No, Really, What do you do with a BA in English?
October 13, 2010 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Give my seemingly futile job search some direction, please!

Okay, if you've read my Ask MeFi history, you know my story: worked a telemarketing gig during college, ended up with a telemarketing gig after graduating college, got fired from telemarketing gig, and can't seem to get the time of day for anything other than sales jobs.

I've mostly been applying for non-profit jobs in Development, as I've done direct fundraising solicitation by phone at my part-time gig. I had an interview, one interview, for a job of that nature—or any job—after seven months of searching. Well, more than seven if you count the job hunting I did before I got fired...

I'm not really sure what else to apply to. Here's my current résumé, if it helps... (.doc format)

I could apply for other stuff, but the only things I can think of that I qualify for are basic clerical jobs. I've considered Technical Writing, but man, nobody seems to want a Technical Writer that doesn't have a degree in a specialized field. I've got a degree in English.

I don't know what I'm looking for in a job, really. I'd prefer something semi-creative, but all I really know is that I'm happiest when I have a job that I can come in, and do something, and it stays done (within reason.) I like having the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing something—which is part of why I hated sales and telemarketing so much. I'm an INTJ, if that helps too.

Also, please, please, please, please, please do not suggest teaching. I have a lot of respect for teachers, mostly because I know I couldn't hack it in that kind of job.

Also, I don't have a car or drivers license, if that has any bearing on the discussion...

So, what should I be applying for? What jobs can an English Major with limited experience and education qualify for? More to the point, how can I finally get my foot in the door and at least get an interview?!
posted by SansPoint to Work & Money (42 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, that's a resume for a sales job. It says so right up front. You could totally tweak it to have a communications focus and start looking at marketing-type gigs where you get to work on websites and write a lot of copy. That would give you a broader base of experience for non-profits, particularly the littler ones who need people who can do more than one thing.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:48 AM on October 13, 2010

seeking an new position in Philadelphia

Typo, second line.

I agree with restless_nomad that you have to tailor your resume for the jobs you're applying for.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:50 AM on October 13, 2010

restless_nomad: How can I make it a communications-focused résumé? I mean, that's just my general résumé, and it's going to reflect my experience... in sales. I don't really have copy-writing experience.
posted by SansPoint at 11:51 AM on October 13, 2010

ThePinkSuperhero: Fixed the typo. As for tailoring my résumé, I've heard that a million times, and I *try*, but I'm a bit lost as to how I can bend five years of telemarketing and sales experience into non-profit development, or much of anything else for that matter!
posted by SansPoint at 11:53 AM on October 13, 2010

Your current description:

Creative professional with over five years of sales, marketing, and fundraising experience. Excellent communicator with proven track record of generating revenue, seeking an new position in Philadelphia.

Change it to something like:

"Creative profession specializing in communication with a broad audience. Experience working with consumers and corporate clients, creating sales and marketing materials in a variety of media"

Then you go through your bullets and move the communications-focused ones, like "Created original telephone scripts for individual campaigns, based on client-provided marketing materials and requirements for information on prospects." to the top, and move or delete the sales ones as suitable. Reword stuff to focus on your writing, communication, etc. There's a lot of it there, particularly in that earlier gig, and I bet you could flesh out the newer one with that stuff too - how were you communicating with all those donors?

I am not a huge one for polishing my resume until it squeaks, but I still have three different versions knocking around for different types of audiences. I wouldn't send the game-industry one to a mainstream marketing firm or vice versa - I'd get nowhere.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:59 AM on October 13, 2010

restless_nomad: how were you communicating with all those donors? By phone. 3 hours a night, four to five nights a week, of phone calling.
posted by SansPoint at 12:00 PM on October 13, 2010

Did you write your own scripts?
posted by restless_nomad at 12:02 PM on October 13, 2010

Not really. We were provided with one, but weren't beholden to it. I've more or less just found a speil that works for me, but it's not written.
posted by SansPoint at 12:04 PM on October 13, 2010

Any chance of a pdf, not on a doc-possible terminal atm.

