Please help an ISTJ find the right job fast
February 23, 2015 7:45 PM   Subscribe

My fears and indecision have blocked my 'career' progression for years. For a variety of personal reasons, I moved back home (at 44), and now I'm searching for a job. But I don't have much money left, so I need to find something soon, even if it's not perfect. I've boiled it down to three possibilities: copy editing, grant writing or library/information science. But I’m not sure any of them are right for me. I searched MeFi for answers, but they were either outdated (2011) or not geared towards my Myers-Briggs personality type.

I'll detail my work and education later, but my personal story is just as (or more) important.

I've been in a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage for 22 years. Thanks to therapy, that's coming to an end (part of the reason I'm back home). My husband has been VERY successful in his career. I started out on a good path, but wound up underemployed, and extremely insecure and dependent on him.

In addition to my marital issues, I grew up with a mom who suffered from anxiety and depression (dad died when I was four). My childhood was an emotional minefield. And I also suffer from A and D. I began taking antidepressants a few months ago and those, coupled with therapy, have made a huge difference.

Although I feel completely confident that I've made the right decision by ending my marriage, I'm terrified and paralyzed about finding a career where I can showcase my skills and find success.

My professional and educational background is a mish mash, but the majority of my work experience has been in writing and editing. I have a BA in English and always assumed I would be a lawyer. I was accepted into a JD program at my state university but left after a year, partially because it didn't seem like a good fit. That was the same year I got married and had a baby.

My husband hadn't finished undergrad when we married, and his mother, in her desire to make sure her son completed his education, pointed out that I would most likely leave him for someone more successful once I finished law school. Needless to say, jealousy and marital problems ensued.

I also have an MA in Liberal Studies. And I was enrolled in a graduate journalism program at Berkeley for two years, but decided that also wasn't a good fit for me since I'm introverted and bugging people for interviews makes me uncomfortable.

I have experience writing a variety of print and online content, mostly for nonprofits. I worked as a web editor many years ago. I freelanced while living overseas, and my biggest project was co-editing a management manual (several hundred pages + index). I've written and/or edited academic papers (I've done this free for friends, but I REALLY enjoy academia and learning new things. I've even considered pursuing a PhD.), brochures, direct mail, newsletters, blogs, etc. I don't enjoy the fundraising stuff very much. I don't think I'm terribly creative, and the work can be boring.

I'm considering enrolling in a copy editing certificate program that starts at the end of March because I know I need to improve my knowledge of grammar and learn more about copy editing as a profession. I really love the idea of being self employed. But can an introvert effectively market herself and get the business she needs to live?

I'm learning InDesign and Photoshop (truly fun!), and have established a professional Twitter account. I'm on LinkedIn, but I want to revamp my profile and start networking more. (Email networking is an introvert's dream.) The jobs I'm considering all require social media and graphic design experience. I actually enjoy the GD work, but I'm nowhere near skilled enough to make it a career. On a related note, I once considered pursuing a Publications Design masters at a local university. It was a blend of professional writing and graphic design.

Grantwriting jobs seem to be in high demand, but I don't have any experience; however, I've looked at certificate programs from nearby universities, which could give me an edge. But my research shows that grantwriting is heavy on interaction, relationship building, schmoozing, etc. These are all things I hate. I just want to write and/or edit, preferably remotely. I love sinking my teeth into a big project and concentrating on it until it's finished.

Library Science is an old friend. But librarian jobs are few and far between. But archivist/digital archivist jobs sound fantastic. However, a job in this field requires a commitment to more years of school to earn an MLIS degree. I'm not getting any younger, and money is a big issue.

I really don't know what to do. I'm completely fine taking an entry-level position. I know I still have lots to learn. I feel unskilled and like I've been flying by the seat of my pants. Who wants someone with no hard skills? Many of my previous jobs have been random assignments I took to pay the bills. There was no career plan.

I'm facing a deadline (late spring/early summer), but I absolutely do not want to settle for just anything again. I have no problem doing PT work to pay the bills while I continue searching, but I don't feel like I'm skilled enough to seek out freelance writing/editing work. Do I go to a temp agency to look for secretarial work or retail jobs in the mall? Am I even on the right path when it comes to future work?
posted by DoOver to Work & Money (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well I'm an ESTJ and I loved working in both copyediting and grant writing except for the long stretches of working alone in my office parts. So I think your instincts are right there.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2015

ISTJ would be a good fit for a grants manager position -- the person who tracks when reports are due and helps get the grants out -- or a grant writer. But you will probably need an Executive Director or Development Director to buoy your anxiety and depression. It's hard to raise money when your confidence is in the toilet. But if you have someone there to say "we're going to ask for $X for these three programs," you'll do fine.

I also know an ISTJ who is great at copy writing and copy editing. However, she does use her confidence to get clients and negotiate a livable pay scale. Could you find a staff job doing this?
posted by salvia at 8:11 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I kind of feel like you are going about this the wrong way. What are the job opportunities like in your specific location? Have you talked to people that are local in your are that have a job you would like? What do they think about the local job market?

