If you had the opportunity to start over, what would you do?
November 2, 2009 6:34 AM   Subscribe

If you had the opportunity to start over, what would you do?

I can't afford to live in Manhattan anymore. After five years of attempting to gain a steady career, it's time for me to throw in the towel.

I am 27 years old. I have a bachelor's degree. And I have freelanced for a handful of television networks for the past 5 years, mostly doing creative editorial (read: post-production) for on-air and web promos. Frankly, I can't tell if it's the fact that it's so difficult to keep a steady flow of work, or I am just generally unimpressed with the job itself, but I am burnt out. Furthermore, financially I am not making ends meet because I only get 1-2 gigs a week (which usually last a day).

What I am looking for is steady work, but my feeling is I have been working in such a niche field that my skills are not portable to other industries. I do consider going back to school for an MBA, but my undergrad GPA is a feeble 2.4 as I was battling depression during college (and still am to this day). Frankly, I am not sure if business school is the way to go. But in today's economy the lingering feeling is an MBA is one of the few masters degrees that usually pays for itself.

Considering I am split between trying to find new work in a budding or stable industry and going back to school, I have two questions:

1) What resources are available to find out where job growth is occurring? Note: I am not limiting myself to the US. If you tell me China, I ask how do I get hired there.

2) Besides US News & Reports, what resources can I use to learn about business school programs, and learn whether an MBA from an average school is worth the cost? Especially those schools who, assuming I managed to pull a kick ass GMAT score, would consider an individual with a less than stellar undergrad GPA like myself.

I have no direction, but I know I need a serious change, because the fact is relying on parents for financially support is taking its toll on how I value myself. Thanks for reading this longish post.
posted by helios410 to Work & Money (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't maintain much illusion about an MBA being the road to riches these days unless you are a top graduate from a top school. There are a lot of B school kids looking for jobs, and a lot of business folks with a lot of valuable experience out of work. I would not sign myself up for $100,000+ of debt in this economy, FWIW. It ain't what it used to be.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:53 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

My first question to you is what would you like to be doing 40 hours a week? If money wasn't an issue, what would you like to fill your time with?
(I knew at 22 that I was on the right path the day I idly started doing the lottery dream and realized that even if I won millions that day, I'd still show up for my entry level grunt job because I loved the work.)
If you are depressed, you might not be excited by much. And making a good living may weigh out to be more important than going to be an artist/mountain climber/quilter. But your first priority should be figuring out what makes you happy to be engaged in, and trying to work out a way to get paid for it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:58 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

What I or anyone else would do if we could start over -- and many of us ARE starting over right now -- is immaterial. We're not you, and we don't value what you do.

So what DO you value? As touched on above, think about what you'd like to do even if money were no object.

You'd be a fortunate person to be able to do exactly that and get paid for it, but how about something related to it? Spend some serious time thinking about what you value and how you might be able to make money doing something you value.

Hint: looking merely at degree stats and possible salaries isn't a route to happiness.
posted by meadowlark lime at 7:07 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are too many variables presented to give you genuinely good advice beyond what Admiral Haddock said. If you are battling depression and searching for a job you should be living with/near a support network if possible. If you love doing this job and want to work in the field, find a job where your support network is (local news? local ad agency?).
posted by Fuka at 7:07 AM on November 2, 2009

I wish I could help you with the degree advice, but have you considered seeking similar work in an area other than New York? I've watched my New Yorker friends struggle to make ends meat for years in their entry-level jobs. Though they're in the best city in the world, they often can't take advantage of it because of burn out and sheer exhaustion from working all the time just to make rent. Like you, many are reliant on their parents.

On the other hand, I live in a bustling southern college town where you can easily rent a one bedroom for under five hundred dollars a month. Though wages are somewhat smaller proportionally, I'm still able to maintain a much more comfortable standard of living than they are, even at an entry level salary. And there's still plenty to do here. Don't get me wrong--New York is an amazing place, but it really sounds like a big part of your problem might be that, by living in Manhattan, you are fundamentally living beyond your means.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:22 AM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ha! Ends meet rather.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:25 AM on November 2, 2009

You know what I say to thee... trust in yourself. Dig deep the fuck down and ask yourself WHO do you want to be. What makes you happy?

Do not be distracted by external things. Turn off the TV, shut off the computer, put down the iPod, turn off the radio, and close the newspapers and magazines. Don't listen to the news talking about the economy, and don't listen to the papers talking about the job growth.

