Ne'er-do-well needs a job. Bit terrified.
October 7, 2008 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Never really worked before. Soon to be single mother. Need career. Told I can write well. What can I do?

I'm in my 30s but I've never been in the working world. I'm in the process of leaving my severely alcoholic husband. We have a very young child. I don't need a job tomorrow, but relying on alimony for the rest of my life is not a great idea.

I have never wanted a career. I have no idea what to do.

I have maybe 35% of a BA, and I defaulted on my student loans so loans are not an option now. There is an outside chance that with a great deal of good luck with the alimony, generosity from my parents, etcetera, I might be able to go back to school part-time in the years between now and when my child starts school, but I've got no idea what I might study.

Over the years I have complained to counsellors, to a widely published advice columnist, to a friend who works full-time as a writer, to all manner of people, about being unemployable. The answer has always been a scoffing one: but that's ridiculous; you write so well. Anybody who can write as well as you isn't unemployable.

Work-averse as I am, I'm up to doing what's necessary to get myself ready to generate a respectable, stable income for my daughter. But I have no idea where to start. I have to stress here that I have absolutely nothing to put on a resume. No formal volunteer work, nothing. Over the years I've dabbled in all sorts of dilettantish unpaid stuff, but nothing has stuck. I have no experience, no qualifications.

I have no idea what to do with the endless "But you can write; of course you can work" "answer" to this. Even my father threw that at me, which gave me pause. Writing skills and 95c will get me a bus ticket, so far as I can see it. The comments are based on things like letters and internet postings, not a salable or formal body of work. I have thought lately about putting a portfolio together, but I'm struggling with it, and have no idea what I might do with a finished portfolio.

Perhaps there are a few college courses I can take that would qualify me to be a particular type of hack?

The writing aside, what sorts of things involve a relatively short and cheap training period resulting in relatively well-paid and stable employment? I don't expect to like work a lot, so won't be disappointed if it's not terribly pleasant. 'Respectability' is important for reasons I can't quite explain. And I want to give my daughter a nice home, but I have no great lust for money; an ideal job would be one I don't have to work full-time at to get by.

I suspect it's obvious that I need somewhat dumbed-down help, here. If I did need a job tomorrow I would be in a terrible spot; I have no idea how I'd even get a job at a restaurant at this point. I'm also starting to wonder if I'm wise to find volunteer work asap just to have one line to type on a resume.

Throwaway is
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If you can make it happen, finish up your BA. Community college in some places is ridiculously cheap ($20/credit here in California) and if you can swing it with childcare, entirely doable part time. A number of colleges and universities have special programs for students like you. Check out your local institutions and look under non-traditional students. You may be surprised at the amount of financial aid and scholarships that you're eligible for.
posted by k8t at 9:00 AM on October 7, 2008

Agree with k8t about finishing school, not so much for the learnin' as to get through HR screenings for positions that require a degree. While in school, take advantage of career and placement services, get to know the faculty, explore every scholarship and financial aid opportunity, and work the system that's in place to help with stuff like this. You'd be amazed how many students don't.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:03 AM on October 7, 2008

Ok, this may come off harsh and I don't intend it to... You have no advanced degree. You have no solid work history from what you've posted. You're entering an economy (assuming you're in the US) where unemployment is on the rise and competition for jobs is getting harder.

Your best bet is to look for an entry-level clerical or office job. Temp agencies like Express or Manpower can get you in the door of a lot of companies and you can do basic work. Writing well will set you ahead of the other temps, as professional communication is a must that a lot of people are lacking. That temp work can transition to full time office work, which would be about $25k/yr in a low cost of living area, $40-45k/yr in a high cost of living area.

During this you need to pursue education. Do what you must to get those defaulted loans off your records, and go to a cheap state school like k8t suggested. Get your degree, it is vital. Having a knack for writing won't get you anything without a degree that says you are trained.

