$careerfilter #121231
December 28, 2014 5:47 PM   Subscribe

What jobs both suit my strengths as a research-loving humanities type and pay me a decent amount of money?

I spent a while very hung up on pursuing academia and another period sure that I should go to library school after completing my degree in English. I'm still committed to my English major because it's almost done and I like it a lot, but after some research and realizing that what I really want is total financial comfort, I'm no longer interested in academia or an MLIS. We grew up poor. I'm tired of it. In the future, I would like all my bills to be paid on time and to eat out sometimes. My entire resume is comprised of library and academia things. I would like to get started on directing myself to other fields/industries/whatever with the job availability and salary I want.

So, the purpose of this question is to begin to identify careers that may play to my strengths so that I can get the jump on shit in terms of networking, internships, reading the right literature, etc. I want to start acquiring skills, taking a class, talking to my friend's mom or whoever works in the field I want to explore--that kind of thing.

Relevant info:

- I like research. I'm happy to immerse myself in a database and to systematically work my way through. I'm minimally experienced on the quant side of things, but I'm happy to bolster these skills further if necessary.
- I'm a detail-oriented perfectionist. I like taking a fine-tooth comb to my work and devoting a lot of time to editing and analyzing.
- I really enjoy problem-solving.
- I'm a competent and confident writer. I like all writing; topic is generally immaterial.
- I'm driven by deadlines. I'm good at both working under pressure and at pacing larger projects. I strongly prefer projects that last three months or less, however; I tend to grow bored with long-term projects unless they are organized into digestible milestones.
- I equally enjoy working in small, collaborative teams and by myself. I'm cool with tons of emails and meetings, but customer-facing positions totally drain me.

I'm pretty open so long as the advice is not to drop everything and become a programmer (which I would suck at; I'm science/tech/etc friendly and often interested in these things, but I do not want to completely drop my humanities skillset if at all possible). Finally, I feel weird assigning a specific figure to this, but for the purposes of keeping it fairly narrow, I'd prefer any given suggestion's earning potential be at least $80k and job availability to be decent.

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
You should look into user experience (UX) research at an agency. It will probably not hit $80k salary in your first year but you can get there quickly if you work for an agency with a couple of sexy clients and if you perform well. Here's why I think it might be a good fit for you:

MLIS background - a lot of people in UX (myself included) have a background like this. Library science is all about how information should be presented, organized and consumed. These principles are VERY relevant when thinking about information-dense software and websites and thinking about how things are organized in site navigation.

Research - the job is all about research, except instead of sitting in front of a book and writing stuff on note cards you will be sitting in front of a computer and watching someone use a piece of software. Sometimes you may look up published research about standards to prove why/when things are broken but your primary findings will come from observing people using technology directly.

Detail-oriented and problem solving - in order to pull apart whether a software interface is functional for users you NEED to be able to look at users' interactions at a granular level and understand how they fit into the bigger picture. For example, how a user not being able to complete a task in an interface is due to the overall workflow being broken, not just because of one little label or button along the way

Writing competence - OMG, I cannot tell you how many people in this industry do not have decent writing skills. Working for an agency you will have to write lots of reports to document your findings for your clients. You'll also need to be good at presenting and giving a good "elevator pitch" to explain your points quickly to clients

Deadline driven - uh, yeah. Pretty necessary in a consulting environment. Clients will want you to tell them what's wrong with their software from an end-user perspective and how to make it better within 3-4 weeks tops.

Solo/small-team work - you'll mostly do your research by yourself but you may have access to a UX designer who can help you construct recommendations for addressing the issues you identify in your research

In major cities, UX is a very lucrative field but it's also very competitive as there are now Masters programs that specifically focus in it and give students internship opportunities. Your best bet is to look for a small agency where you can take a junior position and prove yourself, rather than immediately trying to get a job at Google or Facebook.

Memail me if you have any questions! I've been in the field for, like, 15 years or something crazy and I have a dreamy job.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:01 PM on December 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

A friend of mine who is like you got his law degree at a good law school. There he edited the law journal of the university. That lead to both editing law journals and eventually working for a Supreme Court judge doing research and helping to write things like briefs (or something I'm not a lawyer). There's a lot of research and writing in the law is what I'm saying. Does require more schooling though obviously.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:27 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really enjoy my government job working with public access ("government in the sunshine act" in the US) and privacy. I gather my maternity cover likes it too. It meets all your criteria, though I'm not sure what it would pay stateside (I'm American living in Australia). Both myself and my cover have your exact background and job preferences. MeMail me for details... On phone w/sleeping baby.

I bailed on an MLIS too. Being not poor is nice. You won't regret it. :)
posted by jrobin276 at 7:54 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy being a technical writer, in the right environment. For a tech writer, being a detail-oriented, deadline-driven problem solver is as important as having solid writing skills. Working on a small, collaborative team is common, except at huge corporations like Google, Microsoft, IBM, etc. Also, tech writers rarely have to do customer-facing work.

The reason I say "the right environment" is that the freedom to be creative varies a lot from company to company. I've had jobs where I wasn't even allowed to change a font face in a PDF; and now I have a job where I control everything about the documentation from end-to-end. So I organize it, write it, style it, and control the way it's presented. Usually, smaller, younger companies offer more flexibility and control.

In my experience, $80k is a very realistic target, though it might take 8-10 years of professional experience to get there.

Feel free to send me a MefiMail if you have any questions.
posted by neushoorn at 1:52 AM on December 29, 2014

Look at research positions in consulting firms. They hit all your needs.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:42 AM on December 29, 2014

Business Analysis seems like a good fit as well. Everything you described about yourself is how I would define a strong BA. There's definitely the potential to make decent money, and many BA's end up as even better-paid managers or experts within their industry.
posted by bluejayway at 5:05 PM on December 29, 2014

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