Author Topic: Should I stay or should I go?  (Read 5089 times)

mustachecat

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Should I stay or should I go?
« on: July 17, 2012, 10:13:26 AM »
Hey Mustachians! This isn't a purely financial question, but I thought that your collective badassity might yield some useful advice.

I really, really (really!) want to transition out of my career field, which is nonprofit fundraising. I fell into it a few years ago, and while I've had a successful run, it's not for me. Nor is the nonprofit sector as a whole. I've been working at nonprofits since I graduated from college, and so far, I haven't come across any job positions within it that are a great fit.

I got into nonprofit work because I wanted to do something creative that would benefit society, but I'm finding that I'm waaaaaay too left-brained to be happy with vague ideals and good intentions. Unfortunately, I really have no idea what I want to do. I'm 27 and adrift.

 I'm not looking for some mythical dream job, or as YMOYL would put it, Job Charming. I don't expect perfect personal fulfillment at any job. Just a job that's consonant with my skills and values. Nonprofit fundraising for sure ain't it.

I do know that my long-term goals include a big ol' 'stache and early retirement, in the MMM sense; I don't want to retire from work altogether, just the financial need for work.

Right now, I bring home about $3,200/month. My fiance brings home about $2,600/month. Our household expenses are around $2,800/month, but we could get them under $2,600 without too much fuss. We've got about $30K in retirement savings and $16K in cash savings. Zero debt, student, auto, consumer, or otherwise.

Obviously, if we could save that $3,200/month and maintain a 55%+ savings rate, we'd be able to retire in 14 years. Probably less because a huge chunk of our current expenses--$1,600/month--goes to rent in New York City, and we'd retire somewhere with drastically lower housing costs. But I'd be pretty (or more likely, increasingly) unhappy for those 14 years.

I guess I'm just torn. I know I want to leave, but I worry that it's too risky. What if I can't transition into another industry? What if I do transition, and I find that the grass is always greener? What if, what if?

Lemme know your thoughts. Thanks, guys and gals!

bogart

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2012, 10:20:46 AM »
I don't expect perfect personal fulfillment at any job. Just a job that's consonant with my skills and values.

... and those are ... ?

mustachecat

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2012, 10:44:59 AM »
I don't expect perfect personal fulfillment at any job. Just a job that's consonant with my skills and values.

... and those are ... ?

Skills: I'm a strong writer and editor. In fundraising contexts, I'm especially good at taking lots of different pieces of information and creating a cohesive narrative or case. I'm very good at budgeting/organizing financial information. I'm a strong researcher--I like connecting the dots. I'm the only fundraiser I know who enjoys reading 990s (annual financial filings for nonprofits). I have a good design sense and often get called in to format or design various documents when our graphic designer is unavailable. I used to build websites for fun and still have a good grasp of HTML and CSS. 

Values: Basically, I'm just not comfortable in sales/marketing roles, which is probably why I dislike fundraising. I'm socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and an atheist, so I also wouldn't be comfortable working counter to those beliefs. That leaves a pretty wide world, though.

Does that help you to help me?

bogart

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2012, 11:20:35 AM »

Does that help you to help me?

Well, possibly, though you'll be the best judge of that.  That skill set leaps out at me as the group of skills needed by research administrators (grants administrators) at the university where I work and plenty of others -- any interest in that?  I will note that it may be a tough field to make a lateral move into -- where I am, there's an internal certification and software system, and lots of people start in lower-level administrative positions (think:  secretary) and move into research administration (after getting trained).  But there is huge demand here for folks with those skills.  Some of the issues might be similar to those that already irritate you (hey, no job is perfect) -- certainly, there are "sales" aspects to grants -- but typically you wouldn't need to work directly with funders (just with faculty, irritating in their own special way :) ), nor would you be the primary person making the case for why something was worth funding (again, typically, I'm not going to say it's impossible you'd land a job with the opportunity to do this). 

