what's a good job for someone who isn't great at anything?
August 30, 2010 3:09 PM   Subscribe

College senior here. What's a good job for someone that really isn't that good at anything?

Longtime lurker, first time asker. I'm about to start my senior year in college as a Communications major and I feel so behind. I have no clue what I want to do with my life (and don't say 'you have the rest of your life to figure it out' because that's a bunch of BS. I'm going to graduate soon and will need to get a job and pay back loans and pay rent and all that. I can't pay rent with thoughts about the rest of my life). I haven't done any internships so far so I know I'm behind my peers in that regard. I'm aware that internships are not only essential experience-wise, but also to find out what you really want to do. I have been trying to find one for fall via craigslist and indeed.com (but nothing beyond an interview thus far) in marketing or PR.

The fact that I'm not incredibly talented in anything and I'm indecisive as heck is not helping me decide. I keep thinking about different things that I would want to do, ranging from being a flight attendant/airline pilot, lawyer, or simply working a low-wage pencil-pusher job because I really don't think I can do much better.

What I currently would like to be is a fashion publicist because I love fashion and want to work in the entertainment industry. Being a publicist would be a more behind-the-scenes-but-not-hidden-in-an-office/showroom job and I like that idea. When I started researching this, I found a snafu in my 'greatest job ever' idea. Apparently you have to be a good writer to be a publicist. I guess I should've been a publicist when I was younger, because I was an awesome writer then and I loved it! Now, notsomuch. I really dislike writing-- or at least college-level writing. I just don't get how to write properly, like MLA format and citations and all that and when I try to learn (usually because a paper is due) it feels like torture. I imagine formatting and citations would be quite important to a publicist.

Before the whole fashion publicist thing, I wanted to be a copywriter for a long time. I figured the whole format thing wouldn't be a big deal there because it's more creative. I was just (and still am) kind of in love with whole Mad Men Madison Avenue bigshots coming up with awesome ad campaigns thing, even though it's likely unrealistic.

I really need to pick a job so I have something to work towards. I would like to work both with others and alone because although I'm an introvert, I think its still good to bounce ideas off other people and whatnot. I could NOT have a job where I work at home because I know I would get nothing done. I'm big on planning things, making lists, and following schedules. I would rather be supervised/managed than not, at least in the beginning. Do NOT want to have to wear business suits to work (I figured a fashion publicist can wear whatever as long as its fashionable and professional-looking, please correct me if I'm wrong). I also would like a job that pays well (of course not right out of school). And I mean well as in being able to send future kids to private schools, own a beautiful home, able to buy Louboutins once a year or so (LOL). And yes, I would love to have a job that I enjoy so much that it doesn't even feel like work. A job that would allow me to travel would be fabulous. Does such a job exist beyond my dreams? If anyone out there is a publicist, can you share what a day in your life really is like?

Please help me catch up! Snarky commenters need not post :)
posted by lovelygirl to Work & Money (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Don't worry about being "incredibly talented" - just look at the things you have a knack for, to help you narrow down the field. And think less about the images you might have of the workplace, that's just a distraction and unrealistic to boot.

What things do you do pretty well? Writing, drawing, organizing....
What things do you enjoy doing? Working with text, art, people....

Think about professions where these two things intersect. Then look at the market in those fields - are there any jobs right now? Where, physically, is work in that field likely to be located? These aspects will narrow things down again.

One thing you might want to do is temp for a while. Temping is great while you're thinking things out, and also very handy in that it will expose you to a lot of real-world working environments and job types. Be a great temp - i.e. don't treat it like a McJob - and people will remember you kindly and voila, industry contacts for future jobhunting.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:16 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and if there's anything like a career counselor at your place of study, talk to them! The field of work I ended up in after leaving college was a perfect fit for me, but I hadn't even known it existed.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 3:20 PM on August 30, 2010

'you have the rest of your life to figure it out' because that's a bunch of BS. I'm going to graduate soon and will need to get a job and pay back loans and pay rent and all that

erm . . . you have the rest of your life to figure it out. Really. I'm basically your age, was a liberal arts major, and only recently became realistic about my career goals. I don't have the source, but people in our generation are anticipated to change careers around 7 times in our life times - that's careers, not just jobs. Your first job out of college won't be the one you die with. Your first professional position won't set you in a die-hard mold that you are forced to follow for the next 60 years. Find a job that pays for your loans, keep applying to other jobs that you are interested in your free time, take a breath and realize that you do, in fact, have the rest of your life to figure out.

