Desperate for some solid advice on a career shift
June 26, 2019 8:00 PM   Subscribe

Background info: I have a B.S. in biology & Wildlife. For the past 10 years I have worked as: a veterinary assistant, a couple wildlife internships, as a "keeper" with birds at a zoo, and again as a zookeeper for birds at a captive facility with major conservation focus.

I am at a breaking point. My job (a non-profit that never meets it's budget) has told me recently that they will not promote my position going forward. Unless someone above me leaves, I can't have the "senior" title with an increase in pay. As it is, I'm killing myself with a very demanding (physically, mentally, and time) job- and though part of me does like the work, and working for an organization that is doing good things in the world, it's not worth such low pay. Knowing that I can't be promoted when I deserve to be, feels like a knife in my heart. There are basically no similar jobs where I live, and all similar jobs pay so little, that I have decided a major change is in order.

I've been considering going back to school/ making a major career shift, but I feel SO lost. When I search deep down, there is no clear choice for me- nothing I was good at as a kid, or a career of someone else I really admire. I have hired a career coach, which so far has been incredibly disappointing. His only resource he was able to point me toward was the bureau of labor statistics. I am so OVER that site!

Can anyone give me advice on how to help me figure out what to do??

Does anyone know of a job that meets these requirements:
*low stress
*Job that is good for a very introverted personality
*Makes upward of $60,000 a year
*Ideally has a flexible schedule

Other considerations:
I like writing, I do not have strong math or computer coding skills. I prefer to work on projects on my own. I am in rural Wisconsin and want to stay here.

I am setting up an informational interview with a speech pathologist at the recommendation of a friend. I have also considered medical laboratory technician, or a technical writer. None of these are super exciting to me. Working with animals was always my passion. I thought I could be happy even if I never made money with this career choice. I want to smack that naive younger self so hard right now!

I appreciate any help!!!!
posted by biograd08 to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Mr Money Mustache has a listing from a new years back of 50 jobs that pay over $50,000. Some of the inspector type jobs might fit for you although I don't know what demand looks like in a rural area.
posted by metahawk at 9:41 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

If you are detail oriented, look into being a paralegal - it pays good money, and you can find a way to spend more time with documents than people. Not sure about exciting, but you may have to "pick 2 out of 3" with wanting low stress, decent pay, and exciting work. Many community colleges have a paralegal program.
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:11 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Your degree is well suited for environmental scientist jobs. Depending on the position they can be very low stress and good for introverts or not. I’ve has projects where I got to spend weeks alone in a field staring at an owl and weeks where I hiked 12 miles a day with a team that talked constantly. If you can write look into positions where they need someone to write environmental impact reports, or anything similar. Being a good writer in that field is gold.

Take a look and see if there’s any positions with that title in your area and see if they’d interest you, I feel in to the field by accident but no regrets, it’s been good to me.
posted by lepus at 10:23 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]

Hi! I'm in Madison, and I also love the woods.

Because of my Wisconsin-specific knowledge, I thought I'd point you to some resources. I see that you have looked at a specific state position before, so please forgive me if some of these are things you have already tried.

First, Sage Career Consulting in Madison has a really good reputation. They can work over the internet if you are not really able to travel. I've used their services to move up in my career and it was very helpful.

Second, please reconsider not learning computer skills. There's some really good training available and women are in high demand. You don't have to feel confident right out of the gate to become excellent at it. If you do want to build up your computer/coding skills, UW-Milwaukee has a 100% ONLINE 6-month coding bootcamp. You could get up to speed quickly and be making a lot more money by a year from now with this program. As a woman in tech, let me say that many women write themselves off as 'not good' at coding that are actually just fine at it. It's a great job for an introvert and could keep you in rural Wisconsin too, as many positions are remote. Yes it's indoors, it's not with nature, but if you need money this is a good way to get it. You can always earn for a bit and then go back to working with animals.

Next, have you looked at working for a city or county parks department? The Milwaukee County parks department is huge and hires a lot of people. If not Milwaukee, you might want to look at cities or counties where you want to live.

Fourth -- I think you know this, but here are some possible Wisconsin jobs:

* The State of Wisconsin jobs site. You can search by county. Some of the jobs will require a specific exam, and that will be in the job listing. Others will just require a specific degree or specific experience. The interview and hiring process takes longer than for jobs outside of the state system. But the benefits are pretty good.

* The Wisconsin DNR starts recruiting summer-fall seasonal jobs in April of every year. I see a lot of overlap with your skill sets.

* As far as career positions, I see that the University of Wisconsin hires a lot of animal caregiver jobs and animal research jobs. Some of these are in Madison, some are in Milwaukee, some are elsewhere. Link. IF you go this route, negotiate for the highest pay possible. If Madison is just too city, try looking at the jobs listed at UW-LAX, UW-Eau Claire, UW Steven's Point. (UW-Milwaukee is also a possibility, as it is a research 1 school, but I know it's a bigger city.)

Finally, I get the impression that you'd be great working as a Veterinarian or doing Public Health Research. There are a lot of MPH (Master of Public Health) programs out there.

Good luck! Really wishing you the best.
posted by dog-eared paperback at 7:50 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]

Environmental consulting firms are almost always looking for biologists who can identify plant and animal species and write up analyses. They generally pay relatively competitively, although not tech levels of pay. On the other hand, you get to go outside and do field work. It does require basic computer skills, and GIS would be a great tool for that.
posted by suelac at 12:25 PM on June 27

dog-eared paperback- What code should I try to learn???
posted by biograd08 at 7:55 PM on July 6

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