Author Topic: finding a better job  (Read 11003 times)

shedinator

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finding a better job
« on: February 22, 2012, 01:27:40 PM »
I'm about 3 months away from graduating with a Masters Degree in Theological Research, and my gameplan just got punched in the face. I intended to go on frm here to do a Doctorate and commence teaching, but I've receive rejection letters from all of the schools to which I applied, and there aren't too many teaching jobs out there for folks with just the MA(I've looked). So now I'll be graduating with a Masters, about $75k in student debt, and the plush salary of a Starbucks Shift Supervisor. Now, it's not all bad, as my wife (SAHM) and I have managed to trim our expenses down to about 60% of my income, and will be relocating to a more affordable area in order to keep our costs down when we lose the cheapness of student housing. So our current situation is livable, and we're even managing to 'stash ~15% of my take-home (and 6% pre-tax with 100% match), so by American standards we're kicking ass. But by Mustachian metrics, we've got a ways to go.
So...my question for those with bristlier mustaches after all that background... how can I go about leveraging bachelors and masters degrees in a generally irrelevant field into a job that pays more than my current $20k? I've sent out resumes, carefully crafted cover-letters, and gotten no response. The closer May gets, the more frustrating this is becoming. Any advice? I'd really prefer to bring it up to around $60k. All suggestions welcome.

Matt K

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2012, 01:52:40 PM »
Theological research is pretty much the definition of niche, and there aren't a ton of companies out there making big names for themselves through the wonders of their theological research (except that one media company in Snow Crash).

Bearing in mind that I know diddly-squat about your field, the fields similar to it, or your own job searching history: Have you looked into other jobs that require a keen researcher, and ignore your specific niche?
In the media fields you have reseachers (both primary and associate) for books, TV shows, and movies. I know I've read plenty of forwards where the author thanks their researcher. I have no idea how well it pays, or who you would ask (other than maybe (e-)mailing some of your favourite fiction authors and asking where they go when they need help with research), but it is an option.

Some big companies keep their own private libraries (I have a friend who did a co-op placement at 3M's library), you may want to contact them and see if any are hiring researchers (given the many out of work MLS grads, I'm not certain that is your best chance, but you'll never know unless you try).

By trade I'm a Computer Scientist. I try never to refer to (or think of) myself as a programmer (despit how much of my day is spent writing code). My degree is not in C, C++, Java, Python, or any of the many other languages I've used. My degree is in solving problems using a computer. Sometimes that means using math to do something counter intuitive, sometimes it means creative application of existing code, sometimes it means sitting and thinking through a process the way a computer does, and sometimes it means pulling magic out of my behind. But I'm never just a coder, and I'm certainly never an "IT Guy" (no really, I can't fix your outlook no matter how many times you ask me).

Your training may be heavily specialized in scripture, or God knows what (see what I did there? hey hey :) ... i'm sorry :( ), but ultimately your training has been broader than that, it has been how to find something in a huge pile of stuff, and probably a lot more (again, I have no idea what you actually do). Try to think about all the skill sets you've learned over the years, and when you write a cover letter for a job remember to tell them how you can use those skills to help their bottom line.

velocistar237

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2012, 02:18:47 PM »
A lot of people work in fields unrelated to their degree training, so there's hope.

Which general parts of your work do you like best? I'm asking on the level of big skills, like writing, talking to people, doing market research, etc. Something along the lines of marketing or project management, maybe?

What are your wife's job prospects like? You could become a SAHD.

shedinator

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2012, 02:33:40 PM »
A lot of people work in fields unrelated to their degree training, so there's hope.

Which general parts of your work do you like best? I'm asking on the level of big skills, like writing, talking to people, doing market research, etc. Something along the lines of marketing or project management, maybe?
By my work, do you mean the education, the employment, or both?
I'm not really fond of human interaction, but I'm very good at it, so I tend to list it as a strength. I get generally positive responses to my writing style and clarity, and would be more than happy to get a job where I could hole up in a library and research/write about pretty much anything, but those seem pretty hard to find. I think my most marketable qualifications right now would be:

-Research/Writing
-Customer service (and satisfaction)
-Management
-Cash-handling experience
-Ability to learn new skills

While a research or writing position would be ideal, they're hard to come by, and most are poorly paid, which is why they're generally reserved for grad students. I was promoted to supervisor at my job after just 4 months, and in 2010 I spearheaded the creation and operation of a nonprofit organization within my church that increased operations by ~300% in 2011, and is up 80% already in 2012, but part of the design was to make it entirely volunteer-run, so there's no pay there. Between the two, and some past experience as a senior pastor, I thought I could make a pretty solid case for my qualifications as a manager, but no luck on that front as of yet...