For now, since you have a year left of school, my advice is: Stop thinking about "what do I want to be when I grow up" and start thinking about "What can I be now so I can get to someplace I want to be later". Right now you can find a student job on campus. You can get office experience, customer service experience, marketing experience, or any number of things. Start putting things on your resume now so you wont have to worry about the blank spaces after you graduate.
posted by Think_Long at 3:20 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yes, don't give up on the fashion publicist or any publicity job. The writing is nothing like academic writing. It's more conversational and descriptive, very much like the question you wrote. You can write.
posted by lee at 3:23 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I want to second the temping suggestion. Temping has lead to some of my best jobs, and certainly gave me the best contacts. I have not needed to wear a business suit outside of board meetings in my working adult life.

Figure out what you like doing by doing different things, and then worry about the things like sending fictitious children to private school. I finally got a job that pays enough to buy things like Louboutins, right around the time I realized that I like money in the bank more. It took me 10 years of working to find a career that was the right fit for me. Don't be in a rush. Find something to do now that uses your skills, and go from there.
posted by Zophi at 3:28 PM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: Ok, on one level you don't have the rest of your life to figure it out. You need to get a job in nine months or so. You're right about that.

On another level, you do have the rest of your life to figure it out. You don't have to spend the rest of your life in the job that you get in nine months. If you hate it, you can regroup. What you do need to do is overcome your paralysis so you can get your first job and start figuring it out.

Ok, so you have an idea. You would like to be a fashion publicist. Great! Now you need to find some fashion publicists to talk to. They can tell you what skills and training are required for the job. So start asking everyone you know whether they know any fashion publicists. Do they know any publicists in areas other than fashion? That might be a start. Go to your college's career center and see if they have a list of alumni who will talk to students. Are any of them fashion publicists? How about other kinds of publicists?

My very strong sense is that "fashion publicist" is a job that is done by rich, pretty young women who are heavily subsidized by their parents. But I could be wrong about that. You need to start networking so you can find out.

As you begin to network, keep your ear open for other jobs that sound interesting. Ask everyone you talk to whether there's anyone else they know who you should talk to. Ask what they think the exciting jobs in their industry are.

You shouldn't be asking anyone for a job right now. You should just be gathering information, making contacts, and getting your name and resume out there.
posted by craichead at 3:28 PM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I worked in PR for a while, and my mom has worked in PR for the better (loosely defined) part of four decades. While I can attest that the veteran flacks can turn a phrase like no one's business, the many, many young people who come through are often (forgive me, I don't mean you, OP) dumb as shit. They can't write, they can't speak, they can't think. Judging from them, I really don't think you should give up your dream of being a fashion publicist just because you don't think you're talented enough. Fake it until you make it. My mom (who dropped out of college after one or two semesters) started in the biz as a secretary to a music publicist in the mid 1970s and ended up repping some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Anything's possible.

The caveat is that even those lower-rung jobs are pretty competitive and pay next to nothing. You also will likely be expected to look fabulous if you're fashion PR (though I've been amazed at the finery of the low-level flunkies at my mom's old firm, too). It goes without saying that you have to be in NY or LA, for the most part--not sure where you're located.

It's a tough row to hoe, but don't count yourself out by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:30 PM on August 30, 2010

Instead of looking for a job that will be your ideal job, how about looking for a job that will help you figure out what your ideal job is?

For example, if you think you might like to work in the fashion industry, get yourself any old entry level job in fashion, and use it to find out all about the industry and see what kind of other jobs are available.

Find a company that's interesting or an industry that's interesting or a skill you think you'd like to learn. See if you can get a job that will enable you to find out more, and will pay the bills while you do that.
posted by emilyw at 3:33 PM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: You don't have to be a good writer to be a publicist. You have to be good at connecting with people, selling your product without seeming to sell a product., good at social media, and good at taking directions from a zillion different people. Vogue likes to hire pretty rich girls, but plenty of people in fashion never went to college. Don't worry about not being Alist.

Formatting and citations are meaningless to publicists. I get dozens of weird emails from publicists on a daily basis, and the best ones are short, have a couple of photos of the product and a link to a decent website.

