talk about your job / ask about other people’s jobs

Reddit has a feature called “Ask Me Anything” (AMAs), where people make themselves available to answer any questions people want to throw at them. Bill Gates, Louis C.K., Barack Obama, and loads of other celebrities have done them (I recommend Bill Murray‘s), as have tons of regular people who identify something interesting about themselves that people might want to ask about (for example: a  woman who was attacked by a bear, a tattoo artist, and so forth).

We’re going to steal the idea, because we have tons of people with interesting jobs here that others might like to ask about.

So, the rules:

  • Start a new thread. Put your job title in the “user name” field so that it’ll show up as a label for your post and make it easier to skim.
  • Include a short blurb about the work you do.
  • When you see other jobs that interest you, reply in that thread with your questions.
  • When people leave questions in your thread for you, answer them.

Also, if you have a regular user name, it’s fine to include that too if you want. For example: “Snake wrangler (Myron)” or whatever.

{ 1,311 comments… read them below }

  1. Ali (web editor)

    I am an editor for a large website that brings in about 20 million visitors a month (last I was aware). I spend my days editing articles that are bound for the site’s front page, and we cover all types of articles from ranked lists to breaking news and opinion pieces. I do pretty much anything a copy editor at a paper might do such as checking spelling and grammar, fact-checking and adhering to a style guide. I started as a copy editor, where I was not responsible for doing the more in-depth fact checking and taking care of photo or formatting issues. I just made sure names were spelled correctly and that the piece was overall good quality.

    I also have more admin work in my current job such as preparing feedback reports on writers and filling out a log for each article I complete.

    I work from home, which can be nice since I basically get to wear jeans and t-shirts/hoodies everyday, but I often miss the social interaction that comes with being in an office.

    1. NEP

      Interesting. Thanks for posting. Just the kind of work that would suit me perfectly right now (including the from-home part). I’m pretty sure I was born with a red pen in my hand. Often I get the sense that people care less and less about proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. In your experience are such things still valued and given the importance they’re due? Great to hear from someone whose job it is to keep watch.

      1. Ali

        Well I still value proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. But I unfortunately cannot say the same for every writer. We have some paid writers who mix up its/it’s, for example, or don’t seem to know how to break up sentences. I don’t know if it’s because of their own lack of knowledge or being in a rush, but there are some that are just really rough writers.

        1. NEP

          Oh, man — the it’s / its mix-up kills me. It’s truly not that difficult to grasp and yet the mistake is so commonly made (including in published text…including on Trader Joe’s arugula packaging, for example). Copy editors and proofreaders are very necessary.

        2. Elizabeth West

          I edit technical reports. They’re full of passive language, and due to the nature of the subject, I can’t always edit it out. When I run spelling and grammar check over it, I have to grit my teeth and ignore it. >_<

      1. Ali

        I do not really determine what gets put there. We have a team of front-page editors and they do the handpicking. Whatever articles they want go into a Google document that we work down, edit the article and approve it for publication.

        But…if an article isn’t up to par for one of many reasons (lack of factual support, for example), we can tell the front page editor and they can help us decide if it’s best to ask the writer for a fix (via their section editor) or if we’re going to reject it all together. Rejections are rare for us these days, but they still happen.

    2. NYC gal

      What would be a way into this kind of role, or the more junior version of it? I have experience in social media and digital marketing but my writing is limited to blogging. Do I have a chance without a magazine internship?

      1. Ali

        Honestly, I had never really worked at a print publication before getting this job, save a summer internship at a weekly newspaper three years before I even applied. Of course, I had also written for my college paper, but that was it. You have a chance at my company for sure without doing print work, but you have to have had some experience in writing and editing. Last I knew, the hiring process asked for writing samples and required an editing test.

    3. Julie

      Thank you for doing this job! I’m a grammar and punctuation nerd, and it seems that web content is somehow “allowed” to have errors because it’s not actually printed on a piece of paper. So I appreciate being able to read content on a site that follows a style guide, has proper spelling, subject and verb agreement, etc.

      1. NEP

        Amen to that. It’s refreshing to hear of people out there who care about proper grammar and punctuation.

    4. ali (a different one)

      if you don’t mind sharing, what kind of salary do you bring in for this? are you salaried or hourly? or paid by the amount of pages you edit?

      I work from home 2-3 days a week doing web development. I find that going into the office a few days gives me just enough social interaction. It’s a great balance.

      1. Ali

        I am salaried. I used to be an hourly contractor before the website was bought by a larger company. Since we’re not print, I can imagine it would be near impossible to pay based on number of pages edited.

    5. Katie

      Thank you for posting this. I’m currently a copy editor with a big trade publisher, but I’ve been wanting to switch to something web-based. Was it hard for you to find the job as an “editor” when your background was “copy editor”? (Though I’m realizing more and more this is a distinction not used by many outside of the publishing industry).

      1. Ali

        I probably wasn’t very clear when I originally posted. When I applied for my job, it was a copy editing internship at first. I really hadn’t edited much beyond helping out with it at my college paper, but again, I had journalism experience in writing that helped. I started as an intern, got promoted to copy editor and now still do copy editing, but on a higher level and with a different title.

        It wasn’t hard for me to switch at all really. But like I said above, they do ask on the initial application, even for interns, what your journalism experience is. They don’t care if it’s print or online; just as long as you have something.

        1. Ali

          Forgot to add the last paragraph, especially the last sentence, is relevant to my particular company. They’re not as overly picky as some employers might be, although standards have changed as the site has grown.

          1. Katie

            Thanks for the reply! Yes, a lot of the job listings I’ve been looking at have required writing samples. I do write, but fiction, and I only have one published title under my belt at this point (a short early-reader book for kids). It’s tough because I’ve been in the publishing industry for ten years and tons of experience futzing with grammar and editing, but when it comes to the part on job applications about writing samples and clips I can’t provide much. Sigh! Thanks for sharing your story.

    6. anna

      Hi Ali! This is exactly what I would like to be doing. Can I email you for advice on how to find a job like yours (helpful experience, where to look, etc.)? It would be much appreciated!

  2. Grants Manager

    I manage and secure grant funding for a nonprofit community health center in a major urban city for low-income and uninsured populations.

      1. Grants Manager

        I have an undergrad degree in Biological Sciences and a Masters in Public Administration. I have always worked in the nonprofit arena. First in the sciences and then to community/social services etc. I kind of fell into grant writing. A friend who was a freelance grant writer needed help and I offered to help. She taught me the basics of grant writing and I enjoyed it so I took classes and got a certificate in grant writing and grants management. From there I transitioned into grant writing full time.
        I’m not sure how to answer your second question. Are you asking about how to learn about grant writing or how to learn about available grants? If you want to know about how to learn about available grants there are numerous ways to find out about grants. Most people start with Foundation Center but there are other sites. You can also check websites of foundations and corporations.

        1. Development Manager

          Do you find your MPA useful for your role? I’m doing almost entirely foundations/grantwriting and I’m considering pursuing an advanced degree.

          1. Grant Writer

            I think it depends on the type of nonprofit you are working for. It is somewhat helpful but I wanted the MPA to move into a director level position.

    1. Anon for this

      I’m currently a contract negotiator (non-JD) in the private sector–is that the kind of experience I could migrate over to grant work for non-profits, if I wanted to?

      1. Grants Manager

        There are some non-profits that have people who just work on contracts. They are usually larger non-profits whose primary source of funding is from the government (state and local). I have seen contract positions with health care related nonprofits and mental health agencies. I have also seen position from agencies that deal with public housing. If you know contacts, then I don’t see why you couldn’t transition into the nonprofit sector.

        1. Mimmy

          What is the difference between contracts and grants? I thought I knew, but I’ve reviewed grant proposals from nonprofits for my county human services advisory council (all voluntary, not paid), and the end result is they get funded and enter into a contract. This is done on an annual basis as part of the county Freeholders’ support grant process.

            1. Grant Writer

              In the context of this conversation, contracts and grants are two separate things. A grant is the actual written request to the funder and the contract is the agreement between the grantee and the funder once the grant has been awarded.

      1. Grants Manager

        I have always used Foundation Center. To me it has been worth the cost because I always find 1-2 new funders every year so it has paid for itself essentially. I don’t get the highest membership just the mid-level one. My employer has always paid for it. Some comapnies are expensive and want all of the fees upfront. FC lets you pay monthly which helps.

    2. Mimmy

      How would you describe the workflow? I’ve been thinking on and off of getting into work similar to yours. While I would do very well with the actual writing, I’ve heard that grant writing can be incredibly stressful due to tight deadlines, juggling multiple grants and building relationships with funders.

      My background is social work (MSW) and, as I mentioned above, I’ve been volunteering as a grant proposal reviewer for a couple of committees, which I have really enjoyed.

      1. Development Manager

        Hi Mummy, I’m not the OP here, but I also handle grants for my agency. Grants management to me is really more about being organized and detail oriented… You collect details from other people, complete the forms for each grant application (no two are alike), check and triple check that the numbers add up, never miss deadlines, keep all communications and paperwork for the audits, and are responsible for reports and communicating the Level of Service to other branches of your agency. Only a small portion of my job involves actual writing.

        Not at my current job, but at many smaller nonprofits you will also be responsible for preparing the project budget.

        1. patty

          Grants Manager, do you mind sharing where you got your grant writing certificate? I believe it might be valuable for me to do this.

          1. Grant Writer

            I got mine from California Polytechnic University in Pomona but I don’t think they offer the program anymore.

      2. Grant Manager

        You do have to be very detailed oriented and have good time management skills. It can be stressful when you have multiple grants due at the same time but if you pace yourself and keep yourself organized the stress can be minimized. I primarily do all of the grant writing and the grants management at my nonprofit. I would say it is 60% writing and 40% grants management. At my previous employer it was 80% writing and 20% management. It all depends.
        Grant writing isn’t just about being a good writer being able to find funders and making the right ask is also important. Being a good researcher and being good with data is also important. I would suggest volunteering for a nonprofit to write a couple of grants to see if you really like it. I volunteered for a nonprofit to improve my skills before applying for my first full time job.

  3. Dir IT PMO (Coelura)

    I’m a Director of Infrastructure Program Management. I manage a staff of project/program managers as well as lead several large programs myself. My team has led programs from building out entire data centers in the US and the UK, consolidating data centers, implementing data masking software to going into other companies with major infrastructure issues and resolving them. I have hired over 20 project/program managers in the past two years.

    My staff ranges from five to thirty years of experience and resides in two countries. Everyone is a telecommuter including myself. We work for a fortune 50 company. I have over 20 years in this arena and have been an executive for over 10 years.

      1. Dir IT PMO (Coelura)

        The biggest challenges in my industry are the difficulties in meeting all the international laws while still providing consistent infrastructure services. We have to have data centers in a number of countries because certain types of data have to be kept within geographical borders. That means storage becomes more expensive due to geographical duplication of base infrastructure. It also makes it hard as we have to be familiar with many different laws and regulatory guidelines.

        The other challenge is the lack of talent coming up. Many companies stopped hiring people to train because there was so much talent available at a reasonable cost during the economic downturn. Now that same talent is increasing in cost and we have lost out on ten years of training the next generation. That will really hurt in about another five to ten years.

        One thing that has been interesting to watch and learn about through the past two decades has been the rapid advances in basic computing equipment. I remember all the excitement when Compaq came out with the first ten gig hard drives for servers. That seems almost laughable now, but it was only about 14 years ago. The rapid progress has resulted in infrastructure and computing hardware changing from a high margin business to a commodity. Many new recruits do not understand the basics of how networking, computers, and storage work. Infrastructure has become as assumed as the lights coming on when you flip the switch. It’s a radical shift in our culture and industry.

    1. A Jane

      I’m a new IT project manager, and I’ve worked on tech teams in different capacities (superuser, scrum master, UAT). What are some of the common traits & skills that your best PMs have?

      1. Dir IT PMO (Coelura)

        The ability to adapt to rapid change. Doing the right thing (or at least advocating for it) even when it’s outside the standard. Ability to communicate at all levels of the organization and to build collaboration across multi-functional teams. Understanding process, willingness to follow process, but not married to process. A solid understanding of project and corporate financials – go to a finance for non-finance professional course if you can! Someone who can embrace change and help others to do so as well. Learn to see the big picture while still managing the details.

        Those are some of the most key ones.

        1. A Jane

          I haven’t thought about the finance for non-finance professionals course before. Definitely something I will look into as I’m just starting to go into fiscal planning and budgeting. Thanks!

    2. Julie

      What challenges have you faced in managing a team of people who are not in the same office (or possibly the same time zone)?

    1. Bryan

      I know you used to be chief of staff, what was your management experience before that? Was it more of a general management type position or specific like chocolate tea pot designer manager?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Department head. I ran a communications department, a publications department, and a membership department (in that order, but at three different organizations). After the last one, I moved into a chief of staff role at the same organization.

        1. Technical writer (Jen)

          Um, what’s a chief of staff? :) My knowledge of US job titles is very limited.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Basically the second-in-command in the organization. I ran the day to day operations, managed a bunch of department heads, oversaw hiring and firing, etc.

            1. Bryan

              At your/most organizations, is it the same as a chief operating officer or are they usually divided into two roles?

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Depends. At mine, it was basically COO. Think Leo on the West Wing, but much less glamorous.

                But there are also some orgs where chief of staff doesn’t manage staff directly but manages the planning and operations of the leadership team.

    2. Rayner

      How did you start the blogger thing? What made you move from “distant internet blog out in the internetosphere” to a reasonably high trafficked blog? How did you make that move?

      And what would you say to others hoping to start out blogging in a general sense about the whole AAM experience/being a blogger? (No specifics if that’s too close but maybe some pros and cons that other people might not think about?)

      1. Dan

        I’ve been reading AAM since I was in grad school, sometime back in 2007-2008, which apparently dates me to the early days of the blog. I don’t remember how I found the blog.

        I’m not aware of anything AAM did to make these “leaps” that you are asking about. If she’s done anything specific, she rarely talks about it.

        What she does do is crank out solid content on a regular basis. I’d venture to say that after six years of reading just about everything she’s ever written, she’s managed to maintain a really high signal to noise ratio. Few things she writes come off as fluff pieces just to fill space.

        The funny thing is, that’s the advice I’ve seen from others on how to grow a big blog — write solid content on a regular basis. She certainly knows how to do that.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Starting the site was an entirely impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decision — it wasn’t well thought out at all. I had the idea, set it up on Blogger, and an hour later, Ask a Manager existed. I figured I’d do it for a few months, no one would read it, and that would be that. I started in May 2007, got one question from a reader in June, none in July … and then suddenly in August, I started receiving questions regularly, and it’s steadily increased since then. Seven years later, here we are!

        As for how it transitioned to a pretty well-trafficked site, my best hunch is what Dan wrote above — I think it’s just about content. I’ve never done anything with SEO or so forth; I just write stuff that interests me and that I think I’d want to read. I suspect that one thing that’s helped is that it was different from what anyone else was doing online (with the exception of evilhrlady.org, but she was doing it from an HR perspective); very little else in this space is (a) written from the perspective of a manager, explaining what your boss might be thinking, and (b) written like a normal person talks, as opposed to … being more generically packaged, maybe?

        Advice for others wanting to blog: This is a list of questions that I put in a US News column on this topic a few years ago, and I think they’re still the right things to ask yourself:

        • How’s your writing? You don’t have to be Hemingway, but you have to be able to express ideas clearly.
        • Do you like to write? Will blogging be fun for you, or a chore you don’t look forward to?
        • Are you willing and able to post at least once or twice a week, at a minimum?
        • Can you picture yourself doing this for at least a year or more? Blogs aren’t short-term projects.
        • Will you stay motivated and keep going if you don’t build an audience right away?
        • Do you have at least a little technical knowledge (or a comfort level with learning)?

    3. Diet Coke Addict

      Regarding advice: do you ever get tired of endless variations of the same essential questions showing up in your inbox? A la “Can I be asked to do things outside the scope of my job?” and “My coworker is annoying, help!” and so on? Or do you receive enough variety in questions to keep it interesting?

      1. Dan

        As I mentioned above, I’ve been reading this blog pretty much since it’s inception. While AAM has a lot of general themes, there seems to be enough differences to keep the reading interesting.

        I can’t figure out how she can post three times per day and not get all that repetitive.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I do get a ton of variations on the same questions. Of the 40+ questions I get a day now, probably half are things I’ve answered in the past — but I understand that, since lots of people find the site through Google and aren’t regular readers. I’d probably get sick of it if I had to write out a new answer to it each time, but I don’t — I either send them a link to an existing post on the topic or they just get put into the bucket of unanswered mail that I’ve resigned myself to having at this point. But it’s useful to see, because it helps me keep a sense of what things people want to know (which is especially useful for the stuff I write for other publications).

        Of the stuff I publish, I’m continually amazed that I keep getting questions I could have never dreamed up. You wouldn’t think there would be enough variety to keep a workplace blog interesting after seven years … but there’s so much weirdness out there that we can probably keep going forever.

        1. Eudora Wealthy

          Do you get a huge amount of spam at your published email address?

          Also, are there people who become a little too interested in you personally? I mean, you’re a little bit famous, and fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, right? I’m sorry if even just asking that question is inappropriate, but it’s something I’m genuinely curious about. I’ve found in my job that there are some very difficult people to deal with–and it seems that being a more public figure would make it even harder.

          Last question: Do you just handle the content? Or do you also take care of the design, widgets, beacons, etc? It’s such a simple, elegant site. Really crisp and clean. Do you just have the knack to make it look easy, or do you have somebody else handle the technical stuff?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Spam: I do get a ton, but I use Gmail to manage my AAM email account, and it catches the vast majority of it (it also catches some things that aren’t spam too, but I’ll take that trade-off when it’s keeping literally thousands of spam emails a day out of my in-box).

            Being a little bit famous (I would like to pretend that I am, but in reality am probably not): I’ve only have two incidents that made me uncomfortable. One was mild and I might have even misinterpreted it. The other was actually the revival of a stalking situation from my pre-AAM life — he found me through the site and harassed me here by email for a while, but (having read the Gift of Fear) I didn’t respond at all and it stopped (for now, at least). Other than that, my fake fame has been pretty fun :)

    4. Jubilance

      In the beginning, when you first started out and were writing while working a full-time job, how did you find the energy to do both while you built up a following? And at what point did you realize that you could do blogging/freelance writing full-time?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Well, I used to post far less frequently. When I first started the blog and was working at a regular job full-time, I only posted a few times a week. It wasn’t until I left to go freelance that I increased the pace.

        When I started seriously considering quitting my job to work for myself, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work :) I figured I’d do it for six months to see what happened, and then would have to return to a normal job. I’m still pretty surprised that that hasn’t happened!

        1. Gaining Experience

          How does one transition into freelance work? Do people seek you out or do you have to seek out a lot of your work yourself(especially when you first started out)? What signals that you are ready to go freelance?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I’m in kind of a weird situation; for mine, I’ve been approached by clients, but that was because of AAM or existing relationships/contacts. It’s more common to have to pitch yourself, at least in the beginning (which I hate, and probably wouldn’t have gone freelance if I was going to have to do). But if you can get yourself into a situation where clients are coming to you, you’ll be really well set up.

    5. CTO

      Where do you see yourself in a few years? Is AAM your long-term vision, or would you like to focus more on your consulting, or do you see yourself doing something completely different?

      What changes have you seen in your readership, blogging in general, etc. since you started?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The future: That’s a question I’m asking myself! I don’t know the answer yet. I could be totally happy doing AAM full-time if it ever came to that, but it would be at odds with something essential about the site, which is that I’m (hopefully) grounded in the reality of the work. But I really like what I’m doing now, actually — I just feel pressed for time, so I’d like to find a way to do less of it while making the same or more money :)

        Changes: The comment section has changed over time. If you go back and look at comments from 2009-2010-ish, they weren’t as high quality overall as they are now. That’s an interesting change; you’d almost think it would be the reverse as the site gained readership!

        1. Susan2

          How are you able to find/link back to a repeat question w/o having a massive search on your end? Is it the type of software that you use?

          Not sure if this is too personal, so apologies in advance, but I’ve always wondered if blog sites provide an income? Or more of a vehicle to get your writing out there for online publications? Or possibly, advertising dollars? Thank you :)

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I have a weirdly good memory for past posts — or at least I used to. Less so lately, now that there’s more content. But I have a pretty good back-end search engine (that only searches the post contents, whereas Google also picks up the search terms if they’re in a comment on the post).

            Some blogs provide revenue, and some don’t; it depends on how much traffic you get. This one does, through ads and ebook sales. It earned a decent amount of money last year — enough to live on very frugally if I had to, but not enough to live on comfortably if I weren’t also doing other work.

    6. LBK

      Do you watch any of those shows like Bar Rescue, Restaurant: Impossible, Tabatha Takes Over, etc.? Ever since I started reading this blog I’ve imagined seeing you swooping in to set failing businesses straight (although you are obviously much less dramatic than most of those hosts!). Just saw an episode of Bar Rescue last week where a manager assaulted an employee and the owners decided to fire the employee, not the manager. I can only imagine the field day you would’ve had dealing with those people.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Ha! I used to watch Restaurant Impossible, Hotel Impossible, and the hair salon one and would always think that I wanted my own Management Impossible.

        1. Joey

          Are you worried that not managing people currently will change your perspective over time?

          Your site seems to attract more people that are fairly new to the work force or managing. Is this perception accurate? Is this who you want to target most?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I think it’s actually a lot of mid-career people, a lot of early career people, and then a smaller number of later-career people. I like that mix!

            I do wonder if not managing people currently will have an impact on the site over time. In my consulting work, I do a ton of helping managers sort through sticky challenges they’re facing, but it’s not the same thing. I always figure that if one thing eventually kills the site, it might end up being that … but I’m relying on feedback from y’all to signal if that’s happening. As long as I keep getting the same amount of “hey, it worked” from people who try the advice, I figure I’m okay.

            1. Ann without an e

              I didn’t realize you were from the south. I assume you are from the south or lived in the south based on your correct use of the word y’all, as that is unique to the south eastern US.

  4. Research Analyst (Fundraising)

    I am a research analyst in the development office at a University. I do an analysis of donor’s (alumni, parents, etc) wealth so that the gift officers know how much to ask for. I also do work with the data in a broader sense, basically providing strategy for the office’s fundraising efforts.

    1. Lo

      I am extremely interested in working in development/fundraising type positions, especially at a university. I am also interested in research (such as being a prospect researcher). Would you mind sharing a bit of your background, specifically how you got to this position? I also would very much appreciate some general pros/cons of working in a university setting, if you don’t mind! Thank you!

      1. Research Analyst (Fundraising)

        I was going for my masters and was presented with an opportunity for a paid internship at a nonprofit. I didn’t know what it would entail (prospect research) but the fact the internship was paid was enough for my poor butt. The funding fell through but based on the organization I thought it was a dream job (my mistake) so I stuck with it.

        Their research department consisted of a manager and an associate, the associate quit without notice the day before I started so I got a lot more responsibility than I think I would have gotten otherwise. I applied for the newly opened associate position and got it. My situation is not going to be that helpful for most others as I got lucky.

        Prospect researchers have a variety of backgrounds. I know a lot express their interest in report writing and that’s how they get interviews. I think it really depends on the university because you are raising funds for them. Mine is very well off so they don’t hire a lot of adjuncts, professors are well compensated, class sizes are small, and there is a very generous financial aid package in place. It gives me great pleasure to raise money for them.

        Compare that to my alma matter which is hiring almost nothing but adjuncts and paying them pennies on the dollar, doing many pointless capital improvements, and keeps raising tuition to fund these stupid projects when their student base is local kids who barely have the means to afford school. I honestly wouldn’t feel right asking for a dollar for them because I know it’s probably not going to be used well.

        1. Lo

          Thank you SO MUCH for responding. Follow up questions–I will be brief I promise! I am wondering whether it is worth it to go to grad school for this type of work (nonprofit management program, or a more business-y type of program? Or higher ed. administration?). What do you think? Thank you. If grad school isn’t necessarily the right route, would it be better to just work from the ground up, getting a admin kind of job in a university and working up from there? Your opinion on this would be so very much appreciated!

          Also, based on your description of your alma mater, we either went to the same college or there’s more than one school that is currently under that exact umbrella (and I describe my feelings towards the school in the same way….). An odd coincidence, made me do a double take!

          1. Bryan

            Don’t worry about being brief, I love talking about prospect research, career paths (thanks to this blog), and myself! Google apra jobs and look at the listings there, see what entry level positions are asking for. I know for associate director positions masters are preferred but I’m not sure for entry level.

            I’d be wary about trying to work up from an admin position. At my school it’s pretty hard if not impossible for admins to work their way up.

    2. Sunflower

      I’m very interested in this- especially the reesearch analysis part. What is your background? I’m interested to know how much time you spend alone in front of a computer and how much working with other people

      1. Research Analyst (Fundraising)

        For background, please see above, if that leaves any holes I would be more than happy to provide more information.

        I spend a ton of time in front of a computer. When I first started my eyes really hurt from doing it so much, they have since adjusted. Since I am at the bottom level I don’t work much with others but as you move up the chain you work more directly with gift officers strategizing. There are some institutions where even entry level people work directly with gift officers however mine is not one of them.

    3. Dang

      How much statistical analysis/training is involved? i’ve tried to get into institutional research/development (I have a healthcare and education research background but not stats-heavy) and have had no luck.

      1. Research Analyst (Fundraising)

        My department is divided into research and analytics. I am on the research side and we are more micro with how we work while the analytics team is more macro and does a lot with Tableau. Even in smaller shops where roles are more merged I would say there isn’t too much statistical analysis. You tend to pull information from the database and analyze it from there. Nobody that I know has a strong math background and they’re fantastic at their job. If you want to go specifically into data mining type stuff you might need a moderate ability.

      2. Lia

        I am in institutional analysis, although I came from fundraising analysis and prospect research. You might have better luck breaking into IR at smaller institutions, where most of the work will be reports and less will be on modeling/stats.

        The main professional organization is AIR, and there are regional organizations too.

    4. mortorph

      I have experience with both non-profit development and geographic information systems (GIS). I am interested in the intersection between the two, and see a potential in using place-based information in fundraising analytics. As a fundraising research analyst, do you see the potential (or a growing need) for mapping and place-based data within your field?

      1. Bryan

        Many organizations are only regionally based and I’m not sure if they would benefit from this.

        For organizations with a national donor base we are already able to analyze by region and there really hasn’t been a time where we need more information than knowing where our highest rated donors live.

        Did that answer the question? I feel like it didn’t but I’d be happy to try again haha.

      2. I'll think of something later

        Wow that’s like me! GIS –> Development –> GIS –> Development. I currently work in non profit development and GIS is not on the radar of my office but it’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about myself. There’s so much spatial data available that could be really useful and relevant but the hard part is that people who aren’t familiar with GIS don’t get that it’s not just for making maps and I’m lucky if my co-workers have even heard of GIS.

    5. summercamper

      This is fascinating! What’s the basic method for analyzing someone’s wealth? Are there public records available somewhere that can give you clues, or is it more based on where they work and financial aid records?

      1. Bryan

        It’s mostly public information. We do not see financial aid, ferpa. We use what information is available if they’re high up in a public corporation, salary surveys, and formulas for investment bankers. We also look at real estate, any public stock holdings, if they have a family foundation, and other charitable giving. The only thing we use that’s not public is if we think they have a certain amount of wealth and they have given to us at a level higher than we estimated.

  5. Digital Strategist

    I work for a company that does digital strategy (online fundraising/social media, etc…) for political campaigns/political parties (and a few non-profits, but the majority right now is political campaigns). I do everything from writing emails, working with CRMs, tweeting/posting on Facebook, to communicating with clients, and analyzing return on investment data.

      1. Ali

        Is this a good fit for someone with a background in journalism, like writing and editing? I am looking for a change from my job, but I would like to stay in a job that makes use of those skills. How can I gain additional experience if so?

        1. Digital Strategist

          Nina – if you’re specifically interested in political digital strategy – any kind of campaign experience is a huge plus. That’s how all my co-workers and I first got into this – a lot of us did other work on campaigns (often fundraising) and gradually worked our way into this niche. If you’re working on a smaller campaign (i.e. a Congressional campaign or local campaign), there’s generally more of an opportunity to work in different areas, which really helps. Also, making the contacts – politics is a very small world, and working for one campaign really opens up your network enormously. (I didn’t have a ton of experience – I had worked on only 2 different campaigns, but found my current job through my boss on my first campaign).

          Ali – it really depends, I’d say. Writing and editing skills are definitely huge, but technical skills are also really important. HTML skills and familiarity with different CRMs/CMSs are also really important. I work for a pretty small company, so all of us do a little bit of everything, and you really have to have some knowledge or experience with the systems that we use. But some larger/older companies have people who are more specialized, including people who primarily/only do writing and editing. (I should say that this also only applies to political/non-profit stuff as well – I would assume the same would apply for similar industries like online marketing for companies, but I really can’t say). In terms of gaining more experience – there are training programs (depending on your political affiliation – I really only know about Democratic ones) through organizations like the New Organizing Institute, which offers “bootcamps” around specific skills, including digital strategy. However, those are often geared more towards getting a job with a campaign than an organization like mine. But a lot of political campaigns do have Digital Directors who do a lot of the same things that I do, just for the specific campaign, and that can be a great stepping stone into further work.

          Sorry, apparently I tend to get a little long-winded when talking about my job…

          1. Ali

            Thanks for the info. Design is really not one of my strong suits, and I don’t have much desire to learn it, so I’d imagine that alone shuts me out of a lot of similar jobs. I am willing to learn social media management and that, but I’m just not a visual/artistic person.

            1. Digital Strategist

              Not necessarily, actually! The HTML skills are more important for loading emails (making sure they’re properly formatted, links work, etc…), and I have co-workers who refuse to go anywhere near photoshop/do zero design work. I did some design work until about 4 months ago, when we hired a designer full time, but it’s actually usually divided up in most shops. Learning social media skills (or the ins and outs of Facebook/Twitter advertising) would probably be more useful to someone with a writing/editing background than design. (And in a lot of places, you might not even need that).

    1. Sunflower

      How did you get into digital strategy? Most of my experience is marketing and event operations but I’m really interested in strategy of it all. Any advice on how to get some experience?

      1. Digital Strategist

        Well, I worked for 2 different Congressional campaigns (doing a mix of digital strategy/scheduling/admin on the first, and doing a more finance-focused role on the second), and got my current job through a connection with my boss on the first campaign. I was lucky, because when I started my job, our company was still very new, and my boss was looking for people who were known quantities, but didn’t necessarily have to have tons of digital strategy experience (I was hired for a more junior role).

        Marketing is definitely a great background for this, and if you’re interested in digital strategy for political campaigns, it could be a great avenue to get into it. The biggest difference between traditional marketing and political digital strategy is that while your ultimate goal is to raise money, messaging is also a huge portion of it. So any political/communications experience is huge. Depending on what exactly you’re interested in, volunteering or working on a campaign could help you get some of the right experience.

    2. Athletic Trainer/Teacher

      How do you expand your presence or grow your following on twitter/pinterest type boards? I run twitter for our local foster group (dogs and cats) that does animal rescue. I would like to expand our following moreso, right now FB is winning that a lot but I see all 3 as important–we are also starting to use Instagram more.

  6. Application support Apollo Warbucks

    I work for an accountancy firm looking after their time and billing software. Mainly writing lots of SQL and html code

      1. Jamie

        That was my question – and when you answer can you include if it’s db platform specific.

      2. Apollo Warbucks

        Our system is so out of date, I write the code directly against the database and put the results in an excel spreadsheet.

      3. Apollo Warbucks

        The platform is Microsoft SQL server it’s a 2000 database that is running on a 2008 server. I use the studio management tools that come as standard.

    1. Cajun2core

      When you hire someone, do you require that they know and have experience with SQL specifically? If so, I ask you to please reconsider this. I have years of experience doing report writing and other database transactions but not with SQL. The database I used was a hierarchical database called IMAGE (made by HP). I picked up an SQL book and realized that the only difference was the syntax. The database concepts are basically the same. So, if you are looking for an SQL person, please consider people who have experience with other databases.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I agree so much with you about looking at transferable skills / knowledge.

        I had never worked on a relational database or even heard of SQL before my boss gave me a chance working on the system. I started with some pretty basic stuff and have moved on to more advanced concepts over the last few years.

        I’d seriously consider anyone with an aptitude to learn the system we use, it’s a very bespoke set up so no matter what background a person has there’s a lot to learn, and being able to deal with users we’ll is a must.

        1. cajun2core

          Thanks for the info.

          With 11 years in tech support, I can easily and I do enjoy dealing with users.

        2. Midge

          I’ve spent a lot of time working with relational databases from the data entry side, and it’s sparked my interest in the systems themselves. Is this the kind of thing people teach themselves, or do they typically have some formal education?

          1. cajun2core

            It is something that I had some formal education on in college but not that much. I also had some on the job training. However, if you have technical skills and *any* programming skills (even the slightest) you should be able to teach yourself SQL. Finding a database to learn on though will be the tough part.

            1. Apollo Warbucks

              You can download fully copies of SQL server from Microsoft and there are a few different databases to download as well adventure works is a good one to work on. I’ve got a 2012 set up on my machine at the moment for some training that I’m doing.

          2. Apollo Warbucks

            I’m self taught I applied for an internal job I was grossly under qualified for and was offered a junior role in the same team and have been learning ever since, my boss is hugely supportive and cut me lose on the system to do a lot of reporting writing / data extraction which meant my coding improved very quickly.

            There are many different roles that use a similar skill set to what I have, proper developers have a high level of training in database theory and design as well as a programming language or two. Database administrators (dba’s) have a good technical understanding of the nuts and bolts of the actual database mechanics and hardware requirements / configuration they might well have something like a Microsoft (or other vendor) specific certification.

            Being tech savvy and having good customer service skills would be enough for a job like mine, working with the system day in day out means technical knowledge is soon built up.

            w3 school has a good SQL tutorial for beginners. Or you can code SQL in access if you have a copy, and that will teach you

          3. Data Architect/ETL Coder (Windchime)

            Midge, I learned SQL on the job and it’s definitely something you can teach yourself with some good books and by playing around with SQL on your own. There is a business analyst where I work who has zero programming background, but she is very interested in understanding queries and she is starting to just pick it up on her own. Now that I know she is interested, I’m giving her little examples to look at. I can’t speak for all programmers, but most of us love programming and love to share information with budding programmers-to-be. So if you have a nerdy friend, that’s also a way to help learn the skill.

          4. Jamie

            Midge – just wanted to chime in also that I learned SQL on the job as well. When I was first introduced to the backend it was how I imagine a musician feels when they pick up an instrument for the first time. Once you figure out how to get out it of what you need it’s a huge rush of power – harnessing the raw data to do real things and make real decisions.

            When I was new at it I was in the dummy database just playing all the time.

            Nothing would make me happier than if one of my coworkers was interested and wanted to learn. Sometimes I could really use another set of eyes or pov, sometimes I just hate that there is no one who really appreciates it when I do this new cool thing – but mostly to have someone to share it with.

            1. Midge

              Wow, thanks for all the responses! I’ll be teaching myself how to run queries on our database software over the summer so hopefully I can start to delve into SQL, too.

  7. Workforce Consultant/Unemployment Guru

    I work with mostly with people who are unemployed through the Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment Program with the Montana Department of Labor.

    I talk to UI claimants about their rights and responsibilities for unemployment, what they can and can’t do on unemployment and how it will affect them (part time/temp work for example). I also work with them on their resumes, cover letters, and applying for Government jobs. I do mock interviews with them and give them feed back.

    I am the Vice President of the Montana Chapter of the International Association of Workforce Professionals as well as a trainer for Return $mart, which works with women on getting Equal Pay for Equal Work. Ask away!!!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ooooh, I have so many questions for you! You probably know how frustrated I am with a lot of the advice that workforce consultants in government agencies often give out (I am exempting you from that since you’re here). What kind of training do you get for the role? What kind of support is offered to make sure that the advice being given out is high quality? (Again, I’m exempting you from my ire in this area — just genuinely curious about how this works.)

      1. some1

        Yeah, I had to attend a mandatory re-employment seminar at my state’s workforce center when I was laid off and one of the things the trainer said was to always answer your phone because Hiring Managers will not bother to leave a VM and will move on to the next candidate.

        1. Workforce Consultant/Unemployment Guru

          That is really good advice, but again it will depend on the employer.

          1. some1

            Honestly, I don’t know that it is. It may be true in some professions, but I have never known an employer who refused to leave a message when asking to interview me or offer me a job.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            Uh oh, I’m going to disagree here :)

            Good employers leave messages and don’t discard candidates just for not answering the first call.

            1. HR Empress

              +1
              I do a lot or recruiting/interviewing and I will leave a message, email and possibly even call back if the application/resume hits on specific marks.