Telesales works well as a leg in to customer service, first line support, account management sort of thing. The people you ring to check your balance, or report a problem with your internet, or get directions to the closest whatever. If you needed a step between telesales and customer service it would be order taking or taking bookings, say for hotel rooms etc. Anything with incoming calls is your step between. The fact that you are probably sick to bits of phone work is beside the point, anything with incoming calls is better than outgoing, and you are doing it to skill/experience build.

The step after that, and it doesn't need to be long necessarily is to make a step into some sort of information work where you can use your english degree. Not necessarily copywriting or journalism per se but pretty much every organisation has somone who writes for their web content, brochures, sends information to partners etc. Then it's just a case of what branch you want to do that in.What things do you like?
posted by Iteki at 12:05 PM on October 13, 2010

Also, I don't have a car or drivers license, if that has any bearing on the discussion...

Unless there is some kind of physical or health-related impediment to learning to drive, you should really get a driver's license, especially if you want to maximize your flexibility in terms of where you can apply for jobs.
posted by deanc at 12:06 PM on October 13, 2010

Iteki: Here's a PDF.

What do I like? The arts, technology, writing, design...
posted by SansPoint at 12:10 PM on October 13, 2010

Internet-stalking via your profile, I see you left facebook. Get back in there, use it as part of your contact net. Make sure people know you are, not unemployed, but actively seeking employment. Contact those X people in your friends list, ask them if their know of any openings in their company or their partners or parents or brothers company. They don't? No worries, ask if you can send them a copy of your CV in case they hear of something (that way it feels a bit more real to them, they also have all your contact details handy).
posted by Iteki at 12:10 PM on October 13, 2010

Iteki: I've got LinkedIn for that. Sadly, the vast majority of the people I'm connected to on there are in the world of Sales, and the places they're working with are looking for sales people.
posted by SansPoint at 12:12 PM on October 13, 2010

From your resume, it appears that you qualify for more than "basic" clerical jobs. You'd probably be an asset in some sort of administrative role. A lot of people don't like the idea of being administrative support, but it's often an excellent foot in the door into organizations you like, who might not otherwise hire you into higher-level positions due to limited experience or education.
posted by xingcat at 12:19 PM on October 13, 2010

xingcat: That's the sort of thing I've been applying for, for the most part, just in the world of non-profit development. I just can't even get my foot in the door...
posted by SansPoint at 12:21 PM on October 13, 2010

That's the sadly, use the facebook to reach normal people. That guy you went to school with? His boyfriend's firm is looking for staff. If you aren't looking for sales work, stop looking to sales focused people, or for that matter, contact them and specifically inform them of the fact that you are ready to branch out.

If you are looking to move into writing, I would suggest making your CV more communicative. My eye started wandering quite a bit at phrasings like "conducted prospect research into multiple organizations of varying size to identify key decision makers
and collect data
". Can you tighten this up a little? Go with less words for more content density. "Identified key decision makers in relevant organsiations and researched contact details" is a hella lot more concise.

Focus on the aspects that are most important, and angle it towards your new goals.
Distributed collateral material, including white papers, event invitations, and meeting requests; evaluated collateral material for accuracy and relevance to client marketing campaigns.
I am not sure what the first part means, I read it as that you took care of the internal mail? Dump it, unless that's what you want to do in the future. It's not really a skill. The second part though, that's more what you are into, right? "Responsible for vetting of external communications for content and context" or "Copyreading and factchecking of exteral communications and marketing materials" or something similar.

This is all coming from a european perspective. More specifically, my, european perspective.
posted by Iteki at 12:28 PM on October 13, 2010

Iteki: A small part of my previous position involved, once I had spoken with someone by phone and gotten them to bite, sending them an Outlook invitation to schedule a call with the actual sales person, and also documents related to the thing we were discussing. It was external, not internal, and purely digital.

