ask the readers: what kind of work can I do that’s not in an office?

I’m throwing this one out to commenters to weigh in on. A reader writes:

I am in my third office job and I’m starting to think its not the place, but the actual “office” that is giving me trouble. My first job was okay but only part time so I moved onto one that was full-time. That job was truly a terrible place that I was glad to leave and I’m in a much better office now with better coworkers and more interesting work … Yet I’m still not feeling it.

I look at my group of friends and peers: half are in strictly office work (banks, insurance, government, etc.) and the other half are doing far more interesting, not-restricted-to-an-office work. Things like teacher, dog trainer, librarian, living museum participant, journalist, to name a few. I find myself very envious of their jobs. I know they’re not without their own hassles (the teachers complain about bad principals and helicopter parents, the dog trainers about terrible owners, the journalists of long hours) but I long for a job that would get me out of the office setting. Heck, my current job has me working closely with contractors who make various things and I’m envious of them getting to do back-breaking hands-on things even though I couldn’t work their tools to save my life.

It’s something I’ve looked into but the problem is that a lot of those things that interest me (and I’m looking very widely here, I don’t have tunnel vision on a particular path) either don’t pay enough for me to make a living or they require additional education and degrees that I can’t do at this time. These are things I can pursue in my free time like volunteering but I’m so miserable in my office setting that I really think transitioning to something a little less conventional would increase my quality of life. Perhaps even office work in a less Corporate America setting would be good but they seem very difficult to break into (I’ve applied to various universities, museums, and non-profits for office work I’m qualified for but was turned down for not having specific experience in those settings).

Anyway, I’d just love to hear your thoughts and the community’s thoughts on getting out of eight-hour office work, because I really do feel like I’m going to be miserable if I continue down this office path. Any ideas of jobs that are a little more hands-on, or even office jobs in a more interesting setting, I’d appreciate any guidance you might have.

I asked the letter-writer about her skills and experience are. The answer:

My skills lie mostly in customer service. I honestly miss working retail because I loved working with the customers in person rather than just over the phone. I like working with people and helping them. My current office job is better than the others because I’m support to a very large team so I get to help lots of different coworkers with various tasks, my favorites being anything that takes me away from my computer, even just packing boxes and picking up lunch orders.

Actual marketable skills beyond that would be writing, editing, invoice processing, event/meeting planning, and various other administrative skills like that (yes, all skills mainly geared towards office work but I think I’d be able to take some evening classes in the near future so I may soon be able to add to my skill set).

Readers, what advice do you have for this letter-writer, and perhaps for others struggling with this question?

{ 334 comments… read them below }

  1. CR*

    Work in event planning! There is office time, but also time on site actually working at the events, dealing with people, running around being very busy. I’m in the nonprofit industry that hosts a lot of fundraising events, and our event coordinators are out of the office a lot.

    1. Gabriela*

      Seconded. Meeting and event planning covers a lot of really interesting and “outside the office” work settings. You could work for a hospitality-related business (hotel/resort or private club), an educational setting (student activities planner), even residential and office buildings need event/property managers that would put your skills to use and you’d be around a lot of different kinds of people. One of the things that sometimes burns event managers out is the running around and the constant venue change, but those things might energize you.

      1. MM*

        Yes! This is the kind of thing I do, and the fact that I have to jump to a new topic, a new set of people, and often as not a new crisis every couple of months is the thing that keeps me sane. If it were the same thing week in and week out I’d get bored, get depressed, lose my work ethic, and flame out within a few months.

    2. Me2*

      Same with working sales/marketing in a large hotel that does a lot of convention business. You’re busy walking clients around the meeting rooms, showing them what is available and how it can be configured, directing setup and food placement, making sure a/v equipment is where it needs to be, last minute changes the day of event were not the exception, they were definitely the rule. I did this job at the largest hotel in a mid-sized city and there was never a dull moment.

      1. Vaganova*

        Third-ed on event planning. Depending on where you live, have you thought about developing a side hustle as a wedding coordinator or planner? This can be very lucrative, especially if you establish a good reputation.

        Also, as someone who works for a non profit– its very office-y. In some ways, more so than in the corporate world. So I would try to look away from universities, museums etc. They want someone who has a passion for their mission in order to pay you below market rate and ask for a high level of performance. You have to really want that environment and it sounds like that is not for you.

        Have you thought about nannying? That can pay very well and be really fun. Depending on the family, it could also give you the scheduling freedom to develop an event planning/coordinating side hustle.

        1. Adlib*

          Yes! A former coworker of mine did event planning as a side hustle. She loved it but didn’t want it to be her full time job so she could still enjoy it.

        2. Jessica*

          Nannying is an interesting option, although I don’t think it’s fair to go into it without a really strong commitment for at least a couple of years, and it’s not likely to be a great resume-builder. But good nannies are worth their weight in gold!

          1. Vaganova*

            I agree about a resume builder — if one is interested in a professional office job. However, being a Nanny is something that you can do in many cities and pays very well and offers different kinds of time commitments. It could work for LW, since they are not interested in a professional office job.

        3. Olive*

          My mother was for many years the event coordinator at a private country club, and she loved it.

    3. Sassy AE*

      Second event planning. Especially corporate events (which are usually full time gigs).

      You’ll probably start out in a office setting for the first couple of months, but sooner or later you’ll be visiting spaces and running around for all sorts of weird stuff. I once had to rush to Michael’s and buy red ribbon then repackage 100 little bags of M&Ms because they came with the wrong color ribbon.

      I’ve also built many, many backdrop stands. I have it down to a science now.

    4. SansaStark*

      This was my first thought, too. I was an event planner in my former life and I think this might be a good fit for the LW. A *necessary* skill is being super organized, but you definitely don’t need additional schooling. There are also all kinds of different paths for an event planner, so that might help you with long-term interest in the field.

      1. HMM*

        I have long thought about event planning and want to transition from hr to doing corporate events. I would love to hear how y’all broke into the industry. I do events for my org now, but not nearly as much as I’d like.

        1. SansaStark*

          I work in DC so YMMV, but I found that event planning touched a lot of different areas: development, education, etc. My first job in event planning was a dual event and education coordinator for a small nonprofit where all of the events were tied to education. My biggest piece of advice is think about what you currently do and how any of that can be translated or transferred to events and frame your resume/cover letter with those skills in mind. Also, volunteer! Small nonprofits who put on events are always looking for volunteers and it’s a great way to beef up your resume and make contacts. Nonprofits are a good place to start because they’re not usually as well staffed and it’s more of an “everybody do everything” mentality, which means you’ll get experience doing a lot of different things that you wouldn’t necessarily get in a big company. Good luck!

      2. Shawna*

        Similar to strictly event planning are jobs in executive education and higher ed/nonprofit fundraising.

        1. Paige Turner*

          I have a friend who works for university admissions and travels to college fairs, high schools, etc. There is some office work, too, but a lot of time away.
          Also, OP, I used to work as a research interviewer for a university-run research study. Not a full-time job, but if you google “research interviewer” you should be able to see what’s involved. I interviewed people in their homes and only went to the office to pick up/drop off supplies.

    5. Anon Anon*

      I think it’s a good fit, the OP could check out MPI (one of the professional associations for meeting planners) that might provide more information. Many organization’s now expect a CMP credential for their meeting planners. So it may be that you would need to start off as a meeting assistant or something similar, which would be primarily in the office, before you would be able to move up though.

      1. Gabriela*

        MPI is great- also ISES (International Society of Special Events), NACE (National Association of Catering & Events) and IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions & Events).

    6. js*

      Was coming to say the same thing. I’ll also add that you can also work for an event services contractor – think the people who coordinate the actual structures and everything physical that is set up for tradeshows, conferences and events – or for hotels doing event management.

    7. I Am The OP*

      It’s funny you say that because event planning is at the top of my list of things that interest me. A relative of mine who has experience in that field has been giving me some guidance and advice. It’s been very helpful and I’m definitely looking deeply into it so any further guidance is much appreciated!

      1. Watermelon*

        If you are interesting in non-profit event planning, I would say that 99% of fundraising events need volunteers – both the night of the event and with planning committees. Its a great way to be exposed to fundraising events and everything that they entail.

        If fundraising isn’t your gig, what about event planning at nursing homes and assisted living communities?

    8. Shark Whisperer*

      I agree about event planning, specifically at nonprofits. Check out your local nature centers and parks. You could even look into admin-type jobs for nature centers. Yes, you’ll be in an office a good portion of the day, but you’ll also be outside a ton. In every nature center I’ve worked we’ve always had marketing/front desk/ events staff attend or even learn our programs so that they can both help out and to better assist any clients that they deal with. I don’t know what salary you are looking for, but nature centers and parks generally aren’t high paying. In my experience, government-owned ones have more money to work with that private non-profit ones. Check your local (city, county, state) parks & rec department websites.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        As a former event planner for a non-profit, I do miss the constantly being on the run between places. However, one word of caution, event planning can demand crazy amounts of unpaid overtime (depending on your employee classification), which can lead to burnout. If you have a manager who might give you a little comp time or flexibility here and there, it’s doable. If you have a manager who doesn’t value work-life balance, it can be hellish. Back-to-back 60 hour weeks with no flexibility or control over my schedule were not for me, but it was great work experience.

        1. Kiki*

          Seconded. I lasted less than 2 years as an event planner. I loved working with vendors and executing the event, but hated the event marketing portion and the hours. Granted, I probably worked at an unreasonable company, but I regularly had 3-4 large events each month to handle by myself and 65 hour work weeks were my norm.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I was just coming to suggest the parks & rec department! We have a large county recreation system, and there are people who work full-time at the rec centers (front office, acquatics directors, class coordinators/schedulers, personal trainers, events coordinators, etc.). Several of ours even have driving ranges, mini-golf courses, and other features beyond the building/pool that require additional staff.

    9. LSP*

      That was my first thought, too, after reading the OP’s skill set. And event planners can make a good living.

      It’s good to keep in mind, however, that if you’re changing fields, and you are early in your career, pay may not be great right off the bat. Sometimes, even after you think you’ve paid your dues, there’s more to pay after changing focus. In the end, though, you may find you are much happier.

      1. Dena Adriance*

        It’s true that pay may not be great right off the bat, but the OP does say they have event planning experience, and since they’re clearly not just starting off it’s possible that they might be able to market themselves to not come in at starting level, even if it is a bit of a career pivot. With careful thought to their story of how they are getting to this point (of wanting to be in event planning, or whatever career they choose), a little bit of gumption, and a strategic approach to the job search, they may actually be able to do fairly well in their pivot.

    10. nonymous*

      ++ on the event planning or catering. At the peon level (e.g. food servers), my understanding is that tips can make the job comparable in pay to many white collar positions (although no benefits). Maybe OP could start by doing small parties/budget weddings on the side? If her business takes off, then she can cut back or quit the day job, and if she dislikes being an entrepreneur, she will still have a portfolio of work (and contacts!) to find a permanent position in the hospitality industry.

      even if OP stops at picking up odd hours as a catering server, that may be enough to take the edge off frustrations at the day job.

    11. Rainy, PI*

      Thirded–universities actually employ event planners, OP! You could work in a university, but planning events for students or alumni or donors.

    12. Gingerblue*

      A couple of people in this thread have mentioned event planning positions at universities. I wanted to add that schools will often offer tuition waivers or reductions for staff, so if you ultimately want to retrain for another field, this can be a great avenue for dealing with the financial aspects. Also, while I imagine it varies by school and office, a lot of places are willing to be flexible on your work schedule specifically so you can go to a class. (I’ve only seen this from the teacher’s end, but I’ve had several older students over the years either take my classes for credit or audit them for no credit, some of whom were school staff members who took time in the middle of the day to attend our sessions.)

    13. Sunflower*

      I’d definitely recommend trying out hotel sales if you don’t like being in an office.

      If you go the corporate route, it’s really going to depend on the work place. Some people are on the move all the time but someone like me isn’t. I’m an event planner at a law firm and the majority of my time is spent corresponding with stakeholders and keeping them up to date on their events. Meaning a lot of emailing and sitting at my desk. We do go to onsite events but the actual event is such a small, small portion of what I do. I do work a lot of overtime (I’m non-exempt so I’m paid for it) but it also means I miss out on some opportunities because I need to be paid for it. For those who aren’t paid overtime, you can be expected to work crazy hours.

      I can answer any questions- maybe tomorrow on the open thread – if anyone has any about corporate event planning and my experience.

    14. Alexa*

      I was going to suggest this too. You’ll interact with many different people and need to physically move all over the place. There will be some office work but it will be balanced out. Beware though, often you work crazy hours, which is the number one reason I don’t do it anymore.

  2. Bridget*

    What about moving into sales? Sales people often travel a lot and even when they’re in offices are going from office-to-office and meeting new people all the time. Sales people also usually are paid well and it’s a skill that’s transferable across industries in the future. She could start by moving into sales in her current field and then she’d have lots of options.

    1. Pebbles*

      Yes, this! When husband and I had new window treatments installed, the salesperson came to our house to sit with us and go through the options. I’m sure there’s some office work involved there too, but it gets you out and meeting new people. And if there’s a product/service you like, all the better because you can speak personally about it to others!

    2. Bostonian*

      I’m going to second sales and specifically say that if you live in the northeast, apply to Jordan’s. If you love interacting with people and have retail experience, it could be a great fit. The job is 100% commission-based sales, but even people who aren’t great sellers make at least $60,000ish.

      1. Bostonian*

        Oh, and I should probably note the higher end of the spectrum, too. If you’re a top seller, you’re making well into 6 figures.

    3. Ihmmy*

      I was thinking sales could be a really good fit too! My cousin was a pharmaceutical rep for a long while and she really enjoyed it. Because of where we are her sales territory was quite large (in terms of square footage) and she had to do a lot of driving mind you. But she really enjoyed getting to talk to physicians regularly.

      Recruitment teams for various companies or organizations that are hard pressed to find staff or looking to recruit students. A transportation company I worked for was always trying to recruit, and universities / colleges are often running career fairs and trying to get more people involved in their programs.

      1. Amy*

        Yes! The whole time I was reading the OP I was thinking “drug rep!” Pharmaceutical sales gets you out and moving, meeting clients, building a book of business, and based on the few that I know, making a crap-ton of money.

    4. nonymous*

      yep, home sales for a big contractor could leverage OP’s knowledge gained in her current position. I’m pretty sure that the woman who tried to sell me windows last time had zero practical experience, but she could describe the process in detail and do a general assessment of what was already in place (in addition to knowing the tech specs of what she was trying to sell).

      Or those people who do home energy audits or radon testing. It seems those jobs depend more on technical knowledge (which can be learned) over skill. Manager of a paint store seems like a fairly physical job as well, with better pay than traditional retail.

    5. Dinosaur*

      Particularly sales for something that the OP is passionate about. I never thought I’d enjoy sales or be good at it because I don’t like high-pressure tactics. I hesitantly accepted a sales position for a company offering products that I was passionate about and it was a great work experience. I didn’t use high-pressure tactics but still had a devoted group of customers, still had great sales numbers, and truly enjoyed going to work. Give it a shot, OP!

      1. Bostonian*

        That’s a good point. So many people view sales as having to be slimy or deceitful, but the best salespeople are the ones that just listen to the customers and find the products that suit their needs! That’s especially easy if you’re selling something you’re passionate about.

    6. BF50*

      That is exactly what I was going to say. It sounds like she’d be good a sales. Customer service is very transferable into sales. I’m also going to second Dinosaur that sales sometimes gets a bad rep. It’s not about hard sells, but frequently about teaching the customer why your product is the best. You are more likely to buy from someone who connects with you and explains something to you, than someone who pressures you and you will definitely get more repeat customers that way, too.

    7. A Girl Has No Name*

      I was also coming here to suggest sales, specifically pharmaceutical sales, since OP mentioned liking the customer service aspect. Pharma sales reps are often talking to Doctors, Nurses, Assistants, and other office staff on a daily basis, with the goal of helping their customers understand their product, the disease, etc. But there are also conferences and programs that they attend on a regular basis as well.

