Good job to keep me in leaflets.
February 19, 2007 5:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for work that I can do that will earn a living and leave my brain free to pursue my real work, which doesn't pay.

This is sort of the opposite of a quarter life crisis question. My voluntary work (political activism) has really picked up in the past year and I'm pretty sure that I want to dedicate my personal, spiritual and creative growth energy towards that work for the next stage of my life. The problem is, there is no money in this work except for a very, very few people.

I'm quite resigned to that and deeply grateful for the modest success I've had - it's the most successful I've ever been in anything! Unfortunately, I do need to earn money.

Right now I'm between jobs as my Better Half decides what flipping city he wants to be a software developer in. I'm trained as a secretary. And I'm a pretty damn good one. The problem is, when I get into an environment I start putting my creativity into it automatically! The last two jobs I had, I started fixing systems and business processes and came up with ideas. I also improved the proficiency level of other staff with technology - I'm a bit of a tech evangelist and I LOVE teaching people how to get the most out of their computers. The first one, I got sucked into the process of developing the huge technology upgrade for the whole place. The last one, I came up with a project idea and wrote a grant for it. (which I didn't get, thank God, as the very awesome project would have demanded - rightly - all of my time.) Both jobs started out simple and ended up I started stressing about them and taking them home with me.

A related problem I have is that I get so, so anxious around work due to Whatever Disorder I Have (am looking into that) that this anxiety impacts my job performance.

What I want is a job that pays decently (made £16k/annum at the last job, £14K is fine for the household contribution I need to make) that I can do pretty well but that is pretty much the same every day and that I won't take home with me. I will do a good job, and I won't be slacking off, don't worry. I hate retail but I'm great on the phone, great at greeting customers, and I have a strong preference for the third (charitable, nonprofit) sector.

I'd prefer to work 9-5. Part time or full time is fine. After seeing the demonstrated success of my voluntary work, the Better Half is bemusedly agreeing to this priority shift so I am lucky there! It would be nice if I could dress casually, but not essential.

Additionally: Is there a way to increase the likelihood of getting jobs that people might think I am overqualified for? Once I find the right one, I will be the most loyal employee ever - I just won't be sacrificing myself for the job.

Many thanks!
posted by By The Grace of God to Work & Money (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
data entry
posted by textilephile at 6:14 AM on February 19, 2007

I had a mail room job for a while. It was very good for stifling all my work-related creative impulses, or at least channeling them into extremely petty modes of creative expresssion like entirely blackening little office supply boxes with sharpie and making cool designs on envelopes with the automatic stapler. Be careful to not get promoted, though.

You could also do phone-based customer service for some large company where you can be so internally anonymous and insignificant that your attempts at creative meddling will be ignored. You've gotta be careful to keep your good ideas to yourself, though, because - like the mail room job - competence will eventually be noticed and punished.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:17 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

data entry will kill your brain.
posted by mr_book at 6:32 AM on February 19, 2007

I have no idea what it pays in the UK but how about working in a call centre? (inbound calls, e.g. customer service, not outbound, e.g. telemarketing) Someone calls, you solve their problem, they hang up, and it's not your problem anymore. Some call centres are crummy places to work but they don't have to be.
posted by winston at 7:00 AM on February 19, 2007

Security or Life guard?
posted by phrontist at 7:08 AM on February 19, 2007

Second data entry. It leaves you plenty of time for more intellectual pursuits. My brain's not dead yet.
posted by Koko at 7:17 AM on February 19, 2007

tending bar?
posted by apostrophe at 8:04 AM on February 19, 2007

Phone tech support could work. Even on-site/field support could work, if you don't mind travel and dealing with irritated customers face-to-face. I worked as a field support tech for wintel hardware for several months right out of college, and it was one of the nicer "marking time" jobs I've ever had. The people were friendly, and the customers mostly understood that we were doing our best to fix things. Just, again, be careful not to be so competent that they promote you.
posted by Alterscape at 8:34 AM on February 19, 2007

data entry is mind-numbingly boring. call centres pay quite well, i think. you could work for a tele-research company, so you don't cold-call people, just check up on people who've already agreed to take part in studies.
posted by cardamine at 9:31 AM on February 19, 2007