I could probably tighten some of it up, but that first quote describes what I did to a tee.
posted by SansPoint at 12:35 PM on October 13, 2010

that first quote describes what I did to a tee.

There's your problem. The purpose of a resume is not to describe your experience as accurately as possible - it's to present your experience so that its relevance to the job you're applying for is immediately obvious. Don't lie, obviously, and puffery is not too hard to spot, but you don't have to talk about every single aspect of every single thing you ever did. Pick the ones that are relevant to the new job and highlight them.

That's why you have multiple versions of a resume - your experience doesn't change, but your presentation of it has to.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:43 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

restless_nomad: I know, I know, but I still am beating my head trying to figure what the hell I can say about a job that was 95% calling people and asking them to take sales calls from another company to make it relevant for ANYTHING other than another telemarketing job. (The other 5% was the "research" part, and writing lead sheets.) Figuring out the things in that résumé took forever and a day.

This is the crux of the problem. I either don't know how to put my skills in a way that makes me look qualified for a non-sales/telemarketing job, or I don't have any skills that qualify me for a non-sales/telemarketing job. I also don't know what jobs I would qualify for. I'm totally, absolutely, god-forsakenly lost. Telling me to "tailor my résumé" doesn't help when I don't know what I'm tailoring it for, or what I should tailor it for.
posted by SansPoint at 12:49 PM on October 13, 2010

I'm supposed to be focusing on my own projects right now, but...taking a break. Apologize for the many typos (I see them, it will take too long to fix).

First, you may have to focus on defining what you want and what you will accept for a job. If I were in your shoes, do not even apply or any sales job. Period. Let's look at these, though: "The arts, technology, writing, design..."

One industry that I am very familiar with is medical writng and there are many medical communication companies, especially in PA. If you got into the right job, you would be writing or part of the creative process (PPT), but it would depend whether you like medical information, though (learning about a particular drug or disease state). It doesn't have to be that industry, though. Look into technical writing a bit more if that is what interests you.

Seriously, I would use linkedin or the internet and search out people in your area that do the jobs that you want to do. I go into great detail as to how to do an info interview here (not typing it all out again), but there are really good reasons as to why to do this. The people who do the jobs you want to do started out the same way you did -- they can tell you how to structure and build your CV for their jobs and they can tell you exactly what skill sets are needed. How do you know you will like their job? Ask tjhem about their daily work life -- but I would go talk to a bunch of people and decide what you want. I think with your background you could easily get yourself into a communication company with a job related to writing. Or whatever you decid that you are interested in - it may be design, etc. Before you think that these people do't want to you help you - remember, you can shoot off a lot of emails and make it clear you are asking for something small and limitted (30 minutes time max, phone/meeting, whatever they prefer). You are not askign for a job, just information and those who don't want to help will ignore the others will reply.

When you decide what it is that you want to do, I see ways that you can make your CV/resume for a writing job or design job or whatever. First, list the job but cut down on the bulllets...A LOT (list the title and perhaps one bullet). If you want a design job, for example, throw the technical skills on the top, followed by the education. Then get a domain name and put up samples (please tell me you hav samples if you did and enjoyed design as an undergrad) -- put them up. In the meantime, pending what you find out from your new acquaintances from the jobs taht you want, perhaps they will tell you (making this up) - wordpress is hot or flash is hot, or the next month or so, get a $25/month membership on a site like (or another site, doesnt matter where), get accesst to one of those programs (it is free for a month if you test it out), and start learnign new skills. Then if you can interview you acn say that know a little of the basics, etc. Or, if you want to do the writing, do you have samples you can put up? Create a script that you would use for a call (and for the market resource partners leafve that bullet up, created scripts). Put up a few pages, too, from otehr types of materials. The spaces that were previously taken up by the detailed job listing/description can be used wtih links to your samples.

By the way, I got a writing job and the main thing that I had to do was...take a writing test for an hour. I had to understand technical material, too, but I'm sure otehr industries do this. Find out where they are (from your info interviews). Once you have a little experience, it is easy to get the next gig or job.

