Totally coincidental that I am asking this on a Monday.
July 3, 2017 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Worker bee seeks help thinking up a career path and/or job options and/or possible self-employment opportunities. Career advice/suggestions sought.

(Quick disclaimer: I really, really don't want this question to come across wrong. I have pretty low self-esteem and would never dream of bragging or being overly confident. I hope I convey things the right way.)

I have always been fairly lucky when it comes to achievement in school and in doing well at work. I have a very strong work ethic thanks to my incredibly hardworking parents, and I'm more of a do-gooder than not, mainly because I'm afraid to break the rules.

In all of my past jobs (jobs I worked in university through to now, as a 30 year old), I have noticed a pattern - very soon after starting a job, I quickly become a go-to person. I learn very quickly and I often end up taking on a lot of projects all at once, partly because I am good at juggling lots of things at the same time, partly because I like to be involved in different projects so I can learn/experience more, and partly because I am a people-pleaser who sucks at saying no.

I also become a go-to person because I am quick and efficient so I can get things done a lot faster than if you were to ask Jack or Jill, and I come across as pretty resourceful (I find that sometimes people aren't the best at Googling so they think I am some kind of internet ninja because I can come up with all sorts of answers after a quick search on my phone). I have been described on three separate occasions, in different workplaces, by different people, as "hyper-competent".

I like to be relied upon and I don't mind working hard - I feel guilty if I have a quiet or easy week at work because it feels like I didn't earn my paycheque even though I am well aware it is normal to have lulls in workflow. (I'm that annoying person who updates processes and templates and keeps the office cabinets tidy during slow periods.) I do try to keep a low profile so as to not come across as an overachieving know-it-all, and I end up being pretty social with colleagues wherever I work, so I think I'm liked well enough and not too irritating.

One day, I would love to be able to work for myself. I have the drive and work ethic to be able to do it, I think, but here's where I keep getting stuck: I am not an ideas person. My husband is sick of working for companies (for typical reasons like being micromanaged, seeing the CEOs/whoever benefit from his hard work while he earns less, etc.) so we often dream aloud about owning our own business and working for ourselves. The problem is, we don't have any ideas for starting or inventing something new/innovative, and we don't want to own a restaurant or a shop. So, while I would like to work for myself some day, I don't know if it's in the cards.

My question is in two parts:

1. Is it possible to utilize the skills/habits/experience I have to work for myself in some magical way?!

2. If working for myself isn't feasible (that's fine), what kinds of jobs might I like or what kinds of paths might I want to look into that could lead to something with reasonable pay and that is a good fit for me? What kind of job titles should I be looking for? (I realize "reasonable pay" depends on several things, so maybe just not very-low-paying).

I have experience in HR, recruitment, hiring/on-boarding, orientation, training, coaching; most of my experience is international and in the field of education. I also have some experience in university recruitment and admissions (work experience from when I was a student). I like the education field but I'm open to moving somewhere else. I really enjoy HR/recruitment, especially when it is not commission-based recruitment.

Things I really like:
- working with people (answering questions, helping people figure stuff out and accomplish things)
- things that involve a lot of organization and lists and planning
- things that require great time management (a bursting inbox doesn't worry me in the least)
- having a bunch of tasks to do and getting to sort my own day/schedule out

Things that I'm fine with:
- doing presentations (I taught for a while and enjoyed some aspects but not others; I don't think I want to return to teaching)
- relationship building (I don't want to do sales, though)
- data entry/management
- long hours
- working with the public/in a public-facing role

Things that I cannot stand/test me:
- having to rely on others/wait for others to be able to do my job/finish something
- co-workers with poor work ethic
- being micro-managed

I'm really thankful for any suggestions, insight, or guidance. This has been bouncing around in my head for a while now!

* Ultra super hard extra points bonus round: any tips for fields that will be doing a lot of hiring in the next 3-5 years, especially in Canada, even more especially in/around southern Ontario? (We are living overseas at the moment but thinking of moving back to Ontario in 3-5 years' time, so this potential career shift might not happen until we get there!)
posted by gursky to Work & Money (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: One of the worst things to come from the internet entrepreneurial scene is this notion that you have to somehow have an innovative idea in order to start a business. 100% false. In my job, I work with hundreds of business owners, and maybe four of them have had an original idea in their entire lives. And that's not a problem, because selling insurance (my clients' industry) doesn't require a lot of new ideas. Yeah, you might have an advantage over your competition if you do, but it's not mandatory. And the reason is simple: everyone needs insurance. If you drive a car, if you own a house, if you rent a car, if you have a business, you need to insure those things. The product sells itself; the only question is which agent to buy from. Insurance doesn't sound like it's right for you, although if your husband is more sales-oriented, there are innumerable husband-and-wife agencies where the husband does the selling and the wife runs the business side of things (and I've seen a few where the gender roles are reversed, too!).

Think of service industries like that, something people need. Some other ideas off the top of my head: Every business needs a bookkeeper - learn QuickBooks and market yourself as a freelance bookkeeper. People need to do laundry - open a laundromat. In terms of the most basic need, buy a rental property and be a landlord. With your background, what I'd suggest is to start an HR consultancy. Be someone that small businesses can outsource their HR to, instead of hiring an internal HR person. For a really small company (10 employees or so), the owner is probably going to be too busy doing hands-on stuff to really care about HR, but it doesn't really make financial sense to hire someone full-time to do it, either. That's where you come in: because you have multiple clients, you can charge way less than even a part-timer could, and save the owner a bunch of time.

I read something once where, if you can convince 50 people to pay you $300/month (that's a little less than one hour per client per week, or about $70/hour), you can make $180,000 in a year. Even if you skew those numbers way downward, 20 people to pay you $200/month, that's still $50k.

I'll note that if you do end up starting a business, you probably ought to reconsider your dislike of sales. Customers aren't just going to magically find you. You're going to have to identify your opportunities, and then close them. I suspect you might find that you actually do like sales, though, once you're selling something you're proud of and believe in (i.e., yourself), rather than someone else's crap.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:29 AM on July 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

There is apparently a lot of room for specialized contract recruitment firms. If you have connections from, say, past work experience, then you have a way to start. For comparison my next door neighbor was nearly broke three years ago and just now sold his doctor recruitment firm for $12M because he had a big contract with a couple of major local/regional hospital chains.

Not saying you could get to a $12M sale is three years ;) but this is a business with a low barrier to entry that might fit your skills and connections.
posted by billsaysthis at 10:21 AM on July 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you would be a great asset to a recruiting firm, any large fast-growing company that needs more manpower, or a firm that handles HR and accounting/payroll for other businesses. You might also consider IT support if you like techie stuff.

I'm a lot like you -- what I ended up doing is working in some menial role in a company, figuring out how to make things work better, then using my status as a high-performing employee to get upper management to create a role for me to implement my ideas. I worked my way up from admin positions to managerial positions in several companies this way. Once I had done that, it was an easy step to start finding consulting jobs, which I still do today.

But FYI, all the things that 'test you' are big, big factors in working for yourself, except it's your clients who you'll be waiting on, have a poor work ethic, and sometimes will micro-manage you. The plus side is that you can just not work with them, but it can be hard when you are just starting and you need the money. Still, once you get a decent client load, you can cut off the annoying ones quickly :)
posted by ananci at 5:49 PM on July 3, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you for the input! This has given me some things to think through. I appreciate the guidance.
posted by gursky at 6:17 PM on July 18, 2017

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