And then decide what you want to do. Being a "writer" isn't very well paying. You could try journalism, but the hours of that may not be what you're looking for as a newly single mom. Perhaps simply getting the degree whle working an office job will allow you to pursue management, where writing ability is also an asset.

But right now isn't the time for pie-in-the-sky career choosing, it's time to get out there and get a job while you can...
posted by arniec at 9:09 AM on October 7, 2008 [8 favorites]

Look into technical writing. You will need a BA (I agree with the others about community college). After that, you would need to get a certificate in technical writing, but that would only involve taking a few more classes. At the right community college, you could probably even get the certificate as part of the BA. I know this isn't an easy plan, but technical writing is one of the easier ways to turn writing skills into a well-paying job.
posted by diogenes at 9:12 AM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

How about proofreading? See my advice in this previous question. You don't need a degree, just persistence and the ability to pass a test. I highly recommend taking a continuing ed class on the topic first; you can be pretty much fully trained for less than $200. The pay's not great (~$12/hour, maybe), but you can do it from home, possibly without paying for childcare (your child may vary).

And congratulations for breaking free of a bad situation. Good luck!
posted by libraryhead at 9:16 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

From the tone of your posting, it sounds like you have some beliefs that will make it harder for you to find and keep a job. You might find some ideas and inspiration in Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny (see reviews here).
posted by PatoPata at 9:16 AM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you can swing it, resolve your divorce, child custody and child care arrangements fully before you start working. First impressions matter tremendously and you are unlikely to leave a positive first impression unless you can give a full emotional and practical focus to your work.
posted by MattD at 9:27 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding temp work. You'll build your resume and begin networking while earning some cash. Once you are in the door, you'll be surprised how far plain old basic competency will get you in the workforce.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 9:28 AM on October 7, 2008

arniec is absolutely right. Just go to a temp agency. If you're reasonably intelligent (which it's obvious you are), computer-literate (again, obvious), and you can be counted on to show up on time, you're ahead of most of the applicants at a temp agency. If you're bilingual, you will get hired in a heartbeat. If you get hired on by a larger company, you may be eligible for tuition assistance.

Also, look into scholarships specifically for single mothers, or for women entering traditionally male fields (i.e. engineering). Even if you don't like the field, you can always change your major later. My best friend is pursuing her bachelor's degree with help from the state. Her ex is useless in terms of child support/alimony, and she's estranged from her family, but she is doing OK.
posted by desjardins at 9:33 AM on October 7, 2008

Look for a job at a college or a university, if there are any in your areas. Many have support staff positions that only require a high school diploma and lots of colleges have tuition deals for employees that would allow you to take classes for next to nothing. These can be hard jobs to land, so apply for anything that you even *think* you can do in an administrative support/assistance role.

Apply with temp agencies. Seriously. All the temp agencies in your town, not just one. Something will come up that you can do that they will have, and then that will get you some amount of work experience under your belt. A friend of mine lived off of temp work for nearly two years before landing a permanent position.

I have a relative who stayed at home with her kids for more than 10 years and who had no college degree. She's now in a supervisory position with a great salary at the US Post Office, so it's definitely possible to come where you're coming from and do well.
posted by zizzle at 9:35 AM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

No matter where you start, you are going to start at the bottom. That being said, the bottom is far higher, and you spend far less time there if you have a degree (trust me - I do not and I wish to hell I did). If you can make the alimony work in any way to allow you to go to school then do so. Also look into money for women returning to school - as a single mom, you will find more avenues of funding than a simple student loan. Other than that, I second the office job.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:36 AM on October 7, 2008

You're not a ne'er do well.

I echo the above that "writing" is not necessarily the profession you want to pursue, based on your requirements. However, as noted above, you are articulate and clearly understand how to put a sentence together. That is a huge asset compared to, say, far too many recent graduates. You could be a tech writer, you could be a business analyst, you could be a project manager or production coordinator, you could be a traffic manager - there are a lot of things you COULD do.