        2. Cajun2core

          I am not sure if I would want to work for someone who doesn’t leave a message. I mean really, one can’t help but be “indisposed” at times.

          1. Workforce Consultant/Unemployment Guru

            I agree with you Cajun. We recently advertised/hired for a position and called each one to schedule interviews. Those we couldn’t reach, we left messages. Employers that don’t leave messages could be missing out on the best candidate.

      2. Workforce Consultant/Unemployment Guru

        Thank you for the exemption!! I am not sure I deserve it but I will take what I can get. A LOT of the people I know and work with try to do the best job they can for the applicant and the employer, but we still run up against all the frustrating job advice that you do.

        With us, the local labor market dictates a lot of what we do. We work a LOT with local employers through our J.S.E.C. (Job Service Employers Committee) and we base a lot of what we do on what they want to see. We want them to have the best possible applicants and we try to influence what they put on their job orders, like listing a wage/benefits and considering if you really need someone with a Bachelor’s Degree to bag groceries so they can get the best person for the job.

        We are well aware that the information we are giving a job seeker is very localized and might not work in another City and we make sure if they are looking for work elsewhere, so speak with a Job Service in that area. I don’t know how many times we have worked with someone who saw the latest advice on Linkedin or CareerBuilder or Salery.com and decided to change their resume/cover letter without asking someone. Or, they will ask but it’s someone who doesn’t have any experience applying/hiring/firing in that field.

        We get a lot of feedback from the job seekers and the employers about what worked and what didn’t and fine tune what we teach as a result. I work mostly with people looking for Government work, since that is where most of my experience is (this is my 4th State job and I have worked for both the City and the County) but I do give advice on resumes/cover letters. I always have a second set of eyes look at everything I work on; just to be sure I didn’t miss anything.

        I am very fortunate to work with a great group of people who have many years in different industries, including supervision, hiring, and firing but I do read your blog a TON and refer many a job seeker here (shameless plug).

        1. Lar

          I have worked with a state dept. of labor for 17 years. I really like what you said about the local labor market and your advice being localized. Very true.

      3. AnAmy

        I work the same sort of job in a different state. Here, the training was really only about the Unemployment aspect of things. I trained myself for the workforce side (resumes, cover letters, shouldn’t I call the hiring manager every day so they know how interested I am?, etc.) by reading your blog. It can be frustrating to listen to my well-intentioned coworkers give out bad advice, but the agency as a whole is slowly moving toward 21st century ideas and the bad advice has gotten less bad over the last couple years. But if other states are like mine, it’s an entry level job that just requires a Bachelors. Some take learning how to do it well seriously, others don’t.

    2. Unmitigated Gal

      How do you get into that work? I have 20+ years of HR experience, and would love to do something like what you do. However, from what I can tell a government job like that requires me to start at an entry-level job making less than 1/2 what I make now. Is there another way?

      1. Workforce Consultant/Unemployment Guru

        That is a really good question. I did take a pay cut to come here, but that’s because workplace culture is more important to me then making more money.

        I would talk to your local Job Service and ask them what it would take and what other options there may be. They are going to be way more familiar with what they do then I would be.

    3. MF

      What do you do as a trainer for Return $mart? (are you training women on salary negotiations/that sort of thing?) That sounds really cool!

      1. Workforce Consultant/Unemployment Guru

        That is exactly it! The Wage Project (http://www.wageproject.org) was established for one purpose: to end discrimination against women in the American workplace in the near future. To do that, WAGE inspires and helps working women to take the steps needed so that every woman is paid what she’s worth.

        Return $mart works with women returning to the workforce. We talk about the wage gap, why there is one, and work with them on how to benchmark their salary so they can get what they are worth.

  8. Human Resoureces

    I am the Director of Human Resources for a 20(ish) person company. I manage a staff of 5. Most of the staff are admin as I also wear the hat of Dir. of Operations, a common combination for small companies. The majority of my time is spent on personnel management, benefits administration, payroll, etc. I have hired or overseen the hiring process of over 70 people during my career. I have over 15 years of experience and have done everything from managing an internship program; creating mentoring relationships; overhauling the benefits packing; hiring and firing; employee handbook creations and revamps; etc.

    1. Human Resoureces

      I forgot to mention that I have also brought payroll in house and oversee all of the payroll processing, withholdings, etc.

      1. some1

        As an admin, what’s the best way for one of your reports to explain a struggle she is having related to her tasks or responsibilities to a supervisor who has never held an admin role, or hasn’t since the Reagan administration?

          1. some1

            Say you receive a complaint that one of your reports is taking too long to do a data entry project – How do you weigh the complaint if you aren’t sure how long it *should* take?

            1. Human Resoureces

              Ah, ok. Good question.

              So the first thing with this is knowing and trusting your staff. For example, I know that Joe is going to get something done about 20% faster than Max but Max’s will contain fewer errors so less rework or scrutiny is required. Also, I know that Joe is working on 5 other tasks at the moment so this may be at the bottom of his pile and I should shift it to Max.

              With that being said, I guess, for me, I know my staff and work closely enough with them that I don’t have a frame of reference for not being able to respond. I’m going, to the complainer, apologize that the task is taking longer than they would like and find out what sort of deadline they’re facing. Then, I’m going to talk with Max/Joe and figure out why it is taking so long (if it is) and what challenges they’ve run into. If I need to shift everything to Darlene, then Darlene gets it but if Max or Joe just needs a kick in the pants to hurry along or to adjust their priorities, I’m going to do that.

              I’ve also set the expectation that if an admin isn’t living up to what they should be doing, that’s on me and I will take care of it. I think that is the role of the boss. Doesn’t mean I won’t also hold my staff responsible, but to outside parties, it is my fault and my problem, not theirs.

    2. Eric

      I’m curious what you think of the combating ideas that HR is there for the company/HR is there for the employee. Is there always going to be a tension there? Should employees never trust HR? Should employers never trust HR?

      1. Human Resoureces

        It really is a double-edge sword being in HR and I’ve found that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. My goal is to find the middle ground. I am generally considered more employee-friendly. I truly believe that if you hire the right people for the right jobs and then encourage and support them to do the job for which they were hired, you should have few problems. There are always exceptions to that rule of course.

        There will likely be tension there for a long time to come. One of the discussions happening in the HR community is, how long will the HR function be around. It is currently going through changes as it has previously been such a large department, usually with just a few people covering a wide-array of subject matter. So, more and more there are compensation specialists, benefits specialists, payroll specialists, etc. Some of these positions are less contentious but the overall placement of wanting whats best for both parties will always create friction for one of both sides.

    3. Bryan

      My cousin is interested in getting into HR. She graduates with her bachelors next month but isn’t quite sure how to start out. Do you have any advice I could give her while she looks for her first job?

      1. Human Resoureces

        Absolutely! Contact the local SHRM chapter. Society for Human Resources Management. If she isn’t already a student member, she should become one. Also, don’t be discouraged at first. The jobs will be menial and low paying but you can move up quickly if you keep a good head on your shoulders and learn to stay calm in all situations (the biggest thing I’ve found necessary in HR).

    4. Rayner

      What do you look for in someone who’s trying to get into human resources? What skills do you need/qualifications/experience? What do you think the work is like at the bottom, middle, and top levels of Human Resource department? What’s a good way to advance through the levels of HR?

      I’m interested in moving into that world because at the moment, I travel but I don’t have anywhere to GO and it’s about the only office work I think I can take, but eh. Your answer might change things.

      1. Human Resoureces

        More and more a Bachelors in Human Resource or even that coupled with an MBO is desirable by many employers. I would much prefer someone with actual experience. Like I said above, the biggest thing I’ve found is the importance of a level head, ability to stay calm, and knowing when to speak and when not to. Most of the time when someone comes to see me, they just want to vent and actually expect nothing from me. I’ve learned, I hope politely, to cut them off after a certain point but to try and let them get what they need out. That is definitely a skill I’ve acquired and not one with which I started but has added me a lot over the years.

        The beginning work is straight admin. Filing, filling out forms, data entry, etc. It can be mind-numbingly boring but, if you’re paying enough attention, you will learn the necessary information for moving up. Learning the ins and outs of Benefits is really difficult, especially as everything continually changes so filling out those forms and having to explain information to an employee is actually hugely beneficial to you (the HR person) as well. The middle is a little more interesting but also more of the same. Still forms – SO. MUCH. PAPERWORK. But you should be getting a deeper understanding of the inner-workings of the company, learning the company and how to navigate through everything. It is also where I focused on building relationships across all levels as they will aid wildly in the future. Senior level is definitely interesting but it also means that I take everything home with me, all the time. Many of my friends joke that similar to psychologist/psychiatrists, you need an HR representative for yourself to help you come to terms with what is going on. No matter how terrible an employee is/was, it is still difficult to let them go.

        The best way to move in and through HR is by building relationships. Again, at all levels. So I am as friendly and conversational with the janitorial staff as I am with the CEO. I will wish each a happy birthday, work anniversary, ask about their child’s wedding, etc. In HR, the people are what make your job important and if you lose sight of that, you need to change professions. IMHO

    5. business manager

      Our organization is in the process of developing a job description for a position that would handle the administrative work of payroll and benefits, as well as worker’s comp claims paperwork, and other similar administrative tasks. This would be at the administrative assistant level, or perhaps one step above. In your opinion, do you think it would be reasonable to expect the person in this position to have wide-ranging knowledge of employment-related law and be able to coach functional managers regarding performance evaluations and other employee management-related issues? My gut says no, but I would like an experienced opinion.

      1. Human Resoureces

        I would expect that to be outside of their realm of expertise. However, and this is coming from a small company perspective, I don’t think it is crazy to ask that they learn that sort of thing. You would obviously need to support them (time-wise, financially, etc.) in gaining that knowledge, but if it is something you need and are willing to train, or support the training of, then you can always try. Just don’t reject candidates out-right for not having that experience or you will seriously limit your applicant pool.

        1. business manager

          Thank you for your reply. I would hope the person would want to learn these things, but our needs are for someone to handle the administrative side of payroll, benefits, worker’s compensation, recruiting, etc. Several managers and directors, myself included, are knowledgeable regarding employment laws and developing/implementing training on a variety of topics. We need someone to handle the day-to-day and if this person grows and takes on more, then that’s a great benefit.

    6. Penny

      If someone came to you with issues regarding the indoor air quality in your office building, or with an allergy/reaction to the cleaning products used by your cleaning staff, how would you address it? Do you view staff wellness as part of your job?

      1. Human Resoureces

        Absolutely staff wellness is part of my job. My course of action would depend on whether the space is leased or owned. I used to work for a Property Management firm and learned that that is a very important distinction.

        If the space is leased, I would go to the Property Manager and explain the issue and work with them to determine what was causing it and how to come up with a reasonable solution for both parties (the employee and the cleaner/space owner/etc.). This would likely involve many of the steps below.

        If the space is owned, I would go about determining the root cause of the issue. This could involve an air quality test, allergy test for the employee from their physician, talking with the cleaning staff to determine if they’ve recently changed chemicals, reviewing MSD sheets, etc. Then, the same as above come to a resolution that works for everyone.

        I don’t want one of my employees breaking out in hives while trying to do their job. That doesn’t help anyone.

    7. HRKitty

      In your experience, how many HR staff do you feel companies need to have a fully staffed and not overworked HR team? I’m HR Manager for a non-profit with 300+ people (mix of seasonal and perm staff) and we have literally 2 HR staff (myself included) not counting payroll.

  9. Library Tech-Digital Projects (O)

    I work in a large university library in the digital collections department. I’m currently working a grant funded project that involves digitizing publications and maps.

    1. Malissa

      I envision you spending a lot of time in front of a plotter/scanner. Is there more to your job than just scanning?

      1. Library Tech-Digital Projects (O)

        It is a lot of scanning, but I’m also pulling maps from the publications I’m scanning and I’m watermarking them. Unfortunately since it is such a massive project, the slightly more interesting work, the georeferencing of the maps is done by GAs. When I got hired, they had already started on the project and done some preliminary scanning of the publications that had to be redone, but I also doubled the collection of publications were scanning (added 200+). I’m hoping to get a little more responsibility soon, like getting to use the map scanner and it’s software (I love learning how to use new hardware/software)….but yes, the majority of it, is scanning, but we do have a bookeye scanner, which is great. Fortunately for me, no one minds if I listen to music/watch stuff on my ipod.

    2. Jessica the Librarian

      This is so cool! We’re working on a (smaller scale, I’m sure) digitization project at my library, and we’re trying to decide whether we want to continue to host the digitized content on our servers or pay to have it hosted somewhere else (i.e. our state historical society). What did you guys do, and how is it working out for you?

      1. Library Tech-Digital Projects (O)

        Since it is such a large university, we do host everything ourselves, and that’s been the case at other places I’ve worked at also. But we also have tech guys who can manage that side of it, if there is an issue.

    3. limenotapple

      How do you decide on things like resolution, formats, etc? It’s been a while since I was in library school and I’m not sure what the standards are now.
      Also, do you worry about your position being grant-funded?

      1. Library Tech-Digital Projects (O)

        Since the project was already started when I was hired, I didn’t have any input on things like that. But most of it follows the standard. For text we use 300 dpi, for higher quality, usually for really detailed maps in publications, I bump it up to 600 dpi, and I believe that’s usually used for photos also. We currently scan everything in TIFF (which has also been the case for other digitization projects I’ve worked on), and we store the original scans on an archive server. The actual publication are exported from the scan software as PDFs, and when I pull maps from the publications that are going to be added to collection as maps, for georeferencing, I save them as a standard JPEG.

        Honestly, yes I’m completely worried that it’s grant funded, I love the people here, and the environment. I almost didn’t take the position because while I had been out of grad school about six months, and was working about 30 hours at the state archives digitizing, I wasn’t completely sure it was a step up experience wise, and it has been more a lateral move in that department, nothing really new for me, but in learning about how departments/offices are run, it’s been great, because I’m no longer the student assistant in the meeting, but a member of the department. But because it is grant funded, the money is…not great. The grant is finished next year, and I’m hoping they might have another one already lined up by then with the possibility of a slight pay increase. Otherwise I definitely know this job has helped me get much of the working experience I needed, which was the main point of feedback I was getting for jobs I had applied for.

        1. Brett

          As a piece of advice, you should considering using GeoTIFFs. These are relatively easy to mosaic in commercial GIS software. Once you do the mosaicing, you can do image tiling (e.g. with ArcGIS Server or TileMill) and serve out the map images online as a tile cache similar to google maps.

          But the great thing about GeoTIFFs is that you do not need all the mosaicing and tiling to use them in GIS software. You can just load the image directly, and the metadata header lays the image out in the correct location on other spatial data.

          1. Library Tech-Digital Projects (O)

            We do also use Google Earth and Google Maps, so you can overlay all of the maps in the collection, and change their opacity to compare them to the current Google map.

    4. Brett

      So what types of maps are you scanning? Certain locations, types, or historical periods? Or just all sorts of things in your collection?
      When you are digitizing, do you just mean the scanning, or are you also getting vector features extracted from the maps?

      1. Library Tech-Digital Projects (O)

        I believe we do use GeoTiffs, unfortunately I haven’t been shown how to scan the sheet maps, or the software for those yet. The project is for a large metro city, and how it was planned, I believe it is from around 1940s to current, the majority of the publications/maps are from the 60s-80s. So I’ve pulled publications from the stacks on things like sewer, water, housing, population, public transit, land use, neighborhood planning, environmental statements, annual reports from certain city departments, all which may have maps. The majority of the project is focused on transportation, so must of the maps are highway planning, public transit routes, with any other type of thing you could think of when planning a city.

        When I scan, it’s strictly scanning, but I believe the large map scanner for sheet maps, probably do the things you are describing, but I do know they can georeference the map files I give them…I just don’t know how.

  10. Customer Trainer for a Library Vendor (Liz in a Library)

    I love this idea! I’m not sure that my job is interesting enough to garner questions, but…hey, I want to read the others!

    My official job title is eLearning Specialist, and I train English-speaking customers worldwide on a variety of technical products. My customers are usually librarians, and I generally train via webinar (with some very light travel). I came into the vendor world after several years in a small academic library where I served in functions throughout the library.

    1. Jessica the Librarian

      I think your job is interesting, but I’m kinda biased :)

      Do you run into problems with librarians who lack computer skills when doing training via webinar? It seems like every time I attend a webinar, half the people in the “room” are struggling to use the chat feature or can’t seem to find the mute button for their phone (ugh). It astounds me how many of us lack basic computer skills, especially when so much of our training takes place online now!

      1. Customer Trainer for a Library Vendor (Liz in a Library)

        Yes, that is definitely an ongoing issue.

        Due to the nature of my products, I tend to work a good deal with systems librarians and serials/eResource librarians, so many of my customers come in with excellent tech skills, but for those who don’t, webinars can cause real problems. Day-to-day, we do the best we can to troubleshoot issues and get people into the webinar without problems, but one of the biggest things I’ve had to learn is to weigh the needs of one against the needs of everyone else…

        What has been surprising to me has been that, in addition to occasional tech illiteracy, many librarians do not have the “library vocabulary” I would expect. I find myself explaining concepts often that I wouldn’t have expected…but I love it, because I can’t help but feel that I am helping people do their jobs better!

        1. Public Library Reference Department Manager (Jessica the Librarian)

          Thanks for the response! In general, all the trainers I’ve worked with have been fantastic and super helpful. You are DEFINITELY helping us do our jobs better!

    2. JMegan

      Actually, your job is almost exactly where I want to be! I also have a library (~ish) background, and am also thinking about making the leap to eLearning.

      So I have three questions…
      ~How much software/IT knowledge did you need coming into the job, vs how much did you acquire once you got there?
      ~Did you need any special training on the “training” side – Adult Education or similar?
      ~Where do I look for jobs of this type? ;)

      1. Customer Trainer for a Library Vendor (Liz in a Library)

        I have to say, this job can be stressful and isolating (I’m 100% work from home), but can also be absolutely fantastic in so many ways! So, I encourage you to look into if you are interested!

        1.) I didn’t go into this job with any formal tech background. My company really wants librarians in this role, so that was the main background they were looking for. At my previous job, we didn’t have a systems librarian and we had 11 campuses, so my director and I just kind of took over. I ended up doing most of our day-to-day training, customization, and troubleshooting of our ILS by default, and I think that background impressed them. I also happened to have used and administered a number of the vendor’s products (including the ones I now train on), and I was told that was a huge plus mark for them.

        2.) I don’t have a training background, but I came into this job with seven years of library instruction design and delivery history, as well as stints adjuncting and tutoring, and I had done a fair deal of staff training. I’d recommend getting as much experience teaching to a group that you can; at least in my role, it is really highly valued.

        3.) I looked with the vendors my then-library was using first, but really I just checked the career pages on their sites and started applying. If you have the possibility to work directly with a vendor on a project (a beta, a publication, even something custom that you are buying from them, a conference presentation), those relationships can really help. It’s not how I found this job, but my boss at my last library went to work for a different vendor after working in tandem with them on several library projects.

        1. OliviaNOPE

          Uh, is your company hiring? I think the idea of doing library work from home is the most ideal situation.

          1. Customer Trainer for a Library Vendor (Liz in a Library)

            Hah! My department isn’t at the moment, but check out your favorite vendor. I really have enjoyed this job!

    3. Michelle

      I think your job sounds really interesting. I had a similar one about 20 years ago not long after college (software trainer for a magazine circulation software vendor) and looking back I recall how much I loved doing it and am considering getting back into it. How much ongoing training do you do with the customers after the initial training? Or do they get handed off to someone else for everyday support?

      1. Customer Trainer for a Library Vendor (Liz in a Library)

        There are several different groups at my company who support customers, so it can vary. At the least, I might have someone attend one of my public open sessions (that many different customers might attend), and then never see them again. At most, I might meet with a customer several times via webinar (occasionally in person) over an implementation and follow up via e-mail and phone regularly for as long as they need me.

        We try to differentiate who the customer should contact by the kinds of questions they need answered…so if something is broken, or they need to change a setting, they can contact tech support, but if they need more of a training or consulting session, they will talk to me.

    4. Jen RO

      Actually this sounds interesting, because eLearning specialist is one of the titles that come up related to mine (tech writer). Am I right in assuming that it mostly means training other people via various means? I don’t really like interacting with people directly, so I’d like to know if I should avoid these types of jobs :)

      1. Customer Trainer for a Library Vendor (Liz in a Library)

        You should. Honestly, the thing I like least about my job is that I’m never not on call for customers if I am at work. I have fantastic customers, but I am fundamentally introverted and tend to get stressed if I can’t work some quiet work time into my day, which is not always a luxury here.

        1. Customer Trainer for a Library Vendor (Liz in a Library)

          Errr…by which I should probably say, never really a luxury except for Christmas week. ;)

    5. Julie

      When I worked for a software training company, I had a gig training librarians at the Brooklyn Public Library on how to use computers (NYC was putting computers in the public libraries, and the librarians were going to have to help people use the computers). What a great group of people! We had fun in those classes once they realized they couldn’t break the computer. I wanted them to play solitaire in order to get familiar with using the mouse (this was a while ago), but a lot of them didn’t know how to play, so we paired up the players with the non-players, and by the end of the day, everyone knew how to play solitaire and everyone was (more or less) comfortable using the mouse.

      1. Customer Trainer for a Library Vendor (Liz in a Library)

        Librarians are FANTASTIC! I probably shouldn’t say that because I am one, but seriously they are the best people to work with. I bet that was a fun training.

      2. Persephone Mulberry

        Any other tips for bringing the less tech-savvy up to speed? We are implementing electronic documentation this summer/fall and I know getting some of these clinicians who have been putting pen to paper for 20 years are going to struggle with the transition.

        1. Julie

          This reminds me of another gig at a clothing retailer. They had put all of the information their buyers needed in a database that could be accessed by a user-friendly front end. But the buyers were so used to carrying around a 2-inch thick slab of computer paper (it was big, 8.5 x 14 or larger, and all connected – the paper that comes out of a dot matrix printer) that they would rather do that than learn the new software. Eventually management forced them to switch. Even if you provide written instructions and materials, I think most people would appreciate instructor-led training, and if it could be hands-on, that would be even better. The most important part is having upper management strongly endorse the new system and provide people with the time they need to take training and to practice with it so they can feel comfortable using it.

          1. Liz in a Library

            This is great advice. I would also add that if you have any time to work with folks one-on-one, that can really help for those who might be wary of a new system, because you can slow down or speed up to their need. Anything that you can individuate helps (so, if they have a great grasp on one area, speed through it and use the time somewhere else they need more help with).

            Attitude helps too, along with management support. If you approach it as, “this will make your life easier, and here’s how,” that will come off a bit better than just “here’s another thing you just have to do everyday.”

    6. Cajun2core

      Your job is very interesting. I am an extreme extravert and I have over 10 years of experience in technical support. I would love to get a job like yours.

    7. limenotapple

      I think it is interesting, and when I took my current library job I relied on our vendors to help me figure out what was going on because things were such a mess. It really takes the right personality and definitely savvy and smarts! We couldn’t do it without you.

    8. Meredith

      Hi Liz! I’m also in the library training world! I work at a university and develop continuing education programs for librarians. I’m much more back-end (I design our schedule and hire instructors), but I do some teaching as well. I have an MLS, but have done much less work in actual libraries than in my current job.

      How do you like working for a vendor as opposed to working in a library? Do you feel that you have an advantage after having spent several years in a library?

      1. Liz in a Library

        The vendor world is definitely different, but I do enjoy it. I absolutely hope to return to an actual library some day, but I love the ability to see new technologies as they are being created and to give feedback on how they will be used and what can be improved from a library perspective. I think one of the best parts has been getting to meet a variety of very cool, very smart people in our customer group who I might not have run across before.

        I think having worked as a librarian helped me enormously, both in getting the job and then in doing the day-to-day work here. It helps to relate to our customers, and it also helps me to troubleshoot issues for libraries, because I can think back on what worked in my last library/what problems we had/etc.

  11. Operations and Fiscal Analyst

    I’m an operations researcher for a large federal organization. I don’t have a routine schedule, but I do work on large scale data projects. Basically, if you want a lot of unstructured time, like to find out the answers to questions that no one has yet asked, and love wading through data in order to find opportunities for efficiency gains, you’d enjoy this type of work.

    My background is 8 years of work experience and a masters and bachelors in the “dismal science” (economics).

    1. Mloor

      What are the skills needed for the job? Is it a data mining job? Is SQL one of the skills needed?

      1. Operations and Fiscal Analyst

        Honestly, I’d say that the two biggest skills necessary for the job are:
        1. A healthy sense of curiosity and
        2. The ability to communicate to people in plain language what the devil you’re talking about.

        Have I done data mining and SQL? Yes. I’m not sure that it’s a requirement of the job, necessarily, but having those skills can certainly make you more marketable or make your job easier. My career has been mostly involved with collecting and analyzing data using both inferential and descriptive statistics (everyone loves a good pie chart!) and then creating actionable process improvements.

      2. Apollo Warbucks

        Check out a web site called w3 school it has some very clear SQL tutorials if you’re interested

        1. Operations and Fiscal Analyst

          Good call. I would also suggest a book called “Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes” …It’s a great place to start for people who are interested, but don’t have any kind of background in programming or databases.

    2. LBK

      How did you end up in this field? I really like this kind of work – collecting, organizing and summarizing data, showing historical trends and using all that information to prove how and why people should do things a certain way. It sounds like that’s a lot of what you do.

      I work in sales support now, so I try to produce this kind of information on a small scale when I can. I do a lot of coming up with “what ifs?” or wondering if/how strongly certain practices are correlated to success, then putting together the numbers to see if they support my hypothesis. It seems hard to break into this area since I don’t have a background in statistics or economics.

      1. Operations and Fiscal Analyst

        Honestly, I’d say that the two biggest skills necessary for the job are:
        1. A healthy sense of curiosity and
        2. The ability to communicate to people in plain language what the devil you’re talking about.

        Have I done data mining and SQL? Yes. I’m not sure that it’s a requirement of the job, necessarily, but having those skills can certainly make you more marketable or make your job easier. My career has been mostly involved with collecting and analyzing data using both inferential and descriptive statistics (everyone loves a good pie chart!) and then creating actionable process improvements.

        1. Operations and Fiscal Analyst

          Whoops! It gave the same answer twice.

          I got my start doing analysis for programs at a state agency. They really didn’t need any statistical heavy lifting, just wanted pretty pie charts. I’ve found that this type of work has MANY different titles…management analyst, program analyst, data analyst, operations analyst, etc., so you may want to start there.

          I’d say that your description of what you do in your current job is an excellent start. Not every organization is going to require a PhD level statistical dissertation about how to improve a process. That would be incredibly ironic since creating such research in itself would be an ineffienct process. A lot of my analysis comes by observing a process, mapping that process and coming up with common sense tips to reduce redundancies. Then take a peek at the data. Does the data support your observation? Boom. Make a recommendation.

          1. Cajun2core

            Wow, that sounds wonderful. I never really thought about that as a career but it is something that I have done part-time in previous jobs and I enjoyed it. I am especially referring to taking inefficient processes and finding ways to make them more efficient. I will have to start looking for jobs in that area.

          2. LBK

            Awesome. That’s exactly what I try to do now, as much as our horrible reporting systems and our limited available figures will allow, although we’re moving over to Salesforce this year so hopefully that will allow me to expand my research. And yeah, I was looking at one internal position recently that was listed as something like Reporting Admin and Sales Assistant, even though it was basically exactly what you describe. Thank you very much for all the info, and I’ll keep my eyes open and my curiosity active!

    3. Research Consultant - Healthcare Policy

      How long have you been working for your organization, and what was the hiring process?

      1. Operations and Fiscal Analyst

        I’ve been at my current organization for 2.5 years.

        It’s a federal agency, so the process for applying to jobs can be described as:
        Imagine you take a jar of pickle chips and fling them against the wall one by one. Most will bounce off, some will stick for a while, and maybe one or two will stick around for the long haul. Which ones stick and which fall off can be described as mostly random.

        Before I accepted this federal job, I had applied for 45 federal jobs. I never heard from most of them ever again. I got four interviews and two jobs offers. The job offers came 7+months after my original application. It can be a long and disheartening process.

        The actual interview for my current job was 15 minutes (!) long. They agreed to all of my terms, so I accepted the job. The way Uncle Sam hires people is cray.

    4. Operations and Admin Manager / Internat. Development

      What data sets do you have at your disposal to work with? What kind of qualifications do people actually hire on / list on the job description? What is your education and skills background?

  12. Former Peace Corps volunteer (the gold digger)

    I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the business development program after I got my MBA. I worked in Chile. I have friends who have set up pharmaceutical tracking programs in Zaire, who have developed water systems in Chad, and who taught restaurant management and food marketing.

    I worked with a group of indigenous women who had a co-op where they sold their traditional textiles. I was supposed to make them profitable, which is not easy when you are funded by a grant (and get paid whether you sell your product or not) and when the competition is willing to sell at 30% below your prices.

    1. Lillie Lane

      Wow, that’s really cool. I love traditional crafts and always get excited when I see them in shops. Do you have any tips for buyers to ensure that they are supporting good dealers and fair wages for the artisans? It’s confusing and hard to tell sometimes.

      1. Former Peace Corps volunteer (the gold digger)

        Lillie Lane, we didn’t export any of our products, so I am not sure about the best channels to ensure fair pay for the producers. I did volunteer here in the US in a church-run traditional crafts shop – we got our product from Ten Thousand Villages. The church donated the space and everyone who worked there, except the part-time manager, was a volunteer. At the end of the year, either the church or the board that ran the shop – can’t remember – would distribute any surplus to various producer groups. I would look for that kind of setup.

        1. Julie

          I hope it’s OK to mention another site I like for fair-trade and handcrafted items. It’s called SERRV (serrv.org). Here’s what they say about themselves: “SERRV is a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.” I found out about them when my sister-in-law’s mom sent us gifts from their catalog. They have great gifts, and the sales benefit the actual people making the items.

    2. Technical writer (Jen)

      On the work side: Did you project in Chile continue after you left?
      On the personal side: Have you been back to Chile since then to visit friends you made during your service?

      1. Former Peace Corps volunteer (the gold digger)

        Yes to both! I returned to Chile five years after my term ended and visited my former co-workers. I was so excited to see that they were still making some of the new products I had developed. (Small, lightweight, and easy to transport in a backpack textiles vs huge rugs – and the smaller products had better margins, t00.)

        Even more gratifying was when my former counterpart, Monica, found me on facebook. We used to argue about how to run the business – I wanted her to reject poor-quality product because we wouldn’t be able to sell it. I also maintained we would only have to do it once or twice before the women made sure that everything they brought us was perfect. But she didn’t want to say no to anyone.

        Anyhow, when she found me on FB, she told me that I had been right about everything I wanted to do and she had been wrong. Are there sweeter words to hear from a former business associate?

    3. Penny

      Who are the best candidates for Peace Corps? Do you have suggestions for other, shorter-term projects for people who can’t handle the 2-year commitment?

      1. Former Peace Corps volunteer (the gold digger)

        Hi Penny,

        I am not sure what the PC is looking for right now, but when I applied, it really helped that I already spoke a foreign language and had significant work experience. Everyone in my program had an advanced degree and had been working.

        Still, I think they always want math and English teachers, I think.

        The Peace Corps was the best professional experience I’ve ever had in my life. I am so glad I did it.

        As far as shorter projects, I think a person who is willing to spend some time can make a difference anywhere. Posters here have mentioned that it’s hard to get volunteer positions sometimes, but I’ve always been able to find opportunities through church. None of these are full time and none come with a stipend, but I think it is possible to contribute in so many ways.

  13. Public Health Analyst (Xay)

    I am a public health analyst for a small/medium federal contracting company. Currently, I work on site at a large government health agency. The contracting company that I work for places me on contracts as appropriate or needed: currently I am supporting two adult vaccination projects. As far as day to day work, I work site states and cities to make sure they are meeting the goals and following the guidelines of the project and collect data from them. Then I report this data in a variety of ways to my assigned program office.

    1. Anonsie

      What’s your background?

      You work for a company that’s contracted by the federal government, right? How is that different from working directly for a government agency? For someone interested in this kind of work, would you suggest one over the other?

      1. Public Health Analyst (Xay)

        I have a bachelors degree in Psychology and I am working on my MPH. I worked for a state health department for about 6 years, mostly in HIV and hepatitis and I have worked for my current company for 3.5 years.

        If you want to work for the federal government, you have a better chance of getting a contract position than an FTE. Right now, there are significant restrictions and challenges with federal hiring in general, but public health positions are extremely competitive.

        The difference between contracting and being a government employee is that you do all the work, receive comparable pay, but have none of the protection. My company has been pretty good about moving me from one contract to another, but others are not. It isn’t unusual for contractors to be laid off between projects or because a contract was not renewed. During the recent government shutdown, my employer required us to use PTO or LWOP. Some contracting companies laid off their employees. As far as I know, no contractors received back pay – government employees did. It’s also much easier to fire a contractor than a government employee.

        If you want to get into federal government work, I would recommend contracting as your best bet. It gives you a chance to build your experience and relationships and can give you an inside track on hiring. That said, do your homework on contracting companies along the way.

    2. Anonimo

      What was your experience before working in this role? Do you have a MPH? If so, do you feel it was needed/worthwhile?

      1. Public Health Analyst (Xay)

        As I mentioned above, I worked for a state health department for 6 years and I have worked as a federal contractor for 3.5 years. I was fortunate to get into public health when I did because it was still possible to work your way up. I am working towards my MPH now because I can’t move into the kind of positions I am interested in without it.

        Because there are so many MPH programs and so many new MPHs, I think it is very close to being a requirement for federal and some of the bigger non-profits and NGOs. Local/state health departments and small non-profits/community based organizations aren’t quite there yet because they can’t offer the kind of salaries and benefits that are expected. I think that whether or not you “need” an MPH depends on what kind of work you want to do – if you want to work for a local community health organization, you will be fine without it. If you want to work for Clinton or Gates, it’s required.

        1. MSW/MPH Grad Student

          Hi there! I’ll soon be entering my third and final year in a MSW/MPH dual-program. I’m curious about your thoughts on licensure/certification. I know that Public Health just recently started pushing for folks to get licensed, but it’s very early on. In your experience, do you see a lot of value in being a licensed Public Health worker? Are a lot of employers looking for that certification? Thanks!

  14. Customer Service Quality

    I work on a team that monitors our first line of support. (You know when how you call a helpline, it tells you your call may be recorded for quality purposes? My team is the team that listens to them.)

    I don’t directly monitor, though – I help develop processes and standards, and I also do general process compliance (i.e. I look at whether support is following processes in general, with an eye to fraud prevention).

    1. AMG

      What are the key metrics and primary compliance standards you focus on? What are the biggest challenges and the most common issues you encounter?

      1. Customer Service Quality

        Overall, our first line support is judged on things like average handle time (call/chat length + after call/hat work), first contact resolution (i.e. solving the issue the first time), and quality.

        My team is just involved in the quality piece.

        For the quality piece, we look at:
        – do they ask the right questions to understand the issue?
        – do they resolve the issue at first contact (or take the right steps to get it resolved without the customer having to contact us again, if we can’t solve it on the spot)
        – do they listen to the customer, catch information the first time, and give the customer enough time?
        – do they explain things to the customer in a way the customer can understand?
        – are they following the right process?
        – are they sharing private information out of process?

        The most common frustration on my part is when the first line agent skips asking questions and jumps right into trying to solve the problem without really knowing what the problem is.

        The biggest challenge right now is getting people to understand that quality is as important (or more important) than solving the issue the first time or having a short call.

        1. Cajun2core

          “The biggest challenge right now is getting people to understand that quality is as important (or more important) than solving the issue the first time or having a short call.”

          AMEN! I have worked in tech-support for over 10 years and I wish more people had the attitude that you do. I hate call metrics, especially, call length. I believe that closing the call the first time is one of the best metrics.

          1. Customer Service Quality

            I believe that closing the call the first time is one of the best metrics

            … as defined by the customer never having to contact us again.

            Sadly, that’s hard to measure.

            1. Cajun2Core

              The way we did it at a place where I worked we kept the call open until the customer gave us the Okay to close it. For us it was easy to measure.

          2. Liam

            YES. My ex-manager (and to an extent, his managers) did NOT understand this. It was call time, period, full stop. And it was a “first contact” solution ONLY if you resolved it while they were on the line.

            1. cajun2core

              Yuck. Especially in Tech Support, while they were still on the line was not always an option. Sometimes they had to test it after hours.

              Glad to hear he is an *ex*-manager.

        2. Em

          I used to work in a call center and what I hated the most was how I had to repeat back to the customer what the customer just told me, just to make sure we were on the same page.

          Example:

          Customer: Hi, my name is Joe and I want to know my how much a past due fee is, if I’m late?
          Me: Hi Joe, I understand you want to know how much past due fees are in case you’re late?
          Customer (not happy): Yes, that’s what I just said!!!!
          Me: It’s $10.

