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How do I help my late-40s boyfriend completely reinvent himself?
October 19, 2010 2:16 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is in his late 40s with no career and a Bachelor's Degree in an area he didn't pursue. He's miserable in his current customer service position and he wants to reinvent himself, but doesn't know where to start. Help me help him find the happiness (which right now means job stability) he deserves!

My boyfriend, in his late 40s, is from a small town in the Midwest and both of his parents died when he was very young, so he essentially raised himself. He went to a state university and graduated after four years with a Bachelor's in Sociology. After college, he enlisted with the US Army as an infantryman and served his time, never facing any type of warfare. Since college and leaving the Army, he's held numerous jobs, none of which have particularly related to his degree. He worked for DHS and eventually found himself to be a supervisor there, but was worn thin by the bureaucracy involved in state organizations and left after a long stint about six years ago. He decided on being a truck driver and was for a couple of years, but in the end both the pay and the work schedule were too unstable for him. After truck driving, he tried being an insurance salesman, but working on commission wasn't allowing him to get by. He's now working as a customer service representative and is really at his wit's end.

We both make about the same amount of money, which is enough to exist but not to live. I'm considerably younger than him and coupled with working full-time, have begun to pursue a degree of my own. I desperately want to help him get to a better place, but I don't know how or where to begin. His job hunts thus far have only led him to commission-based sales positions or other customer service fields. He's a very smart, computer-savvy, well-spoken and authoritative managerial type, but his Life Science degree seems to have really limited his chances on jobs with other education requirements. He has thought about re-enrolling in school, but we have almost no expendable income and he has been denied financial aid because of his previous degree. We don't have any children and our expenses are at the bare minimum (no car payments, etc), but we're still barely making it. He has been debt-free for some time and would like to stay that way.

I was hoping to find any kind of guidance I can on adult education scholarships or maybe ideas for other positions he could look into based on his background. He has been fighting an uphill battle most of his life and deserves so much to be happy. I want to help him get there.

Any advice is greatly appreciated!
posted by goodetyme to Work & Money (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hard to say without knowing what he truly loves or where you guys even live, but, maybe getting back into the gov't is the right decision. Being a veteran, he will get special consideration for a job with the federal gov't. The pay is good, benefits great, and there is job stability until he can figure out how he wants to reinvent himself. But it requires patience, because the bureaucracy sure is a pain in the ass...hence the reason he left before, right?
posted by Yunani at 2:22 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's not your job. If he is indeed "a very smart, computer-savvy, well-spoken and authoritative managerial type", he will take the initiative to improve his situation.

It might be just the way you phrased your question (it might not be the case, but it sure sounds like he doesn't even know you're asking here), but I doubt you can actually secure for him the job you want for him.

...we have almost no expendable income.

Most students have none, so consider yourself well off. That's what student loans are for.
posted by halogen at 2:23 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sales is a field where you can make a lot of money. Maybe he should look into being a pharmaceutical sales rep or some other kind of sales rep.
posted by anniecat at 2:38 PM on October 19, 2010

"he has been denied financial aid because of his previous degree"

Maybe not for a second bachelors degree but he should still be able to get Stafford loans for grad school. MBA, MPA, etc. programs take people from diverse undergraduate backgrounds.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:42 PM on October 19, 2010

Assuming he was discharged honorably from the army, he should be eligible for GI Bill benefits - regardless of whether he has a previous degree or not. I know this because I used my benefits to work on my Masters degree.

He also has veteran's preference when applying for federal govt positions - please check out

His degree in sociology, combined with his military background, also lends him some affability for working with CBP, DHS (although he's been there), social services, child protection, or a local law enforcement agency.
posted by matty at 2:50 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's what I wrote the last time this came up. (The first link has multiple links to even-further-back notes on this subject.) Hope that helps!
posted by limeonaire at 3:05 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

He needs to think about his personality, plus the market stinks right now, BUT perhaps he might want to think about being a real estate professional? Being prior military, a bit older, plus a sociology degree means he would have the intelligence and a good background to be a trusted professional. But he'd need either a very choleric or a very sanguine/bouncy social personality to really enjoy it, I think.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:32 PM on October 19, 2010

Going a bit more laterally, I once went to a bunch of consultants who specialise in a thing called the "Birkman Method", and it was a real eye-opener.

It involved a long multiple-choice personality quiz, with results laid out according to various factors, like scales for things like how people-oriented you are; whether you like structures or laissez faire work; independence; challenge; involvement of feeling; active v reflective thought; idealism v realism; etc etc.

It also rated areas of interest, eg persuasive, social service, scientific, mechanical, outdoor, numerical, clerical, artistic, literary & musical.

The conclusions suggested what kinds of environments & careers you're like a fish in water, and also included a kind of "people who like the same things as you also liked" (being lawyers, being early childhood teachers, not being project managers etc)

If you can find a company near you that uses this Birkman Method, I'd highly recommend forking out a few hundred (?) for an evaluation - it should generate a good shortlist of potential careers for consideration.

On top of that, it could help in job interviews:

"I see you have a degree in Sociology - what makes you think you'd be suited to being a Marine Biology Technician?"

"Well, this report from these fancy consultants recommended it as a great match for my exact personality, and I've thought about it a lot and agree with what they said..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:55 PM on October 19, 2010

he should be eligible for GI Bill benefits

Maybe -- but GI bill benefits do expire. If I recall correctly it's 10 years post-discharge. The GI Bill also went through some changes recently so it may be different for people who enlisted post-9/11.
posted by crapmatic at 4:55 PM on October 19, 2010

On the Birkman / Myers-Briggs thing, if money's tight, don't spend it there. There are books and websites online that give 80% of the result for free. Definitely useful, but I wouldn't commit a big chunk of limited funds to them.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:43 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Yeah, mine was free - part of an outplacement service *shame*. To be honest I have no idea what the cost was, but was estimating based on an assumed hourly consultant's rate)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:01 PM on October 19, 2010

Maybe -- but GI bill benefits do expire. If I recall correctly it's 10 years post-discharge. The GI Bill also went through some changes recently so it may be different for people who enlisted post-9/11.

Here's all you need to know: GI Bill
posted by matty at 6:39 AM on October 20, 2010

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