If you can find a sympathetic placement recruiter at an agency, and you can pass the various tests for software like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, they will place you as an admin. And that will get you experience, and if you are smart and in the right place and do good work, if a company is looking to hire permanent, they will start with someone who has been working for them already and is a known quantity. There are also plenty of "temp to perm" jobs out there, which is shorthand for "we're too busy to go through an interview cycle and we've been burned too many times, but if you work out we'll hire you." These are also good for you to see if you want to work there too.

For now you can say that you are "planning on going back to school in the fall". Not everyone will require a degree, places mostly use it as a benchmark to keep out the unemployable. The places that value it uber-much you probably don't want to work for.

I would work on putting together a 'pitch letter' for yourself, not just a cover letter. You will need to figure out how to spin what accomplishments you do have, and I'm not buying that you don't. (And if you don't, there are plenty of volunteer organizations that will let you get some.) Some people will respond to it. Some won't. Some will be kind and give you a break. Some will make you feel small and incapable. But that's what happens every time I look for a job, and I have a MBA.

I would recommend Barbara Sher's books as motivational reading. Used, they are available for under $2.
posted by micawber at 9:47 AM on October 7, 2008

Oh, another thing to keep in mind. There's a definite difference charted in the way women look at job descriptions vs. the men do.

"Must know X, Y, Z". The man looks at it and thinks, "Well, I know X, and kind of know Y, and I don't know Z - but I know I can learn it. I'll apply for the job."

The woman looks at it and thinks, "Well, I know X and Y, but I haven't done Z for very long, so I won't apply."

Apply for anything you think you are vaguely appropriate for. Then figure out how to sell yourself. That will be the most critical piece. You only need one person to open a door for you. You can do that.
posted by micawber at 9:49 AM on October 7, 2008 [8 favorites]

In order to get the higher paying temp jobs, I highly recommend taking a weekend workshop or evening class (I bet your local library offers them dirt-cheap as a community benefit) in computer skills like Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc. If you aren't fluent in these skills (you most likely will be tested on them at the temp agency) you will be at a severe disadvantage for the higher paying clerical jobs. So bone up on the basics (you can even do this for free from home by renting how-to books from the library) before going out into the temp world.

Also, apply at several temp agencies-- some will have more opportunities than others, and they don't mind you trying to get as much work as you can. The good news is that one can often get offered a permanent position from a temp job, a little down the line. It won't be writing a great novel, but it will be resume-building and will give you the money you need to start paying for your education.
posted by np312 at 9:58 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

When you say you're a good writer, what exactly do you mean? You're imaginative and come up with good stories, or you have a solid grasp of grammar, sentence construction and spelling? If it's the latter, you might consider putting up flyers at your local colleges and offer to type up term papers. Lots of students aren't fast typists and are willing to pay for someone who will do the "grunt" work for them, which includes proofreading and spellchecking and setting up the footnotes and bibliography in the proper format.

For what it's worth, I, too, was always told by others that I was a great writer. I got my first job while still in high school, a part-time clerical position. My boss had a regular secretary, but sometimes when she was busy or out, he'd ask me to type a letter. His rough draft was always just that, very rough. I was 16 and cheeky and took it upon myself to correct his grammar and flesh out his sentences. Instead of being offended, he started giving me all his letters and memos to do. Once I worked there full-time, I leaped up the clerical "food chain" in the company and worked for higher and higher-level time-crunched executives because, apparently, not many of the secretaries there could take legal pad scrawled with a melange of key words and notes and compose a professional letter out of it. So clerical temping is also a good foot-in-the-door for you; if you're good, it will be noticed and you'll be getting clients trying to hire you away from the temp agency. Good luck!
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:09 AM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Start off with heading to the WorkSource/Workforce solutions, Employment Commission, or whatever your state's social services human resources agency is called. If you need help figuring that out, feel free to MeMail me. This agency provides assistance to job seekers like resume coaching, interview practice, establishing your baseline skills, and even referrals to other social services (like getting financial aid for classes). As a single mom, they probably even have a specific program just for you.

