What can I do in my free time which could lead to a job?
January 29, 2013 7:38 AM Subscribe
What qualifications (certifications, skills, volunteer experiences, etc.) can I realistically pick up, for free, without actually being employed in the field which they would qualify me for?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
After graduating with a STEM bachelor's in 2010, I landed in a position which I will never be promoted out of (it's in academia, and the career track is very closely tied to completion of one or more advanced degrees) and in which I'm not learning or doing anything which could conceivably lead to a better job, let alone a career. I spend close to my whole shift doing nothing--I literally read for six or seven hours each day. When I have something to do, it's simple data entry and basic customer service. Three or four times a day I receive an email which requires a boilerplate response. Asking for more work or responsibility leads to a temporary increase in the amount of data entry.
I'm applying for other jobs, but the job market seems to have shifted in the wake of the financial crisis, and it's extremely difficult for me to find jobs for which I'm even minimally qualified, even with my degree--I suspect that employers are still able to ask for, and get, as many experienced candidates as they need to fill their needs.
The upside to this job--besides the excellent health insurance--is that I can spend my entire shift doing almost anything. I do have access to a computer and the internet, though I don't have administrator privileges. So: what can I learn or do, either at work or on my own time, that could lead to a career?
Of course, there are a couple of complications:
1. "Find a job at a school which will reimburse your tuition/allow you to take free classes" is not an answer I want. That's how I wound up where I am now, and the policy turned out to be so fraught with limitations that I essentially can't take advantage of it--and Ask Metafilter has convinced me that throwing more education at my problem is not the best idea, even if it's free.
2. "IT skills," generally, are also out, but if you feel like you have an excellent suggestion I'm listening. Real talk, though: I'm a guy in his mid-thirties who has never had a job in the technology sector, who does not have a CS degree (or substitute, like math or physics), and who stepped off the upgrade hamster wheel years ago--I have a longstanding and fairly strict no-new-electronics-purchases policy. Finally, I just do not love dicking around with computers, smartphones, etc. That said, I'm certainly comfortable using them: I used to build my own computers, and I know my way around Photoshop/Indesign/Office etc. But I'm probably not going to pick up Ruby on Rails, and I'm not sure there's much I can do at this point to make myself a credible candidate for tech jobs.
3. It has to be free, or nearly so. I can't afford to pay for more education or go into more debt, and I can't, for instance, leave my job or reduce my hours to take an unpaid internship or volunteer.