sound like cliched or outdated advice, but almost every single non-admin job I've had (with the exception of one) was a result of a promotion out of an admin position. (For the record, I am in my mid-thirties; I was last promoted out of an admin position a year-and-a-half ago and I've had an additional promotion since then.) This has been more true in smaller companies, where every resource is utilized and I was given a chance to prove myself. So try looking for companies that have an appealing product/mission/what have you and get your foot in the door.

And don't underestimate good admin skills. Everyone and their brother may be applying for these jobs, but it doesn't mean they are at all qualified to compete with someone who has experience.
posted by fairfax at 6:19 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with fairfax - small organizations and shooting for promotions is a great way to go. I started out at a mid-sized nonprofit org, as the admin to their fundraising team and have built that job into a great career over the past 5 years.

If you're thinking the nonprofit route, look around for job titles like Development Assistant. There are always tons of jobs in Development (aka fundraising), and it can grow into tons of things that don't involve going out and asking for money. I've gotten to do research, data analysis, create reports and presentations, handle event coordination, do some writing and editing, etc. It really built a strong skill base and I got to try a lot of different things and figure out what path I wanted to follow. Good luck!
posted by JannaK at 6:31 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Even large organizations promote quickly from admin work. I'm an executive support right now at a very large non-profit and am applying for my next step in the company now after 4 months.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:54 PM on June 12, 2013

Response by poster: Guys, I realize that administrative assistant jobs sometimes evolve into other things and that sometimes it's possible to climb the ranks. That's great and something I take into consideration, but what I'm looking for here is ideas about other (entry-level-ish) jobs (including and especially offbeat things I might not have thought of.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:57 PM on June 12, 2013

What about entry-level marketing? Non profits, religious organizations, etc, need people to put together programs and newsletters and things (no writing required!).

The healthcare research advice made me think of medical administration and medical billing. Those are fields that hire people at entry level and tend to have a reasonable career path.
posted by colin_l at 7:03 PM on June 12, 2013

If you're interested in health care, you might look for unit clerk-type positions in a hospital. This will give you a front-row view of what various health professions do and the reality of their day-to-day work. These jobs go by lots of different titles - unit secretary, "health unit coordinator" at my current employer. This is the person who mans the desk at the nursing station in a hospital and answers phones, processes orders, and does other paperwork/admin tasks.

In a completely different direction - computer-savvy and likes helping people might mean help desk. This can be a stressful job, but on the upside it can also lead to better roles in IT. I have also found that the best help desk people where I have worked were strong in the google-fu. Coding ability is almost never a requirement for these jobs; troubleshooting skills are.
posted by jeoc at 7:07 PM on June 12, 2013

Look at places like Robert Half for data entry, accounts receivable and payables. Some entry level accounting jobs involved looking up invoices to make sure they have been paid, issuing debits and credits, obtaining proof of delivery so invoices can be paid, resolving issues due to computer error (i.e., purchase order not matching price charged so it kicks out the invoice), matching paid invoices to unpaid things on the books, and lots of dead tree filing due to halving to keep records for auditors. If I can do it with so-so Excel skills but excellent admin skills, so can you.

Other options may included intake receptionist at a doctor's office, billing at same, and also the insurance industry.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:10 PM on June 12, 2013

Have you thought about using your biology degree. I have a bachelors in biology and sometimes I feel that I gained little hands on experience. Just learned a bunch of general stuff but nothing that transferred into a job. That being said I still think there is a lot of value in the science degree still. I have worked in a lab for the past few years shortly after college. But after graduating college I did not have experience. I also am working in a chemistry lab even though I did not too well in chemistry class. So you always start somewhere.

Many companies do not expect a bachelor grad with no experience to be a rocket scientist and many jobs are looking for people with a inclination towards science combined with admin work. The need scientific minded people in desk jobs. The economy makes it tough to look for jobs, but I would definitely put yourself out there. If you like healthcare maybe look at pharmaceutical companies. They need quality assurance people or complaints people who will take in complaints and file it accordingly. Maybe your admin work combined with your science background will fit.

Many companies go through temp companies for their entry level jobs. So put yourself out there and if you are open to contract work/temp to hire then try out science temp agencies. Biotech companies can be great so it might be a good fit for you!

Definitely look for QA/QC in Biotech or if you like lab work try for a lab. they will train you in the entry level jobs! It will be tough but a good option to expand your search into.
posted by Jaelma24 at 7:10 PM on June 12, 2013

I work for a small software company in SF, and we hire people like you for sales jobs. It doesn't pay great, but it's regular hours, low stress, and we don't expect you to have any sales experience. We look for people that are somewhat tech-savvy but don't require them to be extremely technical. The salespeople do have goals but it's low pressure, and all inside sales. And there are several people in the company who have moved up from sales into other positions (including Sales Manager, and Customer Success Manager) so it's a growth position.

We're not hiring right now, but I would definitely encourage you to comb through sales positions. There are a lot of crappy jobs out there, yes, but I know my company can't be the only one that hires young, capable people for entry-level tech sales.
posted by radioamy at 7:19 PM on June 12, 2013

medical editing?
posted by dovesandstones at 7:27 PM on June 12, 2013

Response by poster: radioamy, what's involved in the sort of sales jobs you're talking about? Like, is it cold-calling, or following up with companies to sell them add-ons to what they've bought from you, or just fielding incoming calls ordering products, or...?
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:29 PM on June 12, 2013

My company's sales are strictly inside sales and warm leads. It's generally customers calling in to ask about or purchase our software (which they can purchase on their own on our website, but it's a fairly complicated product and they often have questions). The sales team does outbound calling and emailing to customers who have downloaded the 15-day free trial. Occasionally they will have a list of people to contact who attended a webinar or trade show, but it's a very soft sell.
posted by radioamy at 8:40 PM on June 12, 2013

You could look for something in business to business sales. Bonus: usually higher paid than admin work.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:27 AM on June 13, 2013

Response by poster: I think what I'm especially looking for is wacky things (perhaps that will build on my strengths/past education) that allow me to learn random new concrete skills. Like, awhile ago I saw a job that involved being trained (on the job) to do something related to handling samples taken from moles to see if they were cancerous or something--they had developed some new technique and were offering services in a van that traveled between medical offices. I would love to be something other than an office monkey pushing papers around and making phone calls.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:52 AM on June 13, 2013

You could look into recruiting support. That's where most of my background is and previously I'd only had receptionist positions. Recruiting Coordinator, Staffing Associate/Assistant, Resume Processor...

I was a recruiting coordinator for several years with a vendor for a couple large software companies. Recruiters would do their thing and then send me the contact information for candidates they wanted to interview in person. I contacted them to get their dates of availability and other information needed to set up their travel arrangements. Then I worked with hiring managers and teams to get interviews scheduled (mostly through back and forth emails, a few phone calls). I was main point of contact for candidates during the scheduling process and helped answer their nervous questions.

Feel free to memail me if you want more details or what specific vendors I worked for.
posted by E3 at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2013

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