    8. Carin S.*

      Agreeing with sales. I work in sales for a publisher and I have 2 months on my home office, prepping for the new season, then I spend 2 months on the road, going to bookstores. Mostly salary based, not commission, which is nice.

  3. HollyTree*

    Have you tried applying to theatres/cinemas for front of house work? Or drama schools for an admin position there? The work is a LOT more varied at these places, but would play to your skills. From when I did it, some days I was sorting out a costume cupboard, another I was talking to customers and taking tickets, another I was wrangling students and another I was doing marketing, and yet another I was doing filing. Smaller companies will let you wear more hats, and do more physical things.

    1. I Am The OP*

      That’s one that I have looked into but didn’t have much luck. Was even invited to an interview to what I thought was a paid job with a theater (it was listed on the website as ‘Job Application’, not a volunteer) and it turned out to be entirely unpaid, which I didn’t realize until halfway through the interview.

      1. Cece*

        When I did theatre work, there were both volunteer and paid positions available. If your schedule allows some hours alongside your current job, and since a lot of theatre volunteer work is evenings/weekends, it might be worth a second look at the volunteer side. You’d get a sense of the industry, and the kind of hours/duties required of the paid roles.

        (In my case, I chose to leave FOH theatre work in favour of making a go of it as an academic.)

      2. NotoriousMCG*

        My second job is as a part time house manager for the large arts center in town. It’s great and pays about $12/hour

      3. Phil*

        I do some freelance work in my local town’s theater industry, and a capable front-of-house and admin team is always a blessing to work with. Besides cold-calling local theaters, you might check the “administration” category on, a job board for theater work.

  4. nuqotw*

    It’s unclear to me whether the OP can’t do any additional schooling right now, or just can’t do much. I think in many states you can do a two year associate’s degree and then take the RN exam. You would definitely be helping and interacting with people, and be moving around / not constantly in an office.

    1. Callalily*

      My guess would be financial.

      I’d love to quit my job and aim for nursing. But I can’t give up a full time salary to work part time and pay tuition for a few years. I checked part time options and it would only really delay the inevitable for about 6 months.

      1. Temperance*

        Back when I was in the hospital, I met a few students who were doing an accelerated RN program, where their clinicals were all on weekends. Most of them had hospital jobs that were full-time and scheduled around the program. They were exhausted and stretched thin, but it’s totally possible if you change jobs to something full-time but with a different schedule.

    2. R.A.*

      Unfortunately, many hospitals now require or prefer nurses to have a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) instead of just an RN. There are many universities that offer accelerated BSN programs which are only 12 months, but they are full time programs and will cost you a pretty penny.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I was typing the same thing when interrupted by actual work! My sister had a BS in biology and did an accelerated 12 mo BSN a few years ago. It cost a ton of money, and she still had difficulties finding a job. She did find an RN job, but it wasn’t like the hospitals were beating down her door with offers. She faced the old must-have-two-years-experience to get an entry level job problem. She had about 10 years experience in medical office administration (was an HCA employee before she quit to do her program), but even that didn’t help her get her foot in the door since it wasn’t clinical work.

    3. ArtK*

      That’s not very good advice these days. Almost nobody will hire an RN with a 2-year degree, they now require a 4-year BSN. This is from my wife’s experience as someone with 17 years in the OR who couldn’t get hired because she didn’t have a BSN. Sadly, the nursing school system hasn’t caught up.

      1. Anon for now*

        If you’re in the US, have her search RN to BSN programs! Some can even be completed online, which gives her options if there aren’t good programs in your area. There are many excellent quality, accredited programs tied to brick-and-mortar colleges, and most are designed for working nurses. They usually don’t take as long to complete as traditional programs, either. Look for a regionally accredited college whose nursing program is also accredited by the state board of nursing in the state in which the home school is located.
        A Nursing School Advisor
        PS: I left my e-mail address this time. I don’t know how all of that works, but if possible and practical, Alison is welcome to share it with ArtK or others who want more info-just didn’t feel this was an appropriate place to plug my program directly. :)

        1. ArtK*

          Thanks, but she’s now retired. Back problems took her out of clinical work (one too many people trying to roll off an ortho table.) She’s looked at the RN->BSN programs and may pursue one if she decides to come out of retirement. She’s done admin work (ran the OR billing and scheduling for a major SoCal hospital.)

    4. Nurse Ratched*

      However, a lot of hospitals and even nursing homes offer great tuition reimbursement so a lot of people start as nursing assistants and work while pursuing a nursing degree. I don’t know exactly what our nursing assistants get paid, but I seem to recall it’s around $17/hr base with shift differentials and tons of opportunity for overtime. I know home care agencies in my area are struggling for staff, even of the unlicensed type (think like help with meal prep, chores, driving to appointments). Definitely not a career path for everyone, but I love being a nurse (challenging mentally and physically, good hours, fantastic coworkers and work environment) and there are soooooooo many different career paths.

  5. Episkey*

    It’s a little scary because the salary isn’t guaranteed, but what about a real estate agent? You can take night classes to get your license fairly easily…my boss is an agent (I’m her assistant but not licensed) and she does very well for herself and it out of the office frequently with clients, etc. Even as just an assistant, I’m not chained to the office — I often get to go run errands, do walk-throughs, meet with clients, things like that.

    1. a Gen X manager*

      Yes! This or a real estate appraiser. Some office work – but it is typically independent and off-site.

      1. cookie monster*

        REal Estate appraiser is really hard to get now. It requires a 4 year degree (I think in anything) to become licensed and then you have to find and appraisal willing to apprentice you-you can’t just get a license.

    2. Caelyn*

      It varies some state to state, but I just got my license in 4 weeks with a night class that was $450, so it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to start.

      I would definitely recommend keeping a day job or planning to live off savings for the first couple months, because it can take a while to get your first sale, but I think it’s a great idea.

    3. Malibu Stacey*

      This is true re: the independence but the income is anything but steady, especially starting out.

      1. nonymous*

        in this market, just because there are so few homes for sale, it can be especially hard for a newb. When we sold a couple years ago, there were many times more active agents in the county than homes for sale. As sellers, we would not have entertained using a new agent simply because we had so many options.

    4. AVP*

      I have a few friends who have done this in the past few years as part of a transition from other fields. It helps if OP can start doing it over nights and weekends while they build up to quitting their day job. I had another friend who got into it while on maternity leave so she wasn’t desperately in need of a paycheck.

      It might be easier here since we seem to be in a boom, though. Not sure what this transition would look like if it was a bad market.

  6. SophieChotek*

    I am not sure this would completely solve your issue, but what about those companies that do conferences for other professional societies? I am sure there would be office time in there aplenty, but (depending on your role and how busy the company is) there might be a fair amount of time for travel, working the actual events themselves, etc. I know someone who ran a small company like this and she would have to go to cities (where her clients wanted to host an event) to check out various hotels, venues, etc. and then come back to her client with various options/rates/photos of venues etc. Then during the event itself, she was usually the main person handling any problems/issues with registration, etc. But over the years I got to know her, because the professional society that I belonged to worked with her company, so we saw her every year.

    1. Sarah in Boston*

      My dad runs 6 professional society conferences a year. He’s worked with the same event company (5-6 people) for years now. It makes a huge difference having the same people consistently because they know all the quirks for your events.

  7. Anon Anon*

    If the OP has meeting planning skills and she likes that sort of work, then that might be something to consider. I know a variety of meeting planners and a lot of their jobs take place off-site and are more hands on. My brother works for a large event planning group and he’s rarely working in an office. Additionally, there are jobs in AV and meeting decoration that would be hands out, and may provide not require a lot of extra training for the OP.

    The one downside i think to many non-office dominate jobs is that they often require quite a bit of travel. It’s also very different work than teaching and construction.

    I suspect that the OP hasn’t found what they like doing yet. I find once you find something you enjoy that the location of the work matters less.

  8. Isben Takes Tea*

    Personal assistant? I don’t have personal experience, but it sounds like it would hit both the customer service and out-and-about options. Maybe try finding some in your area and getting more information?

    Good luck, OP–it’s a valid thing to be bothered about.

  9. ABAX*

    Check into hospitals for patient registration positions (often called Patient Access Reps). Your admin skills, combined with customer service experience, will be very attractive to hiring managers. An on-line medical terminology course would be a plus. Most of these reps work in the same area all day, but there are some positions that involve moving throughout the hospital during the day. You’ll have a continual stream of new faces and experiences.

    1. kimberly*

      I was coming here to suggest this.

      Another possibility would be something like a unit secretary on a hospital unit — sometimes called ward clerk or something similar. Or even something in materials management — keeping the hospital units stocked with the stuff they need. Lots of walking around the hospital, needs really good organizational skills.

      Neither of those pay all that great, and promotion is likely to lead back to an office job ….. However, hospital systems frequently have really good tuition reimbursement programs, and you could look around and see if anything else in health care interests you — anything from nursing, therapies (physical/occupational/speech/respiratory), radiology (xray tech, ultrasound tech, MRI tech, CT tech) to surgery (sterile processing, scrub tech) among others. You might be able to get all or most of your tuition paid for if that is the reason you’re hesitant to go back to school.

    2. Mitzy*

      Exactly what I was going to say!

      There’s a lot of patient interaction in those jobs. Also consider similar jobs like admitting registrar. I did that for the emergency department in my younger years. I got to meet people from all walks of life and it was certainly never boring!

  10. Callalily*

    I’m in this spot now… I’m 3 years (and 2 jobs) deep into accounting office work and I loathe it. I miss the years I spent in customer service related roles or even tutoring in college.

    I’ve been applying like mad for administrative roles that have a customer service component. Right now I have applications out for a high school secretary or student support at a local college… but it is so frustrating because no one seems to believe that I really want to switch from accounting to admin support. Even more frustrating that only public admin jobs will pay more than I make now, anything less and I’ll be regularly in debt.

    My advice is to look at EVERY job opening. Don’t be scared to look at part-time if you could swing 2 part time jobs to support yourself!

    1. Campbell*

      Have you considered doing accounting for a nonprofit? I know several people who loathed their corporate accounting jobs and were fairly easily able to pick up nonprofit accounting and make the switch. Heck some executive directors don’t even realize there is a difference!

      At a medium-sized place, you might be the only “numbers” person, but will get to be involved with lots of other things. Could be an excellent transition job on the way to something completely outside accounting. At my nonprofit we LOVE when someone comes with “extra” skills and/or when the accounting folks are interested in doing more than just spreadsheets.

    2. AstronautPants*

      If anyone needs an eye for accounting, it’s universities! Budget management is a huge part of administrative jobs, and most have little formal training with managing or overseeing them–leading to all kinds of crazy issues.

  11. Sarasaurus*

    OP, have you considered hospitality? You mentioned event planning experience and enjoying customer service. Group/catering sales and event professionals at hotels and conference centers have lots of one-on-one time with clients. Even though there’s office time, there’s no shortage of running around. There’s a lot of creative problem solving and managing chaos.

  12. BPT*

    What about trying to be a sommelier? You teach yourself (although there are programs you can take), and then you take tests to become certified (Introductory, Certified, Advanced, Master). You can get jobs as a sommelier once you’re certified, and they can range from anything to working in a restaurant to working in sales (working for a winery, going around selling wines to restaurants, etc). Seems like it could be an interesting job if you’re able to motivate and teach yourself.

    1. Lora*

      I wish I could do this job when I retire from pharma, but I hate people and customer service.

      1. kms1025*

        Lol…Lora your answer made me truly laugh out loud…me too on lots and lots of days!!!

  13. NicoleK*

    Health care field, social services, hospitality & tourism, wedding planning, sales, and etc

  14. Princess Carolyn*

    Is there a reason journalism isn’t an option? Maybe OP should consider pitching a few freelance stories that involve more hands-on, out-of-the-office things. A lot of journalism is done in office or co-working environments, but the right stories could take OP somewhere interesting. And it’s a field you can transition to through freelance rather than abruptly quitting your current job to switch fields.

    Or, what about bartending/waiting tables? If you’re OK with a nontraditional schedule and can be on your feet a lot, customer service skills might be an asset. And it often pays better than a lot of office jobs. Another thing OP could potentially try on a part-time basis before making a leap.

    I’m also wondering if some kind of training or consulting work would be appropriate, based on the skill sets listed, but I’m less familiar with that sort of work. Looking forward to reading what other commenters suggest.

    1. em2mb*

      Journalist here, with a word of caution: it’s harder than you think it is to work as a freelancer. Part of the problem is there are just so many out of work journalists here. I’m lucky to be in a situation that’s relatively stable, but my station works with a lot of just-about-retirement-age former newspaper reporters who’ve taken buyouts from big, metropolitan daily in our city. In the three years I’ve been here, we haven’t hired a single freelancer who 1) didn’t work for the newspaper or 2) didn’t do an internship here first. The pay’s pittance, too. Sure, you get paid more if your work gets picked up by a national publication, but your pitch isn’t going anywhere until you’ve made a name for yourself. (I recognize this is a horrible catch 22 for anyone trying to break into the industry.)

      1. Princess Carolyn*

        Yeah, I’m a former journalist and current half-journalist, half-marketer. You’re right about the state of the industry, especially with traditional news sources. Newspapers are a bad place to start at this point.

        I recommend looking to online-only outlets like Vox (and its many verticals), Vice, Gizmodo, Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, Upworthy, MEL… and some online versions of magazines, like Teen Vogue and other Conde Nast properties. Name recognition snowballs much faster online, and there are a lot of editors out there actively looking for voices that haven’t been heard.

        The OP said she’s good at editing and writing, but I’m not sure what kind of experience or education she has there, so who knows.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        And journalism is largely office-based, especially nowadays in the age of clickbait sadly.

        1. em2mb*

          I think it depends. I work in public radio in a mid-sized market, and I would say I’m in the office half the time, in the field half the time. (Even when I’m in the office, it’s rarely boring.) Friends from journalism school who have landed at national news outlets tell me they spend a lot more time at their desk than I do. That’s why I decided to go the member station route in the first place. I hate sitting in front of a computer all day.

          1. Princess Carolyn*

            I agree, it really depends on the kind of stories you do. Freelance lets you handpick your stories, of course. Working full-time for an outlet gives you some stability but less control over what you’re covering. And obviously the beat matters. Covering local government is going to put you almost exclusively in the office or at meetings; sports is going to be a lot of filing from the field. Writing about labor issues in North Carolina is going to lead you to farms and mines. Writing about identity and culture is going to get you in front of a wide variety of people.

          2. I Am The OP*

            Public radio is actually an avenue I’d love to explore but I’ve heard it’s hard to get in the door without multiple unpaid internships under your belt.

            1. AnonyMouse*

              It is – work in the industry, know this for a fact. Journalism can be a hard gig if you don’t absolutely love it. Hours can be long, pay is typically low, but you definitely can get out of the office a lot.

    2. Rocketship*

      Not to come after you specifically, Princess Carolyn, but I’ve heard enough people claim that waiters make more than office workers that it’s become a big pet peeve of mine. Maybe at a five-star restaurant in the heart of a big city…. maybe. But even then, I’m always skeptical of claims that “My friend waits tables and SuchAndSo and SHE makes $800 a night in tips alone!”

      Maybe that’s true every once in a while. But I think that’s the exception rather than the rule. I spent a decade in food service – here’s the reality of it:

      – You’re on your feet all day, every day.
      – You will INEVITABLY have a manager who believes wholeheartedly in the maxim “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”
      – Say goodbye to regular breaks, unless you fancy taking up smoking.
      – Same with your lunch hour. A 15-minute lunch is a luxury in a busy restaurant, and you will be eating it at 3pm or 9 at night or whenever you get a lull. You don’t eat at normal mealtimes… because you’re too busy feeding everyone who does.
      – Federal minimum wage is $2.13 an hour for tipped positions. So those amaaaazing tips waiters supposedly make, actually make up the bulk of their paycheck. And those tips are taxed.
      – As of May 2012, the average hourly wage – including tips – for a restaurant employee in the United States that received tip income was $11.82. (That is directly from Wikipedia.) Average wage for office workers is estimated between $12.25 and $16.00 per hour. (Various google results – plus I think it’s harder to define “office job” vs “tipped restaurant employee”)
      – Hungry people are grumpy people. No matter how amazing you are at customer service.
      – Steel yourself now for the emotional abuse you will undergo daily. Lots of people still think and act like waitstaff are akin to personal slaves.
      – Lots of people will look for any opportunity to tip poorly or not at all. Or they’ll think it’s funny to tip in pennies that you have to dig out of a glass of ice water. (True story). Or they’ll tell each other
      – You will constantly be cleaning up other people’s messes. Most of them will not make it easy for you. You will learn to loathe people who dine out with small children. You might come to loathe children in general.
      – You may of may not work full time from week to week. Your schedule will be wildly varied and unpredictable. Count on being called in to cover for someone at the last minute. Regularly, if one or more of your coworkers suck.
      – This may have changed since the last time I was in food service, but the benefits suck. Suuuuuuuck. You *might* get healthcare if that portion of the ACA survives our current administration. You *might not* get laughed out of the building for requesting time off, if you have a manager who still thinks of their employees as humans. Any other benefits you might find at an office job are a distant dream to waitstaff.

