26 year old college graduate looking for first job
May 28, 2010 10:52 PM   Subscribe

I am 26 years old and just graduated from college with a B.A. in Anthropology. I am looking for my first job.

I never worked before because I wanted to get good grades, I graduated with a 3.7 GPA. Now, I really need a full time job immediately. I have a huge college loan to pay off. Am I too old to start working now? Will I face age discrimination?
posted by pamela123 to Work & Money (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
No, you aren't going to experience age discrimination. (Age discrimination is something very different that what you think it is.) What you are going to feel though, is your painful lack of work experience. Don't worry about it though. Just be good at what you do and you'll be fine.
posted by Brent Parker at 11:16 PM on May 28, 2010

What the first comment might be trying to get at is that we don't know anything about you, where you are, what type of work you want to do, why you are concerned, and what exactly the concern is.

Based on what I can read, though, maybe you are worried about starting later than other college grads and still not having the work experience? These things happen. Have a good understanding of why you are where you are now, and adapt it to demonstrate your skills and development. If it took you six years to finish school, be able to show that you were dabbling in other fields, or took time to study abroad, or needed time to mature as a student, or whatever.

If the loans are pressing you, be prepared to take a job "for now" so you can start on your loans, though. This is a tough time to be looking in almost any field.
posted by whatzit at 11:24 PM on May 28, 2010

Response by poster: I am serious! I really need a job to pay back my student loans. I want to get an entry level job in public relations. I don't think that anyone will hire me right now because of my age. I wish I could be 18 again, because then I would have worked while I was in college.
posted by pamela123 at 11:26 PM on May 28, 2010

While it may not be 'age discrimination' in the legal sense, it would be naive to suggest that age wont be a factor. You say you never worked because you wanted to get good grades, does that mean that you've been in college for 8 years? Be prepared to explain why you're older (4-5 years?) than most other graduates you'll be competing with but no more experienced.
posted by missmagenta at 11:27 PM on May 28, 2010

You won't likely face age discrimination, but you might have a tough time explaining why you have zero job history at your age (not even a summer job at McDonalds?). You might want to start refining an answer for interviews as to why you've never worked ("I wanted to get good grades" doesn't really cut it when other people have gotten good grades while working and/or worked during the summer break).
posted by amyms at 11:29 PM on May 28, 2010

Response by poster: I would like to get a full time job as a clerk or a receptionist. I hope that I will have 3 or 4 years of experience by the time I am 30. Maybe then I could qualify for a better job, like a public relations consultant.
posted by pamela123 at 11:43 PM on May 28, 2010

A job search when you have no work experience is hard no matter how old you are. You will need persistence and an optimistic attitude to get a job. It may take a while, because that's just the nature of the beast. Hang in there.

Begin thinking about how you can explain what you bring to the table, to a potential employer. Read previous threads here about interviewing.

Talk to your college's career office about their tips for job hunters. They may be able to review your resume with you, etc.

Tell everybody you know (in your city) that you're looking for work.

You may end up taking unpaid work initially to build your network or portfolio. Maybe you can volunteer with a charity, writing up information for their website, or that sort of thing. Look around for opportunities.

You might try working with a temp agency to build experience.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:49 PM on May 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: So, do I have to jump out of the window? If it was possible, I would have traveled back in time. I was a part time student and it took me 7 years to get my Bachelors. I just never thought about working while I was in college.
posted by pamela123 at 12:05 AM on May 29, 2010

Obviously you don't need to jump out of a window (?!), but you will have to prepare to explain how you spent your time if you were only a part-time student who wasn't working. Were you parenting instead? Someone's caregiver? Anything to reasonably explain it should be fine...
posted by asciident at 12:15 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you were only part-time, what did you do in the rest of the time? Usually part-time student are working (even more so that full-time students) or have other commitments that mean they can't study full time.
I think you're being rather melodramatic. You will have a harder time than average getting a entry level graduate job but it will be even harder if you have no answers to these questions or your answer is to just be a drama queen about it.
posted by missmagenta at 12:15 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, assuming they were government student loans, you should be able to defer them until you're employed. Check your lending terms or perhaps with your school's financial aid department.
posted by asciident at 12:18 AM on May 29, 2010

pamela123, you asked "Am I too old to start working now?", but of course, the answer is "you have to start working now, so it doesn't matter how old you are". Don't worry about whether you're too old. Just start thinking about how you're going to tackle the job search.

Here are some useful past questions:

-how do I get work with a temp service?
-what questions will I be asked in an interview for a public relations job?
-what are unusual or interesting questions I might be asked during a job interview?

