01/26/2007: "thinking out loud about career moves"
Now that school is off the table, I now have the headspace and the immediate need to consider career plans. Yes, I'm employed right now. No, it doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon. And no, I do not see myself continuing with contracting long-term. Both Jannette and I are looking for some income stability, and benefits would be very welcome at this point as well.
The question is, what do I want to do with my professional life?
There are many options open to me.
Option 1: Do What I've Done (Product Design).
I can go back to what I've done previously, product design. Assuming I find the right company, that kind of work can be enjoyable, possibly even rewarding and fun. Going that route would certainly be the path of least resistance, as I have the buckets of experience needed to stay in the field.
Option 2: Small Transition (Sustainable Product Development).
The deficiency within Option 1 is that it doesn't address my core values. Sure, working on heavy-duty off-highway equipment is interesting, and developing consumer products can be kind of fun and hands-on, but neither speak to my desire for conservation, efficiency, or sustainability. The solution there is to transition from being just a standard product designer to one that is entirely focused on products that contribute to reduced energy use, resource conservation, health and environmental quality improvements, that sort of thing. It shouldn't be too big a stretch, and the LEED-accreditation that I'm already working on would certainly help.
In fact, I'm already doing this work now, on a part-time basis, working at Gerald's. The only problem is that Gerald's cashflow is still problematic. Yes, it's growing, and there are some very good signs that business will improve exponentially, but we're still at the foot of the curve, and it will be some time (at least a year, or more) before I could expect to be brought on full-time. I'll stick around and hope that it's sooner than later, but I really can't sit around and wait.
The only issue with Option 2 is that there aren't that many companies (in the grand scheme of things) making products that are aligned with those values of sustainability, conservation, and so on. To find something locally (over and above what I've already found) might be a real task. It could even involve a move. Still, if it keeps my interest, addresses my values, and provides some stability and professional growth, it's certainly worth looking at.
Option 3: Wholesale Change (Sustainable Buildings).
This is the one that I've been trying recently; wholesale career change. If I want my work to reflect sustainable practices, and I'm interested in green building, why not simply marry the two? The industry is there, it's growing rapidly, and there are local firms involved in it. What could be better?
My level of experience and knowledge in this industry could be better, for one. While I've managed to snag two interviews in this area thus far, neither have panned out, and lack of experience plays a big part in that. While I have a lot to offer companies in this segment, it's all soft skills and enthusiasm. The vast mountain of knowledge that this industry is built around is something I only have small samples of, and all I can do is plead my case based on the fact that I love learning, I love learning about things that interest me, and this interests me. So far, no dice. I've got one more shot locally, and after that I'd be looking further afield (a.k.a. relocation).
Option 4: Gradual Learning and Transition (Sustainable Buildings).
Of course, there is the possibility of *gradually* gaining experience and knowledge applicable to the industry. I've started my LEED accreditation process - that's a start. Next I need to bolster my knowledge of building construction. It looks like the best way to do that is something I've already considered, doing a home inspector's program part-time. Dealing with the cohousing development I am going to be part of will certainly qualify as experience as well. So there are many ways that I can gain the experience necessary to get into sustainable building consultation.
How do I pay the bills in the meantime? I could stay on contract (except that neither Jannette nor I want that), or find a "filler" position, one that I could keep for the next 2-3 years or until I'm snapped up by a sustainable building consultancy. I'm rather leery about doing that - there's enough jumping around on my resume as it is. Truth be told, I don't know what to do for this option.
Lessee... other options? I can't think of any right now. That's probably a good thing - there's more than enough to think about here already.