      Now, I am someone following the opposite trajectory of the letter writer – I want nothing more than to hole up in an office where I write emails and deal with people as little as possible. So it could be that I am overlooking some of the more positive aspects of waiting tables. But I’d like to lay to rest the myth that waiting tables is fun, easy, and more lucrative than writing TPS reports – especially because that mentality often becomes yet another excuse not to leave a tip.

      TL;DR Be kind and tip your waitstaff, ladies and gentlemen. :)

      1. Zombii*

        $2.13 for tipped employees is the federal minimum but it’s around a 50/50 split on whether the individual state mandates more than that, including 7 states that have no different minimum for tipped employees. Check the DOL website for specifics, anyone who’s interested in a tipped side hustle (or main hustle).

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      I did the freelance grind for a while. Even though you’re working from home/Starbucks, you never get to fully escape from the workplace. I ended up coming back to office-ish work because I realized I enjoyed a set schedule and a predictable paycheck more than I disliked offices.

      I know a few people who work for the local print newspaper. They get in the door with a $13/hr job doing phone sales, and the editor positions top out at around $45k. They all work from the office from 9-6 every day. The editors have to do the sales work too.

      I have no idea how other newspapers operate, but the reality of this one was so different from what I had assumed it would be like.

      1. Princess Carolyn*

        Ew, the editors have to do the sales too? I’m not even sure that’s ethical, but it definitely sounds like a drag. To be clear, I would never ever recommend working for a local newspaper. The best thing I ever did was get out of that industry.

  15. SophieChotek*

    I don’t know if OP is interested in starting own business over perhaps can find a local business, but a relative has a small business that helps elderly people. Sort of like a personal assistant. She doesn’t have any medical degree, and I think she still has to have some “extra insurance” but my understanding is, a lot of what she does, is step into fill gaps that are often filled in by children/relatives. But sometimes the client does not have family to rely on, or would feel more comfortable paying someone else. I believe her business/client services include such things as: driving clients to/from medical appointments or even beauty or hair appointments or other appointments; perhaps helping them negotiate things like insurance/bills (I think my relative had a background in insurance before she started this business for herself), grocery shopping, etc. It sounds like she can set her own hours, decide how many clients to take on, etc. I think she now does fairly well for herself (and she was doing this as a second career), but there could be more established businesses where you could just be an employee if you were did not want to risk starting your own business, etc.

    1. Kiki*

      I am very much like the OP in my feelings about office work, and I second this. For about a year I was doing a personal assistant job and I LOVED it. I walked their dog, picked up food/groceries (and was always offered some), ran business errands, etc. It was so nice to set my own hours and get to decide I wanted to go read in a coffee shop for 30 minutes before finishing the errands, so long as everything was ready in time for when my client got home.

      Unfortunately I had to go back to working in a traditional office setting because the pay was low and had no benefits, and I couldn’t sustain myself on that any longer. Maybe one day I’ll be in a better place and be able to start my own business like your relative did.

    2. AliceBD*

      There’s a woman at my church who also has this sort of business. She helps elderly people stay in their own homes, but their children don’t have to do everything. She’s helping another family at the church as well — the grandmother in the family has Alzheimer’s and must be supervised at all times and needs some help with personal care, but she is much more physically active than any of the care facilities around here can accommodate and she gets upset if she doesn’t get to walk around places. So she’s living with her daughter and son-in-law, who both work full time, and someone from the business is there every day while her daughter and SIL are at work/volunteering/etc. (Grandchildren are grown and don’t live in town, so can’t help.) She’ll probably go to a care facility later if it gets to be too much to do at home (and it often is with Alzheimer’s, as I understand it) but for now she’s happier where she is and it wouldn’t be possible without the business.

  16. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Concierge? Either at a hotel or resort facility, or freelance as a personal assistance.

    Buuuuuut…. you may also just been looking for a “unicorn” job that doesn’t exist. A job that doesn’t require additional training, doesn’t expect you to have experience in the industry, pays well, and keeps you out of a typical office environment? I suspect you’re going to have to compromise on at least one of those pieces.

    1. Liet-Kynes*

      “Buuuuuut…. you may also just been looking for a “unicorn” job that doesn’t exist.”

      Was coming to post exactly this. Look at this list:

      “Things like teacher, dog trainer, librarian, living museum participant, journalist, to name a few.”

      All of those a) require additional training, b) expect experience in the field and c) generally do not pay well. None of them would hire you at the moment.

      The addiction therapy world calls this urge “doing a geographic.” I’m not happy with my life, so clearly it’s all this stupid town/job/state, and if I change the setting, it’ll all sort itself out! I respectfully submit that OP needs to interrogate whether they’re unhappy working in an office job, or whether they’re discontented with other aspects of their life. Or just the prospect that, welp, this is it, I’m a salaried professional for the next 30 years or so.

      1. Miss Elaine E.*

        I can relate to these comments and also to the OP’s questions having been there myself. So, please don’t take this for an attack on the OP but could it just be the hassle of having to work?
        Going from my own personal experience, I wonder if, from tv, movies, novels etc., many of us have been conditioned to believe there is a perfect dream job out there and once we find it, we’ll be perfectly happy. While we should all play to our strengths, tastes, and talents, the fact is that it’s called “work” for a reason and it may be a matter of “blooming where you’re planted.”
        By all means, search for the dream job, but beware of “unicorn” job hunting.
        Best wishes from one who’s been there, done that.

        1. Liet-Kynes*

          “many of us have been conditioned to believe there is a perfect dream job out there and once we find it, we’ll be perfectly happy”

          I often wonder how many people went to architecture school because of Ted Mosby.

        2. Zombii*

          >>the fact is that it’s called “work” for a reason

          Please don’t take this as an attack, but the only time I ever hear that sentiment is from people who truly dislike their jobs so much they can’t image anyone else being fulfilled/happy/not miserable while working.

          Tl;dr: I’m sick of people telling me there are no unicorns when all I’m asking for is a damn pony. :)

      2. em2mb*

        I’ve never heard the term “doing a geographic,” but I love it! I moved three times in my early 20s, sure that a different job in a different newsroom in a different town would magically improve my life. It’s really hard to break out of that cycle, here. I now have a “dream job” of sorts, and sometimes I’ll find myself getting frustrated and thinking, “Oh, if only I were somewhere else … ” I’ve come to realize that’s just a sign I need to do some hard work to fix whatever’s disappointing me in my life! Places are just places.

        1. Chinook*

          I, ironically, would love to do the opposite of “doing a geographic” because I bet life would be so much easier and better if I could live in one place for ever… Instead, I have learned that the perfect job, and the perfect location, can be found if you learn to “love the one you’re with.”

          Part of making that work, OP, is seeing a job as a tool or a means to an end. After all, a boring office job can mean a steady income with predictable hours that gives you the means to do the things you truly love in the evening, on weekends and on vacation. It also means trying to find something good about every job. That one nightmare I described where I quit part way through a school year – I will always remember fondly the boys I worked with and how important getting to know coworkers can be. The job I was fired from because I am a horrible personal assistant – I learned a lot about that industry, how to use a Mac and met some very nice people there. At every job, good and bad, I learned the value of making casual acquaintances as well as friends when it comes to keeping my sanity in any given job.

      3. Morning Glory*

        While this is true, I also think that in general, some people are more suited to working in an office than others, much like some people are more suited to working with numbers, etc. than others.

        If the OP isn’t happy working in an office and has the option to try something else, it could make her a lot happier in the long run.

        1. Liet-Kynes*

          It could also maroon her in a low-paying, dead-end job without much prospect of advancement, too.

      4. Newlywed*

        I had not heard that term “doing a geographic” before so I looked it up. Thank you!

  17. Miso*

    I know it was already mentioned in the letter, so I don’t know if it’s already out of the question, but I work at a library and I love it. Especially the fact that I don’t sit in my office all day. That probably depends a lot on the respective library, but we’re small, so everyone does everything here. We open mainly in the afternoons, so in the afternoons I sit at the lending/information desk and interact with customers mostly (that’s actually what I like most about the job as well!), and in the mornings I either do stuff in my office, or have one of the many many events with kindergarten and school kids we do. It’s really very diversified – otherwise I’d probably be bored very soon as well.
    Of course I have no clue what you need to work in a library in the US (assuming OP lives there), but I did a dual apprenticeship, i.e. I worked at the library and went to vocational school a couple of days a week. And got money right away.
    Anyway, good luck OP!

    PS: Before I ended up here, I studied this and that, but nothing gave me this “I can do this the next 40 years” feeling – the library does.

    1. Jax*

      Seconding library. There are also plenty of jobs within the library that don’t require an MLS, so no additional schooling is needed right away.

      I drove the bookmobile, did the jail service, worked in the children’s department, worked at the branch library, drove the outreach van to retirement homes, worked with adults, dressed up as Piggie (Elephant and Piggie) as a library paraprofessional. It was so much fun and I loved that my days were varied.

      1. Coffee and Mountains*

        Also, there’s still that notion that library workers sit around and read all day, so if you emphasize how much you like working with people and doing lots of different things, it could really help you.

      2. Peep*

        And there’s a lot of library jobs that WON’T take you if you have the MLIS. Besides, if you just want to try out library-type work, you should be starting with a page or assistant job. Loooots of customer service face time, but also maybe shelving which could get boring. idk.

        I have an MLIS and have been turned down for a few jobs -I- wanted to break back into the job market, even temp ones, because I was “too qualified” despite wanting to gain the specific experience (digitization) that the temp job would give me more of. *eyeroll*

        Also think of “special” libraries — public libraries aren’t the only places that need people, but they are the ones that probably offer the most customer service-type opportunities. Hospitals have libraries, big companies have libraries, many museums have libraries…I once saw a job posting for a “materials librarian” to collect all the product samples that went into making Apple products. That one sounded cool!

      3. Liet-Kynes*

        No offense to people who hold those jobs, but are those really career jobs where you can advance and grow? Those all sound like really nice jobs for a mostly-stay at home parent or a retired person looking to fill a day, but for a young person presumably trying to launch a career, those sound like dead ends.

        1. LibraryLand*

          Not at all. It’s a great starting point and way to see if they like the library world. Again, most people outside of LibraryLand believe that all library employees either read or shelve books. Pages are the ones who shelve books (may help with readers advisories or circ), library assistants and librarians do pretty much everything under the sun. Pages are paid the least and not really a way to make a living, but many library assistants are paid livable wages (more skills are needed, some require a bachelor’s degree).

          The library world is filled to the brim with qualified people, it’s incredibly hard to obtain Librarian (with the MLIS) jobs if you have no experience as a library assistant. Not to mention many people love the work they do as an LA and decide not to get their MLIS or become a librarian. So while you might think that working ‘lower’ levels of library jobs is a dead-end, it’s really just the starting point.

        2. GigglyPuff*

          Actually those are all unique library jobs within the profession that certainly allow you to advance and grow (not that everyone wants to, I love being a worker bee, I would much rather learn every possible thing about my job than try to advance every few years up the chain to become library management, nothing wrong with that just not for me). I mean I tried children’s librarian classes in grad school, I lasted two classes before I fled and dropped it. Being a prison librarian takes so much dedication and I’m in awe of those people. Outreach librarians, adult reference librarians, all these positions require knowledge just like any job. And if someone can do more than one of them, my hats off to you.

          I don’t know, I know you said no offense, but something about your post just rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a little condescending. Just because it’s something you can’t see yourself enjoying, doesn’t mean other people don’t find it enjoyable. I know, I know you’re probably really just referencing someone just starting out a career, but for some that is their career goal.

        3. Librariana*

          In many libraries there are opportunities to advance to a department head position, which may or may not require a degree. Supervisory positions tend to pay well! So yes, there are opportunities for advancement!

    2. GigglyPuff*

      It’s completely possible the OP could get library work without a degree. But as someone who got one not to many years ago, I don’t want them to think it could be all butterflies either. Even for jobs that don’t require a degree, they would be competing with new graduates that do have one. And while many places won’t hire people with a degree for paraprofessional jobs, many will go with the person with the degree. Degree required or not, it’s a really tough market right now, and also the pay sucks for people with degrees, I can’t imagine it’s much better for “entry” level paraprofessionals.

      1. Treecat*

        This. Also, it does depend on the library/type of library work–I’m an academic librarian and most of my time is spent in front of a computer, unfortunately.

    3. knitting fiend*

      Library work can be tough to break into ~ but it’s incredibly varied and greatly rewarding. Never a dull day {although there are some dull moments, like when I need to explain to the seventh person in one day how to attach a file to an email….}.

      Especially if you live somewhere with library systems, there’s a range of positions ~ programming is a big one. At the other end ~ smaller libraries need people who are Jacks/Jills-of-all-trades, so the combination of customer service/administrative experience is good background.

      If you get a library job and decide you like the work, there are several very good on-line graduate MLS programs that are reasonably priced, quite flexible, and with a majority of students who are part-time while working.

    4. Librarian*

      Full-time library work without a degree or especially a foot in the door is hard to come by. If you live in an area without a library school, it can be easier. But it is a competitive field to break into. Lots of people like working in the library field.

      1. Another Librarian*

        Came here to say this. We sift through HUNDREDS of applications for entry-level *part-time* positions. Even more for full-time positions. And neither pays particularly well. In my library system, you also tend to move toward office work the higher up in the organization you go. If you don’t want to do that, your pay will remain very low, probably lower than what OP is making in their office job.

        Also, don’t assume you’ll like it more than your current job. You’d probably work evenings and weekends, which don’t seem like a big deal until you get older and realize that kind of sucks when the rest of your friends/family are off on the weekend and you’re working.

        So OP, just make sure you actually research a field before jumping to it because it gets you out of an office. I’m honestly not intending to badmouth the library field because I love it, but I love it from an office setting with a regular 9-5 schedule… I have a journalist friend as well, and she hates the schedule and the fact that she’s always wondering if it’s her turn to be laid off.

    5. irritable vowel*

      Yes, you can definitely work in a user-facing role in a library without an MLS. However, those jobs definitely don’t pay as well as the professional-level positions, and depending on what the OP’s financial needs are, it might not pay enough. Academic libraries will generally pay more than public libraries, plus you often get great benefits (being able to use the campus gym at a reduced rate, more flexible hours during the summer, etc.). At my academic library in a large East Coast city, this kind of job would probably pay around $35-40K depending on how much they thought your retail experience would transfer.

    6. I Am The OP*

      I haven’t taken libraries off the table! One of my friends is a librarian and loves it, and she often lets me know when positions are open. The problem is that funding is tight with the public library so not many jobs come up, and those I’ve applied to I didn’t get a call back. But public and private libraries are both on my radar. Thanks for the advice!

  18. GalFriday*

    I wouldn’t rule out libraries just because you need a graduate degree – you only need those for professional-level work, and if you’re interested in breaking into university libraries, paraprofessional work is a great way to start. You may even be able to find work at a place that offers Masters in Library Science degrees so you could get a break on tuition while working there. If you like helping people and don’t want an office setting I’d suggest looking at circulation or access services jobs.

  19. Red*

    You should consider being a pharmacy tech! You don’t have to have a certification but I have mine and it only took 2 months of training and an exam. It’s definitely not an office job, and I think it’s kind of fun. Customer service skills are everything for people in this position, so if you have those, you can do this!

