I don't know what I'd do if I got fired.
June 12, 2018 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I have worked myself into a niche career field and make good money, but I am terrified of losing my job. Help me formulate a backup plan and not be so anxious.

I went to a religious school and got into the field of religious publishing. I've project-managed publishing many books, magazines, and blogposts. I work with a team of editors, proofreaders, and assistants to get stuff done through in-house and outsourced work. This includes managing a team of 5-6 people. I've also project-led development on a new website that we had developed by a third-party. I've arranged agendas and chaired many executive-level meetings. I am a good communicator, and I recently taught a college-level course. However, I am introverted and not particularly "likable" for good looks, charm, etc. I'm basically a reliable project manager with good people skills (though not in a warm, attractive package). I work well as a mediator between varied interests / stakeholders to reach final product solutions.

All that said, I make $75k / year, and I have absolutely no idea how I would make anywhere close to that salary in this field if I was let go. As a result, I feel scared, even though I enjoy my job and feel decently secure in it. I've thought about pursuing certification in project management, since that seems to be where my work over the years has led me (has it? I know little about this field and have only project-managed through trial and error... I'm familiar with software like Basecamp). I've also continually sought to teach myself programming, and I know HTML/CSS and some of the basics of javascript/python. I have never been able to get good at coding though... I just find it difficult to find real-world application for the stuff I learn (in my current position). I'm not sure that I even like it (maybe I just need to get better at it).

I kind of fell into my career and woke up one day and realized how good I have it. I am afraid to lose it.

Do you know of jobs that I could transition to with my current skillset if my job were to end? Jobs that I could apply for with minimal extra training? Anything that would be at a similar salary level? Any thoughts on my predicament would be appreciated.
posted by uncannyslacks to Work & Money (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I think you could go a few directions. One would be content management/strategy, which is basically managing content across multiple channels (ie, what is the overall messaging, what that will look like on different channels, calendaring, working with designers, writers, etc.). This is a skill set that will have different job titles associated with it but is broadly in demand (it’s part of what I do and it’s pretty hard to hire for). The other direction would be some sort of manager role at a cultural organization like a museum, theater, etc. Depending on the organization and exact role, that could be marketing, communications, or maybe development.
posted by lunasol at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

BTW, the former will likely pay better, but is likely to be a less interesting subject matter. eg, you may be doing content management for like a medical supply company. The latter is likely to be more interesting but pay not as well. Whether or not it pays $75k will depend on your city and the size of the organization.
posted by lunasol at 11:09 AM on June 12, 2018

I really relate to this feeling. A secondary way to deal with it (in addition to training and other stuff) might be to save as much of the money you don't think you would get in another, similar job as you can and live off what you expect your "normal" salary at a similar position somewhere else would be.

No need to be afraid in that case—if you lose this job, it's a shame that you don't get to triple your retirement saving rate any more, but you're still doing exactly what you need to live the life you're accustomed to.
posted by Polycarp at 11:12 AM on June 12, 2018 [10 favorites]

I think it would be a safe investment to get your PMP certification. Publishing - especially technical or topical - still is a going industry, but I think that kind of process management experience translates to a lot of industries. And in my industry - non-sexy non-Silicon-Valley-type technology - experienced PMs or resource managers or product managers can definitely make more than 75K.

Something else you should do is polish your resume and put it up somewhere and set up some job searches as if you were looking for a new job, because doing this will provide extensive education in what kind of jobs are out there right now and what kind of keywords you may not have in your resume that you should. I think all people should do this ongoing, even if they love their jobs, in order to understand the market and the competition.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:17 AM on June 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

Echoing lunasol, I've worked in a few digital content jobs where the skills you describe would be a great fit for project/content managers (and other adjacent projects that were less content-focused).
posted by Ted Maul at 12:26 PM on June 12, 2018

It would be good to build up some savings, possibly in an IRA-type vehicle but maybe better not. Enough to cover a year of expenses on a very tight budget would not be too much. The reason not to use a retirement vehicle is the penalty for early withdrawal. It should help reduce anxiety.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:56 PM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Large non-profit, religious healthcare systems would have a home for you in a variety of roles which should pay a comparable amount (and usually have extraordinarily generous benefits, especially on the healthcare side). You might look at whichever system is nearest you to see what the jobs that are suitable are, but there will be several that will be a close fit. You might have to tweak your resume to match each postion and emphasize certain skills, but they'll be a good fit.

Per the previous comment, they will also often offer 457b plans, which allow you to save money like a retirement account but with no early withdrawal penalty. This is a benefit often overlooked except by highly compensated execs and physicians, but is a sweet deal if you can afford it - dollars set aside are pretax and in addition to 401k/403b.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 12:58 PM on June 12, 2018

Your description of what you do reveals many transferable skills. You should be able to sell yourself as a capable project manager, and a people manager, with significant experience. The industry that you are in would be secondary to what you can do. Industry specific knowledge is easier to acquire than people skills.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

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