Take this job and shove it
July 13, 2013 1:08 PM   Subscribe

I want to change careers. currently I am a librarian. I want to be a reporter, or communications/public relations work for a company. I currently began writing for pay for a small organization. It has been very exciting and a great way to network. I have other skill sets, and would like to explore those, too. They include non-profit event planning, fundraising, research. I think I would be an asset to another company. How do I go about getting out of my current job, and start a new career? I feel really stuck.
posted by Jewel98 to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Most people switch tracks either through networking or through going back to school. I've also seen people recommend volunteering time at a non-profit. The most important thing is to get the word out that you are interested in a change. Some people feel weird about this, but most people would rather give jobs out to a friend-of-a-friend than a stranger.
posted by mochapickle at 1:50 PM on July 13, 2013

My company is currently hiring for a position like the one you seek, and one of the biggest pieces of feedback we have to give applicants right now is to really be sure of their writing ability before they apply to us and tell us that they are this superb PR person with excellent journalism skills. We regularly look at people's Facebook accounts, blogs, and other social media profiles to see how they write in a variety of contexts, and it's really astonishing to see how many people think they can write and proofread their own work when in actuality everything is riddled with errors. I would therefore recommend that you get as much practice with writing for this kind of career as you can and that you also brush up on writing conventions either on your own or through some night classes. You need to be able to walk the walk for this sort of thing and in gaining more flexibility in your writing voice you may open other freelance doors that could lead you to your dream career. Good luck!
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:58 PM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

A lot of the functions you list (public relations, fundraising, event planning) happen in library contexts. Can you exercise any of these skills in your current job, or by moving to another job within your organization? Look for situations where you are that will build your expertise and credibility, and that will provide you a smooth, natural transition to another setting. It's far better to be seen as an experienced professional than as a career changer.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:41 PM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with Wordwoman. I am a librarian who wanted a career change and I was able to move to something else within my own organization. I just started the new job this month.
posted by michellenoel at 3:19 PM on July 13, 2013

I want to be a reporter, or communications/public relations work for a company.

I'd be concerned that the job prospects for reporters these days are quite poor.

From a random conversation while traveling, I've heard that the communications/PR job market is better, but much of it involves networking, and you don't have a network yet.

Doing an internal transfer, as suggested above, seems very sensible. It is lower-risk than the generic job market, and it is also a good way to build up a resume and network for the generic job market if your choices or circumstances mean that you to leave the library for another place or industry.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:41 PM on July 13, 2013

Best answer: Can you exercise any of these skills in your current job, or by moving to another job within your organization?

You might also see if you could move to a similar position within a library advocacy organization such as a local or state library association. States vary in how professional their organizations are, but I can name a few states offhand (New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas, Maine) that have strong state libraries who consider marketing and promotion part of what they do. Being someone who could write clearly and effectively about library-ish topics would be a way to possibly make a lateral move while at the same time paving the way to move out of libraries more specifically.

You might want to get in touch with Kathy Dempsey who writes for Libraries are Essential who has a sort of split library/journalism focus with a marketing bent and see if she has advice specific to your location, she's really smart and friendly (and feel free to tell her I said hi).
posted by jessamyn at 6:19 PM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Very cool suggestions. I believe that a move within the larger organization would be a possibility. I looked for jobs within my organization. I have applied to them as well. I like the advocacy referral, so thanks jessamyn. I just checked out her website. I plan to email her when I get a chance.
posted by Jewel98 at 8:15 AM on July 14, 2013

Opportunities flow through people. Whenever I'd like to change careers, explore a new path, or learn about anything really, I take folks out to lunch/coffee/beers/tea. Cold email reporters you respect, or those that have the job title you'd eventually want. Reach out with a short (no, shorter than that) email telling them you'd like to their advice and that you respect their view. Tell them you'll be respectful of their time, will cater to their schedule, and will travel to them.

Some will say no, many won't get back to you. But a select few will. Take them out to lunch. Pay. Be upfront. Ask lots of questions. Ask them if there's anyone else that they respect in the field. Tell them you're looking. Ask them how you can help them. Write that thing down, and do everything you reasonably can to help. Follow up and say thanks.

This creates a tiny network of people with their ear to the ground who know your situation, think you're awesome and can funnel any opportunities they hear your way.
posted by Blandanomics at 9:50 AM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Join newsgroups (what we used to call listservs) for libraries in your specialty and region. You will see all sorts of interesting jobs posted from time to time. Also, keep another eye on your local media outlets and when you someone doing something along the lines you'd like to do, make note, then send an application/c.v. On the networking side, you might want to work on your Twitter and Facebook contacts, and LinkedIn seems ideal for this, as well.
posted by Lynsey at 12:11 PM on July 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have listed that following interests for the non-profit sector:
-Communications/public relations
-Event planning

Many medium to large size non-profits would divide these tasks between different positions, so it may help you to think about what role you'd be interested in more.

Here's a rough sketch of how work is divided in the kind of non-profits I've worked for:

-Development staff work on event planning and fundraising (some research on funding opportunities or donor prospects but would rely on program staff for policy research). They maintain our relationships with foundations, donors and members. They also manage the organization's own board members. If it is a member driven organization, you might be coordinating activities for members. Other than Excel, there are specific programs that woud be useful to be familiar with--I'm not a development person so I don't know what they're called but most development job announcements say what programs they'd like you to know.

-Advocacy or program staff would do policy work, policy research and some public relations. Activities may include lobbying, providing services, identifying strategies for reaching goals, coalition building, outreach, education, coordination of events and more depending on the nature of the non-profit.

-Communications staff do research, work with journalists and should have some basic design/web/social media skills. You should be able to distill concepts into talking points quickly and accurately. You may be asked to help prepare internal documents to the board as well. In my organization, this department is expected to do both traditional communications activities (such as coordinating press events) and also know how to use the internet (FB, Twitter, Tumblr, advocacy tools such as GetActive/CapWiz/Convio) to promote our issues. The staff in the communications department do not decide policy issues, only the advocacy/policy staff would do that. Other organizations may do that differently, I'm just sharing my experience.

You should take a look at the kinds of organizations you're interested in to get a feel for how they are structured and what department appeals the most to you.
posted by dottiechang at 2:09 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These last two from dottiechang, lynsey and blandamonics are very helpful. These are angles I have not considered since I feel like that part of my brain has deteriorated in some sense. Thank you very much for your help, answers, and great advice through the love of this community of knowledgable people.
posted by Jewel98 at 10:25 PM on July 16, 2013

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