Monday, June 16, 2008

On my entrepreneurial streak--and why I haven't been blogging much here

Growing up, I had a very limited view of possible careers. By high school, the careers I had been exposed to, either through my family, through personal observation and experience, or through books, was still a short list. Mind you, these are the careers I knew existed at all--I wasn't necessarily interested in them.

- public school teaching
- public school administration
- journalist
- supermarket checker
- dentist or dental hygienist
- doctor or nurse
- horse trainer
- actor
- police officer
- lifeguard
- chemist (one--a woman--came to my 1st-grade class)
- paleontologist (I heart dinosaurs)
- geologist (took a class in 9th grade and loved it)
- car salesperson
- postal worker
- bank teller
- firefighter
- EMTs
- locksmith (a friend's parents owned a shop)

I had some sense that my friends' parents had jobs in "business," but I wasn't sure what that meant, and I certainly didn't know what a cubicle looked like.

And so imagine my surprise when I went to college and grad school and found that there were all these interesting majors--historic preservation! museum studies!--that were connected to careers I'd never even really heard of. Still, as someone who had always been gifted with language, I tracked myself straight toward a Ph.D. program in the humanities.

As we all (now) know, predictions of mass retirements of tenured professors, and thea ccompanying mass hirings, have not--and probably will not--prove correct. We creative and academic types live in an age of adjuncts, of contingencies, of contract work, of freelancing.

With a family to support, I very much appreciate (and enjoy!) my staff job as a teaching consultant. I've got health insurance, a half-decent salary (if I were living in the Midwest, I'd be wealthy!), and excellent coworkers. I really can't imagine a much better place for myself right now.

But there's really no place to move up from my position. As the director of our teaching center pointed out recently to the coworker with whom I share assignments, there's no one else at the university--out of 28,000 people employed by the campus--who does the kind of work we do. The directorship of our center rotates among tenured faculty. It's important, therefore, that while I maintain an excellent reputation in this job, I look ahead to where I want to be in three to five years.

And the answer is, I really don't know. I'd love to be a museum education and exhibits consultant, but I don't see that as being economically sustainable. The university where I teach museum studies each fall has expressed some interest in hiring me, but the salary I'd earn there as a faculty member is about 1/2 to 2/3 of what I'm making now as a staff member. Maybe ideally I'd be teaching full-time there and consulting, but that sounds exhausting, doesn't it?

Early in grad school, I did quite a bit of freelance writing, editing, and indexing. Both Mr. Trillwing and I still freelance occasionally in order to plump up the family budget (we're still recovering from the student and consumer debt of the grad school years).

Increasingly, however, I'm wanting not to freelance on the side, but to have a business, something that earns money even--unlike freelancing--if I'm not working on a specific assignment. So I've been doing a lot of research on conducting business online--reading blogs on business, social media, marketing, etc. I'm not sure if it's my world--I'm much too idealistic and left-wing to be a capitalist, after all. :)

But. I think I've finally found a need that's going unmet, my very own niche. Without giving too much away (competitors are like sharks, and would beat me to market), let's just say that I'm developing a product related to multiculturalism and informal education, to hands-on learning and right-brained thinking. It's going to be a long, hard slog, but the more I think about it, the more excited I become.

So that's why I haven't been blogging much here--I'm in "grand plans" mode. (I'm also spending much more time on Twitter--it's become my new venue for my RBOC, my ideas and observations and frustrations.)

I'll try to blog here more regularly, but I just wanted to let you all know what's keeping me up at night, and away from The Clutter Museum.


flossie said...

You just inspired me to look at Twitter for the first time, and I can already tell it will be my new time waster of choice!

Thanks (a lot). :-)

Heather Clisby said...

I was so thrilled to see 'horse trainer' and 'actor' on your list. It's not too late, y'know?

What Now? said...

Ooh, exciting -- I'll look forward to hearing more about this as you move ahead!

ArticulateDad said...

Sometimes it's grand to be kept up at nights... even when the prospect of being awakened at dawn by a child's beckoning is what awaits. Keep the passion alive, and the path will emerge.