Author Topic: Looking for Career Advice  (Read 2127 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Looking for Career Advice
« on: June 22, 2018, 09:11:00 AM »
Hi everyone, this is actually my first post on this forum after several months of lurking. I'm currently in a bit of a career dilemma and am looking to get some advice from financially-savvy folks.

I've been working my first post-education job for five years now. (I'm a cataloger for a government library.) It's not a bad job and the pay is decent. My biggest problems with it:
  • I'm bored as hell
  • There's no chance of advancement; I'm still doing the exact same job I was five years ago and will continue doing this exact same job until I quit
  • I don't feel like I'm actually accomplishing anything

One issue is that I don't actually have an MLS (went but never graduated due to health issues). My current job doesn't care; I'd interned here and they knew my work. Other, similar jobs require the degree.

I don't even think I'd want a similar job given how miserable I am at this one. Unfortunately I'm not really qualified for anything else. My undergraduate degree was in English Literature (facepunch away, 17-year-old me was stupid), and my work experience has all been in libraries (minus some part-time retail/fast food gigs).

I'm considering applying for paraprofessional jobs at a local university library. They don't require an MLS, tend to be low-stress, and would qualify me for free tuition. I could take some classes and see if I might be interested in another field. I'm only 30 so there's time to switch careers. Or maybe a different job might rekindle the interest that led me to libraries in the first place.

But if I take a paraprofessional job I'd also be taking a huge paycut, probably $20,000-$30,000. We can easily live off my wife's income alone so it's not like we can't afford it, but that's a lot of savings to pass up. Would it be stupid to throw away that much money on the off chance I find something I enjoy? It's not like my current job is bad; I'm just tired of it.

My wife's advice vacillates between "Mental health is worth $20,000 a year" and "But there's no guarantee you'll actually like anything else better, take the money." She's agreed to support me whatever my decision, but I have no idea what my decision should be.

Any advice?


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2018, 09:18:00 AM »
Have you considered starting your own business? Some kind of consulting? Editor?

My wife didn't like her job and quit after the birth of our daughter. She started her own consulting business and has built it into something that she really enjoys. She likes the work that she is doing and the people that she works with.

Good luck.


  • Bristles
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2018, 09:40:21 AM »
I don't have much advice but I'm interested in what others will say.

My experience...I'm also an English Lit major but ended up going a much more corporate route into editing. My first job after school was a temp job for a publishing firm, but I didn't love that industry. During school, off and on I worked for an academic research firm, editing and content web/SEO writing, working with grad students and professors on dissertations, theses, manuscripts, and journal article submissions. I used that as a jumping off point to medical editing, working for consultants on research, clinical trials, advertising to Drs, promotions, and branding. Clients are huge pharma companies such as Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Takeda, Genentech, Novartis, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Eisai. It's proven to be very lucrative and there are many flexible work-from-home opportunities out there. Idk whether you'd be interested in any of the above that I mentioned. Bad news: you'd likely have to start entry level and work up from there. Good news: you don't need any further education whatsoever.

Would you mind going into more detail about your library work? I considered it at one point but didn't want to back to school for the MLS. What do you do every day? How much do you make? I don't think I'd want to change things up right now as I'm being paid easily the most I have in my whole life for an easy (to me) job. However, it's always nice to know what's out there and have options in the back pocket. You mention boredom as a negative...Idk if I'm not driven or very lazy, but I always viewed boredom as a positive in a job! I work about half of the time I'm in the office and I've become an expert at time-wasting (MMM forums as one avenue) for the other half.

Finally, the narrative that there are no jobs for English majors is simply false. I've listed three separate industries I worked in above, and I'm not even 30. Now, if you want to be well compensated, you'll have to go the corporate route and stay away from the creative and "fun" fields.
I haven't even mentioned the big freelancing industry for editing and writing. That's something I want to try in the future, but haven't done so yet. The way I see it, there's no point in getting more busy now to make more $ until I've mastered spending habits and Mustachianism at my current income level.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2018, 09:49:38 AM »
My husband just graduated from college and switched careers at 40.  He, however, knew exactly what he wanted to do.

My sister got an MBA five years ago, had no idea what she wanted to do with it beyond "get a better job" and is stuck in a similar career at a similar salary while paying off loans.

What about staying at your current job and using some of the $20-30k "extra salary" you currently get to take a few classes?  If you find something you are passionate about, then it would make sense to switch careers/go back to school for a new degree/etc.

I have a plan to switch careers and take a huge pay cut in a few years.  I know what I'm running to, though, not just what I'm running from.  I think that's what you are missing.


  • Bristles
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2018, 09:55:20 AM »
Ever_Anon, it's not stupid to pursue a degree in English. There's a whole lot more you can do with a degree in English lit other than working in a library. What did you love about English? Writing? Analyzing?

There dozens of interesting career paths open to folks with an English background. Here are some ideas, though some involve additional training:

Corporate Communications
Corporate Writing Coach
Nonprofit Communications (this is what I do now, and I love it)
Teaching, Tutoring, Test Prep
Copy Editing
Technical Writing
Ghost Writing
Paralegal (a good friend of mine is an advanced trial-prep paralegal, which involves a lot of research and organizing info--probably something a library background would be great for)
Government Grant Writing (this is different from writing private grants and requires a lot of attention to detail and research--probably another place where a library science background would be useful).

