Finding what interests me in a new career

One of us is job-hunting after quitting academia and moving to paradise.  I have been looking for jobs I want, but I haven’t been finding that many to apply to–I still have enough resources at this point to be able to focus my search on jobs I would like rather than taking any job.  I have applied for about 20 things and gotten 1 phone interview and no in-person interviews or offers.

What do I want?  I want something sciency and researchy, in the social sciences.  I am not a clinician and not a certified CRA.  I am not a biologist or pharmacist or engineer and I do not use Hadoop (I could learn if I had to but it doesn’t seem necessary now).  I don’t program (other than several standard social science statistics softwares and some dabbling in things like .html etc., but not like C++ kind of programming) and I don’t want to.

I have [#2: excellent] skills in data analysis, writing, editing, literature review, and many things about the research process [#2:  I fully vouch for these– she reads every paper of mine before I send it out and she’s helped me a ton when stat-transfer fails me, and more than once she’s saved my rear end doing last second RA work when I was up against a deadline and I found a SNAFU.  I’ve also shamelessly stolen a lot of her teaching stuff, but that’s probably irrelevant since she doesn’t want to adjunct or lecture.]!  (See the second table below)  I can do tons of research.

I am not an extrovert and interacting with people most of the time drains me, but I interact quite successfully in teams and research groups.  I’m not interested in being a manager of people in a pure managerial sense, though I can do some and I am experienced supervising teams of research assistants.

Ever since I was a little kid, every “career interest” test I have ever taken has always come out that I should be a professor, and it still does.  However, nope nope nope!

I played with this online thing for scientists and it was kinda enlightening.  It tells you, among other things, about what your values, skills, and interests are in a career.  Here are mine.

First, here are my values of things that are unimportant and important to me in a new career:  (for these big tables, click to embiggen).  I know this is a lot to ask for, but it represents the ideal.

My Values in a job image

Second, here are my scientific skills, what I think I am good and bad at:

Science Skills Summary image

Third, here are my interests:

Interests Summary image

The jobs it suggests for me include faculty at a research university (nopenopenope) and the things I am already applying for, such as research manager stuff.  I would be happy to manage someone’s lab, although I can’t put up with a job where the ONLY thing I do is make other people’s travel arrangements.  I could do quite a good job in something like research administration, if it focused on compliance and not budgets (though I can and will do budgets so long as it isn’t the *only* thing). I am good at teaching but I will never do it ever again.  I love collaborating with other scientists but am not crazy about managing people.

I would like to work for a nonprofit or the VA (which keeps failing to hire me over and over).  I’m not against working at a for-profit company though, especially if the pay is good and the work is interesting.  Program-analyst type stuff seems to be a title I come across a lot for job postings.  The site also suggests that I be an epidemiologist (interesting but I’m not trained for it), a clinical diagnostician (not trained for it and don’t want to be), and a teaching faculty (NOPE NOPE NOPE).  I would be fine as non-academic staff at a university.  I do not do drug testing, nor do I have any wet-lab skills.

You can be sure that my cover letter and resume are shiny, personalized, revised, and proofread by #2 [and, #2 notes, more importantly, the career office at her former grad school went over her resume when she did the change from cv to resume].

I’m not expecting to go in at the highest level, and I don’t really want to. I am definitely willing to work my way up to some extent, but not all the way from the proverbial mailroom. My retirement funds are anemic and if the job is really poorly paid, it might be more profitable to spend that time searching for a better job, rather than being tied to a job that’s both low-paying *and* boring.

Mostly I’ve been applying for jobs that I find on  But I need to expand.  And yes, I know I should be networking more (and I swear I am networking!)– this post is part of that effort.  ;)

I promise I’m not as much of a special snowflake as I sound like here; I have skills that would really help an employer if only I could convince them of that [and, #2 notes, if she could find more job openings, preferably before they’re advertised…].  Help!

Grumpeteers, what say you?  How can I get a job that pays decently and is also suited to my skills, interests, knowledge, and background?  


