I think I may need to offer my head up for hunting...
March 6, 2016 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm a writer and former academic with a diverse skill set. I'm looking to make a major career transition, but am unsure how to find the kinds of jobs that I believe would be professionally satisfying to me.

A few years ago, I resigned from my career as a film studies professor because my wife and I hated where we were living. I'm also pretty disenchanted with academia, and am happy to leave it behind. (The job market in my field is abysmal, anyway.)

I have a lot of writing experience, and, when we moved to a new city, I lucked into a good journalism gig about three years ago. I like the job and my colleagues, but I'm starting to feel that I'm outgrowing this company. I want more and greater creative challenges, as well as a higher salary, mostly because my wife and I now have a six-month-old.

I'm a good teacher/educator; I have written everything from blurbs to articles to books; I know a lot about film history (a highly marketable skill, I know :P); I'm a good project manager; I'm a great editor and proofreader (though have never done it professionally); I'm knowledgable in a wide range of subjects, mostly in the humanities and social sciences.

It's very important for me to be intellectually stimulated and challenged by my job. I can't stand being bored by my work.

Industries in which I think I could excel include:
- education, or education technology (I've recently applied for some very appealing jobs at places like Khan Academy and EdSurge), or related fields;
- publishing (academic, professional, popular);
- journalism;
- editorial;
- museum education or public history;
- possibly an arts-focused nonprofit;
- research and archives.

I'm hesitant to look for writing jobs in marketing or advertising because I have ethical problems with those industries.

We are ready and happy to move to a new city, though not a megalopolis like NYC, LA, Chicago, Houston. We'd strongly prefer to be in some place like Oregon, the Bay Area, the Twin Cities, maybe a lively Midwestern college town like Ann Arbor. My wife is a healthcare professional and will soon commence her own concurrent job search. She is more readily employable than I am, so long as we move to an area that has a few good-sized hospitals. We've decided that any future relocation may be sparked by either of us getting a desirable job in a desirable location.

I think I may need to hire a top-flight headhunting firm that:
1) has experience and success in placing creative/academic/writerly types in new and diverse fields;
2) has professional networks/contacts in numerous cities around the US;
3) can help me represent myself, and my somewhat unusual skill set, extremely well to potential employers that may be reluctant to hire a former academic.

I don't know if hiring such a firm is a good idea, though, or even whether there are any such firms that can help me, given the specifics of my situation. I'm certainly open to other methods of finding a rewarding job in a new field, and would welcome any suggestions.

(I do have an ill-updated LinkedIn profile, but am reluctant to make major changes to it because it will alert my colleagues/bosses that I am considering moving on. I don't want them to know. Asking this question anonymously for similar reasons.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Headhunters work for employers, not for candidates. If they charge you money for their services, that would be highly suspect --they should be getting a commission from the employer.

Also, you can change your LinkedIn privacy settings so that profile updates are not posted to your network. The only way coworkers would find out is if they proactively view your profile, remember what it looked like, and then looked at it again.
posted by yonglin at 7:12 AM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Headhunters, also, are generally for executive-level positions. And yes, you don't pay them, they make their money off selling you.

You should probably start by polishing your resume and putting it on one or two sites (I'm in the tech industry, I don't know if there's other sites better, but indeed.com is pretty much the only place I use now). You will get contacted by recruiters, and that's a whole other adventure (some of them are actually authorized by a specific employer to find applicants, and you want to talk to them, while some of them are sitting in call centers reading job listings and racing to contact everyone they can find in the internet who matches one out of six keywords and their entire goal is to accidentally find someone to hire you and pay them a commission with the least amount of work on their part, and most employers loathe them but they're sort of stuck if a resume comes to them from the recruiter before they find it themselves), and you may want to set up a separate email and Google Voice number for handling that. You'll want to touch your resume listing to update its freshness at least weekly if not daily.

See what happens. You can set up your own alerts for keywords as market research, and tweak your resume to use whatever lingo the industries you are particularly interested in use.

And in the future, always keep a relatively-recently-updated resume up so it's not weird when you put a recently-updated resume up. Then if anyone ever asks (nobody has ever asked me in nearly 20 years of this practice), you're just like "*shrug* you'd be surprised how much I learn about what's going on in the industry that way" which is actually true, you do. For LinkedIn type stuff, if challenged, you can also always say you're applying to be on a board or elected to a [hobby/religious/civic/professional] committee and you have to make yourself look all fancy for that. But nobody's going to ask, or care much, and if they're afraid of losing you they might step up their game when they see it.