One more thing - once you pick an industry that you want to work in, go to teh library or use the internet and look for lists of companies. The email/numbers are listed online -- I've sent emails asking if they have projects and need to work with someone, and gotten replies (projects to "would you be interestd in working here?"). You could do the same approach and send your targeted resume to companies that only do what you want to do - and if they have a job they may interview you before it is even listed - it may be the back way in.

Also, with your current background, I would think that you could easily get hired through temp services. Again, highlight your technical skills. Seize the opportunity to learn new skill X at whatever place you end up. This may be a better fit for you until you decide what you want, too.

Goodl luck.
posted by Wolfster at 12:50 PM on October 13, 2010

Sorry if I'm coming across as ungrateful. I'm intending to come off as clueless, because that's how I feel. I don't know what the hell I'm doing with this job search thing, and the help I'm getting is leaving me more lost...
posted by SansPoint at 1:00 PM on October 13, 2010

You beat me to it by a second on preview, but...

In the kindest possible spirit I have to say I am getting a vibe of hopelessness/helplessness off you. This is pretty natural of course, but it's likely to be affecting your jobsearch a lot more than your CV. You've asked what to do, been told what to do, and your response to pretty much everything has been "yeah but no".

Write what people have said to write, look into the areas people have said to look into. You can of course continue to use the CV that isn't working to apply for jobs you don't want parallel with this, but it strikes me as a little bit of a waste of valuable time and energy.

"Leveraging" your (extended) network, informational interviews, calling with a relevant question before sending your application, researching the company website, tailoring your application to the job ad, and highlighting the relevant parts of your experience are the things you need to do. Yes, this is more hassle than doing it halfassed.

If what you are doing isn't getting the results you want, do something else. Take the advice you are being given here, you can't get more unemployed :)

Once again, while I realise this sounds really really harsh, especially online, please see if you can gather your energies or find some support that will let you at least fake it till you make it on the attitude/perspective front.
posted by Iteki at 1:13 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've updated my résumé with some of the advice from this thread. (Links will point to the updated versions.)
posted by SansPoint at 1:55 PM on October 13, 2010

Please don't take the following as picky snark... you're clearly trying hard to be honest about your experience and straightforward with future employers, which should serve you well. However:

1. Your cluttered layout makes your resume hard to read. Issues include: Georgia 10 pt font, tiny left/right margins, uneven top/bottom margins, limited space between paragraphs, small space between bullet and text, only one space between sentences instead of two, reliance on same font (albeit capitalized) for section headers, etc. Poor layout belies your assertion that you're a good communicator: words aren't enough.

2. Right off the bat, you a botched parallel construction (the "Individually..." bullet), which also undermines you.

3. You can definitely cut out a third of the words to gain space and make it punchy. Brevity gives you more to include in tailored transmittal text or to discuss at future interviews. There's a sweet spot: you want people to assume that your experience is on point without either being vague or making it appear as though you ran the joint.

For example, "Communicated directly with members of a 50,000-plus theatre subscriber base to solicit new gifts, renewal gifts, and gift increases" could be "Solicited financial support from Walnut Street Theatre subscribers." "Contacted other Philadelphia-area arts patrons to promote the Walnut Street Theatre’s upcoming and current seasons, subscriptions, and other packages" could be "Promoted the Theatre's offerings to greater Philadelphia arts patrons. (Note that the Theatre's full name is actually unnecessary in the bullets but if you use it, limit that to the first instance). "Conducted prospect research into multiple organizations of varying size to identify key decision makers and collect data, such as direct dial numbers and e-mail addresses, for future campaigns" could be "Researched potential corporate partners to develop prospect list for future campaigns" or even "Developed corporate prospect list for future campaigns." Don't fall in love with your prose.

4. Although you often provide too much info, at other times more would improve your case. For example, few will know what the Angel's Fund is (capital campaign? annual giving?) and your 15 percent achievement is meaningless without some idea of the goal and/or the size of the team working on it.