So--do you have a blog? Do you have a lot of Twitter followers? If not, get with it. Start a fashion blog, comment on other people's blogs. Julie Frederickson started Coutorture from her own blog, and then sold it to PopSugar.

Fashion is all about contacts, so I'd start by seeing who you know that works in fashion. They can be in retail, wholesale, legal, accounting--whatever. Build on those contacts to get more, and then to work yourself into an internship or even a retail job. Fashion is about selling merch. At the end of the day, no matter how many celebrities are wearing your client's products, the client wants to move merch.

If you're not reading WWD (not W) and the business news about fashion, you should start. While liking cute shoes is great, knowing the profit margin on a pair of Manolos is better.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:46 PM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: I think the temping thing is something that I can definitely do, and it's actually something that I've thought of in the past. I'll keep it in mind come spring.

@emilyw-- As silly as it sounds, I decided I wanted to be a fashion publicist after working as a sales associate in a store. That'll be a funny story to tell people if I decide to follow this path.

@Ideefixe-- I actually created a blog but never made any posts. I just don't know what to write about! There are already so many blogs on shopping on a budget, shopping for certain sizes, in certain areas, styles, etc. that I'm at a loss for something new and unusual! There are even blogs on nail polish! But you are right, I need to think of something and start writing.

@Admiral Haddock-- thanks for some insight! It's always good to hear from people who have worked in the industry. And yes, I am in NYC so location is not an issue! Would it be okay if I MeMailed you in the future about any PR-related questions?

Thanks everyone for your advice! 'Tis appreciated.
posted by lovelygirl at 4:01 PM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I'm a publicist at an agency in NYC and have worked with a wide range of clients including science, medical, beauty, retail and yes, fashion for about 15 years.

Where are you located?

I'm prepping for Fashion Week at the moment and time is tight, so I may wind up expanding on this comment within the next day or two. But I can touch on a few points right now:

Decent writing skills are important in PR, but they're not absolutely essential. As lee wrote, we can see from this post that you can write well. You would primarily be writing press releases and pitch letters as well as reports for clients. There's a lot of creativity required, but perhaps not along the lines that you might expect.

You don't need to know how to cite sources to write a press release. Traditional press releases have a specific style (see PR Newswire's archive for examples,) that is very similar to the inverted pyramid style used by journalists. Citing your sources is less important than just being honest.

Join the PRSSA now. Membership is just $50 for students. They are invaluable. They can and will point you towards written resources which will tell you about the industry, help you learn what skills you need to improve or hone, and you'll make contacts who will be able to assist you later, when you're ready to find a job.

Speak to your school counselors. See if your school has an internship program that can hook you up with a PR firm. Public relations is different in every industry -- the work I do in medical PR is very different than what I do for retail, or in beauty. But some things are universal.

I was pre-med. I dropped out of college during my sophmore year because my father died. I didn't go back until i was already working as a publicist. What degree you have matters less than your intelligence, knowledge, manners and ability to sell and persuade. A lack of a college degree may make moving up a corporate ladder more difficult, but it won't stop you from doing your job.

Some basics: Know social media backwards and forwards. If you're not on Twitter and Facebook, get accounts now. Set up and start writing a blog about some aspect of the fashion industry. It will help you improve your eye for clothing and accessories and allow you to explore the history of trends and designs. A large part of Fashion PR is explaining how a particular look compares to those that have come before it.

You have an opportunity coming up in 2 weeks: Fashion Week in New York. So cover the shows from afar. Photos of the collections are available at Style.com within 24 hours of each runway show. If you want to work as a fashion publicist, you're going to have to know what matters to the people who cover it.

If you're interested, I can put together and email you a list of blogs to keep an eye on.

It helps to be outgoing and friendly. You should be able to communicate well verbally and be able to handle rejection. Leave your ego at the door, especially at first. Expect long hours. Expect a lot of grunt work. Don't expect to make a lot of money right away.

You should be able to sell *anything* and think on your feet. I'm very introverted, which has made this career quite challenging. But it hasn't stopped me.

If you're in fashion, you will need to be able to dress well. Perhaps not suits depending on where you work. But well groomed and put together. And also, (it's sad, but true) fashion is a superficial, looks-based industry. Being overweight can be a barrier to being hired, especially for women.