Sign up with the temp agencies in your area, as many say above. Clearly you're at least somewhat computer literate, well-spoken, and can type, so you've got the three biggest qualifiers right there. Sign up for as many that support your skill base as possible, and understand that many require you to call in the morning to see if anything is available (and if they don't require it, this is still a "leg up" suggestion).

You can pursue certificate programs in technical writing, project management, proofreading, public relations, and many other applications of a writerly/organised mind (I'm assuming you're inclined this way based on your decision-making and structure of your apologies if this is not so) at your local community college. Look up their course offerings online. You can refresh your expired basic coursework there, build required credits for completing that degree, and even use it as a launch pad for heading a 4yr school (or even just a more focused 2yr school). It's cheap-ish, and you may still qualify for some forms of financial aid. At minimum, meeting with the intake counselors at your local community college will show you what's available to you and outline any barriers you may need to work through.

Head to the library and check out books on current workplace etiquette, thinking, and structures. This will help you to get a feel for what you'll face in the working world, may help you see other possibilities, and will definitely prepare you for the issues common to the workplace.

While you're there, pick up some "what do I want to do with my LIFE?!?" books, like:
Do What You Are Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger
Discover What You're Best At Linda Gale
Getting the Job You Really Want J. Michael Farr

Other books you might want to take a peek at:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Project Management Sunny Baker & Michael Campbell, PhD - while you don't necessarily want to go into that line of work, the basic skills of a project manager (scheduling, organised communication, keeping track of multiple lines of input and responsibility at once) are all very much craved in the workplace and can give you an edge if you can speak intelligently to them.
DK Essential Managers Series (various authors) - these little books condense workplace best practices, skills, and expectations into digestible nuggets of knowledge.
Gallery of Best Resumes for People Without a Four-Year Degree David F. Noble - this book will give you three things: resume examples (duh), guidance on how to create your own resume, and (most importantly, to me) examples of what other people know how to do that makes them employable.

One thing I've found useful is to go through Craigslist for your area and look through the job offerings and gigs. This will help you see what the environment is like in your area, what jobs seem to be always open, the skills employers are looking for, and other good/basic information you should have about your local employment scene. Heck, you may even find a job.

Whatever you end up doing, good luck. You're making a strong decision and it sounds like you're ready to go out there and make the best beginning of an unfortunate end.
posted by batmonkey at 10:21 AM on October 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

Monkeys. Link on last book: Gallery of Best Resumes for People Without a Four-Year Degree

also: heading OFF to a 4yr school
posted by batmonkey at 10:25 AM on October 7, 2008

Totally agree with what's been said about working your way from temping into a steady position, and maybe taking a workshop.

But also, alongside those who've suggested technical writing, I'd also look for ads at larger tech companies/professional service firms who are in search of RFP (Request for Proposal) writers. Once you've got some temping experience and a few "business" writing samples that you can show, they might consider you.
posted by acorn1515 at 10:26 AM on October 7, 2008

I know this isn't what you're looking for at all, but I want to suggest that you check out some al-anon meetings or other kinds of support avenues, if you aren't already.

Also, please do not feel like you have to pull yourself up with absolutely nothing at all. You are right that it is not enough to be smart, but what you do have is determination. With work and persistence you can accomplish an unbelievable amount of good.

And finally, I'd like to reiterate the congratulations from up-thread on removing yourself and your daughter from a negative situation. It is sometimes difficult to set a good example for children, but that is exactly what you are doing. By showing her that you deserve respect and can function to support yourself and her, you are doing her the greatest kindness. That is, you are showing her that she can function and support herself.

I wish my childhood had included such a role model.
posted by bilabial at 10:29 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

We have a very young child. I don't need a job tomorrow, but relying on alimony for the rest of my life is not a great idea.

I'm going to be one of those people who doesn't exactly answer the question that was asked. Sorry.

