New Year's resolution: Find a real career.
January 1, 2006 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm a new mom, and I have a full-time job as an office manager for a mid-sized IT firm. I like my job in general, but I feel stuck. I need some creative, real-life guidance.

My current job is sort of a dead-end job with little room for advancement within the company. I am also not paid very well in comparison to other office managers in the local area. A raise is, for various reasons, out of the question. This never bothered me before, but now that I am a mother, I'd like to stay home with my son, but we just can't hack it financially. I want to make a career move that will, of course, pay decently and be somewhat personally satisfying. I would like to one day have the option of staying home with my son and I know I can't effectively work towards that goal in my current situation. I know this may require the acquistion of new skills. I am willing to work at it, I am not looking for a quick fix.

Of note:

I have no college degree (3 years only in computer science). I am interested in finishing the degree but once again, we really have no extra money to work with. We could afford some training courses though, if I found the right career path.

About my skills: I am very proficient with all facets of administrative-related computer tasks. I know the Microsoft Office Suite inside out. I have experience managing a small department (2 part-time temps and one full time receptionist/administrative assistant). I need very little management motivation or supervision, I work well on my own. Most importantly, I can pick up new things rather quickly.

Salary requirements are modest. I would like to make at least 25,000/year (I make 21k now), with the potential to make more money as I prove myself and put years in. Benefits such as insurance and 401k are not required but would be nice if available to me.

Flexibility of location is a plus. I'd like to have a career that I can take anywhere, as my husband has the potential for transfer. He's got a solid career with 12 years in the same company, so I would leave any position to follow him if he were offered a transfer.

Some stuff that has been suggested to me by friends: paralegal, medical transcriptionist. I haven't done enough research yet to know whether those are good options for me.

I know I am not in a unique situation and I apologize for my long windedness, but I know that many people here must have either been in a similar situation or known someone who has been. Any suggestions or help anyone could offer are greatly appreciated.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs to Work & Money (15 answers total)
A lot of women in your position try out the home daycare thing. You go through some CPR training and whatever various local laws additionally require. It helps to have a big house with a section of it you can just rope off and devote to kids.

My aunt did it for a few years when my cousins were young. Basically if you just get 4 kids to stay for say $500 a month, you're closing in on your $25k goal. Depending on the area, you could charge more and have just a couple kids around. Where I live, I think $600-800 is normal for very good, small in-home childcare.
posted by mathowie at 2:13 PM on January 1, 2006

You have three years of computer science? Why don't you get a programming job? The last year for me was all theory anyway, with little practical day to day application working on IT type coding. Do you think you could get a programming job at your company, or do you not like programming?

I guess I don't understand why you don't get a job in your field. I make $42k and that's way on the low end, but there are a lot other benefits to my current situation (like living within walking distance)
posted by delmoi at 2:27 PM on January 1, 2006

hrm, now that I think about it, I spent 5 years in school.
posted by delmoi at 2:32 PM on January 1, 2006

Response by poster: My employer tells me that I can't advance unless I have a degree We just can't afford it, even with aid. Maybe someday, though.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 2:45 PM on January 1, 2006

Response by poster: Also, I should note, it's more like 2.5 years of comp sci. I went to school for the full three but had another major my first semester.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 2:46 PM on January 1, 2006

There are many working programmers without degrees. If you feel like you have an aptitude for programming, you could teach yourself some currently popular technologies, perhaps something like PHP that is widely used in web development, and become a freelance developer. You could do this from home and from any location. If successful, you would easily surpass your salary requirement.
posted by medpt at 3:17 PM on January 1, 2006

I guess I'm kind of an outlier because I've "always" known how to program, since before high school at least. I got a nice part time programming job that paid $18/hr after just a few years in school. But really, a CS degree isn't necessary to do basic programming work. Try throwing a resume up on and see if any headhunters call. Ann Arbor is kind of small, but you should be able to do basic php type web stuff VB coding, that sort of thing, I would think.
posted by delmoi at 3:23 PM on January 1, 2006

Honestly, it sounds like an obvious first move is to find another job in your field. I don't think that it makes a ton of sense to stay in a job that is paying you under-market wages with no chance of a raise or advancement. What's keeping you there?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 3:26 PM on January 1, 2006

er, there should be a comma between 'web stuff' and 'VB coding'
posted by delmoi at 3:26 PM on January 1, 2006

Hey, Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs, please contact me. I may know of something in your area or there may be an option to work from home. Send me whatever looks like a resume, even if it's just more notes detailing the above, and your #, and I'll call you next week. I'm in HR for an international packaging company and stuff comes up all the time.
posted by pomegranate at 4:11 PM on January 1, 2006

Check out other typyes of companies that need IT people. For instance, I work for a large nonprofit -- these tend to be more flexible about job descriptions. You may be able to score a very advantageous position if you look at well-established large museums, membership associations, well-funded foundations, etc.
posted by desuetude at 6:30 PM on January 1, 2006

Regarding medical transcription: my mom has been a medical transcriptionist for as long as I can remember. She started her own business at home after working in a doctors' office for a few years. Indeed, it was very nice having her at home when I was growing up, and she has made decent money at it. However, I don't think she considers it a very satisfying career.

I worked for her while I was in college and I didn't mind it -- I made better money doing that than I could have doing anything else, and it wasn't a completely mindless task. Plus I could schedule the work around my changing school schedule. Also, you don't need a lot of training if you already have decent grammar skills (which you obviously do). A medical terminology class would be the most helpful, in my opinion.

I really don't know about the job market for medical transcription, though. I'd say if you look into it and there seem to be a lot of opportunities to work from home, it would be worthwhile to take a single class and then try to get a job. I wouldn't want to do it forever, but it could definitely come in handy while you finish a CS degree.
posted by Nice Donkey at 8:58 PM on January 1, 2006

If you're not interested in programming, how about technical writing? The 2.5 years of Comp Sci and the writing skills apparent in your post give you a significant leg up...and for many tech writing positions (any, actually, that companies for which I've worked for have hired writers), a degree isn't a strict requirement--especially when "the ability to pick up things rather quickly" is involved.

It's something you can do pretty much anywhere, and with a few years of experience (sometimes not even that!), flexible contract and remote work is usually available.

Also, the salary is typically pretty decent, especially if you're technical (you will start lowish, but 75-80k and higher salaries are not unheard of for senior tech writers...I think 50-60k is the median salary with 30-40 entry level in this area, at least. Salaries may differ by metro area/company/industry/etc.). And for what you're looking for salary-wise right now, I would bet that some company would be willing to snap you up, giving you a chance plus a significant raise, and would consider it a bargain.

Best of luck to you! (My email address is in my profile if you have any questions about the profession.)
posted by jenh at 10:49 PM on January 1, 2006

Ohh, technical writing would be good for you.
posted by delmoi at 6:32 PM on January 2, 2006

Response by poster: I am exploring some of the options offered by you all in this thread. I will update when I have something to report! Thanks to everyone and if anyone happens upon this thread after the fact (I know how fast AskMe progresses) please leave suggestions both for me and anyone else who may find them useful in the future. Thanks!
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 9:45 AM on January 4, 2006

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