    1. Nosy Nelly*

      Have you ever met a pharmacy tech who does it part-time as a second job?? (asking for a friend with student loans and academic training in pharm/tox ;))

      1. SaraNoH*

        Yes. My husband works at a retail pharmacy chain and several of their pharmacy techs work there as a second job (one is a special education teacher and another is a dental hygienist).

    2. Crobat*

      Came here to say this, and I’m also planning to go part time as a second job once I’ve moved on.

  20. Granddaughter of Resident*

    Nursing homes hire people to do activities with the residents. It involves a lot of interaction with elderly people, gathering supplies, planning events, and going from place to place making sure everything gets done. I loved the activities people at my grandma’s nursing home. They took care to interact with families as well as residents and could be seen everywhere where the residents were. The key is finding a facility with an open environment, where staff and residents are encouraged to work and live side-by-side.

    1. k*

      Activities staff is a great idea! Besides nursing homes, they also have this type of staff at most residential facilities for all ages and populations, plus a lot of organizations that work with children or people with disabilities will have this type of staff. Many are nonprofits so I would check for open positions. You may have to work your way up, but there are jobs with good pay and benefits there (mostly depends on the size and budget of the organization).

      I work at an assisted living residence and we have a wonderful activities department (I’m not part of it but am pretty familiar what they do). They run in-house things like bingo games and art groups; coordinate visitors like musical performances, volunteer groups, and speakers; and take residents on outings ranging from grocery shopping to theater performances to amusement parks. There is some paperwork and office time, but most work is done directly with people in a variety of settings.

      1. I Am The OP*

        Your program sounds like exactly the kind of thing that I would love to do! Thanks for the advice!

    2. Elmyra Duff*

      Yes, this! My mother has been an activities director for years and it’s a seriously amazing thing to do. Even if you can’t afford to do it full-time (because the pay is notoriously awful), activities departments always, always, always need volunteers.

    3. I Am The OP*

      I have thought about this actually! I want to do some volunteer work with a nearby nursing home to see if I would enjoy doing it as a full time job. I think I would but I’ve had a few people tell me that it’s a terrible job for various reasons. But it’s definitely something I’m looking into, thanks!

  21. One Day More*

    So a quick thought as someone who has been in an office job for 15 years and (hopefully) soon transitioning out of one.

    I think you need to stop looking at these jobs as desk jobs and non-desk jobs (or regular corporate jobs, etc) and focus more on what it is you like to do. You mention you like customer service and I would hazard a guess what you enjoy is the regular interaction with people. So why not pursue retail or sales positions that allow you to work with others? It sounds like you’re pretty early into your career and now is a perfect time to try out a few things and see what works. And in the meantime, even though you’re miserable volunteer anyway. You might find a passion that can lead you down your future career path.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes, actually I started out in customer service at a small dot com back in the day (actually admin first, then cust svc) and that grew into more if an account management role which was a combo of customer service and sales (personally handling large accounts and upselling/crosselling. Then I transitioned to a strictly sales role (somewhere else) but didn’t like it…now I’m back to being an admin in a more senior role, which is great but trust me I get very tired of sitting in front of a computer all day. But for me, personally, having stability outweighed the desire for a more non-traditional out of the office type job. I waitressed and bartednded for years before that first office job and I did love it in some ways, but didn’t want to work holidays and weekends forever.

  22. Sal*

    Hmm, I have a pretty good setup where I work in an office but have frequent “hands-on” things that keep it interesting. The hands-on part is more exciting for sure, but it’s also high-tempo high-stress and not sustainable without frequent office time for planning and analysis, even though that part can get boring. I’m an engineer, though, so not applicable to you without school, but I’ll throw out some more general things to think about that friends and I have experienced in both 9-5 jobs and non-9-5 jobs:

    1. The 9-5 schedule can get monotonous, but I kind of love it. I don’t mind working late or weekends when required (which means it’s busy so at least goes by fast), but I like M-F schedules. My best friend works a lot of weekends, and while her occasional Tuesday off or 3-day weekend when she gets a Monday off are nice, she hates working Saturday and Sunday when all her friends are hanging out. This obviously depends a lot on your group of friends/family, what you like to do, personality, etc. But I would personally focus more on the “hands-on/not office” piece than the “not 9-5” piece.
    2. You are right about money. There are obviously some jobs like what you’re looking for that pay well (I was lucky enough to find one), but a lot of them don’t, a lot of them don’t have benefits, etc. Think about how much trade-off you’re willing to make.
    3. If you do end up in a 9-5 role, look for one with a flex schedule. It’s not going to make it interesting, but when I don’t have to be at work for a meeting or a mission, I can come in early, leave early, whatever over the pay period as long as I get my 80 hours in and it definitely helps. I can work and extra hour each M-Th and take one Friday off. I don’t think I could go back to having a strict (for no reason) schedule. Of course it’s give and take, when there is a mission on Friday I have to stay until it’s over, even if I came in at 7AM and it goes until 8PM.

    Beyond that, it sounds like event/meeting planning, which you mentioned in your skills, might be a good place to look? Could have some of both – office work for the planning part, but it would still probably be pretty interactive talking to vendors, customers, etc. Then maybe working the events for the hands-on part? It could be corporate events, weddings (that’s a lot of weekend nights though), alumni events, etc.

  23. NoWorries*

    Take a look at law enforcement! You don’t have to go to a police academy to find rewarding work that helps to build the community and help society in larger ways. If you have the stamina to be on phones for long shifts, there’s ALWAYS 911 operator positions, but that can be a brutal (albeit very rewarding) job. Then there’s also positions like Public Service Aides who take limited reports, help change tires, and so forth with some agencies. In fact, thinking on it, a Public Service Aide position may be exactly what you’re looking for. I will tell you though, another position that requires plenty of activity and movement is a Process Server, serving paperwork and subpoenas. Most people won’t be particularly happy to see you though.

    1. Junior Dev*

      A friend of mine recently got a park ranger job after doing a law enforcement certification course. So that’s an option too, though some park jobs would probably have less human contact, there are also ones where you spend a lot of time giving tours or directing people (thinking of the national parks I’ve been to where there’s a ranger station with exhibits).

  24. ZSD*

    This might sound a little crazy, but what about trucking? It pays very well (I know of truckers who make significantly more than I make at my requires-a-PhD job), and it’s certainly different from sitting in front of a computer screen all day. I personally would hate it, but people who love it, love it.
    (Of course, with self-driving cars, we’re approaching the point when this industry won’t exist anymore, but you could possibly do it for ten years.)

    1. Princess Carolyn*

      I saw an article recently about how trucking has become a popular choice among trans people, since their identity/appearance are pretty much irrelevant to the work. They don’t have to worry about whether they “pass” or deal with a bunch of co-workers who don’t respect/understand their identity. But then I’ve also read about widespread lease-to-work models in trucking that keep people in poverty, so I guess you have to be careful.

      1. ZSD*

        Yes, the lease-to-work model is a real problem that people need to watch out for (and that the government should take action on, imo).

    2. Government Worker*

      In a similar vein, how about bus operator? The hours are more stable than trucking, typically, since it’s all local. Most transit systems are unionized so the pay and benefits are pretty good. And there’s a lot of interaction with the public with a big element of customer service. Some places will help you get your commercial driver’s license as part of training.

      Caveats: Given the union seniority system, new hires get the worst shifts so the hours can suck until you’ve worked your way up (very early morning, for example). Also, depending on where you live, it can include dealing with the worst aspects of the general public. But as with trucking, some people really love it.

    3. I Am The OP*

      I’ve thought about trucking actually and then my parents, roommates, best friend, and even grandparents all jumped down my throat that it’s far too dangerous for me. Of course, none of them like my idea about driving for Uber either but they’re all very against truck driving for females.

      1. Hillary*

        I’d be happy to talk offline if you want to learn more about opportunities in trucking and adjacent fields – I’ve been working in the business as a shipper for about 15 years now. There are a lot more women in the field than there used to be. My email is marguerida at g m a i l

        1. BF50*

          That’s a good point about adjacent fields. You can be in logistics and not drive a truck, but also spend plenty of time away from your desk.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        My dad has been a truck driver for ~40 years. He works for one of the formerly best companies (rhymes with small-part). Truck driving can be good for an income, but it’s terrible for families and personal life, and it is terrible for health, too.

        Now at age 65 and in the top 20 seniority drivers of ~300 at his distribution center, my dad has recently been working forced OT on Saturdays. This is something he didn’t have to do 10 years ago, with less seniority but better company policies.

        It might be a fun adventure for a little while, but I can’t see it as a great long-term career choice except for a few special folks.

      3. NaoNao*

        Can you do “customer service truck driving” like USPS, mail carrier, or Fed Ex? Or perhaps be one of those people that stocks the vending machines or reps a product? If you are over 21, you might look into being a wine or beer salesman. I have a friend who’s ex did this, and it paid 90k (!!). It was mostly a sales and schmooze position and required a lot of legwork and sales, but it’s super fun if you like to drink beer or wine.

        If you don’t have qualms about it, Big Tabbacky (JR Reynolds and the like) have big baller positions where you work as a travelling rep for their products. You can get a company car, and you basically get a territory where you roll around and check to see if your stuff is stocked, do they have the latest and coolest products, and would they like more XXX? It pays *very well* because, tbh, the morality of it is…not for everyone.

        But you get your customer service, out of the office, something different every day, and with the new e-cigs and the like, it may not be quite the difficult dilemma that it was in the past where you feel like it’s “I’m selling cancer sticks here!”

        1. The Queen of Cans & Jars*

          2 of the happiest people I see at work are the UPS guy and the vending machine guy.

      4. Jaded*

        I learned how to drive rigid trucks (ie not artics) and, honest to God, it was pretty much the most fun I’ve had doing anything! Like, so much fun I still can’t believe people actually get paid to do it! Unfortunately, my country changed the eyesight requirement just after I got my license, so I was never able to use it. But I live somewhere with more reasonable requirements now, and there’s a chance in the future I might need a heavy vehicle license – I’m really hoping so because I’d love to requalify and actually be able to use it this time around.

        (My parents were horrified too, totally furious about it. But all the drivers I’ve met were great people, and although I was the only woman on my course, it was a pretty welcoming environment.)

    4. Hillary*

      Along similar veins, with OP’s experience she’d be a great fit for an entry-level clerk or dock supervisor (you supervise the dock, not people) at a less than truckload carrier. They’re always hiring because entry level is usually second or third shift, but it can be a fun job with a lot of career paths going from it (most of the terminal managers start in this job, as do most of the salespeople). It takes organizational skills and it’s paperwork but it’s much more active than a desk job. If you want to move into a CDL job as an established employee they’ll pay for it.

      The national teamster companies tend to pay the most, but I’d go work for almost any of the national companies if I was at the beginning of my career and knew what I know now.

  25. bunniferous*

    Real estate! Unlike the writer I do not mind office work per se but my niche gets me out of the office and into the field (inspecting and taking pictures of properties) and some of what I do can be done at home. There is training and licensing involved but not that much. Lots of rental companies need someone to inspect houses periodically, etc too. And since the writer enjoys customer service-this may be the perfect niche since buyer agents have to be great at it.

    1. bunniferous*

      PS working as a real estate assistant is a good foot in the door to really see if this is what you want to do plus you will learn the things that real estate school will not teach you.

    2. Kiki*

      How are the hours being a real estate agent? Are you basically working non-stop (answering client emails, scheduling last minute showings, etc) or do you get time to really disconnect? I have considered getting my real estate license but this was something I was unsure of. Also the pay…I live in a competitive market so it might take awhile for me to make any money.

      1. Liet-Kynes*

        A friend of ours is a realtor in Denver, which is a hot market, but she basically has zero time to disconnect on an unplanned and regular basis. She works basically nonstop and answers emails and calls from 6am until well after 9pm, including weekends.

      2. Bostonian*

        That’s a good question and I would love to hear a response from someone in the industry. Every real estate agent I’ve dealt with seemed like they were always “on call” (answering non-urgent emails right away in the evening, for example).

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yeah and it’s a bit tough at first to establish your “territory” so to speak. I had a friend who went into it during the recession and got lucky after about six months the guy who was the area expert died and he swooped in. He offered to get me into it but I didn’t have 6-12 months worth of savings to live off of. In my area, though, a lot of the big real estate companies will hire and pay for your training and licensing, which is cool, but again, meanwhile you make nothing.

      3. Malibu Stacey*

        My mom sold real estate for years and you don’t make money unless you make a sale. And many markets are over-saturated with real estate agents since it’s pretty easy to get a real estate license. So basically that means you can choose not meet clients or return calls outside of conventional business hours if you want, but there’s plenty of real estate agents who will if your clients are motivated to buy or sell they can go find someone else easily.

        1. Manders*

          Also, there’s a pretty good chance that your clients will need you to be available outside regular business hours because they have jobs they can’t drop to go see houses. My husband’s uncle was my real estate agent, and while he has some free time, he does have to do a lot of rushing around on the weekends.

          He also had to get another job when the bubble popped and the housing market was terrible. It had nothing to do with his skill as an agent, the work just wasn’t there.

      4. k*

        I recently purchased a home and my agent was available all the time. We both work 9-5 jobs and and couldn’t be taking a ton of time off for meetings and phone calls, and open houses and showings were all weekends. When looking for an agent I searched a lot of yelp reviews for different agents, and positive reviews always seemed to praise how they were available 24/7. Buying a home is a time sensitive process. Our agent was actually out of town the day we viewed the place we bought, but had an associate that could take us. It got several competing bids that day. If we had waited even one more day to see it we would have missed out.

  26. Pam*

    As someone in higher education, I recommend looking at that field. You may still be doing your ‘office work,’ but you’re doing it in support of, and surrounded by students, which is very energizing.

    Keep trying- universities (particularly state-funded) can be hard to get into. Once you are in, though, changing jobs/departments is easier.

    1. Shawna*

      Yes! Jobs in student centers, student activities, and residential life are all full of interaction.

    2. Kathryn*

      +1! I often have meetings across campus so I get to walk around. My office is very laid back and allow me to attend events and seminars. There is also always something going on campus.

    3. I Am The OP*

      I would love to get into university/college work, I think I’d love that field. I’ve applied to a wide variety of positions, and even made it to interviews a few times, but have always been passed over for someone who already had experience in higher education, while I’m brand new to it.

      1. Cat*

        Look for temp-to-hire jobs at large universities! That’s how I broke in. Just Google “[university name] temp jobs” and the description will usually specify temp-to-hire.

  27. Koko*

    I have a good friend who works in the Amazon warehouse. It’s not outdoors, but that may actually be a plus when the weather is crap! She wears a pedometer and has found that she walks 10-20 miles a day or more. She started off as a seasonal employee and worked her way up to a supervisory position over the course of a couple of years. She’s been there for ages now and from all I can see she loves her job and feels well taken care of by Amazon. (This in contrast to their famously awful corporate office policies.)

    I also had a friend who quit her job at a nonprofit to become a dog walker. Her mental health dramatically improved once she started working outdoors with dogs every day instead of inside a dysfunctional nonprofit office. I don’t know how much she made, but I have a dog and the going rate with independent walkers and sitters in my area is $30-45 per walk (with a discount on multiple pets from the same home that can be walked together) and $50-75 per overnight. The business owner or platform probably takes some 25-30% cut of that I’d guess, but If you can make $300/day for 48 weeks a year – which seems like it’d be reasonable if you built up a good list of regular clients, that’s a $72,000 annual income which is pretty decent.

    1. kms1025*

      I always see ads for Amazon distribution centers and thought the same thing for OP. Definitely a growth business but did wonder how the distribution environment compared to the awful corporate environment we’ve read about???

    2. I Am The OP*

      Hmm, there is an Amazon warehouse near to me. Never thought about looking there. Thanks for the tip!

      If I could make 72K taking care of pets, I’d be over the moon! That’s 30K more than I’m making now and to be around animals all the time would be amazing. Not sure if it’s feasible in my area because I think it’s mostly neighborhood kids who do it for pocket change but I’ll keep it in mind. A friend of mine who lives in a big city did it for a year or two and she loved it. Her husband was the main breadwinner of the house so her income was just a bonus, not something to live off of. But she loved it while she did it.