I agree that relying on alimony for the rest of your life is not a great idea, but it sounds like you have some breathing room here. If you needed to get work tomorrow I would say the temp path is a good idea, but you need to carefully balance your income with the cost of child care, and make sure that you're not essentially working to pay for daycare.

With some breathing room, I would strongly advise you to go back to school and get some sort of degree -- a bachelors degree if you can swing it, or even just an Associates Degree in Business Administration or something similar. The Associates will take perhaps two years (or less) and will give you a wide-ranging background in accounting, human resources management, business writing and will also give you access to resources like resume and placement services. Having a Degree will increase your earning power.
posted by anastasiav at 10:54 AM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with you, anastasiav, that she should weight the cost of daycare heavily in her decision, but disagree that she should focus on going to school over beginning her employment history. I get the impression that she's never collected a paycheck in her life, not even a summer job as a teen. She needs to change that now and start taking more responsibility of her life. Going to school just means postponing that longer.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2008

Hmm. People in this thread are giving you good, varied advice, so I'll just add this insight:

Don't go to school just to be going to school. School is expensive and time consuming. Figure out what you want to do first, and then figure out what skills and qualifications you need to do that.

I would check out what employment resources there are in your area, and make use of them. Women's shelters often have holistic programs to help women become self-supporting upon leaving a bad relationship, so you might check that out, even if you consider yourself fed up rather than abused.
posted by orange swan at 11:45 AM on October 7, 2008

Combining a couple pieces of advice from above... if getting a degree is important to you (and if you want to grow your income, it probably is), consider looking for entry level work at a local university or college that offers tuition waivers as a benefit. Going this route requires discipline, perhaps more than you have at the moment, but if you really make a good go of it, it's the type of environment where you can also make lots of connections to help you down the road. (And depending on the job, where you might have the chance to stretch yourself and build your resume.)

Good luck!
posted by j-dawg at 12:07 PM on October 7, 2008

Several problems:

1. Lots of people can write well.

2. Paid writing jobs are hard to come by.

3. You'll be competing with people who are far, far, more qualified than you are.

In short: It's a pipe dream. Not to say you shouldn't write for your own enjoyment and training (your question, while articulate and well construed, is full of errors) but realistically, this is not an immediate avenue toward steady, stable pay.

You have a young child, an alcoholic ex who may or may not be reliable with child support payments, a blot on your credit, no work experience or education to speak of, and you're not getting any younger.

Immediately you need a job: any job will suffice. It won't be glamorous, it may be down right soul sucking. You'll be flipping burgers or cleaning offices, and you'll be working with people who resent your intellect. But, there you are.

On the upside you can, in your spare time - whatever little time you have left over after working a dead-end job, and caring for your child - focus on completing your education, honing your writing skills, and working toward a real career in writing.

But please, sit down and take stock of your lot in life, make a plan, and work toward it.

Most of all, be realistic and focus on your responsibility to your child, so that his/her future is more secure than your own.
posted by wfrgms at 12:36 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Building on points others have made...

If you end up needing to get a basic-skills job with a bit more humanity to it, think of places like Kinko's, the UPS store, cell phone shops, et cetera. These are all considered "corporate retail", and it's a great place to get a jumping off point for a better career.

You might also entertain putting together two part-time clerical/light administrative jobs from various sources and using that to get the hours and money you need. I'd say to look for nannying/childcare jobs, but it's currently an unstable market. Worth a look, though, since your daughter is going to need care and some offer live-in opportunities. Note that most daycares don't pay well.

Absolutely do school if you can (and as you can - fitting it in here and there is better than none at all)...I'm just thinking, based on your described scenario, that you need to get the ground under you fast.

