Friday, October 24, 2008

Butcher? Baker? Candlestick Maker?

As Constant Readers know, I have been contemplating making a career change. Yes, I know; the cusp of a Great Depression is not such a great time to be doing this. Timing's never been my strong point. But you know the old saying (possibly apocryphal) that the Chinese symbol for "danger" also connotes "opportunity."

Anyway: As we've been discussing this in our household, one of the criteria I've been using as I decide what to do when I grow up is job portability in a rural setting. As geeked as we are about our upcoming trip to The Big Apple -- we're not moving there, or another big city. Ever. We like living in the country, even though thanks to a certain notorious Vice-Presidential candidate we now labor under even more of a burden of perceived hickdom than we had before.

But what do you do to make money in mid- or up-north Michigan? I mean -- we don't even have a Mall Wart within 30 miles in any direction for chump-change employment. (Not that I'd work there.) No matter how many crunches and suspended kneeups I'm capable of in the gym these days, I'm past the age where full-time manual labor is a viable option.

Here are some of the ideas that have been bouncing around in my mind, as far as continuing my education.

Webmaster/web designer. This bland and badly maintained blog notwithstanding, I actually have some street cred here in terms of creating written content; and the techie stuff I can learn. Fellow Traveler was once told by a vocational counselor at the VA that the webmaster market is saturated, but this has absolutely not been our experience here in the toolies -- businesses and organizations want and need people to set up and maintain their websites, especially to reach younger consumers who reach for Google, not the local phone book or newspaper, for information on products and services. We already barter our webmeistering services for our gym membership; who knows what other ways we can use this skill for the benefit of our household?

Personal property appraiser. Both FT and I are interested in certain types of collectibles, and we've talked about someday leveraging our interest into a part-time garage-office business. The sticking point with this area of expertise is training and credentialing; there are apparently no schools in Michigan that offer any sort of coursework in this field. The schools that do are out-of-state and generally lacking in a distance-education option. And laws regarding professional credentials very from state to state. But we think that, as our society faces a major economic upheaval, people are going to regain an interest in investing in very least, the potential for return on investment is better than hoarding one's cash in a crawlspace or under a barn floor. So if I can find a distance-learning option for this field, plus ingratiate myself with any local experts willing to take a newbie under their wings, this might be worth pursuing. Plus, it's fun, and educational; it's amazing what you learn about history, design and decorative arts.

Medical biller. Fellow Traveler has had some experience in this, and she says that it's a perfect, portable skill for someone whose identity isn't fully invested in his or her job. You take a stack of medical records; you input the information, in coded form, on the 'puter; you go home, or close the home office door behind you, when you're done; and life is good. Our local community college offers a fast-track course in medical billing.

Anyone else have any good ideas for short-term vocational training leading to a second-income job that has some legs in a changing economy and in a non-urban environment?

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