      1. Michael Carmichael*

        Be aware though with dog walking/sitting that it is extremely hard to take time off yourself at the holidays because those are your busiest times and your clientele will expect you to be available. If you don’t care about holidays or are able to celebrate on alternate days, it can work out fine. I have two friends who do this full-time and that’s the main complaint I have heard from both. One had to plan/announce a winter holiday trip a year in advance and still had trouble with clients becoming upset that she wasn’t available.

    3. Sarah*

      Your numbers only work because she was married t a breadwinner. Re insurance.. benefits.

  28. hate being stuck at my desk*

    I feel this hard. I have a PhD, but left academia (no jobs) and have worked in non-profit development for the last three years mostly in grantwriting. Although I don’t miss academic garbage, I really, really miss the flexible schedule and variety from day-to-day. I feel like I’m chained to my desk for 8 hours a day and I do not like it at all. I know there are development jobs that do involve lots of travel and in-and-out–major gift officer for one–which I’m trying to move into, but right now I feel very, very stuck. I’m also at that weird experience level, where I’ve (FINALLY) moved up out of entry-level (1-3 years), but am a bit low for mid-level (usually 5 years for jobs around here). It is frustrating to say the least.

    1. N*

      Have you thought about freelance grant writing? You could start to build contacts with organizations in your niche of expertise and do one aspect of the resource development for them.

    2. allthatremains*

      I used to work for a grant writing consulting firm, completely flexible schedule, meaning aside from client meetings and mandatory meetings (probably 2-3x a month) you never had to be in the office. There were some colleagues I only saw at those meetings, so there really was no pressure to come in if you didn’t have to be in the office. I think the company I worked for was unique, but I’m sure there are other ones out there!

  29. Shiara*

    Something to keep in mind is that it can take time to make a transition like this, and that’s okay. I find that, for me at least, having a plan and an end date for my current situation makes it easier to tolerate being in a less than ideal position. I know I don’t like where I am, and I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but just having the next step or two that I’m going to try is helpful.

    So maybe you can find a non-profit to volunteer with for a few months in your spare time, and that will help give you the experience you’re lacking to make that jump to making it your full time work, as well as give you an opportunity to assess whether that’s the sort of thing you’d actually like to do full time or not. If it is, after that six months or so you’ll start applying again in earnest, and if it’s not, you’ll try taking a night class in a field you’re interested in or volunteering as a tour guide for a local attraction.

    1. I Am The OP*

      You’re definitely right about this. I’m not in that much of a hurry; I haven’t been in my new office job that long and I’m mainly just enjoying that it isn’t a miserable hole of a job like my last office job was. So all this ‘where would I actually be happy’ has been on my mind now that my ‘I need anything to get out of this awful place’ job search is done. So I can take some time to volunteer and take evening classes to see what interests me.

      Thanks for the kind comment!

  30. B*

    Definitely look into event planning as that can vary from specific companies to caterers/restaurants to hotels, country clubs and conference centers to museums and large libraries to event planning companies. I would say this is also one of those where you may not get out of the office a lot in the beginning but the more you grow and show your capabilities the more you will be able to get out and about.

    If you think you would like teaching look into some cities that pay for you to go to school while you teach. NYC has that, not sure which other cities may. You could also look into Teach for America.

    And please listen to your gut, as 10 years ago I wish I had listened to mine and not been afraid to take that jump. Like you I would much rather be out and about.

  31. DatSci*

    If the OP would be open to traveling most of the year; what about being a deckhand/steward on a yacht or cruise line? Often people in these jobs can make enough from tips alone to only work during the busy season. That is a job with practically no “office” work and helping people, where you make both a base wage and hefty tips depending on the type of ship you’re working on. You can likely break into entry level roles with willingness to learn and little additional training.

    1. NaoNao*

      It’s SUPER ULTRA competitive to get into those jobs, FYI. I was working overseas and wanted to transition to this type of job and they wanted impeccable credentials, as well as extensive hospitality experience.
      I will say though, I was looking more at professional level jobs, so that might make a difference. Deckhand, servers, etc have it kind of rough—two solid months at sea with little time off, very tiny bunks, often the wages are at minimum wage—but if you can get in, you might be able to get into management!

    2. I Am The OP*

      I would but I get seasick if I’m on the water more than a few hours. I’ve done a few cruises as family vacations and yearn for when we’re back on land for our ‘excursions’ because being on the water makes me feel so sick. I think I’d love the career but it would be very impractical. Thanks for the thought!

  32. UK1331*

    If you’re a people person who likes to help people, how about social care/community work? Often you can get experience through volunteering and then apply for jobs. Check out homeless hostels and outreach teams, supported housing schemes, advice agencies, care homes, drug and alcohol services etc. I used to do office work, including less conventional kinds like events management, and fell into this initially only intending to do it occasionally as a volunteer, but then much preferred it to my old job, and never looked back! The money’s not great, but you have to spend so much of your life working, you have to prioritise what you find interesting. And you can use it as great experience if you ever want to do further training like in psychology or social work.

    1. addiez*

      I worked at a homeless shelter and loved it. Not for everyone, for sure, but there’s a lot of difference to be made.

  33. Designer*

    If you’re at all interested in health, wellness and fitness working at a gym or studio can be really fun and interactive. I teach fitness classes in addition to my full time job but the management side of those establish require lots of community building and event planning.

  34. University Recruiter*

    You may like student recruitment. You travel a lot working the recruitment circuit (and depending on the type of recruiter you’ll go different places. Where you go will also depend on the size of your institution and the recruitment goals of the programs you recruit for), and you’ll spend the majority of your time on the road going to high yield events, going to high schools to attend career fairs, and hosting events at your institution. You do spend some time in the office, but it’s less than a traditional 9-5, and you’re often on the phone or doing on campus tours or workshops, so your day to day can be pretty dynamic. It is a lot of travel so it’s not for everyone, and I know some people struggle with the idea of selling kids on going into a lot of debt to go to their school/essentially being a salesman for their institution (however, reputable schools won’t have recruitment quotas for you to meet so it’s a lot less stress).

    If you have any questions about what we do I would be happy to try to answer them!

    1. Kitkat*

      Or volunteer recruitment. I’ve been working as a volunteer coordinator for a few years and it’s a little more office-based than student recruitment, but I spend about 50% of my time out in the community and at events.

  35. Cruciatus*

    Because you mentioned 2 things that I’ve done I wanted to give my take on them. I work in a library (not as a librarian). It’s very different from the office I came from on the same campus. I previously worked for a school on campus as an administrative assistant and my gut says it’s not as far from being like a corporate job as you might think. It was stressful. It was constant. I did not enjoy my time there (though I expected to at the beginning). My current library job does involve computer stuff, but I’m often running around the library–and I like it. Sometimes I’m at the circulation desk. Other times in my office working on what I need to. Sometimes I’m in the stacks getting books. There is also a customer service aspect so you get to help people. It’s a way more relaxed atmosphere as well (though this could vary by library). I don’t feel like a drone, but I’d say it’s still semi-office-y. There’s structure, but it’s also looser because the days could vary depending on problems a patron brings in or other issues. For me, it works, but I just wanted to mention my thoughts on university administrative and library (non-librarian) positions. I do hope you find something that’s up your alley!

  36. N*

    OP sounds like they would be really well suited to lead adult trainings where they would get to meet new people every day while still being able to use their professional knowledge. Sometimes these are related to sales and event planning (some examples I’ve seen of this: a salesperson who sells life insurance and gives sales pitches at various businesses for groups of people, or who sells software and then trains employees to use it; an event planner for the corporate social responsibility arm of a hospital that also gives talks in schools to encourage kids to get into STEM fields) and also nonprofit work (some that I’ve seen: teaching low-income women about reproductive health; giving workshops on resumes and professional skills for people on unemployment insurance; giving talks to professionals on the importance of hiring people with disabilities on behalf of an advocacy organization). You can find these kinds of jobs under the umbrella term of “outreach” on job sites like Indeed. Hope this helps!

  37. Garland not Andews*

    If you are in the US, check out USA Jobs online. The Forest Service has many customer facing jobs that are no where near a traditional office.

    1. Grits McGee*

      There are also usually tons of seasonal National Park Service jobs throughout the country. Depending on the job/park, on-site housing is sometimes part of the position as well.

  38. Jbelly*

    My advice to you: invest in yourself through training and education and think longer term. Don’t take a kinetic job that doesn’t advance your skills or position you to have options in the future.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking this too. A technical certificate from the community college could take a year or two through night classes. It may seem like a long time, but considering the big picture, it isn’t much to invest in a career you would like. HVAC, plumbing, woodworking are at many campuses and don’t cost too much compared to free standing technical schools. You just want to make sure it’s a good program…all you need to do is call an employer and ask if they would hire someone from the program, and then you know.
      My husband took night classes in building maintenance and was done in one semester. It uses the same hospitality/customer service skills plus the hands on skills.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Oh, and you can make good $$ with trade work, you just have to work a while to develop the skills and gain experience.

      2. Emmie*

        I agree with you too about the careers, and the technical certificates. There may be apprentice programs too. Careers like CNA (Certified Nurses Assistant), HVAC, electrician, electric company lineman (or line-woman), or auto repair. Those are all very respectable careers that balance customer service with non-office work. You could also look at oil refinery work or manufacturing / production work (although it may not give you the people interaction you prefer.)

  39. Pennycrest*

    You might consider working in a nursery or greenhouse – there is a great need for your skill set and the environment seems like it might fit your interests in customer service and not-a-desk-job! Good luck!

  40. Abby*

    Sales for landscaping/lawn service companies. I believe it’s a good mix of office and outdoors work, but not physical labor, and it sounds like you have the necessary skills. Worth a shot!

  41. Shan*

    If you have customer service skills, you will fit in perfectly at a library! That’s lots of moving around and, because libraries tend to be such all-hands-on-deck operations, you’ll be exposed to many different kinds of work. Customer service, book cataloging, programming. And you’re rarely left alone to work at a desk.

    1. Librarian*

      Almost all of my desk hours are solo staffing-wise and I work in a very busy children’s department.

    2. NaoNao*

      Yeah, I feel like this is well intention-ed but misleading a bit. I’ve worked for 4 different libraries as a page, or on special projects, and there’s a couple pretty big caveats here:
      Libraries are funded mostly by the public, either through taxes and grants, or through private donations. Therefore staffing tends to be low, even in high volume libraries in wealthy communities.
      Because librarians have achieved their MILS or similar, they can be…territorial about their job duties, especially the “fun” parts such as programming, displays, events, etc. As a page or clerk you will have very subscribed duties–some libraries won’t let you check out materials, or answer certain types of questions.
      Which leads me to….
      Reference librarians, which are the librarians we think of most, are the people who sit at the public circulation desk and answer questions and they are the ones that get the customer interaction and questions.
      With self-check out, it’s rare that clerks check people out these days.
      The library job market is TIGHT. So many highly qualified people. in 2010, I worked for a library that had a MILS librarian working as a *part time clerk*. Rough.

      Having said all that, if you get into a plum clerk position, you can get to do really fun stuff. But it’s not like getting a retail job—it’s not easy!

  42. ampg*

    It depends on where you are but in large metro areas there should be Media Production jobs available. It is hard work and long days but it’s (in my opinion) so much fun to be out in “the field” making things happen. Look for anything in media with a Production Assistant title. Staffmeup dot com is great for the New York / Los Angeles area and I’ve seen some stuff for Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, etc.

  43. DVZ*

    The previous commenter’s suggestion about event planning is a good one!

    What is it about office work that you don’t like? The monotony? Staring at a computer screen? Not moving around? I tend to think that identifying core likes/dislikes and trying to accomodate those is a better option than a big career move, especially if you would need to take a paycut or go through extra education to achieve it. Every job has ups and downs so I would suggest being really clear about the positive/negative balance that your job provides and then understanding how that would change if you got a more hands-on job. Are the negatives better than your current negatives? If your office job is entering data all day with no chance for progression, no interaction with coworkers, no movement, etc. then yeah, probably not much you can do. But can you ask for new tasks/can you sit down with your manager and review your core responsibilities to see if there is flexibility or anything they can build in to provide variety? Maybe I work for an exceptionally accomodating company, but depending on your seniority and reputation and your manager, you might be surprised at how your job could be adjusted slightly.

    Can you afford to reduce your hours at work (and is that an option for you – again, maybe I work somewhere weirdly cool about this) so that you have more time for a class/volunteering gig? Can you go fully part-time until you build up your security elsewhere?

    Is there another department at work that seems more interesting to you, and you could ask to spend a day or so with them to learn more? Can you transfer to another role in the company?

    Can you ask to work at home one day a week just to break up the scenery?

    You don’t say how far into your career you are, but is it possible that if you are close to entry-level that what you are experiencing is typical entry-level office drudgery? Hopefully this doesn’t come across as rude, but if you are picking up lunch orders it sounds like you might be on the more junior side, and boring stuff tends to be kind of the deal. I used to be absolutely bored to death at my office job when I was just starting out and had all these dreams of being a fitness instructor (lol) because the idea of being active/out of the office/’unconventional’ really appealed, but as I got more senior and the work was just naturally more interesting and rewarding, I found that I really love the structure, security, pace and style of office life – and found meaning in the work itself rather than hating the idea of staring at a screen all day, which I did when I was junior.

    The other thing is that you may want to think more closely about what you DO want rather than what you don’t want; you say you don’t have tunnel vision, which is good to an extent, but ‘being out of the office’ is not a career path. You also say you like to help people – but in what capacity? Because you can definitely help people even if you’re working a ‘boring office job’, and maybe you can reframe it that way in your mind whilst you work through this issue – every time you answer a boring email, file an invoice, etc. you are helping someone else do their job properly – you are making someone’s life easier by being pleasant, timely, etc. with your office job. So helping people isn’t a great defining characteristic either.

    And you also say ‘office job in a more interesting setting’ – what does that mean? I’m being a little facetious, but if you were doing your current admin job for a zoo, or a start-up, or your favourite retailer’s headquarters, would that be better? Do you want to feel like the organisation you work for has a ‘mission’?

    My sense is that you need to give it a bit more thought to understand what really appeals to you and what doesn’t – being a dog walker is different than a journalist and different than a teacher, etc. Not being an office job is a very inconsequential similarity!

    In the meantime, try and find meaning in the day-to-day as much as you can (and appreciate your steady paycheck), find an active hobby, and speak to your employer about changes you can make in the here-and-now, before you make a wild career change and find out that there are other things you don’t like doing that you hadn’t realised!

    1. Government Worker*

      This is all great advice. My office jobs have varied a lot in amount of time spent at a computer, amount of in-person and other interaction, diversity of tasks, number of meetings and other work out of the office, etc. OP should give some careful thought to what exactly is appealing to her.

      I’d suggest looking for admin work at a very small organization. I’ve had a couple of jobs at very small organizations (2-6 paid staff), and the range of tasks and amount of out-and-about stuff has been much higher than in a larger office. At a small office you’re much more likely to be running to the store or the post office, doing set up and clean up for events yourself, etc. And the same person may handle marketing tasks and paying bills, so there’s a much wider range.

      The most diversity I’ve found in an office environment was when I spent a few months as paid staff at a church. I had to run to the store every Friday for milk for coffee hour on Sunday, set up chairs for weekday events, print and fold bulletins, deal with deliveries, count money from the collection plate, go to the post office, etc. At the same time there was a lot of more serious stuff, working with people on weddings and funerals and other things that felt meaningful. Definitely not for everyone, but I think a lot of other jobs at tiny nonprofits can have a similar variety.

    2. Paige Turner*

      Yeah, my office job is relatively low-level and dull (most of my direct coworkers are remote so I can go all day without taking to anyone in person besides just “hello”). I work at a coffee shop on Saturdays for extra money and also for the social interaction. OP, if working a PT evenings/weekend job is an option for you, it might help to satisfy the “human interaction” urge as well as let you test the waters in another field.