Listen to what is burning in your heart and mind. You can do it.
posted by Theloupgarou at 7:26 AM on November 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

I agree with PhoBWan. Manhattan can be a burn out all on its own no matter how much money you have, but especially if you're just barely making ends meet. Maybe you need some time to explore and you could do that in a cheaper area of the country. Mefi me if you want some suggestions.Also if it makes you feel better, I know lots of people who are in their late twenties with Masters degrees who still at their entry level job and wondering "what am I doing with my life, how am I going to pay for my loans, when am I going to feel like a grown up, when am I going to get the job I want, does the job I want even exist (insert anxiety as needed)". I think it's a tough time for young people to be finding a direction, when the former "go-to-school-get-good-job-become-independent" model is clearly becoming less and less of a sure thing. It makes me feel better to know I'm not the only one.
posted by Rocket26 at 7:56 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Listen to what is burning in your heart and mind. You can do it.

Good advice. Great pep talk. But do be prepared to hear little in response. True passion is a rare thing. Education can be more than a certificate for a higher salary -- it can ignite a spark.

See also, Office Space :)
posted by GPF at 8:27 AM on November 2, 2009

Are you saddled with loans? I always told myself that if I couldn't find a way to pay for college, I'd join the Peace Corps or Americorps for a 12/24-month stint to take advantage of their loan repayment voucher programs.

Luckily, I found work as a customer service rep with a company that reimburses $10k of my tuition each year, so I'm working my way through school and thinking of it as "Yay! Decently well-paying job and free education in exchange for having shockingly little spare time!"
posted by lizzicide at 9:33 AM on November 2, 2009

Lizzicide: I'm not sure about Americorps, but Peace Corps will not actually pay back your loans for you. You can usually defer your loans and get a bit over $6k when you are finished, but that's it.

I would not recommend Peace Corps to anyone with depression.
posted by ropeladder at 10:28 AM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Moving to a cheaper locale is the best bet. Something close to a major sized city.

For short term, can you afford a weekend out of the city? Visit some friends or relatives, take some reflection time in a quietera> place. Downgrade everything you can. Move to a cheaper place, don't go out a lot, buy things only if you really need them. JC classes can be worth the time, if you want to retrain for another line of work.

If you aren't enthusiastic about business school right now, you're not going to love it if you start a program. For all the time and money a grad program represents, you should be head-over-heals with that subject.

The Bureau of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook is a good resource for U.S. stats on job growth.
posted by shinyshiny at 11:30 AM on November 2, 2009

(quiet, not quieter)

I'm starting over too, and I'm about your age. Most people I know are in shitty jobs or starting over, and we have degrees. It helps to have a stress reliever and a support network. I go running.
posted by shinyshiny at 11:32 AM on November 2, 2009

I am also starting over, but I have different reasons. It took an act of the gods to get me to take a look around and start working on my dream. Anyway, I'm back in college (at age 43) getting a BA and looking at grad school. What do I wanna be when I grow up? What I wanted to be twenty years ago before life interfered - a teacher. Specifically, I want to teach English to speakers of other languages.

I highly doubt I'll make a killing doing it; as a matter of fact, I hear the pay can be pretty bad at times. But I love to teach, and I like to teach English, and this is where I want to be.

Where do you want to be?
posted by patheral at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2009

I don't think you're in a position where taking an MBA as a generic earnings booster makes a lot of sense.

An MBA from a Top 25 school is still pretty certain to pay for itself, without you having to do a lot of planning ahead of time. An MBA from the kind of middling program you'll be able to get into if you spank your GMATs makes sense to pursue because you're at a point in your career where, to progress any further into management, or to see a significant earnings boost in the track you're on, you need an advanced degree. It doesn't make as much sense to get one because you want to change careers, and especially not because you want to change careers but haven't figured out what you want to change to.

Figure out what you want to do, and if at some point down the road you need to apply to B-School to do it, that's when you should do so. Even if that does turn out to be what you do, you'll be a far more compelling candidate if you have a story to tell about what specific goals (beyond working 40 hours a week and becoming financially independent) you're trying to get your MBA to accomplish.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:22 PM on November 2, 2009

Getting an MBA can be a reasonable way of hitting the reset button. It will certainly expand your network of weak ties which is useful for seeking out and finding new opportunities.

That said it's not a cure all and it is not for everyone. I have seen MBAs work well for two stripes of folks.

