Author Topic: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.  (Read 7057 times)

mikeb23ft

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Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« on: November 01, 2013, 01:32:04 PM »
This is my first post on the forums, but I am a longtime reader of the blog. I'm coming here because I have a real issue that requires situation-specific advice: I need a better job. I've come to a dead end in my search and I am looking for any and every piece of advice to help me moving forward.

Here is some background on me:

I am a 27 year old college graduate (B.A. in psychology). My GPA wasn't terrific, something in the 2.8-2.9 range. (I regret this daily.) As a student I worked in food service as a delivery driver, which was a terrible job for all of the reasons you can imagine - gas, vehicle maintenance, etc. After graduating I sold new Toyotas for a short period of time - about 5 months. That yielded much better income, but I hated the hours and I couldn't live with knowing that I was selling useless depreciating debt yachts to otherwise innocent people. So I quit, with the savings that I had accrued no backup plan.

A few terrifying and stressful months passed before I found employment again. This time I got a job as an entry-level web content writer. I worked for a company under contract by Web.com. I liked the work, but it was an overly corporate, negative environment, and I was working for $10 an hour with no overtime possibilities, no benefits, and no chance for promotion.

But I had learned some new and useful skills. I found eLance.com, a freelance website, where I made a profile and applied for one single web content creation job. I was still working with the Web.com company, and didn't expect much, but to my surprise I received an email in response to my application. A few phone conversations later and I started doing freelance work at $14.48/hour with a 20-hour cap on the work week. After a few weeks of putting in 5-10 hours and consistent positive feedback from my new freelance contractor, I felt comfortable quitting my job. My contractor assured me that there was plenty of content for me to write to get to the 20 hour a week mark. I saw this as an opportunity and quit my job to freelance full time.

Fast forward four months to the present. I'm still working with this same contractor but have been unable to secure any new jobs on Elance. I have hit my 20 hour weekly mark exactly once in that period of time - typically I average somewhere between 8 and 12 hours. The work just isn't there. Recently I have been moved from web content to writing articles about business management tactics, which I know nothing about.

It's been a frustrating transition for me. I was very good at writing website content - mostly product descriptions. I had training in that field and was confident that I knew what I was doing. Now, I'm writing this business blog and I have no idea what I'm talking about. I find myself staring at a blank LibreOffice page on my monitor, with nothing to write, and wondering how I got myself into this.

My work situation has always been a source of tension with my live-in girlfriend. When I was selling cars I was working 55 hour weeks, she was a bartender, and we never saw each other. Now she works 9-5 and I sit at home all day piddling around. She would really like to see me get a consistent job where I leave the house and interact with other people on a daily basis, and I'm starting to think that's a good idea.

The big problem is that I don't know what I can do with my skill set. I am a pretty good writer, but I have no experience or education in journalism. Apparently my one freelance contract is a fluke, as I have applied for dozens of other opportunities on Elance with no response. There are seemingly no companies in my city (Columbia, South Carolina) looking to hire entry-level web content writers. The only job opening advertised for a writer around here is the $10 an hour Web.com job that I used to have. They have made it clear to me that I could return at any time, but I am loathe to do so.

I have thought about going to school but am not sure what I would major in. Besides, the reality is that I need a job with more hours sooner than later. The situation hasn't reached critical mass just yet, as I am not ready to go back to my last job. Going backwards is the enemy here.

I want to find a new opportunity that is the next logical step on some sort of actual career path, not just another job. Unfortunately I have no idea what that opportunity might be, or if it even exists.

