I need some real talk.
Here is the situation - I work as an admin in a university research center. I started this job 4 years ago with the intention of getting my foot in the door with a great university where I would be able to eventually be a researcher, and have the benefit of them paying for my graduate studies. My graduate plans changed, but my desire to do research has not. I have had opportunities to do research assistant stuff, and have my name on a few papers, but when it is time to talk about a promotion there are always a million reasons that I have to stay an admin.
Now I am starting to worry that being in this position for so long, despite the things I have done that go above what an admin does, has really hampered my job search. It's sadly clear to me that though the group I am with are truly a joy to work with, they don't see me as anything more than what I am now so I need to look elsewhere. But I worry that the second "Administrative Coordinator" comes up on my resume I am just being rejected.
Could this be true? Would you hire someone for say a technical writer if they are an admin? Are they just not that into me?
I'm in grad school, but in a different program.
Maybe I need to look at the layout of my resume. I have my publications at the top, but I just wonder if hiring managers see Administrative and think Secretary. It's possible that I am emphasizing the wrong things.
Perhaps I should chuck the modest and find the fierce.
Perhaps Research Administrative Coordinator? Administrative Research Coordinator? Please just ****ing hire me already my brain is about to go on permanent strike Coordinator?
BTW, I appreciate the feedback from you all. I have been stirring this around in my own head (a dangerous place) and with the same small group of people for too long. It's possible as well that there is nothing wrong, and I am just impatient.
So just to review, you're in grad school focusing on something and while you're in grad school, you're working as an admin? Your goal is to continue with the grad school program that you're doing, but move away from the admin position and get paid to do some type of technical writing that has nothing to do with what you are getting your grad degree in? Do I have that right?
It's kind of hard to know how to advise because I don't know what the academic subject matter is. Would I be far off if I were to guess some type of social science? Either way, I think if you're trying to do this in an academic setting, I think you're going to have some troubles based on what you've written. First off, I agree, I think your current admin position is not going to look good if you're applying for any type of technical position. As an admin you have to be amazing with multi-tasking and typically, dealing with people, all of which are amazingly important and valuable. But from what you've written, your job doesn't require much critical thinking or deep analysis. If you want to be a technical writer, you need to show an aptitude for such a level of work. Admin doesn't scream experience with technical writing, analysis, or critical thinking. If you've had such experiences as an admin, you absolutely need to highlight that.
So you may have that going against you. And in academia, titles, experience, and educational experience count for something. Now you said you were going to grad school. Do your graduate studies afford you an opportunity to think and write critically? I think you need to downplay the admin as a means to an end and highlight what your doing in your graduate studies, assuming the basic skill set you're learning can transfer over to what you want to do.
But I have to wonder why it seems like you're in grad school for one thing, but you want to have a job that's seems to be markedly different (again, I could be totally off on this, it just wasn't completely clear in your posts). That in itself could be a problem. If you're getting a PhD in english, but want to write up clinical trial reports or write up research reports for basic science researchers, that's going to be a problem----as an example. It's hard to really know where you're coming from and where you want to go.
I will say that when I was in grad school, one of my classmates was a lab tech in a behavioral neuroscience lab for probably 5 years before applying to grad school. At some point he realized he wanted to go to grad school to be the guy developing the studies instead of just running them. Interestingly, he kept working in the same lab throughout his graduate studies and I don't think anyone in his lab ever saw him as anything other than a glorified tech. He would always be working on other people's projects and I'd be surprised if he even had 1 first author paper. It's exceptionally easy to get labeled in academia. After a certain time, it's hard to recreate yourself and it's probably even harder to try to do things that may not be considered the norm at a given institution. Hard to say from what you've written whether or not there is a precedent for what you're looking to accomplish.
Last edited by 6cylVWguy; 07-14-2012 at 09:53 AM.
If at all possible, expand your title accordingly; or list what you're passionate about and leave off titles.
Unfortunately, Admin Asst. or anything similar in title has a very "round hole-round peg" perception with it and it's very hard to break out of that role. Obviously this is broad-brushed, and not all-inclusive, but it is common for people to pigeon hole Admins as "Admins" and nothing more. Kinda sad, really. Years ago, a PM at Microsoft wrote a huge missive to his team about how Admins are not their mothers and how they are an invaluable resource to the team and company, and should be treated as such.
So tweak your experience to reflect what you want to do, not what you did.
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It isn't you!
I can relate to your experience. I tutored technical writing for the engineering college and funded myself through graduate school in physics. I worked for a completely different department while I pursued my degree. I was kind of an alien in both places - not really an engineer, but not really a physicist either. But the technical writing job paid me a small stipend and gave me the tuition waiver I needed while I finished my course work, so I worked there from 2001-2003. For awhile I was also a part time recitation instructor for physics which gave me 150% the stipend and allowed me to move off campus.
When it came time to do research and I had finished my courses, I talked to probably 8-9 different professors before I found a home. Even then, I ended up stumbling into a research fellowship that was looking for interdisciplinary researchers. It paid as well as my 150% teaching position, so I quit that and moved into research full time. I did all of my work in materials science even though my degree is physics. I had two advisors and neither of them really claimed me as their own. I was essentially an independent contractor down to the day I filed my thesis with the archives... but I walked out of there with my degree and that's all I wanted.
If your department is in the way, find a way to go around it. One thing I learned through that experience is that everyone is in a silo and you are a step ahead if you can jump between the silos. Don't wait on anybody to make the decision for you - start talking to other people and take control of it yourself. Use your position as staff within the university to leverage yourself. Talk to the dean of the department where you want to work, talk to the dean of graduate admissions, check out the job placement boards or departments, talk to professors in the department where you want to work. There are opportunities everywhere... you just have to find them.
Nobody can stop you from taking classes if you have found a way to pay for them yourself. Since you are staff you are halfway there. You have an inside track to find the tuition-paying positions. Once tuition is covered, you have true mobility in the university. You can take classes in whatever department you want! On paper, I technically entered the department in 2005 and graduated in 2006. Looks really good for their statistics... but I was funding my own way through since 2001 via my teaching tuition waiver.
Since you mentioned technical writing, I found that I was getting paid to tutor engineering students within the college of engineering. There was also a technical writing tutor center offered through the humanities colleges, and there was also a technical writing tutor center working with the athletics program for student athletes. I could have worked in any of them - you can find that too. Just keep hunting, and when you run into an obstacle, walk around it.
hope this helps.
You have to remember a resume is your way to tell the perspective employer about you and what you want to do for them. Most employers looking to hire do not care what your job title was previously, they just want to know if you have the ability to do the job.
If you want to be a Technical Writer and you have the skill set and knowledge, make that the focal point of your resume. Show in your resume where you have had the opportunity to expand beyond you present position and show them what you have done.
Make sure your Objective states that you are looking for the opportunity to create technical documentation and how your past experiences have given you the tools needed to be of benefit to the organization.