66 Responses to “Finding what interests me in a new career”

  1. Liz Says:

    I jump around platforms a bit looking for work that could be interesting. (I’m not actively looking, but am keeping up the practice.) LinkedIn and Glassdoor are useful new places to search – if only because they can give insights into companies to look at directly. I’ve heard is a good place for nonprofit jobs. For government work, is the clearinghouse site. Good luck!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have an alert running on USAjobs. I’ve had a lot of trouble with glassdoor being massively incomplete and inaccurate, but I have spent quite a bit of time looking at companies on LinkedIn. So far it hasn’t netted much, but who knows when it might pay off? Thanks!

  2. hypatia cade Says:

    Look at the NIH Reporter database (and NSF equivalents) to see who has funded grants and then write them and see if they need a lab manager.

    Look at the job websites of the universities around you for lab manager/staff positions

    Contact public health type agencies and find out if they have openings (figure out where things like the D of Ed adn D of Health and Human Services for your state post these things and follow that)

  3. bogart Says:

    Are you already in paradise, or are you moving to paradise (I’ve heard they paved paradise, but maybe that’s just an urban legend %| )?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      She’s been living in paradise since the fall. From what I hear, quite a bit of paradise is paved, but a lot of it is also protected government land that is unpaved.

    • bogart Says:

      OK, so — given that you are already there (and of course this concern is itself based on the outdated notion that one doesn’t telecommute, but I digress…) and inferring that there are universities/non-profits in paradise, are there ways you could connect with those communities that might help? Just to grab an 800-lb. gorilla example, it took me ~3 minutes to find this talk at the ISR:, and while I am not in your shoes, if I were (and were near ISR, which I assume you’re not but it’s an easy example to use), I’d probably (a) go to that talk — obviously you likely choose a different one — (b) try to ask an intelligent question in the Q&A afterward but also (c) listen to the other (local) Q&A’ers and send one of them a follow-up email saying that I’d [fill in plausible explanation here — appreciated their question, been motivated to read up on their work …] and wonder if they’d have time [to meet for coffee]. This assumes you can/would want to in fact act interested in others’ research agendas (and do in fact have some interest), and of course you could take a more of an I’m-trying-to-find a job angle, though that might elicit different responses. But there’s clearly a gradation.

      You could contact one or more local non-profits and see if there are ways you could help — again, a networking strategy (I’m thinking of starting as a volunteer, not to say there aren’t other possible strategies).

      I’m assuming you don’t already have lots of contacts in the area, of course if you do the above ideas may be superfluous.

  4. Elsa Says:

    I don’t know how geographically restricted you are, or how close a research fit this is to your skills and interests, but I know people who work at the nonprofit Wilder Foundation in Minnesota: and there may be opportunities for a skilled researcher here.

  5. Carolina (@braziliancakes) Says:

    I agree with Liz’s website suggestions.

    Also, networking in the sense of gathering information using informational interviews (something I learned with Cloud – Wandsci). I would try to find someone who is a program analyst and talk to them about their job and see if it’s something you would actually like. I have found that most people are extremely willing to chat even if its over Skype/phone about their job. I’m assuming you have LinkedIn? I have found friends of friends that way who are doing jobs that I find interesting. Also, just being very vocal about what you’re looking for whenever you are talking to people will generally bring about suggestions of people to talk to. Someone may not even be aware of what you’re looking for and that they may have someone very helpful for your needs.

    Also, maybe find someone in the VA to hand your resume in directly to HR? That usually works better than the black internet hole of job applications.

  6. Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

    As much as the young ‘uns like to gripe about the IDP, I really liked it (it’s mandatory for trainees who have any NIH funding). I thought it did a great job of helping me identify tangible things to work on that will help me in the long term, and it made it easier for me to accept some of the ideas I had about my future career that my former (and current) advisors weren’t super keen on (i.e. I don’t want to run a lab, nopenopenope). It became very obvious that a desk job is not for me…

    Have you done any networking with your local AWIS branch? The one here has a ton of events, and if anything they’re good for meeting people in a new place and for finding out what positions might be advertised by word of mouth more than by traditional postings. The crowd here is also pretty diverse–lots of social scientists in addition to biological scientist/engineer/math-y types.