You can browse by "tag", for example here are all the questions tagged jobsearch.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:19 AM on May 29, 2010

Response by poster: I am 26 and still living with my parents, my family is Russian. They always told me that I shouldn't worry about getting a job until I finish college. Right now, my parents are very happy that I
graduated with a high GPA. They want me to find a good job, start living on my own, and get married.
posted by pamela123 at 12:28 AM on May 29, 2010

No one will likely know you're 26. Your resume will say: 2010 BA, Anthropology. There probably won't be any other clues as to your age and there's no reason to volunteer any. You're a recent college grad, and will likely "pass" as being close in age to other recent grads. While it puts you at a disadvantage, you are not the only recent grad who has never held a real job. An internship is well within your reach.
posted by the jam at 12:28 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know you're twenty-six, but does it really matter for the person interviewing you? You recently graduated college, end of discussion. People looking for clerks/receptionists aren't going to be worried about how old you are (and might in fact see you as being more stable/mature for having a couple of years on the usual crop of college kids), but the lack of work experience is certainly a challenge. Were you involved with any groups? Even if it wasn't "officially" volunteer work, maybe you helped organise events or raise money? Or some kind of field work for the anthropology degree? In any case, you'll need some kind of confident answer that tells them why you're a reasonable bet.
posted by teremala at 12:33 AM on May 29, 2010

Temp agency.

You probably picked up a few office skills as a college student.

Sometimes your first gig will be a one-shot deal that has nothing to do with anything. They just want to make sure you can show up and make an effort. My temp agency (years ago) first set me up cleaning a college stadium after a game. I showed up, cleaned up a lot of crap, got paid, and then got assigned to a "real" job.

Competition is tough; if you sign up w/multiple temp agencies and don't get anything quick, start volunteering somewhere. It's connections, it's experience, it's proof to a prospective employer you weren't just sitting around getting high and playing Wii once school was out.

Oh, and the age thing? Like others have noted, they likely won't even know your age until you get hired. Don't sweat it.
posted by codswallop at 12:48 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

No one will likely know you're 26. Your resume will say: 2010 BA, Anthropology.

You know you're twenty-six, but does it really matter for the person interviewing you? You recently graduated college, end of discussion.

These are good points. In fact, I think it's illegal for an interviewer to ask your age. So, basically you just need to overcome the lack of job experience. Does your college/university offer job placement assistance? If so, start there. If not, send out resumes for anything and everything you think you might be interested in, and get something under your belt. As soon as you've got some experience, you'll be able to jump off from there (no jumping out the window, though!)
posted by amyms at 1:00 AM on May 29, 2010

In fact, I think it's illegal for an interviewer to ask your age.

Yes, but don't be too surprised if you're asked to fill out a regular job application (in addition to bringing your resume), and in the "Education" section the application contains a space for your high school name and graduation date, which can essentially allow them to do the math about your age when compared against your college graduation date (i.e., they'll see that you graduated college eight years after high school, rather than the more typical four or five).

You could conveniently forget to put in your h.s. graduation year, of course; I suspect if they're particularly interested in you as a candidate, that kind of omission probably wouldn't be held against you. But just a heads-up.
posted by scody at 1:11 AM on May 29, 2010

Age is irrelevant. My grandmother graduated college when she was in her 50's. Not only did she get a job, but she became a thought leader in her field.

The lesson there? It's not what you ARE that matters. It's what you DO.

Being Russian? Irrelevant. Anthropology degree? Really irrelevant. Your 3.7 GPA? That's average these days (I graduated two years ago and ~ 3.7 was the median grade for my class -- that means half of the students had a higher GPA). So what can you DO? Can you write? Can you draw? Can you make a wicked presentation? Can you formulate a problem, design a solution, write a proposal to enact the solution, deliver the proposal remarkably and mobilize a base to implement the proposal?

The real question you need to be asking is, "What can I DO with my skills?" and "What do I know that no one else knows, and how can I get paid for knowing it?" and "If I had to do one thing every day for the rest of my life, what would it be?" and "How can I help people around me?"

Also, I hope I'm not remiss in assuming that you volunteered a whole lot with all your free time during school. Supposing you have, you probably made some connections. Start calling them. Call in every favor you have to get recommended to the people who hire people.

That's your only shot (besides blind luck). You're competing against: 1) Overqualified, recently unemployed 35 year old parents who will sell their souls to feed their children; 2) the half of my graduating class that had a better GPA than you, volunteered, worked their asses off, made connections and know what they want to do, and 3) super creative people who know how to market themselves remarkably.

Each of those people is likely better positioned than you. Ergo, work on positioning yourself better than them. Find your competitive advantage, figure out precisely what you want to do so you don't waste time prevaricating about, and target all your energy at getting that. Read books and articles on job skills, on self-marketing, on new media, on getting along with people, on being wicked smart, and anything else that's going to make you a complete, remarkable human being.

PS. Re: your question as written. Improve your language skills. Nothing's going to get your resume tossed in the trash faster than an obvious inability to communicate clearly. Especially at a PR firm.