          1. Customer Service Quality

            Yes, that drives me nuts, too. I think people do it because they think it is paraphrasing, but it’s not, and it adds no value.

            In your example, you could still communicate that you understand by saying something like “Let me check and see if there is a past-due fee on your account”.

    2. Knowledge base author / FAQ copywriter for large sports / tech company

      I work closely with the quality team in my organization–I sit in on calibration calls and often identify action items for my team in those meetings. It’s interesting stuff–half art and half science. There’s more and more data available that can be used to spot trends and create standards, but there’s no substitute for being able to gut-check a consumer interaction, I’ve found. Would you agree? Where would you put the art/science split in your approach to quality?

      1. Customer Service Quality

        I’m trying to get us closer to the science side so that our results are more consistent, but it will never be completely objective! It’s hard not to let what you know about someone influence your evaluation, so I’m hoping more rigorous evaluation processes will help remove some of the bias.

  15. AndersonDarling

    I am a data analyst at a non-profit (Healthcare). I work primarily in Tableau.

    I didn’t go to school for data analysis, so I may be a good resource for finding the stepping stones into this kind of career.

    Also, my organization has a focus on Quality and Improvement (and I actually mean that, it’s not just a promotional blurb) so I am a good resource for Performance Improvement questions.

    1. CollegeAdmin

      I’m actually looking to move into the data analysis field, although not in healthcare. Can you talk about what your general day looks like? Do higher-ups give you projects to run with, or do you tend to create your own tasks?

      1. Dan

        I work in this field as well. It has different titles with different implications, but oh well.

        Most of the time the higher ups have some loose idea on what they want done, it’s on you to shape it and execute it. If you want autonomy, well, I have plenty of that.

        Day-to-day is a nice little mix. Some days it’s meetings (be it internal or external) other days I’m doing the implementation (banging out a lot of code) and other days it’s doing reports (gotta write up what I did).

      2. Data Analyst (AndersonDarling)

        My schedule runs around month end. The first half of the month, I am validating data and compiling the monthly reports for each department.
        The rest of the month, I am creating new reports, updating old reports, and doing deep-dive analysis into issues.
        I make a lot of reports for end users to find relevant information quickly and easily, and if possible, pretty!
        I have many meetings with department heads to understand what they are looking for and relaying what I can give them, which is sometimes not what they want, and sometimes it is what they want and more.

    2. Dan

      My company has a bunch of Tableau freaks. You mentioned school; as of this very moment, I think it’s hard to go to school for data analysis — it’s still an up and coming field where you learn on the job.

      And that’s a Very. Good. Thing. for people looking to switch into a career that they don’t have a background in. If you’ve got a mind for numbers, work it into your current job or work on side projects, and then you can move on. Companies won’t reject you for lack of an education, because no such education exists.

      I just started getting into text mining. Good luck getting a college degree in that — you’re lucky if you can find a course. You certainly won’t find a full degree.

      Come to think of it, most people who have a job in an “emerging technology” didn’t go to school for it, they kinda fell into it. 20 years ago, there was no such thing as a Computer Science degree. People just learned to write code. My uncle was a mathematician, and another guy I work with has his PhD in physics.

      1. CollegeAdmin

        Re: going to school for data analysis

        I’m actually looking at a masters program in business/data analytics. I currently do a bit of work with Pyramid Analytics and love it (I think it’s like Excel on steroids), so the lead person on the tech team suggested I look into it.

        If you don’t have a degree in the field, can you (or AndersonDarling) talk about how you ended up where you are? My BA isn’t math or tech related (psych & linguistics), so I figured I’d need to do some coursework to be an attractive job candidate.

        1. Dan

          I think you’re right, that you would need a degree to be attractive. Since grad school, I’ve been employed in government research, and in this arena you really do need to have a technical degree to get hired. My specific focus is in aviation. My career path was calculated, at least from the point I entered grad school. I have a blue collar background in aviation, and decided I wanted to work in a field where I could apply math skills to aviation operational problems. Every once in awhile, life works out the way you planned, but I still consider myself lucky.

          It’s worth mentioning that “data analytics” is an off-shoot of some disciplines that are quite a bit older and DO have established academic programs. My MS is in operations research, a sibling of industrial engineering.

          I should also say that many of these disciplines don’t have clearly defined boundaries, or for that matter, are buzz words thrown around in the media/popular culture with very loose definitions. OR, for example, has a lot to do with optimal allocation of resources. With that, I build a lot of mathematical models that sit on top of the underlying data. People can get PhDs in this discipline and focus on very specific aspects of it. I’d consider them to have a focus more narrow than what a “data scientist” does.

          “Data science” or “Data analytics” is a bit looser in definition. Not every data problem is an optimization problem. Some involve statistical prediction models.

          “Big Data” is a bit different. This is more of software engineering discipline — these guys process large amounts of data in different formats. They work on the best ways of processing and retrieving that data quickly. That’s not what I do — I’m a consumer of the work these guys do.

          IMHO, good data scientists have a broad over view of the various tools available to solve different types of problems, and know how to manipulate the underlying data. A little coding will go along way. Understanding the right tool or model to apply to the right problem is key. If you only know one thing, well, when you’re a hammer, the whole world is a nail.

          Note that the data science field is pretty young, so finding established jobs in it is no easy task.
          I’m not saying that they don’t exist, but different companies will house them in different departments with different titles. I.e., sometimes they’re IT, sometimes, finance, other times engineering. And they will have a wide variety of titles. You really have to dig into job descriptions, it’s a royal PITA.

          If you link to the program you’re thinking about, I can give you some feedback on it.

          1. CollegeAdmin

            This is great info, Dan, thanks! I really appreciate the time you’re taking.

            The program I’m looking at is through Brandeis University (http://www.brandeis.edu/gps/courses/programs/listings/strategic-analytics.html). A flag for me, though, is that they don’t offer anything on SQL, Oracle…really anything on the tech side. There are a few courses at other institutions local to me (UMass, Northeastern) that do focus on those, so I might just take those elsewhere. Any thoughts you had would be welcome!

            It’s worth noting that the work I do now with data analysis is (in my mind) very basic/easy. My boss gives me an idea of what she wants (e.g. data on minority students in the STEM fields at the college) and lets me do what I want. All the data is already stored in the program; I just starting selecting items and running reports until I have a wide range of data to transform into various graphs for her. I have no idea how the back end/”insides” of the program works, but I think it could be interesting.

            Before we got the Pyramid program with all of this data, I entered data from our fact books by hand (several hours/days worth of time) into Excel and then created simple graphs from it. On the one hand, it was fun – I enjoy working with Excel, but on the other hand it felt…messy, I guess – I knew there had to be a cleaner/faster way. (And then Pyramid arrived and I rejoiced, because I was set to enter a whole new set of data that would have taken forever.)

            Also, I’m typing this at work while on hold, so if it seems like disorganized rambling, sorry!

            1. Data Analyst (AndersonDarling)

              I’m not an expert in hiring, but I think HR is looking for any kind of degree that is technical/math/science related for analyst positions. Your experience and certifications is what make you ready for the role.
              So I agree with your line of thinking, get the degree then fill in the gaps.

            2. Dan

              Hm. A few thoughts:

              I’m not bothered by the lack of a formal SQL class. It’s easy enough to pick up on your own, and TBH, I’m surprised that you’ve found schools that do offer it.

              As to the core of the program you linked, it’s certainly designed to be more managerial than technical. I’m not certain that’s what you want. It’s not going to teach you the back end of the software that you said you were curious about, and if you like doing complicated stuff in Excel, this program won’t build on that.

              If I were hiring technical staff in my department, I’d be looking for more hands on experience. I might be curious enough to call you in for an interview, but you very well could find yourself “second best” unless you have other criteria to supplement it.

              If I were hiring to replace my boss, then I would consider this degree to be an asset. At the same time, though, this degree won’t replace experience, which really is important for managers. Part of me thinks this degree is a bit ahead of its time, because for the types of roles that this is best suited, I’m not sure exist yet.

              When I put my critical hat on, the “featured faculty” aren’t technical folks. Only 1 out of 3 has a PhD. Of the student testimonials, two mention nothing about the careers they got afterward, and one only makes a passing reference to his job.

              I’d be looking for more technically oriented faculty (particularly the ones they choose to showcase) and student testimonials that focus more on the jobs they get after school.

              My program was a technical program with more of an emphasis on the business aspects of it. It is, in fact, a math degree from the business school. I liked its philosophy, and was subsequently sold after reading the list of 50 or so companies where the students went on to work afterwards. Some of those were companies in the domain in which I wanted to work. In school, I spent my days working with real world data sets learning how to apply various mathematical models. I didn’t have to waste my time with theorems and proofs nobody cares about.

              Just to be clear, I’m trying to give you pointers on how to pick a program, not necessarily advocate one or the other (although I was a huge fan of mine). $30k is a lot of money if you have to pay out of pocket — I’ll note that I paid the same amount for mine. It was an expense that is/was well worth it. Data analytics is going nowhere but up. FWIW, in this field, a Masters is highly recommended — it’s almost a minimum requirement. Few places will hire a grad with only a BS.

              AAM’s written about going to grad school for the heck of it (don’t) but go if you have a specific purpose and goal. Be clear on what your purpose is, and how a given program is going to give you the skills you want to reach that goal. Don’t go if you “think” it’s the right thing. Go when you *know* it’s the right thing.

              1. CollegeAdmin

                Wow, Dan – thanks for the details!

                I agree that the program seems to cater more toward managerial courses – I was looking at selecting more technical courses from the electives list, but I’d definitely be constrained by whatever was being offered in a particular semester. It’s also worth noting (re: the faculty and the student spotlights) that the program was just launched this past fall. It definitely makes me cautious, since I would think a more established program might be more solid, but at the same time, all programs have to start somewhere (especially in a newer field).

                In light of that, I looked up a few other programs last night and clearly noticed a difference in the curricula – far more tech courses, which since I’m not aiming to be a manager (at least any time in the near future), seem to be a better fit. If you have time to take a peek and don’t mind (I really appreciate the time you’ve already taken and don’t want to impose), I’m curious to know if you think either of these programs would be a better fit:

                http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/masters-degrees/data-analytics.cfm

                http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/graduate-degrees/data-analytics-ms-online/curriculum.asp

                It’s also worth noting that the college I work for has a very generous tuition reimbursement program; I’d end up paying about $15K out of pocket if I took 2.5 years to complete a $30K program. (Still a lot, of course, but easier to handle.)

      2. JC

        We just got Tableau where I work, and I am just now starting to hear of other people using it/considering it a skill and haven’t really played with it much yet. Glad to see it’s something worth using.

        1. Data Analyst (AndersonDarling)

          Oh yeah, Tableau truly revolutionized how we work at my org. I’ve been rambling a lot, so I don’t want to dig to far. But we keep finding more and more ways to use Tableau and it blows my mind how we became more efficient and data driven.

          1. Mike C.

            I can’t tell you how excited I am to have a copy in my hands. Holy crap, I am never touching Excel again.

    3. Dang

      So I was a research coordinator at a university for 3 years- healthcare. I also have a master’s in public policy and admin. My problem has been that most positions I’ve seen like this want a very heavy quantitative background that I just don’t have. Do you have any advice on what kinds of things I can do to make myself a better candidate for these types of jobs? And any specific quantitative skills I should be honing? I had to take statistics and the like in school but haven’t had to use them much since we had people doing the analysis for us, mostly.

      1. Data Analyst (AndersonDarling)

        If I were to go back and do it again, I think I would have gotten some software certificates, like advanced excel and access. Then a few classes at the community college, like statistics and data management. I think that would have pumped my resume up so I could have gotten into this field earlier. Oh, and some SQL language training would be good to, even if you are just running excel, you will need it eventually.
        Id find what software you fit well with and run in that direction with training. Many people are looking for someone with SAP Analytics, Tableau, or Excel training. If you become an expert in one thing, there will be a job for you somewhere.

    4. H. Rawr

      I’m really curious about what your day-to-day is like, or your primary tasks. I guess I’m not clear always on if this job would entail evaluating or making recommendations or compiling or all of the above.

      Also, care to go into how you made your way into the position without the schooling? Was it purposeful or did you kind of just twist and turn your way there (I feel like that is more often than not the way most of us get our jobs)

      1. Data Analyst (AndersonDarling)

        I was an administrative assistant for years. In every position I was in, there would always be one big number project, or big data project that I would end up doing, and doing really, really well. Then I would get more of those kind of projects.

        Just thinking about it now, I think a big key was being nice to our IT folks. Once they understood that I wanted to handle some of their grunt work, they were happy to get me access and show me how to run my own reports, and eventually build my own reports.

        I taught myself excel to a point that I was making insane spreadsheets. It seemed like that was the gateway into big data.

        Not many people like messing with data, so once someone finds you like it, they will find the work for you! Eventually, a positioned was open for a data analyst and I was directly asked to fill the role.

      1. Data Analyst (AndersonDarling)

        I really don’t know how we ended up with our first Tableau licenses… but I was offered one. I started off with a Tableau Book (not too helpful), then I watched all the lesson videos on their website. That got me to a point where I could start making basic visualizations.
        Then I was ready to start making calculated fields, which was a huge knowledge jump! I mostly used the Tableau forum on their website to search for my questions and find answers. It was a lot of trial and error.
        Then we connected our database live through tableau server! Woo hoo!

        I did a Tableau class, and I didn’t find it really helpful. It was just the learning video topics presented by a live person. So check out the videos, and practice. Remember, there are about 10 ways to display the same data, find the style that works for you!

          1. Data Analyst (AndersonDarling)

            There was a bit of a learning curve. In the beginning, I would try to make the most simple report and nothing would happen. But we weren’t using it much. So it took me a few months to get a good footing. Then it took a few months to get calculated field language down.

            I’d say it took 6 months of use to really get comfortable with Tableau. But it took a year to get to a level where I could tackle everything that came at me.

    5. Sharm

      I think I have an aptitude for data analysis — but I don’t know! I’ve worked in marketing, where I would pull lists and reports from our CRM. In my current job, the queries are less complex, but I’m in Excel a LOT more. The most advanced formula I use is offset match to bring in information from other data sets, and I do use pivot tables. From what I gather though, this is basic Excel, and not that exciting.

      What would you recommend I do to practice building data analysis skills when it isn’t my job? Are you asked to answer questions where there’s one answer, or are you looking at trends? Do you do regressions? What places do you recommend for people who want to teach themselves?

      1. Dan

        The real payoff in data science is way beyond excel.

        First, there’s a book called “Data Science for Managers” which is a big-picture view of the field. There aren’t any how-to’s in there. It’s an easy enough read, I’ve read it and recommend it.

        Second, for “nitty gritty” stuff, there’s an open source software package called R. It competes with a for-profit package called “SAS” that costs a crap-ton of money. R is really blowing open the data science field for students and others without big budgets. A decent book (on my to-read list) is called “Data mining with R.” It’ll give you real code-based examples to show you how to actually implement some of the data science concepts.

        As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, since this a very immature field, an employer is not going to hold the lack of a related degree against you. You learn on your own, see what you can do with it at your current job, and use that as your resume fodder to spring into the more technical roles.

        Do this and you will eventually get nice promotions at your current employer, or you will be positioned for some nice roles at other places. And they won’t tell you they “went with someone with more experience” because that more experience really doesn’t exist.

        1. Data Architect/ETL Coder (Windchime)

          I’m on an EBI team and one of our team members is playing around with “R”. Currently he’s doing some kind of geospatial analysis with it. It’s crazy cool stuff that we used to pay consulting companies to do for us.

          And now you guys are making me want to find a copy of Tableau.

      2. Data Analyst (AndersonDarling)

        Is it the right job for you? If you love data, then it is. But there is a lot of pressure to check/check again/recheck everything and make sure there are no errors in your data. 80% of the job is starting at a screen of numbers.
        A good place to start is pushing your excel to the limit. If you have an idea for a calculation, see if you can make it happen. I learned a ton by building a “backwards” vlookup. (Vlookup grabs the “largest without going over”, and I needed the record after going over.) It ended up being a 2,000 character formula, but I made it happen.
        I’m a nerd, so I found data stuff to do away from work. I made a probability spreadsheet for lotto numbers. And I made a formula to assign zodiac signs to birthdates. Think of something, then see if you can make it.
        In my role, I only do basic analysis, I’m not delving into p-values or exact predictions. I clean data, build visualizations, build everyday reports, and provide data in a way that others can find trends.
        I learned mostly by typing questions into google and finding forums with answers. As you build more, you will have more questions, find more answers, and before long you are an expert!

    6. Mike C.

      I do much similar work to you in a different industry (Aerospace), and incidentally I’m trying to move away from Access to Tableau. Could you suggest any sources (books, non-official sites) that you found really taught you the software well? I’m looking to do some real crazy stuff. :D

      And boy are you right about Quality/Process Improvement/Data Analysis not being something you go to school for. Though a program with lots of lab courses helped me a great deal.

  16. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    You know those search results in Google that are not ads? I help make companies web page rank higher in search results. I love my job, its part creative and part technical. It is not spam or manipulation, but using best practices set by the search engines.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      You might be the perfect person to shed light on this for me: I do nothing with SEO. I don’t even really understand SEO. I’ve never made any attempt to write SEO-friendly headlines or posts. And yet … I have what I think are pretty good search results rankings (in that when I search for workplace-related terms, more than half the time a post of mine shows up on the first page of search results). My theory is that it might be just because there’s so much content here after 7 years of daily blogging. Would love your insights.

      But then, despite the above, my page rank used to be 6 and now it is 5 (I think the algorithm changed a couple years ago). Is there anything I can do to make it higher, or is that out of my hands?

      1. Dan

        A lot of that has to with how many people link back to you.

        BTW, have you had any luck with your interns? IIRC, your original ad was looking for a part-SEO person, part data miner.

      2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

        It does help that you are building the authority of your domain with all this content. Search engines love fresh content. Also for every commenter that adds a new comment to an old post, the bots will see that the page was updated so letting your readers be the source of freshness on old content is great.

        Pank rank – don’t worry about it. In fact, Google will only update it once a year – if that. Inbound links to a site are not all equal. I will use page rank to determine the value of a page that I may want to try to get a link from. .gov and .edu sites have higher page rank so those links are more important to me, but they have to be relevant as in the page must actually be talking about HR stuff when linking to AAM.org.

        Besides content, try to get more inbound links from relevant sites (but don’t worry about page rank) like HR sites, college career pages, blogs, articles that you write for other sites, etc. Also, build your social signals. FB Shares are better for SEO than Likes. Google properties like G+ tend to carry more weight so kill the (share expander button), and add individual buttons per post (FB Share, Tweet, +1) at the beginning of each post vs. the end. While repeat visitors read til the end here, most don’t but will share it based on title alone.

        Think bigger, site-wide improvements like page speed. http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/?url=askamanager.org&tab=desktop
        You could improve your site by enabling compression and setting dates for browser caching. Most likely just settings in your wordpress theme, or can be done with a plugin.

        Use analytics and site search to find new content topics. What are people using the search box for? And, try this reg expression in Google Analytics \b(adding|does|do|who|what|where|when|why|how|will|can|\?|am|is|are|was|were|be|being|been|versus|vs|vs\.|best)\b to get more content ideas. Most keywords are invisible under ‘not provided’, but before that change happened, you had a ton of keyword data that you can leverage.

        Ok, I love my job too much … I will stop now.

        1. teclatwig

          Oh! I find it very encouraging as a reader/fan to know that new comments on old posts can be useful for bloggers’ SEO. I tend to read in big batches (especially when first discovering a gem), but I usually refrain from adding to a dead conversation.

    2. Sunflower

      This is really interesting to me as I’m looking at marketing jobs. My last job was a lot of copy writing and being stuck in front of a computer alone all day could be brutal. How much time do you spend in front of a computer churning out work and how much do you spend collaborating with other people?

      1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

        I read a ton. In fact, I read industry blogs for 2 hours a day. Google has tweaks and updates every day to their algorithm, but most is still just about best practices. I am constantly IM-ing links to coworkers, and past co-workers about what new developments happened and spend the other time coming up with POVs or my take on that development and how it relates to a specific client. I look for tech things that might be prohibiting bots from getting to the site or indexing it. Always looking for new content ideas for clients and reviewing analytics to determine content tweaks that could push them higher up.

    3. Looking for Free Help

      We are just beginning to embark on SEO, and are limited on funds so we’re learning as we go. What search engines do you recommend tackling first and can you give some “must-dos” as you get started?

    4. Persephone Mulberry

      What are your best recommendations for someone (hint: it’s me) who wants to work in marketing and probably should know more about SEO, but has no idea where to start?

      1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

        Read the Google starter guide above, and you will know the gist of what SEO is and entails.

    5. Outsider

      Wished I had caught this earlier – unfortunately missed this as I am in a different time zone. Just hope you catch this!

      How easy/hard is it to get into the web analytics space for a mid-level (10yrs) marketing research professional? I love all things web but I’m wondering if there is any hope for me to make a career in this – it mustbe flooded with far more savvy kids :)

      Regardless, what should I be studying/reading up? I know one needs to get the certificate from Google for google analytics…what else would help?
      Thanks!

      1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

        Are you looking to be a data analyst for web traffic? GA certification is good, but learn Omniture too. SQL seems to be a big one lately in those job descriptions too. Look at job descriptions, and see if there is a pattern of the programs that are required for you to know then get the certification or some training in each.

        If you I think those analyst jobs are easier to do than say being “in analytics” as that could mean someone that find solutions to analytics issues through coding. Some people find that all they end up doing is being a data analyst pumping out reports every day. Getting into analytics depends on what you want your day to day to be like and what HR thinks the job entails as it could be widely diff from what it actually is.

      1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

        I am at a small agency in Boston, but we have some really nice national brands. So did my last agency, but unfortunately I can’t mention client names.

  17. Children's Librarian

    I’m the head of a children’s department at a public library in the Midwest. There are 4 of us in my department–I do the scheduling and budget for books and DVDs, etc. I also present programs like children’s storytimes, book performers (magicians, musicians, etc.) and things of that nature. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years.

    1. Diet Coke Addict

      I have ALWAYS wanted to ask this: how do you determine what books and DVDs get bought? Are there surveys, etc., or do you work off a larger list? Are people at your library able to request books?

      1. anon58

        Good question!

        We work heavily off review journals. In children’s, we get School Library Journal (SLJ), Publisher’s Weekly, The Horn Book, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Book List. There are some DVD reviews in SLJ, but we primarily base our collection on bestselling DVDs and things we anticipate will be popular (like Frozen).

        Our patrons/customers/guests/whatever you want to call them can make requests too. We usually buy them unless they’re
        1) out of print or unavailable
        2) too expensive
        3) outside of the scope of our collection (so we typically wouldn’t buy textbooks or the kind of workbooks kids write in to learn subtraction for example, but there can be exceptions here depending on demand and the ever important budget)

        1. Diet Coke Addict

          Do you find that people ever argue the things that are or aren’t available–people don’t like that the Captain Underpants books are there, or there aren’t enough “good books,” etc? Do you focus your collection in certain areas where there’s a lot of demand? On average, how many books do you purchase a year–and how many are taken out of circulation due to damage, non-returns, unpopularity, etc?

          This is utterly fascinating to me!

          1. Children's Librarian

            Sometimes people will make a formal complaint (we have a form for it), but usually they just ignore anything they like or maybe grumble a bit. We try to have something for everyone, but we’re only human of course.

            Our budget does reflect to an extent what’s popular, so in a way that focuses our purchases. Typically, children’s picture books make up about half our circulation (number of checkouts), so the biggest chunk of money goes to them. And anyone who buys picture books regularly knows that they are expensive and you will read zillions of them to one kid!

            We purchase thousands of books per year. The children’s budget varies between $40k-50k. We do get a discount from our book supplier so we get books cheaper than you would be able to get them from a local bookstore. A small percent (maybe 3-5%) of our collection is removed each year due to any number of factors :
            1) low interest (few checkouts at all or recently–generally within a certain time span
            2) poor condition (this is why most picture books are removed–they get “well-loved”, often we will buy a new copy, if it’s something we still see demand for
            3) out of date information (more of the case in nonfiction, particularly in the sciences where information can change quickly)

            If you’re interested in the process of books being removed from the collection (aka weeding or de-selection), this is the manual many public libraries use: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/sites/default/files/public/tslac/ld/ld/pubs/crew/crewmethod12.pdf

        2. Children's Librarian

          Oh, we also look at award-winners. In children’s we try to have the winners and honor books for the American Library Association’s children’s division (Association for Library Service to Children)’s big awards (John Newbery, Caldecott Medals) before they’re announced in January. They are voted on in secret so there’s a bit of guesswork involved, but we usually do pretty well!

          The librarians also read a number of children’s literature blogs, especially those ones hosted by School Library Journal and The Horn Book, as they are consistently high quality with their reviews and recommendations as well.

    2. MF

      That’s so cool! I don’t really have a question, just that your job sounds like a lot of fun!

        1. Journalist, too

          Woohoo! I’m currently working for a newspaper, but headed to grad school to become a librarian :)

    3. J.

      Oh, this is totally up my alley! I’m not a librarian but would have loved to volunteer for fun at my library, and my favorite books to read are always children’s/YA. How did you get your job/what education and experience preceded the position you currently hold? I’ve heard a lot (probably through AAM) about Master’s graduates who still only get to volunteer or work part-time, so I’m curious at how you managed to find your way in. :)

      1. Children's Librarian

        Long story short–I worked my way up through a lot of part-time jobs while I was in school. I started as a book shelver in college. After graduating with my BA, I started working at the checkout desk. I knew I wanted to work in children’s so I took lots of classes in that area. Eventually I was able to get a job in the kids’ section after someone who had that job moved out of state. Luckily for me it was at the same branch, so I had the same boss. At that point I was about half-way through with my master’s degree.
        After graduating, I had about 18 months experience in children’s and was able to find a full-time job in another part of the state. This was a small library and gave me great experience in all the different areas of a public library.
        Meanwhile I had been writing a blog about children’s library services and started giving presentations at local conferences. After 4 years at the small library, I decided to try for a management job. It took a few interviews and about 5 months, but I eventually got the job I have now, which is better than I could have hoped for!

        So long story short, a lot of hard work & a few years of experience, networking (through my blog/Twitter, and also the conferences), and a fair amount of luck.

    4. LizNYC

      I love your job! I read a ton of children’s and YA fiction, despite the fact that I’m, um, not a kid anymore.

      –Have you found that lots of adults are browsing your sections (and is it creepy or OK)?

      –What are the next “big” books for people who’ve read the big stuff in YA lit (Hunger Games, HP, Divergent, etc.)?

      1. Diet Coke Addict

        Oh yes, your first question! I read a ton of kids’ and YA fiction because it relates to my academic interests (presentation of history/historical fiction as a teaching tool for youth, formed part of my Master’s thesis) and I’ve had some librarians give me the stinkeye for taking out kids’ books. Thoughts?

      2. Children's Librarian

        I should probably confess that I am not super up to date on YA lit (my department goes through about 5th grade, and it’s all I can do to keep up with the younger kids!).

        I have no problems with adults browsing my children’s section. Back when I did teen too, I loved having conversations with adults about YA books. We put up a sign in the YA section that said “It’s OK for adults to like YA” and recommended a lot of YA books to anyone who might have been interested. I find the plotting to be “tighter” with YA myself. Never let anyone try to shame you for what you like to read!!

        One YA book I’d recommend to Diet Coke Addict is CODE NAME VERITY, if you haven’t read it already.

      3. Children's Librarian

        OK, thought about this a bit more. Here’s some YA suggestions:

        Legend by Marie Lu
        In a dark future, when North America has split into two warring nations, fifteen-year-olds Day, a famous criminal, and prodigy June, the brilliant soldier hired to capture him, discover that they have a common enemy.

        Delirium by Lauren Oliver
        Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, when she falls in love.

        The Maze Runner by James Dashner
        Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up with no memory in the middle of a maze and realizes he must work with the community in which he finds himself if he is to escape.

        The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
        Pursued by power-hungry Prentiss and mad minister Aaron, young Todd and Viola set out across New World searching for answers about his colony’s true past and seeking a way to warn the ship bringing hopeful settlers from Old World.

        1. LizNYC

          Wow, thanks for the synopses! I was just hoping for titles. Adding them to my reading lists now…

          1. Children's Librarian

            Sure, I must confess that I copy and pasted the book synopses from the library database NoveList. See if your library has a subscription. It’s a great place to get reader’s advisory (library-speak for book recommendations). You can also ask your local librarian for some too. Although I will admit that some of us are better at this than others. :)

          2. Library Tech-Digital Projects (O)

            I love YA books, and I’m totally biased but I really enjoy the ones that came out when I was younger. Lynne Ewing has a great series with a little mythology, absolutely love Amelia Rhodes Atwater, Tamara Pierce is the best, and Garth Nix books are awesome.

            1. O

              Ha, finally remembered! Honestly I might like these even better than Harry Potter, “So you want to be a wizard” series by Diane Duane, is great

        2. family law lawyer

          I really enjoyed Rick Riordian’s work.
          Lightening Thief Series
          Kane Kids Series
          And his new one…

          His focus a bit on mythology and have been hugely entertaining and enjoyable to read. A lot like Harry Potter.

          1. Children's Librarian

            If you like Rick Riordan’s books, I’d try The Skeleton Creek books by Patrick Carman. Also The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander is somewhat similar to Tolkien (but more accessible) and Brandon Mull has a great series called Fablehaven.

            Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman
            Although housebound following an eerie accident, teenaged Ryan continues to investigate the strange occurences in his hometown of Skeleton Creek, recording his findings in a journal and viewing email video clips sent by fellow detective Sarah. The reader may view Sarah’s videos on a website by using links and passwords found in the text.

            Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
            When Kendra and Seth go to stay at their grandparents’ estate, they discover that it is a sanctuary for magical creatures and that a battle between good and evil is looming.

            The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (Chronicles of Prydain #1)
            Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper to a famous oracular sow, sets out on a hazardous mission to save Prydain from the forces of evil.

      4. Elizabeth West

        I read a lot of it too! I love it. People keep telling me I need to write it, but kids/ YA lit is VERY difficult to write effectively and it’s just not my niche.

    5. limenotapple

      I’ve heard that challenges are decreasing. Is this a problem in your area? I’m in an academic library, but in my last academic library, we did get a few challenges :( Mostly things like someone counting the evolution and intelligent design books to make sure we have the same amount of each, that sort of thing.

      I’m so glad there are wonderful children’s librarians around!

      1. Children's Librarian

        It’s been my experience that a true challenge, where someone actually fills out the form and we follow the whole procedure through, is quite rare. Maybe once every few years? Hopefully I am not jinxing myself here.

        What is much more common is people grumbling about their kid bringing a certain book home or “why did you let my kid borrow this trashy book?” Well, we’ll let them borrow anything and leave the monitoring to their parents is the truth.

    6. Sharm

      This is probably my dream job. My mom didn’t have an MLS, but she worked at our public library for years growing up. I always, always wanted to do this, but it just doesn’t seem like a viable option for anyone who wasn’t already in it years ago. Most MLS grads here say so, and so does everyone else I ever seem to read, but — do you think there’s any hope for people to make this a career? Or is it simply too late given what’s happened to funding and cutbacks nationwide?

      1. Children's Librarian

        It all depends. I was willing to move across the state (and would have considered moving across the country) for a job. I had experience. I was able to cobble together a living from part-time employment for several years before getting a full-time job. I didn’t have a spouse or kids to worry about. I didn’t have any debt from my bachelor’s degree, so I was able to make a lot of sacrifices and it paid off for me.

        The biggest mistake people make IMO is going to grad school before they’ve ever worked in a library before because
        1) How do you know you’ll like the work?
        2) You won’t have any experience once you graduate. You need to be able to take a (probably part-time) job in circulation or a similar lower level job before you will even be considered for a librarian job.

        There are tons of people with MLS degrees and they far outnumber the jobs available BUT it can still be hard to find good people with the right kind of experience when we hire.

        I also think that children’s is a less competitive environment because so many people don’t want to work with children.

      2. Schnauz

        Please take this with a grain of salt as I am not a librarian or employed at a library.

        I used to volunteer at one of my local branches. I mostly shelved books, sorted carts for shelving later and boxed donations. Once I even got to used books from the weeds list to set up a display to see if they didn’t get a little attention.

        I had no intention of parlaying that into a paid job, I just wanted to get out of my house, I love to read and I love my local library system. :) However, they liked my work and when a p/t page position opened up, the asst. branch manager encouraged me to apply. Now, I couldn’t do it because of my f/t job’s schedule and encouraging me to apply is NOT the same as a job offer, but it was very flattering.

        So … if you’re interested in going for your MLS, why don’t you volunteer right now? You can negotiate your involvement (I was just there 3 hours every Sunday) level and find out how you feel about the job. Yeah, you won’t be doing the really meaty stuff, but you’ll be exposed to patrons and other employees and get to be in a great environment. And, if you go to school in the same area it could give you a leg up on paid work down the road.

        1. Public Library Reference Department Manager (Jessica the Librarian)

          I AM a librarian, and you absolutely nailed it. The MLS/MLIS is essential for some positions in management and academia, but if you want to work in a public library, volunteering is a way to get your foot in the door– no degree required. I hire people for my department based on intelligence, soft skills, and enthusiasm, and volunteering is a great way to show me all of those things on a consistent basis instead of one time at an interview. I’d be much more likely to hire a volunteer without a degree who I knew could produce quality work over a new library school grad who is an unknown quantity.

          My advice to anyone thinking about library school is this: make sure you’ve worked or volunteered in a library before you commit. The job market is still not great, but your real world experience will count for a lot more than your degree (at least in the public library world). You can always go back and get your degree once you have some library experience, but if you get the degree first, you should be prepared to take a library job anywhere doing anything once you graduate. Once you have to start paying back loans, you can’t afford to be too choosy. I adore my job, and this is a great profession, but breaking in is TOUGH!

          1. De Minimis

            I see a lot of library jobs where I’m at, but they are all part-time and the pay is low [like fast food level, but with very few hours.]

            1. Public Library Reference Department Manager (Jessica the Librarian)

              Unfortunately, this is pretty common. Lots of page and lower level positions start out at dead minimum wage– you may as well be volunteering at that pay rate. In my system at least, good performers move through the ranks quickly, but it’s still pretty bleak for a while. Lots of us cobble together 2 or 3 part time library jobs for years at a time before we get our big break in the form of a full time position. I did this for 4 years before landing my first full time librarian job.

            2. Schnauz

              My local library system starts at 10+/hr for p/t pages and whatnot. The pay range is often up to $18/hr but I imagine only someone with previous library experience is hired on at anything over the base.

    7. Agnes

      Do you have any literacy programs in your library, with people who come in and read to a group of kids? Do you have any recommendations for how to become that person? In about a month I’ll be switching over to primarilly private nglish (ESL) and literacy teaching, and getting that sort of early literacy gig once or ttwice a week would be amazing!

      1. Children's Librarian

        Usually the people who read to kids are just the children’s librarians. It’s harder than you might think to get a group of kids into the library.

        One thing you could inquire about is offering a free ESL tutoring, and a lot of libraries would jump at the chance. It’s more likely that it would be with adults though and in the evenings or weekends.

        My suggestion would be to ask at the reference desk and not the checkout desk (if your library happens to have both, many places are combining into one.)

  18. Technological Sales Account Rep

    I work for a company that manufactures renewable energy training equipment, and we represent other technological training companies all over Canada. We sell to high schools, colleges, universities, unions, government/military, and others, and we focus mostly on green technology, emerging technology for the classroom like 3D printers, and industrial training equipment. We travel throughout Canada.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Do you basically travel around visiting customers and potential customers? If so, does that get exhausting? Do you get fancy travel perks? What’s a typical day like?

      1. Diet Coke Addict

        Well, yes and no! We’re a small company in Canada and my territory alone spans five provinces, so it’s not feasible for us to travel all the time, especially since the bulk of our customers are located in major cities. So during the busy times of the year, spring and fall (to follow school budgets), we go to many, many conferences and trade shows, instead. We lug out a demonstration piece and booth setup to a provincial trade show, notify our contacts that we’ll be there, and spend two to five days talking with people. Usually we’ll combine a trip like that with visiting existing customers, too. Occasionally if we have a really big customer we’ll go out to visit them specifically, but our territory is so massive we can’t do that for everyone!

        We don’t get travel perks, really, other than flyer miles and a boss who doesn’t really care too much what we expense (within reason), and it’s nice to be able to wine and dine potential clients.

        A typical day in the office during the busy period of the year will be lots and lots of talking on the phone to technology coordinators, school board consultants, professors/instructors, and our suppliers; drawing up quotes and adjusting them; sending follow-up and clarification emails; and answering millions of questions. A typical day traveling may consist of attending an early-morning breakfast meeting at a school to give a presentation to school board consultants and teachers, followed by a lunchtime meeting at a different school district, and a dinner meeting with instructors from a local college. Repeat for two or three days, then go back to the office and start sending out quotes and follow-ups. It can be exhausting, but like I said, it’s limited to a few extremely busy weeks a year, and the rest of the time is in the office!

