I'll take fries with that!
February 11, 2010 12:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the position of needing to find a job just of *some* variety that will provide cash for the next 18 months or so. I'm looking to work less than 40 hours a week and have at least one weekday off; accordingly, the sort of retail/restaurant work everybody else hates seems like it would be ideal. How do I convince a company that I'm a great pick when I have a graduate degree?

I'm trying to do my small business with as little debt as possible... largely because I'm already in a lot of debt and not able to take out more. I need more cash coming in than my business currently provides to make the payments on said debt. I'm okay with working long hours and most of my current don't mind things like meeting in the evenings or Saturdays, but I have one who prefers lunch meetings at some point during the week and would like to have at least one weekday free for that and any future business needs.

So I'd like to get a job working about thirty hours a week, and I'll accept minimum wage although a dollar or two more would be great. Given my debt levels, I'm willing and happy to keep up this side job for about the next year and a half, which I figured should be enough to pay off one of my credit cards and make me look much more solvent from a business perspective.

Problem: I tried applying for retail/restaurants when I was in graduate school and was across the board told I was overqualified for the positions.

When all I have is maybe a brief moment with a manager (or an assistant manager) and a corporate application to fill out, how can I spin myself as their best possible employment choice, especially in these rough economic times? I know that I work hard, learn fast, I'm good with details, and 18 months is longer than a lot of places keep staff, but I don't know how to impress these facts upon the relevant individuals.

Also, suggestions of good places to apply as far as employee treatment, availability of jobs, etc are welcome. I'm in northern Ohio.
posted by larkspur to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just tell them that you need to support yourself over the next 18 months while you start your business up.

If you think the idea of your trying to run a business might put them off, say you're writing a novel over the next 18 months.
posted by tel3path at 1:02 PM on February 11, 2010

You don't have to tell them you have a graduate degree if that's what's keeping you from being hired.
posted by amyms at 1:06 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

You seem to have a sense for the average turnover these places have. Try to get some more definitive numbers (maybe annual reports if they are owned by a publicly held company?) and come armed with that. If every place is telling you that you are over-qualified, why not confront that head on while you can still make a case for yourself?

Perhaps something along the lines of:
"I am fully aware that my background typically makes me overqualified for this sort of position, however I am looking for exactly this sort of part-time job at the moment, and given that I envision needing such a job for approximately the next 18 months, that is a lot longer than your average "just-qualified" hire is likely to last. I am intelligent, have great people skills, can learn the required job skills very quickly, and work efficiently with a minimum of supervision, in short I am your perfect employee. Plus, I'm not looking for anything above your standard pay."

If they respond negatively to that, they are idiots (which is entirely possible given the nature of the positions you are applying for). By bringing this up initially, like I said, you will have an opportunity to actually discuss your over-qualification with them versus just being rejected with that as a reason with no opportunity to respond.
posted by Elminster24 at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

Make up something about some sort of external obligation--you can tell them you're taking day classes on the day of the week you want off. You don't want to get too overblown though--if you tell them you need to keep yourself free for a sick relative or something it might be too much of an obligation.

I'd suggest you do pizza delivery, if you can find a place that will provide you with a car. It's low-stress, they need you most evenings and Saturdays (for me I couldn't have worked weekdays before evening if I wanted to) and tips are pretty strong.

(If you apply for a tipped position you can also tell them you're doing it because you want a job with a direct correlation between performance and compensation).
posted by dervish at 1:09 PM on February 11, 2010

Have you thought about part time at a financial institution if any are hiring? I think Wells Fargo and B of A are always hiring because of turnover. But many of those places offer part time hours, are looking for people with degrees and have okay pay. You might also be able to make some business connections off of it as well.
posted by Polgara at 1:11 PM on February 11, 2010

I don't see why in the world you even need to mention graduate school if you're applying to service jobs. just leave it off the application. Most service industry places you won't even need to submit a resume. If you do, a graduate degree really won't help, but everything else you said about learning fast and being quick on your feet will be perfect.