    Also, I know of a few departments here who have hired someone to basically assist with grantsmanship. Not the boring paperwork/budget part, but crafting better, hopefully more fundable research proposals. Might be something to look into–I think it was probably advertised through the university job page, but I would expect similar positions to be more common if the funding climate stays so tight.

  7. Thisbe Says:

    Caveat: I am not an academic, but I am pretty good at getting hired. (Just got hired for what I hope will be the last job change in a long, long time, thus solving the 2-body problem in a near-optimal solution!!) Evidence: they say the job market is moderately difficult in my profession, but when I was on the job market two years ago I applied for around 15 positions, phone interviewed for almost all of them, in-person interviewed at 8 of them, and had 4 offers. This year, I applied for 5 positions and had a similar percentage breakdown of response.

    One assumes that if you get an in-person interview, you will have a high likelihood of getting hired because you’re objectively awesome, right? So then the reason you are not getting phone and/or in-person interviews must be because of the cover letter and resume you are sending and/or the positions you are submitting to. It may just be that you’re being vague for anonymity, or it may be that I don’t really understand your field, but in this post it is hard for me to tell specifically what you want to do for work. And I have always gotten the best results when I have been both precise and specific about my reasons for wanting a position and the reasons I would be a great fit for it.

    • LLL Says:

      i agree. a lot of what came through this post was “i don’t want to do this” “i don’t want to do that” and “nopenopenope.” Focusing more on what you really want, instead of don’t want, may help your search

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        @LLL #2 here, the nopenopenope is because she had a (tenured) job as a professor but she’s not going to get a job as a professor in Paradise. It just isn’t going to happen. I can’t get a professor job in Paradise either.

        Her cover letters are not at all negative, but she also didn’t want people to recommend that she say, get an adjunct job (because she doesn’t want to teach) or get a job as a biochemist because she’s NOT A BIOCHEMIST. Getting recommendations for that when she’s trying to keep herself some anonymity is not going to be productive for anybody.

        In fact, I’m going to right now shut down any bashing here in the comments– she doesn’t need to be told that she’s a horrible person who is doing everything wrong just because she’s applied to 20 jobs and gotten one interview. This is like me being told I’m exercising wrong because I’m doing doing some exercising. It doesn’t help and could make her want to network EVEN LESS.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 here: I really don’t think that’s the problem. She’s being vague for anonymity purposes. She’s also in a social science that doesn’t have quite as direct industry/non-profit/government applications as does, say, economics, and there are a lot of jobs that she’s applied to that want someone with a BA or MA rather than a PhD (or want something she’s not willing to lie about like being really familiar with the low SES neighborhoods in paradise). There just aren’t many jobs asking for her qualifications at all, so it isn’t surprising that the 20-number hasn’t yielded a job yet. (And yes, she’s done the, “I know I have a phd and you want a BA, and here’s why that’s ok and why I think I’d be a great fit.”)

      And there are plenty of unemployed PhDs in her social science with amazing degrees from top universities in paradise so it’s unlikely she’s the only one in the pack.

      So although I think I could find a job in 20 applications or less doing what I want to do (non-academic) in most cities (though probably not paradise, unless I found a fit at one of the big anonymous companies), I am not surprised at all that it’s taking longer for #1. The markets are totally different.

      But hey, if you want to look over her application materials and make suggestions, feel free to email!

      • Thisbe Says:

        Sure, I’d be happy to. Probably ten years ago, an internet friend who I had never met looked over my job application materials and helped me make them better. Of course things have changed for me a lot since then but even so. I think there can be real value in having someone who is basically a total stranger give feedback about how to make oneself look as amazing on paper as one is in real life. I think it was from that person that I got the advice to make sure that my application materials made people *want* to spend time with me. Because of course we spend a lot of time with our coworkers, and potential employers (consciously or not) are picking out interesting people to spend a lot of time with.

        That’s why my resume continues to contain a bunch of stuff that is not necessarily exactly relevant to my profession, but does sound like fun (it *was* fun!). I really believe it’s also how in the past I have gotten various jobs for which I was totally not qualified.

