Let Me Gladly Google That For You
December 18, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

How can I get paid to be a human Google + Wikipedia + Snopes?

I am in the midst of jobhunting and a lot of people have asked me what I want to do. I'm trying to find job titles or descriptions that encapsulate the following skills:

* I LOVE research - I love being given a juicy topic, being lost in an online rabbit warren for days, and then coming up with about 50 zillion resources and references. In my internship (which ends today) I collected so many contact details for notable women in STEM that my work could barely handle it. I hate academia though, partially because formal education and I don't get along very well and partially because I hate writing a paper in a clunky style that nobody reads, but I do like the idea of spending my time exploring the landscape and depth of a particular topic.

* I also "enjoy" factchecking, context-checking, and debunking. "Enjoy" is in quotes because it's not coming from a sense of glee, but more from frustration at seeing a lot of misinformation being spread and being compelled to find & report the truth like some sort of information detective. Still, I find the work really fascinating, especially when the truth ends up being "it's complicated".

* I have scarily effective superpowers at connecting people to the right resources and networks - so much so that I've sparked some amazing life-changing careers thanks to a good introduction. Sort of like a career-oriented fairy godmother. I often send people links to thinks that remind me of them just for the hell of it - it's just something I do.

* I love fairy godmothering in general: finding ways to make people's dream projects come true. If I had a zillion dollars I'd go all Oprah on people and fund their Kickstarters or something.

* I have this strange effect of being some kind of walking Information Booth: no matter how preoccupied or distracted I am, whether I'm local or foreign, people often pick me out of everyone else to ask for directions or help with public transport. Maybe I look friendly, I don't know, but it's become a bit of a running joke with some friends.

I find that I do a lot of the above for free, whether for personal projects or for volunteer work, and it'd be nice (and better for my bank account) to be able to be paid for them. Some of the things I thought about that might use the above skills are:

* Strategic planning
* Factchecking for a publication (I heard about people who do reference checks for academic papers recently and that sounds interesting)
* Developmental editing
* Some sort of consulting, though I don't know what specifically
* Information or library science of some kind (one of my best friends had a subject on organising and managing information as part of his IT degree, and while he found it boring I found it SUPER FASCINATING)
* Literally setting up a booth somewhere with a computer, an Internet connection, and a sign that says "Let Me Google That For You"

My background is in the arts, creative industries, and media, as well as some education and community development. I would like my work to serve a greater good, though I am a little burned by social justice (and tired of tech startups that crow about being "disruptive"). I'm pretty open to suggestion for fields though!
posted by divabat to Work & Money (19 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Prospect Research, preferably for an organization you feel strongly about.
posted by kimdog at 10:32 AM on December 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

You mention library work, so: since you dislike academia, the public library job that contains the largest proportion of the kind of stuff you describe would probably be a non-supervising reference specialist position at a large main library.
posted by box at 10:38 AM on December 18, 2014

My husband has a lot of your skills and is a librarian. He's an academic one but it sounds like public librarianship would be more of your thing.

Before he went to library school he was an assistant at a legal non-profit. (The non-profit aspect would particularly suit the "connecting the right people to the right resources" and "greater good" things.) There were a lot of other skills he needed but the thing he found most fascinating was finding info, cross-referencing, tracking down which governmental agency would help the particular person who sat down in his office that day. Things that would help a lot in that particular job: speaking a non-English language common in the immigrant community in your area and some legal training. He had no formal legal training but learned quite a bit on the job.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:41 AM on December 18, 2014

Seconding prospect research. I'm actually working in the field right now, and being able to squirrel out in-depth information about particular subjects and finding connections between disparate sources are super-useful skills for the job. Feel free to memail me if you'd like more details.
posted by Dante Riordan at 10:55 AM on December 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Someone with those talents and skills would be a fantastic librarian. I'm thinking of a public library setting specifically, because that's what I have experience with -- but you do have that 'fairy godmother' sense when you can connect somebody to that GED class, that English class, that organization that helps out people just like them.

But I'm wary of recommending librarianship as a career to people, because the salaries are not great and the jobs aren't there and the job is getting deprofessionalized by people who think librarians are no longer useful because Google is around.
posted by Jeanne at 11:04 AM on December 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

What about doing research for individual authors on a contract basis? I'm writing a book right now and would love some help like that if it was affordable. I'm sure there are others like me out there!