Here's the main organization that I'm aware of for this profession --
http://www.srainternational.org/sra03/index.cfm

Many universities are themselves nonprofits, of course -- but with (I think) a somewhat different flavor than what we think of as "non profit."  And they typically offer stability and good benefits relative to many other employers, including things like decent PTO (e.g. as a full-time employee, I get 4 weeks/year of vacation leave, 12 days of sick leave, and 12 paid holidays, and that's the standard package for someone who's been here any amount of time, nothing special).

Oops, forgot to mention $$$:  I'd say salaries for folks in this field probably range from $50K to $80K in my MCOLA.

???

fidgiegirl

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2012, 06:55:14 PM »
I love that you mentioned YMOYL.  I think of it so often when perusing this board, and hear it mentioned so little . . .

Also that the element that you mentioned was the Job Charming thing.  It took me a long time to get it.  I think I do now.

You are in a great place to start looking because you already have something.  You can hold out for something new that really appeals, or has the compensation you are looking for, or whatever.  You don't have to take any old job because you need to put food on the table.

How long do you think you could stick it out?

I vote make the change, but don't quit until you have the new thing lined up.  14 years is too long to be unhappy.

One last thought, I suppose there's a certain "danger" in hanging on to your current thing, because it's hard to get a fire under the ass to actually make the change, but you can stick your neck out and be truer to what you want, I think.

englyn

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2012, 07:44:38 PM »
There have got to be many jobs in the financial world that are *very* lucrative and put together your researching and financial skills and you'd enjoy them too if you like reading annual financial reports.
Something in business accounting, maybe. A friend of mine is an executive assistant in a large accounting firm, that might be something you could get into easily to see if you like the industry. Then you could study accounting or whatever in the evenings and maybe even sponsored by your company.
Or banking. I'm not sure what you mean by fiscally conservative (mustachian and risk-averse??) but if you were in Australia I'd suggest something in superannuation (compulsory retirement contribution accounts, I guess a bit like the Roths).

igthebold

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2012, 08:41:13 AM »
One last thought, I suppose there's a certain "danger" in hanging on to your current thing, because it's hard to get a fire under the ass to actually make the change, but you can stick your neck out and be truer to what you want, I think.

I totally agree with this. Better to lead the way in terms of what happens next than to get led by circumstances. This could mean leaving your current gig, or it could mean having a reliable place to land if your current gig doesn't pan out.

Nancy

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2012, 12:02:41 PM »
Your skills are precisely those of a prospect researcher. It sounds like the organization you are working at doesn't have a prospect research team since you are doing that work in addition to fundraising. Look into it; it exactly matches your description.

gooki

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2012, 03:38:45 PM »
Sounds like you should be able to walk into a Marketing Assistant role that would then lead into Marketing Communications Manager role pretty quickly if you can prove yourself.

plantingourpennies

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2012, 06:03:30 PM »
A counter-point!

I'm a bit of jack-of-all trades; management, sales, technical, writing etc as well. Instead of trying to find the job of your dreams, why not figure out what group of people you would like to work with? For me, the specific job doesn't matter as much as my relationship with the people around me, my relationship with my boss, and the culture of the company. The specific skill i'm using is almost irrelevant as long as i don't totally suck at the work...

Best,
Dan

mustachecat

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2012, 08:45:07 AM »
Hey all!

I know my initial post was kind of wishy-washy. I'm only realizing now that my real question was, "Am I employable outside of nonprofit direct fundraising?!" A dumb question, but that's what's been floating inside my head. Your replies are helping me move around that. Thanks!

mustachecat

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2012, 10:00:58 AM »
bogart, thanks for that really interesting suggestion. I'm going to sniff around job postings, but do you know if RAs are particularly wanted in any specific academic field? For instance, is it easier to recruit/train an RA for anthropology than applied math? Or is it all moot because most people start in support positions and learn on the job?

fidgiegirl, YMOYL is fresh in my mind because I just finished it last week. ;) I think it's very MMM-relevant, although the tone is so different. I think I could stick it out for a while, fortunately/unfortunately. It's probably best for me to set a personal deadline or goals on networking or informational interviews or whatever.

englyn, ha, I meant politically. Although I have complicated and not entirely consistent feelings about, but anyway! I'm look into business accounting as well. Thanks!

