What I do have are a very particular set of skills
March 4, 2016 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Can I build a new career out of the things I'm actually good at? Please help me figure out what careers could fit what I do.

Right now I work as an "administrative manager." I do a lot of record keeping, some light accounting and reconcile corporate credit card expenses, I help conduct interviews, I create and track invoices, I deliver training presentations to hourly employees, I write a weekly newsletter that goes out to about 35 people, I lead a monthly safety meeting, I also oversee a large site usage data collection project (employees track office data - how many packages received? how many badges issued? how many visitors? - they send it to me, I load it into spreadsheets and then try to explain what The Numbers mean for trends).

I do a lot more than that too, but the point being I am totally swamped and I can't keep going at this pace. My team is understaffed and the culture is very go-go-go, "everything's a crisis" and I'm burning out. I like parts of my job, but it's just okay, and seems like the end point of a pink collar career path that I sort of wandered into during college and never left. I just turned 30 and had a baby, so it feels like the right time for a change.

Current salary is in the mid-50s. I am open to that number decreasing. I do like having health insurance; my husband's job does not provide it.

I also have past experience doing office management, both medical and corporate.

Here's what I am good at and like doing:

Taking crappy writing (emails, performance reviews, training presentations), cleaning it up, and making it not crappy, or helping someone find the perfect phrase to convey what they are thinking. I am the wordsmith on my management team.

Business writing in general - sending out announcements to the office, that sort of thing

Researching the answer to someone's question, or researching a broad topic and then giving someone a condensed and easy-to-read summary of what they need to know. Any research, really.

Giving someone an educated opinion or recommendation; offering advice.

Being a know-it-all and creating training courses, writing out guidelines, etc.

Making lists, obviously. Taking notes.

Planning events - to a certain extent. I think it'd be too stressful if I only did events.

Preparing things for emergencies. I don't know, I get a weird thrill from a well stocked disaster kit or writing an emergency plan. I like picking topics for the safety call I lead.

Creative writing (nothing published)

Acting, performing, or presenting - I have a theater degree, but haven't been involved in the arts since college. I handle public speaking well.

I type crazy fast.

I love history and museums and libraries but have no professional experience here.

Here's what I want to avoid:

Answering phone calls from the general public
Extreme and ongoing overtime or always needing to be on call 24/7. I can sprint for short projects, but I need some balance here.
Conflict, tension, high pressure
Having people report to me. Been there, didn't like it.

What do you have for me, MeFi? I have tunnel vision and don't know what I am qualified for except "more of the same." I feel like I should head in a writing or communications or arts direction. But everything that seems interesting (corporate communications? trainer? writing copy? editor? grant writing?) also appears to be asking for an experience level or educational background I don't have. I'd also happily take suggestions on how to create that experience when I'm short on free time.
posted by castlebravo to Work & Money (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You sound kind of like me, when I was in finance. Then I left finance (well, I was pushed) and got a temp gig doing more of the same, but in a different field - and it was totally different. So you may not need to change your career as such, maybe just where you're doing it. You're an admin, but where? And is it in an industry you give a shit about?

At the very least, admin work could be a stepstone towards something else, if you move to a different workplace (where I am now, I'm doing less admin work, but i've made enough of a name for myself that I'm letting them know that moving to more creative work is my prefrence and they are listening).

Have you considered finding an institution you like and doing admin work there for a couple years, so you can acquaint yourself with the company, and then moving towards the communications section, after you're more of a known commodity?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:06 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was going to recommend training and/or instructional design (trainers deliver content, instructional designers create it, and a lot of "training" jobs are actually a mix of both). The thing is, you are already doing training. You already have experience. Job requirements are often aspirational, and if you can demonstrate applicable experience, even if it doesn't map exactly, many more roles than you think may be open to you.

If training/instructional design appeals to you, look into the local chapter of the Association for Talent Development. They typically have tons of meetings, trainings, special interest groups, etc. that you can join. It is a good way to network and learn more about the field and potential job opportunities. Shouldn't be a huge commitment of time or money.
posted by jeoc at 7:07 PM on March 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Your job sounds a lot like my SOs who runs a few small departments at an Ivy League school in the Northeast. It's basically high level admin and the main things are that you have to be detail-oriented (to help get grades in on time), able to deal with occasional (like a few times a year for a week or two at a time) crunch times and be sort of flexible about some of the other bullshit that comes along with being a sort of low person on the totem pole in an academic environment.

He is good at dealing with databases and spreadsheets and he plans small events up to and including being the guy to order the pizza and set up the rooms, make banners, whathaveyou. No reports. Very little phone work. No pressure at all (he works what I would consider half time but gets paid for full time) and he's paid more than you though he's been there for a while.

He communicates with a lot of friendly but stressed out students and helps manage a long list of things most of which are complex but not difficult if that makes sense? He doesn't get to be that creative and mostly saves that for home, though he does get to pick up de-stress toy like stuff to have available for the undergrads. He has good benefits, reasonable job security, some good perks (gym membership, library privileges, campus stuff) and genuinely likes his job. Possibly a lateral move into the same work but in a better setting might work for you?
posted by jessamyn at 7:14 PM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

>Researching the answer to someone's question, or researching a broad topic and then giving someone a condensed and easy-to-read summary of what they need to know. Any research, really.

