Help me define a job role or career path based on my interests.
January 25, 2008 3:45 PM   Subscribe

What jobs or careers match my interests?

I'm 25 years old, and I graduated in 2004. My major was in Information Studies in Technology. Since graduating I've worked for AIG, Pfizer, Nokia, Merck and a small hedge fund doing all sorts of different things from:

-running and managing help desks
-Systems Admin
-Junior Database Admin
-Server Admin
-Some minor VBScript work
-Hardware/software support
-PeopleSoft Admin
-Minor project management

My last contract ended in June of 2007. I've been job-searching and doing some freelance contracting in the meantime. I've been doing things like the Geek Squad or FireDog does, but I don't rip you off anything like they do. I'm really kind of at a crossroads in my life...I don't know what I want to do do for a living, and I haven't enjoyed that much what I've done so far. I've been job-searching online, through networking and personal contacts, and even gone as far as walking into HR departments all with no luck. This is the worst dry-spell I've had yet.

What I don't like:

-menial and monotonous work
-Cold-calling, or answering phones all day

What I do enjoy:

-Managing projects and people
-Improving processes
-Being creative
-Problem solving
-Affecting change or making a difference

I've been trying to do a lot of soul-searching lately and considering a career-change, as the IT industry is being slammed by outsourcing and cheap contract workers. (I've been reading What Color Is Your Parachute and 48 Days To Your Dream Job, both highly recommended books)

I think a big issue is that I don't really know what further education could entail or lead it, as well as what kind of fields there are that would be relative to my interests. I love the idea of managing projects, or coming up with ideas of how to do things better, whether it's process-improvement, new products/technologies, or their applications to real-world situations. I love to write and I excel at that. I've always had an easy time explaining technical terms to the non-technical, and I'm very much not the stereotypical "no-social-skills" IT guy.

What I'm really asking are career fields or jobs/job descriptions that might match my interests. I'm really having trouble finding this out, and I think I'd have an easier time deciding what to do if I had a better idea what positions there were and what you do in them. I'm considering going to get an MBA or going into business, but that or a Masters would be futile if I don't even have a vague idea of the general area I want to work towards. I don't want to waste any more time in my life if I could be working towards, or doing, a job I really enjoy. All advice MOST appreciated.
posted by PetiePal to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You sound like you'd fit in with project management at a tech company.
posted by saraswati at 4:02 PM on January 25, 2008

PMI is well-respected.
posted by rhizome at 4:31 PM on January 25, 2008

I love to write and I excel at that. I've always had an easy time explaining technical terms

I bet you'd be good at Technical Writing. Interface with the developers and understand what their new creation does, then the write the manual(s) for the widget/software/whatever that the user will turn to. Be creative! Make it crystal clear! Don't use dense geeky prose! You'll be in demand. Initially, you might get a little freelance work from friends/contacts, to develop your portfolio, then go for a permanent position at a good company.

One possible downside is finding yourself doing the same thing, twenty years from now. You'd probably find better career-advancement opportunities as a manager, if managing is your thing.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:20 PM on January 25, 2008

PetiePal, first off, you are surely headed in the right direction for finding a very rewarding job in your future. JOB WELL DONE to date. You've tried out some things and know you like them, and others that you like less so. Instead of trying to narrow yourself down at this stage of what I am sure will be a long and successful career eventually, KEEP doing what you have been doing, but with this thought in mind. Skill aquisition is EVERYTHING. The more you know how to do, and the more accomplished you are at doing them, the brighter your long term future. You may not like all these things equally, but that's fine, at least you know how to do them.