        Reflecting: it MAY ALSO be that the things on my resume that look like an interesting past and make people think I might be interesting to be around simultaneously function as a class dog-whistle. I went to a SLAC, and I spent my twenties doing pretty strange things; and although I did them on the cheap, other people who were doing similar things at similar times definitely came from much wealthier backgrounds than I do.

  8. Revanche Says:

    PiC and I are on a bit of a friends–> career matchmaking kick so I’ll have to think about this more carefully when I’m a touch less sleep deprived but at first glance, while I wish you could work with me because you seem awesome, your areas of interest and expertise is probably something PiC and his circle are more likely to know a thing or two about. I’ll pick out the important bits to see if he knows someone who knows of something/someone helpful!

    Also must admit the idea the career ppl at a school helped with your resume made me shiver a bit since I’ve almost uniformly only ever heard bad advice out of career centers at school so hope yours is the exception!

  9. becca Says: is neat, so glad I found out about that one!
    Alas, I have very little advice that is not already covered here… thought here’s always the “nonprofits always need help with X Y or Z, you can volunteer for them to build a network in a new location”. Though if the need help fundraising and your introverted self does not wish to flex fundraising muscles, that may not work. My Aunt always says to write a grant for somebody with your funding line built into the grant- very few nonprofits will say no to that. Still, it’s way more work than ordinary job hunting, and ordinary job hunting is no cakewalk.

    As an aside, I have recently noticed a huge glitch in my ability to receive career mentoring- it turns out that if I liked (or vaguely wanted to impress) someone, I subconsciously mirrored their own views about different types of careers. I have been doing this for a long time, and I’ve just now noticed it. I have no idea what makes me happy if I could separate it all out from what other people are impressed by.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve found good leads on idealist, too. Fortunately (?) I very much know what I want, like, and am good at (and vice-versa). I am thinking of volunteering for some nonprofits, but my ability to actually secure grant funding has never been a strong point, so it would likely be a waste of time all around. I have done everything right on grants, according to the program officers etc., but the paylines are just ridiculous these days. Maybe I’ll just go to the shelter and pet the kitties.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #2 notes that Idealist also has career fairs which is pretty cool for networking and seeing what’s out there if nothing else.

        (Also: #2 notes that #1 never SAYS she hasn’t secured grants, but she does say she has a lot of experience with all aspects of grant-writing. All that being raised Catholic keeps her from saying anything more positive and less truthful about grant-writing than that.)

  10. chacha1 Says:

    There are a lot of contradictory responses in the tables above.

    I agree with Thisbe and LLL, but have one thing to suggest which is: technology transfer office.
    It depends on the university or system – UCLA has had a hiring freeze for ten years, or I’d be working there now – but pretty much all universities with strong science departments, and also many R&D corporations, have tech transfer offices. I think a lot of your strengths would be well-applied there. You’d have to give up the idea of designing your own processes, though.

    Working alone is unlikely to be an option. Research (and its ancillary business), that people will pay you to do, happens in corporate (whether non-profit or for-profit) environments. I suspect you’ve had a very bad experience working in academia and it’s colored your perception of work groups. If you take “all by myself” off the table and rewrite your scripts accordingly it may help.

    The cruelest (and best) workplace advice I ever got was this: “It’s not YOUR firm.” That was hard to hear, but once I got over it I realized it was what I needed to approach working-for-a-living with a sense of freedom. No matter how long you have it or how much you love it, it’s just a job, ultimately, unless it is a business that you start for yourself.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2: OBVIOUSLY she knows she’s not going to be able to work completely alone. These are her ideal circumstances and the reason that there are salaries instead of everybody working for free for the joy of it. It’s like you’re punishing her for having and sharing her preferences on an anonymous online blog.

      She does not put that she wants to work by herself on cover letters– she talks about her experiences working with people and supervising research assistants if that’s something the position calls for. She does work well with others and is very professional. That doesn’t mean she has to be a people person and love these things if she’s got options. It does mean that she should not go into sales!

      • chacha1 Says:

        Understood, and my intention wasn’t to be critical. I was just a little “I wonder if she realizes this” when I saw how many things in the Preferred or Essential columns were mutually exclusive. :-) Apologies if this came across as harsh.

