Author Topic: Yet another career advice thread  (Read 3356 times)

hoyahoyasaxa

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Yet another career advice thread
« on: February 25, 2013, 11:21:14 AM »
Hi folks,

Well, here's my story:  I am a 27-year old, married male living in Queens, NY.  My wife is a museum professional and makes $38,000 per year.  I graduated from Georgetown University (Go Hoyas!) with a degree in government and worked for a few years in DC for a political publication (started at $38k, then moved up to $50k) as a research assistant/office manager before moving to NYC with my wife and working for a campaign consultant in Manhattan as a research analyst (for $47k per year).  It was during the time with the consultant (a firm of about 60 people) that I realized that I hated working inside the campaign world - the people at the particular firm were nasty and demanding, the work was extremely stressful, and I felt like what I was doing was negatively affecting society (I would argue that the nature of the nonstop 2 or 4 year political campaign is why nothing gets done in DC).  Shortly after the election, and after I had put in about a year and a half at the firm, my position was terminated along with several others.  It turns out that this particular firm would hire young analysts a few years out of college with the promise of a career path with the firm, grind them out through the election at relatively low pay compared to the hours they put in and then fire them.

I'm now looking for a change in direction and no longer want to work in politics.  The reason my wife and I moved up here is because my wife has a very big and very close family who live in the Rockland/Bergen County area, and when the time comes, we want to raise our kids in that family environment.  So, our careers will be in this area and we're not interested in moving away from NY/NJ.  One thing that I've found is that there's nothing like a sudden job loss to make you feel like you have absolutely no skills.  I should narrow that to mean that I feel like I have no technical skills.  I am a pretty solid researcher and writer, and wrote a few articles and was the primary copyeditor for the publication I worked for in DC.  But it's hard to get a job simply by saying you're a good researcher or writer - there's a reason why people who are experts at Excel, know how to program Java or Drupal, know SPSS, etc. are more easily able to get a job.

I guess my first question is how does someone in my position even proceed with a job search.  I've been out of work for about 3 months now and have been seriously job searching for probably two months.  In that time, I've applied to about 40 jobs, some which simply consisted of filling out an application and firing over a resume and cover letter, and some for which I got in touch with the HR person by working through my network on LinkedIn.  I've had five interviews, mostly for entry level jobs that have nothing to do with my past work experience (one was for an admin assistant, one was for a development assistant, one was for an office manager, and one is in the works for a friend of a friend who is creating a position in her office that would entail some back office work and research).  What's discouraging is that I've been out of a pretty good college for about six years, and I'm still applying to entry level jobs because I simply don't have the skill set or experience for more senior positions.  Do I just continue with what I'm doing (which is doing a search for "research" on LinkedIn and browsing through job positions - filtering to include only those where I have a first or second degree connection, also checking job postings on Idealist.org, NYC.gov, nyu.edu, etc.).

On another note, and I know this post is running long, shortly before finishing at my last job, I started to see a career counselor because I wanted to make a move away from campaign politics.  She is actually quite good, and I worked through the typical work type and personality tests, but also did a lot of journal writing to nail down what it is that I really cared about.  After a couple months of work, we came down to a few possibilities.  The first was working as a financial planner/counselor - I talked to a number of fee-only planners, and discovered that aside from taking a big risk and opening your own shop, there are virtually no lower level fee-only financial planning jobs out there - you'd have to work for several years at a big brokerage or insurance group as a salesman selling financial products or doing the same for a wealth management firm that caters to the uber-wealthy.  After dismissing this possibility, the next idea was teaching high school social studies which I'm currently in the process of investigating.  I enjoy history and think I might like teaching, but I'm also very discouraged by the lack of jobs out there now, the job security once you have a job, and the relatively low pay.  I also feel very strongly about not taking on student loan debt.  My wife still has $35k on her grad school student loans which her parents bought out and who are allowing us to pay them back each month.  In virtually every area, we live very Mustachian and despite a $1525 rent, our total expenses are less than $3000 per month (with my unemployment check, we take in about $3400 a month).

