Help me reboot my work life
June 21, 2016 12:28 AM   Subscribe

I just turned 43 and need to transition out of my current physically-demanding and unpredictably remunerative profession of massage therapy into a job I can still physically perform up until retirement, that will allow me to have a life outside work, and that pays decently.

My hope for this post is to see suggestions for job roles I didn’t even know existed but that might be a fit. Perhaps someone might also have suggestions about how to get back into IT in a way that is compatible with actually having a life.

I live in suburban MD. Washington, DC and Baltimore, the nearest major cities, are each an hour away in good traffic (and there rarely IS such a thing as good traffic!). I’m not open to moving for the foreseeable future due to family obligations.

I'm an introvert with good people skills one on one (honed by my career in massage), and OK skills in small groups, but I’m awkward/uncomfortable with large groups in an informal setting. Parties give me the heebie jeebies, but I can deal with formal pre-planned large group activities like speaking to a group at a conference. I have no interest in and doubt I would be good at managing people. My personality is very quiet and laid-back, straight-forward and no-nonsense.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, if it matters.

Before massage, I worked as a web developer for a decade. This is the career I’ll probably try to go back to if nothing else seems viable, because it paid well and because I have experience (though my skills are well out of date at this point).

I enjoyed and was good at: database work (anything from data modeling to writing queries to tuning); requirements analysis (if I had good sources); testing; and documentation. I think I was probably just ok at web programming in languages such as Perl and ColdFusion. I was self-taught and was able to always get the job done, if perhaps not as elegantly as some. Front end stuff like CSS and JavaScript tended to frustrate me. I think I’d like it even less now that everything has to work with smartphones.

I am hesitant to link to my resume here, but if anyone wants a private link to it to see more detail about what I’ve done so they can hone their suggestions, memail me.

I quit web development because it did not allow me the peace and time to have a life outside work. It was already so stressful in my twenties and thirties; I think going back to the types of jobs I had back then, if that’s even an option, might be the death of me now.

Although I have an analytical mind and was good at what I did, the work always tended to slurp up all of my time and energy. There was always a new technology to learn, a new trend to keep up with. There were unreasonable managers who overpromised to clients because they did not understand technology (or because they were just idiots). There were relentless office politics that made me want to slit my wrists. And worst of all were the long commutes (because all the good jobs were in Baltimore and DC). I worked as a contractor and as an employee; in government and for private companies; and across a variety of industries. All of the work environments were high-stress in a negative way. I spent a lot of my "downtime" recovering from work and commuting.

I telecommuted 2-3 days a week at one contracting job, but otherwise for the most part legitimate employers were not open to telecommute. The one full-time telecommute job I had failed to bother paying me for the 6 weeks I worked for them, and I had to spend a couple thousand bucks in legal fees and many months getting them to pay up. They were located in the ether, and jurisdiction was hard to pin down. I’d now be more cautious about telecommute work, even though in theory it would be wonderful not to have to commute.

To reiterate, I’m looking for the kind of job that will allow me to have a creative and personal life outside work. This could either be accomplished by doing serial high-stress and high-pay contracts (if I can get those contracts, and if I can survive them), with lots of downtime between them, or by having a job (if these exist anymore!?) that has limited hours, and where I can leave work at work. It must be relatively physically undemanding.

I do not need to be passionate about the work I’m doing, or even particularly enjoy it. It does not need to be personally or globally meaningful.

I could devote six months or maybe a year to retraining. I don’t see going back to school to get a master’s degree, but a technical training program would be fine. I don't prefer to, but could, stop working for a few months in order to travel somewhere to retrain.
posted by mysterious_stranger to Work & Money (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
There are two roles that immediately come to mind within IT, since these are both individual contributor roles and don't need too much technical knowledge.

1. Scrum Master for agile projects that use Scrum
2. Business Analyst

Google can tell you much more about these two roles, but let me summarize so that you can decide if further research would interest you.

1. As a Scrum Master, you would be in a non-manager role where your primary job is to remove obstacles for the team to complete[Talk to a related application team to get their plans for release of a web service which your team needs etc]. Secondary activities would include ensuring all Scrum ceremonies are conducted, work with team and Product owner to maintain the different Backlogs, organize and anchor planing meetings etc.

This is a good role for those who don't want to get into technical positions while also avoiding the supervisory positions. You are independent and not responsible for work allocation, performance appraisals etc.