  11. omdg Says:

    How about advertising on the quant/research side of things (i.e. not client interaction)?

    • omdg Says:

      Also, pharma has research positions in the social sciences as well. Not just running randomized trials, but health services as well. You just may have to dig a bit to find those positions.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hunh, I haven’t seen those. I’ll look around. (I’ve seen some things that require CRA certification though.) I don’t know very much about advertising… hm…. To the internet!

  12. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Our commenters are the best. What great ideas, everybody! I’m so glad we posted this.

  13. Linda Says:

    These are all great ideas, but how about some informal networking? Sometimes you can meet people through hobby groups and such that provide some great leads. Either going through a major career shift and relocating can lead to longer cycles in landing a new job. If you’ve already had one phone interview, that seems pretty good right now.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, my fencing and horseback riding groups know I’m looking for a research job! So far no luck, but I am still trying to convince each group to try the other activity ;-)

      • Linda Says:

        Ha, ha, ha! Fencing on horseback…wait..isn’t that sort of what combat used to be? Hmmm…Anyway, after reading the post and the latest comment I feel like we are scarily similar, except for the academia thing. When I started working on my first MA (the one I didn’t finish) I learned academia wasn’t going to work for me. My high school career test suggested I may like working in a lab, although I didn’t follow through on that.

      • Rented life Says:


  14. Zoe Says:

    Would you be willing to elaborate on the nopenopenope to being a professor? Is it just a factual statement (ie., these jobs just don’t exist in Paradise), or is it also a normative one (ie. even it were a possibility, you just don’t want to be a professor again)? I’m about to start a tenure-track position with 2/3 load, but do not love teaching, & you’re kinda making me anxious about whether I too will end up noping right out of academia in a few years.

  15. Cloud Says:

    OK, having read your post and the comments, I can think of a few things to try, and since I’m *supposed* to be doing dishes and tidying the guest room for the impending arrival of my parents… I’ll just type them out as a list in no particular order. Apologies for the lack of coherence!

    1. Since you can’t get past the VA HRbot, have you tried targeting the companies that contract for the VA? Like all government agencies, lots of the work done for them, on and offsite, is actually done by contractors. You could start with the big ones (SAIC/Leidos- I don’t know which half got the VA work in the split, Booz Allen Hamilton, etc) and then see if you can identify the smaller ones that subcontract for them, too.

    If you are interested in this approach, send me an email. I have a good friend who is at Leidos and might be able to give you some info about the lay of the land.

    OK, I said these were in no particular order, but in your shoes (and acknowledging the limits of the info I have), this is where I’d focus my energies. Even if you don’t get to do VA work right away, you might get to work on some really interesting things.

    2. Pharma does indeed do some social science work, for instance pharmacoeconomics. I sadly don’t know much of anything about that, though.

    3. Honestly, reading your list of things that you’d like made me think you should write books about science and social science for a mainstream audience. You’d get lots of independence, would do research and analysis, could work largely alone but still go to conferences…. That is obviously not an easy path, and even if you love the idea you’d need a bridging plan. Also, I don’t know if you’d like that kind of writing! But I suspect you’d write really interesting books.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Writing those books would be cool but I suspect I don’t have the patience for it; and there’s no retirement benefits on that plan. But if I worked for a company and that was part of my job, I bet I could do a good job of it.
      The contractors who work with the VA is a very good idea. For example, I found a great job posting at Leidos, but it’s not where I live and it says you can’t telecommute (though I don’t see why not, based on the description of duties). Still, a good idea to keep on my radar, thanks.

      • Cloud Says:

        The “no telecommute” thing is usually because either the customer or the internal program manager doesn’t want to deal with the extra work of managing remote people. In my experience, it could be waived if there was a person the team really wanted. However, that is unlikely to happen when you’re coming in from the outside. So one thing you could consider is getting in at Leidos (or whichever big contractor seems to have the most contracts like what you want to do), and then shining (because you will), and then being able to dictate that you’re going to telecommute for some contracts.

        Another thing that occurred to me overnight is that the big contracting companies actually have people dedicated to contracts management. It is an entire career path. I suspect you would be seen as overqualified for that job, but you might be able to get in. I think you’d be a better fit for a direct role (i.e., one that gets charged out to customers), but that is just based on what I’ve read here, so I don’t really know.