There's the first set of individuals who are investing in certification to advance in their field. These individuals have a very specific rationale for being in school and they know which classes and experiences will be most beneficial for meeting their professional development needs. In these cases, the MBA often adds a credential to the existing experience base translating into more money and greater mobility within that field across companies. The pitch, they've added education to their already strong base of experience.

The second group consists of those individuals who have a career change in mind. The career changers that make successful transitions are usually the ones that know from day one what industry they want to end up in. They spend their time taking the classes and working the network of alumni, peers, and professors which will help them prepare and position themselves for entry into the new industry. For this set of individuals high prestige programs are more useful. This is because the perceived quality of the MBA program it is one of the strongest piece of data an employer in the new industry can use to guess at potential effectiveness of the candidate.

You clearly sound like you fall into the career changer category, but it also sounds as if you don't have a strong idea of what it is you want to do. I'd have that destination firmly in mind before you plunk down the time and money for an MBA program.
posted by cheez-it at 8:19 PM on November 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

@strangely stunted trees
"An MBA from a Top 25 school is still pretty certain to pay for itself"

An MBA from a Top 5 school is still pretty certain to pay for itself.

Fixed that for you. If not top 5, top 10 max, forget about it. I have friends from the top 20 who can't find jobs. I know of big companies that won't even look at you if you don't have it from the top 5 schools.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:46 PM on November 2, 2009

I'm in NYC (Queens), a few years older, and also make my living primarily in the world of network promos post-production.
Here's some stream of consciousness advice in no particular order:
- Do not invest the time or money for B School looking for a return on your investment.
- Figure out a way to re-connect with your passion
- You still live in Manhattan and you're young- get inspired - go to MOMA, the Angelika, Film Forum, see galleries, video art, concerts, dj's, go do something out of your ordinary routine to re-invigorate your creative self.
- Look at your career from a different angle and consider expanding your skill set, there might be something that turns you on that would be new, but also makes use of your experience and contacts in the network world (don't take network connects for granted, I worked long and hard to get them and many would love to have yours, even if they don't seem to be doing much for you now. Maybe you want to shoot instead of edit, learn motion graphics, web design, etc....
- Think about starting a small business with some people in similar positions - pick your partners wisely, look for people who are honest, hard-workers, and hungry.
- To help fix your financial situation, move out of Manhattan! Pick another borough!
- You say you are looking for steady work, but our economy is changing rapidly, and "steady work" is not so easy to come by...The idea of a big corporation taking care of you for life is gone, you have to make your own way. Get motivated about something that excites you, and go for it.
- Feel free to MeFi mail me to tell me more about yourself and your skills if you want more advice from someone in a similar industry.
posted by BillBishop at 11:02 PM on November 2, 2009

Since you're in a creative job, I'm assuming that you chose it because you like doing that work. Could it be that you're not burned out but rather bored out because things are not moving, because you lack clients? How about trying to get more work by relaunching your business? It would be like starting over, but with a few years of experience to back you up.

You need to think of yourself as a brand, and start marketing your brand accordingly. Write a marketing plan, and try to stick to it. Define which clients you want. Define where those clients gather. Try to find out what they expect from a business like yours. Are there opportunities that you are missing? Do a SWOT-analysis (strenghts, weakness, opportunity, threat).

Then, start working on a better website. Go to networking events. Try to get gigs as a speaker on events in the segments where your clients are. Write a professional blog where you analyse trends and topics from your sector. Use direct marketing to reach prospects. Try to generate more leads, and try to become a better salesperson. Theres is plenty of info out there on the web to achieve all this. Even more if you count the vast number of books on Amazon that deal with these kinds of problems.

Most importantly, I think you need to see your "I don't have enough work" as a collection of small problems that you can solve one by one. One would be: positioning yourself better. Read up on that. Two would be: reaching your client base. Find some info on that and fix it. Three: pitching your business and closing sales. Again, a sea of books on the subject. Etc, etc. Give yourself a year. Work really hard at all this. After this, evaluate if things are looking better. Even if you decide to quit, you will know you gave it your best shot.
posted by NekulturnY at 3:48 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

One thing to consider with the moving idea is that wages are certainly lower elsewhere. Yes, my cost of living is cheaper in Baltimore but the job I found also pays 1/2 as much as my last job in Manhattan. YMMV.
posted by josher71 at 4:29 PM on December 27, 2009

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