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What are your wife's job prospects like? You could become a SAHD.
In theory, they should be better- she's a trained pastry chef with over 2 years experience. So far, she's been striking out as well, since a lot of 2nd career would-be cooks have saturated the market. We're not ruling out the possibility, but nothing has materialized as of yet.

fruplicity

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2012, 12:27:57 PM »
For people who aren't sure of their direction in life, I always recommend looking at positions in higher ed - I assume you will still live near your alma mater? You probably won't find a 60k job but may get close, and benefits are usually very generous to help make up the difference (health, retirement, tuition benefits, time off, etc).

velocistar237

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2012, 12:56:14 PM »
Non-profits might be interested in your experience. There are tons of non-profits and colleges in the Boston area, but it looks like you're moving (to a cheaper location, so that's good). I don't know much about High Point except for its giant furniture market. As far as higher ed goes, I only see High Point University.

Are you giving up on your original plan completely? I've known a few people who didn't get into their desired program until the second year they applied. In both cases, they moved near the school where they wanted to go and got plugged into the academic community in different ways. I'm sure it influenced their acceptance. It's probably not financially best, but finances aren't everything.

arebelspy

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2012, 01:51:58 PM »
For people who aren't sure of their direction in life, I always recommend looking at positions in higher ed

That was my first thought too, but on reading closer, the OP already addressed that:

there aren't too many teaching jobs out there for folks with just the MA(I've looked).

I think Matt K had a really good thought - what qualifications and skills that you have are transferable to other jobs?
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ghyspran

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2012, 02:10:54 PM »
Some of what you described brought to mind grant writing. I know experienced grant writing firms can charge a lot, although I'm not sure how difficult an industry it is to enter.

shedinator

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2012, 03:42:36 PM »
Non-profits might be interested in your experience. There are tons of non-profits and colleges in the Boston area, but it looks like you're moving (to a cheaper location, so that's good). I don't know much about High Point except for its giant furniture market. As far as higher ed goes, I only see High Point University.
HP is relatively close to Wake Forest, UNC Greensboro, Elon, and a bit further from UNC Chapel Hill and Duke (~ an hour). My undergrad alma mater is also there (Laurel University). So there's a fair bit in higher ed, but my credentials haven't piqued the interest of anyone there. The competition in academia in Boston is pretty cutthroat, and someone with my credentials would need to teach an average of about 7 courses/semester just to earn what I am now (average adjunct with only a Masters gets $1k-2500/course).

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Are you giving up on your original plan completely? I've known a few people who didn't get into their desired program until the second year they applied. In both cases, they moved near the school where they wanted to go and got plugged into the academic community in different ways. I'm sure it influenced their acceptance. It's probably not financially best, but finances aren't everything.

Not giving up on the original plan, just taking a detour. Probably through Wake Forest's JD/MDiv program if I can get in. I'm hoping to expand from theology into the broader field of ethics and justice, and if I don't get into a PhD program the second time around, I'll sit for the bar.  The tricky bit is the finances. Boston is lovely, but incredibly expensive. If I couldn't find anything paying more than I am now, we could make a go of it in NC, but not MA. On the other hand, if I do find a better paying spot, we can pay off the debt much more quickly from NC. We set a limit pretty early on in terms of the amount of student debt we were willing to take on, and we're getting too close to that number to think that I could do another whole program here without some serious financial upgrades.

I think Matt K had a really good thought - what qualifications and skills that you have are transferable to other jobs?

That's what I'm wondering, too :)

So I've gone through my resume a couple of times, and the thing that keeps jumping out to me is increased productivity/administrative success:
1) I pastored a church for a year, and both attendance and giving increased by 50%
2) I started that nonprofit in 2010, and saw about a 300% increase in donations in the second year as compared to the first
3) I got promoted to supervisor after just 4 months at the green-aproned coffee company in October, and recently started a training program which has correlated directly to a 30% increase in whole bean sales over last year.

Granted, I can't prove that I was what made the difference in any of these changes, but when you put them together, they seem to paint a picture of success in management, administration, and productivity. So... what do I do with that?

fruplicity

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2012, 09:31:48 PM »
I should have clarified - by "higher ed" I was thinking more about staff positions, not faculty. Sounds like you would be a great addition to a development office, especially if you're comfortable fundraising.

Matt K

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2012, 07:29:36 AM »
Shedinator's Resume
Executive Summary:
  • Excellent interpesonal, presentation, and public speaking skills; as shown by Pastoring at X church from XXXX to XXXX, during which time both attendance and donations increased 50%
  • Project Management and personnel coordination; as shown by starting Y in 2010, an entirely voluneer run non-profit. In our second year we saw an increase of 300% donations, and are on track to beat that this year.
  • Experienced instructor; <give any teaching experience at U>, and instituted a training program at Starbuck franchise that led to a 30% increase in whole bean sales.