Proofreading or copy editing? It will satisfy your control freak impulses and may tire your brain but at the end of the day you'll be energized to be around people rather than staring at paper or computer screens.
posted by kmel at 9:51 AM on February 19, 2007

Have you considered long-term temp work? I worked temporary clerical jobs by choice about 2.5-3 years out of the last 12, and in the process did just about every kind of lower-level office work under the sun (in addition to one memorable evening spent administering surveys about pickup trucks at an indoor rodeo, but oh, that's another answer entirely).

I'm not sure how the market is in the UK, in the US I was able to work quite steadily without ever staying any one place more than 3 months (I asked for this as a condition of my assignments, no long term and nobody seeking temp-perm potentials). If you're the kind of person who settles in and acclimates quite easily, but grow quickly bored with the repetitive details and start restlessly digging for challenges, it might be a good fit. The constant change in environments and tasks kept my mind fairly well occupied, but the short terms of the commitment kept me relatively disengaged from politics and opportunities within a given job. I also had a chance to try out a whole bunch of jobs and industries.

Working a busy reception desk can keep you well occupied without offering much in the way of tempting opportunity. Likewise, customer service type call centers are always hiring and the work is about as rote as it gets, though you have to be able to tolerate that you'll be put in the situation of being unable to do anything for someone who's quite upset about the fact on a regular basis. Truly mindless busywork can pay modestly well (document coding and scanning - i.e. prepping hard copy for digitization - assembling mail, and factory QC come to mind) but in the end, I always found them too empty of engagement to sustain me. It is hard to just sit there and think while your hands and a tenth of a percent of your brain takes care of business.

And that I think is likely to be your main problem. It is not easy for an active minded, concerned person to just be disengaged from what they do 8 hours a day. And any business that is successful and decent (which are pretty much prerequisites of being happily employed) are not going to let obvious untapped talent just sit, and they are going to provide opportunities to their employees. And even with its endless variety the temp work started to try my mind after a while. It's doubly hard to resist the pull of creative engagement in the non-profit realm because you become attached to the cause.

Finally, when employers questioned my applying for particular jobs that seemed below my level of competence, the explanation that seemed to go down pretty well was that because of blah blah blah in my personal life, I wanted to keep my hours strictly controlled. One of the straightforward rewards a lot of basic hourly office work provides are strictly regulated hours, something "ambition" jobs almost never do, and it is a requirement everybody can relate to. My personal experience is that "over-qualification" is rarely a real reason for not getting hired. Don't get too detailed into your extracurricular life, though, or they will assume you are just slumming while looking for a job in your vocation (or avocation).
posted by nanojath at 10:24 AM on February 19, 2007

I second the temp-work idea.

Here's the thing about creativity: it's not an 'on-demand' type of thing. It's either always on, or always off. Get a brain-dead job so you don't have to have it on, and you'll risk turning your creativity off altogether.

With temp work, you have the potential of changing things up every so often, which keeps your brain on its toes, and therefore healthy. Also, few employers would put a large-scale project or any kind of big responsibility on a temp worker that might not be there next week.
posted by mattly at 11:02 AM on February 19, 2007

It sounds like you don't want a mindless job, you want a job with boundaries. That is, you want a job with set hours that won't let you take work home. If you take a repetitive, boring job, you're going to be tapped at the end of the (interminable) workday and have nothing to give to your volunteer work.
posted by Nahum Tate at 11:02 AM on February 19, 2007

I realize this doesn't answer your question directly, but why are you so sure that you can't make a living that coincides with your political activism? You could get a law degree, or work in fundraising, design, or tech systems for nonprofits... You might want to think about how you can broaden your definition of "activism" in a way that would allow you to have a paying career.
posted by footnote at 11:50 AM on February 19, 2007

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