Being a hostess at a restaurant might also be a good place to start. They probably do pay close to minimum wage, but you won't need any waitressing experience. And you might be able to work your way in fairly quickly. Waiting tables can be awesome and good money. I know folks who make between 15-20/hour (in a town where lots of people only make 10/hour or less)
posted by Rocket26 at 1:17 PM on February 11, 2010

Taking a job where you get tips is the best bet--you're doing the same hard work, might as well get paid more than minimum wage. If you have additional skills (ie: bartending) you can make even more money with flexible hours. If they have casinos in your area and you can get a job as a dealer you can make $25+ an hour (at least that is the going rate at the casinos by where I live). Also, I would leave the whole college degree thing off of your application--since it is a part time, temporary gig what is the worst that can happen if they find out?
posted by MsKim at 1:21 PM on February 11, 2010

My suggestion is that you take a two week class at a local bartending school, get a certificate, and look for work as a bartender. You will probably make more than you would as a waiter (without years of relevant experience), and you can demonstrate that you have the necessary training. There's no need to write about your graduate degree on your application, although you might need to come up with an answer to the "why do you want this job" question, which could be anything from paying off student debts to the fact that you're not making enough at your other part-time job. The hours are flexible, you'll make significantly more than minimum wage, and if you don't like the idea of working at a bar or club, apply at restaurants that serve liquor.

I would also not announce "I'll be quitting in 18 months" when you apply. While these industries do have pretty high turnover, there's no need to let them know you have an expiration date - that's a completely reasonable amount of time to work at one place, and all you have to do is give your two weeks' notice before you check out.
posted by unsub at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2010

You shouldn't have too much trouble getting a part-time job in a bookstore with an advanced degree and availability all but one day a week. If there is any way you can say your availability is completely open, that would be even better. You would wind up with lots of days open and usually know two weeks in advance when they would be. It's probably not the best pay you can find; on the other hand it is not nasty work and the employee discount might be useful to you.

(When I say you shouldn't have much trouble, I am referring to the general attitude bookstores seem to have about hiring. I imagine it's a little harder to get any retail job right now than it used to be. Lots of people working those kinds of jobs now to get a little extra money or because they were laid off from other jobs.)
posted by BibiRose at 1:33 PM on February 11, 2010

A lot of kitchens will hire dishwashers/prep cooks/general back-of-the-kitchen people under the table. As you might expect, these are pretty easy jobs to get, and they will not be asking you about a grad degree.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:34 PM on February 11, 2010

Take a look at temporary agencies. The ones near me seem to have much better office jobs for individuals with degrees than individuals without them. Most of the time working part-time is an option, and I think you'll likely get more than minimum wage.
posted by mjcon at 4:47 PM on February 11, 2010

If you want to get a job at a restaurant (or in retail), my advice is to say the exact opposite of what Elminster24 suggested (No offense, Elminster24). Don't mention your being overqualified, or the 18 months, or the turnover rate- they won't care about your graduate degree and you definitely don't want to give the impression that you think you're too good for the job. Ask for an application, ask to talk to the manager, and say that you're interested in the job because you enjoy working with people and like the restaurant (or bookstore or whatever) environment, and that you need to earn some extra money working around 30 hours a week and your schedule is flexible. Smile, be friendly, confident, and relaxed, and mention that you're reliable and a quick learner. If you don't hear back within a week, call or stop back in to follow up (this is very important- this is how you get hired). Often restaurants won't hire servers who lack experience, so you can say you'd be willing to work as a host(ess) or as back of the house (food prep, dishwashing, etc) staff.

Other places to look- pizza delivery, SAT/GRE prep course teaching (Kaplan is one example). I also think the bartending and temping suggestions are good ones.
posted by emd3737 at 8:29 PM on February 11, 2010

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