Help a generalist in a specialist economy
January 8, 2008 11:57 PM   Subscribe

Help this jack-of-some-trades find a job.

So, I'm graduating with a Master's degree in sociology this May (God willing). I enjoy teaching, and I enjoy research; but I really, really don't want to go through the grind of being a professor. I don't have the passion to justify working my ass off for four more years in order to do it for another six just to get tenure. So I'm exploring my options. Right now, it looks like I'm pretty well-groomed for a research job at a for- or non-profit org (market or evaluation research, for example). But the people I'm around - all career sociologists - aren't much help here; they've never done it, so they just don't know.

I turn to you, O hivemind. What jobs might I be suited for? Bonus points if you are someone who has actually hired/worked with someone with my qualifications. Demerits if you say "government" without specifying something cool.

Here's my background: I did my undergraduate work in Political Science, which I loved - but I was fairly satisfied after the BA because I realized that nobody was going to let me start designing governments. I passed the US Foreign Service Written Exam without studying, but flunked the oral exam.

After I graduated, I switched to sociology to start studying human organization in a more general sense. I also love this stuff, and have learned a lot about the parallels and differences between economic and political structures.

But (thankfully for my employability) I've also picked up some good practical skills in the last two years. I've taken classes in both quantitative and qualitative methods, and am completing a minor in Statistics. I've also taken some community and regional planning classes, including a bit of GIS work.

Wait, there's more! I'm fluent in Spanish, although a bit rusty. I'm also somewhat technologically competent: I've built my own PCs, set up secure home networks, and know how to use Office, Access, some Photoshop and Premiere, ArcGIS, and SPSS (although I can squeak by in SAS). I also know a little bit about relational databases, and enough Visual Basic to write myself a browser that extracted and loaded URLs from an Excel file, then returned typed input to the same file. I've taught discussion sections and am pretty comfortable in front of groups (even without PowerPoint!).

I love universities, and would be happy to work at one, but they seem like the least likely place ever for someone with just an MS to get a job - too many damn grad students and PhDs running around. I'd also love to work somewhere that keeps challenging me, and where moving up means learning new skills as well as honing old ones. I'm definitely not opposed to more schooling (eg, I would love to get another degree in stats, CRP, geography, or computer sci), but that's further down the line.

I'm not sure what this all adds up to, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for tolerating my verbosity. Feel free to ask for clarification or MeFiMail me.
posted by McBearclaw to Work & Money (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How about a government role like planning or policy?
posted by rhizome at 1:00 AM on January 9, 2008

Social planning covers most of the areas you've listed here. Social planners essentially gather and analyse information to ensure that social needs are met through development decisions, through social impact assessments, community consultation and the development of social plans guiding resource allocation, program design and program delivery. Social planners work in government - in municipal government alongside regional and town planners but also in health, education and social services - and in the private sector through planning consultancies.
posted by goo at 3:55 AM on January 9, 2008

Your skills may well be useful in the commercial sphere as well. Have you thought about market research or consumer trends analysis? The potential employer pool is very large, as long as you can get over the hurdle of concern about commercial experience. Also, there are a number of organisations or consultancies with more of a 'think tank' bent who may be interested in your abilities to combine and generate economic and political models and other abstracts.

There are other marketing-related areas too which you might want to explore, such as customer relationship management, where quantitative ability and database design mixed with sociological/consumer understanding is very useful
posted by Marzipan at 4:14 AM on January 9, 2008

Your skills sound like a good match for urban/regional planning, but from personal experience, it's a bitch to get a job in the field right now, at least in this area. If you're willing to move to California or Florida, it seems like they have tons of urban planning jobs. Check out
posted by desjardins at 6:57 AM on January 9, 2008

Check out places like this:

* Policy research organizations like the Public Policy Institute of California
* Polling and messaging places that help campaigns or nonprofits figure out how to talk about their issues (I could ask around for names if you want)
* Community and regional planning is a huge field. If you're into the research side of things and could handle doing a lot of GIS and modeling, think about government agencies like ABAG or consultants like Economic & Planning Systems (a bit harder to get a job with the latter without some economic development coursework). If you're willing to primarily just use your GIS skills, there are always GIS jobs in the SF Bay Area, it seems.

... I'm sure more will come to me.
posted by salvia at 8:19 AM on January 9, 2008

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