I Wish I Could Go Back to College
August 22, 2009 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Would going back to school help me find a job that doesn't suck?

I'm growing increasingly unsatisfied with my job. I've known for some time that sales and telemarketing were not for me, but recently it's gotten to the breaking point. I've had several days where I very nearly walked out on the job.

Attempts to find employment in other fields have been fruitless, as well. I know the shitty economy isn't helping matters. I've mostly been trying to get a foot in the door with non-profit development, having had four years of work doing direct tele-fundraising for the performing arts. Sadly, tele-fundraising and development seem to be not as closely related as I thought. Nobody seems to want to give me the time of day in that field.

The things I want to do are stuff that my degree (in English) leave me rather unqualified for. While I know a great deal about computers, I don't have any certifications for IT work. It probably wouldn't be hard to get my A+ certification—I likely wouldn't even have to study much based on some of the practice tests I've found online—but have no idea how to get it or if it will really help. I really would like a career in graphic or web design, but I lack anything more than a course in "Introduction to Web Design" which simply taught me what I already know.

The biggest problem with going back to school, though, is that I'm already $40,000+ in debt, and struggling to pay it off.

So, what if I were to go back to school to get a degree in something useful? Would this actually help me find a job I like, or would it just pile on still more debt and not change my situation much? How can I change careers with what I have now? I absolutely refuse another sales job. I'm lost, and running low on options.

(Additional information: 25, male, BA in English, living in Philadelphia.)
posted by SansPoint to Work & Money (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I was an English major and turned to teaching middle school. Smartest move ever. Amongst all my friends, I'm the only one who LOVES going to work every day.
posted by dzaz at 6:21 PM on August 22, 2009

Check out Open University (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_University) it's a distance learning university. The tution fee for a tech bachelor (http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/computing-and-ict/index.htm) is about $2,000 per year. Good luck
posted by SamsFoster at 6:25 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

dzaz: Teaching... isn't for me, either. Honestly. I hate kids.
posted by SansPoint at 6:33 PM on August 22, 2009

Check out AmeriCorps VISTA, you can get deferment of qualified student loans, a stipend, and a bonus at the end. You can get into organizations at the ground level. I'm not seeing a lot in Philadelphia but if you're willing to relocate, it might work for you.

Consider dropping your hours to part time and volunteering somewhere else doing development work.

Good luck, I'm in a similar position and I know how much it sucks
posted by kathrineg at 6:48 PM on August 22, 2009

Figure out what job you want first, then talk to people in the field about how they got started and what are the typical entry points. It could be that school is best means to whatever end you choose, but maybe it's meeting people through professional networking, or maybe it's volunteer work, or an internship, or maybe it's starting at a lower level in a company and working your way up. Don't presume that school is always the best preparation for a new career.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:55 PM on August 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think an English degree is probably a fine background for a career in development. Have you tried networking and doing informational interviews in that field? Could you do some volunteering for some smaller non-profits that would build relevant experience? Keep in mind that being unafraid to make a direct approach can be a really good trait in a development officer.

If more education is the answer, you might want to consider doing a postgraduate certificate program specifically related to the fundraising field. If you were in Ontario I'd suggest you look at this program, for example. If there is a program like it near you, maybe you could do it part time, even taking just one course at a time -- having that on your resume might help a lot.

Good luck!
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:11 PM on August 22, 2009

If you want a career in graphic and web design, all you really need to do is setup a website with a smashing portfolio and market yourself as a freelancer. Perhaps hire a salesman on your behalf, but it sounds like you'd have some know-how about selling yourself, just from the line of work you've been in recently. For the record, and this is going to come off as harsh, but...your current website does not have a very good design, whether it was one you created or one you adapted from another. The colors do not go together well.

Going to university for IT-related stuff is pretty well pointless, I think. I did a double-major degree in multimedia and media studies. The programming I did in my degree was pretty out of date and useless, and it's a good thing I didn't rely on it for my learning. If you're truly wanting to go into IT, I recommend doing some sites of your own and sites for friends, then setting up a portfolio and business.

Another thing you might consider is combining your English degree with your love of tech. There is technical writing, copywriting and more besides. Have you ever considered those?
posted by metalheart at 7:13 PM on August 22, 2009


following my comment, I just did a little search and found a certificate program in fundraising management being offered in PA -- it's short (12 sessions) and relatively inexpensive ($625), and it starts in September. It looks like the individual classes are led by development professionals, so it would be a good chance to network as well. I don't know if this school is anywhere near you, but if I were in your shoes I'd give it (or a program like it) some serious consideration.


(note to self: research first, post second)
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:20 PM on August 22, 2009

If you want to work in nonprofit development, you should find an organization that you like and volunteer there. Help with fundraising events and grant writing. This will give you some experience, hopefully a reference, and maybe even a foot in the door if there's ever an opening there.

I would not go back to school for another degree if this is really the road you want to take. I think your BA in English is sufficient for an entry level position of this type.
posted by All.star at 7:36 PM on August 22, 2009

Can't relocate for several reasons, one major one is a lease that goes until August 2010 (just rolled over).

Since I'm barely making ends meet, as is, dropping to part time would be a bad move.

Might be able to do the Villanova thing, and it's not a bad commute from where I work. Still, that's $625 I do not have.

I've looked for writing gigs, but all the technical writing jobs I find require a degree in an actual speciality like, say, Chemistry.
posted by SansPoint at 9:06 PM on August 22, 2009

All the non-profits I ever worked for were always looking for grant writers. If you have that skill, there will probably be a few places for you.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:24 AM on August 23, 2009

Seconding grant-writing if you can take some classes. Plenty of people are trying to get money for non-profit start-ups, and need people with the ability to ask others to give up their money. Might even be able to get a foot in the door somewhere if it turns out your offer is accepted.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:07 AM on August 23, 2009

I'm 10yrs older than you.. never went to college, and have been working (making great progress) over the past 2 years to pay off over $20k in debt. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that paying off debt is my primary focus - and (in all reality) my options are pretty limited until I have zero debt. If everything goes according to plan, I should be debt free by Feb 2010-ish.. as long as I can maintain paying $1000 a month to CC's. Sucks, but I'm close enough now that its incredibly motivating.
posted by jmnugent at 12:27 PM on August 23, 2009

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