I want to move my career in a different direction.
April 3, 2014 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I graduated with an M.A. in English and through luck, contracting, and family connections, came to work in nuclear power. My administrative role has changed to field work. I prefer office work, especially writing reports etc. My area in nuclear is very specialized, and due to downsizing in the industry, I feel a real need to get familiar with my prospects for other jobs and diversify my skills. However, I have no idea how to begin, research being one of my weak points. Long explanation + details inside.

Background: In college, I got an English B.A. and M.A. Barring a career as a writer of fantasy fiction, I wanted to use my writing and communication abilities in a workplace atypical of an English graduate (not academia, publishing, teaching, or journalism) to build a financially strong career.

Currently, I work in nuclear power. At first, I did good deal of writing, not in an official role so much as a helping position. Usually reports and other writing projects are added to someone else’s already-massive workload, while independent writing positions are usually contract only. The writing contractors also have 10+ years of experience. I’m nowhere near their level, having just started with the field work that informs the reports’ contents.

Now I’m in the field getting qualified in a multitude of technical tasks. Even when I am no longer new to them, I expect I will always have to put in extra effort, that I will always worry and wonder. My supervisors have all said that I needed field experience in order to write the reports I aspired to. They were right.

I’d like to go back to more office-based work, but I don’t think I can do it here for a long time. Any office work I do will surely be paired with tech work. It also concerns me that nuclear, particularly my department, is very specialized. I survived our most recent downsizing, but there will be others. If I needed another job, it would have to be at another nuclear plant, which I consider limiting.

What I want:
I feel a real need to get familiar with my prospects for other jobs and diversify my skills. However, I have no idea how to begin. I’ve never had a self-directed, “traditional” job search (resumes and networking) that culminated in gainful employment. My nuke power position was helped largely from having family already working there. It is my first “real” job with benefits etc.

Despite my degrees, research is one of my weak points. What I really need is a Big Catalog that tells me company names, what they do, and what kind of people they employ. There must be a more methodical, effective way than dartboarding Google (even if it’s just refining the way I search). If you can share research techniques with me, that would be huge. I’d be so grateful.

Note: I’m fine with branching out from writing to more computer-type work such as scheduling software or Excel.

I’d happily consider the following (or similar) fields: technology (Google, software, apps), construction, chemical/fossil plants, biotech, medical, or law. Obviously I’ll do the ones most like nuke power first in the hope of transferring some skills.

If you have specific companies, job titles, or general fields, I want to hear them.

Also, what can I do on my own to make myself more desirable for the kind of position I want (office work vs field work, writing is a bonus)? Things I’m already doing/on the list
read what color is your parachute
read technical writer websites online, metafilter threads
increase Excel skills

Thank you very much for your input! Please feel free to email for more details.

My education and work experience
B.A. and M.A. in English.

Writer: Independently published fantasy novel, published short stories.

Industrial housekeeper: bathrooms, office spaces, rooms with delicate machinery

Various safety roles: Firewatch. Foreign materials exclusion logkeeper. Hole watch. Email for details.

Office roles: Receptionist duties. Organized/filed paperwork, making sure it’s filled out correctly. Time keeping. Inventories. Took meeting minutes. Data entry.

Writing: Contributed department articles for site newsletter. Assisted with reports on departmental goals, problems, performance indicators. Designed Power Point presentations for Continuing Improvement program. Formatted and edited procedures.

Current nuke power field work. Email me for details. I’m being vague in case I have co-workers on metafilter, which I doubt, but you never know.

Also, I enjoy computers, though I only have a basic user knowledge (Word and other software). In college, I took C programming.
posted by glass.hourousha to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's probably been mentioned a few times to you already but you have the background to be a great technical writer.
posted by caveatz at 10:56 AM on April 3, 2014

Are you willing to go back to school? Even if you want to be a technical writer, it would help tremendously to have some more technical classes under your belt (particularly software-related classes, since that's where a lot of technical writing jobs are).
posted by UncleBoomee at 11:14 AM on April 3, 2014

If, like me, you're having trouble describing what it is you want to do and what you accomplished for your employer, you might want to take a look at the free and paid resources at Blue Sky Resumes. Their resume course helped me define the kind of work I wanted to do and the kind of company I wanted to work for, which I found very helpful.

It also helped me show what I had accomplished for my employers. Speaking as someone who has read a ton of resumes as a hiring manager in addition to having been a jobseeker, most people list off what they were responsible for at each job, not what goals they reached, problems they solved, or other accomplishments. Focus on the results you delivered, even if they were things that seemed small like "streamlined the flux capacitor review process, resulting in an 18 percent gain in unit efficiency from prior years" and you will absolutely stand out from other candidates who don't share concrete proof that they've been successful or good problem solvers.

Employers want to know what value you can bring, and highlighting accomplishments is a great way to do that. Good luck!
posted by deliriouscool at 11:19 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I really like this MathBabe post for a systematic method of using LinkedIn to find jobs one might be interested in.
posted by yarntheory at 5:52 PM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've done freelance writing and editing as a subcontractor to an NRC contractor responsible for safety procedures and reports. If you have or can build a network in the field I highly recommend it. I am a generalist so there was a learning curve for me that wouldn't be there for you. Good money, important work, and getting paid to read & write. Pretty much the trifecta.
posted by headnsouth at 6:13 PM on April 3, 2014

Maybe it's because it's late here, but I don't have a great handle on what exactly you're looking for, sorry! Here's the impression I'm getting, both from trying to put together bits from what you've written and from trying to read between the lines:

You'd really prefer to leave nuke stuff, as you're not really into that for its own sake, and you don't like the field work. You also don't think it's a growing or diverse industry, and you're worried you'll get cut soon. But you don't want to just leave without knowing where you're going. You'd like to start out with something where you can leverage your nuclear experience to advantage, but you are not necessarily only interested in something scientific/technical (because you don't think you'd be good at it? or do you just not like the idea/practice of field work? or what?), or even something writing-based. You'd just rather work in an office, in a field where you feel a bit more secure in your job prospects. Also, you don't know how to job-hunt.

Does that sound accurate? Also, do you mean you'd be interested in eventually changing to practicing fields like medicine and law, or that you'd really be interested in doing writing/office support in those fields because you're interested in the subject matter, or that you think that you can leverage your technical-ish writing experience as a foot in the door in those fields but otherwise don't care that much about them? Your list sounds really diverse.

Have you considered the national scientific laboratories of whichever country you live in? In the United States, there are a lot of them, big and small, located all over, studying all kinds of topics, run by the DOE, the DOD, universities, etc. Here's many of them. The FDA has some. Most, if not all, of them--the very large ones, at least--also have (besides all kinds of internal writers) communications/press offices and internal or external publications. They also have lots of administrators of all stripes, accountants/finance people/the people who really make things run. I have some experience in this search and some specific suggestions. I don't think you posted an e-mail address but I'll MeMail you.

Also, something off the top of my head: this is not exactly diversifying, because the field of research and test reactors is even smaller, but I know the National Organization of Test, Research, and Training Reactors (TRTR) has an annual conference every summer. It might be a good networking opportunity? Might even be able to get your work to look favorably upon it, although research reactors and power reactors do have pretty different foci.
posted by spelunkingplato at 12:30 AM on April 4, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks again, everyone, for your input. I wanted to follow up sooner but only just got a day off (yay rotating shift work). I really appreciate the various perspectives you’ve given me. Now it’s time to roll up my sleeves.
posted by glass.hourousha at 9:36 AM on April 10, 2014

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