I've been waiting to write this blog post for longer than I've been blogging here. It's a pretty big day! I accepted my offer letter and am officially going to be a curriculum writer with one of my favorite clients!
I've got lots of reasons to feel good about this (it's a job!), but I wanted to walk back through some of the key choices and experiences that helped me actually get into a position to take a job I'd never hear of in an industry that didn't exist when I entered school (Lo', those many years ago...).
I struggled a lot with the idea of really moving into a field that is very distant from my previous work. The job (write a HS curriculum about vocational programs) is certainly not something I need a PhD to do, or a background in virology. I'll write more about that struggle later, but there were some things I did in grad school that did help me get this job. And not just the "hard work and transferable skills" stuff. I designed a course for undergrads that I taught one semester. I enjoyed designing the course, but was petrified as an instructor. That made me think I didn't want to get into education (one reason I hesitated to pursue this). I also wrote a lot, and made an effort to develop that as a skill. This was mostly just a couple manuscripts and a dissertation, but while I had colleagues who would rather die of papercuts that put words to paper, I enjoyed the process. (Although I did totally hate parts of it too). I hated revisions, so this made me think I was too sensitive to let writign be my primary skill. By the time I left grad school, I knew I didn't want to be at the bench forever, and I was scared to teach or write. Nifty.
The day I stopped working I started volunteering at the Carnegie Science Center. I believed that I probably had some workplace competencies that etc.) my adviser would not be able to speak to (showing up to work on time, dressing appropriately, and I wanted some structure in my long, tedious days of job hunting. This transformed into a much more responsible position that I had been able to predict, and I was able to (among other things), write and execute scalable demos (for 1-many students, and for all ages). I did handle a small budget and some other project management skills, but developing demos was the key.
I made a HUGE effort to build up my LinkedIn profile. I did everything anyone suggested there, including improving my profile to include all my skills and experience, not just my science background, and joined tons of groups. One group I joined (Possibly a subgroup of Science Jobs- the Freelance group), someone asked for help writing some science lessons. It didn't sound like anything I'd done before, but I wrote some letter with hubris that said I've got a PhD, I worked at the science center, I can totally smash you lessons. This lead me to my first client, Words & Numbers. Work there was sporadic, and after having tried plenty of other routes, I realized I had months of experience in this field (curriculum development), and there seemed to be a lot of off site opportunities. While I was trying to amass more clients, I ran across an ad for a local company in this industry and applied- again with a letter I thought was ridiculous. I've often that that I should amend this entry to say that as crazy as I thought the letter was, it was read, and I got the job- well, not the job I applied for but I was able to quit working at the bank to take on writing full time.
After working with them for several months, telling everyone there how much I enjoyed it and how interested I was in more work (and several contract renewals), I decided to take matters into my own hands and told the guy who hired me I was looking to apply to another job at the company. This prompted a discussion about how I could continue to work with his team in a more permanent basis that VERY SLOWLY (I sent that first email in August) turned into a full time job offer. Tada!
Obviously, I couldn't have predicted this combination of things, and a lot of the other stuff I was doing prepared me to respond well to what turned out to be the key opportunities. A few things turned out to be help for me. I never got good at 'leveraging contacts' to open doors to invisible job opportunities. I did met loads of folks who gladly shared information about their careers, but I decided that the easiest way to impress someone was by doing the job- that's why I volunteered and took contracts. And that did give me a chance to impress the people who gave me my job. And of course, I work for a company that makes online curricula for credit recovery and educational development. 5 years ago the publishing industry wasn't prepared for ebooks, and now there are any number of companies making mixed media learning tools. It's just not a job I could have gotten prepared for by any traditional route.
I promise at least one more write up on the internal components of getting and taking this job as well.