I don't know that I actually managed to ask a question here or even say anything that would help someone point me in the right direction, but it felt good to type this out and I'm going to post it anyway, just to see what happens. Thanks for reading.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2013, 03:18:55 PM by mikeb23ft »

Gerard

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2013, 02:11:05 PM »
My knee-jerk response is that you should find and accept some shit job for many hours a week and start stashing some money away. You've quite several jobs in fairly quick succession... I don't think you're at the point that you can afford to be quite so high-minded and still pay the rent. You're not likely to find a job that optimizes your education, because (on paper at least) your education isn't very good. Wash dishes, take on extra shifts when someone's sick, start a side hustle that doesn't need to be profitable for a while but satisfies at least some of your need for smarter or more rewarding work. Then look for something that's part of a career path, or work to turn your side hustle into that. You might not end up on your real career path until you're in your 40s (I didn't).

But, I admit that I'm coming at this from the perspective of a different generation. Feel free to dismiss me as Grandpa Simpson!

ShortInSeattle

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2013, 02:29:01 PM »
In my 17 years of work since college, not a single person has asked me for my GPA.  It's pretty irrelevant IMO.  And I used to work as a recruiter, and I never really cared about GPA.  So don't stress about that and don't apologize for it.  .

The bigger problem here is that you lack a career direction.  Most of us take crappy jobs out of school, but that is OK when there is a certain directionality to our work.

No one is going to give you a good job (even an entry level one) if you lack a passion for the field you are applying for.  If you jump from one entry level thing to the next, you'll never see traction in your pay.

Crappy job X, Crappy job Z, Crappy Job Y.  No directionality = no increases in pay.

Start by picking a career trajectory.  Learn about it and get excited about it as a career path, not just  a a job. Then work your way up.  Ideally there is some combination of work you like, work you are good at, and work that pays well, but you may need to futz around a bit to find that combination - take what you can get for a while.

If you were good at sales, I'd suggest picking a sales job that is selling something you can personally feel good about selling.  Sales jobs can pay well and it's hard to find competent sales people.

I'm also a writer, but writing pays poorly enough that for most people it will never be more than a hobby or side gig.  You can build a writing career, but it isn't an easy path.

Take what you find useful, ignore the rest, and good luck.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2016, 02:41:42 PM by ShortInSeattle »

lsalinas

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2013, 02:30:51 PM »
"I want to find a new opportunity that is the next logical step on some sort of actual career path, not just another job. "

In my experience the best career path and planning advice was in the book  - What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles.   There are several editions, so if you go to the public library make sure you have one of his more recent editions that give extra advice on career paths during tough economic times.  It will give you advice on how to get jobs that don't match your degree, how to discover which career is best for you, how to market your skills as transferable, etc.

legacyoneup

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2013, 02:43:45 PM »
You want something better, you can get it... but you need to be smart about this.

That is what you will need : A steady job which does not involve backbreaking work ( washing dishes, standing for hours on end ) while providing internet access and some free time. Get back to that $10 per hour job. Is it in an office building? Do you have internet access at your workplace?

Forget about your GPA's. Regret is an emotion you cannot afford at this point. Its time for battle. Look up free tutorials on SQL / PLSQL / Perl / Java / .NET. Spend ALL your free time reading those. Pick one stream that you think you like and do a deep dive. Read the tutorials once, twice.. ten.. twenty times till you internalize and understand the content perfectly.

At 22, the only job offer I had was in a call center. I accepted it and started reading up on SQL / PLSQL immediately. Kept on reading till I perfected my understanding of it. Cracked the Oracle exams. Never looked back. If I can do it then so can you.



mikeb23ft

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2013, 03:18:38 PM »
The bigger problem here is that you lack a career direction.  Most of us take crappy jobs out of school, but that is OK when there is a certain directionality to our work.

In my case:
- crappy HR assistant job - recruiter - HR generalist - HR Manager - Consultant.

Each job qualified me for the next one - each which came with more pay and perks.

No one is going to give you a good job (even an entry level one) if you lack a passion for the field you are applying for.  If you jump from one entry level thing to the next, you'll never see traction in your pay.

Crappy job X, Crappy job Z, Crappy Job Y.  No directionality = no increases in pay.

Start by picking a career trajectory.  Learn about it and get excited about it as a career path, not just  a a job. Then work your way up.  Ideally there is some combination of work you like, work you are good at, and work that pays well, but you may need to futz around a bit to find that combination - take what you can get for a while.