  16. anandar Says:

    I know this is not your idea of fun (it certainly wasn’t mine!), but the way I got a job after a period of unemployment due to following my now-husband to the Bay Area (where I knew no one) was by systematically going through my SLAC’s alumni directory and setting up informational interviews with anyone even remotely close to my field. It was awkward, yes, but then a couple months later, one of them happened to get an email for an unadvertised, highly fabulous job… and happened to think of me and forward the email. Definitely would not have happened without the awkward networking phase (that didn’t feel particularly productive in the moment).

    Much more fun was following the earlier commenter’s advice to go to lectures and talks at the local university. It didn’t lead directly to a job, but it was a really good orientation to my new area and has served me well over the years.

  17. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I was a friend (in a group of women, not a personal friend) who taught something in social science. But, she was a demographer. I don’t think she did this work within a group.

    Another good friend, professor, too, worked for a company that wrote questions to elicit responses for companies to use when developing a product. These questions went to focus groups.

    For a short-term job I worked as the grunt in the field, using an instrument to question people or the parents of a child with a certain birth defect. The instrument was so flawed that I had to email then all the time. EX; I questioned a toothless woman and read this question: Does____have any oral problems. She said no. I could see the child’s rotten teeth. They needed to change the wording. Sure, I questioned retired colonels and school teachers along with barely literate people. But, the group did a poor job under a poor researcher. I always thought that writing these instruments was an interesting job. PhDs were the writers. I have no idea where anyone would find a company that hires people to do this. But, they do exist.

  18. Practical Parsimony Says:

    Also, I got the bright idea I wanted to work for companies who were connected to Redstone Arsenal/NASA because they pay well. I thought this was a foolhardy move for an English major. However, I found out that many DC funded projects had to have a educator on the payroll, one with at least a MA, which I had. It seems there was a teaching component to each project. But, I would not have been teaching. I presume I would have made sure there were something like lesson plans for others to implement on site or in schools. If I had pursued this area, I would have landed a job because several of the initial people were thrilled when they heard I was a teacher. The more people I talked with the better I got at telling them what they wanted to hear, all of which was true.

    I never went through HR. I looked on their website and called someone. Going through HR, in my opinion would have not netted the information I needed, and I would have been rejected outright. Several times, I actually talked to the owners. I am good at cold calls and was not in the least intimidated. So, that helped in selling myself in the initial calls.

  19. SP Says:

    I don’t have any new advice. You are doing a lot right, and finding a new job is hard – a new career in a new location is even harder. Keep at it, and keep networking (even though it sucks). Target a handful of most likely institutions and do what you can to talk to someone there, even if there are no positions.

    Perhaps in non-anon world you have this, but it would be best if you had a 1 – 2 sentence statement of what you are looking for to tell people who are loose connections / random people you meet. “I am an experienced researcher in X, and I’m looking for a job doing Z or Y, preferably at the VA or a non-profit.” Even though you are open to more, if you are specific, people will find it easier to help/remember. I don’t think I know much about your area, but a statement like that might be enough for come up with any connection I have.

    Good luck!

  20. First Gen American Says:

    Our organization is currently struggling with our technology team (the place with all the PhD’s). When I read your essentials list, that explains a lot with regards to our struggles with that team. You guys want to do the hard stuff. Why on earth would you go to school for that long if you didn’t. Most PhD’s dream jobs involve spending 100% of your time on pie in the sky, world changing stuff. But there is a balance between short term innovation tweaks vs long term game changers…and when you are not supporting your customers on their short term needs, they don’t necessarily want to partner with you on the big picture stuff. I was scratching my head recently on a request that I thought was so innovative. It was a truly disruptive technology displacing something that essentially hasn’t changed in 100 years. It was super exciting (for me anyway) and I was shocked when I was getting pushback to help on a scale up issue the customer uncovered. Then when I started noodling over it with some peeps, I learned that a chemist’s definition of innovation is different from an engineer’s (and generally much more narrow in scope). They want to come up with the next big molecule…tweaking an existing technology is a necessary evil and not innovation even if it’s being used in a brand new space. And it also makes me wonder how many of them would have preferred to be in a university type setting vs a corp one.