Nancy, I will! I figured that my org is too small for a prospect researcher, but the first job listing I just saw for that position was for an org with a smaller budget. I wonder if I could carve out a new position here and see if that makes a difference...

gooki, I'll look into marketing communications, but it sounds a little too sales-y for me. Happy to prove myself wrong, however.

Dan, that's a good point, too. I really like all of my colleagues as people, but the office politics at my org and in my department are insane.

bogart

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2012, 10:57:22 AM »
bogart, thanks for that really interesting suggestion. I'm going to sniff around job postings, but do you know if RAs are particularly wanted in any specific academic field? For instance, is it easier to recruit/train an RA for anthropology than applied math? Or is it all moot because most people start in support positions and learn on the job?

Sure.  Let me see.  First, no expert here.  But I do know tons of the available federal money (which is a lot of the "big" money) is through NIH, so, health-related fields.  Everyone wants to grab a slice (and there's big interest in funding interdisciplinary projects) so it does spread out to places like anthropology, but medical, statistical, hard science, and some social science-y (especially psychology but perhaps also sociology) are probably better bets.  The National Science Foundation, which does extend (more broadly) to the social sciences, offers a smaller pot.  I'm pretty sure the humanities deal (mostly) in peanuts.

Also, there are definitely grant staff positions within departmental (and interdisciplinary but sub-university) level units, but there are also university-level positions that serve all (or most, or many) disciplines.  Many of those are more reactive than proactive -- research grants actually get given not to researchers but to the university (from an administrative perspective) -- and the big/federal funding agencies have lots of rules about both how to apply and how to document activities and expenditures, so there's lots of dotting-of-i's-and-crossing-of-t's and enforcement/compliance stuff to be managed (generally the more reactive side and in my opinion the less fun stuff -- but you may disagree!) but there are proactive roles involved in helping connect researchers, identify funding opportunities, and so on.  How many/how much probably depends significantly on the size of the institution and of its funding portfolio.

Both NIH and NSF make it possible to search organizations and see current (and recent past) funding.  For example, if I go to NSF's site here:  http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/ I can search on Columbia University (in "organization" slot) and turn up 569 current awards; the data are downloadable and can be sorted by various metrics, like which subunit of the NSF awarded them and so on.  Similarly, for NIH go to http://report.nih.gov/nih_funding.aspx , click on "awards by location," -- if you use the tab to the right (not the main box on the page), that will give you a list of clickable institutions where you can see that e.g. Columbia University Morningside has 69 award for a total of about $23 million and Columbia University Health Sciences has 471 awards totaling $208 million -- and you can click through on either (and keep on clicking to get more detail in various dimensions) to see what proportion of those went to research, what to training, and so forth, and from which sub-units (National Institute for Mental Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, etc. etc.).

Hope that helps.

gooki

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Re: Should I stay or should I go?
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2012, 03:41:01 PM »
gooki, I'll look into marketing communications, but it sounds a little too sales-y for me. Happy to prove myself wrong, however.

If you get such a position in a business sector company (i.e. one that sells business to business instead of business to consumer), you get to avoid a lot of the sales bullshit and focus to why the companies products/services are truly beneficial (it generally comes down to one of two things saving money, or improving quality).

I work with about a dozen such people in my day job and their general duties (from what I'm aware off are) tend to include:

Writing copy for websites, and ensuring the copy goes live.
Writing copy for advertisements and some design direction.
Scheduling advertising campaigns, and tracking the results, reporting on the results.
Event management for tradeshows, conferences, training.

Some of the above is spread between other employees, but it gives you the general idea.