PPS. I just gave you 15 minutes of quality advice. The people above gave you more than that. Do remember to say thank you. We may be the connection to the job you need.
posted by Galen at 1:15 AM on May 29, 2010 [7 favorites]

scody said: Yes, but don't be too surprised if you're asked to fill out a regular job application (in addition to bringing your resume), and in the "Education" section the application contains a space for your high school name and graduation date, which can essentially allow them to do the math about your age when compared against your college graduation date (i.e., they'll see that you graduated college eight years after high school, rather than the more typical four or five).

That's a good observation, but most up-to-date job applications don't have a space for date of graduation (that violates the whole "we're not allowed to ask for your age" thing) but if you happen to run across an archaic application that does have a space for a graduation date, leave it blank.

The only place on a job application where dates are relevant is for employment history, which in the OP's case is moot as this point.
posted by amyms at 1:26 AM on May 29, 2010

at* this point
posted by amyms at 1:28 AM on May 29, 2010

You're not too old, and I think the reasons you gave above would go part way to explaining to any employer who asks why you lack paid work experience. As you suggested, you lived with your parents and they did not encourage you to seek a job, but now that you've graduated they support your job search and you're eager to get work. Sounds better to me than assuming that you just didn't want to work or lacked interest.

I said part way because thinking as a prospective employer interviewing you, I'd still wonder why you went part-time. If it was an issue of finances, learning disabilities, lack of required classes for your major, or something else, you'll need to offer that info if you're asked, so think about how to explain it.

Also, we all acquire some skills along the way. Maybe you've never been paid for yours yet, but if you speak/read Russian, play an instrument, can tutor younger students (whose parents might want to hire someone with a good GPA), etc., then you can start charging for those services and gaining experience while you're looking for full-time work.
posted by PY at 2:17 AM on May 29, 2010

Do not do anything until you read this book. It's written for people just like you.
Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? A Crash Course in Finding, Landing and Keeping Your First Real Job.
posted by meerkatty at 5:38 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Somewhere in the book I just mentioned above, will be a way to deal with the question of why it took you so long to finish your degree. The thing is, most people going into professional work (ie. not highly skilled work like graphic design or IT etc.) have a Bachelors degree - it's a measure of competency. What's not so competent is that it took you 7 years to get a 4 year degree and apparently have no work experience to boot.

You must have an answer to the question: What took so long, why weren't you working, and what were you doing in all that other time? (Yes, your resume will indicate that you graduated in 2010, but I was asked how long my BA took me in every job interview I went on after I finished it.) You probably have a very good reason: family obligations, etc. But know your answer.

I really do recommend the book - it tells you how to deal with a ton of realistic problems that shouldn't matter when it comes to skills and your ability to do a job, but do: like gaps in employment when you were depressed, being overqualified, being overweight in a job interview, being a little older, etc. Good luck!
posted by meerkatty at 5:49 AM on May 29, 2010

There are different ways to present a resume rather than the standard of listing your education and your job experience. Look into skill-based resumes for another way of demonstrating your worth to a company. Also look into meeting with a career counselor who could help you set up a resume and discover what skill sets you have from your degree and other life experiences.
posted by pised at 7:27 AM on May 29, 2010

When I was hired at a tutoring agency, literally all they asked me was "Can you send us proof of your B.A.? Legal U.S. resident? Yes? Then you're hired." I'm going to assume that other agencies are a bit more thorough, but a 3.7 GPA might be a good selling point for tutoring. Even if you're not on fire about education or about working with students, it can be good work experience.
posted by corey flood at 10:03 AM on May 29, 2010

Temp agency. Most of them will have you take a typing test, a proofreading test, a computer skills test, have your own car, and will want you to be ready to take a job at the drop of a hat. Many of these jobs can segue into full-time employment with the company, and will pay better than working in fast food or the mall, which is why people are recommending them. Really upsell being able to talk/write fluent Russian (assuming that you can).

But I would be prepared to have a good reason for why it took you seven years to get a four year degree when you weren't working and were living with your parents. "My parents didn't want me to" isn't really all that great an excuse past teen years, even if it is true. I'm not making fun of you; it took me six years in undergrad, but in my case, it was because I kept changing majors. I had a whole song and dance about it, which changed slightly depending upon whom I was interviewing with. Once people heard logical reasons and time frames, you could almost see the relief that it wasn't because I wasn't in jail or on drugs or something. But don't get defensive, because it definitely is a reasonable question. Every job app I've seen has the "dates" section for your schools on it, so they'll be able to see how long you were in school, if not your age.

Oh, and if you do have all Federal Direct Loans, you're probably eligible for Income Based Repayment. That adjusts your loan payments after taking your monthly salary/expenses in account, so they're not as daunting.
posted by wending my way at 9:30 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

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