  44. Hannah*

    Does anyone want to be at a desk all day? I mean, I don’t *hate* my desk job but I wouldn’t do it for free, I do it for the money. If you can change your mindset to accept that the time at the desk is worth the trade off of getting higher pay than you could get elsewhere, maybe you could find some peace with your current situation.

    1. JanetM*

      I have often thought that even if I were to win the lottery, I would want to keep my job. I mean, I don’t want to do it for free, but I sincerely love what I do and the people with whom I work.

      1. Director of Things*

        Interesting. I actually really like my job, but if I won the lottery, I’d be doing something else!

    2. Malibu Stacey*

      Well, I would rather be at a desk all day if the alternative is on my feet all day like my retail jobs in high school and college.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, I gotta say, after seeing my parents run themselves ragged at on-their-feet-all-day jobs until they were able to retire (they worked, variously, at fast food, WalMart night stocking, package delivery, rural paper delivery, and disability aide, all of which took a physical toll especially as they got older), getting a job out of college that was indoors and sitting down felt like I’d won the lottery. I wouldn’t do it for free, but that’s true of any job, and I definitely prefer indoors-and-sitting-down to the alternative for the most part.

  45. GigglyPuff*

    I can totally relate. I worked at a doggie daycare/boarding during college and honestly, I really miss it sometimes. I’ve tried to find other ways to be around dogs but none have worked out. (Went through training at the local no kill shelter, can’t put my finger on it, but something gave me a red flag. Volunteered with a local rescue that pulls dogs from high kill rural animal control, the disorganization of the entire thing started to grate on my nerves. Only communication was through their FB page, which they don’t tell you that, never proactively reach out to their volunteers despite filling out what you would be willing to do, constantly saying things that indicate how horrible their record keeping is, ugh, apologies I’ve really needed to rant about it).

    Anyway it does sound like you are at the end of your rope with your current situation, but as someone who really evaluates everything big, I would really go with volunteering and/or working on the side in the beginning, before taking the plunge and quitting your job. But that’s just my two cents.

    1. Manders*

      Do you live in an area where dog-friendly offices are common? Are there any pet-related companies in your town? I work a few floors up from a startup that does dog-related stuff and their office is always full of cute well-behaved pups.

      Most of what they do is typical office work, but there are always dogs around.

    2. MsMaryMary*

      My coworker’s mother runs a doggie daycare/boarding out of her home. Much like some people do childcare out of their homes. She is retired so it’s more of side business for her. She only takes certain breeds and asks that people do a trial visit to ensure your dog gets along with hers. But then at least your dog can stay in someone’s home and hang out with other doggies instead of being stuck in a crate at the vet or something.

  46. Tourist*

    It depends on where you live, of course, but what about being a tour guide? I looked into it briefly here in NYC and it requires passing a fairly rigorous test and receiving a certification. But then you can either work for a tour company or start your own thing. If you live in a heavily-touristed area, it could be very interesting! You could tailor your tour to be about whatever you’re interested in – TV and movie locations in your city, history, pop culture, architecture, etc. etc.

    1. Arjay*

      Yes! We’ve been so lucky to have tours with really knowledgeable guides in wonderful locations. Many areas require certifications, so I’d think compensation must be ok at least. Plus tips!

  47. spek*

    Visit some of the union trade halls in your area. Boilermakers, plumbers, electricians, welders, even crane operators. Most of them offer training and part time apprenticeship programs. Or jump right in – these are good union jobs with benefits – the pay isn’t great at first, but after a few years it really picks up. A journeyman electrician working construction in a big city can easily make $80k per year.

    1. LCL*

      Yes, look into the trades. Depending on your area, there may be community college classes you can take at night to make you more competitive to get into the apprenticeship of your choice.

    2. Natalie*

      This is what I was going to suggest. And even during the lower paying early years, you get pretty decent benefits which makes an enormous difference in quality of life IMO.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      A side note that if the OP is a woman, I have heard that it can be hard to actually work in the trades. I knew a woman who was a Master Carpenter but eventually gave it up and went back to office work because she couldn’t deal with the BS.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        You’ve just reminded me that I know of a woman who left an office job and became a stonemason.

      2. Natalie*

        I think it varies based on location and other factors. My husband is in the electricians union, and at previous jobs we’ve both known women doing HVAC. Neither of those industries are at parity, but they do have non-zero numbers of women in involved and the unions are outspoken about wanting to recruit women. I’m sure the women who work in the fields encounter plenty of bias, but I don’t know that it’s especially different from other male dominated fields. But, we’re in a liberalish city with a strong economy, which probably mitigates the issues somewhat.

  48. Clever Name Here*

    Moderation? The place I work hires a lot of remote part time people to help us with moderation. It doesn’t pay particularly well, but it comes with a fantastic sense of making a difference (think alerting someone to intervene in an attempted suicide, stopping exploitation, etc.).

    1. ZSD*

      Can you clarify what type of moderation you’re talking about? Like, what would the full title be, or what type of company/organization would hire such a person? When I think of “moderation,” I think of chairing panels of speakers, but that’s clearly not what you mean.

      1. Clever Name Here*

        Nope, not that type :) Many social media companies have similar positions labelled content moderator. Frequently there are Trust and Safety Analysts positions that are the same type of thing.

  49. Detective Charles Boyle*

    One of my friends works for the Park Service creating and maintaining exhibits. He travels to all the state parks in our area training other park rangers and developing exhibits. It really sounds awesome.

  50. EmmaUK*

    My husband has just started a job as a field market researcher. It pays surprisingly great money and he is enjoying being out and about.

  51. Rachel Green*

    Check out The writer of the blog has created passive income by investing in rental properties and has tips about escaping 9-5 office jobs. She also recommends doing “side hustles” to earn extra money, which could lead to more job opportunities and additional cash flow. Side jobs are also a good way to try different types of work and find something you actually like doing.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      One of our executives started investing in rental properties and eventually quit to do it full time. You have to have cash to invest, and a risk mentality, but it can work.

      1. Rachel Green*

        Yeah, it would take a lot of money and time upfront but it can work for someone who’s willing to do the research and planning to pull it off. And even if you’re not making enough from the rental properties to quit your office job entirely, you could maybe earn enough to go part-time and be more choosy about where/when you work.

        1. Temperance*

          One of my law school classmates works as a freelance property manager. Her husband bought a 4-unit building, so she manages that, and also does it for other owners.

  52. TotesMaGoats*

    National Parks, Chambers of commerce, city/state office of promotion/arts/tourism. I’d look at any of those because in the right role you’d have a mix of office work and non-office work. Variety certainly. Pay could be an issue.

    1. sam*

      It might also be worth looking into whether there’s an opportunity to volunteer, say, on a day off, for some period of time for an organization like this. A lot of these orgs have volunteer programs since they’re non-profit, and it could be a good way to dip your toe in and see if you actually like it (or if you just like the “fantasy” of it) before you, say, overhaul your entire life for a “grass is greener” idea of what you want to do going forward (especially if it means giving up an otherwise decent job).

      It might also be worth seeing if your current employer gives you credit/time off to volunteer (mine does).

  53. Emily*

    Hi OP:

    Have you ever browsed through the Occupational Outlook Handbook?

    This is an online, easy-to-use resource that is administered by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the website, you can browse through a wide range of “occupation groups” (i.e. industries / job sectors) and see lots of detailed information about different jobs. It can be a very useful tool if you’re interested in learning more about all sorts of occupations.

    Check it out:

  54. Trash Panda*

    Animal work is very low pay, so keep that in mind, but places likely to hire people with no or minimal experience are:
    Big name pet stores often hire inexperienced people to work in their grooming salons, and once you have experience you could get a job working in a nicer doggie salon
    Dog kennels will want to train you themselves anyways
    With the experience you have, you could also look at doing admin or reception work in a vet clinic! A lot of vets don’t like doing all the admin office stuff and hire additional help, and they need receptionists as much as anyone. A lot of those receptionists also can help with really basic things, like weighing animals. Some places also sell dog food or treats and so you would handle some sales. So that’s something to consider.

  55. Gilmore_Girl*

    This was said a thousand times over probably, but I would go into event planning (wedding planning would be huge if you’re into that). I realize this can be hard to break into but I would start right in your office and see if you can help out with any event or PR planning at your current job (just on the side), or look into volunteering part time. Once your experience in event planning grows to be more elaborate, start to apply time jobs within that industry.

  56. MuseumChick*

    I know a person who worked as a closet designer. She would go into people’s homes, design a custom closet for them and if they bought it (and she made not mistakes in the pricing) she made 10% of the total cost. So, some days she would work for only two hours and make $300.

    The drawbacks were that if you didn’t sell you didn’t make money if you made a mistake in the pricing the company would take it out of your commission, and you know, going into strangers home can be a bit scary.

  57. Adele*

    — Sub-set of Event Planning is Wedding Planning.
    — Travel agent – my boss did his training for it on-line (he likes to organize big trips and cruises for his very large extended family so acting as his own agent saves him money)
    — Tour Guide, as mentioned by someone above. Boss’s daughter does this in Detroit as a side gig and makes pretty good money at it so you don’t even need to be in a big tourist destination. I had a friend who did walking tours in NYC through a company. And I have taken guided history-oriented tours in non-major cities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, Sarasota, and others I can’t remember.
    — Try working via Task Rabbit or a similar company to see what types of things you like doing. Task Rabbit folks don’t just pick up your dry cleaning, they also do small, creative projects. A club I am in used Task Rabbit to find someone to help update our logo.
    — Fed Ex, DHL, UPS delivery person. Not the great job it used to be but it does get you out of an office and interacting with people.
    — Kitchen designer at a place like Home Depot, if you have a flair for that sort of thing. I don’t know what sort of certification/training they have but it can’t be much. It is not like working with a design firm.

  58. Fleeb*

    I’m in the same boat, and I’m looking into electrical apprenticeships with the union. The training is free, and after a brief classroom period you get to work with a contractor and make an hourly wage. It’s low to start out, but goes up in steps, so after a couple years you’ll be making good money. Journeymen in my area make around 70k and get a pension. Working with my hands all day and coming home exhausted sounds like heaven.

    1. MsMaryMary*

      I have heard of several trade organizations and manufacturing companies offering free training or apprenticeships. There are many fields where there is a real shortage of labor. The work may be physically demanding, but as Fleeb mentioned, the pay and benefits are pretty good.

  59. MuseumChick*

    Just saw this line in your letter, “Perhaps even office work in a less Corporate America setting would be good but they seem very difficult to break into (I’ve applied to various universities, museums, and non-profits for office work I’m qualified for but was turned down for not having specific experience in those settings).”

    If you are interested in getting into a museum (the area I’m most familiar with) start volunteering. Today. Like, go do that right now. It is very hard to break into. One year of part-time volunteering will make the door to part-time paid work open for you. Do that for a year or two and take classes in museum studies. This will lead to the door for higher responsibility part time work (part-time curator for example) open for you and/or full-time (low paying) work. To do anything beyond that you will need a Masters degree.

    1. hermit crab*

      This is huge! I’m a longtime zoo/museum volunteer and I think all the paid staff I know started as volunteers.

    2. many bells down*

      I was going to say just this. I’ve been volunteering at a museum for the last two years, and I could easily take a CS or Retail position there right now. Unfortunately, museum policy is that employees cannot also participate in the Volunteer program, so unless it’s a fantastic job, I’m not giving up my fun docent gig.

    3. Turtle Candle*

      I have an acquaintance who got a zoo job this very way! She volunteered for a couple of years and then when a relevant position opened, she got it.

      The other thing that she said was that they will often put newbie volunteers on the less interesting tasks–not because they’re “hazing” you, but for two reasons. One, the more interesting volunteer tasks require more training, and they expect you to do something that requires less training while you acquire the knowledge you need to do them. And… two, not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of people volunteer at the zoo because they think it sounds fun to hang out with the animals, and they want to weed out the people who are looking more for playtime than for work. So for her first 6 month to a year, her volunteering amounted to doing a lot of standing in high traffic areas telling people where the bathrooms, the cotton candy guy, or the lion enclosure were, or explaining that yes, the tiger exhibit is closed, I’m very sorry, I know your weeping son especially wanted to see tigers but the tiger exhibit is closed for renovation. And so on. Once she’d done that for quite a while, while also attending additional educational training, she was able to move on to a more highly trained volunteer docent position, and from there eventually into a paid position.

  60. MK*

    This may sound kind of vague, but look into state, local, or federal jobs doing inspections/compliance – you will likely spend a lot of time in the field interviewing people and poking around new places making sure they meet whatever requirements you’re checking on and then the rest of the time back in the office writing up reports. Depending on what the field is, your office/writing experience could be enough to get you in the door.

  61. lb*

    I echo everyone who’s said event planning. If you’re in/near an urban area one place to get started might be Taskrabbit. I was a Tasker for about a year in almost exclusively the “event staffing” category and it was really fun. I got to do everything from bartending to food prep to silent auctions to registration, and worked for a mix of individuals, companies, and caterers/event planners. It was a great way to build up experience and also work with a bunch of different folks in the industry — this is a relatively small city and the same caterers & planners popped up everywhere. If striking out on your own is too daunting, it’s a great way to try out a few things and get your feet wet. Good luck!

    1. Director of Things*

      If you are really good with people, I would check out ShiftGig and Brand Ambassador type companies. They allow you to pick the vents you work, so you could easily try a number of different gigs and events before deciding what is the right path for you.

  62. MsMaryMary*

    I’d suggest concentrating on the kind of position you want, and not focusing as much on the industry. Your friends may have desk jobs for banks, insurance, and government, but not every job in those industries have you stuck in a cubicle all day. You could work in retail banking or personal finance and have a varied day and lots of customer interaction. You could be a claims adjuster in the field, or individual agent, or employee benefits enroller. There are tons of government jobs that require interaction with the public (maybe more interaction than you really want!). It may take some research and delving deep into job descriptions, and maybe even some false starts at telephone or first round interviews, but there are non-office jobs out there in nearly every industry.

  63. LQ*

    I’m going to suggest looking at a different kind of office. Try for a small company. Like under 50 employees small. It’s a great chance to do a much wider range of things usually, and often there are chances to do weird projects. At a large place you’re going to do the same thing over and over because the next part of it usually gets passed to someone else, it’s very efficient and lets people who want to specialize do so. But it isn’t great for variety of the kind of work normally. If you are having a hard time finding these jobs you might be looking in the wrong places, they don’t always advertise in the big places and aren’t usually getting pushed to the top with ads. Try local job boards (if your state unemployment board has one they are usually free for employers), nonprofit boards, etc. (And check out the post on niche job boards.)

    (I also agree about not thinking of them as desk jobs and not desk jobs, mine is technically a desk job but it is incredibly varied, I don’t go outside the office much (because I don’t want to, I have a few coworkers who do A LOT), but I do a lot of stuff within and it is customer oriented (sort of, internal consultant kind of work). My last job was technically a desk job and would have absolutely looked it to an outsider but I was almost always out in the neighborhood and did a huge range of work (small nonprofit). )

    1. I Am The OP*

      My second job, the terrible one, was an office of 30-40 people, was filled with cliques to the extreme, and gave me only one very specific kind of work to focus on. My new job is much three times that size and I’m enjoying it far more because there are so many different people and so many different things to do.

      Of course, YMMV on office size but when I was job searching, I was avoiding smaller offices at the thought I’d be in that clique-ish environment again, being miserable because I wasn’t one of the favorites who was allowed to do no work and take three hour long lunches.

      1. LQ*

        Cliquishness can happen at any size, I’d avoid “we are like a family” business but not small ones. I by far did the most range of things at the smallest places I worked at the 2-5 employee sized places because there just wasn’t anyone else to do it, so if it was going to get done it was me or them.

        Good luck finding something you like more, there’s a huge range. It’s also worth wondering…is it the offices or the work? Because being miserable because your coworkers/boss are super cliquey can happen for teachers or electricians or event planners or postal workers. So if it is the coworkers/bosses that might be a different issue than if you think about the work by itself. (And sometimes the work isn’t that great but the mission is…sort of depends on what those pieces are for you.)

        1. YuliaC*

          I second that the range of things one has to do in very small companies is super wide and stimulating. I was once hired by a small garden nursery (staff of 5) center as a temp web designer/maintainer. Ended up a full time staff doing plant ordering, planting exhibits, cashiering, selling, driving, and even painting fences.