  19. Project Manager (AMG)

    Supply Project Management
    Vendor Management
    Analytics & Metrics for strategic analysis, business case, and budget funding
    Project budget funding and cost management
    coordination with intradepartmental stakeholders (IT, Finance, Marketing, Sales, Accounting, Operations, etc)
    Process Improvement & Compliance
    Oversee project deployment & issue resolution

    1. Anonalicious

      If I want to get more into project management from just regular IT and Finance stuff, would you say it’s better to go for a PMI certification or perhaps a masters in PM?

      1. AMG

        I would caution you against either without knowing what the company values. Some companies function absolutely by-the-book with PMI standards and some barely write requirements and do guerilla-type testing. The same general arguements about not getting a master’s degree apply to getting a master’s degree in PM. It may not pay off. It just depends on the industry, the company, and how high up the ladder you can start. Don’t get me wrong though, it could be highly valuable.

        The way that I got into it was by volunteering to help on projects, became point person for projects whenever there was a need to integrate with our department, and now it’s all I do and I love it.

        Another good suggestion to ‘fast track’ into project would be to join a consulting firm. With a background in IT and Finance, you surely have some valuable skills already in place. Good luck!

    2. Sunflower

      How much IT experience is needed and part of your job? I’m mostly interested in dealing with the supply and budgeting of project management and have no IT experience which I often see as a requirement on a lot of job descriptions. Not sure if every job needs or it I’m just finding ones that do

      1. AMG

        There is usually some level of need, but in my role it is minimal (although I was a system analyst in a previous job). I think the important thing is to have a basic understanding of how the systems function, which can be not technical per se, but very company-specific. It would really depend on the role. Some PM work is almost entirely technical even if it isn’t in the IT department.

        I participate in systems-related topicsabout 10-15 hours per week but it’s mainly important for me to articulate how they changes would impact my group.

  20. Email Marketer (kristinyc)

    I send marketing emails. A lot of my work involves coordinating copy/design/code, and then doing QA on all emails (checking links, making sure emails are rendering across different email clients, browsers, and devices). I also do segmentation and reporting. My work involves having a little bit of experience in a lot of different areas – copyediting, coding, analysis, etc. I’ve been doing this for about 6 years, and really love it. I started out in more general marketing roles and moved over to specializing in email once I saw how nerdy fun it is.

    1. ArtsNerd

      Are you in-house or agency? If in-house, how big of a company? I do email marketing but it’s one of many duties, so the analysis and coding parts get sacrificed to templates and not-analysis for me.

      1. Email Marketer (kristinyc)

        I’m in house at a rapidly growing startup. We just hired two other people for my team, and we’re working on automating a lot of our emails.

        We have copywriters, designers, and front-end developers who are putting the emails together for the most part, but my team and I are the ones giving direction for what kinds of emails we send (based on what we see in our data about what performs well).

    2. Mary

      What systems do you use to do this? Our company does email marketing through Constant Contact, but I’m curious about other kinds of solutions and systems. Are they enterprise-level, or third party things, or what?

      1. Email Marketer (kristinyc)

        I’ve used ExactTarget for quite a few years, and I’m a big fan. It really depends on the scale of your email program. If you’re just doing a basic newsletter to the same list every time, something like Constant Contact or Mailchimp is fine. We do a lot of automations, triggered sends, and transactional emails, so we need a more robust system. Most of my experience is with ExactTarget, but I’ve also worked with Eloqua and really like it. Again, it all depends on the scale of your email program.

  21. International development Programs Manager

    I manage international development/aid projects in developing countries (mostly Africa and Asia). I am based at a headquarters office in North America but correspond from here with partners in the field and conduct field visits to my projects’ sites a few times a year.

    1. AMG

      Best job ever! How did you get into that field? I would imagine the number of people competing for positions like this is very high. What’s it like??

      1. International development Programs Manager

        For me it started with my undergraduate studies — which were in international development, and included a year abroad in an African country. Then an internship abroad right out of University (not unpaid, but just paid enough to cover expenses) and then I was lucky to find full-time work. I took 2 years out to do a Masters degree after a few years of work, which is more or less mandatory in the sector. In my Masters I specialized further in a sub-sector of international development, though my work since then hasn’t always been in my sub-specialty area. I’ve been very lucky to find work in what is a competitive field — many colleagues haven’t been as lucky. I should mention that it is also often quite low-paying, for a highly specialized field requiring a graduate degree.

        Travel to the field is always exciting and inspiring, but I do spend lots of my day to day doing things like staring at spreadsheets, writing reports to donors, sending endless emails and holding long and incomprehensible conference calls with field-based staff over bad connections! So it’s not generally all that glamorous. I do like what I do though.

        1. EngineerGirl

          What discriminator do you think you have over your unemployed friends? Or do you just consider yourself “lucky” by being at the right place at the right time?

          1. International development Programs Manager

            I think it’s helped me that much of my work has been for small organizations, so I was quickly given quite a lot of responsibility in spite of limited experience — this has been good for my CV. A strong professional network helps (I network deliberately but have also lived and worked in the same city for 7 years and have met contacts at meetings, workshops, trainings, conferences, etc). I think I present myself fairly well in interviews too. But definitely some of it is pure luck. My current position is a limited term contract, and I am quite concerned about my ability to find employment when that is up, even though by then I will have worked in the sector for ten years and have strong experience and references — there are just a very limited number of jobs.

        2. Operations and Admin Manager / Internat. Development

          Ahhhh… you are exactly me! Spot on final paragraph.

    2. Miss Evy

      What would be considered a strong background for someone looking to get into this line of work, or what would you recommend experience in for someone who is trying to move in this direction with their career (program management with an international focus)?

      1. International development Programs Manager

        Most people I know working in this sector have some formal education directly relating to international development. This is now quite a popular undergraduate major! In some organizations, formal certification in project management might be viewed as an asset, though I’m not convinced this is that essential or even always all that relevant. Strong writing skills have been important in all my past roles. Experience abroad in non-western countries and working in cross-cultural contexts is very important. If you have managed social programs in your own community, rather than abroad, that might well be considered very relevant. Experience dealing with major donors and writing grant proposals and reports is also often a key to this kind of job.

        If you are coming from a different sector, one route in might be to look at jobs with international development NGOs that connect to your past work experience (eg administration, communications, fundraising, graphic design, etc). Particularly in small organizations, there are sometimes (though not always) opportunities to move among job roles once you are “in”.

    3. Sheep

      I’m in the same field / trying to get in. I’ve already done two internships (one in the field and one HQ), then had a break to earn some money. Now I’m soon off to the field again for another internship. Very excited about it, but getting a bit tired of not having a real job. Out of my uni friends (MA), it’s about 50/50 how many people have real/related jobs or not.

      Have you ever been field-based?

      1. International development Programs Manager

        I’ve only been field-based as an intern, for six months. I also spent a full 8 months in an african country as an undergraduate student (studying and volunteering) which certainly helped boost my cv at the start of my career. When I finished my Masters, I suspected that it might be a good career move to go abroad for a field-based position for a couple of years, but there were personal circumstances that made that less than ideal, and then I was fortunate to find good work based at home. I have seen senior HQ positions expect candidates to have long-term field based experience before, so that concerns me a little bit in terms of my long term career. If you’re prepared to move to a field-based location for a couple of years I do think there are more opportunities and it’s probably a smart career move.

        1. Operations and Admin Manager / Internat. Development

          I’m dying of curiosity now, because this same thing happened to me and I have the same concerns about long-term opportunity. How big is your organization? Does it have a specialty?

      2. International development Programs Manager

        I’m curious about your experience doing multiple internships. Do you find that you’ve been offered greater and greater responsibilities in your various internships? like, do you feel a sense of career progression through them?

        Back when I was applying for internships, there were some that were more rigorous and prestigious than others, and I wonder if I would have had a better shot at the more interesting internships (with great possibilities to move in to interesting jobs from them) if i’d already a completed a more junior/basic internship. As it was, I did my internship with a tiny organization that wasn’t particularly prestigious, then just got terribly lucky when they had a job open up just as my internship ended.

        1. Sheep

          Thanks for your reply! My internships have been very different. The first one was at my country’s embassy (in the Balkans), and the second a for-profit ethical consultancy. The one I’m starting now is a large NGO. To be honest I have felt like a regular employee at both places, I was given a lot of responsibility, and both wanted to employ me at the end (but couldn’t, for various reasons). Having these two experiences under my belt definitely helped me get the third internship. Now, that doesn’t mean much unless I manage to get a real job soon. (getting frustrated)

          1. International development Programs Manager

            That does sound like you’re really building your cv through the internships at least. See, you not getting hired after an internship (when they wanted to hire you!), and me getting hired after mine — that’s just pure dumb luck! Not fair at all.

            1. Sheep

              It’s a part of this field to be lucky though! It’s often about being there (at least in the field), so I’m hoping this internship will be my last one!

  22. Athletic Trainer/Teacher

    I currently work in two different fields at the same time. My background is as an athletic trainer and I am nationally certified and carry a state medical license as well. I worked full time as an athletic trainer for a large physical therapy company with offices in the Midwest and on the East Coast before becoming a teacher. Today I primarily teach dual credit Health Sciences in an adjunct role to a public high school so that my juniors and seniors receive college credit from the local junior college. I also adjunct for the same college. I keep up as an athletic trainer by working on a PRN basis for a physical therapy company near me and cover local high school/college athletics. I also teach water exercise one night a week. So I guess I’m someone that’s switched careers, done the grad route twice (traditionally and while working FT) and have finally settled down to what works for me.

    1. LBK

      So as an athletic trainer, is that like personal training in a gym with one-on-one clients, or more focused on activities meant to hone certain skills for specific sports?

      1. Athletic Trainer/Teacher

        Athletic trainers are slightly different than personal trainers. While my bachelors is similar (Exercise Science) and I do have a master’s in kiniesiology so I could work as a personal trainer, I also have a strong medical background. I had to take and pass national boards and am required to be licensed as a medical professional (athletic trainer) in my state. We are the ones that you see run on the field when injuries happen in sports. We also provide follow up care for orthopedic injuries at high schools,colleges, for professional teams, and work in physical therapy settings. Some people also work as physician extenders for orthopedic surgeons. Some of what we do is similar to physical therapy although we both have our own scope of practice (i.e. me running on a field to treat and assess an injury). I do teach water exercise at a fitness facility so I do some personal training/fitness instructing its not my main focus. Thanks for asking!

        1. LBK

          Ahh, very interesting. I always wondered what the distinction was/what kind of training or role the people that treated sports injuries like that had. Thanks!

    2. YR

      Fascinating. Thanks. In my 40s and just started working part-time in a fitness-related job — nothing to do with my professional background, but over the years I’ve seen the power of clean eating and wellness/fitness and want to be involved in promoting such. Any tips for one without a background in exercise science and the like — beyond personal training courses/certification (in the works), ways to deepen one’s practical knowledge in fitness and training?

      1. Athletic Trainer/Teacher

        Pay attention to and read up on biomechanics and anatomy. The worst thing and the hardest for me to watch as an athletic trainer when I go into fitness facilities is a personal trainer that doesn’t know what the heck they’re doing. An online certification doesn’t make you knowledgeable–just as only book knowledge doesn’t teach you how to do a job. Be able to actually know when someone’s squat is off because their glutes are too weak or when someone’s quad to hamstring ratio is incorrect so you can correct for it. The mechanics are SO important. Make sure you know what muscles someone is working and how their are different parts of that muscle and what that muscle does in the body. Example: lots of knee injuries happen because someone doesn’t have the right quad to ham ratio and then the secondary stabilizer which is the IT band is also having issues. You should know how to help someone with all of those.

        1. YR

          Brilliant. Thanks so much for these important insights. All great points. (I would certainly do an on-site certification course that involves hands-on work and requires us to design programs for various cases.) Much appreciated.

          1. YR

            Meant to add — well noted and completely agree, it’s not being book-smart and having some letters with my name that’s going to equip me to promote health and fitness, but deeply understanding the why and the how.

  23. PBS Fundraiser (Sam)

    I work in fundraising and membership for a local PBS station. Formerly worked in fundraising for a zoo. In my spare time, I save endangered species :)

    1. Children's Librarian

      I don’t have a question, but that sounds awesome! We watch TONS of PBS. :)

    2. Forrest

      Do you see any value in a fellow fundraiser getting her CFRE or masters in nonprofit management?

      1. PBS Fundraiser (Sam)

        See, I actually don’t have an answer for that, because I’m trying to make the same decision myself. I think it will certainly help moving forward, but how much I’m not sure.

        I was told by several people that a masters in nonprofit management is ok, but they would recommend a masters in Public Policy instead. I’m currently looking at going back for a masters in Developmental Policy and Practice myself.

  24. Sunflower

    I work as a Meeting & Event Planner for a small company(~30 people) for an educational services company. I plan and schedule over 300 courses a year- I don’t attend these. I work with hotels and other venues to negotiate rates and find appropriate venues we can trust. I also plan and schedule about 30 conferences annually- travel to some of these- and manage the entire event onsite. I also do all the legwork beforehand- getting proper forms, ensuring travel arrangements, etc

    1. Diet Coke Addict

      How did you get involved in this type of work? I was once in talks about a volunteer position that involved coordinating fairly large events (150+ guests, which is large for a newbie volunteer!) based on work I did organizing conferences in graduate school. I eventually bowed out because the workload they were asking for was something like 20 hours per week, which was significantly more than I could devote while working full-time as well. So how do you get involved doing this for a company?

      1. Miss Evy

        I’d also be interested in hearing you got involved in this role. I did a significant amount of event planning in college and have continued to do this with a local Meetup, and have been wondering if it might be worth looking into as a potential job path.

      2. Sunflower

        I worked in a family friend’s office(small, 4 people) part-time doing marketing right out of college while I looked for a full time gig. He let me have a lot of free reign to do stuff as long as it didn’t cost too much money. I was interested in events so I started trying any free/low cost events I could do. I then picked up another part-time gig at my company doing copywriting and the full time event planner job opened up here. They saw my past experience and hired me full-time for it. I’ve been out of college close to 3 years now and in this role for 1.

        There’s a couple ways to get into this kind of stuff. You can start at a large company, probably as an admin, and work your way up into actual planning of events. Depending on how the company is structured, there may be other duties outside of event planning grouped in with that.

        Another way is to start on the flip side of what I do and try to get into a hotel as a sales or catering coordinator. They often move into event management roles and either stay in hotels serving clients or switch over and go into corporate events.

        What I did was came into a really small company and was able to pick up a lot of experience early on. Other people on my level might still be answering phones at a large company but I’m only able to do on-site management because my company is smaller.

        I’m hoping to transition into a large company eventually. I would have preferred to start at a large place as an admin but I fell into this so I can’t say which way is best. The person previously in my position is doing event coordinating at a large hospital now. She doesn’t have as much reign there as she did here but she’s in a great company now.

        A lot of it really is picking up stuff anywhere you can and starting at the bottom to work your way up.

        1. Seeking A New Job

          I am currently working in leisure tour groups, negotiating and contracting hotel rooms for sleeping rooms only. I am thinking of moving from tourism to event planning. I know you mentioned that you want to move to a larger company, can you elaborate on that? Where do you see your career path going? I really feel tourism is a dead end and I am wondering if there would be more possibilities in event planning. I am also not happy with my salary, ($38K in a large US city- and that’s not a starting salary, I’ve been doing this for years) and I’m wondering if I made a move to the left, if I could get paid more. I do not want to move to sales or catering for hotels, so I thought maybe event planning could be good. Lastly, do you enjoy what you are doing, and do you see it as a long term career?

          1. Sunflower

            It wouldn’t be difficult to transition over to event planning. Often event planning goes hand in hand with other stuff in a job so think about other stuff you’re interested in. Right now, I do event planning but also am learning a lot about continuing education planning. A good amount of university jobs require event planning so if you’re searching, those are always good places to look.

            Events are either core business or support services. In places like Big 4 accounting firms, events are support and there aren’t as many opportunities since there aren’t a lot of lateral movements available. In places like large publishing houses or event management companies, events might be a huge money maker so you can start in a variety of different roles and eventually move over.

            I plan on eventually moving to NYC. I’m in Philly now and a lot of company’s I’ve looked at have their main support services at HQ and a lot of them are in NYC. If you want to get into an event management company, NYC or LA or Vegas is really where you have to be. I wanted to be at a large company because while I like event planning, I’m still curious what else is out there and being in a large company can give me more exposure than smaller places.

            Pay also varies from place to place. My company is terrible so I don’t make anything. You will probably make the most money doing hotel sales honestly. But if you get into doing events that are tied to generating sales, you can make a lot, get bonuses and you don’t have to work bad hours!

            I do enjoy my job. If I could pick up my job and put it in a larger organization where there was possible growth, I wouldn’t be job searching. I see myself staying in some part of this but definitely getting more involved in marketing, digital strategy or operations as well.

  25. HR Director

    I am the HR Director for a multi-state family of companies managing the HR, payroll and recuiting functions (and some administrative functions). The intersting thing about my job is the industries I work for. We have six employer entities which include agriculture, engineering services, alternative energy, real estate, events management and not for profit work.

    1. Cajun2core

      How do you get into HR. I have 11 years of customer service experience (which I must say is something I excel at) and I am truly a people person. I am currently working as a secretary but I would love to get back into a people oriented position. I would love to be an HR Generalist (answering basic questions about benefits, payroll, etc.) I have applied for a number of jobs but I have not had any luck. I have also seen that a number of jobs require a certain certification (sorry I forgot what it was, maybe you know, it was PHR). Does having that certification really make a difference? Can you get the PHR certification w/o experience? Is it difficult/expensive to get?

      Thanks!

      1. HR Director

        I actually got into HR by chance. I’d moved back to my hometown and was offered a temporary position as an HR Assistant for a small non-profit. The position ended up turning into a full-time position. I left that position after a couple of years to join the for-profit world and worked as an HR Coordinator, then Generalist, Manager and now my current position as Director. I got my PHR while working as a Generalist.

        To get the PHR you need to have some combination of education and exempt level HR work experience. You can go to the HRCI website to see all of the current requirements. I didn’t find it to be very difficult, though I did spend some time studying for the exam. I have to re-certify every couple of years, and while there are opportunities for free credits, it can get expensive if you pay for education opportunities. I’d like to take my SPHR exam, but I’ve been lazy about it, so for now it’s just a PHR.

        My recommendation would be to try to go for an admin level position reporting into HR. Our current HR Coordinator started off as an Admin Assistant supporting the HR department. Another place I see people breaking into HR is at smaller companies there are often Receptionist/Office Manager/HR type positions. I wouldn’t say it’s the best way to gain HR experience (especially because many employers who combine those roles don’t have a true appreciation of HR), but it is a good way to get a foot in the door.

        1. cajun2core

          Thanks a bunch for the info. I have tried applying for an admin position but that didn’t work but I will continue.

    2. Human Resoureces

      What has been the hardest part of building your career thus far? What sort of challenges do you thrive taking on, what do you try and push to the bottom of the to-do list?

      1. HR Director

        It is sort of cliche in the HR world to say this, but honestly, the hardest part was getting people to take notice. I have never worked at a place that knew what HR could do for the company. So a lot of my work has been educating people on how the HR team could work for them. In my current role, every big initiative I’ve taken on has come from me. No one has ever asked me to do anything outside of basic HR tasks. I’ve had to constantly think of ways to keep HR relevant. The upside of this is that I’ve gotten to work on some really important projects. The downside is that there is often very little direction.

        I am not the best organizer and I am not the most detail oriented. It has been a constant challenge for me to not let those weaknesses get the best of me. My natural inclination is to push anything that relies to heavily on those skills to the bottom of the list. Luckily, I now have people on my team who are great in those areas, and so I don’t have to worry about it as much.

        I thrive on implementing new large scale projects that have an impact across the organization. Recently we implemented a new compensation plan. It was a huge project, and the maintenance is still ongoing. I love that the HR department “owned” the project.

  26. Judicial "Elbow" Clerk

    I’m a clerk for a state appellate judge. I read appellate briefs, do legal research, help draft opinions, and anything else my judge would like help doing. My job is temporary (one-year term, generally, depending on the judge) and is usually filled by newbie lawyers just out of law school.

    It’s a confusing job for non-lawyers. Most clerk positions are highly competitive and hard to get unless you went to a good school and got really good grades, although you defer working at a law firm or other more lucrative job for awhile and take a pay cut. It’s worth it for how interesting the work is, how prestigious the job is, and the unique learning experience. It is also confusing because it has the same name as a “clerk of the court,” who is an administrator and runs and administrative office of “clerks.” But my job is substantive and directly supervised by the judge, and has almost no overlap with those other “clerk” positions. Some judges call their clerks “elbow” clerks for this reason, to differentiate them from an administrative position.

    1. Technical writer (Jen)

      No question, but thanks for the explanation, I finally understood what my friend’s husband does for a living.

      1. Turanga Leela

        Some judges hire “career clerks” instead of or in addition to new graduates. I was a short-term clerk and enjoyed it, but the learning curve is really steep.

      2. Judicial Clerk

        I think it’s mostly a matter of tradition. My theory is that the market stays this way because judges highly demand top graduates, but because of federal and state budget constraints, can’t compete with fancy law firms when it comes to salary/benefits. And recent grads with tons of debt often can’t afford to stay much longer than a year or two. It’s also closely related to the kinds of work and ideas you are trained to do in law school (which, to the dismay of many, doesn’t overlap very well with the day-to-day life of being a lawyer). Because of that, the job is often referred to as a “fourth year of law school.”

        It is a great job – I’m convinced it’s the best one I’ll ever have as a lawyer. If my judge was interested in having one of his clerk positions be a career clerk, I’d seriously consider it. However, as a general matter, I think that a career clerk position can signal “coasting” in terms of career trajectory, sort of like being a super senior. (Obviously, not true for everybody or in all contexts. I’m sure it was a good decision for Turanga Leela, but it probably wouldn’t behoove me to stay more than a year).

        Also, it’s becoming more of a norm to do 2-3 consecutive year-long clerkships – but in general, the clerk should be using each job to ascend to a more “prestigious” tier of the judiciary (e.g. district court to circuit court, circuit court to Supreme Court).

        1. Turanga Leela

          Just to clarify, I was the just-out-of-law-school type of clerk, not a career clerk. I think you’re right that career clerk positions can read as coasting, although as you say, it can work for some people.

        2. Attorney (Marie)

          I didn’t know that re: the 2-3 consecutive clerkships. I only ever applied for the top courts, which is how I ended up at a Big Evil firm, never having clerked at all:( Although we’re not in the same country, thinking back, a clerkship at a lower court would probably given me the edge on experience needed to go from getting interviews to getting hired at a court.

          1. Judicial Clerk

            I think it’s trickled down from the Supreme Court, where clerks almost always have prior clerkship experience and that’s been a requirement for a long time. More and more federal circuit court judges are *requiring* a prior clerkship and will not hire fresh grads.

            At my state appellate court, four of us clerks have been hired to clerk for various federal circuit court judges in the near future.

  27. Risk Manager, Banking

    I’m a supposed to be a risk manager at a small community bank (started two months ago); however, we’re between people in the Bank Secrecy Act area so I’m doing that right now. I monitor customer accounts for suspicious activity, review high risk accounts and customers, file necessary reports to the regulators, etc.

    My former job as a VP of Operations, the one I was at for almost 20 years, was mostly dealing with banking regulations and consumer compliance, I was head of deposits operations, amateur IT person, bank security. Jill-of-all-trades. You name it, I did it.

    I no longer want to do either of these jobs anymore so I’m hoping I see some interesting careers here that I can ask about.

    1. Dan

      What do you want to do? It’s hard to start a new career/field “stone cold sober.” TBH, it’s for good reason. Granted, the backgrounds of the people we draw from is rather diverse, but at the end of the day, if you haven’t studied or been employed in STEM, we probably won’t hire you.

      If you want to get out, your best bet is to likely figure out how you can leverage the quant aspects of your risk management job. Awhile back, I interviewed for a credit risk analyst position at a regional bank in OH. I got rejected for fit issues (for good reason) but the quant stuff looked interesting.

      How much of your current role is quant driven? You mentioned “filing reports” so it may not be what I think it is. Can you turn it into that? Can you build mathematical models to do the account review/analysis? Those skills will take you far.

      In the general case, data analytics is a hot field right now, and will continue that way. The upshot is that since you can’t go to school for that stuff, employers won’t reject you for not having a degree in it. Also, because it’s new, your ability to get hired is based on what you know and can do — there’s no “fresh talent” who can undeprice you in the market.

      1. Risk Manager, Banking

        I’ve actually been thinking about data analysis, procedure writing (for banks), research. Something a little more “technical” that what I do now.

        I posted somewhere else in this thread, but I’ll post here so you don’t have to search: I’ve been in banking for almost 20 years and have decided I no longer want to deal with compliance and all the dealines, details, etc. that come with it. One thing I really do enjoy is figuring out how the core processing system works, how to extract the data I want from the system via a report write (Oracle-based, I believe), and how to use the system to get what I want (or what my boss wants), either by changing parameters or stringing together different reports to create one custom report. I also enjoy writing procedures, researching, system implementation, figuring out how the back-end maps to the front-end to produce results (does that make sense?).

        1. Dan

          I can’t comment on the reporting and systems that you talk about, but if by “oracle based” products, you’re talking about SQL, that’s $. The better you can get at writing SQL queries, the more valuable you can be.

          Capital One has a huge analytics team. Some of their offices are in suburban Dallas, others are in Northern Virginia.

          If you focused on data analysis, I’m certain you can get out of your current role and into something more technical, and perhaps maintain the manager level if you want. People who can understand multiple aspects of a business have an inside track to management jobs or for that matter, better paid “individual contributor” roles.

          1. Risk Manager, Banking

            Thanks, Dan!! You’ve been a great help.

            Yes, I believe I mean SQL. I’ve thought about taking an SQL course and that’s something I will look into.

              1. Susan2

                I’m interested in getting into Financial Crimes Investigation and assume the skills/software above would be mandatory – any thoughts? Thx!

                1. Risk Manager, Banking

                  I’m guessing this is for Dan, but I’ll answer, too. Yes, being able to extract information from the bank’s core processing system, or their other systems, is very useful. Also, knowing the back-end of the software in order to understand how the transactions flow through the system.

                2. Risk Manager, Banking

                  Forgot to add that any kind of banking experience would be helpful. You get to see all sorts of stuff, whether it be on the teller line or in the back office.

        2. Elizabeth West

          Risk Manager, click on my name and go to my blog, and on my About page you’ll find my email. Email me about my company. It might be right up your alley.

      1. Risk Manager, Banking

        I’m looking for people who are laundering money, or trying to launder money. Also fraud, identity theft, check kiting, etc. But mostly I see people who are trying to circumvent the reporting requirements for large cash transactions. People can get very creative when they think a cash transaction is going to be reported to the government, even though they have nothing to fear (the law-abiding people, that is) and aren’t doing anything wrong. Also looking for people who deal in sums of money that don’t fit their occupation or business.. Looks a little weird when a grocery store cashier brings in $30k in cash and they’re only making $300.00 a week.

  28. Product Developer (badger_doc)

    I work as a product developer/research scientist for a large consumer products company. I am basically the R&D lead for the production of new product innovations (either new to world or new to our company) and am responsible for establishing the technical feasibility and making sure the voice of the consumer is heard in product design. Prior to that I worked in medical devices developing surgical adhesives. My degree is in Biomedical Engineering.

    1. Anonsie

      I don’t have any good questions but that is just fascinating.

      So what other types of backgrounds do other people that you work with have? I’m wondering if you have teams sorted by specialty (your group would be engineers, another might be– I don’t know, surgeons?) and you pass it around in stages, or is it more collaborative up front?

      1. Product Developer (badger_doc)

        For consumer products, our R&D group has a very diverse background, from Chemical Engineering, paper/pulp science, mechanical engineering, chemistry, medicine, etc. with a variety of different degrees (PhD, MS, BS, MBA). We also interface with marketers who have MBAs.

        For medical devices we had chemists and engineers (in two separate groups) with chemists doing the formulating and engineers doing the testing. It was a small company so we all wore multiple hats sometimes, but generally the two groups had their specific functions.

        The projects are very collaborative upfront. We work on them until they get to a comfortable commercialization stage, them pass them off and start on the next big idea. But our teams kind of function as small businesses so we do a lot of the front end work ourselves.

    2. SaraSmile

      Super cool job!

      Loaded question — What does your typical day look like? How do you come up with new product ideas / How do you brainstorm?

      1. Product Developer (badger_doc)

        Brainstorming is fun. Sometimes we do it as a group inside our company to generate ideas. Sometimes we do focus groups with consumers and have them generate ideas. Sometimes ideas just spark up when working on something completely out of scope. Sometimes we hire outside companies to come up with ideas for us. My day is typically spent in front of a computer. I do a bit of tech scouting online for new ideas. I buy things off of Amazon all the time to test them. I work with outside vendors to help get pieces of projects done so I am on the phone a lot. We interface with our marketing team all the time. I travel to vendor sites to see their capabilities. I make prototypes to test with consumers. I test samples in the lab for various claims. Thank kind of stuff. Feel free to ask more!

    3. Anon for this

      This is gross, but I always wondered if you helped develop flushable wipes. My husband loves those things.

      1. Product Developer (badger_doc)

        No comment about what I work on specifically, but yes, a product developer would be responsible for those as well.

    4. Glorified Plumber

      Hi! I read a different engineering thread elsewhere, and there is a pretty fervent debate on the street regarding biomedical engineering. The debate basically boils down to “If one wants to work in the biomedical industry, is it better to get a BME degree, or a chemical/mechanical/electrical degree.” As well, a side debate on if a graduate degree has become necessary.

      I’d like to ask: PhD/Masters/Bachelors?

      Secondly, if you were advising a current student who wanted to get into the industry in general, would you advise them down a BME, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, or an electrical engineer.

      Just curious! No offense met… I happen to be a chemical engineer who does NOT work in the biomedical industry, but pushes BME’s who appear to waffle on the degree into mechanical engineering, where they can still apply and work in the field if they want. Thoughts?

      1. Product Developer (badger_doc)

        Great Question! I was originally biochemistry with intents on going to med school until I realized that I hated biochem and might not get into med school (so competitive!!). My advisor suggested BME becuase of the surgery shadowing program so that’s how I actually got into the major. I have both a BS and MS in BME.

        What I like about BME is the versatility and exposure to all sorts of engineering. At UW Madison, we had 4 tracks we could follow as a BME: Biomaterials (more materials science classes), Biomechanics (more mechanical engineering which is what I did and focused on orthopedic implant design), Bioinstrumentation (more circuits and electrical stuff) and Biomedical Imaging (MRI and CT technology).

        So for the average engineering student who likes math AND science, I always recommend BME because it is the best of all worlds an you take all four intro classes to the tracts to see what you like best to pursue. For me, I loved math and physics as well as anatomy and physiology so Biomechanics was the obvious choice, but I also got enough exposure to Biomaterials where my first job was actually all about polymeric adhesives for the body. If the student was fairly specialized (ie: loved math and architecture and physics) I would probably push them to a specialized degree like ME. So when it comes down to it I think it is the love of biology that pushes BMEs to that major. Also, 50% of our class went straight to medical school, so if there is any interest in that, it is a great major to do well as a doctor.

        Now having switched from the biomed industry to the consumer products industry, I use hardly any of my “degree” and more the problem solving and people skills learned from college to do my job. I’m kind of biased, but I think engineering is one of those degrees where you can do almost anything with.

        Side note: I am also thinking about getting my MBA to be even more well rounded in my career choices in the future. Engineers make great MBA’s from what I hear :-)

        1. Technical Customer Service Engineer

          Hi Badger_doc,
          I spent 9 years as a product developer and formulator of adhesives. The nature of the job seems very similar in many different technical areas. I have a BS and MS in Materials Science and Engineering and found it good to have the advanced degree but a PhD would have restricted what kind of jobs I could get dramatically. Earning my MBA, on the other hand, definitely opened up options.

          1. badger_doc

            Agreed! I should have also specified that I probably would not recommend to a prospective industry student to get their PhD if they are going into industry. You end up making just as much money with a MS working for the 5-6 years it would take to get your PhD so the payoff isn’t an incentive. The only incentive for a PhD is to move up into management, but an MBA can also accomplish that. There are exceptions to the rule of course, but for me, it wasn’t worth the 6 additional years of school.

            1. S.A.

              Wow, your job sounds almost like a calling and so much fun. Do you find you need help with visualizing products? I.e. – finding people good at rendering your product a challenge? I do 3D modeling, lighting, and texturing but it’s nearly impossible for me to get a job despite my work history and portfolio.

              I’ve wanted to go into your area for a while but there were no opportunities where I lived and I can’t afford college (again!). Your career sounds very fulfilling and dare I say fun.

              1. badger_doc

                Hi S.A.!

                Sorry to reply to your comment so late, so I hope you see this. We definitely have a need for people with 3D backgrounds like yours. We just recently hired 3 industrial designers as concept development leaders. They lead teams in our front end innovation effort to help with visualization of product ideas in the form of drawings and eventually CAD. If you’d like to know more, please feel free to email me: badger_doc at yahoo dot com and I would be happy to share any insights I can with you.

  29. Writer/Editor (Stargazer)

    I work for a weekly newspaper in the northeast with a circulation of about 60,000. I assign, edit, and write editorial for the inserts, like education guide, wedding guide, business guide, and chamber guides. I also write a weekly feature on a local resident. I freelance, too, writing an astronomy column every month for our local daily parent newspaper, among other things.

    1. Ali

      My question is mostly about your freelance gig. How do you find your freelance writing jobs, assuming they pay decently? I have been writing for a while but don’t really know how to look for work aside from volunteer gigs or “we can’t pay but we can offer great exposure!”

      1. Writer/Editor (Stargazer)

        Honestly, most of my freelance gigs come from my parent company. Other paid freelance jobs I’ve had came from advertising myself on Craigslist when I moved out of state and was looking for another job, and for people I knew.

      1. Stargazer

        Astronomy is something my father got me into. I’m not a professional (too much physics). But I have a telescope and astronomy binoculars and books up the wazoo. I write about different events going on that people in the area can see, like the International Space Station going over, eclipses, meteor showers, cool things to observe, etc. It’s fun!

  30. Lora the Big Pharma/biotech geek

    I’m sort of a scientist and sort of an engineer–started w/ undergrad and grad degrees in biology, chemistry, microbiolgy, then went back for ME in ChemEng. I discover and design large molecule drugs and vaccines (AKA biologics), figure out how to make them, and then figure out how to scale them up to large commercial scale production instead of just bench scale, if they turn out to work well in the lab.

    Due to microbiology background I also do cleaning & sterilization process chemistry. At the moment am consulting for various Big Pharma clients, but have worked for everything from startups to government agencies to the biggest of big pharma.

    Two drug candidates I worked on made it to commercial from discovery, although it remains to be seen whether my ExEmployer will make it to market before Competitor.

    1. Anonalicious

      I just want to say that with three family members who are Pharmacists or work in Pharmacy/related area in some way, thanks. :) You’re awesome work and research is not only leading to new medications to help people but also keeping people I care about in jobs.

    2. big pharma fan

      Thanks for posting Lora. Your story is interesting and I am very curious about what types of things “Big Pharma” employers are looking for in applicants. My dissertation focused mostly on molecular genetics although I do have some microbiology experience as well. In my area (Southern Ontario) one of the biggest employers is a vaccine company as well as the major hospitals. I do have industry experience however it is not pharma/healthcare related. Is there a professional society or anything else that you would recommend to someone new trying to break into the field?

      1. Lora the Big Pharma/biotech geek

        To get into the field: Easiest way is to find someone who just got a new drug (ANY new drug, seriously) on the market. Because they have piles and piles of investor money coming in, and they are going to put at least a *little* of that into R&D in that sub-field.

        And the easiest way to do *that* is to look at parts of the company which are more on the D side than the R side. Everyone wants to work in Discovery. EVERYONE. And their brother/sister. Nobody wants to do the boring process optimization, assay development or cell line development part. There’s no glory in it, it’s super-boring. You’ll be working in your field, doing important stuff, but you’ll hardly get to publish, and if you do it’ll be in, like FASEB Notes or something. But if you put a couple of years into the development side, you can make friends within the company, network, and when a position opens in Discovery, you have a good shot at transferring there. Especially if you angle for tech transfer type of projects, because then you’ll meet a wide slice of different aspects of Making Drugs–translational medicine, toxicology, quality assurance (some people LOVE it, mostly people who like science but hate bench work), process development, clinical trials, commercialization, etc. And you don’t really know at this stage which of those you’ll like best. Curing cancer sounds great, but it pays peanuts and you put in some serious blood, sweat and tears, whereas a lot of those other sub-fields go home at 5pm and make twice what the Discovery folks make. It’s a quality of life thing.