You kind of can't go through life hiding the fact that you're a human being who needs ongoing employment, anyway, so I would put "getting caught" down at the very bottom of your list of priorities. It's dumb not to always be watching for opportunities, and especially if you're a man, being ambitious is a positive personality trait.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:50 AM on March 6, 2016

Regarding trying to get into publishing from academia, see this thread. Agent99's answer is spot on. I'm going to come in with a little tough love - claims of expertise in copyediting and proofreading without actual professional experience will not be taken seriously. There is a world of difference between going through your colleagues' papers and working as a professional editor all day.

My background and interests are similar to yours, and I've found it's very tough to find anything that's intellectually stimulating and pays well. I live in a lively Midwestern college town, and people like us are legion. I will be following this thread to see if what you are searching for exists, but I'm not optimistic.
posted by FencingGal at 11:20 AM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not really editing this, so excuse the typos. I wish your anony bc I would have rather emailed this than post, but...will just go with it.

So I made a shift out of academia into writing, but a very different field. However, I think that what applied to how I found my industry and jobs would apply to you. I'm tailoring this to your background, although...I might not understand the nuances, so modify accordingly.

First, nthing, nthing, nthing that headhunters and recruiters are often not that great (and they way that the people responding describe it , that is very accurate). TBH I've encountered recruiters and headhunters who barely know what the key words mean and will try to shove you into a peg hole even if you tell them you are a triangle and only want to do Y.

I think to find the best fit for you, OP, you might have to do more ground work. Talk to people in those respective industries (and figure out if it is a good fit for you).

Some places that are usually useful to find pple include:

LinkedIn groups: Lurk and see if there are discussions with quality info exchanged. Either post a question (or email people) and ask if they would be willing to answer questions about the field (ie, info interview) or if you are ready for a targeted search, does anyone have a list of companies in industry X in geographic location or the US, etc.

National organizations for (whatever field) can be helpful because many have curated email lists or boards where you can post queries. Even if you can find a few pple to learn more about the industry, it should be worth it for you.

Also, consider googling in your geographic area the job title and a background that might be relevant to you (so it might be [Your city] + [museum educator] + [film] + [PhD}) The idea would be to find people who have your background and made the shift into your desired job because they can answer questions that are relevant to you.

Once you identify people who can tell you about the various fields, make and ask questions that can help you assess if it is a good fit (industry or job) for you. Things that I believe might be relevant to you include:

-Intellectual component (Figure out questions that will help you assess whether they offer this and tools that you might need to have this in your personal and work life), so maybe questions such as: Can you see samples of what they do? How much do they learn? Do they go to conferences and/or organize and run conferences? Do they have access to journal articles?

-Other criteria that might be important to you in a job (salary range is important to me, YMMV)

-What do you need to get into the job? Some places might use your clips, your experience, maybe you need to take a writing test, but which places are easiest for you to shift into and that your background might be an asset?

-What are the job titles for jobs in that field? Are there other jobs that might be a good fit for you (at their company or in their industry?)

-What would be a plus on your resume (learn those hot key words to drop on your resume for the eventual...headhunters, recruiters, HR people who have no idea what your key words mean. but they might look for it to see if you are what a company may need.)

-Are there any national organizations and/or conferences for people in the field (National...Museum Educators, who knows)

-How did they break into the field (ie, if it is unusual for them to hire people with an academic background, or in film studies, or whatever) and therefore, what steps did they take to get into the job?

Once you have identified the desired industry, now find lists of companies and recruiters and headhunters if you want to use them.

Findings lists can work well via LinkedIn (see groups, already described) and also, google. Use google to see if you can get a list of companies (ie, [industry] + [email] + [pdf]).

At this point, I would only use recruiters/headhunters that are recommended by pple (or that people have had good experience with). Now that you have the list of pple in the industry and people who can answer the question, you can often ask other people. I would ask people what they think about company X or headhunter/recruiter X? (If you post it, just ask "People with experience with company X, please share with me - email" - therefore, people don't have to post a negative thing about the company with their name attached to it, and you are more likely to avoid companies that are not doing well.

When you eventually meet with companies for jobs, I would ask to look at what they produce AND also ask questions to evaluate how open they are to creativity/new ideas - especially since you have identified this as something that you want. (ie, if it is a museum publication, and it is only in print, and you ask about digital, or games, or apps, WATCH and pay attention to how they respond - flat affect? Enthusiasm? They show you new ideas in the works).

On repreview of your question: You could consider dropping some contacts if you think it will be a problem (ie, will your journalism boss right not help you for your job, or your academic department head?). Many LinkedIn groups are locked ,and you can join them and hide them on your profile. Check out all the settings as to who to update, what to post, what to hide.

One more place that might be useful to peruse and/or post queries: Versatile PhD (I think if you still have academic affiliations, it might be free). But it is made for and by people trying to move out of academia into other fields. You can often discussions by people who have successful moved into another field (so you mind...5 people in publishing, education, whatever...see how they got there, and they will share their insights about the industry.)
posted by Wolfster at 11:30 AM on March 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

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