How to not keep making lateral career moves
June 6, 2022 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm not sure where I'm going but it's hopefully not down or sideways :P

Whoever said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results probably didn't try to stay employable while having the INFP personality type....

I am a generalist comms person. I have worked as a production coordinator in a video production team, as transcriber/editor, as a content creator for digital channels (writing and editing blogs, creating strategic plans and editorial calendars, managing social media channels including measuring performance) as well as a stint I did in technical support for a software company.

Currently I work as a generalist communications coordinator in a government branch, I am on a term which ends in about 4 months. They did do a competition to make a permanent position within the larger team, but I believe I did not get the job (not 100% sure but pretty close). I really did not want that permanent role, and while it stings not to get the role, it is a bit of a relief in all honesty.

I have not enjoyed this role because I have not used many of the core communications skills I have used in other roles (writing, editing, strategic planning, media analysis, performance measurement). I really like the people, however, the role really could be done by a competent administrative assistant. When I joined the organization, I did really well on the writing test, and they gave me the impression they were hiring me because they needed someone who was a good writer, but that hasn't been the case. I also think because I look young and the managers here are several decades older, that it seems like I just graduated. They don't seem to have a motivation to use any skills I may have gained in the past 10 years.

In all honesty, I have an artistic/intellectual temperament which I am trying to squash to adapt to the workplace because I get my artistic satisfaction outside of work. I know that probably sounds super cringe, but I swear I'm not a diva or anything. I just get really disengaged, discouraged, bored and demotivated when I'm not able to tap into my intellect at work. I've taken roles (like the one I currently have) because the money is better but I feel a loss of identity that is hard to overcome. I have come to the conclusion that I won't be happy in any role unless they use my writing/analytical/editorial/strategic mind. I have considered and rejected the possibility of going into academia or journalism - I know my anxious and sensitive temperament would not lead me to wild success in those spheres lol, and I'm financially risk-averse.

Knowing the contract ends in 4 months, what can I do right now to make sure the next role I take actually involves writing, editing, media analysis, strategic comms planning and/or other core communications skills, but that isn't an entry level comms job aimed for someone who just graduated? I don't have people-management experience, so I won't be eligible for comms director roles. I have worked in government, non profit, and private sector and I'm really open to any environment as long as they let me use my brain. In the past year I have interviewed for a handful of jobs. Feedback I have gotten from a few different roles has been:

- Need one year of gov't experience to be eligible for the comms lead roles (which I now have)
- Not enough PR/media experience for a mid-level communications specialist role
- A non profit junior comms role thought I was a good fit and may have wanted to hire me but I pulled out of the competition because I felt the role would be another lateral move
- Need to be more passionate about XYZ community of stakeholders for this role
- Unfortunately you were not selected but you were an excellent candidate and I encourage you to keep applying for roles within XYZ organization

Any advice would be appreciated, even a reality check if my expectations for work are somehow out of whack.
posted by winterportage to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Consider doing proposal management/proposal writing, especially for tech companies. I say this for two reasons,

(a) it matches your interests and skills (flagging though that interest may be due to burnout and frustration)

(b) it pays really well

Because the one rule of thumb I will confidently pass on to anyone seeking career advice is: unless you know what you're passionate about, CHASE THE MONEY. Money gives you the time and means to find your identity in places other than work, which is absolutely a normal way to live. It's okay if your job is not where you self actualize - as long as you self actualize *somewhere*, you're good!
posted by MiraK at 7:53 PM on June 6, 2022 [12 favorites]

In my large tech services organisation, the role that MiraK suggests is called Bid Manager. You pull together subject-matter contributions from a bunch of techies (who are usually not gifted communicators themselves), and tailor them to the way the customer described their requirements. Tell a story about what we'll do to deliver the service, in such a way that it's easy for the customer to see that we've ticked all their boxes.

Do you need to actually _care_ about tech service delivery? Heck no. But working on bids is fun & fast-moving.
posted by rd45 at 2:26 AM on June 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have hired people like you, I would usually advertise it as a comms officer or comms associate job and be looking for a generalist. The amount of content creation you get to do in those roles can really vary depending on the amount of content that the organisation creates. I think you need to apply for jobs that are looking for 3-7 years experience in comms. Don't go for a media/press role, but do try for social media, internal comms, content creation, writing & editing etc roles as well as roles advertised as for generalists.
posted by plonkee at 6:10 AM on June 7, 2022

Your expectations for work are definitely not out of whack.

It is not the seniority of the role or your constant lateral moves but the working environments you keep finding yourself in that's leaving you frustrated.The problem with being a comms generalist is that comms is needed everywhere but that doesn't necessarily mean you want to work everywhere.

The main piece of advice is to identify and pursue the community you are passionate about and seek a new position there. The community can be anything from the arts to human rights to the environment to tech, etc. I guarantee you will be much more artistically/intellectually stimulated and invested in a working environment where you feel you belong. This would also lead to a faster rise in seniority or specialization if you were to make a lateral move.

Feel free to MeFi Mail me, I am in exactly the same situation.
posted by foxmardou at 8:51 AM on June 8, 2022

I agree with plonkee that you might want to look for communications roles that are not PR-related roles. I've been involved in hiring for this type of role and the titles are along the lines of marketing writer, marketing communications manager, corporate communications manager, blog manager, etc. In my experience, this kind of role might be heavily blog-focused, or it could involve a mix of blog writing, long-form writing (like white papers), and maybe even some short-form copywriting (like email templates) and customer storytelling.

I'm at a growth-focused tech company (not a startup) and for this type of comms role, we look for people who have strong writing and editing skills and who are analytical/strategic, because we do a lot of data-driven marketing. For example, we look at a lot of Google Analytics data and SEO goals and build a blog strategy based on that. Although the job involves a lot of writing, we've found that someone who is only interested in writing prose isn't really a good fit. We need that analytical mindset, too.

Five to ten years of experience is a sweet spot; I don't think we'd ever hire a fresh grad for this type of role, and there currently isn't a path to people management at our org, so it's great for experienced comms professionals who are looking for an individual contributor role.
posted by neushoorn at 12:47 PM on June 8, 2022

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