I'm in Public Libraries right now, and love it, but there is a huge mismatch between available positions and people that want the jobs. The people that self-select for library jobs are actually not usually bringing the skills we want. For one thing, I would never hire an introvert, they are over-represented and we need extroverts in my organisation (and every organisation I am aware of). So, unless there is a specific local job someone can point you to I would not go into libraries.

Good for you in making positive choices. Taking temp work sounds like a good idea as a way to get a feel for local employers and build a network of recent references.
posted by saucysault at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Right now you need a job, any job--not only your dream job. It takes years to job hunt these days and in my unfortunate experience of late, you can only get hired for a job if you have basically done every aspect of the job before because nobody wants to train you and they HAVE enough perfect candidates who've done everything so that they don't have to. I know you don't want to settle, but if you really need a job and have a short timeline going on, you're probably going to need to. Sorry. Figuring out "what you want to do" comes after getting money enough to eat and live. And yeah, maybe this might involve having to do retail or food service if things get that bad.

I don't think grantwriting is for you (you're gonna run into the "you can't get hired for it without any experience" issue with that one), or any field that involves schmoozing/promotion if you're that shy. And library science has so few jobs that it's probably not worth doing more school at age 44 to try to land one. You mention having a kid, so I don't know if you're able to flexibly move ANYWHERE for a library job either what with custody arrangements. saucysault has a point about keeping in mind what the options are in your area and needing to fish from the pool you already are in, so to speak.

"I have no problem doing PT work to pay the bills while I continue searching, but I don't feel like I'm skilled enough to seek out freelance writing/editing work. Do I go to a temp agency to look for secretarial work or retail jobs in the mall?"

I think temping would be a great idea for you, actually. Whatever gets the money coming in. I actually think you come off as quite literate and coherent and a good writer from your post, so I think you probably ARE skilled enough to handle going after writing/editing work on the side. People just need to be able to read and comprehend what you edited, you don't have to know the finer points of grammar. I don't know if freelancing is right for you if you don't like interviewing/schmoozing/social anything, though. But if you have a temp job and want to try it on the side, maybe. Anyway, right now I think it sounds like your strong suit "don't have to train me" skills are in writing/editing, and that should be what you shoot for right now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:38 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Don't strike grantwriting off the list yet. It doesn't always have to involve schmoozing. In bigger organizations, there can be people doing the actual writing and project-managing of grant proposals (and grant reports!) who are totally internal, and different people do the external schmoozing and networking. At my nonprofit, our main grant writer is extremely introverted and hardly ever talks to funders. He is definitely not required to go drum up business.

In nonprofits it's fairly common for communications functions and development functions to be in the same department (or sometimes same job). You do have some experience with communications, writing and the nonprofit world, and it sounds like some experience with managing information. That's useful! In your shoes, I'd look at straight-up grant writing and communications jobs at nonprofits (and maybe also at local or state government), and would also look at general admin jobs that were supporting communications and grant writing functions, to help you get experience. Good luck!
posted by aka burlap at 8:57 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Big hug! Transitions like these are hard, and adding the pressure of finding the ultimate dream job on top of that doesn't sound like what you need right now. I also don't think Myers-Briggs is really that great of an indicator for career path. I'd suggest that you continue PT work at a stable company with a manager who respects you, understands your situation, and will give you space to explore FT work at a more reasonable pace.

What state are you in? Have you looked at which markets/verticals are hiring, and where there's job growth? If you enjoy the graphic design / social media work, you may want to consider marketing services roles, where there's lots of collaboration and better options for temp-to-perm situations. memail me if you'd like to chat more.

Also, you may want to do some research on Myers-Briggs. Here's one article as a counterpoint to its efficacy.
posted by hampanda at 9:39 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think the unfair reality is that failing to learn/fake the practice of extroversion, for at least some portion of the day, means seriously restricting both the kinds of job opportunities and income available to you. Some amount of schmoozing or socializing or client- or coworker- or boss-courting is unavoidable, even in salaried roles. Good communication is part and parcel of professionalism, in pretty much any field.

I think it would serve you better to learn to 1) fake it and 2) recover from faking it, with a lot of self-care. And then find work where it's not required as often. But it won't ever be 100% eliminated, unless that's at some cost to you (money, freedom, lifestyle, etc.).
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:39 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ditch the library idea. Library jobs are hard to come by, period, and archives jobs are unicorns. In my library school cohort of 200, fully a third said that archives was their goal. That's 80 people who now have 5 years more experience than you - just from one school's online program, one term. And there are like 3 archives jobs.