IMO, it's not a good idea to take classes to figure out what you want to do with your career. Explore careers first, then find a way to take classes if they are truly necessary. I strongly suggest setting up some informational interviews with people in careers that interest you. It requires some cold calling or emailing, but you'd be surprised how many people are happy to talk about themselves and what they do if you offer to take them out for coffee. Barring that, browse around some blogs or online communities for specific fields to get a feel for it (there's a subreddit for everything). That way, you'll have a better sense of what it's actually like to be in that field and what kind of training you need.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2018, 09:58:59 AM »
Another English major in a lucrative career chiming in to say don't let your major be the thing that's stopping you from dropping into another job. There's just so so much out there you could do without needing to go back to school.

But I think we need to know more: what about your current job is currently boring? What types of things do you want to stop doing? What sorts of skills would you like to do more of?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2018, 10:13:22 AM »
Thanks for the suggestions about looking into editing jobs. I've definitely gotten trapped into the "library vs different field entirely" mindset so it's good to get a glimpse into other avenues I could pursue. A lot of my cataloging experience would transfer over, which could help.

Would you mind going into more detail about your library work? I considered it at one point but didn't want to back to school for the MLS. What do you do every day? How much do you make?

What I do is cataloging, which is basically complex data entry. My daily routine:
  • Pick up book
  • Figure out the correct metadata to describe said book (title, authors, publisher, physical description, notes, subject headings...)
  • Transcribe that information into the proper fields of our MARC editing software, using the proper formatting (heaven help you if you misplace a semicolon!)
  • Save work and go to next book

My boredom comes mostly from the fact that the work is both never-ending and exactly the same. We've got a backlog that I've been working on my entire time here and I'm not even halfway done with it. There's always more work to be done.

There are other areas of librarianship of course. Reference involves a whole lot of googling the answers, at least in my experience. Some positions are more research-oriented, which means even more googling as well as searching through various databases so you can come up with the references for someone else's paper. There are Digital Media Specialists, Instructional Librarians, Subject Specialists, etc.

The pay isn't terrible, but not great for a career that requires a masters. Average starting salaries are around $40,000-$50,000. I'm making $70,000 after 5 years of regular raises in a HCOL area. There are a few $100,000+ positions out there, but not many. A lot of the best positions require even more education. For example, Law Librarianship tends to pay well, but they usually want a J.D. in addition to the MLS.

Hopefully that helps. It's a lot like teaching in that it's a decent career but you never want to do it if you care about money. Admittedly take my opinion with a grain of salt since I'm tired of my current job and burned out on libraries as a whole.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2018, 11:14:10 AM by Ever_Anon »


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2018, 11:05:31 AM »
I really appreciate all the replies. You all are giving me a lot to think about in terms of what I want out of a career, and a lot of good suggestions for new jobs to explore.

But I think we need to know more: what about your current job is currently boring? What types of things do you want to stop doing? What sorts of skills would you like to do more of?

I kind of went into this in an earlier reply, but the "boring" part of my current job is the sameness of it all. I'm expected to work 40 hours a week doing the exact same thing over and over, cataloging a bunch of reports that no one will ever read. I have no real problems with the type of work I'm doing; I actually enjoy detail-oriented work! I just wish there was more variety, or at the very least some indication that the work I was doing was meaningful.

Skills I would like to do more of: I do like research and have enjoyed it on the rare occasion I've been given a complex reference question or literature search. I also enjoy challenges that require me to learn new skills. For example, I taught myself VBA so I could write Excel macros and automate our weekly/monthly reports. That was frustrating, but fun, and my boss was impressed with the result.


  • Bristles
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2018, 11:22:28 AM »
I started college as an English major, thanks to doing really well in English AP classes in high school, but found that I really hated literature and switched majors to a social science. Nonetheless, my first jobs were all library-based, which lead to an internship in records. It was low-stress, paid decently, and I thought it was a decent fit even after I moved into software development. I do remember several days in the library, though, shelving books and wondering what the heck I was doing with my life.

I would suggest taking some career assessments first. Studying a subject in school is different from doing actual work with that subject. I took the Johnson O'Connor test last fall which gave me some great insight on potential future careers, as it tests for natural aptitudes. Granted, it is ~$700 and it helps to be near one of the locations, but it was totally worth it for me. The Clerical aptitude, which would need to be high to enjoy roles like accounting or filing, was actually one of my lowest scores, which explains how blah I felt about those jobs. My Spatial Reasoning aptitude was very high, explaining why I am good with computers, but my Design aptitude was also very high, which explained why I was drawn more toward web design/development than, say, embedded hardware, which has no real visual payout. This has set the tone for the direction I'm taking.

If you're interested, check it out!:

I'm just a tad your junior, but I think it's fairly important to get that direction figured out soon, I think tests are a great way to gauge this, as, again, you may have loved the subjects you studied but that may not translate into work you actually enjoy. Of course, once I FIRE, there are plenty of subjects I would love to study that aren't necessarily related to my aptitudes :)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Looking for Career Advice
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2018, 12:12:22 PM »
I've got a BA in English, and I've been working as a technical writer for one of the big ILS software companies for quite a while now. It's a pretty good job!

What ILS do you know? What other library-related software products do you know and use? Could you parlay your library education and experience into a job with one of the software companies in the library industry? At my job I've seen support desk people and bid writers move into technical writing, and I've seen technical writers move into QA and product management roles. . . Once you get your foot in the door it's not out of the question that you could move within the company. Good luck!


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