So you know what, sounds like you should also include corporate training operations like Learning Tree in your broader search.

*Anyone who manages volunteers knows how hard it is to keep people motivated to donate their time. Volunteers are much harder to manage than paid employees, and non-profits understand that.

Remember, your resumeand cover letter work best when they are tailored sales pitches (not generic summaries) for each job you are applying for. Your goal is to (ethically, but I don't think that is a problem for you) sell yourself and the value you bring to an organization. With your ability to speak publicly, herd cats coordinate and manage people, and build and implement training, you've got a lot going for you outside of the academic world. But these are NOT low level positions. Don't aim low. Aim High and don't sell yourself short.

foodguy

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2012, 08:09:40 AM »
Don't under estimate the power of networking.  From your pastoral positions to even Starbucks, sounds like you have met or interact with several people, and do a good job of it from your own assessment.  Think if any of them have positions or are in fields that may suit your desires.  It doesn't hurt to hint that you are job hunting and to have these people keep you in mind.  Send your resume out and press the flesh.  LinkedIn is an excellent online method to keep up with this.

And when you get to NC, make sure to go to Lexington for the Q and a Mexican restaurant called Mi Pueblo.

shedinator

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2012, 08:15:53 AM »
And when you get to NC, make sure to go to Lexington for the Q and a Mexican restaurant called Mi Pueblo.
Mi Pueblo's decent, but I prefer La Hacienda in High Point :). Oh, and Prissy Polly's BBQ in kernersville is pretty fantastic as well.

shedinator

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2012, 08:32:02 AM »
Shedinator's Resume
Executive Summary:
  • Excellent interpesonal, presentation, and public speaking skills; as shown by Pastoring at X church from XXXX to XXXX, during which time both attendance and donations increased 50%
  • Project Management and personnel coordination; as shown by starting Y in 2010, an entirely voluneer run non-profit. In our second year we saw an increase of 300% donations, and are on track to beat that this year.
  • Experienced instructor; <give any teaching experience at U>, and instituted a training program at Starbuck franchise that led to a 30% increase in whole bean sales.

So you know what, sounds like you should also include corporate training operations like Learning Tree in your broader search.
This is awesome. Definitely using it!

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*Anyone who manages volunteers knows how hard it is to keep people motivated to donate their time. Volunteers are much harder to manage than paid employees, and non-profits understand that.
True story.

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Don't aim low. Aim High and don't sell yourself short.
How high? I've applied for some General Management retail positions, but I know technically my experience is closer to that of CEO of a small nonprofit. What sort of job titles/ranges would you suggest?


Matt K

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Re: finding a better job
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2012, 09:35:37 AM »
Quote
Don't aim low. Aim High and don't sell yourself short.
How high? I've applied for some General Management retail positions, but I know technically my experience is closer to that of CEO of a small nonprofit. What sort of job titles/ranges would you suggest?

Honestly, I'd skip the retail positions. I'd look more at corporations and non-profits.
When it comes to non profits, definitely be aiming for one of the managerial positions. Blood banks & specific-malady groups (specific-cancer, chronic illness, etc) for fund raising and volunteer organization. Maybe places like a paleative care facility for volunteer management (I'm guesing anything more would require some paleative care specific training).
For corporations, I'd be looking for medium or large buisnesses that do something you find interesting. Because of your experience, Starbucks (corporate, not franchise level) is an option - as would its competators and other resteraunt chains.

Corporate areas to investigate: Corporate Training, Project Management, and public relations maybe. I'm sure others on the board here will have even more ideas.

One option to find out about jobs is to phone up companies who do things that interest you, and see if you can't get a name and number for a hiring specialist or HR manager - and then speak with them. They'll have an idea of the jobs that are looking to be filled, and they'll have an idea of what skill sets they want. Push your three big points saying this is what I've done, do you think your company could use someone like me, if so, where, and who do I talk? It is best to have done some background research before hand. You may not know how exactly a company might employ you, but you should know what they do, what their goals are, and be able to talk about intelligently that to the HR person.

Cold calling sucks. It's hard. But it works. It seperates you from every Tom, Dick, and Harry who just drop off resumes, and it gives a hiring manager some idea of who you are - a mini pre-interview if you like. Just remember, you are never wasting a hiring manager's time. Her job is to find and hire talent - aka You.

As foodguy says, talk with people who know you. A lot more people know you than you know. All those people who you've managed and pastored to have a grasp of who you are, and how you work - even the guy sitting the back pew trying to keep his eyes open. Chat with these people, mention you're interested in trying something new and you'd like to see how you could use your skills in a new environment.