        Another option is to start in small, tiny biotechs. Just to get some professional experience under your belt as a Pharma Person.

        What we are looking for really depends on which of those sub-fields. For Discovery, we look for people who are technically at the top of their game (this does NOT mean Ivy League or near-Ivy, either; while that may be true for individual program heads, it is never true for a company as a whole). You really, really have to know what you are talking about, because the people interviewing you are not only at the top of their game, they are way sharper than you. They’ve had access to WAAAAYYY more resources than you have ever had, even at the Ivy League U of your choice, you’re not going to be cleverer than them. But we do get a lot of academic candidates through who think (been told by their advisors, maybe) that industry is an Alternative Career not nearly as good as academia. They give half-baked presentations and seem kinda bored with the whole idea, like they are slumming it by deigning to visit our cafeteria. So, erm…don’t do that.

        For Development, we look for people who are technically sharp but good at working in groups, good at tech transfer of some sort, highly detail-oriented, who are a bit obsessive about Getting Things Right. You still get to be creative in development (in fact one of my clients has an extremely creative process that is saving them a bundle of money), just in different ways, and you don’t get lionized as an individual–you are always part of a team. Similarly, they need to see you can get along with other people. And can do math. As a molecular person, the first thing the Development folks will doubt is your math skills, so you’ll need to demonstrate that you can do math quite well at an engineer’s level, and that you understand economics trump everything. In Discovery, we don’t even think very hard about how much something will cost, because the Discovery cost is a pittance compared to the clinical trials. In Development, cost is a big issue.

        Also: You gotta be willing to move. You can try to live near the major pharma hubs where there are lots (Boston, NJ, Philly, SF, San Diego, Basel), but layoffs churn pretty quickly and you can’t expect to work more than 5 years at any given company. There’s a lot of takeovers.

        1. Bea W

          but layoffs churn pretty quickly and you can’t expect to work more than 5 years at any given company. There’s a lot of takeovers.

          Yeh, unfortunately. The takeovers…er I mean “integrations” are painful. Are you guys in R&D still regular employees or have companies started “outsourcing” your functions as well so that more of you are contractors?

          1. Lora the Big Pharma/biotech geek

            Depends. Validation, engineering support, utilities, small scale liquid handling tend to be outsourced, and they’re moving more and more to disposables, which is effectively outsourced. On the Drug Disco side, the new cool thing is to get stuff from academia and develop their molecules. I forbear to comment on the quality of that work…

  31. Journalist

    I’m an American journalist who has worked in traditional print newsrooms, at alternative newspapers and for online magazines, mostly as a writer/reporter but not infrequently as an editor. I’ve been both freelance and salaried, covered hard crime, wonky politics and fluffy lifestyle beats, done in-depth investigations and written more listicles than I care to remember.

    1. Ash (the other one!)

      Are you in a current salaried job or are you freelancing? I get the sense from my journalist friends that things are really bad out there and they are getting paid per blog entry essentially right now while they work other jobs.

      1. Journalist

        I am currently salaried, after working freelance for about five straight years–though I did freelance by choice, since I could make more money doing that, and work fewer straight hours, than living off what most pubs can pay for full-time work these days.

        My current gig is at a publication I extensively freelanced for previously–being a reliable and enthusiastic freelancer helped me get, and keep, my foot in the door. I am tremendously lucky to have my job, though I should note that my pub does not rely on advertising for its revenue–something that, I think, means much better job security in the field these days.

        Most of my print-and-web colleagues are either, as you say, hustling blog post-by-blog post to get by, taking contract gigs that really are noooooooooooooot strictly speaking contract gigs but more like regular part-time employment, praying their newspapers don’t fold every day they come into the office, or working in another field altogether (or PR).

        1. Journalist, too

          How long have you been in journalism? Any predictions for the future of the industry? I graduated in 2010 and have been working in newspapers/online since then, but I am not planning on sticking around.

          1. Journalist

            I’ve been working as a full-time professional journalist since I graduated college in 2005, and I’m actually terribly optimistic about the future of print/online journalism, which I know puts me in the minority.

            Publications that adapt/grow to new business models–think MoJo, Buzzfeed, Vox, etc.–are producing some really amazing work. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for print outlets that are trying to hang on to 50-year-old business models with jacked-up ad pricing and pointless paywalls, and I think outlets that try and woo desperate new writers with pittances or publicity (HuffPo, Gawker) will see their quality/prestige decline swiftly.

            Pubs that are diversifying their newsrooms–by which I mean hiring a racially diverse, gender diverse, socio-economically diverse, etc. staff–and taking format risks will succeed with flying colors. I’m excited to see what comes next.

            (I know next-to-nothing about the world of broadcast journalism, and I like to keep it that way.)

            1. Journalist, too

              That’s good to hear. I’ve loved all journalism jobs I’ve had, love to read good writing, I’m glad to see a long form renaissance, but it’s the work-life balance, the low pay, the layoffs and watching so, so many organizations not adapt.

        2. LBK

          Wow – fascinating that freelance was more money for fewer hours, or at least fewer straight hours. I always think of freelancing as working twice as long for half as much pay, although maybe it’s different in the graphic design world. What made you decide to jump to a salaried position? Just the stability and not having to constantly be looking for your own work?

          1. Journalist

            I would have happily continued freelancing had I not been offered a salary position for slightly more than what I was making as a freelancer, and on a beat that I love. (And TBH not futzing with self-employment taxes every year, plus having group health insurance, was a HUUUUUUGE draw.)

            But I was especially fortunate to score regular freelance gigs that didn’t usually send me scrambling to find new clients every month and which, once I learned their particular nuances, simply didn’t take much time to complete, leaving me a lot of extra time to focus on more in-depth, one-off type pieces for other clients. So my freelance life was pretty stable, and I while I wasn’t in love with what I was writing about a lot of the time, I was definitely in love with paying my rent on time.

        3. Cristina

          In your opinion what is a reasonable pay range for a freelance journalist? How does this compare to someone with extensive blogging experience? I hired a team of writers last year and found that the pay expectations were all over the place. The range seriously seemed to be between $15 and $175 per hour.

          1. Journalist

            As you know, some people will write you 750 good words for $10, and some won’t do it for less than $100. But word count is just a start – are you asking people to do original reporting? Make two phone calls per piece? Or are you asking them to aggregate and link out? That kind of stuff makes a huge difference. I can get you 750 words of opinion-aggregation in a half-hour, but I’ll need a day or more to do it with original reporting, depending on the subject.

            For your average blogging gig, producing 4-6 pieces per day, some aggregated and some reported, with the ultimate production of, say, 1,000-1,200 words per day? $2500/month is a nice target. But you’ll find people who’d do it for a tenth of that, hell, you’d find people who’d do it for free, which is terribly frustrating to those of us who need to make our living in the field.

            In terms of a yearly take, most full-time freelance print/online journalists I know (and I include myself, when I was freelancing) make anywhere from $35k/yr to $100k/yr. Which is a comparable range to what most salaried journalists make, at least outside of senior staff at your big pubs like NYT, etc.

    2. Ann Furthermore

      I have a question about modern-day journalism, but I don’t know if it’s overly harsh, or if you’ll read it that way. So let me say in advance that I’m not assuming that you are part of a trend that I’ve noticed over the past few years.

      I’ve noticed that at least on the big news channels these days, it seems that it’s now more important to be first to report something, and whether it’s factual or not is secondary. The example that sticks out in my mind is all the stories that were swirling around about Adam Lanza after the Sandy Hook school shootings. In a single day, I heard at least 4 different stories about who he was from one of the major news channels: first he was the father of one of the kids at the school, then he was the uncle of one of the kids at the school, then his mother was a teacher at the school, and then his mother was a volunteer at the school. None of those things were true, or even close to being true.

      What’s your opinion about what has caused this? Is it due to increased competition because people can get their news in many more ways now? Or maybe increased competition in the form of any schmo who has a keyboard and an internet connection being able to set up a blog and cite anything they want to as facts?

      1. Journalist

        As I said above, I really don’t know much about broadcast journalism, and this is a broadcast journalism problem … but I will say that I think it stems from broadcast journalists and producers seeing blogs/social media as their *competition*, which I think is profoundly wrong-headed.

        Now, broadcast has almost always been about “Here’s what we know now, updates to come,” but with a certain amount of restraint–and you do still see that restraint, I think, from places like the BBC. You don’t so much see it from CNN, Fox, etc – again, because they’re putting themselves up against Twitter in a competition for “firsties,” rather than “accuraties.” To coin a phrase.

        1. Ann Furthermore

          That’s my take on it too — that blogs and social media are the competition, which seems pretty dangerous to me.

          I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Europe in the last few years, due to work assignments, and the news there is completely different. One of my German colleagues actually talks about “American-style news” being much more sesnsationalist than what you see on most European news channels. She told me that she can’t believe what she sees on the news in the US, particularly on the local stations. In Germany, she says, you would never see a story about someone being bitten by a dog, because really, who gives a f*ck? LOL! She thinks that’s why Americans are so scared of everything — interesting perspective. I told her that at least in the city we live in, you could theoretically watch local news on one channel or another for about 19 hours a day. Lots of airtime to fill.

        2. Ann Furthermore

          And also, thanks for your answer. It is something I find really troubling, but asking something like that can sound like your whole profession is being attacked. I hope that’s not how it came across.

          1. Journalist

            Not at all. Lots of journalists are self-aggrandizing bullies whose employers reward them for fear-mongering and sensationalism. It’s been that way since the dawn of the profession. (Arguably, that was the *standard* at the modern dawn of the profession.)

            1. Ann Furthermore

              You’re right, sad as it is, scandal sells and it always has. I read an interesting article about Rupert Murdoch’s shuttered News of the World publication, and it said that it went for shock journalism (or whatever the equivalent of that was in 1839) right from the start.

              I was forced to paste the link into one of my replies on Facebook during a debate with a very staunch Republican friend of mine when he was trying to defend Rupert Murdoch as the last bastion of unbiased journalism. I don’t care what anyone’s political beliefs are, but ALL the media outlets/news channels are in it to make money and drive profits up, and in my view denying that is just naive.

              I think that’s part of the problem with broadcast journalism as well — they definitely have their target audiences, which drives what they put on the air, and how it’s presented.

              Disclaimer: I’m not trying to stir up any kind of political debate!

              1. System Engineer 4

                Additional disclaimer: you could also say the very same thing about MSNBC, so I’m not just picking on Fox News. And I say that as a bleeding heart liberal. :)

  32. Chargeback Investigator

    Fun little niche job! If you see a fraudulent charge on your credit card, or you’ve been double-billed, or you didn’t get something you ordered and paid for, or you got it but it’s messed up somehow, or any other of a number of things — well, you call the number on your card and tell them you want your money back. They in turn try to go pry that money away from the business that charged you.

    I work on the business’s side (or to be more precise, their credit card processor’s), reviewing these disputes and deciding whether they’re worth fighting or whether it’s better to just give over the money and be done with it.

    Working for the payment processor, I’ve picked up some reasonably broad knowledge on the payment card industry (debit, credit, prepaid, etc) and find it fairly fascinating.

    1. EngineerGirl

      In reading other blogs I’ve noticed that some credit cards fight harder for you than others do. What documentation does a consumer really need to ensure that their dispute will be accepted?
      What causes you to roll over and pay it anyway and get the wrath of the consumer?

      1. Chargeback Investigator

        It depends on the reason. There are a lot of different reasons for dispute, and each one requires or recommends different documentation to support your claim.

        Fraud? All you need is your statement that you didn’t authorize the charge. Your issuer might make you sign something stating it, but that’s all.

        Incorrect amount? I’d be looking for a receipt, invoice, estimate, something that shows the amount you say you were supposed to be charged.

        Never received what you paid for? That’s another one that usually doesn’t require any documents.

        Got something but it wasn’t what you ordered, or you got something defective? That wants proof that it wasn’t what you ordered or that it was defective. Often, a professional 2nd opinion supporting your claims, for defective/poor quality items and service.

        A lot of it tends to be pretty common-sensical on the consumer’s side. What’s your argument, and what can you show that supports it? This is almost always pretty lenient for the consumer, too.

    2. Bryan

      What advice do you have for consumers to be able to challenge the charges more easily and successfully? I feel like what I think is cut and dry in my case has been fought before.

      1. Chargeback Investigator

        Oh, we can fight over all kinds of nitpicky little things :) But the rules for pretty much every major card issuer (I can’t speak to AmEx or international issuers, my company only handles Visa, Mastercard, Discover) are weighted in favor of the consumer. From what I’ve seen outside my job (ie, on the consumer rather than the merchant side) a lot of times the roadblock is actually coming from your bank, and depends on what they’re willing to fight for, rather than the actual rules established by the associations.

        In general, timeframe is a big one — dispute a charge as soon as you are aware of it, or aware that there’s a reason it needs to be disputed. If your claims could reasonably want some kind of support, have your documentation ready. Photographs aren’t much good, because they often don’t transmit well, but contracts, 2nd opinions, that kind of thing are all really valuable. If you ordered a green shirt but got a blue one, have your order form that says “green” ready to go. If the guy fixing your car screwed it up, take it to another shop and get an estimate that shows exactly what’s wrong and what they’re going to need to do to fix it. If the return policy on your receipt says 7 days but they refused to refund you after only 3 days, have that receipt ready and remember the date you tried to return the stuff.

    3. LBK

      I don’t have any specific questions, just want to say that this sounds like a super cool job that I would have no clue how you ever end up getting.

      1. Chargeback Investigator

        It can get kind of boring sometimes (pretty much every ecommerce fraud case looks alike) but everyone in the department has a little mental file of our favorite crazy cases, the weirdest doc we’ve received, etc. One of my favorites was the cardholder letter that started out very neatly and professionally written, and over four pages denigrated into scribbled obscenities and rage, all over an extra month’s billing from a storage facility.

        As for how I got it — I actually started working for this processor as a customer service rep, then transitioned into chargebacks after a while. Probably 70% of what I did on the phones was helping businesses with chargebacks, so it was a pretty smooth transition.

    4. PBS Fundraiser (Sam)

      We lose SO much money because of this. People order stuff all the time, charge it back, and we lose. It’s horrible. People have even charged-back AFTER we already gave them a refund. :(

      1. Katie

        PBS Fundraiser, do you have a system of responding to chargebacks? We work with 6 different processors, so I just re-worked our entire response system and hired an intern to start responding. We’ve found that even despite whether we win or lose, just staying on top of them seems to help fewer come through (the processors seem to go to bat for us more–Chargeback Investigator, would you agree?).

        1. Chargeback Investigator

          We do! It depends somewhat on the type of business — a couple of our independent sales orgs have a penchant for signing up some real skeazeball acts and we’re less likely to fight for them, but as long as you’re not selling synthetic marijuana (excuse me, “maria janey incense – legal in all 50 states!”) or something, we will generally do our best to fight these cases out.

          And staying on top of things does make a huge difference, yes. There’s a limited timeframe to respond and it is 100% inflexible. The card associations doesn’t care about weekends or blizzards or a fire in the office — if the doc’s due by a certain day, it is due by that day. The other thing that will help a lot of the time is keeping your information very well organized. If you’ve got a guy claiming you messed up his order a month ago, and you can provide the details of the order and what you did to fix it, that gives us a good fighting chance.

      2. Chargeback Investigator

        It can be really frustrating, yeah. I work mostly Visa, which has the toughest rules on the business side, and I’m lucky if I can kick back 10% of my cases. (That said, I’m not on front-line, so what I see is the stuff that’s really getting fought over. Still.)

        If you’d already issued a refund, though, your processor should have caught that and kicked it back without you ever seeing the dispute. You’re putting the money back on the same card, right? (If you’re not, do that — we can’t protect you if you issue refunds by check, cash, onto a different card, etc.)

        1. Julie

          This explains an article I read the other day on Elliott.org. Someone paid for a cruise and then wanted a refund. The cruise company agreed that they should get a refund, but the customer’s Amex account had been closed in the meantime, so there’s a huge ordeal about how to get the money back to the customer. I can see now why they have a policy of only refunding to the original credit card account (although in this particular case, they and Amex were being unnecessarily rigid).

    5. Katie

      Hey again! I commented on someone else’s comment, but wanted to post my own question. I’ve seen some interest here on what a consumer can do to help win chargebacks, but do you have any recommendations for businesses?

      As you said, a lot of it is pretty “common-sensical”. We’re an online business and provide a lot of information to our processors about what service was provided, the consumer’s info that they gave us, etc., plenty of proof, and we keep our chargebacks at bay. Just curious if you have any little-known tips or tricks to keep in mind?

      1. Chargeback Investigator

        On the business side? There are a couple things:

        1) Keep your information very well organized. The chargeback process can take months to complete, and in certain types of cases the consumer has up to 18 months from the transaction date to open a case. Keeping your information organized and keeping it on hands will do you a lot of good.

        2) Respond in a very timely fashion. Like I said above, deadlines are immutable and not under your processor’s control, so the sooner you respond, the better off you are.

        3) Know the rules! While consumers have fairly common-sense rules for what they need to provide, merchants often have very specific pieces of evidence they need to provide in order to successfully fight a case. For example, a proof of delivery for a “non-receipt” case will give us some leeway to fight it out with the bank, but if it’s not signed, they’re ultimately going to win. My suggestion is to see if your processor will set you up the chance to talk to someone on your chargeback team directly and get a discussion of what each type of dispute wants in the way of evidence. We’ve got someone in our department who is specifically tasked with working as a liaison to our internal sales reps and our external sales organizations (and thus their clients) — if your processor has someone like that, they’re a great resource.

        If you’ve already got most of the basics in place, and it sounds like you do, the other good thing to do is look over the dispute, and any cardholder documentation that you get, and answer it as specifically as possible. If the cardholder makes claims A, B, and C, then I’m going to read the dispute looking for answers to all three points — if the case is fairly complicated, the more detailed and explanatory the rebuttal, the better. Depending on how technical your industry is, remember that the people working your case are not experts in what your business does — I know very little about, say, car repair, and the same is most likely true for my counterpart on the bank’s side, so adding in a layman’s explanation can often make a huge difference in quality or non-rendered services dispute cases.

  33. Freelance soft-skills trainer (The RO-Cat)

    I’m a freelance trainer training people in soft skills (sales, customer care, general / team / sales management, leadership, negotiations, communications, everything related to dealing with human beings).

    I mainly train employees of big firms (although now and then we have what we call “open sessions”- people coming from different sources. I got there by chance and I loved it. As per my country’s laws I had to graduate a short (3-months course) as a Trainer; the rest is experience and feedback from the market. I have 2 main clients (companies selling the courses) for whom I act as a contractor.

    1. Jen RO

      Asking on behalf of my mom: how do you even start doing this? My mum was thinking of going into business for herself after a layoff and I think she finished that training program you were talking about. She would be training people in sales, specifically in the medical/pharmaceutical field (she worked in the field for 20+ years). I don’t even know what the question is, but I wouldn’t have a clue how to start marketing myself as a trainer!

      1. Freelance soft-skills trainer (The RO-Cat)

        I started small, seeking clients in the SME class. Later, as I grew, I looked for training companies in need of (project-based) workforce. I also built in time a small network of people with complementary skills / interests (coaches, consultants etc) and we help each other. Probably the first step I would take would be to look for small med / pharma companies, do a demo and go from there (but keep in mind I don’t know the industry). Also, a good sales program can be transferred to other industries as well.

        1. Technical writer (Jen)

          That’s promising, since she has a lot of connections in the industry.

          And a more generic question: where are these people who actually pay for training? I’ve never heard of a company offering soft skills training – am I in the wrong industry for that or what? I mean, most of the people I work with *are* programmers, but there’s a whole lot of people in management who never get trained… I’ve always assumed that training is one of those expenses that gets cut first.

          1. Freelance soft-skills trainer (The RO-Cat)

            At the SME level I had to sell firstly the very concept of training, then my training programs. It’s a hit-and-miss business.

            The firms I work with now are selling to multinationals. Those have budgets (and demands!) and are a difficult lot to get to, but…

  34. Software Engineer

    I’m a software engineer. I write augmented reality apps for wearable technology like Google Glass.

    1. LBK

      So I’m guessing you’re pro-Glass, then? How does it seem to be catching on from your perspective? I hear a hell of a lot about the invasion of privacy fears and not much about how it actually works and the good, productive stuff it can do for you as a user.

      1. Software Engineer

        I think the privacy concerns are over-hyped. A phone will do the exact same things Glass will do.

        There are a lot of good uses for Glass in the commercial world – that’s where our focus is. A police officer could receive silent alerts on Glass alerting them to the location of a shooter in a building while keeping both hands free. Or a mechanic could watch instructions for a repair while still using both hands for the repair.

        Basically anyone that needs both hands to do their job, but would still benefit from having information presented to them as they do their jobs.

          1. Software Engineer

            No, those aren’t apps we’re working on – those are just common examples used for wearable technology. I can’t talk about our stuff in an open forum. It’s a lot of fun, though. My favorite job so far, by a long way.

        1. LBK

          Awesome, thanks for the response! I was fascinated by Glass and what you could do with it when the first trailer came out, it’s a shame the negative press has vastly overwhelmed all the benefits it could have, both personally and commercially.

  35. Graphic Designer

    I currently do pharmaceutical graphic design, but previously worked for a nonprofit organization on a shoestring budget.

    1. Brianne

      I’ve always wondered – is Graphic Design something that is easily trasnferable between industries? Or do employers look for industry specific experience when hiring? For example, since you are currently in pharmeceutical design, would you expect it to be easy or difficult to move, say, to sporting events or retail?

      1. Graphic Designer

        In my experience, it has been a very transferable skill. I went from general design to information design very easily. The only area I have found that it is difficult to transition into without prior experience is packaging design, which is apparently a whole different ballpark!

        Also, it is worth noting that most places looking for a graphic designer nowadays are looking for someone who can do web design (HTML/Dreamweaver) as well as print design. They are two similar, but definitely different, buckets, and since I unfortunately do not have much web experience, it has been very limiting for me.

        1. Julie

          And with pharma packaging, there are a lot of FDA (and probably other) rules about how it has to be done.

  36. Gov't accountant for Indian Health (De Minimis)

    I work as an accountant for an Indian Health Service clinic located on tribal land in Oklahoma. I monitor accounts from various funding sources for two clinics, the main one and a satellite clinic about an hour away.
    My job mainly involves certifying funds for various expenditures and a lot of budgetary reporting to our area headquarters. I am on track to become more or less the entire finance department when a senior employee retires in the fall.
    I also spend a lot of time tracking various items in an automated accounting system and reconciling that record with the record we have in-house.
    I’m a Federal employee and am probably going to have to stick to government employee for the rest of my career due to getting a late start professionally and having some major setbacks earlier in my career.

    I used to work for a Big 4 accounting firm as a tax accountant…

      1. De Minimis

        I am a career changer in accounting and had a tough time finding work after losing my Big 4 position. My agency [and one other] hire according to Indian Preference and I am Indian so I knew I would have a good chance at getting a job here if I applied since I am also pretty well qualified [have a grad degree in accounting and a CPA license, albeit an inactive one.] I did have to relocate for the job and that has been the most difficult part of it.

        My Big 4 experience also kind of soured me on the private sector, so I liked that my work would be supporting something that I truly supported and cared about.

          1. De Minimis

            No, although that was still kind of on the radar screen of a lot of people. My office had a large number of Andersen alumni to where the joke was the day their office shut down they all packed their stuff and just walked across the street.

    1. vvonderwoman

      A bit unrelated, but I was tabling at a health fair and there supposed to be a booth from Indian Health. My interns were asking why it’s called “Indian” Health if it’s generally offensive to call Native people Indians. I told them I wasn’t sure, but I thought it had to do with the historical context of when the agency/dept was formed. We were wondering if it’s also partially because some folks prefer the term Indian, or if it had to do with elder decision makers, or if no one really cares either way, so why change it.

      1. De Minimis

        Should have checked in more…

        The thing is, most American Indian people don’t have a problem with the term Indian. It’s how they refer to themselves [although sometimes they identify more with their particular tribe.] I’ve heard some even say they really prefer that word to Native American [which I have never heard in use at all.] Some more radical types are suspicious of that term.

        I’m sure there are probably some people out there who use/prefer the term Native American, but I’ve never seen anything like that.

    2. Fruitfly

      I have a question about accounting career paths:
      If I gain a B.S. and a M.S. in Accounting, but not a CPA, will there still be opportunities out there for me in medium to large size organization or companies. I am planning on enrolling for courses in auditing, finance, and financial reporting. I hope that I will be able to work somewhere in the field of accounting or finance, doing reporting of profits and net assets, or budgeting. I heard that some people a couple of years ago can pursue an accounting career without a CPA, but I wonder what is the case now. I am in the USA.

  37. Camp Director

    I get the very fun (but sometimes grueling) job of running an overnight summer camp program for children from age 7-17.

    1. EngineerGirl

      I suspect that it is non-stop during the weeks when you have campers. What about the rest of the year? What kind of planning and timelines go into the preparation for a summer of fun?

      1. Camp Director

        In our off-season, we spend time planning the next year’s activities, doing lots of marketing and preparing new materials for the next season, making arrangements with vendors, taking inventory and purchasing supplies, surveying campers and their parents to see what can be improved for the next year, etc. It’s a big job year-round!

    2. Celeste

      How hard is it to find the right cabin staff? I have always been really impressed with the ones at my daughter’s Y camp, mostly because I don’t feel I could have done that work.

      1. Camp Director

        In our case, we operate with a volunteer staff. The people who volunteer generally want to be there out of the goodness of their hearts, which helps. We try to recruit people who are college-age and pursuing a degree in primary education – people who sincerely want to be around children.

    3. HR Director

      Have you done the job for long? Have you seen any difference in how the parent’s of campers behave?

      1. Camp Director

        I’ve been involved with the program for a lot longer than I have been the director…but I can tell you that in just the three years I have been directing, most of the parents are fine and don’t seem to have a problem leaving their kids.

        Some others, however, are clingy and helicoptery and don’t want to let go, when the kids clearly just want them leave and let them have fun at camp. (These parents will ask us to have the kids call them every single night, and most of the time, the kids clearly do not want to be sitting there on the phone with Mom or Dad when they could be spending time with their friends.) It is these parents that take up about 70% of the time I spend interacting with our constituents.

        We try to make everyone feel very comfortable by spelling out our daily events and schedule in our marketing materials, and we’ve found that it helps to reduce the amount of parent questions and concerns.

        1. HR Director

          Thanks!

          Another question I have is about the ages of campers. Have you found that there are certain ages that just work best for summer camp? I know that it depends on the child and there are varying recommendations depending on who you ask, but in your experience, have you found that there is a sweet spot, of sorts?

          1. Camp Director

            In my experience, any age 7 and older is the best age for camp. Basically, once a child is able to spend a full day in school, they are usually able to handle an overnight camp program with no issues. (We occasionally have serious homesickness problems with the 7-8 year olds, but usually if they can make it past the first day or two, they get used to the routine and then they are fine.)

            With teenagers, it can be difficult at home to get them interested in attending a camp program, especially if they are brand-new – the major fear is that they won’t know anyone – but most of them really love it once they actually get there and make a few friends. That sentiment crops up across all age groups but it affects the teenagers the most, because their identity is so caught up in their social circle.

      1. Camp Director

        My first piece of advice would be to choose a camp that is accredited by the American Camp Association. Those camps follow stringent safety and security rules that are very important and should put any parent’s mind at ease.

        After that piece of advice, my second piece is – don’t spend too much time (or extra money) worrying about putting your child in a specific program at camp. (For example, a horse program for a horse lover or a water program for a swimmer.) It’s fine if you want to do that…but I promise you that the kids care about the program and educational bits far, far less than they remember the traditions, the campfires, and the fun they have with their friends in the cabin, or at meal time, or down time. That’s the most important part of camp, after all – building friendships, identity, independence, and self-awareness away from home.

        1. TidyParty

          Thank you! What about religious camps? I’d like to send my children to a camp that reflects our family’s (evangelical Christian) faith while avoiding the sort of hyper-emotional decision focused environment portrayed in “Jesus Camp.” The camp I went to as a kid had a good balance in this regard, but a recent cross-country move has taken that option out of the running. Do you have any experience with faith-based camps?

          The real root of my concern, though, is in helicoptering. How many questions do I get to ask before I become one of those annoying parents who take up way too much of your time?

          1. Camp Director

            Actually, my camp is faith-based, so yes, I’ve got some experience with that! I think if you want to avoid the “Jesus Camp” factor, the best thing you could do (after checking the internet for reviews) would be to call or email the camp director, and ask about the program. Also, ask if they can give you references of happy customers you could contact. They should have no problem doing that, and the answers you get should give you a good idea of what you are getting your kids into.

            If I got a phone call from a parent who was asking questions about the program itself, I would not consider that person a helicopter parent, but rather someone doing smart research.

            The “helicopter questions” usually have to do with how much the camp’s schedule and diet will differ from a child’s personalized schedule and diet at home, whether or not the parent can become a counselor so as not to be separated from the child for the duration of the camp, and how frequently the child will be permitted to call home. :)

  38. Nonprofit program manager (education); previously federal gov't initiative manager

    I moved to nonprofit world 1.5 years ago to run a program focused on a specific K-12 education issue and previously led a federal initiative about the same issue. Also a PhD and job searching —

    1. EduStudent

      How did you get into that federal work? Can you talk about some of the main focuses of each of your jobs (nonprofit vs. federal)? I’m extremely interested in education, but usually when I say that most people think I want to teach, which I don’t. So it’s great to hear from someone involved in education but not in the classroom, and I’d really love to hear whatever details you feel comfortable sharing about either position!

      1. program manager OP

        I really lucked into my position at federal government through a mechanism they no longer have (SCEP) which allowed them to hire me on directly after an internship. I never wanted to be a teacher but have always been interested in ed policy so that’s what I studied in school and got my PhD.

  39. Mallorie, the (former) recruiter

    I was (until Jan) a corporate recruiter for entry level positions at a large bank – happy to answer any recruiting questions!

    I am now a team lead and direct manager for entry level HR employees at the same company – happy to answer questions about this, but have only been on the job a few months :-)

    1. Stargazer

      How does one go about making him or herself more attractive to a recruiter? What makes a recruiter say, This person is a good investment for me. I’m not looking to change jobs, but I’ve worked with recruiters in the past and wondered how it worked. I’m in media, not banks, so maybe my question doesn’t apply.

      1. Mallorie, the (former) recruiter

        I think the best advice is to really just be the best possible version of yourself – and I think this would be true for any sector or industry. The people I found most attractive were the ones with a solid work history (regardless of the KIND of history) who would naturally fit into the job and our culture. The unattractive candidates are the desperate ones: the people who you know are saying things to get the job, who don’t care if the job is a good fit, or who pretend they wouldn’t be completely miserable because they need a paycheck. AAM is right – job searching needs to go both ways. If you present your best self, the recruiter and manager will either think you are a good fit or not — and either of those things are ok! Also, be responsive and easy to work with. Recruiters play SO MUCH phone tag, it gets old after a while.

    2. Sunflower

      If you are referred a by a recruiter or found by one, does that give the candidate any kind of leg up on people who just openly applied to the position?

      1. Mallorie, the (former) recruiter

        Oh definitely. I treated referrals like gold (and still do as a hiring manager). Ultimately the ‘referral’ status won’t sway my hiring decision, but it will DEFINITELY be a great foot in the door to get an interview. But, and this is a huge but, I can honestly not all recruiters are like this. There are A LOT of disorganized, sloppy, lazy recruiters who would not even call a referral. But a GOOD recruiter is not going to want to burn that bridge and will make the call :-) Hope that helps!

    3. CSR Girl

      How hard is it to move between different HR functions? I used to be in a performance management & training role, but am now in corporate social responsibility (CSR). In my next job, I want to make my way back into core HR, specifically career counseling/talent management or recruiting. Any advice?

      1. Mallorie, the (former) recruiter

        HR tends to be a very competitive field in that there are a lot of people who want to work in HR functions and not a lot of jobs (especially in a tough economy, HR is generally where a lot of cuts happen, in big and small businesses alike). The best advice I can give you would be to make yourself as attractive a candidate as possible and apply, apply, apply. I run a team of very entry level HR people and we generally pull down postings after just a few hours due to an influx of candidates. I’d use AAM’s advice and try to find connections in companies you are interested in, use your network – that will be your best bet. And don’t get discouraged… it could take years to get into a recruiting role – especially at a big company.

  40. Fiction Writer

    I write stories, and sometimes people read them. Daily tasks include writing, diving Scrooge McDuck style into my rejection slips, and sobbing at my bank statements.

        1. Susan2

          You’re a good writer because after reading your post, I had to read it out loud to my spouse (sorry, we giggled but in empathy) and then sent it to a fellow friend.

          (and while writing this I got intimidated if I was using “empathy” right while writing back to a writer and had to double check it via Dictionary)

        2. Sabrina

          Are you published? I mainly read fantasy. If you’re George RR Martin then get back to work!

            1. Sabrina

              Right? Though I do think that Brandon Sanderson did a pretty good job (as well as he could) and I do enjoy his other work. Plus I got to meet him a couple of years ago and he’s a very nice guy.

    1. Penny

      Do you think it’s possible to write a novel in addition to a regular 40-hour-a-week job, or does there a come a point when one needs to focus on writing and only writing?

      1. Fiction Writer

        I think its great, as long as people don’t self publish their first draft at the end of the month.

  41. Software Development Project Manager for Federal Govt

    I am a Project Manager that leads team developing projects for a very large US government organization. I get a small number of govt employees and a lot of contractors pulling in the right direction to delivery software projects with the goal of on time and on budget. What that really amounts to sitting at the computer all day, sending emails, participating in online meetings, instant messaging, and occasionally calling someone on the phone trying to keep everything organized and ensuring we are prepared to take the next step necessary in the project.

    Fortunately I can laugh at the absurdity of the bureaucracy because there’s a ton of it. I believe senior management had good intentions, but there’s a lot of being attracted to the latest shiny object (management buzzword) and CYA that hurts things and makes the job harder.

      1. Software Development Project Manager for Federal Govt

        I got my start with a BS in computer science (ie writing code) then I was in the military (not writing code) and several of my wide variety of jobs were as a Project Manager or something like it.

        That said you can get into the business by schooling – most IT programs include at least one project management class and some degrees allow you to focus on project mangement. This involved understanding the software development life cycle but also budgets and scheduling.

        A lot of people end up as a project manager by moving up from one of the position on the project team – like coder/developer, tester, analyst. And some of those people especially analysts might have started out just as a customer who assisted on the IT project and liked it.

        There’s also the Project Management Professinal (PMP) Certification, but I don’t think that’s terribly useful without some relevent experience. The same could be said for those degrees I mentioned. The catch-22 of the job market right now (you can’t get experience without experieince).

        This is all specific to IT project management because I haven’t done any other kind. In some ways it’s easy because a lot of the necessary skills are common sense to doing any kind of project even ones you do at home, but the hard part to getting people to do what you need them to do. The people skills are the challenge.

        But I really enjoy it.

    1. A Jane

      Just started at my new job as a new PM and our major release is at the end of the month. Do you have any recommendations on ways to ramp us as the PM? The team is really great and helpful and the transitioning PM is also excellent.

    2. Future Contractor

      I’m about to start an entry level position as a trainee consultant for a government contractor. Any tips for integrating into the teams I’m put on or just things I should look out for/be doing that might not occur to a clueless college student?

  42. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

    I am a mental health therapist. I work mostly with teenagers and their families. I do short and long-term mental health counseling. I also do substance abuse therapy.

    1. Diet Coke Addict

      Do you or your colleagues experience a lot of burnout? I imagine this job would be difficult and fairly taxing emotionally. Is it?

      1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

        I haven’t really experienced any burn out, but I see people who do. More often it seems that people burn out when they aren’t able to have a boundary between work and life outside of work.

        And, of course, there are people who get into this field because they are not mentally healthy themselves. They tend to burn out quickly, too.

      2. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

        I realized I didn’t answer your second question.

        It can be taxing emotionally, but overall not really. It was when I initially started doing the work, but after a bit you just get used to it. You develop strategies for not taking the work home and not internalizing it.

    2. Sunflower

      I’ve thought many many times about becoming a therapist. I’d be interested in working with people who are mostly going through smaller issues and not dealing with severe mental illness. I’ve heard the burnout is high and dealing with insurance is a drag. I’ve also considered becoming a guidance counselor in a school or school psychologist. The extra schooling is what is holding me back though- how did you deal with extended schooling?

      1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

        I did my schooling all in a row, so I was finished by the time I was 25. I had my BS in Psychology and then I got my MEd in Counseling Psychology (which I did in conjunction with school counseling as well). So, overall it was 8 years. BUT, it only would have been three years of grad school if I hadn’t done the school counseling course as well.
        Also, 80-90% of the classes in grad school were 100% applicable to the “real job” so it was fascinating work. Plus, I just really like school – I’d go forever if I could! So, it wasn’t an issue for me.