I know it's very difficult to give career advice when you don't know a person's unique situation, but I feel like there are no good routes to take for a real "career" change that don't involve going back to school.  After the teaching possibility, another option that seemed to fit for me was accounting but not having done any accounting work in college, I would have to get my MBA in order to meet the requirements to take the CPA exam and again I don't want to take on debt.

Ok, end rant- thanks for listening.  I'd appreciate any thoughts or advice anybody has.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2013, 11:24:59 AM by hoyahoyasaxa »

zhelud

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Re: Yet another career advice thread
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2013, 01:02:54 PM »
A few thoughts-

1. There is nothing wrong with starting over at entry level if you are getting into a new field. Especially when you are only 27.

2. Why can't you learn Excel or Java, if that would help you get a job?

3. Take some time out from responding to job advertisements and instead start making connections with people in the field you want to be in. And people who might know people in the field you want to be in- including your wife's big family, your neighbors, your friends, friends-of-friends, etc. Ask your college's career office if they have a directory of alumni in your area, and start calling them.  (I got a job once just by calling an alumna of my grad school and asking for advice.)

sheepstache

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Re: Yet another career advice thread
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2013, 01:49:12 PM »
1. Start your own project.  Doesn't have to be a business.  Start a blog.  Start a social campaign.  Create a business model for a philanthropy non-profit or something.  Offer to write grant proposals for your local community garden.  Don't let this be dead time on your resume.  Be someone who is creating something.

2. I think NYC has a program where your master's education is paid for if you go into teaching math or science?  If you're good at connecting with people and are looking to gain technical knowledge maybe that is the way to go.  Or maybe social studies would be covered too?

3. I don't think you need an MBA to be a CPA?  You're just talking about taking the required coursework, right?  And I think you could do that piecemeal, maybe even online, which might be cheaper.

Let us know what you decide!

mc6

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Re: Yet another career advice thread
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2013, 04:20:18 PM »
What about pursuing an administrative type job at a university where you could have free tuition and pursue teaching or an MBA if those programs are still appealing to you?  Might be a good environment to figure out what you would be well-suited to doing. 

Done by Forty

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Re: Yet another career advice thread
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2013, 04:56:28 PM »
I would suggest reading 48 Days to the Work You Love.  It's always helped me when I am searching for a new opportunity.  The chapters on performing a job search, interviewing, and negotiating salary are particularly good.

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

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Re: Yet another career advice thread
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2013, 08:01:18 PM »
Since you enjoy writing, how about learning to write grant proposals for nonprofits? I see a lot of job postings for grant writers amongst my network. Nonprofits don't have the best pay, but the benefits tend to be good, and I bet you'll feel a lot better at the end of the day than you did at the campaign jobs.

Aside from that, I suggest you volunteer one or two days a week until you find a job. This is good on many levels, but mostly, it keeps you busy and provides structure to your days while you're not working, and it gets you out into the business world where you can make contacts. I know many people (including myself) who've gotten job offers through volunteer work. And even if it doesn't lead to a job offer, you'll still have done something good with your time and it could help you to figure out the kind of work you'd rather do.

One last note: during the recession I would often be talking to someone at a networking event or elsewhere and when I'd ask what kind of work they were looking for, they'd say "anything." They didn't know that, with a better response, I might have been able to help them find work - I had a huge network and always knew of multiple job openings. However, their ambivalence stopped me from helping them - why would I suggest them for a job they weren't actively looking for and excited about? So while you're looking for work, be sure to not appear ambivalent. Come up with a reason why you want THIS job that you're applying/interviewing for. It could be the work itself, the company mission, the people.... just have something concrete.

Good luck!

Sweet Tart

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Re: Yet another career advice thread
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2013, 08:56:11 AM »
If you're interested in the CPA look around for alternative programs to get the required credits.  When I decided to get my CPA I looked at the different programs available to get the credits necessary.  Along with masters programs there were certificate programs through both state schools, private universities, and surprisingly, my local community college.  I went the community college route, got some funding through a worker retraining program and was able to get my CPA very inexpensively.  Many of the community college classes were offered online so it wouldn't be hard to work and take classes.