These are all things I agree with.

I really like the idea of working with the internet and marketing. I think right now I would say with some hesitation that's my career path. SEO and SEM jobs are out there, but not in my location. I would jump at the chance to take an entry-level or even menial position at a web marketing firm and work my way up. I think I could be good with digital account sales, but I don't have any B2B sales experience. And I don't have a marketing degree or any real experience in that field.

My GPA concern is mostly about the possibility of getting into grad school, and my college regrets don't stop there. I wasted several years as a music major before getting into psychology, and by the time I got out of music my GPA was too low to get into the business school. I wanted to major in marketing. If that had happened, I feel like things would be different. Now there's no sense in looking back in anger; bygones are bygones, and all that.

chasesfish

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2013, 04:15:26 PM »
I like your comment about B2B sales, its been wonderful for me.

#1:  I would recommend applying at Paychex and ADP.  They are always turning people through their meat grinder, but if you can tolerate their sales process, it'll give you very valuable life skills.  Its such a grinder that a lot of B2B recruiters go after those people who make it a year there.

#2:  Go find a customer service role supporting sales.

#3:  What hobbies do you like?  I'm always a fan of doing something that you love.  If you like bowling, go sell sh*t for Brunswick.  Like fishing, go sell their stuff.   Retail hours suck, but sales there is not a bad start.

I agree with the other poster of find something for the next year or two, work your rear end off and save money, then do your job search while you're in year 2 of that job.

gillstone

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2013, 04:26:34 PM »
Never be afraid to take that entry level position as long as there is a semblance of a direction upwards.  My DW, took a $10/hr admin job with a company and three weeks later they demoted someone so they could promote her into a $15/hr position (the cross training was a little awkward). She's been moving up in position and salary since then. 

Whatever you do, stay there for a little while and don't leave without another job set in stone.  A resume with 10 jobs in 5 years is a red flag for hiring

mikeb23ft

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2013, 04:51:12 PM »
You want something better, you can get it... but you need to be smart about this.
Get back to that $10 per hour job. Is it in an office building? Do you have internet access at your workplace?

I like your strategy, but the $10/hour job required me to meet very stringent productivity numbers. There was no free time to check Facebook or email, much less teach myself programming. I would, however, love to find a job that would allow me to do something similar to that. I am 27 and I have never programmed anything in my life, so I find it somewhat intimidating. I wouldn't even know where to start.




pdxvandal

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2013, 04:57:34 PM »
Do you have staffing agencies nearby?

That could be a good way to get your feet wet, get more hours (and usually medical benefits) and build your resume. My wife did this for six months in 2005 and has been with the same company since.

Good luck.

Bruised_Pepper

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2013, 05:00:55 PM »
I like your strategy, but the $10/hour job required me to meet very stringent productivity numbers. There was no free time to check Facebook or email, much less teach myself programming. I would, however, love to find a job that would allow me to do something similar to that. I am 27 and I have never programmed anything in my life, so I find it somewhat intimidating. I wouldn't even know where to start.

Waaaaah!  I actually have to work while I'm on the clock! 

I started in a company with a conservative, corporate culture.  It sucked, but I did great work and got good experience.  A few years later, I'm at a world-renowned institution with a good salary, excellent benefits and tons of freedom.  If that's the only job in the field you want, take it.  As you become more valuable on the job market (experience, accomplishments, skills), you'll be able to pick a company you really love.

And why do you have to study programming while you're at work?  Can't you do it on your time?


mikeb23ft

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2013, 05:35:31 PM »
I like your strategy, but the $10/hour job required me to meet very stringent productivity numbers. There was no free time to check Facebook or email, much less teach myself programming. I would, however, love to find a job that would allow me to do something similar to that. I am 27 and I have never programmed anything in my life, so I find it somewhat intimidating. I wouldn't even know where to start.