  64. Matilda Jefferies*

    Something I’ve thought that should be a job but doesn’t appear to be: something like an “end of life concierge.” Most people aren’t very familiar with all the things that need to be done when someone dies, and most of the time it’s the people who are closest to the deceased who have to figure it all out, usually while they’re still grieving. I feel like there would be a market for someone outside the family to take that on, and lead the family through all the various decisions and logistics.

    So this “concierge” could help the family with things like funeral planning, getting documentation together, making appointments with the insurance company and the lawyer, closing bank accounts, disposing of property, all that stuff that needs to be done but that the family might not have the energy for.

    Since this job doesn’t formally exist (as far as I know!), there would be no specific education required to do it. Besides the organizational skills, you would have to be highly empathetic, and able to deal comfortably with people at the worst time of their lives. You would also need to be pretty entrepreneurial, with the ability to seek out clients who don’t know you exist, and comfortable with the risks involved with running your own business. I’m not entrepreneurial enough to do it myself, but I would definitely be willing to pay for such a service if it existed!

    1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

      This is such a great idea! I wish I could have hired someone like this when my dad died. It would have saved me a lot of heartache.

    2. N.J.*

      Not exactly the same thing, but there is a growing trend related to folks who sit with the dying to provide comfort. I read a random article months ago about it but cant remember what publication. Look up death doula in a google search.

    3. Nic*

      That is absolutely brilliant!
      I’d like to direct you to the blog The Order of the Good Death. Caitlin Doughty is a mortician who is working to change the death industry into something more positive. You may actually be able to find a service like this!

  65. MLiz*

    Sales rep? Technical support person (it varies by field and region whether you need a degree adjacent to what you’d represent)?

    I was always envious of the customer support woman who came in to advise us on our microscopes. She seemed to have the most amazing job, set her own hours, did all her admin stuff at home, could take care of her kid all right and was always around people. And she wasn’t salesy! Her take was “The equipment is way too expensive to talk you into buying it, all I can do is demonstrate and let you make your own decision” and we all loved her. Of course, until you get to sell the expensive things, you need some experience.

    I have friends who are pharmaceutical sales reps who have no degree in the field but have good customer rapport. Some companies (this depends on region etc) teach you enough about the topic/your specific product to be up to speed by the end of training, though again there’s several variables and may be different in the US (I’m in Europe).

  66. anonykins*

    If teaching sounds like something you’d be interested in, look into private tutoring of high school students. It’s something that you have to break into part-time, but if you’re already working a regular 9-5ish job, the hours will be available outside of your regular work schedule.

    If you have good standardized test scores and people skills, the big companies (Princeton Review, Kaplan) will train you up over a few weekends and generally let you pick and choose your hours in terms of the classes you teach. Pay is decent, but not as much as you can make at boutique test prep firms. Work as much or as little as you like, and after a few years you can try for something that pays a little better, or go out on your own. There are a LOT of online options for this, too.

    1. anonykins*

      Oh, and I forgot to add, besides my few hours of big box test prep training and now many years of experience, I have no other qualifications to teach. Didn’t have any experience when I started, either, just great public speaking skills. Definitely don’t need a license, etc, that you’d need as a regular public school teacher

    2. Yamikuronue*

      I take lessons on, and my teacher was telling me the other day it’s a great place to test out that sort of thing: you get to set your own schedule around your dayjob, and if no-one bites, you can cross that off your list of options and move on without having quit the dayjob yet to pursue it.

  67. Temperance*

    I have a corporate job, but it isn’t just sitting around at a desk. I manage pro bono at a law firm. (I’m a lawyer, but not all of us are.)

    I plan legal clinics and get to work with a lot of great people in the community. Many big corporations are hiring people like me to manage general community service initiatives, so you’ll get to work with nonprofits and meet good people.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I’m a solo lawyer and I don’t even really have an office. I work from home but I have meetings off-site and I go to court a lot. Today it’s a lovely day so I’m having meetings in and returning calls from a park. This doesn’t work for everyone, obviously, but it’s been a way to make an office job less office-y for me

  68. Ramona Flowers*

    Actual marketable skills beyond that would be writing, editing, invoice processing, event/meeting planning, and various other administrative skills

    Add a driving license, physical strength, the ability to tune a guitar and some knowledge of sound engineering, and you’ve just described my husband. He works in the music industry as a tour manager/promoter and roadie: booking and organising gigs and shows, doing marketing and promotion, and mothering/nannying musicians who do things like leaving their Macbooks in the middle of fields. There’s a bit of office work, a lot of driving, a lot of travelling (sometimes abroad but mainly just seeing airports and the inside of hotels and venues) and a lot of late nights. Anyone with a driving license could potentially do some of that, e.g. being a driver.

    I also have a couple of friends who work at music festivals and events taking care of things like artists’ entry passes, safety checks, making sure the tents are all assembled correctly, all sorts. I can’t tell you how to get into this sort of work in your country, but it seemed worth mentioning!

  69. Rachel B*

    Have you thought about property management? This role typically requires a lot of interaction with potential renters, current renters, and contractors. Although you’d be working in an office, you’d likely have more time on location and interacting with new people than most office jobs. Plus, unlike real estate, it comes with a guaranteed salary. Plus, you don’t typically need additional schooling to get started in the field.

    A transition option may be to work for a college or university that offers free or discounted classes for employees so you can explore other interests. Working in a bursar’s or financial aid office could give you direct contact with students, and the satisfaction of helping people immediately.

  70. Stranger than fiction*

    Not very easy to break into, but I know a couple people who are corporate trainers and love it. They travel a lot and meet all kinds of people. One got into it by way of working tech services, then product management, then became trainer. One was a customer service manager, though, first and then got the opportunity to be a trainer in that company.
    And with some of these things like wedding planning or real estate, it all comes down to timing and who you know. For example, if you got to plan one wedding or sell a house to one friend, and then they tell two friends and so forth…

  71. KR*

    Can you get an LNA/CNA certification ? You could be helping people in nursing homes and rehab facilities and work on your feet a lot. Nursing homes also usually have activity planners or event schedulers or things like that.

    1. I Am The OP*

      I have thought about this actually! I want to do some volunteer work with a nearby nursing home to see if I would enjoy doing it as a full time job. I think I would but I’ve had a few people tell me that it’s a terrible job for various reasons. But it’s definitely something I’m looking into, thanks!

      1. Coelura*

        My daughter worked for a nursing home as a NA and the nursing home paid for her CNA course. So this might be a good option for you. However, they don’t make very much typically.

      2. Starbuck*

        My friend did this for a couple years, and the biggest issue she ran into was that the location was systematically understaffed, so she had more patients to deal with than she could realistically handle. This meant extreme stress for her, and substandard levels of care for the residents. I don’t know how common this is in the industry, but hers isn’t the only story I’ve heard like that. She stuck it out for a while because she was concerned about the people she was taking care of, but the intense physical nature of the labor and poor conditions ended up being too much. So one thing to watch out for is a place that’s poorly run (naturally).

      3. Temperance*

        I have many friends who have worked as CNAs. It’s back-breaking labor, and very often, you’re overextended because there are never enough hands for the work. I know a woman whose arm was broken by a patient (elderly man with dementia), and the girls I grew up with regularly talked about how the male clients would pull down their pants and show off their dongs/try to force themselves on the girls. This was a “memory care” facility, so take with that what you will.

    2. KR*

      Also of you are even minorly artistic and technical you could work in public access film or entry level film work. I managed a public access and government TV station and it involved a good amount of walking around, hauling and troubleshooting equipment, travelling to sites, assisting with event planning, setting up complex sound systems, working with the public, with a healthy amount of time sitting in the office editing.

  72. Moose and Squirrel*

    Allison, Sorry to bug you in the comments but I’m not finding another place to report this. The last few days the main page has been redirecting me to spammy “You’ve won a gift card!” sites and it’s making the site nearly unreadable. Just wanted to let you know.

    On the plus side, this finally got me to make a commenting account. :)

    1. Moose and Squirrel*

      D’oh! Just saw the ad/tech issue report thing. Using that’s now. Sorry about that!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I know — there’s been a huge wave of it. Clearing your cache and cookies has fixed it for some people. My ad network is working on it.

      For future reference, there’s an ad report form linked just above the comment box!

  73. Lola*

    Have you thought about becoming a Realtor? Customer service and an ability to be extremely organized are the best skills for this work. It can be difficult to get started but if you’re dedicated and find a supportive office you can do very well. You do have to get a license (it’s really not that expensive) and there are up front & ongoing expenses which can be challenging at first when you don’t have any clients.
    There is an element of office work – sitting in front of the computer reviewing reports, doing research etc., but it’s probably about 50/50 with time out of the office.
    Although you do end up being on call during the evenings & weekends you really do have quite a lot of control over when you work. Inevitably the more hours you put in the more business you’ll do & the more you earn!
    It is a competitive field but there are lots of Realtors making a good income.

  74. Sour Grapes*

    The wine industry has a TON of options surrounding what it seems like you think you would like to do – like working in a tasting room, doing wine sales, doing event planning for wineries, etc. If you’re nearby a wine area (which there are more and more of everyday, even in places you wouldn’t think like in NYC or Hawaii) there will be many, many opportunities for you to try out. And most tasting rooms don’t necessarily require you to have any wine experience other than being able to talk about it, and you could potentially try things out one day a week on the weekend or in the evenings. And on that same logic, breweries and distilleries often have similar needs with regards to tasting rooms/tasting room management/event planners. And if you aren’t that interested in alcoholic beverages, there is a growing trend of doing all those same things but for creameries (cheese tastings!), local farms and other agriculturally based industries. You could try talking to a local butcher or cheesemonger and see if they need part time help and get your feet in the door that way.

    I can only speak for my experience in the wine industry, but we always need people who are both proficient in sales and in event planning! Check out and you’ll see plenty of options for someone with your skills!

    1. Natalie*

      Relatedly, I’ve known a few people who worked for alcohol distributors and really liked it. A couple were in sales, and one drove a delivery truck.

    2. I Am The OP*

      Thank you for that link! There’s not too many places near me but this looks like a great resource. Thanks!

  75. VermiciousKnit*

    I’ve worked in a number of government admin positions that were heavy on event-planning (especially in my state’s Dept. of Ed.). They were office jobs primarily, but I got out a lot and got to travel every couple of months and work with a huge variety of people and school districts. It was really interesting. Check your state’s job postings – things like this for government and universities are definitely a thing, and easier to break into than corporate gigs, and give you relevant experience.

  76. Holly*

    I’m not sure if this has been suggested, but if you can’t transition to another full time job that doesn’t have you in an office all day, what about working as a Brand Ambassador part time? There is always a need for them (I used to do that for several years) and the kinds of gigs you can do range from doing in-store demos, working at outdoor festivals, catering, event staff, wine tastings, farmers markets etc. There are a bunch of marketing agencies out there that you can contract with and you are almost always going to be an independent contractor so the pay will vary and when you receive your pay will also vary. You can look on Craigslist under ‘Gigs’ or even the job section to start. When I worked my first gig, I talked a lot of other people to get more information on which agencies they worked with and other opportunities, so definitely talk to other people as well. Heck, the next time you are in a grocery store and see someone doing a demo, ask them if they work with an agency.

  77. Lily Rowan*

    I don’t have specific ideas beyond all of the amazing ones already given, but I did notice one great thing scrolling through: Since so many of the ideas are non 9-5 jobs, it should be easier to start part-time as an employee or volunteer while keeping your day job, to see if you’d like it. Heck, maybe adding a few retail shifts on top of your 9-5 would make you happier even if it didn’t turn into something long-term? (It may be too late for this already, but I just noticed my supermarket was hiring for all the “good” part-time shifts (evenings and weekends) recently, which I’m guessing is because of students leaving for the summer or permanently.)

  78. Ruthie*

    I work in the non-profit world, so my suggestions are based on what I’ve observed from these roles in the public sector.

    Based on your skills I wonder if partner/funder engagement/development would be a good fit. It requires a lot of relationship building and work with others outside the office. I know some people on positions like this that spend most of their time on the ground visiting partners or other stakeholders.

    Or recruitment? Those people who go from event to even and conference to conference? It’s not necessarily employment recruitment, but might be sales or networking. There are people who do this for government agencies making sure everyone knows their resources are available. For example, bringing food safety information to health fairs.

    Maybe you’d like working for a consulting firm? That can often require frequent visits to clients for presentations or meetings, and the work and clients can change frequency. Though some consultants are assigned to the same clients for years.

    A lot of public service organizations have client or community outreach positions. I have a friend whose job is to visit families at their homes, and he’s rarely in the office.

    I see a lot of event planning suggestions. If you have a lot of different clients, then certainly you would be out and about. But my organization has an in-house event planner, and unless she’s on a rare site visit (she is familiar with most venues in our area after serveral years in the industry, so doesn’t do a lot of walkthroughs), or at an event as it is happening, she is doing office work. It’s really a vast majority of her time.

  79. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Do you like leading groups or doing trainings? Because if so, you might enjoy being a museum docent or working at a national/state park. It’s hard to become a docent, but it’s somewhat similar to working as a librarian in that you develop deep expertise in certain areas of knowledge and then get to blend education with customer service/interacting with humans. For parks, most “ranger” positions are also law enforcement positions, but there are some jobs that are straight up educational and focus on tours, guest presentations, etc. Another variation of the above is working for REI’s Adventures division. Generally, it helps if you enjoy the outdoorsy stuff, but assuming you do, it pays better than standard retail, there are ample opportunities for promotion, and the benefits are excellent.

    You could also think about doing event planning for community organizations/centers, like JCCs or the Y, or moving in-house at a specific venue/company. Sometimes that can give you the structure you want while you build experience in the field.

  80. Backroads*

    How about security? There’s a lot of variety to it. My husband struggled finding a job in his graduate field and went to security to pay the bills. 4 years later finds it his dream job. He does patrols, he manages others, he designs tech, meets with clients, etc.

  81. Not Rebee*

    Some positions in the insurance industry (like a claims adjuster?) are out and about all the time. The people who inspect your house to see the fire damage and award you money, for example, have to go to your house to do it so they’re in and out often. I think the only segment of the industry this would not apply to is health insurance, but auto and other insurance of possessions might have an out-in-the-field option that’s worth pursuing.

  82. Envious*

    I am a social worker and nearly all my jobs have been outside of an office. Now, I love working in an office, so the irony here. So many people want to get out of one, and I just want an office job. You need a license to be a social worker, BUT many jobs pertaining to social work do not require a licensed social worker. One idea is working in a children’s home. You have to be good in crisis situations, though.

  83. Envious*

    I will also note that many jobs in helping industries are outside of the office, so you can look into helping jobs (such as social worker, teacher’s aide, etc.)

  84. badger_doc*

    I work in consumer products and there are lots of jobs in the CPG industry that do not require an office 80% of the time (think the big ones like Clorox, P&G, etc but there are also smaller ones as well).

    Quality: You can audit facilities that are third party manufacturers. This requires travel, but a lot of foot work at companies. probably about 50% out of office work and 50% reporting, sitting down with teams, meetings. But i know on auditor who is on the road 90% of the time.

    Consumer test moderating: Look up the Burke institute in Cincinnati. You can be a moderator for focus groups for companies who need their products tested. If you work for yourself, you make your own hours and every product/group/company is something different and new.

    Strategic Sourcing
    Ad Agencies
    General Consulting
    Lab Technician – most of time spent in labs, not in office

    That’s just a short list! There are so many careers out there that we never hear about because they are all behind the scenes at larger companies. Hopefully one sparks your interest!

  85. Susie Cruisie*

    Technical field support with a manufacturer. They train you to be an expert on their products and then you are sent across the country, sometimes around the world, to maintain or repair equipment and train users how to use it. People with an in-demand expertise make 6 figures. Customer service is the ingredient that’s usually missing from these employees. I know, I am constantly recruiting for field service techs in my niche market.

  86. Anon16*

    What about campaigns (political, non-profit)? I loved retail and also really loved canvassing. I think you can work as a field organizer. I don’t think there’s as much office work, and there’s a lot of meeting new people and going to different events.