These sorts of positions often have "analyst" somewhere in the title. Having strong presentation skills for these sorts of positions are great.
posted by GPF at 7:30 PM on March 4, 2016

I work in digital marketing for a large nonprofit and your writing/communications skills are the #1 thing I look for when I'm hiring. At a nonprofit, you would probably make a bit less than what you make now starting out (depending on the size of the organization, and geographic location) but you'd be likely to have pretty solid benefits. And while NPOs are always understaffed, in my experience they tend to have somewhat better work/life balance than many companies.

Alternatively, you could get a smaller organization to hire you as an admin director/office manager and negotiate that you want to develop some marketing/communications experience as well.

If you're interested in the nonprofit path, you might also look into fundraising/development as well.
posted by lunasol at 7:35 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm in facilities management. My company employs and supervises receptionists and facilities contractors for a very large software company; I'm the admin for our account with this client. I don't particularly care about my current industry (aside from handling safety for my account, which I find interesting).

It's possible I may just need an employer change. I think at least some of my problems stem from our particular culture and how things are set up. My manager and I are constantly trying to keep both our company leadership and the client happy, and their priorities are not often the same...so we just work extra hard to try to deliver it all for everyone, is the best I can describe it.
posted by castlebravo at 8:23 PM on March 4, 2016

Do you have a bachelor's degree? With business-ish courses? Much of what you described sounds like it would fit into the 1102 federal job series, writing/admining contracts for the federal government. Depending on where you live and your flexibility there are many jobs available. Check out "procurement tech" if you don't have the degree. It's 1103, I think.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 5:09 AM on March 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My friend is a health and safety co-ordinator in a municipality. She keeps on top of all the regulatory paperwork, modifies workplace assignments to accommodate injured workers, trains staff (from materials she creates) and is proactive about solving problems. As a government job it has a good work-life balance. I believe she has specific college education in safety.
posted by saucysault at 5:11 AM on March 5, 2016

I am an IT Trainer & I was also going to suggest IT Training / Instructional Design. My job involves occasional travel, but there are plenty of positions in larger companies where they have enough work in one city. I am never on call & only occasionally work outside Mon - Fri 9-5 if a client really can't make a course within normal hours.

There is a free course on Alison that might give some ideas about what's involved: here

Its a satisfying & fairly low stress job with generally pleasant personal interactions.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 6:59 AM on March 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think you should look into these two books:


Some of the advice that I found most valuable was, figure out what you like doing (which you've done), then make up 5-7 job titles with job descriptions. Then you see if they sounds like any existing career or something that might exist, do some research, and see what steps you can take to get there.
posted by serenity_now at 9:16 AM on March 5, 2016

You sound like someone who might do better in a medium or large sized company rather than something small. (I say that because you don't like the go-go-go stress-y atmosphere where you are, and bigger companies tend to be better resourced and a bit slower paced.)

You also sound like someone who might be in a job that's too small for you. Rather than thinking about making less money, I'd consider going in the other direction. You sound like you'd be good at policy level work. So maybe Director of Admin, Director of Operations, something in risk management, or maybe a Chief of Staff role. Chief of Staff especially often doesn't require direct reports; the others likely do, though. You also sound suited to any kind of special projects work. I remember people in my past who did Y2K prep (lol), organized large facilities changes such as a headquarters move or opening up new offices: stuff like that. That is usually big company stuff.

Nonprofit work might suit you, although again, I'd aim for something medium sized or larger, because nonprofits are particularly likely to be under-resourced and stretched too thin.

Good luck. Your skills sound great and are in demand :)
posted by Susan PG at 10:14 AM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Personal assistant to a high level executive.
posted by OCDan at 10:22 PM on March 5, 2016

You could easily do my job, or lots of marketing jobs, if you have ir could acquire any graphic design or layout skills. Most of what we do is taking corporate glurge, cleaning it up, and making it pretty.

Also, dont accept a lower salary. Your skills are worth at least as much as you're already earning.
posted by emjaybee at 10:20 AM on March 6, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the suggestions and encouraging feedback. Last week my manager was on a rare "vacation" (she was still checking email constantly, of course) and it was surprisingly relaxing & more in line with what I want my work-life balance to look like...I ate a real lunch! Away from my laptop, without feeling guilty or anxiously monitoring my inbox for the next URGENT ASAP! But she's back with guns blazing now and it's reaffirmed that I really do need to jump ship - the culture itself is unhealthy.

My experience level & list of accomplishments isn't quite big enough to justify applying to a C-level or director level position. I'd be happy to consider it, but I think I need a little more time in middle management before making a bid. My degree is in theater (no business) but I will investigate government jobs. Working as a trainer or in marketing is probably the most likely career switch for me. A former manager is now director of training at another company, and I may leverage her as a resource. I'm also looking at other high level admin jobs, at organizations or companies I find more interesting.

I've submitted a couple applications to similar level jobs at other organizations, including a museum and a university. I'm sure nonprofits have their own list of problems but I think one thing I would like from my job is to feel like I'm contributing to the greater good, which I don't have currently.

Thanks again for the insights, I have a lot to mull over during my job search!
posted by castlebravo at 12:06 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My degree is in theater [...] I've submitted a couple applications to similar level jobs at other organizations, including a museum and a university. I'm sure nonprofits have their own list of problems but I think one thing I would like from my job is to feel like I'm contributing to the greater good, which I don't have currently.

Oh, man, you really are me.

And since that's the case, I'm able to confirm that I'm happier at a non-profit than I was in finance (at least, happier with the work-life balance - I have my own grumbles, but they're ones you are really unlikely to run into). Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on March 14, 2016

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