    Sorry, totally venting here. It has nothing to do with you or this post.

    So I think your head is in the right place wanting to be in a not for profit or university setting, because that may allow more opportunity for exploratory work..but even that should have some ultimate tie to a real world application of the data/idea.

    Lastly, just from an interview perspective, I would be careful how you communicate your desire to want to work alone. That is one of the red flag items that we are asked to flush out during the interview process. Pretty much every single job function in our company has this as a red flag item and it’s NEVER okay to say that you prefer to work alone…Yet, it is very okay to say that you don’t need a lot of supervision and are efficient at managing your own time independently. I’ll email you something I’ve used as an interviewer.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I already know that everyone lies during interviews: me, them, etc. Don’t worry, I don’t say “I vant to be alone” on interviews. Even though it’s true. Getting a job is all about lying. :-)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s totally not true. You are physically incapable of lying. You are excellent, however, in not providing the full truth.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #1: I totally lie. “Sure, I can do that, no problem!” == I can sort of do that and I hate it
        #2: but you DON’T do that
        You say, “I have some experience doing that.”
        I try to get you to say, “I can do that, no problem!”
        but you always say, “But I can’t do it very well” or “I haven’t done it much” or “I hate it”
        so then we compromise and you write, “I have experience doing that”
        or “I will learn it quickly”
        #1: interviewers lie about how great it is to work there, and I lie about how much I want to do the stupid parts of the job
        #2: except you don’t
        you just say you can
        and you have done them
        you are crushingly honest!
        But you don’t volunteer negative information. You just omit it. It’s all very Catholic.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Just had yet another conversation with #2 in which she refused to bend the truth on a cover letter one iota. Ladies and gentlemen, #2 DOES NOT LIE. She does not mislead. She does not bend the truth. The only untruthful thing she has ever said is that she lies. She simply doesn’t.

      • Thisbe Says:

        You know who has really useful and interesting, if often uncomfortable and sometimes wrong, advice about selling yourself and getting a job? Penelope Trunk. I just remembered about that. She has some very blunt things to say about what kinds of positive and negative things to say about yourself that are true and also help you get hired.

        I love reading her blog because she is such an intense writer… do you guys ever read her?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We really like Ask a Manager…

  21. Cloud Says:

    Coming back in with a specific idea to make informational interviewing easier: come in with 3-5 questions ready, to get the conversation going. These can be meaty questions- so not small talk. Ask things like:

    How did you get to your current position?
    What is a typical work day like?
    What is your favorite and least favorite thing about your current career path?


    This gets your interviewee talking, and they will probably end up guiding the conversation a lot (unless they are also really uncomfortable with talking to strangers, in which case you will run through your list of questions and any new ones that occur to you based on their answers, thank them for their time and go about your way.)

    Don’t forget to specifically ask if they have any advice for someone who wants to switch into their career path. That’s always a good one.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have lots of questions to ask, from lists like these (thanks!) and yet I still hate it. Even though it is apparently the MOST important thing EVER, I just hate it a lot, and I hate (though I recognize) the necessity of it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #2 thinks it mainly stems from #1 not wanting to bother people, even though most people like to help other people, but when you’re brought up Midwestern and Catholic, it’s hard to get away from that feeling. Plus it’s, you know, awkward and scary. But from talking with #1 about it, I really think it’s this overwhelming feeling of not wanting to impose on people. (She may disagree.)

      • Cloud Says:

        Ah, yes I can understand that concern. Maybe it would help to think of it as you providing someone a nice, virtuous excuse to take a break and eat lunch in a restaurant, instead of hunched over their desk, working. Or eating whatever sad lunch they bring because they’re being “good.” (Seriously, I am usually pretty happy to have a good excuse to treat myself to a lunch out without feeling guilty for “wasting money” or what not.)

        Also, I think most people for whom it would be an imposition just won’t answer your email asking for an informational interview. That’s been my experience when I’m the person seeking the interview, anyway. The people who are too busy/flaky to meet just won’t reply at all.