Waaaaah!  I actually have to work while I'm on the clock! 

And why do you have to study programming while you're at work?  Can't you do it on your time?

It was just a response to someone else's suggestion.

Bruised_Pepper

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2013, 05:46:09 PM »
I like your strategy, but the $10/hour job required me to meet very stringent productivity numbers. There was no free time to check Facebook or email, much less teach myself programming. I would, however, love to find a job that would allow me to do something similar to that. I am 27 and I have never programmed anything in my life, so I find it somewhat intimidating. I wouldn't even know where to start.

Waaaaah!  I actually have to work while I'm on the clock! 

And why do you have to study programming while you're at work?  Can't you do it on your time?

It was just a response to someone else's suggestion.

I read his suggestion as "work the job, study off-the clock so you won't have to work there very long".  Don't goof off at work when you're just starting your career.  Not only will the higher-ups look more favorably on you, but you'll do much better work, meaning better experience and more accomplishments--the things that make you valuable in the job market. 

We couldn't surf the Internet much at my entry-level job: we were being monitored, and more than one person got canned for looking at Facebook.  At the internship I did the year before, the environment was more relaxed, and I spent most of my days IMing a particularly attractive girl who worked nearby.  It was more "fun", but I gained so much more when I actually applied myself to the fullest--seriously, I never got the girl!

mikeb23ft

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2013, 09:20:52 PM »
Don't goof off at work when you're just starting your career.  Not only will the higher-ups look more favorably on you, but you'll do much better work, meaning better experience and more accomplishments--the things that make you valuable in the job market. 

If I had intentions to goof off at the start of my career, would I have come here and written an 800-word rant about starting my career?

While I appreciate what you're trying to say and I am sorry that you never got the girl, my work ethic is not the problem here.

sleepyguy

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2013, 06:41:22 AM »
Currently right now you need a job that pays and can save while you decide what you want to do as a career.  Check out the part 1-2 of 50k jobs from MMM articles, seeing as your degree isn't giving you much leverage it should fit your profile as well.

I agree with not knocking odds and ends jobs as it may lead to something else.  My brother was one of those that hated cubicle jobs... ended up dropping out of university with only a few credits left to go because he KNEW he could not stand any office job .  Did odds/ends jobs for about 2yrs (making on avg $10-14/hr)... then landed a plating job at a local manufacturing plant.  Started at $10/hr... they saw he was the most productive worker on the line... promoted him to line team lead, then shift manager, then shift production manager.  He's takes in about 65k/yr now with pretty much unlimited overtime and doing very well for himself.  He really enjoys his active job and managing workers.

Winter's Tale

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2013, 07:26:21 AM »
These folks have some good ideas about finding a career direction.  One more thought - I would suggest checking out the blog Ask a Manager for tips related to job searching, interviewing, etc.  It's an excellent resource.

ender

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2013, 08:22:42 AM »
Quote
I was very good at writing website content - mostly product descriptions. I had training in that field and was confident that I knew what I was doing.

How many jobs writing web content have you applied for?

If you have training and are confident in your background doing this, start looking up the websites of companies in your area and determining if any of them would benefit from someone reworking/revising or adding website content. My guess is most of them would benefit greatly (medium sized companies might have more budget for this but not enough to fully staff someone responsible for their public media). Bonus points if you find car dealerships since you can relate on the background.

Write out a proposal of the value you would be able to add for their company by revising their public content (but keep it short, 1 page). Perhaps include an example of something on their site you have rewritten.

You have lots of free time to do this. Start learning some basic web dev stuff as well, even if you are only using templates to create content. Make sure to make it clear you are learning this whenever you talk with companies.

Your primary asset right now seems to be time. Start using this! Even if you spend 10 hours talking with companies a week completely randomly, and strike out each time for a month straight, you will be doing multiple other good things - you might walk into a job opportunity by chance and you'll get better at selling yourself so when you DO end up with an interview for FT you'll be more prepared.

