Job suggestions for introverted anarchists
June 25, 2014 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I've been working as a library assistant for the past five years, but although I'm getting an MA in librarianship, I see no real future in it. I'm looking for jobs that can be done part time which would suit an anarcha-feminist interested in writing, art and technology.

I don't feel like I really have many skills at the moment, but am probably good at writing and researching, and am also good at thinking about things in a systematic, conceptual way. I think I would be good at programming too, although it's too impersonal for me to be really excellent at it. I see my personality type as infp, 4w5 enneagram, AIS in terms of holland codes- but these usually yield unhelpful job suggestions like 'poet'. I'm not really interested in recommendations for books like what colour is your parachute as I've worked through lots of them- I'm interested in suggestions for specific jobs that might suit my personality and interests. I know it's going to be difficult to find something I'm even vaguely happy with. I'm based in London.

I'm also interested in the routes people have taken into getting jobs they're recommending.
posted by ninjablob to Work & Money (12 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
So, I used to be a librarian and am now a software developer. I don't find programming any more impersonal than librarianship. You work with people, you make things people use. I mean, I guess if you're designing fancy algorithms for Big Data or something that could be impersonal? But day to day, working as a web developer, I work with other people to make a thing that another set of people use every day. I mean, I guess I don't get to put a lot of my personality into the app I work on, but that's true of almost any job that's not "poet."

Also, you know, you don't have to be really excellent at your job. I mean, that's nice. But if you're pretty good at it, that's generally enough.

You might want to look into UI/UX design, too. That might feel a bit more personal?

I went to a 10-week in-person bootcamp to learn to be a developer; it was a good option for me, but it's also possible to self-teach yourself almost all of it, or to learn online.
posted by mskyle at 7:22 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

You sound pretty well-suited to be a journalist, or topical blogger. Strong interest in specific fields, a talent for writing and researching. Seems like a pretty good fit.

Have you GYOB at the moment? Would you consider writing a few articles for nothing to get stuff out there? Staying in your particular field of interest, perhaps art show reviews, for a local publication? Technology - any particular kind, submit reviews or comparison pieces to a relevant publication. Feminism - there's tons of interesting stuff happening in and around feminism at the moment. Get in the thick of it and write about it for wherever will take it.

The good thing about writing a few articles for nothing is that there's no long-term commitment, so you can take your time figuring out whether it's for you.
posted by greenish at 7:32 AM on June 25, 2014

Look into knowledge management. This is basically corporate librarianship, so I don't know if it fits with your anarchist beliefs, but it is a growing field and can be the behind-the-scenes or in front of people, depending on how public-facing you want it to be.
posted by xingcat at 7:35 AM on June 25, 2014

I think you can absolutely use that MA in librarianship and find something that suits you well.

In the US, lots of extra-specialized special collections (this one came to mind immediately) have jobs for librarians and archivists that require writing and researching: resource pathfinders, collection and series descriptions, biographical notes, reference guides, etc., with the occasional press release or PR bit. Maybe some grant writing, too. There is also (in my experience) quite a bit of database work.

The field, as you may have learned as a library assistant, is full of introverts, so you may find a quiet work environment and thoughtful coworkers. The other (best) thing about this field--particularly with social justice-oriented collections--is knowing you are contributing to the greater good and providing access to materials which may have never seen the light of day otherwise.
posted by magdalemon at 7:50 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

A few of my librarian friends have become researchers for large Unions and enjoy the work (and it is well-paid here). Also, if you enjoy libraries but don't want to work in UK libraries - I got my degree from Aberystwyth with the plan to work in UK public libraries until the field pretty much collapsed) you might want to look into one of the commonwealth countries. Librarianship in Canada is well- paid and respected with several other anarch-feminists I am aware of in Montreal and Toronto but entry-level can be tough to break into.
posted by saucysault at 7:56 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't done library work in a long time, but I can speak to the anarcha-feminist part.

I'm a raging feminist, introvert, and I'll usually say something like "anarchist-ish" if asked to identify myself politically. And I work...for a very large corporation, processing orders for software and doing some light customer service. Before that I worked as a low-level assistant to a financial planner at a subsidiary of one of those "too big to fail" banks. Didn't like the cold-calling I had to do as part of that position, but the parts that involved filing and organizing contacts in the company's client management database suited me well.

You may be asking 'what on earth is an anarchist doing working for major corporations?' I had that exact same question, but it turns out these jobs have done wonders for me. My first real job, four years ago, was at a self-identified radical non-profit where my boss insisted I must have Aspergers' and, when I told her that I'd been assessed and determined not to have it, insisted that my mother must have lied to me about the diagnosis. My last job before the financial job was for a renewable energy company that scheduled ridiculously inconsistently and sent their sales representatives out to work in all weather conditions, including dangerous heat and cold. Many (though not all) companies/types of work that count on you being invested in their political or ideological mission can easily use your "passion" to abuse or exploit you. It's not a given, but it is a thing you need to watch for carefully.