        Also, networking is very much a two-way street, and you may eventually be in a position to repay the favor. There is one woman whom I originally met when she contacted me for an informational interview. We’ve stayed in touch for 15 years, and sometimes I can help her out and sometimes she can help me out. You won’t always be a newbie in your new career, and since no job lasts forever… the person who helps you this week may be someone you remember and help next year.

        So you’re not really imposing. You’re helping them have a nice lunch and build their own network!

        (I know, this doesn’t actually make it a fun thing to do….)

  22. emilyfrugalsworth Says:

    Are you willing to move or are you pretty committed to staying where you are at? That can sometimes affect your job search. Just curious. I have an MA and have been looking for ways to move out of depending on teaching in my field for financial survival and I would rather colleague who are passionate about this field take the few full time positions open than to act like I want to be full time. I am returning to school part time next year to explore career paths in computing and/or start-up/small business investing. I also plan to be certified as a yoga instructor and strength and conditioning teacher. However, my current path as an adjunct is not providing enough financially to find something in another field. So, I am looking for a second job that will allow me to continue to teach at my beloved institution (I don’t say that very often, but I really, really like this particular place and want to help it grow for as long as the employer and I agree it is best for me to be there). In the mean time, I have “tried on” home businesses in wellness and am hopefully going to land with the next venture in selling supplements and continuing to improve my health and fitness. I have also been volunteering for a healthcare provider and organizing computer data for one of their departments. Hopefully you can find a way to ” try on” other careers and businesses via networking, socializing, etc. Based on what you have shown with your post and your assessment results, I am confident that you will find something at least part time, such as consulting, that will be a stepping stone to a much better job. Look forward to hearing more about your journey and cheering you on!

  23. Mrs PoP Says:

    Not sure if my experience will help, but here goes.
    I knew where I wanted to live (my paradise, though probably not the same as your paradise), so I had a friend that had access to a business dev database (think Hoovers, CapitalIQ, or the like) download me a list of all firms in my target geographic area that would have interesting data – finance, technology, corporate HQ with business analytics departments. Then I researched them all (a big spreadsheet) taking notes on what I could find out about them. I culled the list down to 5 firms that looked interesting, had values I believed in, and wrote a tailored cover email to send unsolicited to the CEOs of those 5 companies (whose emails I stealthed out). I sent those 5 emails, with my resume. I got 4 responses, one of which was a referral to another portfolio company of the same VC, 3 interviews, and 3 job offers, each of which where the job was created specifically for me. All of this happened while the economy was crashing (especially in S FL – my paradise) in late 2008.
    My view is that the right businesses want smart people – REALLY smart people – who are interested in their business, especially for small businesses. Find a business or company that intrigues you and go after it directly whether or not there is a “position”. A smart CEO creates a position for the right person.
    Good luck!

  24. Kat Says:

    I am a little late to this thread (also, long-time reader, first-time commenter, woo!), but I didn’t see NCURA mentioned. I work in research administration at a large research university and I know our office advertises positions through them, in addition to the university jobs site and other places already mentioned. They do wonderful trainings and also have a YouTube page with weekly short videos about all aspects of research administration, so it can be a good way to find out more about specific areas you might be interested in pursuing (compliance, export control, etc.). I work in a central office, but many of the research administrators and lab managers at the department level are also involved in NCURA. Several of the departments here with large grant portfolios have also hired grants specialists to help their faculty in reviewing/editing their grants and putting together larger and more complicated projects. Usually it is someone with a MSc or PhD in a similar, though not necessarily identical, field. Also, I am not a CRA, but I’ve been working in grants/research administration for almost eight years and it hasn’t stopped me from getting promotions and moving to a larger/more prestigious university. If you’d like to talk to me more about the broader research administration field, please feel free to email. Good luck!

  25. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Actual conversation we just had:

    #1: I’ve been asked to talk about doing a consulting project for this company that my friend works at [that is an extremely awesome project]
    #2: Networking for the win!
    #1: NOT networking for the win. I met [friend] at [high school]!
    #2: THAT IS NETWORKING. What do you think networking is?
    #1: Ok, fine, I win at networking.

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