What to do for the next six months?
March 9, 2009 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm back home, on leave from college, until September and trying to find a job that is engaging and pays relatively well.

I have been leaning towards physical labor jobs because my only previous job was doing clerical work in an office and it's not something I'm looking for again. I joined a few temp agencies focusing on light industrial and general labor work and though I haven't go on an assignment yet it seems that overwhelmingly these jobs pay near minimum wage, especially since I have no knowledge of skilled trades and slim work experience. I want to find something with the same technical lean (that is, not an office job), but that pays better, preferably around $12-15/hr. I've also been considering waiting tables. Overall, though, it seems that there aren't a lot of job openings available right now and I'm having trouble sorting this out. I'd appreciate any suggestions on what work to pursue and specific advice on how to go about that would be great. I live in Southwest Houston, by the way. Thanks.
posted by leurocristine to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd guess that waiting tables is your best bet. With "no knowledge of skilled trades and slim work experience", you're not a competitive candidate in the market you want a job in. Why do you think you deserve better than a low wage? That's a serious question, not a snarky one, and if you can answer it, you can look at industries or areas that need the things that make you deserving of money.
posted by Picklegnome at 2:50 PM on March 9, 2009

Visit www.census.gov and see if they are still hiring in your area for census jobs this year. Yes, the census is next year, but there are some temporary positions available this year. The pay — at least here in Chicago — is not bad at all. The downside to this is that the hiring window seems to have just closed for the latest round of jobs. Definitely worth a phone call to your regional office, though.

My other thought is that you might check out farmers markets nearby, if that's something you might be interested in. It's got a good component of physical labor and, while the pay isn't great, in my experience it beats minimum wage and there are certain fringe benefits. (Certain drawbacks, too.) Your best bet there is to show up and ask around at all the stands to see if anyone needs help.

Good luck.
posted by veggieboy at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2009

Dude. Do you have any idea how many people would like to do physical labor for $12-15/hr and aren't looking for a six-month stint but a permanent job? You don't even have a college degree at the moment. There are 4.4 million people unemployed right now, the vast majority of whom have more experience than you do.

I'd go to every restaurant and temp agency you can think of within fifteen or twenty minutes of your house and see if they're hiring. If you get an offer, take whatever you can get and be damned grateful. Hopefully, you can ride this out while you're in college and the job market will have rebounded when you're ready to graduate.
posted by valkyryn at 3:22 PM on March 9, 2009

Also not trying to be snarky, but depending on what market you're in, you are most likely not going to get paid nearly that much with little experience and no college degree. I live in a major city and the only people I know who get paid $12-$15/hr are those with college degrees AND at least 3-4 years of solid work experience, either while in school or afterwards. And the job market isn't even that great right now for people with degrees, as in there are lots of college grads who are unemployed and can't even get hired in jobs that pay $8/hr.
posted by fructose at 3:23 PM on March 9, 2009

Wait, you're in Houston? No way are you going to find a job that pays that well without experience, especially as there are people with experience in those trades that are willing to work for the same or less.
posted by fructose at 3:25 PM on March 9, 2009


I smell a troll. Either that or the poster has no real idea of the state of the job market, much less his viability in it.
posted by trotter at 3:52 PM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: Ok, so physical labor at that wage is unrealistic. What job could I do that is interesting and pays better?

One of the temp agencies I signed up at today offered me a catering position paying $7.50/hr. I start tomorrow. I recognize that the job market is difficult right now, but I want to find something better than that. Even if anything around $12/hr isn't possible, Can anyone recommend a job that they found rewarding when they first started working?

The question of why I deserve $12-15/hr is a good one, and the only answer that I have is that I am capable of picking things up quickly and I'm a genuinely diligent worker. But then, everyone says that. For what it's worth, I do have some additional experience in volunteering, though.

Also, Palmerpoodles, you clearly dont know my history.
posted by leurocristine at 3:53 PM on March 9, 2009

If you can score the tools, you could start your own landscaping company. Or find a neighbour or family friend who needs some serious work done in their yard and contract yourself to them.
posted by porpoise at 3:59 PM on March 9, 2009

Being quick on the uptake and diligent is great. It means that you'll probably get to keep your $7.50/hr job rather than losing it to someone who has those qualities.

By all means, keep looking around, but in all honesty, there aren't many jobs for people like you that pay much better than that, and such jobs are usually in the manufacturing and construction sectors which have, as you may have noticed, just exploded.

Look, I'm about to graduate from a top law school. I'm pulling my hair out trying to find a job, as are more than half of my classmates. I'll have both a college degree and an advanced degree, and I'm having trouble finding work. Granted, having mortgaged my soul to Citigroup, I need more money than you and thus can't just take the first thing that comes along (at $7.50/hour I couldn't even make my loan payments and pay taxes, let alone rent an apartment or, you know, eat). But even jobs that don't pay me as much as I'd like are proving quite difficult to land.

The idea that you're going to be able to land a non-commission-based job (like waiting tables) with no experience, and no education, that pays $12-15/hr, is pure fantasy. Even $10 is probably a stretch, especially if you aren't looking for something white collar. Take your catering job and be thankful.
posted by valkyryn at 4:06 PM on March 9, 2009

$12-15 an hour may be tough, but I think you may be looking in the wrong places for the job you want.

Get a lifeguard certification. Here is an opening for a seasonal lifeguard, at 9.50 per hour. I can vouch that being a lifeguard is the greatest summer job imaginable outside of professional margarita drinker, which you may be able to parlay with a lifeguard position at one of the many private clubs I am sure exist in your area. You can also supplement your income by teaching swimming lessons. The certification is a piece of cake if you are even a marginal swimmer. Look for a certification course through the Red Cross at your local pools.

Apply at UPS/FedEX. I've had friends work at FedEX for years and they really enjoyed it. You basically show up, unload a plane or truck, move things around for a few hours and take off. It looks like they start as part time at 8.50-9.50 per hour. UPS and possibly FedEX as well offers tuition reimbursement as well as full benefits. The short hours could probably be arranged to work around another job or school in the upcoming semester as well.

Home Depot/Lowe's in the lumber yard or pretty much any department (I liked the lumber yard because people knew what they wanted, and there was far less supervision out there). I did this for a summer job and it carried over into the following semester. You basically lift, forklift, and move stuff around all day long (or help customers inside). It was pretty exhausting, but entertaining at the same time. You probably won't start at $12, but I started at $9.50/hr when I was 18.

Some other ideas would be looking into Houston Parks and Rec, golf courses, and counseling for summer programs. I am sure that you'll come up with some other ideas as well.

Good luck!
posted by clearly at 5:25 PM on March 9, 2009

apologies for saying "as well" 16 million times.
posted by clearly at 5:27 PM on March 9, 2009

While I understand that the job market is terrible right now, it wasn't exactly a bed of roses last year either and I was picking up clerical temp jobs in the range of $12-$14 easy. I don't have a degree, and I didn't have much office experience. If you can deal with excel spreadsheets (and really, if you want the money, there are far, far worse things to have to deal with) you might look into clerical temp agencies of that nature. Yeah, the job market sucks but you'll never get a job like that if you don't apply.
posted by malapropist at 8:43 PM on March 9, 2009

I'd check out Indeed, a job board postings aggregator. You can specify by location, position, salary, temporary, etc. You can also make it e-mail you jobs that fit your requirements. Also, network - ask relatives and family friends if they know of anyone who might be able to use your skills/energy.
posted by xiaolongbao at 2:27 PM on March 10, 2009

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