Another benefit is if you end up proving yourself competent at any of these companies, at all, you are likely to be contacted if they need any sort of web development work for their site because of the association between "did good work, also can do some web dev stuff."


Bruised_Pepper

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2013, 12:21:47 PM »
While I appreciate what you're trying to say and I am sorry that you never got the girl, my work ethic is not the problem here.

Are you sure?  You just said you wanted to check Facebook/e-mail and possibly study something else on company time. 

On another note, you said that there aren't many jobs in your industry in your city.  Can you move to a different city?  If you wanted to be an actor, you would move to Los Angeles.  If you wanted to be a stock broker, you'd move to New York.  If you want to be a web content writer, you should move to...San Francisco, maybe?  I'm not familiar with the industry.

legacyoneup

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #18 on: November 02, 2013, 06:23:59 PM »
I like your strategy, but the $10/hour job required me to meet very stringent productivity numbers. There was no free time to check Facebook or email, much less teach myself programming. I would, however, love to find a job that would allow me to do something similar to that. I am 27 and I have never programmed anything in my life, so I find it somewhat intimidating. I wouldn't even know where to start.

Can you describe in detail exactly what you do at the $10 hour job ? ( you can PM me the details if you find that a better option). Maybe there is a way you can automate some activities / processes in that job. If you can manage that, you could show your employers that you have something special to contribute or at the very least free up some time.  You MUST have a regular job so take it if there is nothing better available.

IMO, any employer who pays $10 per hour for an office job with an actual 8 hrs workload daily without clear  growth options should know that they are at best a temporary arrangement.

As computers continue to move into every aspect of our society and lives, programming would be a useful skill to have. All it takes is logic and a certain level of comfort with the syntax of a programming language. Don't be afraid...
Let me know if this sounds crazy :
When you read it the first time, it will sound like greek, and will seem difficult. Second reading of the same material, say 5 of the important points will stick to your head. Third reading, 5 more... and so on. Its like how astronomers combine a series of images to create one image with amazing detail. This approach works for me.

If online marketing is your passion, learn everything you can about it as well as the different skills / processes involved. Look to acquire as many of those skills as possible. If you decide programming is not your cup of tea, that's ok too. Just ensure that you are expanding your skillset / knowledge to the greatest extent possible.

wtjbatman

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Re: Forum newbie desperately seeking employment and career advice.
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2013, 08:36:00 PM »
While I appreciate what you're trying to say and I am sorry that you never got the girl, my work ethic is not the problem here.

Are you sure?  You just said you wanted to check Facebook/e-mail and possibly study something else on company time. 


I can't speak for the guy, but that's not something he said. Legacyoneup said to him:

Get back to that $10 per hour job. Is it in an office building? Do you have internet access at your workplace?

Forget about your GPA's. Regret is an emotion you cannot afford at this point. Its time for battle. Look up free tutorials on SQL / PLSQL / Perl / Java / .NET. Spend ALL your free time reading those. Pick one stream that you think you like and do a deep dive. Read the tutorials once, twice.. ten.. twenty times till you internalize and understand the content perfectly.

At 22, the only job offer I had was in a call center. I accepted it and started reading up on SQL / PLSQL immediately. Kept on reading till I perfected my understanding of it. Cracked the Oracle exams. Never looked back. If I can do it then so can you.

And then he said:

I like your strategy, but the $10/hour job required me to meet very stringent productivity numbers. There was no free time to check Facebook or email, much less teach myself programming. I would, however, love to find a job that would allow me to do something similar to that. I am 27 and I have never programmed anything in my life, so I find it somewhat intimidating. I wouldn't even know where to start.

He never indicated a need to have a job where he had copious amounts of free time. In fact, you just came into the thread and your first post was:

Waaaaah!  I actually have to work while I'm on the clock! 

Which I guess means you think he's whining and crying? It seems to me like you need to step back and relax a little bit. You're oddly antagonistic to the guy.