What about technical writing, if you're interested in/competent at science?
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:22 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

For the love of all that is holy, don't get an LIS degree. Worst decision I ever made. My diploma's not worth the paper it's printed on (I actually threw it away). HOWEVER: consider trying to just get a job in a library. IMO the profession is being deprofessionalized and someone with your skills and inclinations might be able to find a niche.
posted by scratch at 6:29 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

TL/DR, all three of the professions you listed are the WORST right now. There are a bazillion Library Science folks looking for work. Copy Editing....print media is dying. Grant Writing...non-profit work is very stressful and not very lucrative. Also, about a bazillion people looking for those jobs because they're passionate about working in an altruistic field. But, if you think you want to pursue this, check out some listing on LinkedIn, there are a handful of volunteer positions where you can start learning it, and getting experience.

Are you good with numbers? Because being an Actuary would probably suit your personality better. Joke told by actuaries, "If you see anyone back here ask them who they're looking for because no one ever comes back here." Husbunny can go days and not speak to anyone (except that he doesn't, he's pretty social for an introvert.)

I'm an analyst. I'm really good with and Excel. I do reporting work in sales organizations. Yes, I mix and mingle with people, but mostly I sit in a desk and fiddle with spreadsheets. You can learn both programs online through tutorials and You Tube videos.

I am going to warn you about getting additional education. You seem to think that a degree or a certification will open doors for you. There's a slight chance of that happening. Save your money. I'm not a certified anything, but I always tell prospective employers that I'm willing to be certified. Oddly enough, when it comes down to it, they don't really care.

My recommendation is that you get a good full time job with a large corporation for now. Get yourself financially secure and squared away. Also, make sure you get your share of the marital assets, including the retirement fund and investments.

Don't invest so much faith in Meyers-Briggs. At the end of the day you are mailable, and to think of yourself as being one way, forever is self-limiting. It would be better if you worked on becoming more outgoing and comfortable in work situations.

Being self employed is the WORST idea for an introverted person. How do you see yourself chasing people down for payment, hustling for work, networking, etc...not such a hot idea for you for where you are in your life right now.

Good luck to you. MeMail me if you want to connect on LinkedIn.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:39 AM on February 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

Have you looked into Instructional Design? If you're attracted to academia and like writing and learning different types of software, this might be a good fit. It's not a completely solitary job, but the focus would be on working with others to put together a project, not cold-calling people who don't care.
posted by yarntheory at 10:16 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you looked into Instructional Design?

Speaking as an Instructional Designer, I'm a little lukewarm on this if you're looking for a field where you don't need to talk to people very much. My experience is that (at least if you're a corporate ID), the number of meetings you'll be attending is legion. It's been a while since I've had full-on week-long face-to-face working sessions, but those are not impossible (and oh my god they're grueling), and even on a more reasonable scale you'll need to talk to Subject Matter Experts and either your client or team lead pretty frequently (not to mention media folks, technical folks, delivery folks, etc). I'd consider myself an introvert so I'm certainly not saying it'd be impossible for you, but if you feel strongly about not interacting with other people I don't know if it's a great option ... still, you do learn about a lot of different domains as an ID; if you'd like to know more feel free to memail. And good luck to you no matter what you decide to pursue!
posted by DingoMutt at 11:12 AM on February 24, 2015

Many of my previous jobs have been random assignments I took to pay the bills. There was no career plan. ... I absolutely do not want to settle for just anything again.

I want to encourage you to reframe this in order to build your confidence and present yourself well to potential employers. While it's true that some people set a career plan in place and just tick off the mile markers as their career speeds forward as planned, that is becoming more and more rare these days. Employers generally don't expect you to stay on one career track for your entire career; they just want you to adapt quickly to the changing environment, and that's what you're doing.

There are plenty of people who have enviable careers, who look great on paper, who have actually had plenty of moments of not having any idea what they'll do next, or of taking whatever was available in order to pay the bills. That's normal. And what they do with that, is they try to fit it into a narrative, like "I was just so interested in X, and wanted to try my skills in Y environment" until the whole saga sounds like it was an intentional journey instead of a seat of the pants panicfest. Don't let them fool you. They have been where you are.

Just focus on the overlap of what you love with the job you're applying for, based on its description. Maybe it offers an opportunity to write and edit, which you love. Maybe it will let you sink your teeth into a big project and concentrate on it until it's finished, which you love. And then you trace back whichever thread of things you enjoy and are good at back through your previous projects. Good luck!
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:09 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the incredible feedback, and I will be MeMailing those of you who offered (extra thanks).

There were several jobs mentioned that I hadn't considered, probably because I knew so little about them. I've been exploring actuarial work. I've always been better with words, but I was fine with math (but definitely not science). I just haven't done it for a long time, so I would need to invest some time moving my brain back in that direction.

Library Science is officially off my list because of the low ROI. I'm also going to look for temp work so I can pay the bills while I continue to search. I live about 2.5 -3 hours from where I eventually want to settle (bigger city, more job options), so I can't temp there; however, I'm close enough to go back and forth and research the market. Plus, I have a few contacts who live there.

I'm working on reframing the way I see my past work experience. I've been considering hiring a career counselor to help with my job search. (A friend highly recommended her.) I struggle with seeing the common threads, and she might be able to help me rework my narrative.
posted by DoOver at 8:05 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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