  87. Adlib*

    I work in an AEC firm, and we have tons of positions that are “in the field” most of the time. We have techs for environmental work like planting trees, planting fields of native plants, and other types of outdoor work. We also have survey teams that go out and operate some equipment. To my knowledge, not many have 4 year degrees. We usually utilize skilled labor. I imagine that a lot of those jobs would be easy enough to train someone new to the industry on. (If I’m incorrect, somebody in the industry please let me know.)

    I’m not sure what they pay is, but I think it’s a decent wage which is even better if you end up on OT. I find myself a little envious of their work at times since they can be outside all day doing incredibly interesting work! (Especially when it involves plants and animals.)

    1. Liet-Kynes*

      Having done some of these jobs in college and grad school – endangered species surveys, wetland delineation, noxious weed management – I have to say, hard disagree. It’s not incredibly interesting work, and being outside all day is the case whether it’s 98 degrees, raining, humid, or cold. It’s hard physical labor, and it involves plants and (rarely) animals mostly insofar as they are things that need to be manhandled into place, not as objects of interest. If you’re on a research team, that’s a different ballgame, but the kind of work you’re describing is pretty grueling.

      1. Liet-Kynes*

        Also, the pay suuuuuucks. I don’t think I made over $22k a year at any of them.

        1. Licensed Surveyor*

          Maybe the job,wasn’t for you and that is why you didn’t find it interesting. For others of us, it is not just interesting but enjoyable. For me, it was a fit. I am a licensed land surveyor and love it. It can be a mix of office and field. But not usually at entry level. At least in these parts, entry pays more than $22k per year. With experience, I would say an instrumentperson (usually 6 months to a year) would put you over $30k.

          A plus for surveying is the average age of licensed surveyors is around 60. For those who like hot and sweaty, it is a pretty decent gig

  88. Nicki Name*

    As a complement to event planning, if you’re in a big city, another possibility is looking for sales/promotion work with the local tourism board or convention center.

    If you want to do something very nontraditional, a friend of mine who got tired of office work and had a similar skill set to yours went into pet sitting.

  89. Imperatrice*

    Training! You can do this either as an in-house training specialist, or at a consulting firm that sends out trainers. It’s fast paced, you work with people, and much of it has crossover with customer service and soft skills. So many trainers start out as someone who needed a greater challenge and had a good set of interpersonal and communication skills.

    Check out ATD if this is something you are interesred in.

  90. FJ*

    Look into Field Service or Field Sales or Technician type roles for heavy equipment. You could work for an equipment manufacturer covering a territory, or work for a local dealership. Construction, agriculture, mining, automotive – lots of variations there. It would be a mix of travel, doing hands-on mechanical or computer/electronics work, and supporting the customers and salespeople and technicians with their work and regular office tasks.

  91. Mel*

    The OP sounds well suited to a job in operations/building services in an office environment. I work for a big organization that generally pays well, and our ops professionals are up and about all day long, interacting with people, setting up conference rooms, troubleshooting issues, etc.

  92. Professional Cat Lady*

    If you like customer service, and you’re looking at non profits, I’d look into local animal shelters. I currently work customer service for a shelter, and while there are things I don’t love (mostly related to my own education/qualifications vs the job I do) I love my job. There’s lots of cute fuzzies to cuddle, a ton of people coming in looking for a new pet, and all sorts of other things going on constantly. It’s an office, but a very non-traditional one, at least where I work. Adoption counseling is one of the best parts of the job – making the right match for an animal to find their forever home. Also, people who do this kind of work are fantastic and really dedicated and passionate, and it makes for a great work environment.

  93. cookie monster*

    There is a private contractor job for all of the credit agencies that is traveling to new clients and doing inspections. Basically, when a company wants to set up service to pull credit reports (I work in lending), they have to find a company (you don’t just contract directly with the bureaus) and then they will send out a contractor to interview/take pictures of the location to verify that it is a legitimate business, that there are locking file drawers, shred services, private documentation is not left laying around. the 2 people I have met that do that job do it full time.

  94. Lurker*

    Sixth(?)-ing the librarian suggestion! You’d have to get an MLIS for the type of public-facing role I think would appeal to you, though.

    1. RB*

      I think the library industry may be on the decline. My neighbor has the MLIS degree and tons of experience but she’s been cut to part time at her public-library job and can’t seem to find anything full-time.

  95. Thursday Next*

    What yearly salary would be the minimum you’re comfortable with? Where are you located? Are you willing to relocate? Do you care about opportunities for advancement/big pay bumps or would you be happy with a job you like well enough that pays well enough and gives small bumps/cost of living increases on a regular schedule?

  96. Employment Lawyer*

    In the “too funny to resist” category I will simply note that the post below references a nontraditional job with low risk and high earnings potential. Though to put it mildly it isn’t for everyone.

    1. Manders*

      Hah, you’re right! I’ve heard of some folks choosing various adult industry jobs because 9-5 desk jobs just weren’t their thing. There was a dominatrix who blogged about her work for a while and I was just fascinated by her stories about stuff like how to do taxes (apparently you have to be absolutely squeaky clean on the tax front if your business is dirty).

  97. Brett*

    Emergency Management
    I did this for 8 years, and while there is a lot of day to day desk work, you also get many opportunities to get out of the office doing a wide variety of tasks (from training to running on the ground disaster response)>

    The best part is that there is tons of official free online self-guided training:
    Do the entire Professional Development curriculum ( plus IS-100.b, IS-200.b, IS-700.a, and IS-800.b and you will be way ahead of most applicants for any positions.

  98. RB*

    There are lots of jobs where you’re never stuck in one place all day and that don’t require a specialized degree, or any degree. You could do one of those for a couple years and then re-evaluate. These just happened to be the first two that came to mind:
    Delivery driver
    Field sales rep

  99. Mostly Sarcasm*

    Do you like plants? Through university I worked at a greenhouse and there was a fair amount of variety between retail, physical labor, and work for clients. I loved it and miss many aspects of the job now that I work in an office — the work, learning, busy environment and neat coworkers.

  100. 42*

    I know someone who does Scholastic book fairs at elementary schools. She’s assigned an area, travels to schools throughout the year (school year) to set up the fair, and gets summers off to boot.

    1. I Am The OP*

      I absolutely adored those fairs as a kid! Never thought about getting a job with them, that sounds awesome! Thanks for the tip!

    2. I Am The OP*

      OMG There’s even a location 15 minutes from me!!! Thank you so much for this idea, you’ve just made my day!

  101. Winger*

    Perhaps OP would like a retail-type job (or something else!) at a cultural institution or nonprofit, such as a museum, concert hall, botanic garden, etc. I have had a variety of different jobs at these types of orgs. Even if you are housed part of the time in an office, just being in that type of environment can be pretty awesome. I would also recommend looking into jobs on college campuses – again, you may do some or a lot of work in an office but being on a nice campus with different energy can make a HUGE difference. I really feel bad for people who work in suburban office parks or even big tall downtown buildings etc. My career has been so much more interesting (it seems to me) because my “office jobs” have been at concert halls and on college campuses and so on.

    To the same point: I had a job at a major cultural organization and I was super excited about the work. I worked at the org’s facility, and then got promoted into a different department located in a standard issue office building a good distance away. It was very similar work but suddenly the job was terrible.

  102. peachie*

    In no particular order:

    Security guard: Decent pay, regular hours, and many positions don’t require experience. This can be especially fun in an art museum!

    Box office sales/front of house: If you have any professional theaters/venues around you, see if they are hiring box office or front of house staff. Generally, you won’t need any training.

    Remote customer service: I’ve seen an increasing number of telecommute-only customer service jobs; maybe something like this would allow you to feel “out of the office” enough.

    Camp counselor: Not just at summer camps, either! You can also look at after-school camp type programs during the school year.

    Catering: Depending on where you are, there might be a catering agency that you can sign up with. In my area, it works kind of like a temping agency; they’ll offer you a job, and you can take it or not.

    Bartending: Similarly, bartending. I don’t believe most states require a bartending certification, but most places want you to have a “safe alcohol consumption” certification, which you can get easily online. Plus, once you have some experience, you can work freelance at weddings and such.

    1. peachie*

      Oh, I forgot!

      Nanny: If you’re okay with kids, nannying can be a great job! It’s probably best to get a CPR certification, but you don’t need to have a ton of training. In major metro areas, there are sometimes nanny placement agencies that can really help you out.

  103. Woah*

    If you have the passion, social services! You’ll spend some time in an office developing plans and doing all the annoying paperwork, which it sounds like you’d be great at, but you’ll spend time doing…well the possibilities are huge: teaching classes, one on one social support skills, leading trips for foster kids or people in recovery, everything else.

  104. Annie Mouse*

    EMS is a great field if you don’t like being in an office, and customer service skills are a plus! I don’t know what the requirements are in the US (sorry, I know that’s not very helpful) but in the UK crews are usually made of one qualified and one ‘unqualified’ (trained by the trust rather than a degree or certificate). There may be similar opportunities in the US?

  105. Options*

    Have you considered using your adminsitrative skills in a public employer setting? I work in government and our frontline administratvie positions are heavily customer serviced based. It can be frustrating, and while it is office related work there is such a large component of customer service and interaction with the public that it keeps things varied.

  106. Bigglesworth*

    My husband sounds a bit like you. He dreaded the thought of having an office job and ended up in retail and food service for a few years. His undergrad degree is in music and he had previously been trained as a sound and lighting technician. He’s now an electrical apprentice and plans on becoming an entertainment electrician once he becomes a journeyman. It does mean that he’s in school right now, but his company pays for the education, he gets a raise for every 1000 hours worked for the entirety of his apprenticeship, and he gets to do work that uses his hands. The downsides are that it is a macho man industry and there aren’t a lot of women that are in it right now, but that’s the South-Central region for you. Anyway. Look into apprenticeship programs. You may find one that you like!

  107. Megan Johnson*

    Take some night classes or a correspondence course/vocational courses to do retail pharmacy. I’m in hospital but I did my share of retail work and previous office work has a good place there. Pharmacy opens up to other areas, too, but I say retail and not hospital for you because of your customer service strengths.

  108. AlaskaKT*

    Well if you want a huge change, my husband and I both quit our jobs (Boeing contractors) and jumped ship to live in the Alaskan bush. Now we are homesteaders, plus he fishes and I blog. We don’t make near as much as we used to, but we are happier being out here!

  109. Magenta Sky*

    Working in retail can suck, and suck hard. But if you stay with it, move up to management, it can become a real career, with decent pay, benefits, etc. (If you find the right company. They *are* out there.) And no matter how high in the food chain you go, there will always be opportunities to work directly with the public.

    If you set your sights high enough, you could also, without too much trouble, end up owning your own business. This is especially possible in franchises – one of the easiest ways to own your own successful business before you’re 30 is to work for McDonald’s when you’re a teenager, and get into their franchise training program. When you’re the boss, you can spend as much time as you want in the parts you like (provided you hire the right people to delegate the other parts to, and choose wisely on *what* to delegate). The trick, of course, is that when you’re new to retail, the pay is terrible.

  110. Kippers*

    This might be controversial, but what about joining the military? Education benefits, real world skills, something new every few years, and very different environments. It’s not risk free, but it’s perhaps worth considering, and not as terrible as it’s often made out to be.

  111. Landshark*

    Perhaps try looking into any nearby colleges and community colleges? Usually they have a lot of different jobs that are in that vein, like an activities coordinator, a forward facing position with financial aid or the registrar, or something like my work calls a success coach (basically a non-faculty advisor–you catch up with a bunch of students and have to keep them on track, but it’s apparently very rewarding!). In a good college, you tend to end up working well with faculty, other staff, and students, and even the most “office-y” office jobs are in a different atmosphere. It’s not a guarantee what you’d have available because it depends on the college and their requirements and where you are, but higher ed jobs are really unique.

  112. Jenny*

    I totally sympathize! What about freelance work as a writer, editor, or virtual assistant? That wouldn’t be in an office setting, but would meaning spending most of your time alone at a computer, so maybe not what you’re looking for. What about going into event planning full-time? That seems like it’d be less office time at least.

  113. Wrench Turner*

    I work in the trades, specifically commercial HVAC, so I do a little bit of everything -mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc- every day. I work outside, which has obvious downsides, but I like helping people keep cool (or warm, depending). I work for a Very Large Company which has clear and consistent rules against discrimination and harassment, and there are some (not many, but growing) women techs scattered around the country. I started at $16/hr in their trainee program 6 months ago, now complete, I’m making $18/hr. Because I’m NATE certified, I can expect to be bumped up to $22/hr at the end of the summer. The more certifications I get, and there are many to pick from, the more I can make and the less back-breaking work to do because each is specific and usually analytical or managerial in nature. Six figure income, or more, is really not uncommon. Soon I’m also getting my state home inspection license, and will be opening my own side job company helping real estate agents.

    About your concern with tools: you learn by doing. That’s it. I come from a background in theatre production and over the years had the honor to work with many, many, many women doing the exact same hard as heck work as me. Just as skilled, just as capable. We all learned by doing (some also had technical classes, some didn’t). There were physical differences when total brute force upper body strength was needed but that was really rare. There are a ton of women working in live event production -everything from concerts to theatre to weddings to bar mitzvaz, you name it. It’s something to consider if not the trades.

    Look up Mike Rowe (the guy who used to host Dirty Jobs) and his trades training foundation that he started to address the labor shortage. It’s hard work out here, but it’s honest, dignified, and once you’re certified in something there are people literally lining up to give you a job. After switching over to the trades, at the end of the day, I’ve feel like I’ve done something.

    Go get ’em.

  114. Jaybeetee*

    I’ll plug tour guide, which I did for a small local museum for a couple of years. By the time I left I was a coordinator, which meant some office work, but I certainly wasn’t at a desk all day. But tour guides are working with the public all day, providing a good experience for people who paid money to be there. You’re up and moving a lot. You have to deal with very diverse groups, including some challenging ones (special needs, foreign languages, small children, etc). You have to be a bit of an actor, and of course an excellent storyteller. If you end up at a small place like I did, you’ll also find yourself wearing other hats and participating in all kinds of projects.

    The downside, particularly at those small places, is that the pay is pretty “humble.” In my case, my career in this area petered out because nearly every larger museum in my area requires fluency in a second language which I do speak, but not fluently enough to be good at the job.

    Another option (though admittedly one that would keep you at a desk) is corporate concierge/virtual assistant. I did that for a year from home, and I would have stayed with it except the company I was working for went under. But basically I was a professional Googler that occasionally ran errands for corporate clients. Most of my day was researching daycares, doctors, planning vacations, researching products and services, etc. The premise is that with these corporations, their employees work long hours, and the employers want them focused on their jobs, and not calling a zillion daycares or what have you during business hours trying to find a place to put their kid.

  115. Shelix*

    I’m just going to list all of the non-office jobs i can think of and let you ponder how well they would fit your experience. Some are more introvert-ideal, and some would be better suited to extroverts, and all require very different levels of self motivation, problem solving, or a bit of non-office politics ;)

    -Lab tech/lab aide. We hire people with BS or no degree at all, to stock solutions, clean glassware, fill ices, etc. As they get more experienced, they can get promoted to the point where they actually run a little chemistry, but if a lab aide isn’t interested in that path, there are lateral moves available. Some of those lateral moves:

    -Shipping/receiving. Totally not an office job, because you do a bunch of labelling and packing, unpacking, delivering, etc. Yes, there is paperwork and computer work, but at larger places you will get a forklift license and even spend a decent amount of time outside. One job i had in receiving i was also in charge of assessing warranty returns, which means i got a decent basic knowledge of small engine repair, soldering, very light electronics, etc. I loved that job even though the pay wasn’t enough for me to live on.

    Other jobs i have considered when i’m feeling frustrated with my main career (synthetic organic chemistry):

    Home inspector

    There’s more, but that’s probably enough to fill your brain, plus the hundreds of other suggestions :)

  116. Candy for Breakfast*

    Community outreach might be a good choice for you. Different companies and programs all have different ways of operating, but most will require that you spend a good amount of time building relationships out and about.

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