Please feel free to memail me.
posted by zarq at 4:24 PM on August 30, 2010 [7 favorites]

I really dislike writing-- or at least college-level writing. I just don't get how to write properly, like MLA format and citations and all that and when I try to learn (usually because a paper is due) it feels like torture. I imagine formatting and citations would be quite important to a publicist.

I, by contrast, assumed the opposite. So let us assume nothing. Investigate and find out for sure.

@Ideefixe-- I actually created a blog but never made any posts. I just don't know what to write about! There are already so many blogs on shopping on a budget, shopping for certain sizes, in certain areas, styles, etc. that I'm at a loss for something new and unusual! There are even blogs on nail polish! But you are right, I need to think of something and start writing.

Are any of the other blogs new and unusual? Novelty is clearly not a prerequisite. Same as genre fiction. It ain't the material, it's how you put it out there. So you start by sounding derivative, in time, things occur to you that are less so, perhaps even new and unusual. And if the first one fails, start another. Then another.

What distinguishes the successes is as much animal energy, a refusal to be denied, as mere talent.

(Long post from someone who "really dislikes writing." I think you are lying!)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:49 PM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: Take a job teaching English in Korea. Hours are good, cost of living is low, anyone with a passport from an English speaking country, a 4-year degree, and a face can get a decent job here. Seoul and Daegu have extremely vibrant fashion industries, you'd probably want to explore what's around those places. Seoul is also really trying to amp up its image as a center of "design" and fashion, and is in fact, where much of Asia now looks to see what's hip.

While teaching English does not require much travel, Korea is a great jumping off point to explore eastern Asia. Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo (and even Vladivostok, if you're curious) are under two hours from Seoul.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:49 PM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: You could write press releases for small businesses.
Is there a business you like ? Why wouldn't they like a free press release ?
Starting a conversation here is good. Start talking with people in businesses you are interested in.
posted by llc at 4:56 PM on August 30, 2010

You know what? I think the "find what you like to do" myth is BS. People like to do what they're good at. It's that simple. Kids that are good at basketball like to play basketball; kids that suck at it would rather do something else. Shitty plumbers hate their jobs. A master plumber will talk your ear off all day about pipes and whatnot. The trick is, liking your job is the effect not the cause, of being good.

So all you have to do is find something you don't HATE. Do it at the entry level for a while, but instead of just doing it as a job, do it to be the best damn whatever in the history of whatever-ing. You'll start to like it.

As you do it, you'll become interested in maybe an offshoot or specialty of whatever it is. Now you're in a position of having a good reputation and a foot in the door (already working in the field) to move into that. Also be the best at that.

As a specific suggestion it sounds like you haven't in your wildest dreams considered, and since you're good at organizing things, maybe you would like being a project supervisor or general contractor of some sort, coordinating all the trade people to work together to get something made. Although hard hats aren't exactly fabulously fashionable, you wouldn't wear a suit to work ;)
posted by ctmf at 6:45 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think you're going to have to do the boring academic writing outside of academia, so don't worry about that one.

When people say that you have your entire life to figure out work, that's because one way or another you'll end up job hopping. Odds are pretty high you'll end up temping or being an assistant or some such out of college if you're lucky (or moving home with no job if you aren't), so at that point "get a job, any job" is going to be your priority.

I think what you may need to do is a 2-point plan: get internship/job experience, as much as you can in anything, now. And research how one gets into the fashion industry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:19 PM on August 30, 2010

While obviously mla citations are not required outside of academia, copywriting will require you to shape your writing according to someone else's needs and requirements. You sound quite fed up with that kind of thing... Assuming that it is the fiddliness and not the act of citing that bothers you! If you want a job where your creativity is valued independently of the needs of the market/your tutors you might want something else? It's a bit hard to say without knowing what you really don't like about academic writing. Unless you actually really particularly dislike mla!
posted by man down under at 12:26 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: What's a good job for someone that really isn't that good at anything?

This is not the attitude of a publicist (at least, not the one they let anyone see). Publicists have to sell other things/ideas/people, and in order to do that, they also have to sell themselves. The skills you describe match a lot of PR people I know, but you have to overcome or at least hide insecurities, lack of confidence, and, arguably, modesty.
posted by whatzit at 10:55 AM on August 31, 2010

Response by poster: So many great answers! Thanks all!
posted by lovelygirl at 3:52 PM on April 10, 2011

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