I have experience with this kind of "emergency career path". I have a 9th grade education and had to figure out some way to get around that in order to have a better life, started out odd-jobbing, ended up in food service for a bit, and then worked my way up through traditional retail to corporate retail to a temp job to M$ and now to another corporation doing (and making) more than my beginnings would ever have suggested. If I'd known what I know now, I could have skipped a few of those steps (like the fast food, for sure) and saved a lot of time and struggle. Commitment to self-development and making choices that keep you leap-frogging out of dead-ends are the key.
posted by batmonkey at 1:44 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also! Consider getting training in claims processing/adjustment. Yep, insurance. But not sales. This is one of the MOST soul-sucking business environment jobs out there, but it tends to have great benefits, stability, and there's not as much of a glass-ceiling. Medical claims processing will be a needed skillset for as long as we have claim-based healthcare.
posted by batmonkey at 1:47 PM on October 7, 2008

but disagree that she should focus on going to school over beginning her employment history. I get the impression that she's never collected a paycheck in her life, not even a summer job as a teen. She needs to change that now and start taking more responsibility of her life. Going to school just means postponing that longer.

I disagree. Going to school does not mean postponing taking responsibility for her life, it means that she uses whatever breathing room she has to make sure that when she gets that job she can get the best one possible. The benefits of education are significant - I "took responsibility" at a young age - and I'm still on the damn treadmill. She should lay the groundwork first - it will pay off immeasurably in the end.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:49 PM on October 7, 2008

Figure out what you like to do - not necessarily what others say you are good at - but what you LIKE to do.

Then try to find a way to make money doing it.

I guarantee you if you like what you do, you won't mind getting up and going to work and doing it. It may require education, but it sounds like you have that help figured out.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:01 PM on October 7, 2008

I'd say to look for nannying/childcare jobs, but it's currently an unstable market. Worth a look, though, since your daughter is going to need care and some offer live-in opportunities. Note that most daycares don't pay well.

To add onto that point: It might be worth it for you to check what the requirements are in your state for you to care for children in your own home. In most states its fairly easy: you take a few classes, you get a home inspection, pass a background check and then get licensed. In Maine you could care for up to 3-4 children (including your own) depending on their age.

My son is in an in-home care situation with a wonderful woman who started out her childcare business in this same way ... because she was recently divorced, loved being a mom, but needed some income. The flip side of this, of course, is that being self-employed has some significant tax implications, but it might be something to look at if you enjoy kids and want to find a way to stay home with your child while also making some money.
posted by anastasiav at 2:18 PM on October 7, 2008

Newspapers are laying off journalists en masse and everyone's worried that the industry will collapse, blogging doesn't pay unless you are both lucky and top-notch, magazines are in trouble, publishing is not doing great-- oh yeah, and the overall economy isn't doing so hot, i understand. And lots of stuff that used to be done by technical writers here is being outsourced to India for pay that you couldn't possibly live on here.

Unless you are intensely ambitious and persistent, have a niche that you know well that few others do and are willing to deal with massive amounts of rejection on a regular basis, I would not recommend attempting to start a writing career now with the goal of making money.

Even professionals are having a hard time in this market and writing is liking acting-- a field in which there are zillions of hopefuls for each paying job. So, unless you love it and it's the only thing you want to do and are willing to work really, really hard and possibly never make much money at it, I would not recommend it.
posted by Maias at 2:24 PM on October 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

My advice is going to be contrary to many job hunting guides.

You need to define some sort of job target. Many times you're told to focus on what you love, etc. For you, I suggest that you focus on what you need. Write down the laundry list of job must haves. I need $x salary, health,dental and education benefits, regularly scheduled shifts to allow for childcare, a work location within an x mile radius. Document your wants (prestige, work from home) and deal breakers (dangerous work environment, high risk of downsizing).

Write it all down then research your options at or the WSJ career journal.

At the end of that research, you'll probably have narrowed you choices down to a few imperfect options. In all likelihood, you're going to need some sort of education - vocational or college to reach an acceptable target. Start volunteering or temping to get some realistic experience with your target.