      2. Anon

        How did you decide to do both long and short term counseling? How did you narrow down what field you wanted to pursue (ie: LMFT, LICSW, etc)? What contributed to that choice? What makes that the best option for you?

        I currently do direct service work with families (think crisis counseling) while I’m looking at different graduate programs and (eventually) licensing. I keep getting overwhelmed with the number of options available, so I would love to hear about the process you went through in choosing your field!

        1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

          I work for a government agency. I did an internship with them before they hired me and I loved the access I had to low-income clients (our services are free).

          Doing a wide variety of counseling (short, long, SA, etc.) helps me not get bored and/or burned out. I get to focus on a lot of different issues instead of the same things over and over.

          I am a CMHC. How I decided….that is a long a twisty story. Ultimately I loved working with kids but realized that teaching and/or school counseling was not what I wanted. I wanted to be able to work with people on more of an individual basis. I wasn’t as interested in becoming an LCSW because most LCSW training programs don’t have 100% focus on clinical work like CMHC programs do. I knew from the get go that I only wanted to do clinical work, so that made my decision more easy.

          I’m not sure if that answered your question, so if not, reply back and I’ll try my best!

          1. Anon Again

            Thanks for your response!

            How did you know that you wanted to focus on clinical work before having a chance to do that type of work? I know you said you completed all of your schooling in a row, so was all of your experience before choosing your CMHC program through internships?

            1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

              Yes it was – internships, job shadows, etc. I had a variety of internships through my BS and MEd. Those really helped me figure out what I loved the most. I had three internships in school, one in a mortuary (grief counseling), and two in mental health clinics. I found I just had a passion for the mental health work – it just clicked with me.

              I think I was lucky that way, because some of my cohort from the program ended up gravitating away from clinical work after graduating.

    3. LBK

      Is it ever weird to know so much about your patients and have them (presumably) know nothing about you? I think about that with my therapist currently. This woman knows every deep secret and fear, things I haven’t told and would never tell anyone else, and I don’t know a damn thing about her except her name, where she works and what she looks like.

      1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

        Initially that was a bit of an odd concept. I felt like there was somewhat of a disconnect between me and my clients because of that. BUT as it goes on you get more of a sense as to why the relationship needs to be that way for therapy to be effective. Now I don’t even think about that.

        1. LBK

          That makes sense, I agree it does have to be that way for therapy to be effective, and I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t found my therapist. She’s been immensely helpful. It’s just a little weird sometimes!

          Conversely, does it ever get odd knowing so much personal info about people, or does it just get sorted into the “work info” box in your head?

          1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

            It definitely goes in to the “work box” of my head. After you see hundreds (perhaps thousands) of clients – personal information is just filed away for the next session.

            And typically, yes, there needs to be a very firm professional boundary between client and therapist for it to be beneficial and effective. I’ve seen therapists blur that boundary with too much self disclosure and it ultimately harms the client (even if the client doesn’t realize it).

    4. CTO

      I’m interested in moving into clinical work once I go to grad school, and I’m always wondering about licensures. In terms of income potential and job opportunities, what’s the difference between LMFT, LICSW, and other programs like psychology?

      1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

        In my state/field, anyone who is a masters level (LMFT, CMHC, LPC, LCSW) are all paid the same – so there isn’t a difference.

        Getting a doctorate would put you in a different category – but many Psychologists tend to go more into assessment/evaluation work – so they aren’t doing as much on-going counseling.

        For what it’s worth, I also do assessments/evaluations. Our relationship with insurance agencies is such that we get paid a set amount for the service performed – not for the license of the person doing it. So, in our particular clinic, there is not advantage to getting a doctorate.

        In my field/state, there are far fewer job openings that specifically request/require a psychologist, so often a psychologist would just be paid the same as someone with a masters (simply because the higher degree isn’t required).

        So, it really depends on what you want to do, where you want to live, and the demand in that area.

        1. CTO

          That’s really helpful; thank you. I am definitely most interested in an MSW program for several reasons, and I’d love to work in the nonprofit realm like I currently do, but I’d like to have the option of private practice if I ever wanted/needed something more lucrative.

          1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

            Private practice is an interesting beast! I have many colleagues who do it on the side, but it’s hard to leave the safety of a “for sure” paycheck. Plus, it is increasingly difficult to get in insurance panels as an individual clinician.

            It’s definitely nice to have the option if needed, however!

    5. Attorney (Marie)

      Family & Substance Abuse Therapist, I hope I’m not too late to reach you.

      How should someone go about choosing a family counsellor? I volunteer in a community programme that brings me into contact with a lot of messed-up family relationships. I’d love to be able to say ‘I recommend you call ThisGuy’, and hand out a phone number, rather than saying ‘I recommend you find a counsellor’. If I am to find good family counsellors to recommend, what kinds of questions should I ask before recommending someone?

      1. Family & Substance Abuse Therapist

        That’s a good question and a tough one. I can’t give you any hard and fast rules or questions to ask.

        For many people, insurance (or lack thereof) will dictate their choice(s) of clinicians. And that’s a good place to start, as for many families, money/insurance is a huge factor in being able to afford (and follow through) with counseling.

        Personally, I only recommend counselors who I have worked with or who I have had several colleagues vouch for their work. Sometimes that means I don’t have anyone I can recommend for a particular client (based on their insurance), but I would rather do that than recommend someone who I can’t vouch for.

        So, asking families/clients/colleagues if they have anyone they like can give you a starting point.

        We have a list of counselors here that we don’t vouch for, but that we have called and asked about their services, theoretical orientation, etc. – so we can give the list to families and they can see who they might fit with.

        Overall, choosing a counselor can be like dating. Not everyone is going to click with any one counselor. But doing phone interviews and getting personal recommendations goes a long way.

        1. Attorney (Marie)

          Thanks for the response! Based on this, it sounds like the best would be getting recommendations from psychologists who have had dealings with specific counsellors. None of these people have insurance, so I often recommend free counselling provided by a church or nonprofit, which has its own downsides, like lack of training.

  43. Celeste

    Health Physicist (Celeste)

    I’m a specialist in radiation protection in the workplace. I have worked in nuclear power generation, industry, and environmental remediation. I currently work in a government/regulatory position, preparing licenses and conducting inspections for those who work with radioactive materials. It’s a specialized branch of workplace safety. I like the customer service interface with our licensees best. It’s been really amazing to see all the ways that radioactive material is used for products and services that we all rely on in our regular lives.

      1. Celeste

        Smoke detectors, probably! They have just a tiny amount of it sealed inside, but there is usually one in every home.

        Another surprise is that radioactive material is used in all kinds of factories in gauges that measure levels and thicknesses of products. And, foods that are produced in factories may have to get an x-ray photo taken whenever there’s a breakdown on a line and parts fall loose. Nobody wants their customers to find a loose screw in their canned goods. So while the things that you bring home to your kitchen aren’t radioactive, devices that use radioactivity are needed to get them to you the way that they should be.

          1. Radiation Safety

            Salt substitutes, cat litter, fire extinguishers, and brazil nuts are also radioactive!

    1. Radiation Safety

      I’m also a health physicisist! I love our job! Are you Federal or do you work for a State?

      I’m an HP at a large broad scope licensee. I worked at NRC headquarters prior to moving to my current position.

  44. IT Application Consultant

    I provide application and system support to end users and IT staff with specific focus on HR, payroll, revenue cycle, and financial systems. I also design a lot of SQL reports, do analytics, web design/maintain our intranet environment and some project management. I also have a background in computer support, networking, Exchange, and firewall management.

    1. IT Application Consultant

      Forgot to mention I am specifically in healthcare and I also work with Risk and Corporate Compliance relating to HR matters.

  45. Controller/Governmental Accountant

    I am currently a controller for a small flooring store that is a franchise of a bigger chain.
    Recently I was a Governmental accountant for a county in Washington State for 7 years.
    Currently I have my app in for CPA certification and should have a answer one way or another in the next three weeks.
    So I can answer just about anything in the accounting realm.

    1. Canadamber

      So, uh, this is a stupid question, but what exactly is it that accountants do all day? Is it just go over financial statements and write those and whatnot? Is a typical workday spent mostly at a desk? Does it change much from day to day? I’m going to university for accounting next year and am just curious what I’m getting myself into!!!

      1. Malissa

        Some days it’s sitting at a desk all day looking at financial statements. But that only happens if some thing is wrong or if you are figuring analytics. If everything goes right in the accounting world, financial statements roll out with no issue.
        Most of what I do, in both my present and previous employment, is figure out just how much something costs. Police cars cost about 60 cents a mile to operate including depreciation, gas, repairs, and insurance.
        Accounting is a numbers game. It’s often like solving a puzzle. You look at a balance sheet and see that a company has too much depreciation. you go in and figure out where that happened and what it will take to straighten it out.
        Accounting is also knowing when you can expense a computer and when you have to depreciate it over 5 years.

        1. De Minimis

          It really depends on the specific area of accounting too. In tax starting out you spend a lot of time on what is basically data entry–your professional knowledge doesn’t come into play as much other than helping you figure out what numbers to put into which cell.

          I work in governmental now and do a lot of reconciling between different systems, planning a budget report each month, and approving and recording a ton of requisitions.

    2. Budget Analyst

      So I don’t have the credits necessary to become a CPA, but since I am a government budget analyst I was going to sit for the CPFO and CGFM exams. Any insight in to if these certifications are worth the investment?

      1. Malissa

        If I had stayed in Government any longer I was looking at the CGFM. This is a certification that many Governments are looking for in a candidate.
        The CPFO certification is not that widely recognized on the local government level, if you were a federal employee this certification might hold more weight.

        1. De Minimis

          I haven’t heard of it, although I’d imagine it might be something more prevalent at higher levels or at other agencies. The head of our financial division [responsible for the entire state] is the only other CPA I am aware of. I don’t really use my license at my job and I would have to move up quite a bit before I’d get to a point where I would be required to re-activate it.

  46. family law lawyer

    can’t provide legal advice, but willing to answer questions

    1st job was legal aid fellowship
    2nd job is government agency work

    I’m in state court 1-2 days a week.

    1. Sunflower

      I (like every other breathing human) has considered law school and always thought I’d wanted to be a divorce lawyer. Do you deal with that and do you like it? I’ve heard it can be difficult to get paid also.

      1. Canadamber

        Yeah, I’m totally thinking that I might want to go to law school eventually too! I’m going to university to get an accounting degree but someone said to me not too long ago:

        “If you want to spend a lot of time at a desk and not talk much, accounting’s your thing. But if you like to talk and debate, then going into law is probably a better idea.” You probably don’t know a lot about accounting, or maybe you do (but I don’t want to assume), but do you think that if you’re a talkative type of person who enjoys debating and whatnot (i.e. what you might do in front of a court, and I did mock trial in Grade 11 last year), then law might be a good idea??? Is it hard to find a job in the law field? :o

        1. Attorney

          I don’t know about Canada, but the US job market for lawyers is still not great, honestly. It’s not nearly as lucrative a field as most people think it is, and law schools have turned out so many graduates in the last few years that there’s a lot of competition. Also, a lot of lawyering jobs really do require a decent amount of time at your desk – writing motions and interrogatories, writing letters, doing legal research, etc. The extent of that really depends on what field you’re in. To succeed as a lawyer, you need to be a good writer, and to be able to read and analyze well (and fairly quickly at times). I don’t mean to discourage you, just want to let you know what it entails.
          Again, YMMV in Canada – I’m in the US.

          1. Sunflower

            I can kind of piggy back my question and ask if you could go back and do it again, would you still become a lawyer?

            I’ve read tons of (extremely sad) stories of people who graduate law school, can’t get jobs and have enormous loans (500,000) they aren’t sure they’ll ever be able to pay back. Personally I would never even consider going to law school at this time because of the brutal numbers but it was always something I thought I’d consider later on in life

            1. Attorney

              I don’t mean to hijack family lawyer’s thread, but since you asked: I would do it again, but differently. I do think law is a good profession for me, as it fits my skills and inclinations pretty well. I wouldn’t have increased my loan burden by borrowing for living expenses as well during law school; I should have lived at home with my folks. I might have chosen different internship opportunities as well, because while the ones I had were great, they were definitely not the type to lead to immediate post-graduate employment. Then the economy crashed right when I graduated and passed the bar exam, and it took me 18 months to find any legal job, despite having pretty good grades, etc. My experience is definitely tainted by the uniquely bad state of the economy upon my graduation, so it’s harder for me to assess what it’s like in non-recession times.

              That said, I am fortunate enough to have a great job, and I really feel like I’m in the right place for me. So yes, I would still become a lawyer; I would just make some smarter choices along the way.

            2. Judicial Clerk

              I would, but only because my very particular circumstances made it worth it. If any of the variables changed in a material way, I think I would think long and hard (and probably not go to law school again). I think for too many people, law school is a default good idea to be talked out of. Instead, I think people should assume law school is a bad idea for most people, and only go if their particular circumstances suggest they will be outside of the norm. Specifically, having the flexibility (financial, family, etc.) to absorb a worst-case-scenario blow (unemployment after an expensive education).

              My variables:
              – very low tuition, between the type of school, scholarship, etc.
              – free rent all three years.
              – a spouse who worked at a professional job full-time, so that the low tuition could be paid out-of-pocket.
              – no undergraduate student loans
              – an unmarketable undergraduate degree (so no lost opportunity costs)
              – good school (top half of top tier).
              – very good grades (you *cannot* plan for this. I don’t care if you have never had any grade that was not the top in your class. Everybody who shows up at law school is very academically successful, and your grades are strictly curved. Mathematically, a LOT of those previously successful students must be in the bottom half.)
              – geographic flexibility for schools, jobs, etc.
              – I ended up really really liking legal analysis, writing, research, etc. It’s also difficult to predict this unless you’ve really seen first-hand what lawyers do. The vast majority of them do NOT spend time debating interesting legal and political problems. They do document review, research, lots of uninteresting writing (motions, etc.), managing frustrated clients, shilling for work/being a salesman, etc.

        2. family law lawyer

          my area of the law is really much more focused on research, presenting a good case, and trial skills. I don’t spend much time “debating” but the skills that you use in debate come in handy in every day practice. It’s rare that I get to go and argue in front of a judge on an issue in the law where it is a true debate though.

        3. Canadian Lawyer

          Really late to the party, but I’m a Canadian lawyer who graduated about two years ago.

          It is very hard to find a job as a lawyer in Canada right now, for a variety of reasons. I graduated from one of the top two law schools in Canada, and even so, there were plenty of people in my school who had difficulty finding jobs.

          As a side note, my law school kept on telling people that it has a 50% placement rate in OCIs – but from personal experience, I can tell you that a lot of my classmates had judges/law school professors/politicians for parents and/or Ivy League backgrounds. Needless to say, it was very easy for them to find jobs. But for everyone else….

      2. family law lawyer

        yes.

        I have a bit of a reputation of talking people out of law school. It’s a lot of work, a lot of debt, and you really need to know if it’s for you before you apply/go.

        It’s not that stressful. I like talking and dealing with every day people, so I really focus on that part of the job. It’s hard to see people continually at one of the worst time in their lives.

        1. Attorney

          +1 to the talking people out of law school. I don’t tell people it’s a terrible idea or anything, but I really want them to be as informed and realistic about the job opportunities and the profession itself. Know that the employment figures are not great and that the salaries are not as high as you think they are (some lawyers do make a lot, but if you don’t work for a big firm or move to in-house counsel somewhere (which are very coveted positions), you’re probably not going to be making six figures). Have an idea about what the daily job duties entail; this varies significantly by field, but on the whole you’ve got to be OK with lots of reading and writing, having meetings, and probably billing hours. The best way to get some info about this is probably to try to talk to lawyers you know personally or through somebody. I think a lot of people look at law school and practicing law with some unrealistic expectations, and getting a better sense of what it’s really like is important.

          Also, many areas of legal practice require long hours and a heavy workload. The profession, unfortunately, has higher-than-average rates of divorce and substance abuse. It varies significantly based on where you work and what kind of law you do, but I’m just about the only one of my attorney friends who works a set 40-hour week, and that’s because I work for the government in a low-stress and non-litigation field. I once read that 40% of people with a law degree aren’t practicing law. I’m not sure how precise that statistic is or whether it includes people who have left the workforce altogether (for family reasons or whatnot), but anecdotally I do know some people who graduated from law school and left the practice of law for another field after just a few years.

        2. Attorney E

          +2 to talking people out of going. I love my job, but I was very lucky. Most people aren’t so lucky – they either have jobs they hate or no job at all.

    2. HR Director

      Do you ever get clients with completely unrealistic expectations in child custody cases? How do you break it to them that fighting about X is really not a good use of their time and/or money because they will likely not be successful?

      1. family law lawyer

        Yes, those clients exist. And those cases can be tough.

        There are generally some ethical cannons/rules that help determine how much of the decisions should be your clients and how much is yours, as the attorney. I’ve always focused on being very honest with my clients and the litigants that I’ve worked with. If the end goal is unattainable, I am honest from the outset. It helps deal with expectations on the front end.

        If my client understands that the goal is unattainable, but wants to better their position to reach the goal in the future (i.e. my client can’t get custody of the child, but wants to fight for that in the future– getting the most visitation time possible, consultation on all decisions, etc. puts them in a better position to fight for that at a later date), it’s their prerogative to hire me to do so. The client decides what is good use of their time and money always– not my decision. My decision is how to get them there and evaluating the possibility and likelihood of achieving what they want.

        Lawyers, in my position, will often utilize in person meetings, phone calls and written letters detailing conversations and advice to make sure to evidence again a malpractice claim.

      2. Civil Lit Lawyer (Australia)

        I don’t deal with divorces or custody battles, but when a client has unrealistic expectations, we usually first say it face to face, along the lines of “I know this seems great, but the law just doesn’t work that way.”

        We then follow it up in writing that we do not recommend they take a certain path, or that we think their chances of success are low, and then give them a detailed breakdown of both our legal fees, and what would happen if they take the path and lose (i.e. possible orders against them, possibly paying for the other side’s legal costs).

        Usually once they see the cost they will change their mind. If they don’t, we will happily do what they tell us to do – knowing we have given them full warning.

        1. Julie

          I talked to an attorney about a pay dispute I was having with my then-employer. After we talked about the situation, he said that honestly he thought it wasn’t enough money to fight over and that when you start legal action against your employer, they usually fire you (at the time I didn’t know that was legal ;) ). I could tell he felt kind of bad giving me this news because I was really angry and offended, and I wanted the money I was owed. But the way he talked about it and the fact that I went to him because HE is the expert (not me) made me feel really OK about dropping it and not being angry any more. I guess I just needed to know that I had looked into every possibility. I had a similar experience with a different attorney years later regarding a landlord/tenant dispute. Both times I was told – in the kindest possible way – that I wasn’t going to win and that I was better off not pursuing any action. I thought that kind of answer/advice would make me angrier, but it didn’t – just the opposite.

    3. Attorney E

      Do you think that seeing people during the scary, vulnerable parts of their relationships puts a strain on your own relationships with loved ones? If so, did you know that would be the case when you got into this field? I don’t think I could ever practice in family law for that reason.

      1. family law lawyer

        It does not actually. It really has the opposite effect. I see folks during the day who hate each other, fight for the sake of fighting and in many cases shouldn’t have gotten married.

        It reminds me of the wonderful partner I have. It reminds me that we all have baggage (i.e. we could all be there one day).

        It bothers me when I have friends/family who ask for my professional advice, but don’t take it. It seems like everyone has a family law problem in their lives, and doing the responsible thing to limit liability is rarely the only competing interest– but it’s still hard.

  47. System Engineer 4

    I usually post as Ann Furthermore.

    I do implementations of and support for the Oracle Financials ERP Suite. My focus is core financials, project accounting, and HR.

    When people ask me what I do for a living, I say that I spend my time figuring out how to make the applications do what I need them to do. This sounds pretty simple on the surface, and sometimes you do get lucky and it is pretty easy. More often though, you encounter unexpected issues and you have to get creative.

    I have an accounting degree and an MBA. I spent many years on the finance/accounting side, and then moved into an IT role where I could use those skills but not have to plan my life around month-end, quarter-end, and year-end.

    1. Risk Manager, Banking

      This sounds fascinating to me. I’ve been in banking for almost 20 years and have decided I no longer want to deal with compliance and all the dealines, details, etc. that come with it. One thing I really do enjoy is figuring out how the core processing system works, how to extract the data I want from the system via a report write (Oracle-based, I believe), and how to use the system to get what I want (or what my boss wants), either by changing parameters or stringing together different reports to create one custom report.

      Do you think my background would help me in a field like yours? Is there additional schooling required? I’m really floundering at the moment, trying to figure out how to translate what I enjoy into a an actual job to pursue.

      1. System Engineer 4

        It sounds like you have an excellent background for this kind of work. I did not do any additional education or certification, because I am functional, meaning I work with the front-end of the applications, and I don’t do any heavy-duty development or coding. My MBA was just something I wanted to do, and at the time my company had a tuition reimbursement plan that I was able to take advantage of. It looks nice on my resume, but beyond that I’m not sure it’s advanced my career.

        I kind of drifted into this career path. I was working for a startup dot-com years ago, reporting to the Controller. I had used Oracle in a very limited way at a previous job, and when I started the dot-com job my boss referred to me as the “Oracle expert.” I reminded her that I did not present myself that way during my interview, to which she responded, “Well, you’ve used it, and nobody else here has, so that makes you the expert.” Ack! So I was the liaison between the accounting and IT groups working on the implementation. My boss was completely nuts, and none of the IT people wanted to deal with her. She didn’t realize that most of them had an accounting background, so didn’t want to listen to what they had to say. She would actually tell them, “I don’t have time to listen to you computer nerds. Get the hell out of my office.” So they started coming to me, and one of them told me, “Well, Controller is really mean, and you’re really nice, so we’d rather just deal with you.” One of the people I worked with there told me he thought I’d be good at consulting, so when the money at the dot-com dried up, that was my next step.

        The other way to move into a more IT-focused role is to position yourself as the go-to systems person for your department, and help people with troubleshooting issues, figuring out error messages, training, and so on. At my company, these are Business Analyst roles that report into each functional area. We did a huge Oracle upgrade about 4 years ago, and people from the business joined the project team as SME’s. They brought the business knowledge and worked with the IT side on requirements gathering, business process design, and so on. After the project launched, they were re-deployed to the business as Business Analysts.

        1. Risk Manager, Banking

          Thanks! This is really helpful.

          “The other way to move into a more IT-focused role is to position yourself as the go-to systems person for your department, and help people with troubleshooting issues, figuring out error messages, training, and so on.”

          This was a lot of what I did at the old job. After being there so many years and being “the one who can figure things out,” I was the go-to person for almost everything system-related. Even if I wasn’t a Loan person, they still called me to figure out what they system was doing with a certain loan and why.

          1. Risk Manager, Banking

            I meant to note that I have an Associate’s in business management and nothing more. Do you think that would be an issue?

            1. System Engineer 4

              I think it really depends on the specific area or situation. For me, since I support financial applications like AP, AR, and GL, the fact that I have an accounting degree buys me credibility since I can prove that I understand the difference between debits and credits.

              On the other hand., one of my former co-workers, who was at the same level I am, worked with the Inventory/Distribution applications, which focus on warehouse operations. He did not have a degree, but started out as a stocking clerk and worked his way up through the chain of command before moving over to IT. His knowledge of inventory and warehouse operations is what made him valuable.

              Another guy I work with has been with my company forever, and started out as a customer service rep. He is now the IT guy for the order management applications. I’m not sure if he has a degree or not — he started with the company when he was really young. But he is definitely the go-to guy for questions regarding products, pricing, and so on.

                1. System Engineer 4

                  I don’t know if you’ll come back to check comments, but if you want to do any kind of training, I would suggest a SQL class. I took one years ago and it was very basic: what is a SELECT statement, how to use WHERE clauses, how to join tables in a query, and so on.

                  I do use SQL quite a bit to write queries to help me troubleshoot issues, or create the framework for a report, and to do some very simple commands. This is all knowledge that I picked up on the fly, that built on the fundamentals I got out of that class years ago, and many times I’ll use Google to figure out how to do something fancier.

                  It’s by no means as sophisticated or advanced as what a true developer does, but knowing how to look at the tables on the back-end and extract information is tremendously helpful in my job.

                2. Risk Manager, Banking

                  Thanks for the information. I’ve heard several people say I should take an SQL class. It seems to be pretty useful. The local community college has one and I’m looking into taking it.

    2. Apollo Warbucks

      My firm is looking for a new finance system (time and billing, nominal ledger as well as accounts payable / receivable) currently we use Microsoft SQL server, but I’ve heard talk of oracle being on the short list. I don’t know anything about oracle what can you tell me about it? Can you recommend any good forums or blogs I can read? Also it’s a big scale implementation (5,000 people with an accounts team of 150) what advise do you have for planning and implementing the system as smoothly as possible?

      1. System Engineer 4

        Wow, Apollo, you don’t ask for much, do you? Ha ha! I’ll try to distill it to a few key points, but really I could go on and on about this.

        It used to be that there were essentially 3 choices when it came to ERP systems: Oracle, SAP, and PeopleSoft. Oracle acquired PeopleSoft some years ago, so now the choices boil down to 2. Now, I’ve never used SAP — I’ve never even seen the login screen or any of the menus — but what I’ve heard is that, in general, SAP is very rigid and inflexible. This means that often you tailor your business processes to meet the requirements of SAP. Oracle tends to be a bit more flexible, and lets you tailor the system to meet your requirements (within reason of course — some business process design/re-design is almost always part of one of these implementations). Many of the Europeans I work with like SAP because of some of the things it does regarding statutory reporting, but you can make Oracle do all or most of those same things if someone knows what they’re doing.

        I think the most important thing I can say about Oracle is this: it’s not perfect. Yes, it does/does not do some things that are really aggravating, or make no sense. But SAP (or any other alternative) isn’t perfect either. You could very well implement SAP to accommodate some things that Oracle won’t do, only to find yourself with a whole new list of things that SAP can’t handle that Oracle can. No one should kid themselves that there is an ERP system out there that is perfect and will work out of the box on the first try. If there were, that’s all anyone would use.

        For things specifically project-related:

        1) Resources: A successful ERP implementation requires input and participation from the people who will eventually be the end-users. IT people (including consultants) know how the system is configured, and so on, but the users know the company, the data, how it will be used, and why. You need both pieces of that to be successful. On many projects, people from the business are identified as project team members, with the intention that they’ll dedicate some set amount of time to project tasks. In reality, this rarely happens. I’ve been on the user end, and when you’ve got your regular job duties to worry about on top of project stuff, guess what drops to the bottom of your priority list first? If at all possible, people from the business should be fully dedicated to the project for the duration, and the work should be re-distributed among existing staff, or contractors should be hired to do some of the more day-to-day routine stuff. In the short term it seems painful and expensive, but in the long run you’ll end up with a system that people from the business side have participated in designing, which greatly increases your chances of success. You can compromise in some places — like having your financial people drop off the project for a few days each month to deal with month-end close — but in general, fully dedicated resources are the way to go.

        2) Manage scope creep: It’s easy for the scope of a project to snowball, with people thinking that it won’t take much more effort to do this or that, so why not just add it to the project plan? Too many decisions like that and your project team will be overwhelmed, costs will skyrocket, and everyone ends up doing too much. You pay for that down the road with a system that no one is really satisfied with. Break it up into manageable chunks, with easily identified phases, starting with what’s critical for the business and then moving onto the “nice to have” stuff. Of course the challenge there is getting people to agree that something they really want is “nice to have” rather than mission critical, but that is the project manager’s problem, not yours (heh).

        3) Testing: Make sure you build in enough time for testing, particularly if you’re going to have many interfaces. These can be really tricky. You’ll always run into things after going live that you didn’t test for that you have to fix, but if you do a good job of testing these occurrences should be minimized.

        4) Training: Have users participate in your testing events, and test with real data. For example, IT people will set up Joe Supplier with generic payment requirements to test basic functionality in AP, but testing with an invoice from Super Picky Widgets, Inc that has strange payment requirements is much more valuable.

        5) Make sure you have the support and buy-in from the executive level on down. There will always be David or Debbie Downer types that pooh-pooh everything, and say it will never work, that the old system is just fine, and so on. Leaders communicating, “This is happening, and the decision has been made,” can help combat some of that.

        6) Don’t sweat the small stuff. By this I mean that Oracle has some quirks that it’s just easier to get used to. The big one is the date format. In Oracle, it’s DD-MMM-YYYY. So today would be 15-APR-2014. You can change your preferences to accommodate different date formats, but honestly, I think it’s easier just to suck it up and get used to it. Changing your preferences can cause issues when running programs or custom interface processes. Same with number formats – the default is to use a period as a decimal, but in Europe the standard is a comma. Almost every user I’ve worked with that has tried to change their preferences on number formatting runs into similar problems.

        OK, I’ve rambled on for quite awhile here. Sorry for that. I don’t really have any advice about blogs, and so on, because when I’m doing research my first stop is always the Oracle customer support site, and that requires a customer number to access. But I Google things too when that site isn’t giving me what I’m looking for, and sometimes I get lucky.

        For example, Oracle user guides are notorious for being a bit vague and nebulous. I made a configuration decision on a project last year that I got A LOT of grief for, but not until months later. And honestly, I couldn’t remember what specifically had made me go in that direction, just that it definitely made more sense. I found nothing on the customer support site or in the user guides, but then I was able to find an outstanding article from a technical journal that very clearly laid out the 3 options available, and the pros and cons of each one. It really saved my bacon.

        Best of luck!

        1. System Engineer 4

          Oh — one more thing — make sure your requirements are clearly defined, and that the decision makers on the business side have signed off on them!

            1. System Engineer 4

              No problem, sorry I was so long-winded. It’s a problem I have. :) Best of luck with your implementation, whatever you decide to go with.

              If you have any interest in this kind of thing at all, and if it makes sense for/with your job, consider joining the project team if you can. It’s a tremendous learning experience.

    3. Market Researcher

      Wow, this is really interesting. I was considered a “super-user” in our company for accounting, especially accounts payable, and was one of the test users for an upgrade. We use JD Edwards, which is now owned by Oracle, and it was interesting to be part of the process, but frustrating that all the questions and recommendation we had, which were implemented in the test environment as we tested, were not implemented in the production environment in the actual update, so we had to re-state all our wants and needs again! Sheesh!

      It was also ridiculously frustrating dealing with Oracle on a project to implement non-stock requisitions and purchase orders. A certain process wasn’t working for us and after going through the documentation multiple times, we called Oracle, and they told us to do what the documentation said, and it took forever (and lots of screen shots) for them to believe that it wasn’t working properly. They FINALLY decided to research our issue, and ended up telling us that in order to delete one line from a requisition or purchase order without it deleting the whole order, we’d also have to change something relatively consequential (only the quantity or price, IIRC) in at least one of the other lines. Seriously. So we had to add into the instructions that if you delete one or more lines, you have to change the price by a penny in one of the lines that will be remaining in order to keep the whole order from being canceled. And they had the gall to tell us it was “working as designed.” Anyway, I imagine you have reams of similar stories, and I don’t envy you that, but your job sounds very interesting anyway. Do you have to do much programming-type stuff?

  48. Instructional Design and Application Support

    I work as an instructional designer and Application Specialist for a medical device manufacturer.

    My position involved developing end-user (and eventually) in-house training materials, tier 3 customer support, and a fair amount of field based installation and training.

    I’m currently stepping into a more supervisory role, essentially leading the rest of the phone support staff. Ideally, this will free up more of my time from phone work, so I can focus on creating new training programs, tightening up our clinician and operator webinars, and just making sure our field team and customers have the information they need.

    1. University Admin Assistant

      How did you get into this field? About 50 – 70% of my job involves taking content provided by faculty and making it into an online course. In theory, they are “designing” the course, but in practice the faculty in my area are so out of the technology loop (do not have facebook, do not know what google is, do not know what the address bar is on a browser), that I sort of get a whole bunch of stuff dumped on my lap and I make it into something, make learning activities, etc. I even help them write learning objectives and outlines. I actually love doing this, but I am an English/Theatre major, and have been an admin assistant for about 15 years, so I am really most likely not qualified.

      1. Instructional Design and Application Support

        I got here in a pretty roundabout manner. I started my career as a retinal photographer, but I hated clinic, loved the technology, and decided to spin more towards the private sector end of things.

        I ended up getting a MA in Publication Design, which pretty much gave some groundwork in Inst.Design/Information Architecture, and then I taught myself Captivate and Camtasia. I ended up here because I could wear about 6 hats, so they brought me on.

        It’s such a new, growing field that people seem to end up doing this work from all paths. I took a workshop, and there were people from all different industries and backgrounds.

      2. Educational Technologist

        If you love this part of your job, you should look into educational technologist jobs. You should be making more than an admin assistant typically does if you’re doing this type of work.

  49. Entomologist

    I study insects — both pests and beneficial insects like bees. Currently I work for a company that makes pesticide-free alternatives for managing tree fruit pests. The science behind it is pretty amazing; you actually manipulate their mating behavior.

      1. Entomologist

        Many insects use chemical signals to communicate. In the case of these pests, the females release a very specific scent to attract males. The males are hard-wired to fly upwind when this perfume hits their antennae. What we do is make a copy of the perfume and essentially flood the orchard with it, so the males get confused and can’t find the females. Then they can’t mate, lay eggs, and damage the fruit.

        Ha! I just realized that we essentially make designer knock-off perfumes…..just for bugs.

      1. Entomologist

        Yes. Some of my coworkers have PhDs, some do not. The education helps a bit for specialized skills, especially statistics. But the PhD is not entirely necessary.

    1. Kit M.

      I’ve been trying to talk my sister into becoming an entomologist so I can live vicariously through her, but no luck.

      How did you find your first job in the field?

      Did you have any squeamishness you needed to overcome?

      Am I the only person who sometimes mixes up etymology and entomology?

      1. Entomologist

        I actually wasn’t into bugs until I took a class in college, and the professor was so passionate and the subject was so fascinating that I was hooked. Once you get used to handling insects, the squeamishness factor decreases a lot. I’ve dissected them, squished them, let them crawl over me, and even eaten them on several occasions. However, I’ve never been stung, even though I’ve worked for years with bees! You just have to be careful.

        When I was an undergrad, I got a summer job as a research assistant with a faculty member. It’s hot work, but you get to be outside and there is a lot of variety. After that, I went to grad school and was able to dictate my own research.

        And no, you are not the only person who mixes up etymology and entomology! I think both disciplines are fascinating :)

    2. Knowledge base author / FAQ copywriter for large sports / tech company

      When I was a kid, I was OBSESSED with insects, carried field guides everywhere, bored my family senseless with insect-related monologues, and aspired to be an entomologist one day.

      Then I learned that in order to study insects, entomologists sometimes have to kill them.

      Dream shattered.

      1. Entomologist

        Awwww. Yeah, you have to be somewhat evil and not get too invested in the lives of your subjects! Though I know some conservationists that are coming up with ways to do surveys where you clip the leg off of, say, bumble bees instead of killing them. Still a little cruel, but not as much.

    3. Market Researcher

      I wonder if you work in my area–a co-worker just applied for a job with a company that sounds exactly like this. Does your company start with S and the town it’s in start with a B?

  50. Employment Specialist (Kay)

    I work as the employment specialist for a non-profit that helps blind and visually impaired individuals find jobs and internships. My organization is contracted with the state and that is how we get our referrals.

    I am basically the go-to person for anything employment related. I help edit resumes, create cover letters (hopefully teaching my clients how to do that for themselves as well). I conduct mock interviews and teach interview skills. I also send out job leads and do a lot of networking and employer relations to try and get a database of community members that are interested in hiring my clients.

    I am also in charge of the summer internship program that places teenagers out into the community to get them started with different jobs.

    1. Izzy LeighGal

      Hi Kay – what do you see as some of the hesitations that a hiring manager might have before bringing on someone with an impairment? I ask because one of my good friends is handicap-able (in a wheelchair due to a childhood accident). She’s wicked smart – double major, published author, lots of non-prof internship experience, etc, but she’s having trouble landing a job. What can she say/do/etc to put at ease the minds of hiring managers?

      1. Employment Specialist (Kay)

        Hi Izzy,

        I think for the most part hiring managers are afraid of unknowns. I think that confronting some of their questions is generally a great way to make the hiring manager focus back on your skills. For example, some hiring managers get very nervous about what is “reasonable accommodation” and I’ve found that when my clients go in to an interview with their equipment, or the knowledge of the equipment at the forefront the managers tend to relax. It seems to open the door to discussing how the job could get done, and refocuses the conversation on why my client is a great candidate.

        I think it also helps a great deal to go in with specific examples and play those up a lot. Most hiring managers will believe that if you’ve done something before, you can do it again.

