The museum biz ain't all fun and games.
January 4, 2006 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Another new career direction question.

It could be the post-holiday doldrums, or the oppression of Minneapolis in January, but right now I'm sitting at the bottom of a career-depression trough. I write Access reports and applications for the fundraising department of an art museum, and at this point it's feeling pretty pointless. Having recently turned 31, and having spent the past 8 years sort of stumbling into this weird museum-administrative niche (my last job was a similar Access-based collections management thing for a large historical museum), I'm feeling like it's time that I looked for something new. I feel a little boxed in, and would love some suggestions.

Here are some pertinent facts:

--I do a fair amount of freelance writing on the side; mostly music, but occasional general-interest articles and humor/fiction. I would be interested in writing for a living, but my freelance income would have to increase x20 for that to be realistic.
--I don't particularly like computers, but I'm pretty good with them. I'm not a wiz with Access, but I'm good enough that my self-taught skills have been enough to pay the bills for a long time now. I've also taught myself rudimentary web design.
--I have a BA in English, with a minor in Physics (originally physics major, switched halfway through). I'm open to further schooling, but not to going to grad school just to escape the working world (I actually pulled out of an MFA program at the last minute when I realized that I would be doing it purely so as to avoid a "real" job).
--I exercise like a fiend, and love being outside. I wouldn't mind finding a career that embraced this (I briefly looked into becoming a Personal Trainer, but the only training program I could find was ridiculously expensive).
--I'm slowly in the process of learning to draw, and I love doing it. But it doesn't seem like a steady way to make a buck.
--Teaching sounds sort of interesting, but I fear the bureaucracy/frustration of dealing with students/steady pressure to test to tests.
--I live in Minneapolis, and can't relocate for at least a year (wife in school). I like it here, but wouldn't rule out moving when circumstances permit.

Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions anybody has.
posted by COBRA! to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Hmmm...why don't you do some tutoring to see if you might like teaching? You could be a biology teacher and take lots of field trips outside. You could also have fun drawing cell diagrams and stuff for the class.

Or, try to transition into something more substantive in the nonprofit management world. For instance, could you see yourself taking a more active role in administration (maybe go get an MPA at the Humphrey Institute?) Or doing grantwriting to put your writing skills to use?
posted by footnote at 10:03 AM on January 4, 2006

I'm in an amazingly similar boat (27, in Minneapolis, underemployed with a BA in philosophy (started in physics, too)) and will pay close attention to this thread. If your eventual plan necessitates a team (or squad, mob, etc.) of like-minded individuals, let me know. Otherwise, I was days away from posting a similar question.
posted by nicething at 10:23 AM on January 4, 2006

You are not alone. Not so much an answer and I apologize for that. They don't make changing careers very easy, particularly once you are over 30. Also changing careers probably won't fix things in the long term if what you really want is to draw/write/create. The advice I've received thus far is to work your ass off outside of "work" on the things you care about and eventually you will (hopefully) be able to escape the day job trap. I wish I could offer more. Best of luck!
posted by shoepal at 11:15 AM on January 4, 2006

Not much advice, but I'm in a similar position, except I spent the past five years doing random jobs during a recession still aiming towards my initial career (architect), finally got a rather good job six months ago, and now realize it's sucking out my soul, and that the industry in the SF Bay Area is more than broken. I have a backup plan, which is my original architecture job back in Arizona, where I had good friends and can do more of what I want to do design-wise, but I'm in love with Bay Area Life (tm). So... gamble on trying to find an entirely new career up here? Gamble on the career I've worked towards half my life back in the middle of the desert with none of the "extras" this area affords? Live a life of eternal random jobs and poverty? I'm 32, and don't want to be in this position again in another five or eight years.

Right now I'm training to be a professional poker dealer so I can work odd (and fewer) hours with largely tax-free income, the idea being to free myself up to try a bunch of different things, see if any of 'em stick, and if not, oh well, I had a fun year or so, time to suck it up and accept a happy quiet life down south.

So, er, not much to say except thanks for helping me feel like I'm not alone. And hell, I have a perfectly safe and good backup plan, and I'm still scared to death that this is all a huge mistake. Good luck to you.
posted by p7a77 at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2006

posted by WCityMike at 12:24 PM on January 4, 2006

Response by poster: Or, try to transition into something more substantive in the nonprofit management world.

I've thought of that, and it's a possibility; the fear is that I'd wind up in more or less the situation I'm in-- I go in, I do whatever administering it is I do, and remain totally unengaged. One thing I've noticed is that, with notable exceptions, a lot of nonprofits seem to turn into places where ambition goes to die.


Do you recommend career counselors out of positive experience with them, or just on principle? I've always felt like they'd be a generic waste of time,* but, as with anything else, I'm open to persuasion if you've had another experience.

*Yeah, I know that seems kind of weird coming from somebody who's asking a site full of total strangers for advice-- the difference is that 1) people here have a history that I might now, which gives me some hope of knowing whether or not they're full of shit, and 2) Ask MeFi isn't likely to sit me down and ask me to take a standardized test which will tell me I should be a Set Decorator, which is what my (probably totally wrong) conception of a Career Counseling session would be like.
posted by COBRA! at 1:28 PM on January 4, 2006

One thing I've noticed is that, with notable exceptions, a lot of nonprofits seem to turn into places where ambition goes to die.

Oh no! I hope that doesn't happen to me. My experience with nonprofits has been different -- that they turn into a place for people to either freak out from carrying the weight of the world, or harden into assholes. But then again, I've never been in the museum business, so maybe it's different there.

If you decide to get into the development side of nonprofits, you might be able to find one where people are still happy, creative and ambitious. They do exist, really, but you'll have to look. And if you're involved in fundraising, it would help to really believe in the organization's mission. Then, you couldn't help but be engaged (at least for a few years!) because you'd be providing their lifeblood.

From the way you describe background and your skills, I really don't think it'd be that much of a huge jump for you to move over into development/grantwriting somewhere. You don't need to think of it as your ultimate career change, but maybe as something to just try out for a while.
posted by footnote at 2:59 PM on January 4, 2006

And I forgot to add that the nonprofit I'm at now is great! People are spooky nice here, and super-smart and ambitious too.
posted by footnote at 3:03 PM on January 4, 2006

footnote, what kind of nonprofit are you at?
posted by gsteff at 4:51 PM on January 4, 2006

Legal. I don't think the good atmosphere has so much to do with the type of work, though -- it just happens to be an extraordinarily stable place, and my boss is the biggest mensch sweetheart you ever met.

When I think about it, the reason it might be such a functional work environment is that there's very little bullshit involved -- we just all do our work, and don't have to worry about a lot of oversight or useless meetings. A very horizontal structure. And it's a small office too -- about 10 people.
posted by footnote at 4:58 PM on January 4, 2006

« Older office chair fix   |   Etherpeg for WinXP Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.