Sigh, Inc.
August 18, 2019 10:52 AM   Subscribe

In a few months' time, I will have to return to work from maternity leave. I am fabulously lucky in that there are technically two jobs to which I can return. But I don't want either of them. Or do I? I think I want to try my hand at finding something closer to home. Or do I? Can you help me come up with a plan and address some resume questions?

I will try to keep the exposition short here, but here's the deal: I spent 10 years in academia and immediately jumped ship to government upon completion of PhD (lol!). Government jobs are wonderful in so many ways! I am so incredibly lucky! Except that I actually hate the work and, more than that, I hate commuting (50 min train ride plus time on either end to get to and from stations). Now that I have a small banshee in my care, I think I will REALLY hate commuting -- even if I am lucky enough to finagle some work-from-home days. I would love to work closer to home, but I have no idea how to go about that and whether I even should.

I work in communications. I hate it. But I don't know what else I can realistically do, certainly with my career trajectory thus far. But I lack a lot of the "communications skills" that are more sought after in the private sector, such as social, marketing, PR, etc. I mean, it's not rocket science and I am confident I could do those types of jobs, but my experience skews more strategy, internal comms, speechwriting. Plus, I am well aware that there are many fewer opportunities in a small city vs. the Big City. For these reasons, I am not super optimistic about my future success on the job market. At the same time, the thought of juggling train schedules and daycare hours fills me with a profound, suffocating dread.

I have reflected deeply and for many years on the question of "career satisfaction" and have concluded that I am one of those people that just doesn't like work. I cannot imagine ever enjoying "work." I do my job, faithfully and well, but I can't imagine a career that I could ever LOVE. Certainly not one that pays more than a pittance. So, ultimately, it's a question of whether I value the security of staying where I am (higher pay, better vacation, defined benefit pension, somewhat successful career trajectory) or the convenience of finding something local (shorter commute, more time with small banshee, change of scene, maybe even make a friend???).

Over and above the philosophical difference between security vs. convenience, there is the issue that I have no idea how to find another job. Academia and government have very specific and arcane rules for job seeking. I haven't made a "real world" resume in 100 years. I don't even know what they should look like anymore! Do I mention that I've been on maternity leave? Do I list every position I've had in government separately, or collectively? What makes a good resume these days?

I feel I have done a poor job articulating my question. I know none of you can tell me what to do, but I would love any practical advice on some of the resume questions, as well as general insight on your experiences in planning a career after the arrival of your small banshee(s). Thank you.
posted by Mrs. Rattery to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How does the finances look? Will it be a hardship to take the shorter commute and make less money?
posted by bkeene12 at 11:34 AM on August 18, 2019

How does the finances look? Will it be a hardship to take the shorter commute and make less money?

Haven't fully crunched the numbers, but we are comfortable enough that a moderate hit to the salary would be doable, especially given the cost of commuting and the time saved.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 11:37 AM on August 18, 2019

Why decide now? Start applying to only jobs that fit your criteria, and take your time while working your government job. You are also allowed to turn down jobs if after receiving an offer it doesn’t seem like an improvement.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 11:44 AM on August 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

A defined benefit pension plan is worth a lot. Do not discount that from your financial calculations.

If it were me and I would be lukewarm to any job, I would stick with the gubmint job for a while and see how it goes with the commute.
posted by AugustWest at 11:48 AM on August 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

It sounds like your current choices are:

1) quit your job and don’t go back to work
2) quit your job and look for a new one
3) go back to your current job and see how it goes; maybe it’ll be fine
4) go back to your current job, but only until you find a better one (where better = closer to home, since it sounds like you don’t want to commute)

From that list and what you’ve described above, I vote for #4. The next steps for #4 are to work on your resume and start applying.
posted by samthemander at 12:40 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

You have a few months still to start looking locally and get sense of the options before you have to return to the current job. I would start by finding some resources that can help you figure out how to update your resume, how to position your skills, what type of job you want to apply for etc. In California the state department for employment offers classes and support groups for job seekers that are free. Maybe there is a local service like that where you live?

Also finish crunching the numbers and see what happens if you do #1 or #2, especially if it takes a while. Do take into consideration that dropping down or out may have a significant impact on your life-long earning potential but also might be worth it.
posted by metahawk at 12:51 PM on August 18, 2019

To complicate things, is there any interest in moving? I had a similar situation. I found a daycare near my work and brought the youngster on the train with me for many months. It was a 90 minute train ride, and it was exhausting but fulfilling to have him with me -- far better than not seeing him until 6:30 pm. When that got old, we moved closer to work, a 35 minute drive during rush hour. I'd like to move closer still (a 20 minute walk would be my ideal).
posted by Spokane at 1:18 PM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Whatever you do, make sure you fully understand whether a shorter commute might be offset by longer expected working hours or more expectation of after-hours availability. In a lot of government jobs, you work your hours, you go home, and that's it. That's harder and harder to find in the private sector these days.
posted by praemunire at 4:38 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Since you have some extra money, but not some extra time, maybe you could pay someone qualified to work on polishing your resume?
posted by oceanjesse at 2:46 AM on August 20, 2019

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