        I also think that confidence is key. Going in knowing you’re the shit is basically the best way to convince hiring managers that you are the person they want to hire. I think a lot of my clients forget that most employers only care about the job getting done, and that it’s usually the interviewee who worries about any disability getting in the way. And to be honest, if the employer is judging based on disability, it’s really not a place you want to work imho.

    2. Mimmy

      Oooh I’d love to pick your brain. I’m visually impaired myself; I have a lot of usable vision and only require minimal adaptive equipment…I just can’t drive.

      What are some of the things you suggest to your clients in getting around the drivers license requirement present in many job announcements. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve read the listing, feel it’s perfect…..then it says “must have drivers license” *headdesk*

      Also, would you say employer attitudes towards applicants/employees with disabilities has changed in the time you’ve been in your job? I sometimes wonder if employers do it just for the positive image and/or because it’s required by the ADA, rather than genuine interest in hiring people with disabilities.

      1. Employment Specialist (Kay)

        Hi Mimmy,

        In answer to your first question….I would simply ignore the license requirement if the job doesn’t require any driving. Often the employers are either using it as a way to screen out people they believe will be “unreliable”, but occasionally it’s also just shorthand for a state ID. If you have a state ID, most jobs won’t look twice. If you are still worried about it, I would just call the HR department and ask if a state ID would suffice. I have had fairly decent success with that.

        In response to the second part of your question, it’s a little tricky to answer. I hate to sound cynical, but I think that most employers place highest priority on getting the work done, and getting it done efficiently. I think that many are socially and community minded, but at the end of the day I think they usually tend to place business at the top of their priorities. I think this actually can work in our favor because they tend to look for qualifications and abilities to complete the job rather than disabilities that don’t affect work performance.

        I do think that awareness is growing quite a bit, which is key to having employers be more open minded. And the technology has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, which makes a huge difference to employers willingness to hire people that they may have shied away from before.

  51. Software Development Manager

    I manage software developers at a government contractor. Previously, I’ve managed teams who developed high traffic websites and other commercial software packages.

    I hire a lot of software engineers, so I’m happy to answer questions about what works for resumes, cover letters and references in these types of positions.

    1. Software Development Project Manager for Federal Govt

      So were you a software developer and moved up?

      Also in your opinion how close to Project Management is you job?

      1. Software Development Manager

        I was a systems engineer for a very large multi-national company for 10 years. I left there to take a job as a programmer at a small family-owned company. When they got bought out three years later, the new owners looked around and realized I was the only viable candidate to manage their new remote team, so that’s how I fell into management. For the first couple of years, I wasn’t even sure I wanted this role, but I grew into it and do like it now. I have no desire to move above first line management though. This position has the right mix of hands-on technical work and people management for me.

        My current job is really not similar to Project Management as it’s performed by our PMs. I group developers into project teams, each of which also has a PM, BAs, QAs, etc. I support the PMs and help them resolve problems with development and developers. On the technical side, I make decisions about the technology and tools we use; I look for opportunities to share work between teams; I establish the processes we use to create software — but it’s at the program level, across multiple projects. I can and do jump into the PM role when we’re short handed, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

    2. J.B.

      I know this is a late post, but if you’re following responses to this I had a couple of questions. I am a user of a large and specialized government database and have good understanding of the data in it, plus play around with SQL to extract data. I also do a ton of training and would have some interest in jumping into a training role. Are you familiar with what your trainers do and how much IT experience they have? Would certificates or graduate coursework make someone a stronger candidate? (Obviously I need to ask specifics from the firm doing the programming but was wondering if there are any general ideas.)

  52. Electronic Resources Librarian (JulieInOhio)

    Acquire, setup, maintain, link to, promote electronic books, journals, streaming video, datasets, etc for a higher ed library. Work reference desk, do research projects as needed.

    1. limenotapple

      Hey, that’s kinda like my job! What proxy server do you use? We use EZ proxy but I’m hearing people want to move away from it (but I don’t know why).

      Do you ever get sticker shock from the prices of things?

      We got a quote for Ebsco Discovery Service that was so high, I actually found it to be funny.

  53. Aerospace Engineer (EngineerGirl)

    As an aerospace engineer I have built satellites, aircraft, and ground stations. I can’t provide any technical info here as these products are regulated by the Feds. I can answer questions on what the aerospace industry is like, how to get into the business, and the paradigm shifts that are occurring in the industry.

    1. JF

      Wold love to learn more! I have my MEng in aerospace (BS in mechanical), but then went into marine engineering and now I work for the fed gov as a transportation engineer. Would love to get back into aerospace, but it’s been 8 years since my degree and I am not sure if that is even feasible.

      1. EngineerGirl

        As you probably know, the aerospace engineering degree is more “generalist” than the mechanical degree. Your way back in may be through the specialization Vs the general.
        The good news is that aerospace is utilized in so many applications. You may want to leverage your current experience and your degree together. For example, aerospace plus marine or aerospace plus transportation. My ideas would be GPS for transportation control, utilizing remote sensing for transportation analysis, etc.
        Here’s the good news: There are a lot of new small startups breaking in to the commercial sector ***applications*** for aerospace. You hear about SpaceX, but there is also Skybox Imaging, Planet Labs, etc. I even had a major farm equipment company interested in me because they needed autonomously guided tractors using remote sensing and GPS.
        In short, think about integrating your degree with your experience.

    2. Nodumbunny

      My kid (graduating high school senior) was interested in engineering, but had a hard time seeing the specific path to: 1) explore all the specialties briefly; and then 2) pick one and have it turn out that the school he was attending for his undergrad even offered that specialty. So my questions for you are: 1) did you start out knowing you wanted to go into aerospace specifically or did you explore different engineering options and pick this one; and 2) do you have a general engineering undergrad and then a specific masters or….? This was complicated for my kid by the fact that he wanted to attend a smaller college rather than a big university. He’s a very good student, but knows that he learns best in a smaller, hands-on environment.

      1. EngineerGirl

        My path is probably different than kids today, but the advice is the same. I wanted to be an astronaut since age 5. So I always knew I wanted to do this. I wanted to get an aerospace degree but my Dad wouldn’t let me (aerospace engineers get laid off!). He insisted that I get my degree in electrical engineering. I went that direction because I would have support from my dad (my mom wanted me to be a secretary and get married). It was the easiest path to take!
        Several colleges and universities have programs where you do 2 years of “core” training followed by 2-3 years of specialization classes. I would suggest that for your kid. The student has to take core courses in all the engineering disciplines. The higher level courses are in the specialization and the final degree.
        I also strongly suggest internships early as possible to see if that is the direction wanted. My internship cemented any questions about being and engineer – I loved it!
        Check out engineering outreach organizations too – they may have seminars on the disciplines. “Discover E” is great for general questions. Then check out organizations in the specialties – AIAA for aerospace, IEEE for electrical, etc.

        1. AnotherAlison (also the Market Analyst below)

          EngineerGirl, thanks for sharing the story of how you got into the field. I majored in Mechanical Engineering. . .like my dad wanted me to. Dads know everything, lol! (I actually wanted to major in bioengineering, but that program didn’t exist at any semi-local universities back in the day, and since he was paying. . .) Even though I left the technical role, I still appreciate having the ME degree.

      2. Software Development Project Manager for Federal Govt

        I went to a small, public engineering school and loved it – Missouri S&T. I picked it because I wanted to study aerospace engineering (not available in my home state), and I wanted a small school which is near impossible to find with an engineering program. I only lasted a semester as an aerospace engineer and although I considered mechanical and electrical engineering, I ended up studying computer science instead because I realized I did not want to do math on a daily basis.

        MS&T is not restricted to the usual engineering degree programs.

        For making decisions, though, you can look for something like the MS&T engineering summer camps at an engineering school near you. https://futurestudents.mst.edu/summercamps/

        1. EngineerGirl

          Yes, I forgot about this. Many engineering schools have summer camps where you can try it on for size. It was especially encouraging for the girls as they still can get intimidated by the dominant male environment. Going to camp first with a higher student ration gives them the extra confidence.

    3. Beti

      It sounds like you have been in your industry for quite a while. I’m mid-40s and going back to school after a long break (BS in Biology 25-ish years ago). I’ve just started with a couple of math classes (trig and currently calculus) to test out the left-brain fields. I’m thinking of engineering, particularly aerospace engineering which will be a completely new direction. (I didn’t ever have a “career” but have bounced around in many different fields.)

      My questions are:
      1) What’s your field like WRT ageism?
      2) Is it unrealistic to start from square one at my age?
      3) I’ve read in various places to look for internships after a couple years of work towards a degree. Am I going to be a blue-hair amongst a bunch of 20 year olds?
      4) Will I need to plan on getting a masters or PhD? Or is it possible to find work with a bachelors?
      5) When you say “I have built satellites” do you mean you personally constructed them? Or you designed them?
      Thank you!

      1. EngineerGirl

        1) ageism exists in a strange way. HR really hates paying for high salaries. Because of this a lot of senior level people are getting laid off as a cost cutting move. HR is also retitling old jobs – so many jobs are now being advertised as one level lower than they used to be. Then only jr people can apply. But our industry relies heavily on tacit knowledge. The problem is that the jr people don’t have enough knowledge to see the problems coming so they are in a mess before they know what’s happening. And now there’s no one to bail them out.
        2) I’ve seen it done before. One individual went back to school at age 30 and got his engineering degree. The company like that because they could pay lower rates for someone with a more mature work ethic.
        3) I’ll be honest. It will be tough. Management want younger people so that the industry will have someone trained 20 years from now.
        4) Bachelors will work. Masters is preferred. But you can get that while you are working.
        5) As an engineer I’m not allowed to touch the equipment – only certified techs can do that. But I can stand behind them in a clean room suit and watch the operation. I also design satellites and launch them (mission control). My work is mostly software so I actually program the boards.

    4. Attorney (Marie)

      Yes! How does one get into the business? I’m asking for my husband, who’s finishing up a Phd in satellite propulsion. He’d love to get some overseas experience (either the US or Europe would be fine) but it seems very difficult to get in, specially in the US because of the security concerns. He’s done the conference circuit and got his name out there a little bit, but it seems like everyone knows everyone in the industry, and it’s a bit difficult to break in. I get the impression that a lot of postdoc adverts have been written with an existing candidate in mind, too.

      Also: do you (or your employer) ever patent any of your designs? Is there any kind of industry practice for intellectual property use and registration?

      1. EngineerGirl

        I was referred by a friend from university. I also had other references from the same university. It helped that I was female and the company felt pressure at the time to hire women. It was very tough being the only women there though.

        Satellite technology is fiercely protected by each country. The same technology that will launch a satellite can also be used to launch a nuclear bomb. That means that all satellite and space products get classified as armaments (weapons) no matter what type of use it has. This technology is protected big time. In most cases it is very, very, very illegal to give out technical information to other countries.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Traffic_in_Arms_Regulations
        So that means that most countries will require citizenship within that country to work on “their” satellite and space programs. In short, all the big projects will be protected. This is especially true in big companies. Little companies and pure commercial companies are slightly easier. Sometimes NASA programs are open. But long story short, your hubby isn’t going to get very far without citizenship in that country.

        My employer owns all patents developed by us. We have to sign over our rights as part of our work agreement. That is pretty much standard practice in the tech industry.

        1. Attorney (Marie)

          Thank you! This is sad wrt the US, but helpful. My lawyering brain is happily looking for loopholes (e.g. public domain stuff in a university, ITAR only seems to apply to the US, etc.). He does have inroads into our national space programme, but is hesitant because it’s so new, and because working for government means slow procurement processes, funding cuts, having to start/stop programmes just because some politician announced it, etc.

          Incidentally, do you think the move from government programmes to a private industry in the US is temporary, or likely to continue/expand? I’m thinking specially of companies like SpaceX.

          1. EngineerGirl

            All of the problems you list are a part of the big employers in the US. They aren’t just a part of government programs because governments still buy a majority of the products – even in commercial products. Budget cuts and program cancellations are normal. Which is why you are always hearing about aerospace engineers getting laid off.

            The new commercial ventures are the paradigm shift in the industry. Smaller teams, hands-on. But since they are so small these companies try to hire best of the best or people that have worked on start-ups before. I believe these shifts will be permanent because no one wants to pay for the high costs associated with these programs. Ironic, because the payback is also high. But if you don’t have the money you don’t have the money.

  54. (Internal) Management Consultant (for a large private company)

    I research, develop and deliver training, coach leaders and work on various projects to help a large private company (think 70,000+ employees) better apply its management philosophy. The tools/management systems I work with range from performance management (including compensation and performance reviews) to vision setting to understanding/developing the culture we want.

    1. Sunflower

      How do you enjoy your job? What kind of experience do you need to get into the job you have and any advice for breaking into the industry which seems to recruit mostly ivy league/finance. I have a hospitality management degree and 3 yrs experience so not sure that gets me too far

      1. (Internal) Management Consultant

        I do enjoy my job, mostly because I get to help people. From what I know of the industry, it varies by company on what it takes to do the internal consulting thing. Where I am, usually we hire from within. Mostly top notch folks who can do a variety of different work (we have to be able to write, speak in front of large and small groups as well as coach 1-on-1) and who are people who can well represent the company and our management philosophy. Also, be willing to travel. I think that’s just part of the consulting thing no matter where you are!

        Sometimes we do hire people external to the company, but it’s usually a combination of long experience (think 15-20 years) in an area we’re interested (like say, operations) and already operating under management principles we try to teach. I’d be curious to hear from other consultants what their groups look for.

    2. LBK

      How do you get into this? I’ve always thought that I would love to be a management consultant, particularly for struggling businesses, but I don’t know how you get someone to hire you to help their managers other than successfully being a manager yourself in order to prove that you know what you’re doing.

      1. (Internal) Management Consultant

        From what I see, there’s a couple of paths into this management consulting world:
        – Be an excellent manager and become an internal consultant for a large company that needs people who know their business well.
        – Start a free lancing. Gain a reputation and work for yourself.
        – Work for one of the big consulting firms. Usually this requires some type of data/stats/research background. From what my friends tell me, you don’t usually even get to talk to clients until you’ve proved yourself on the research side of things for several years.

      1. (Internal) Management Consultant

        I have a Phd in economics. Most of my colleagues either have some type of advanced degree or 20+ years of experience. In my experience, if a company has it’s own management philosophy, MBAs are less valuable than say other types of advanced degrees. None of my colleagues have an MBA.

        1. Jubilance

          Thanks! I’m really interested in moving to a similar group within my current company, but it’s an area that lots of people would love to work in so there’s usually tons of applicants every time they have an open role. I have an advanced degree but not an MBA.

  55. Fraud Specialist

    I work for a company that helps people deal with identity theft situations, both proactively (before fraud happens) and reactively (after fraud happens). We are a business to business company, so businesses that have a partnership with us will send over their customers for help on a wide variety of situations.

    1. Sunflower

      That seems interesting. Is there a big industry for that? Are you for profit or non-profit? What types of companies are your clients?

      1. Fraud Specialist

        It definitely is. Because identity theft is a growing crime, there is a lot of interest in this type of work and service. We are a for profit company. Companies that have partnered with us include banks, credit unions, insurance companies, employers who offer the services as an employee benefit, and a few funeral service types of establishments. Companies who tend to offer us do so as a quiet perk of their services and/or something they openly advertise to customers that can give them a competitive edge over similar companies.

    2. S2

      What education/experience/skillset do you need to get into that type of field? I’ve been interested in pursuing a financial crimes type of role.

      1. Fraud Specialist

        For my particular role, I had both retail fraud experience and credit card fraud experience, but no criminal law or criminal justice experience or formal education in that regard. I had seven years of total fraud experience.

        Primary job function involves interviewing customers to determine what took place and making recommendations based on what has happened to them. I joked in my job interview that I have a voice like a sedative, it is very calming. That definitely helps. Essential skills are gathering facts and dispensing education, having the knowledge to be a resource for questions or any additional concerns, and staying calm no matter what their mood or approach may be.

        I’ve had colleagues who composed Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) for a credit card company as their primary job function. That tends to require a very analytical mindset and more formalized education in criminal justice. The company I had worked for asked that all incoming candidates for that role have a juris doctorate or comparable experience levels. That may not be par for the course, however. I’d suggest looking into SAR-related roles to see if that would fit your needs and interests.

  56. Records Manager

    I deal with business records (not records that you listen to, and also not quite what IT-types mean when they say “records!”) Basically, any time you put your fingers on your keyboard at work, you’re creating a record of some kind – whether it’s an email, a project plan, a marketing plan, a spreadsheet, meeting minutes, etc.

    So I help people organize their records; figure out what they should be called; and how long to store them and when (and how) to dispose of them.

    Some FAQ’s:
    ~This is more of an analyst job than an admin job. I write the policies around organizing and storing records, and supervise their implementation in the office.
    ~I have a Masters degree in Information Studies (roughly equivalent to an MLS, although I specialized in Archives and Records Management)
    ~I prefer to work full-time/permanent for a specific employer, helping organize their internal business records; but there are lots of people who work as consultants on a contract basis.
    ~Most RM jobs are in government, or in highly regulated areas like banking and finance.
    ~But since every organization creates records of some sort, there’s a need for it pretty much everywhere (although YMMV on getting decision-makers to recognize that need and be willing to pay the money to address it.)

    1. Kit M.

      I’m an archivist, and probably would have about half as much work to do if organizations understood the value of records management.

      Questions:

      *Within your organization, how much do you have to advocate for what you do? Are your policies automatically implemented, or do you have to fight for them? (And if you have to fight, what’s worked for you? What hasn’t?)
      *What criteria do you use when creating policies? E.g. Are you largely just considering legal factors, or are you trying to make the organization more streamlined?
      *How do you deal with email?

      1. JMegan

        Advocating – I work for government right now, which is helpful in that there is legislation behind my job, basically telling people that they have to listen to me and do what I say. Unfortunately, that’s not usually enough – people are busy, and they see recordkeeping as “just filing,” and it generally falls to the bottom of the priority list. So most of the advocating I have to do is for time, just to get people to sit down and listen to me.

        What does help, for better or worse, is that RM activities are usually precipitated by a crisis of some sort (an office move, boxes piling up in the storage areas), so there’s an actual pain point for a lot of people, which makes it easy for me to show how I can help them.

        I also use the “You don’t want your RM practices to end up in the news” strategy – you can google for an idea of what I’m talking about there. :) Again, it’s records management by crisis, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get me in the door.

        1. JMegan

          Oops, my search term got lost. You’re looking for “gas plants ontario” for a really good example of records management gone wrong.

      2. JMegan

        Criteria f0r policies – there is some legislation out there that addresses records management, but it’s usually pretty vague. Most of the time it doesn’t say any more than “records must be kept” – it’s pretty rare to find a law that adds “…for X years.”

        The first thing I usually do is research existing retention policies with the organization, to give me a baseline for talking to the program area. Then I can go in and say “Ministry ABC keeps this type of records for ten years, does that work for you?” And we can negotiate from there. The biggest thing I run into here is that everybody thinks their work is Super Important, and must be kept Forever. So you need to have some good backing behind you as to what actually does need to be kept forever, and why most things really can be destroyed at some point. (Which I’m sure you already do, from your end of the process!)

        Filing policies really are about making things more streamlined. And there’s no legislation or hard-and-fast rules about how things should be filed, it’s really a matter of what the program area needs, and how best to match it up with what other program areas are doing. We use functional classification as much as possible – what the records are used for (Financial Management) rather than who created them (Bob) or where they sit on the org chart (Office of the Chief Teapot Maker).

        1. Kit M.

          Thank you for taking the time to answer everything! I find what you do really interesting.

          The biggest thing I run into here is that everybody thinks their work is Super Important, and must be kept Forever.

          Ha! Yes, I know this attitude, though I personally don’t have to confront anyone about it — by the time things get to me, I’m just abiding by the donor agreement other people put in place.

          Has your job affected the way you handle your own records, at home?

          1. JMegan

            Heh, that’s kind of a chicken and egg question. Do I manage my records at home because of my work, or did I get into this line of work because of how I manage my records at home?

            The answer, if there ever was one, seems to be lost in the mists of time… :)

      3. JMegan

        Email – I wish we had an answer for email! We really don’t, unfortunately. Organizations like AIIM and ARMA are working on the problem at an industry level, but the actual procedures haven’t really trickled out into the working world very much yet. About the best we can do right now is educate people about good recordkeeping practices, and keep our fingers crossed.

  57. Wilderness Guide/Instructor

    I have two jobs: instructing 30-day backcountry backpacking courses and guiding for a wilderness therapy program, which is week-on/week-off. Although both programs operate in the backcountry, the focus is on teaching communication and leadership skills.

    1. Mada

      Sounds wonderful… how did you get into these jobs? What kind of background is helpful? Do you work for a company? Thanks!

      1. Wilderness Guide/Instructor

        One company I work for looks for experience with personal backpacking/climbing/paddling trips, experience guiding others on overnight trips (camp counselor, college orientation leader, etc.), and even formal teaching experience.

        Wilderness therapy can be an effective way to get into the outdoor education industry because you accrue a lot of field time. These companies generally look for some outdoor experience, but are more focused on an applicant’s ability to work patiently with students in challenging conditions. Some people get their undergrad degree in adventure therapy or outdoor ed, but it’s less common (for example, I have a BA in History).

        With every company I’ve worked for, there’s either a hiring seminar or a course that you have to pass before getting an offer.

        One downside to working in this industry is the inconsistency of the work, which is often seasonal. But, it’s can be a really rewarding job and you’re basically getting paid to live outdoors, which I love.

    2. Celeste

      That’s so cool! I would think that leadership is especially high-stakes in the wilderness.

    3. CTO

      I know there’s no “dream job,” but I’ve often thought that I’d have a job like yours if I had followed a bit of a different path. So, to help tamp down on my “if only…” fantasizing, what are the downsides of your career?

      1. Wilderness Guide/Instructor

        The work can be inconsistent or seasonal, meaning you have to move around a lot. Being out of touch with everyone you care about for 30 days, or even every other week, can tax relationships. The pay isn’t great. Mosquitoes, rain, bears…

  58. Program Manager, Financial Services, Medical Devices

    I work for a vendor financing program on the manufacturer side. We offer our customers financial solutions to purchase our products (such as monthly payment terms) by working with banks for funds. We’re a private label program, and we do our own quotations, credit checks, and documentation in-house.

    This is an upstream marketing role. I’m responsible for all new product development which means that I create new financial programs based on voice of the customer work to suit new medical devices we create or acquire.

    I’m also responsible for then training our thousands (seriously) of sales people on those products.

  59. Hotel Spa Manager

    I manage a successful boutique, hotel owned spa in a large city. I’m under a spa director and take on her roles when she’s out. I’ve been in this position for about 3 years now and I alternately hate and love it. Everyone I manage is older than me — everyone.

    1. OriginalYup

      I’m fascinated by your job! Which industry do you feel closer to in terms of the skills you need for every day — hospitality or beauty/health/wellness?

      1. Hotel Spa Manager

        We regularly hire people with one type of experience or the other, and it’s cool to see how differently things are approached. A lot of hotel experienced spa-newbs take a second to understand that their job is now relatively more subjectively about contributing to creating a comfortable and safe environment for guests. More spa experienced hotel-newbs take a second to understand the polish and professionalism of hospitality work that you’re not going to find in the rest of the spa industry. Hotel and spa dovetail nicely, though — they’re both about making people feel comfortable and welcome.

        I started at a fitness center spa while I was in college, so I guess I’ve probably approached my job from more of a spa perspective. And it’s very common for spas to be independently owned and thus, feel pretty separate from the hospitality side.

    2. Diet Coke Addict

      Do you mind elaborating on what you love and hate about it? Is your role more about meeting sales goals, or people management?

      1. Hotel Spa Manager

        It’s heavy on both, but probably leans more to the people management side. We mostly approach meeting sales goals through staff management though (almost entirely aside from marketing and pr things) so I think I have a hard time distinguishing the two.

        I haven’t liked this job in large part because I feel like I’ve had a really hard transition into management. I like a lot of clear rules and expectations to be set for me and for the people I manage, and my boss and mentor is sort of a fly by the seat of your pants, sink or swim kind of boss. She admits regularly to really hating training people, and there are a lot of just basic hospitality (and spa) and general management standards that I’ve had to figure out through miserably embarrassing failure. In terms of managing my mistakes, my boss has been totally reasonable and patient. She knew that she was hiring someone very young, with no management experience and not a ton of work experience generally, and she knows she’s not great at active training, so she’s never been harsh on me for learning a lot of things though trial and error, but it’s sooooooo not my favorite way to figure things out. Hence, finding this blog and teaching myself as much as possible about what is normal and commendable and practical to do in a lot of situations before they happen.

        I also am not in love with the culture at my particular hotel, for reasons that could turn into a novel. And, we’ve had a couple of like, regale your friends with the most horrible of horror stories for hours kind of staff to manage, which made transitioning into management interesting and shocking and difficult. Otherwise, I’m not a huuge fan of the industry and see no real future for myself in it, so it’s not always super exciting to go to work.

        I love my boss, who is, despite her foibles, the kindest, most diplomatic and most reasonable person I’ve ever met. She’s taken an interest in mentoring me that I was and continue to be really appreciative of, and I am interested in learning professionally from her generally. I also do enjoy a lot of people in the spa industry, and specifically, the team we have here. Learning how to manage has also been stimulating and challenging in its own right, naturally. I should leave soon but this hasn’t been the worst career to feel unfulfilled in.

        Oh, and I love having regular massages be a required part of my job :)

  60. High School Teacher (Scotland)

    I teach my subject to students from 11-18. Daily tasks include planning and delivering lessons to up to six different year groups, marking pupil work, providing feedback and managing my department staff. Other tasks include admin relating to monitoring and evaluating student progress, professional development work, developing courses and units of work, reporting to parents, and contributing to whole-school development work.

    1. vvonderwoman

      What kind of certifications/education are required? Are those requirements the same throughout Scotland? The entire UK? or are they regional?

      1. High school teacher (Scotland)

        There are two routes you can go:

        1) four year undergraduate degree in your subject followed by a one year Post-Graduate Diploma of Education. Your degree must be relevant to the subject you want to teach.

        2) A combined four year degree which incorporates teacher training alongside subject study.

        Once that is completed, you undertake an Induction Year as a Probationer teacher, where you are guaranteed a job for a year and given a slight reduction in class contact time to undertake continuing training and development work. This is closely supervised and includes frequent observations by a mentor teacher who reports on your progress to the General Teaching Council for Scotland. At the end of the year, based on a final report from your mentor, the GTCS approves your Full Registration which is required to obtain a teaching post elsewehere following the Induction Year.

        The requirements and processes are slightly different in other parts of the UK but generally if someone qualifies to teach in Scotland they will be able to register with the relevant authority elsewhere and vice versa. The qualifications required are much the same. As England does not have the Induction Year, newly qualified teachers from England can obtain provisional GTCS registration if they choose to teach in Scotland, and following 270 days of satisfactory service they will receive full registration.

  61. Archivist

    I am an archivist for a public library. I work with historical personal and business papers – organizing, repairing damager, labeling, and everything else involved to prepare them for research. Right now I’m working on a set of political papers and doing digital project after digital project.

    1. limenotapple

      Did you always want to be an archivist? I know so many people in libraryland who want to get into archives, but it seems like there aren’t that many jobs. Also, some that did break through found that the work wasn’t what they were expecting.

      1. Archivist

        No, I originally intended to go into museum education. When I graduated from my MA program however, a job was open at a local archive (back when the job market was a bit more fluid). I was offered the position and discovered that I really loved it. Now I wouldn’t consider anything else.

    2. wanna-be archivist

      I’m geeking out right now–your job sounds really amazing! It sounds like you’re running a solo show–is that true, and if so, how has that experience been for you? Additionally, do you have any advice for young professionals? I’m currently in library school, concentrating in archives, and I while I love almost everything about it, I’m trying to tailor my final couple of semesters to gaining useful skills/experience. Is there a specialty or focus you see becoming increasingly necessary in archives?

        1. Archivist

          I’m actually not in a solo shop, but I’m part of the management so I have my hand in a lot of projects. Including me, we have a staff of nine – fairly large for an archive our size, I think.

          My advice – Lots of digital. If you look at the current job market, the jobs with the most opportunities are digital based. Archives are really looking for people that can be a jack of all trades. So often, we have to learn on the job and kind of build things as we go (particularly once you leave the paper work), so creativity and initiative are important.

          Another focus that always needs more people – conservation. I think the majority of archivists, myself included, know the basics of conservation, but aren’t a specialist and wouldn’t trust themselves with high-level projects. Having spectacular conservation skills also allows you to freelance if necessary.

  62. Public Relations Officer, University

    I do public relations for a university. I have about 15 years of experience. I write feature articles for the website, do media relations, social media planning, media/marketing plans for various departments and a lot of training. In fact, a lot of my job is training – training professors how to conduct media interviews, helping students figure out how to promote events, training deans on using social media to promote their expertise and their school.

    1. Ali

      I would love to get into a university, especially in a job like this. Unfortunately, I was just turned down for a job in a college alumni office…I do suspect they went with someone internal or someone who went to the college. Did you find it hard to get your job with your school? Is there a lot of politics or am I overthinking the possibility that I was turned down for someone who had higher favor?

      1. Emmy

        I’m not the original poster of this job, but I also work in higher ed (communications, not PR, but very similar). I don’t know what area you’re in, but in both places I’ve worked, jobs at the university were highly sought after. For my current position, there were 150+ applications. So you might be a great candidate, but it’s just so competitive. My advice is to keep trying!

      2. HigherEd Admin

        I think you’re probably over-thinking the politics of filling the position. It’s possible they went with an internal candidate, but that would be the case in any hiring situation. It took me a few years before I was able to get into the field, and I suspect finishing my Master’s degree in Higher Ed had a bit to do with my increased success. The jobs are often highly competitive, so just keep trying and applying with your very best materials!

      3. Public Relations Officer, University

        For this job, I really got lucky. I worked in mainly non-profit PR prior to this. I fortunately live in a city with about 9 universities and I’d been applying for jobs at almost all of them when I would see openings and never heard anything. I saw this position open and it was fortunately at my alma mater so I knew some people there. Turns out one of my contacts is friends with/volunteers with someone on the hiring committee for this job so I was able to easily get an interview which is half the battle.

        It seems like they really like people to come from higher ed backgrounds – or just educational backgrounds (working for a school district – and if you don’t have that, knowing someone on the inside who happens to be on good terms with the hiring committee is good.

    2. Sharm

      I have a marketing background, most of them at a large performing arts organization. I feel like I’m falling behind in my skills because my current job is not technically marketing, and I see many jobs that combine marketing with PR and social media. We used to have a totally separate PR department at my last job, and I know the work they do is pretty different. What would you recommend for someone like me who’d like to build those skills, but can’t necessarily do so at her current job? I’ve tried applying to PR-type jobs in the past, but I think because I’ve only had marketing experience, I get rejected.

      1. Public Relations Officer, University

        Volunteer work is always a good way to get some PR experience. I transitioned from journalism to PR and had that same issue – I knew a lot of my skills were transferrable but was competing with people who had direct experience in the skills. I volunteered on a women’s group on their PR committee. I was able to make some contacts and get some writing/design samples together. Plus, I read the book PR Toolkit for Dummies which allowed me to know the jargon during interviews.

        Also, I know from my school, that folks who work in any way with the College of Fine Arts have backgrounds in performing arts organizations. The development officer for Fine Arts was a managing director of a theatre company in town. So I think sometimes if you find the right job (PR for a smaller theatre or a college of fine arts) they might be really accepting of your performing arts experience because you know all of the big players in the industry.

    3. Sunflower

      Have you always done PR with universities or have you ever worked at an agency or corporation? If you’ve worked in different types, what are the main differences, which do you like best and why?

      1. Public Relations Officer, University

        I started out in journalism and then transitioned to non-profit PR. I worked for about 7 years in larger national non-profits and then thought I wanted to do for-profit PR. I worked for about 3 years at two different businesses (one national, one global) and hated it. I prefer non-profit PR. For me, working in for-profit PR felt more like sales. I was always pitching and promoting their newest product, their newest software, their newest location. It felt very salesy. In non-profit PR I worked in health-oriented organizations so I was promoting nutrition, latest health research, oral health, signs of cancer, etc. I felt like I was doing a public good and I worked with more feature reporters.

        University PR is fun because I can still do the feature pitching (latest research, this professor is an expert in X,Y,Z) but also get to do a little more on-the-spot and crisis communications which is new for me and exciting if stressful.

        I have never worked at an agency before. If you are hoping to do PR I would strongly encourage you to try to get an internship at an agency or work at an agency early in your career. I have never been able to get hired at an agency because I do not have agency experience. If you even intern at one but then do corporate communications, 10 years down the road you’ll still be able to claim you have “agency experience” due to that internship.

    4. Elizabeth West

      Public Relations Officer, may I please ask you a question for my book? If you click on my name, you’ll go to my blog and my email is on the About page. Thank you.

  63. Programmer - Web and Mobile

    I am a programmer / software developer specializing in back end development of web sites. Unlike a web designer who creates the user interface, I create the interactive parts and the parts that talk to the database on the back end. I also occasionally create mobile apps. I have built everything from Facebook survey systems, to a privately owned “big-brother” type information warehouse.

    1. Miss Evy

      I have some peripheral exposure to programming/programmers in my line of work, and have several times considered taking classes to see if I could hack it as a programmer.

      What kind of resources would you recommend for someone looking to explore programming? Is this something that can be learned in your own time, or do I need to go back to school? How important is it to get a Computer Science (or equivalent) degree?

      1. Programmer - Web and Mobile

        I am completely self taught, no college degree. Funny part (to me at least) is I make a lot more than most of my friends who have advanced degrees, without all the debt.

        I got my start making reference sites and writing Java apps for my own needs – a time tracker here, chat software or cataloging website there – as a hobby in high school. As I moved on to the working world, that gave me a way to prove to employers that I knew how to code and could do what they needed for their projects. I found that I learn best by doing, so I would look for small projects that I found personally useful, and learned whatever I needed to build it.

        If you are looking to learn to program for the web, Peachpit Press makes a great series of Visual Quickstart guides – thats how I learned. Check out their PHP and MySQL for Dynamic Web Sites: Visual QuickPro Guide – its a great introduction to web development. PHP can be great for learning the programming mindset, and there are tons of resources on the web to learn more, then move on to other languages and systems.

    2. Miss Evy

      Thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely look into those resources – I’ve only just started with the basics (mostly Perl, started with Python recently) but have been struggling to find a way to incorporate studying, practice, etc., into my daily and weekly routines.

      Is OS choice important at all? A lot of the programmers at my company use Macs (and I’ve heard it recommended), but I’m learning with a Linux box right now because it happens to be what I use on my work machine.

      1. Programmer - Web and Mobile

        Happy to help. PERL is actually what I started with in the early nineties, before PHP was a thing, and found the transition not to be too difficult. I don’t see PERL being used a lot now, although it is a very powerful tool for processing data.

        OS really doesn’t matter – to a point. If you are focusing on web and server programming, most of the tools you will be using are written in Java (Zend, PHPStorm, NetBeans) so they run on almost any major platform. Same with making apps for Android or iOS. Linux is good if you want to get into higher end server work, because most servers are Linux or Unix based. For desktop development though, you would want to use the same OS you are developing for, so you can test right on your system without needing an emulator, and because it will be easier to find IDEs and other resources designed to run on that platform.

      2. Programmer - Web and Mobile

        Oh, and as for integrating practice and study into your routine – the best thing I can think to suggest is to just look at your normal tasks and see what simple things might benefit from some automation, and figure out how to make those scripts. As you learn and grow as a programmer, you will find yourself going back and making those scripts better and more comprehensive, and once you start, you will probably find it to be a constant motivator to keep growing your skills.

  64. Social Media Manager

    I manage social media for a large B2B brand in the private sector. This includes:

    * writing and executing strategy
    * day-to-day monitoring and posting
    * identifying methods to insert social media into multiple aspects of the company/business/customer touch points
    * training employees on the benefits/features of social media

      1. Social Media Manager

        Hmm.. probably that it’s easy or doesn’t take a chunk of time. In reality, the social media manager is one of the faces of the company – sending out messaging and engagement on behalf of the company, multiple times per day in order to maintain brand awareness.

        Therefore, there is careful consideration and time which goes into what’s said and when, who the customer is and what resonates with them, etc.

    1. Sharm

      I have a marketing background, but for whatever reason, have been unable to break into social media professionally. Since it’s “sexy,” no one at my previous jobs was willing to share or open it up to anyone else. So now I’m at this point where there’s a huge gap in my skill set because everybody wants social media savvy, but I can’t point to a body of work. No one will even give me volunteer opportunities. I must be missing how I can do this on my own. I feel like without a real company/organization’s social media platforms to play with, I can’t recreate the tools nor the customer service element that you’d need to hone in this job.