Put a basic contract together with something like docracy.com and figure out a per-hour or per-project rate. Good luck, and you sound wonderful :)
posted by cartoonella at 11:09 AM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with Dante and kimdog - I am prospect a researcher and you are the type of person we like to hire. This link is a good resource for prospect research jobs in California.

You might also look at the grant-making side; I don't know much about that, but the making connections part sounds like something a program officer would do.
posted by mogget at 11:11 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's a job advertisement for an "Expert Googler"
posted by chevyvan at 12:11 PM on December 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Certain librarian jobs are essentially just googling for the patrons (or more likely, querying specialized databases, like snopes). Those positions often require a masters in library science. Here's a list of accredited programs from the American Library Association. Some can be done almost entirely remotely.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:18 PM on December 18, 2014

If you enjoy politics, opposition research might be a good fit. It's a bit of a growth industry right now with lots of new groups and firms getting involved on both sides of the aisle.
posted by fancypants at 3:17 PM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Actually fancypants's comment reminded me of something: when John Oliver did his Miss America segment, I was intrigued at the research work they were doing to uncover MA's bad accounting, and immediately wanted to work on their team to keep the research going. How does one go about doing that?
posted by divabat at 3:40 PM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about insurance or bank fraud investigations? I work in the fraud industry and have to research all the time. We work very closely with law enforcement, and often have our own painstakingly researched cases. Contrary to what people think about banks and their practices, we do some good in the world--uncover merchant data breaches, catch scammers, protect the elderly, and just generally stop financial crimes.
posted by Verdandi at 5:09 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The job I'm about to leave is...sort of like that. I'm officially a "technical paralegal" but because of the speed at which tech(and tech law) changes, most of my work is basically googling new technologies and learning about them enough to explain them clearly and succinctly to people who often have no technical background. I don't have a paralegal certification, and my background is in english lit and scenic design, but it was also a job I sort of accidentally fell into. I feel like there are tons of legal research jobs that would be very similar!
posted by sawdustbear at 6:16 PM on December 18, 2014

I don't have any insider intel, but from what i've heard, jobs at the Daily Show, Last Week Tonight and the like are very competitive and don't pay particularly well. One way that you could make yourself more competitive for that type of job is to get familiar with SnapStream. It's the industry standard for recording television and searching closed captions.
posted by fancypants at 6:53 PM on December 18, 2014

fact checker/editor for an internet media company, perhaps?
posted by gryftir at 1:45 AM on December 19, 2014

Policy Analysis. The downside is it's hard to break into policy analysis without at least a master's degree (but it doesn't have to be a law degree, thankfully).

If you're interested in that route, research institutes like Brookings, AEI, Heritage, CBPP, and the Urban Institute do more or less exactly what you're describing, all research all the time. There are dozens of state-level organizations too.

If you're interested in "just the facts", you'd probably like partisan ones less or prefer a government research body. Governments also have their own research bodies, CRS is Congress' research organization and state legislatures typically have legislative research orgs too, these tend to be considerably less partisan than think tanks.
posted by Ndwright at 11:48 AM on December 19, 2014

Response by poster: I do have a freshly-minted MFA, FWIW.

Any suggestions for artsy/creative places that could use these skills in a paid capacity? I've been looking into dramaturgy, which seems like a good match but is hard to break into.
posted by divabat at 1:49 PM on December 19, 2014

Don't overlook the potential of going into records management or executive search. Records management covers a spectrum of industries and disciplines and is often where people who love library work and technology find themselves. Check out http://www.arma.org or a local chapter of ARMA.

An entry level position in executive search is the research associate, which you might find interesting. You research industries and individuals to find a selection of potential candidates for a position.

I honed my research skills identifying pictures of animals and buildings, so there are good, niche jobs for picture cataloguer, ppossibly something you might want to try is approaching photographers who don't enjoy keywording. Or you might be like me and be the gatekeeper to a Sharepoint site. HTH!
posted by Calzephyr at 8:52 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Librarian fits... but *damn*, there aren't as many jobs as there are people with library science degrees, and most librarian openings require a master's degree to get the application looked at. Friends have moved cross-country for jobs, and other friends just gave up and work in kitchens, as library jobs are outnumbered by library grads.

If you're okay at writing reports on what you research, you want Analyst in the job title, assuming you have a degree in anything.
posted by talldean at 8:38 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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