By researching understanding your true options and then getting some related practical experience, you'll knock out a lot of dead-ends for you. Lots of us spent our twenties trying out different jobs and careers. You've missed the opportunity to wander aimlessly from job to job. Focusing - even though you may not be exactly perfectly on-target - is a good way to start.

Good luck - and rock on with make positive changes for you and your child.
posted by 26.2 at 2:27 PM on October 7, 2008

Wow. Don't listen to wfrgms. A lot of people have writing skills, true -- on Metafilter. In the real world, not so much. If you do, you're golden.

I am a tech writer. I describe what I actually do in this excellent question. In my fields -- Science and Engineering -- people are smart and educated, but most can hardly write at all. Or run a Word macro, or make a decent Powerpoint, or Photoshop a picture.

I never took a writing class after freshman composition (though I do have a BS... in Biology), and I fell into it through temping. I got my first tech-writing job before I had my bachelors. So can you. It paid shit (32K). So will yours, but better than minimum wage. It was Experience and I had a blast. I got my degree sorted, and have a much better job now.

Go for it. It's totally doable. The world needs your skills.

And get that degree, in anything. Just the paper will make you qualified for a lot more jobs, regardless of the skills you have. I'm a single mother, too -- who like you had pretty much nothing but my kids when I divorced my ex, but I did not get alimony, nor, in practice, child support -- so it can certainly be done. I cried like an idiot at my graduation -- because my kids were so proud of me.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:33 PM on October 7, 2008

Er, this question.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:34 PM on October 7, 2008

I agree with the suggestions above to temp, to take community college courses, but I would encourage you to think practically for the time being. For most of us, even those lucky enough to be involved in some capacity in careers that require a fair amount of writing, writing-intense jobs are extremely competitive and scarce, even in the best of economic times.

I would discourage you from vague thoughts about a B.A. to study for the sake of studying or to one day use your writing skills in any old job you'd probably get with less of an investment in time and money following other suggestions in this thread.

My contribution is to think about what areas of the economy will not suffer in the next few years. Medicine, geriatric care, big pharma, and energy come to mind. An associates degree in medical arts (to become a medical assistant, perform medical transcription, or as someone said above, insurance work) or temp work without the associates degree energy, for instance, has great potential for growth and upwards mobility. If you really want to enter the work force sooner than later:

1) sign up with multiple temp agencies and call each one every morning until they assign you a job.
2) evaluate what industries and companies are large players in your part of the country
3) see what professional training your community college offers that might appeall to those players
4) gain accreditation or class credits in that field to make you an a) attractive long-term temp or b) permanent hire

And in the meantime as others said above, take care of yourself emotionally and mentally. Seek help to see the "you" that you project to others. You sound like an articulate, strong person who does not deserve the hard times into which you've fallen. I predict that you will be on your feet in no time. Asking this question in itself means you're ready to begin that process.

Good luck.
posted by vincele at 5:27 PM on October 7, 2008

To start it sounds like you could use a respectable, white-collar job that might have part-time hours. Bank teller? Hotel reservations person? Doctor's office secretary? Provided you are clean-cut, detail-oriented, and have a polite, can-do attitude, these might be good starting points. Even a retail clerk would be a place to start, to convince yourself that you are perfectly capable and employable. Maybe childcare?

Jobs like this usually don't require college but they will start you building a good employment history, and put a little extra money in your pocket while you think about your next move. Writing jobs are vague; start with something concrete to form a foundation, then think about education and a more-perfect job.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:13 PM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am totally with arniec's suggestion. Get out there and do some temp work. Being able to write well doesn't mean that you need to get a job writing, but I can promise you that it makes you stand out from the crowd when a terrifying number of people can't even be bothered using the shift key or spell check.

Start with temping, doing whatever office stuff you can pick up, and it will give you some confidence and help you get your foot in the door of various companies. Being reliable, well-presented, articulate, punctual, responsible and having good writing skills will get you a very long way once you have got a start somewhere, even if you begin as a filing clerk.
posted by different at 1:26 PM on October 8, 2008

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