I strongly urge you to find literally ANY office job in a small company, where there are never enough hands to do the necessary work. Then, do the job you were hired for, better than it has ever been done before. REMOVE the word "boring" from your vocabulary, and think outside the box! Utilize those skills you already know you enjoy doing to "WOW". Keep your ears open for needs that are not being met in your department, and then offer up assistance. Keep doing this, over and over, and you will soon realize that you need to improve process and problem solving in your little area in order to keep up this pace of helping everyone out. In the meantime, you are trying out those higher level skills you were looking for in a job, many of which you mentioned as what you really are looking to do. Always look for needs and opportunities to improve your department or the company in general, and then meet them. It's exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

The reason you need to do this in a small company, is because all those hypothetical efforts listed above need to be noticed by those in charge, and trust me, they will be, but only in a smaller, more intimate environment. If YOU take care of the business, the BUSINESS will take care of you.

I know some people have less faith in that thought than I do, so let's just say, in a worst case scenerio, this hypothetical business is not looking out for you at all. Well? YOU GOT SKILLZ! Go sell them elsewhere, and do it with pride! If it isn't win-win, then move on and try again.

Look back with a smile and a handshake though. It was all part of your personal growth.

Living to learn.
posted by LiveLurker at 5:30 PM on January 25, 2008

Fancy a move to Madison, WI? I've got experience similar to yours, just more of it (graduated in 1999). I have my resume online and was recently contacted by Epic Systems. Sounds like a good company to work for. They'll even move you out there if they want you.
posted by pmbuko at 5:59 PM on January 25, 2008

For something creative that involves team problem-solving, check out one of the many jobs in BrainStore.
posted by divabat at 7:55 PM on January 25, 2008

it looks roughly like you would either like to be a dentist or a lawyer, but you would be happier as an undertaker.
posted by parmanparman at 11:05 PM on January 25, 2008

So would you like managing software development? Not doing the coding yourself, but overseeing who gets what done by when?
posted by salvia at 12:54 AM on January 26, 2008

You might like to get into corporate elearning or electronic performance support. At its best, it requires creativity, good writing, analytical thinking, and the ability to quickly understand and improve processes. At its worst, it's a PowerPoint presentation tossed online. The field needs good designers, writers, and tech people.

Some examples:

Go here and click "e-learning portfolio." This work is also respected. There's also a growing trend to move away from this course-focused approach and provide training at the point of need through creative uses of wikis and such.

The elearning jobs are in corporate training departments and with custom elearning developers. Elearning is also used in education, but the pay is lower.

Outsourcing is affecting the production of elearning but not so much the design and implementation. Elearning survived the dot-com bubble, and while training (and tech writing) jobs are often the first to be cut in a tight economy, elearning is seen as a way to save money.

The team usually consists of a designer, a subject matter expert, a graphics or Flash person, and a techie person who helps manage & deliver the content (there are specialized database systems for this). One of these, often the designer, also acts as project manager.

People in the US who want to design elearning sometimes get an instructional systems design (ISD) degree. I think the degree is mostly bogus. Some companies require one; many don't. If you're interested in the more technical end of things, the ISD degree is less likely to be useful.

If the field interests you, you might try working with a custom elearning developer or in the training department of a corporation. Job titles to look for are "instructional designer" and "instructional writer." I'm not sure what the techie jobs would be called, but a search on "elearning" or "learning management system" could pull them up.
posted by PatoPata at 7:38 AM on January 26, 2008

Now that I've actually read the Wikipedia article I linked to, I see that it has little to do with corporate elearning. You'll probably get a better sense of things by wandering around the eLearning Guild site.
posted by PatoPata at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

My job, project engineer (specifically process... usually from a chemical engineering background), hit exactly all of your "what I enjoy" points. I manage projects which improve processes, and you need to be creative to fit the project into what currently exists on-site. Also, you need to totally be on top of managing people, or getting the right departments involved so they manage their people to your needs. It's tough and you need to be very detail-oriented, or innately curious with a need-to-know-everything nosey personality, but I enjoy it.

Like someone said upthread, you could look into project management ____ (instead of engineer in the engineering field, _____ in the IT field).
posted by Jimmie at 10:01 AM on January 26, 2008

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