Jobs Like Journalism, Minus the Writing
October 8, 2014 4:12 PM   Subscribe

I've been working in either journalism or communications for a few years now and while I like it a lot, I feel like I still haven't quite found the right job. What are some career trajectories for someone who is really good at research, loves talking to people, and has an overwhelming sense of curiosity, but is tired of writing everyday.

I always thought I wanted to be a journalist. But, after having a few jobs under my belt and reading What Color is My Parachute I think I have a better sense of what things I like and don't like. I realized that I love almost everything about journalism, except the daily writing.

I like writing, particularly when it's a little more technical, but it's not something that I want to be the main daily component of my job anymore. I think I'm just getting tired of constantly writing for a general audience, but I've also realized that I'm way better at editing than writing.

I've also realized that I'm really interested in, and pretty good at, solving problems and doing in-depth research. I'm the kind of person who enjoys looking up facts to back me up in an argument, and fact checking. I also like interacting with people in my job. I love doing interviews and getting people to open up about their experiences and their work. In high school I was interested in engineering, and I was really good at all the engineering projects like supporting a brick with nothing but toothpicks and marshmallows. But I'm not much of a math person.

As far as personality traits/testing stuff goes I test really high for Inquisitiveness/Openness to Experience and Extroversion on the Big Five (if that's indicative of anything).

Anyway, I feel like I've made this first step in better identifying things that I like in a job but now I'm trying to figure out potential careers to look into more in-depth that would utilize more problem-solving and research.
posted by forkisbetter to Work & Money (13 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Librarian. Though the job market sucks.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:15 PM on October 8, 2014

Possibly something like management consulting, where you'd go onsite and interview a bunch of people to come up with a solution to a business problem?
posted by Bardolph at 4:29 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I went from journalism into social research. It's great! I get to ask people interesting questions all day, actually listen to their answers (without needing to get the perfect soundbite), crunch the resulting data, and if the results turn out to be nuanced and complex, that's seen as a good thing, not a problem in need of an editor's red pen. You might need to retrain if you want to do serious qualitative or quantitative analysis but a thoughtful person with journalism experience would probably do quite well as a qualitative research interviewer.
posted by embrangled at 4:45 PM on October 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

posted by infinitewindow at 5:27 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can't say the pay is great, but my family member was in investigation in a major metropolitan county probation department for decades and loved it. Lots of interviewing of arrestees, victims, and law enforcement, gathering of facts, summarizing for the courts, etc. And her stories about the people she came in contact with daily could absolutely not be beat. Here's a good summary of what her job entailed for a different county.
posted by cecic at 5:30 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would also recommend checking out the book The Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani. She's an ex-Reuters journalist who retrained as an epidemiologist and went on to work in global HIV prevention. This book got me through the toughest of statistics classes - not because it was particularly informative about data analysis, but because it gave such a compelling picture of the research process, and the way that good research can create an evidence base which inspires policy changes that actually can "change the world". When she writes about wandering down dark alleys in Indonesia to interview trans sex workers about their condom use, and then about the changes in government policy that her research directly brought about, she brings social research out of the realms of nerdery in a way that I find utterly inspiring.(Basically, I want to be Elizabeth Pisani when I grow up. Or maybe marry her, I can't decide...) But yeah, she does write a bit about her decision-making process in leaving journalism, and what it was like to adjust to a new work culture.
posted by embrangled at 6:32 PM on October 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Have you considered development/advancement? I'm a trained historian but recently got a job doing prospect research, which is basically internet stalking rich people to see how likely they are to give a given organization money. My work is all internal (and I'm pretty introverted) -- I don't ever actually interact with the people whom I'm researching -- but there are a lot of development/advancement positions that involve both research and talking to people. Plus, development and advancement jobs are plentiful -- part of what got me considering the field was seeing how many job listings there were in the NYC area.

Another thing that I really like about working in this field is that it allows me to use skills I have to support stuff I believe in -- and if I ever don't want to work in higher ed development anymore, there's always arts organizations, research organizations, and other sorts of non-profits. I haven't been in the field very long (actually, my job officially starts next week, but I did an unpaid internship over the summer for a friend who works in the field to get experience and see if it was something I liked), but would be happy to answer any questions you have if you want to PM me.
posted by naturalog at 6:41 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Law sounds right up your alley, but I don't think that's a good career path generally as the debt is huge and the job market is saturated. Political research, which is similar to prospect research - both are more about the research than writing, but I don't think you actually interact with people. Generally I'm not sure research and interacting with people go together much. Depends what you would rather half. Journalism is a genuine balance of both.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:11 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cross the divide and go into market research for ad agencies and PR firms. Extroverted is great, and they often need to do masses of background interviews, research and other corporate work. You're not writing for publication, only internal research. Corporate copyediting is similar - my husband does that sometimes and it's surprisingly enjoyable as last month he learned a lot about engineering concrete and designing fountain pens from the people who do that, in order to create marketing copy for them.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:30 PM on October 8, 2014

Design/user research for a design firm. You'd be interviewing and observing people, and helping designers create things (software, products, architecture, etc.) that can better help people based on your observations.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:51 PM on October 8, 2014

Community manager in a start up or other business. It involves problem solving, some writing (some of it technical), being the approachable face of a company and catering communication to suit your audience.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:49 PM on October 8, 2014

Research law librarian sounds right up your alley, but as said above, the job market sucks. Don't get into tons of debt to become a librarian, but it's really rewarding if you manage to get a good job (unfortunately that's a big if these days).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 8:14 AM on October 9, 2014

Business Analyst?
posted by Otis at 8:47 AM on October 9, 2014

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