      What would you advise to someone who has related experience, but is ultimately new to the field to help develop their skills?

      1. Social Media Manager

        Hi Sharm – I would recommend building your personal brand on LinkedIn and Twitter. Post articles (or write your own) about insights, etc. Respond to and interact with peers. Network and join online conversations. Research and be aware of what’s happening in the industry so you’re prepared to speak on the latest trends

        There are two aspects to being a successful social media manager for a brand:

        1. Knowing the Brand. Knowing its audience and their pain points, the competition, key messaging, voice/POV, etc.
        – This comes with research before an interview and intense learning once hired.

        2. Knowing How to Use Social Media to reach said audience with said messaging.
        – This you can work on beforehand. Demonstrate you know how to use the tools. Not everyone knows how to use social – even the basics of which button to press to send a tweet. Knowing this puts you ahead.

    2. Brett

      What do you find to be the important analytics to watch, and for which kinds of goals?
      Which social media channels do you commonly utilize, and for which purposes?

      1. Social Media Manager

        Regarding analytics, I think it really depends on your internal customer or audience. For example, I could tell one C-Suite guy that we grew our fan/follower base by X% in a quarter, and he thinks that’s great. I tell the next C-Suite guy the same thing and his response is “So?” In that case, I’d go deeper into engagement – retweets, impressions, etc.

        My favorite analytics are the ones that measure action – clicks, likes, comments, etc. It’s one thing to have reach or impression – i.e., how many eyeballs saw it, but it’s another thing to have content so compelling that it made people stop, even for a second, to take an action.

        About channels used:
        Facebook – behind the scenes, company culture
        Twitter – heavy on conversations and sharing industry news
        LinkedIn – thought leadership, high-level industry info
        Blog – showcase our best and brightest
        Pinterest – visual representation of the brand; have a little more fun.

    3. Sunflower

      Something I noticed as I became more active on twitter is that a lot of social media accounts end up serving as internet customer service reps and that is what turned me off of it a lot. Have you seen this to be true?

      1. Social Media Manager

        I might be more immune because of my industry. I haven’t noticed an influx of customer questions/complaints on our channels or those of our competitors. It probably really depends on the industry, whether its B2B or B2C, product vs service.

        A lot of larger companies have dedicated accounts just for customer service, and then another account for other engagement/branding. But, even in the case, half the messaging in the ‘regular’ feed is directing customers to the service/complaint feed.

  65. Environmental Planner

    I work in state government, coordinating development of plans that describe how my state will meet federal clean air standards. The job is an interesting mix of science/engineering and public policy. I spend a lot of time reading up on federal regulations that govern our work, reviewing reports from county-level agencies, and writing reports. I also spend some time doing data analysis, but that’s not my main function.

    I have a master’s degree in environmental science, but the policy-related training has all been on the job.

    1. C

      What sort of work experience did you have before gaining your government position? Do you think your MS gave you a leg up in the interview process?

      I’m also interested in hearing about your hiring timeline…I’m currently waiting for the final word after an interview.

      1. Environmental Planner

        This is my first planning job–I’ve been here for six years. I taught high school chemistry for two years and worked as a research assistant while I was in graduate school, so I really had no work experience relevant to the position I was hired for. Where I am, that’s not all that unusual–neither of the two people on my team hired after me had experience in policy or planning (but both also had advanced degrees in science/engineering).

        I definitely think the MS gave me an advantage. In my case, I had no internships (which I regret), so if nothing else my graduate work gave me a chance to have some job experience (as a research assistant) to put on my resume. But I think it also bolstered my case for having solid science credentials.

        It’s been a while, so it’s hard to remember the exact timeline, but I think I was called for an interview about a month after I submitted my application. I went through three rounds of interviews, each with someone higher up the organizational chain, and spaced about two or three weeks apart. I think from application to first day of work was about four months. That seems to be much faster than the norm, however.

        Good luck!

    2. Recent Grad

      Now that you have been working in this position for 6 years what would you expect out a new grad(masters) applying for a position from your department.

      1. Environmental Planner

        I don’t have any hiring responsibilities, but I would expect they’re looking for someone with strong writing skills, strong project management and time management skills, and the ability to think on the fly. The ability to summarize, to distill the crucial pieces of information from a sea of data or a lengthy document are critical. A good planner has to be able to turn work around quickly, and to be able to do a rough analysis even if the perfect data are not available–employing work-arounds, good-enoughs, etc. I’ve seen people who are very detail-oriented really struggle because they have a harder time seeing the big picture, and can get bogged down in details that aren’t necessarily the most important. (These same detail-oriented people often really thrive, however, in the groups that do computer modeling or data analysis to support development of environmental plans.) Of course, you have to have a baseline of some decent technical skills, but that doesn’t seem to be the main driver of what makes people really successful in planning.

        As far as how to show this when applying, I’d make sure to include things in your resume/cover letter that speak to your ability to see the big picture, analyze all sides of a problem, manage a complex project, etc.

        Does that answer your question?

  66. IT Person (A Non)

    I am a system admin at a medium sized non-profit. I wrangle the organization’s servers and networks these days, but I also spent several years doing desktop support (aka ‘the IT person’ that company employees go to for help with their computers). If you have questions about why your company’s IT department does _________, I can take a shot at answering it.

    1. A Jane

      What’s the best way to get feedback and status on open IT requests? In places where there’s a ticketing system, I’ll follow up specifically on the ticket request for just a status. But sometimes, I’ll get something like “we’re still looking at it”.

      1. IT Person (A Non)

        Yes, if your workplace has a ticketing system, use it. Otherwise I’d reply to the most relevant email, or call or ask in person if your office culture is okay with that.

        IT people are sometimes reluctant to tell end users what they’re doing because it’s pretty heavily technical and attempts to explain it can cause more confusion rather than less. Or sometimes they’re giving the user an upgrade that they don’t want the entire office to start asking for. “We’re working on it” isn’t a great answer for them to send in that situation, though, as you don’t know if progress is actually being made or not. Ideally they’d find some information that is relevant, or at least give you a time frame.

        If you’ve gotten a ‘we’re working on it’ answer and need more info, go ahead and ask for it. It’s helpful to specify what you’re looking for – a time frame, an idea of what went wrong, etc.

      2. Laurie

        I’d recommend trying to get them on the phone for a quick chat. They might be reluctant to put the exact status in an email, but they might give you a little bit more detail over the phone.

        If it has to be done via email, I’d soften the email a little by asking them if they have ‘narrowed down the scope of the issue’ or if they ‘have an update on what might be affecting this’ or ‘can we provide any further supporting documentation on the ticket’ etc..

  67. Business Systems Analyst

    I’m a Business Systems Analyst for a large university’s technology commercialization department. The university owns a lot of patents and we work with inventors as well as licensing companies to get the patents out there for public use. I’m a member of the IT team that keeps the database humming so that everyone knows how much money is coming in, how much money is being paid out, which patents need to be renewed, which company is licensing which patent in which country, etc.

    1. IT Coordinator

      Every BSA job description I’ve ever seen has been a nearly indecipherable mish-mash of buzzwords. “Leverage innovative solutions to uncover new operational insights and define actionable parameters for business processes.” The hell?

      In normal-people language, what are some of the usual things that a BSA would be expected to do at any company? For example, I know a Network Administrator should at least be able to:
      – Configure switches and routers
      – Secure a network against common attacks
      – Understand access control concepts
      – Monitor network performance and diagnose any issues

      I still don’t have a clue what the core competencies of a BSA are, and I’m in charge of the IT department!

  68. Advertising Account Manager for an Environmental Business Media Company

    I work on marketing and sales (which mainly translates into selling advertising, but really any revenue-generating activity that our mission-based start up undertakes) for a media company that promotes a more sustainable economy. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, environmental companies, policymakers, lobbyists, higher education institutions, who have something to say in this area.

      1. Advertising Account Manager for an Environmental Business Media Company

        My background is in publishing (my B.A was in English and a field related to politics); I got my first job in book publishing and took a sales position in the hopes of making a half-decent salary (which I then did), received good training and did well, then took a position in magazines translating the sales skills and publishing knowledge, and then, just before I thought I had enough, I saw the position at this particular publication that really spoke to my interests and I applied and got it. The neat thing about publishing is you are exposed to so many different worlds, and with a bit of experience, you can pick something you are really passionate about.

  69. Newscast Director (Exception To The Rule)

    In a nutshell, I tell people what to do. I’m responsible for putting two daily evening newscasts on the air in a mid-sized midwestern TV market. I’m also responsible for scheduling (people & studios), graphic integration, trouble-shooting technology problems with our control room equipment, and a ton of other stuff. On the weekends, I do freelance work in sports broadcasting – running camera, audio, technical directing, etc…

    1. ArtsNerd

      What does your week look like, hours-wise? I would imagine it’s a full days’ work to prep two evening newscasts, but is it less than a full day? Are you freelancing because the main gig doesn’t pay what you’d like, because you’re just really excited about the work?

      1. Newscast Director (Exception To The Rule)

        I normally work an evening shift Monday through Thursday – from about 2pm until 11pm. Because of some scheduling weirdness, I work a day shift on Fridays and am home by 6pm.

        Freelancing is an easy way to make extra money and have contacts to find work in case I’m ever automated out of a job.

  70. Higher Ed Administrator (TotesMaGoats)

    Right now, I’m the director of a handful of satellite campuses for the non-trad branch of the state university system. So, we have mini-campuses to run and handle everything from admission to registration to financial aid. I also do a lot business development type activities with our local chamber of commerce and companies. I’ve also worked at a smaller, private liberal arts school where I was the advisor for about 300 RN to BS students. I wrote state and federal level grants (that were awarded to the tune of 1.5 million), wrote articulation agreements and coordinated live video classes across the state.

  71. Drug and Alcohol Counselor (Loose Seal)

    I provide counseling for clients in the drug court program. Drug courts work by offering people have been arrested for a drug-related offense a chance for this intensive outpatient treatment in lieu of imprisonment. Participants in the program are required to have a legal income stream (employment, Social Security, pension, trust fund, lottery winnings, etc.), maintain housing, attend counseling, observe a curfew (ours starts out at 5 pm every day unless the client is at work or another excused function), pay their fines, attend twice-weekly self-help meetings (like AA or NA, etc.), comply with frequent, random, observed drug testing, and comply with their other requirements of probation. The program lasts between 18 months and three years; the client has to have at least 18 continuous months sobriety to graduate. The program I worked with previously took only first-time drug offenders and, on successful completion of the program, expunged their offense from their record. My current program takes people regardless of how many previous charges they have had (many of my clients have been in state or federal prison before) and does not expunge the charges from their record but does help the person get back some rights (like voting rights) after they complete their probation.

    There are also Family Drug Courts for persons who have had their children removed from their custody by Family and Children Services for drug-related child endangerment or neglect; those clients may or may not have a criminal charge. Some judicial circuits have a Juvenile Drug Court for teens who have come into contact with the juvenile court system for drug-related offenses. Typically, the juveniles are in a separate program from the adults. The drug court program is considered one of the most successful outpatient drug treatment there is. An estimated 75% of drug court graduates nationwide are never arrested for another drug-related crime.

    Obviously, I can’t share specific stories about my clients because of confidentiality but I’d love to talk generally about this work and about myths, misunderstandings, and truths about addiction.

    1. Celeste

      Wow, I bet you get a lot of satisfaction from this work. It must be great when you see somebody succeed and get their life back.

      A local judge started the same kind of thing for victims of human trafficking. Drug rehab is always their first step as addiction is a prime way to control somebody. The stories coming out are so sad.

      1. Drug and Alcohol Counselor (Loose Seal)

        Job satisfaction is a loaded topic. Obviously, I can’t control what the clients choose to do. Many clients come into the program not looking for treatment for their addictions but to postpone their prison sentence. If we can get them motivated to change somewhere during their first six months or so in the program, I mostly feel we have a chance with them. But it’s tough. Somedays I feel like I’m pushing a snowball uphill in the dead of summer.

        And I try not to take too much pride in their successes. They are the ones that did all the hard work. I am super happy for their accomplishments but all I did was help them find tools that would help them when they wanted to use. They are the ones that have to actually use those tools.

    2. CTO

      What’s your education and licensing background? How did you get into your specific niche of work?

      1. Drug and Alcohol Counselor (Loose Seal)

        I got into this field after a career as a social worker in the child protective services field. I went back to school for a Master’s in Counseling hoping that I’d land in the drug and alcohol field. I had seen drug courts work well with my clients as a social worker; they tended to get their children returned to them twice as fast as those clients with addiction issues that weren’t in the drug court program. So I’ve seen it work and that’s why I was pulled in this direction.

        You can go after several licenses. Most people in this field have a LADAC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor). I will have an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) license after I finish my required hours of supervision. I’ve also seen LCSWs (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) in this field. I would not recommend someone completing the PhD for this field since the return on investment is not that much greater; if someone wanted a PhD for its own sake, that’s one thing, but currently PhDs in this state are getting about $5 an hour more than LPCs for doing the same work. It would take forever at that rate to pay off your PhD.

        If someone was looking to get into this field, I’d recommend checking out your state’s licensing organizations and finding out what licenses insurance companies will pay in your state — so you can get paid for your work! For instance, this state’s insurance company’s don’t pay LADACs for this work so if that’s the license you have, you’d have to bill under someone the state requires the insurance company to recognize as a professional counselor.

  72. Attorney

    I’m an attorney for a large government organization. My job doesn’t involve going to court or litigating at all. Instead, I do behind the scenes stuff for the agency at which I work. It’s not tremendously prestigious, but I love what I do and the people with whom I work. My job duties mainly consist of writing, with some legal research, correspondence, and advising on occasion. I’m happy to answer whatever questions I can, including about law school and the legal field in general.

    1. The LeGal

      I have been out of law school for one year, and licensed. Do you have any tips (i.e. experience, resume, etc. . . ) on getting into a government position?

      1. Attorney

        Honestly, a lot of it was luck for me. I was hired at a time when my agency was expanding to accommodate a significantly growing workload, and when they were doing a lot of hiring, so I was kind of in the right place at the right time. I found my job on my law school’s job board, but I actually applied through USAJobs. As far as USAJobs go – one of the things that made the application process difficult was that they wanted to know everywhere I’d lived in the past 20 years (which, as I was under 30 at that time, was everywhere I had EVER lived), and everywhere I’d ever worked. If you plan to apply for federal jobs, do yourself a favor and go ahead and get all of that information together now, to save yourself the time and enable yourself to apply quickly if you see a position that is closing soon.

        I think my resume appealed to them in part because the job is somewhat related to the health field, and I specialized in health law at a law school known for this program. Honestly I don’t use much of what I learned about health law at school in this job, but I suspect that’s what helped me stand out. As far as what kind of experience – I imagine that really depends on what job/agency you’re applying for. This was my first legal job, outside of internships, but I’m sure many other positions do require more experience.

        I know Alison has said this before, but it’s true: government hiring can be really slow. Being patient is always necessary. One tip is that many govt agencies work on a fiscal year that ends September 30, so sometimes that serves as a hiring deadline for whatever positions are budgeted for that year. Maybe looking for postings a few months ahead of that – or immediately after, when new budgets are in effect – might yield more prospects? I’m speculating, I admit.

    2. Schnauz

      What kind of promotional potential is in your position? Do you enjoy working for a governmental agency and do you think you’ll stay long-term? Below, you said this is your first job out of law school. Do you think you’ll go into the private side in the future for better pay? (would it even be better pay?)

      1. Attorney

        That would be one of the big drawbacks to this job – it’s going to be a while before I can get promoted. There are positions above me to which I could be promoted, but turnover is very low here. I need about five or six people to retire; it doesn’t matter how well I do my job. Also, for the position I would really want, I might have to move, which I don’t really want to do.

        I do like working here, and I plan to stay for a while. I was actually discussing this with my coworker recently. Because I’ve never had another permanent legal job, it’s hard for me to know what I’m missing. This is a niche area, and I have thought that, if I ever did want to leave, my transferable skills would be limited (though not non-existent). The longer I stay here, the more entrenched I am, and as I mentioned above, the possibility of moving up is somewhat limited. But I think it’s a case of the grass always being greener. I certainly don’t want to have to deal with billable hours requirements, trying to bring in clients, expecting to respond via phone or email on evenings and weekends (and vacation!), trying to make partner, etc. Here, I have a flexible schedule, no billable hours or clients, a casual dress code, and the ability to work from home at times. Yes, I would have more opportunity for advancement and higher pay elsewhere, but I would lose out on all of those benefits, plus pretty good job security. My coworkers who have been in private practice generally agree that it’s much better here.

        The pay is pretty good, particularly for someone of my experience. Of course, my salary goes up very slowly – just cost-of-living increases, when we get one, and regimented step increases after a certain number of years elapses. No negotiating for raises, which is both good and bad. There are occasional opportunities for merit bonuses or raises, which of course are also subject to certain limits. Right now I earn more than some of my lawyer friends and less than many others, but I work less than all of them (man, I sound like a slacker here; I really do work, and I work overtime when it’s available). In the future, I might get left behind more vis-a-vis salary, though again, it depends on whether I actually do get promoted.

        1. Schnauz

          Aside from the promotion issue, I think that sounds great. I would love to have a career that I really cared about, doing things that feel worthwhile (my job is fine, but it’s nothing to write home about) but I also really value work/life balance. So kudos to you. You can always make changes as you go on, but it sounds like a great alternative to 80hr weeks and the partner race.

          1. Attorney

            Aw, thanks Schnauz. Thanks for reminding me that I have it pretty good. As I mentioned, I spent a long time looking for any legal job, and I was woefully underemployed and feeling like a failure for a long time. Hope this helps job-seekers remember that things can work out, even after a long period of frustration.

    3. Helping a friend

      Is your job title “attorney”? Are there similar jobs in other government agencies that you know of? I have a friend who is an attorney at a firm that works with insurance companies, some litigation, and it is killing him. I think his firm has lower billable requirements than some, but it is still just too much stress and too many weekends (most). He does a lot of writing and research, so that seems like that should transfer to other legal jobs, but he doesn’t know much about the alternatives to working in a private firm.

      1. Attorney

        My job title is Attorney, yes. As far as similar jobs – mine is probably somewhat unique to this agency, but I can imagine similar jobs existing, say, at the VA. I imagine that almost all of the federal agencies employ some lawyers, but the positions may be mostly or exclusively in the DC area; it just depends on the agency. There’s also the possibility of state or local government, although some local govt positions (like the municipalities around here) are really just supplemental positions, designed for lawyers who have a regular FT job as well. His mileage will definitely vary based on his locale.

        There are also in-house counsel type jobs, wherein you work as a lawyer for a company or entity and only handle their matters. These positions usually pay well, but they tend to be highly coveted and require more experience to obtain (I’m not sure how long your friend has been practicing law). They likely won’t have billable hours, since there’s only one client, but the hours and stress level are probably widely variable, depending on the individual employer.

        Beyond that, he’d have to get more creative, and a lot depends on what field of law he’s in, and maybe even what he did as an undergraduate. The LeGal mentioned below that she’s a licensed attorney who works in compliance, and that’s the kind of job that may not necessarily require a law degree, but for which being a lawyer is likely very beneficial. I looked at several such positions when I was job-hunting, and I think I would have enjoyed it. So perhaps that’s a possibility as well?

      2. Attorney

        I re-read your post, and I see that he does insurance work. Not sure what kind of insurance, but I could see that lending itself to in-house positions at insurance companies, or maybe at companies with a lot of insurance needs (depending on the type of insurance he deals with; I’m kind of thinking at trucking companies, for instance). His state also likely has an agency that does insurance regulation, so maybe something there, if it’s a geographical possibility for him.

  73. Conference Call Operator

    I’m the voice on the phone that answers your lines, sets up the call, coordinates with the presenters, announcing the opening/QA, etc. We do calls for a little bit of everything – quarterly earnings releases, press calls (entertainment, sports, political organizations), continuing education, town halls, team calls, legal, etc. Sometimes it’s tremendously interesting and it can be fun if we’re working with a celebrity. Of course, mostly we’re not listening to content (and sometimes we’re not allowed to!) but rather monitoring for audio quality or other issues and any cues for us to jump in.

    1. Mel

      How do you monitor sound quality and jump in if you aren’t allowed to listen to content? We use a service like this for some of our calls, I always feel kind of bad for the operator since the topics are generally really boring if you don’t work for the company. :)

      1. Schnauz

        Mostly the calls where we aren’t “allowed” to listen, are very confidential calls (example: board meetings). Those calls typically have an assistant call in on another line and they will relay to us if there’s an issue. Otherwise, they can press a couple of buttons and that sets off an alert that they need assistance.

        Haha, don’t feel too bad for us. Yes, it really is boring but we also work with some great people. The IM system is a life saver. ;)

  74. Technical writer (Jen)

    I’m a tech writer in Romania, with about 4 years of experience. In a previous life, I was a copy editor for various publishing houses. I can’t give any advice about the job market in the US, but I want to play in the thread :) Feel free to ask me anything about Romania, being an ESL writer or whatever else!

    1. Arts & Culture Marketing (ArtsNerd)

      I promote arts & cultural stuffs doing the gamut of anything conceivably “marketing.” Right now I work at an arthouse-y movie theater that also does lots of repertory shows, special screenings, filmmaker Q&As, and whatnot. My last job was marketing live events ranging from concerts to dance to literature readings.

      I’ve also had a hand in developing and producing said events at both employers.

      1. Youth Orchestra Admin

        that sounds like an awesome job! I’m slowly seguewaying into arts marketing from a film and video background and that would be right up my alley. :)

        1. Youth Orchestra Admin

          and – PS – are you in Austin by any chance? I took a trip there this winter and thought the Drafthouse Cinemas would be an amazing place to work. Quite a revelatory movie-going experience compared to the average suburban one. Or even urban ones here in the Northeast!

          1. ArtsNerd

            Hah! Clearly that was not meant to be a reply to Technical Writer. I was going to ask her a question and got distracted and didn’t realize i was in the reply box.

            The job is really great! When I was young I never expected to go into “marketing” but really it’s just “making sure people know what awesome stuff we’re up to!”

            I’m not in Austin, but am well familiar with Alamo Drafthouse. Love them! My employer is similar – so we do similar stuff – but we have fewer locations and a slightly difference emphasis / culture.

    2. Zelos

      How did you find your job? Writing is hard, but because everyone does some writing it seems like it’s a job that won’t have a lot of openings for because most people would just foist it onto another position instead of making a dedicated position for it.

      1. Technical writer (Jen)

        Two things: knowing a lot of English and having a background in writing and editing. Because I’m not in an English-speaking country, advanced English knowledge is a must for tech writers, and (after being involved in hiring) I discovered it’s pretty rare! The rest was just the icing on the cake, but I do think my editing experience makes me even better at this. (I honestly prefer the editing part rather than the writing part.)

        None of my coworkers had/has any writing background, but they all know English very well. Some of them had a background in something related to the job – for example, Finance grad documenting a financial application, or Software Engineering grad documenting the technical side of an application. In terms of actual *writing*, some have proven to be extremely quick learners, some… less so.

        1. Neeta

          advanced English knowledge is a must for tech writers, and (after being involved in hiring) I discovered it’s pretty rare!

          I can confirm this after doing some technical interviews myself. I was actually quite surprised, how bad some people’s English was, and they claimed they were “practically fluent”.

      2. Jen RO

        Oh, and tech writing was virtually non existent here, so hiring was based on transferable skills, which I luckily had.

    3. Loose Seal

      As part of tech writing, do you have to do translation? I mean, are you producing work that starts in Romanian but the client wants the finished product in English? Or some other combination of languages?

      I am so amazed at people who are conversant-to-fluent in another language. I’ve got enough language exposure so I can travel as a tourist comfortably but I’d be completely lost if someone tried to get into a technical subject with me.

      1. Technical writer (Jen)

        Not so far, no. Both companies I’ve worked for have been multinational and English was used for all specs. I talked to the developers and testers in Romanian, but the bulk of the work was done based on specs in (sort-of) English. I spent most of my time documenting a financial application and I had no clue about the concepts in Romanian anyway, so I just learned them in English from the start. (I did spend quite a lot of time “translating” from broken English to proper English! Most employees were not native speakers.)

        To me, “technical” subjects in English are stuff like cars and cooking. My conversations usually go along the lines of “that thing you put in the sour soup! It’s a plant and it’s small and it looks like parsley but it’s not, and it has a completely different flavor and it smells great.” (Lovage, according to wikipedia. I learned a new word!)

        I know Spanish (and French, almost) to a travel-comfortably level, but I know there is no way I could do my job in any other language. I’ve been studying or exposed to English in one way or another for 26 years, you just can’t beat all that American TV!

  75. Executive Director of a Nonprofit Tech Nonprofit

    I’m the Executive Director of a seven person nonprofit that provides research-based, unbiased information about technology and software that can help other nonprofits.

    Day-to-day, I do a lot of oversight of tasks and people, reviewing reports and training, outreach to potential partners/ foundations, sponsorship fundraising… and everything else that no one else here does!

    1. family law lawyer

      how big is your staff, and what was your trajectory in moving into nonprofit management?

      1. Executive Director (and founder) of a Nonprofit Tech Nonprofit

        So we’re seven people — definitely small and scrappy, but growing and pretty entrepreneurial. I was actually the founder of the nonprofit, eight years ago. I was a consultant to nonprofits before that, doing website and communications strategy and project management for websites. I started my career at a big technology and management consultant company, and then went through the internet boom and bust as a project manager.

        By the way, I’m also happy to answer questions about founding a nonprofit– didn’t think to put that in. The cliff notes version: it’s not easy, take either a huge amount of spare time or money to start up, and takes way longer than you think to get rolling.

      1. Laura

        We are are about 75% fee based, mostly from membership orgs and networks who want to commission research or training for the nonprofits they work with. We offer almost all of our research and articles for free (www.idealware.org), but someone had paid for almost all of it. We’re lucky to be in a sector where hardly anyone says “I want to do this research, which is good for the nonprofits I work with, but I don’t want any other nonprofits to see it.”We also sell some training and courses.

        The rest is foundation grants and individual donations, from folks who are looking to support technology for the whole sector, and make the nonprofit sector more efficient.

  76. Theatre Director (Liz T)

    An NYC-based director (and sometimes-playwright) with experience directing on the off-off-Broadway level and assisting on the off-Broadway level. I also run my own very small company, and am an inner-circle company member with a slightly larger one. I’m still emerging, as they say, but pretty entrenched in the community and knowledgeable about new works development.

    I can speak to the creative side and the administrative side, as well as some basics of grass-roots fundraising (spoiler alert: it’s tough). I went to grad school in London (not an MFA, which is a complex topic) and I’ve interned with some wildly different professional companies. Ask me anything!

    1. ali

      how awesome! how did you manage to break in to the industry? I’ve heard it’s all in who you know, but I’d like to think that’s not entirely true and that talent and knowledge might actually get you somewhere.

      1. Theatre Director (Liz T)

        Great question, which has provoked a long answer! The short answer is both, but probably not the way you’d think.

        Talent and knowledge absolutely matter–but/and so do relationships. Directors often have a tough job selling themselves because you can’t “audition” the way actors do, or submit past work the way playwrights do. (I have some video of my work, but it’s not the same, and there are strict rules against it once you’re working with union actors.) New York is a very playwright-centric town, so a lot of directors build careers off, essentially, hitching their wagons to a playwright’s star. These are still genuine relationships, though, and produce a lot of phenomenal theatre. (It does sting, though, when playwrights “trade up” after you’ve helped develop their work.)

        So to answer your question: who you know matters in that you need people who BELIEVE in you. When I was starting out in NYC, every gig I got was thanks to a recommendation from a dear friend who’d been in town a few more years than I had. In the past year I’ve gotten much better about making people know who I am, even if that doesn’t lead directly to work; you need to be a known quantity before people entrust you with their resources.

        I will say that there are opportunities for artists to get a foot in the door at theaters where they have no connections. It almost always starts with a script, but theaters are usually run by directors, and they understand when they’re seeing work by a good one. So, the people you know are the rungs on the ladder; talent and knowledge (and luck) are how you get up each rung.

    2. WorkingAsDesigned

      My degree is in Theatre Arts, and I miss it. I do, however, really enjoy my work as an administrative assistant.

      Do you ever see volunteers in the admin side of theatre? If so, how much time do they usually volunteer for?

      1. Theatre Director (Liz T)

        I’d recommend starting with the New York Fringe Festival. They run almost entirely off of short-term volunteers, and since there are shows all day, every day during the festival, they can probably find you something to fit your schedule. Plus, you get vouchers for free tickets! I’ve done the festival and it’s a really fun atmosphere–I definitely recommend it:

        http://fringenyc.org/index.php/get-involved/volunteers
        Or, for slightly more involvement:
        http://fringenyc.org/index.php/get-involved/volunteer-staff

        The FringeFAIR is on May 4th this year; you can still volunteer if you don’t attend, but it’s a good way to meet people and get a feel for it. Go for it!

        1. Theatre Director (Liz T)

          I realize now you specified admin work, so you’ll probably want to start with the second link.

          1. WorkingAsDesigned

            Thanks, Liz – much appreciated! I’m actually based in Montana, but it’s helpful to know that my type of skillset can be valuable in the theatrical realm. :) I’ll check with my local theaters to see if there’s a way I can aid and assist . . .

            1. Theatre Director (Liz T)

              Oh ha! Yes, you should definitely do that–and Montana has summer festivals, too. (I mean I know it’s a big state, but even I know about some of your Shakespeare festivals.)

    3. Production Assistant

      I was actually thinking that if I ever get my masters, I would love to go to school in London. However, my field is stage management. I know there are stage management MA/MFA programs in the US, but did you at all encounter those programs while you were in London? Did they seem useful in terms of experience, education, contacts within the industry, and anything else I should be looking at with grad schools?

      1. Liz T

        Wow I wish I had seen this. You will probably never see this, but I’ll answer anyway.

        There are training programs, though I’m not sure about Masters programs. (Most drama programs over there aren’t.) Stage management works a bit differently there, and is usually melded into the technical program. (I was surprised that I was told to direct carpentry issues to the stage manager, who typically built the sets–whereas SMs in America often have only very basic technical knowledge. At LAMDA, everyone on the technical (non-design) course did rotations in every field, so there were sound engineers doing terrible jobs as SMs and SMs forced to sew costumes, etc.

        Also, don’t go to grad school in London unless you want to move there and work there forever. I was warned of that, and didn’t listen (mostly because I thought I could stay there longer than I could). LAMDA did not help my professional advancement.

  77. Research Consultant - Healthcare Policy

    New England-based researcher for a mid-size consulting firm that specializes in public policy research. I largely work on government contracts, and have developed a specialty in quality measurement and improvement in healthcare.

    1. H

      Did you have any publications before joining? What are your main deliverables in your position? Also, how did you get into it? I have an MPH and am working more on Operations/Advocacy but sometimes want to get more into policy research.

      1. Research Consultant - Healthcare Policy

        I started in state government, at an agency with a relevant focus. There, I produced lots of reports (that sort of qualify as my “publications,” even though very few have my name on them.
        In my current position, I work on a couple of contracts (mostly government) doing different kinds of things. For example, one project is entirely qualitative research, another is purely ad-hoc analytic work for a particular federal program, and a third largely involves training different state government staff around healthcare quality issues. I really love the variety that comes with being a consultant.

        I have an MPH, but it did very little to vault me into any of my positions since grad school (although I think the letters matter a lot). The main way I got into it is by developing skills that no one else was good at or wanted to do (analytics and statistics), and being so reliable that upper level people started to consider me invaluable. If you’re in a good enough management structure (and that’s a big if), getting recognized and getting your name out can really work in moving up in your career. Especially in healthcare policy in New England, where there’s a lot going on, but it’s a small world.

        1. H

          Thanks so much for all the input! I did a lot more with statistical analysis in grad school (as well as writing more policy memos) and feel out of practice now. Trying to think of ways to keep those (and my writing) skills sharp. Your current variety of work sounds very interesting!

  78. Clinical Research Associate

    I’m a research associate for a major medical center. Unlike a lot of CRAs, I handle absolutely every phase of a project– from going over feasibility with the physicians to applying with the IRB/doing regulatory paperwork to making patient materials to consenting patients and tracking their data to editing the manuscript for the journal article.

    1. Scientist Lost

      I’m looking for a job just like that! How did you find it? How did you get such a job when there are dozens and dozens of people applying for each one?

      1. Bea W

        Most CRAs and Study Coordinators are RNs. It’s often a requirement for many employers, but not always. You do need the healthcare/medical background. Many CRA positions involve a lot of travel to different study sites with the bulk of the working being clinical study site monitoring. Other positions are much more involved in other things like Clinical Research Associate describes or some combination of the two. It depends on what kind of employer you work for.

        A good way to get into this work is as a Study Coordinator / Clinical Research Coordinator, where you work at medical center or hospital seeing patients for study visits and working with the site’s investigators. You can find these jobs at research and teaching hospitals.

        There are some professional societies I recommend checking out for more information on this career.
        Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA) – http://www.socra.org
        Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ARCP) – http://www.acrpnet.org

        1. Clinical Research Associate

          This isn’t necessarily true, though. While a ton of coordinators are nurses and many places do require it, most of ours (a major research institution) and our collaborators’ do not have a medical background. I think it used to be more standard for folks like me to have such credentials, but nowadays I think it’s plainly just too expensive and there’s been a move away from that unless it’s directly necessary.

          1. Bea W

            RNs are really expensive! Once you get your foot in the door, it’s all on-the-job learning. They don’t really train people in university or nursing school to do this particular type of work. It does help to be familiar with a medical setting and medical terminology, and if you are working on protocol development, knowledge of research methodology (in any of the sciences or social sciences) helps. I think I can still count on one hand the number of non-RNs I’ve worked with in that capacity. So I think it depends on what kind of employer you work for.

            Some years ago I worked with one investigator who only hired non-RNs for that reason, and it was a source of mild controversy. Some of the RNs had strong opinions about hiring non-RNs as either CRAs or Study Coordinators. It was not a good idea to just not bring that subject up as small talk before a meeting. It was like politics or religion. Some things you just don’t discuss. :D

            1. Clinical Research Associate

              For me, my background was in social science research but specifically from the angle of people’s interaction with the health care system. I studied medical anthropology in university and then did public health work, so the combination of things were right. The other CRAs & coordinators here have very diverse backgrounds– many that I’ve seen have degrees in chemistry or biology and have more bench research experience. There are a fair amount of nurses as well, though, yes.

              It’s certainly not controversial, though… At least as far as anyone has ever admitted to me, I suppose, haha. I wonder how much of that is institutional versus changing times and changing the way research is often blended in with clinical services now. Why have the CRA that comes in be a nurse, after all, when there’s already a nurse in their appointment as part of their regular visit?

              1. Bea W

                That’s really interesting, and kinda awesome you were able to get into it without the RN. In 14 years on various types of clinical and observational projects I only encountered what you described at one study site, which was a large and very well known research and teaching hospital. For me it’s been easily 95% RNs in both the CRA and Study Coordinator roles, if not more, but that is really only speaking about the US.

                I wonder if it varies by region, or type of institution, type of research or indication or by employer though for my work for academic, public funded, and private industry it’s all definitely been an RN dominated career. If you weren’t an RN, you end up doing something else – project management, admin/regulatory, data management, stats, maybe safety (a lot of RNs in safety also).

                Caveat: I am neither a CRA or Study Coordinator, but the first 10 years of my career I worked very closely with the Study Coordinators at sites, and the in-house CRAs doing monitoring visits and traveling to regular investigator meetings, and also with some of the investigators (depending on what they were interested in – if it had to do with biological samples or looking at gross photos, that was likely assigned to me.) I’ve continued to work closely with CRAs at my last and current jobs. They are my lifeline for making my work work! There’s only so much magic I can work on iffy data without having to ask someone to intervene.

                There was certainly more opportunity to work cross-function when I was working in a setting where research was mostly funded by federal grants and contracts, and that was largely due to how the company was structured, with people working completely within self contained project teams vs. job function.

      2. Clinical Research Associate

        Well for one, my role is a little on the unique side. Most research associates or coordinators don’t do this sort of over-arching work on each project. If you come into a role like this you’ll likely be handling study visits and patient-facing tasks, but past that it will vary quite a bit.

        As for how I got into it, I did what’s considered “human subjects” research as an undergrad, a few times under professors and once independently. Though what I was doing was social science based and I’m now in medical research, a lot of the principles and regulatory considerations are exactly the same. The research I was doing was related to the health care system as well, so I had worked on health education & patient materials.

        Others that I work with come from very diverse backgrounds, though, and I had been working in some unrelated jobs and then patient outreach before I started here and god the kind of work I wanted. I was told that the regulatory experience I had was one of the big reasons I was selected. A big factor, though, was that I relocated to a city where there is a lot of research being done so there were more opportunities overall. I’m at a major medical center but there are also independent research institutes, biotech companies, universities, etc.