When I quit the energy company and went to work for the finance folks, I had a consistent schedule for the first time in months. Since I knew exactly when I'd be free, I could sign up for regular shifts at the anarchist bookstore where I volunteer for the first time in ages. I made the decision to use my newfound skills for good and started volunteering to help with the bookstore's finances. I've been writing a feminist manifesto during slow periods at my current job, something I could have never done when I was a sales rep for a "good" cause and out hitting the pavement all the time. Both of these jobs have had long stretches of solitary time And best of all, my bosses at both of these jobs have been firm about work staying at work. My non-work hours are mine to devote to whatever political and ideological causes I see fit. I'm starting school for a totally new line of work next year, something I'd been planning for a while, but the past year or so has been pretty sweet work-wise.

I got both of these gigs through a temp agency, though it took a while for longer, better assignments to start happening.

The point of this rambling wall of text is: think not only about what jobs would suit your interests and ideology, but what jobs would allow you enough time to pursue your interests happily. Being a cubicle drone who actually has time to do good volunteer work has been so much nicer for me than being a put-upon non-profiteer, and fuck anyone who says that doesn't make me anarchist enough.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:51 AM on June 25, 2014 [21 favorites]

Librarian here who knows nothing about anarchists, so this might be off base, but... I'm not sure what kind of library work you've been doing or your focus in library school, but (and I'm biased through exposure) something in the digital library specialization could be a good fit. Jobs vary widely but the general area could involve:
  • Collection development - selection of archival and special collections for digitization and making publicly available. This is an opportunity to help make resources you think are important (for political, social justice, or whatever reasons) more widely available.
  • Metadata - describing materials so they are discoverable. This shouldn't be wholly biased, but all description is influenced by the describer's world view. Use this for positive change.
  • System development - there's a lot of space in the library world for tech savy individuals to interface with programmers, do some programming themselves, perform data analysis and manipulation, etc.
  • Research data - helping to making research data publicly accessible and preservable. Making raw data available to everyone can facilitate 'citizen science' as well as other new approaches to science (this guy is very interesting).
In my experience very few jobs will be focused on just one of these areas. For example my job includes the bottom three (plus other stuff), it's just some areas that seem to have both potential for social impact as well as a tech component.

Now while there's some very interesting work going on in all of these areas which seem like they might meet some of your requirements, my understanding is that getting an entry level position can be difficult. Your hands on experience in a library will help a lot, but it will depend on whether it is actually in the area of specialty you're applying for. Also, what ActionPopulated said, a regular, non-soul sucking job can allow you to invest in your out of work life.
posted by pennypiper at 10:26 AM on June 25, 2014

Mrs. SemiSalt has an MLS and worked in a college library until it became apparent that lots of crazy people go into library work to find sanctuary. There are lots of organizations that have, if not a library, an archive of some sort. Stuff to keep track of. You're probably good at that.

After a couple of decades of this and that, she took courses (a couple semesters) to become a medical biller and works in a doctor's office. Lots of stuff to keep track of there, too.

I suggest that you stop thinking of yourself like a librarian, and start thinking of yourself as a university graduate, fit for anything. Don't be afraid to get some technical training, not so much for the knowledge itself as an expression of commitment to the field.

(I have to say there is great irony in the concept of an anarchist librarian. It could be the basis for a novel. Why am I thinking of George Orwell?)
posted by SemiSalt at 11:05 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think I would be good at programming too, although it's too impersonal for me to be really excellent at it.

Fifteen years ago, I almost majored in comp-sci. I loved computers, language and problem-solving (and still do), but was afraid I'd be stuck in a dark basement somewhere, coding, seeing neither daylight nor other people.

I have a bachelor's of science in one of the social sciences, and a people-centric job that I really enjoy, but that doesn't quite scratch that analytical, build-y-make-y itch. Last fall, I started learning to program, and I love it. I don't see myself leaving my current field to be a cube-farm-dwelling code monkey. Instead, I plan to integrate those skills into my career trajectory and use them to solve problems and address needs within the community in which I work. To me, that's personal.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 2:03 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Also, I know pretty much nothing about anarchists, so my answer may not be terribly helpful. I was simply struck by what you said about coding being impersonal.)
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 2:05 PM on June 25, 2014

Sister INFP here. I'm currently a software business analyst, meaning I work with system users to understand what they need the system to do, then write detailed requirements for developers and/or IT analysts so they build the right features for the users. A library background would be useful, especially if you were an analyst for, say, a content management system. It's a good job for an introvert since usually the contact with users is 1-on-1 or just a few at a time. Mostly I spend time reading and writing. There are meetings of course but most of the day you'd be working on something by yourself.
posted by tuesdayschild at 4:52 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

am probably good at writing and researching, and am also good at thinking about things in a systematic, conceptual way
These traits, along with an interest in technology, are exactly what I believe makes a good technical writer. Tech writing can work well for introverts because you inevitably need time alone to get certain tasks done, but it also offers opportunities for interaction with people in many different roles (developers, testers, operations staff, end users, etc.).

The route that I took to become a tech writer was 1) earned bachelor degrees in MIS and English, 2) got a job as a programmer, 3) had the opportunity to pursue an internal transfer to the communications team.
posted by neushoorn at 2:35 AM on June 26, 2014

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