However, depending on the company, this could degenerate into a pseudo-PM role, where you have to spend insane hours as a glorified tool secretary.

2. The business analyst is a techno-functional role. You would liaison with the business users who sponsor a IT project and the IT team who would develop an application that solves the business problem (or enables the business guys). For example, you would draw up the detailed functional requirements/flows of what the software should do, get sign off from business users, conduct workshops for the Devs to understand what is needed, answer questions etc.
posted by theobserver at 12:57 AM on June 21, 2016

What about offering your services w/databases to Odesk or online work for hire sites? At least you would be doing what you're good at and set your own schedule. Have you already looked into that option? Or, you could go in a related direction. What about teaching what you know at a community college? Or what about building specialized databases for sports or real estate; small businesses in fields that could use help analyzing what they do so they can get better at it?
posted by CollectiveMind at 1:03 AM on June 21, 2016

I was also thinking of a Business Analyst role, or even a Technical Writer role if you're willing to work on documentation full-time. Neither role would necessarily require you to update your web dev skills or retrain in anything, although I think it's good for Technical Writers to be familiar with HTML and CSS (XML helps, too). Tech Writing isn't a bad career for introverts, especially those who have good one-on-one people skills, and having an analytical mind is a big plus.
posted by neushoorn at 1:18 AM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you are interested in Technical Writing, there are online certification courses
posted by gt2 at 2:47 AM on June 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

QA may be up your alley. It pays decently and requires good communication skills, lateral thinking, and some technical chops. I was a QA for a couple years in a tiny company, and I primarily maintained requirements, automated web browsing with scripts, and communicated with developers. I did frequently have to use a querying language to verify data.

There are some highly technical positions within QA as well as some less-technical ones.
posted by one of these days at 6:18 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

My first suggestion would be to investigate job openings with doctor's offices, clinics, PTs, your local community hospital, etc. Abandon notions of what is out there, and place a higher emphasis on years of being a productive employee and consultant. Healthcare is a complicated industry, and many employers have trouble finding "just the right person", and you might be "not a perfect choice, but trainable." As far as specifics, you could look into medical billing. Around my area, it's usual to get a certificate from the local community college program. I'm not sure what it would take for you to get it, but some of the courses (e.g. anatomy) would be pretty easy going if you had to sit through them. It's a good fit because it requires some healthcare knowledge and some IT knowledge. Also, it pays better than sitting at the front desk greeting patients.

My second suggestion is to look into non-profits as potential employers in the hope that they will have more realistic notions of how much your time they can command than is usual with the highly competitive for-profits.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:35 AM on June 21, 2016

Health Informatics maybe? Here's a certificate program.
posted by mareli at 7:42 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

There was always a new technology to learn, a new trend to keep up with. There were unreasonable managers who overpromised to clients because they did not understand technology (or because they were just idiots). There were relentless office politics that made me want to slit my wrists. And worst of all were the long commutes (because all the good jobs were in Baltimore and DC). I worked as a contractor and as an employee; in government and for private companies; and across a variety of industries. All of the work environments were high-stress in a negative way.

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any job that doesn't involve either that sort of thing or outright boredom (or a mix of both). Low-to-mid level jobs in higher ed admin will give you the 8-4 or 9-5 you want, but even that's not without bullshit (and definitely not without boredom - & it's to your advantage to not underestimate the noxious effects of boredom). But maybe something related to direct student support would be a good fit? Maybe not counselling proper (because sadly, mental health issues are worsening in severity and prevalence in young people; if you want to leave stuff at work, that might not be it), but academic support, tutoring, guidance through the system, etc. - that would be a lighter load.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:13 AM on June 21, 2016

Or, you could open a small business providing a less physical service. (It wouldn't likely be 8-4 for a while, if ever. But any bullshit that emerged would be your own (or clients'). I'm thinking accounting, something like that, in which the basic MO & tools don't change every six months.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:17 AM on June 21, 2016

I am you, even down to the overcooked thumbs....

Check Hacker News every so often, there's often pointers to job openings.

RemoteIO and RemoteBase list jobs that might be of interest.

And a few more here:

(from this HN thread)
posted by flutable at 5:24 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

After 14 years as a web dev I just got my real estate license. I plan to be an honest, straightforward broker (with a kick ass website) who can help you with anything real estate. There will be a lot of schmoozing but I can fake extroversion pretty effectively. By all accounts this feels to me like a growth industry.
posted by bendy at 7:54 PM on June 22, 2016

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