5. You can also gain more space by changing your format and putting the right side of the page to better use. For example, your three line regime for each job can become two lines by putting the city on the same line as the employer, e.g., Theatre - Philadelphia (PA is unnecessary everywhere except your address since everyone knows where to find Philadelphia and there are no other locations mentioned). Right-justifying the employment period adds symmetry and lets more air. Similarly you can stack the software stuff in two columns aligned as you handled your education credentials.

6. The creative writing club--unless it's some renowned Philadelphia institution-- mention, coupled with the community college reference and the long ago Vice Presidency-- also weakens your case. If you want to list it as one of many interests, fine, but it can't stand alone.

7. You need to do a better job putting your Market Resource Partners experience into context. Neither the firm name nor your job title (Account Executive I) say much to people in other fields. The bullets make you sound like a floor polish and a desert topping because they bounce between research, performance monitoring, collateral materials, and IT/software tasks. Somehow you need to tie that together so that your disparate experience makes sense.

You might devote a line to background about each employer. That will allow you to explain whatever it is that Market Resource Partners does and to add something pertinent about the theatre that strengthens its validity as a place where you've gained valuable experience (e.g., the 50,000 subscribers, oldest/biggest, X productions annually, etc). Another way would be to add a line detailing each position's primary responsibilities before launching into the bullets.

8. You're very fond of the word "individual," but it's not adding much beyond an inch of text every time. Look out for space-consuming constructs involving the word "of" and look for other wordy examples, e.g., instead of "updating information in the Siebel database" can't you simply be "updating the Siebel database?" They're abundant.

I think you're reacting to feeling uncertain by piling on more words, but that's not helping. Edit instead.

Hope this helps.
posted by carmicha at 2:08 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

There's a couple of TV production companies in and around Philadelphia. While entry level work isn't incredibly thrilling, companies that make reality TV shows always need a good talker to get people to either go on the show or apply to do so.

As I see it, your strengths are talking and writing. If you can talk to total strangers, you can work in media. If you don't have a blog that show cases your writing skills, you might think about starting one (saying you want a creative job is all fine, but you need someplace to practice that creativity and show it to others.) I know is usually hiring--not that they're so great, but it's a place to start.

CL has an ad for a grantwriter. I know you don't have the skill set for this now, but grant-writing sounds more up your street than tech writing.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:14 PM on October 13, 2010

carmicha: It does.

I'm not sure "Researched potential corporate partners to develop prospect list for future campaigns" or "Developed corporate prospect list for future campaigns." are accurate to what I did. I called into companies to get their IT managers/directors to take sales calls from our clients. Should I just say that, in a more professional way? ("Contacted corporate IT departments to promote client offerings to decision makers"?)

What's odd is that I've taken this thing to professional résumé people, (well, my school's Career Center) and they haven't given me ANYTHING as constructive as your post.

I'm still at a loss on how I can tailor this experience to a particular, non-sales position though.


Anyway, off to the theater for 3 hours of calling people. I'll have to pick this up when I'm back—and do the résumé editing too.
posted by SansPoint at 2:16 PM on October 13, 2010

Ideefixe: Oh, I have a blog. Ideally, I'd like a job that *doesn't* involve talking to people a lot though. I'm good at it, but it takes a lot of effort to do it. 3 hours on the phone at the Theatre can wipe me out if I'm talking to a lot of people. 8 hours is even worse. (And then there were the 12 hour days when I was doing both...)
posted by SansPoint at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2010

Here's what I did:

Look at job postings and see what sounds good. If you read a job description that seems interesting, look at the requirements, and think of how the skills you already have fit in. Use that information to tailor your resume. Figure out where there are holes in your skills. If everyone wants X and you don't know X, figure out how to learn X.

Taking a class tends to be a good start. Community college is cheap, and tends to have lots of intro classes to lots of interesting things. I was an English BA. Community college (one semester, two courses -- and probably only one was necessary!) was how I suddenly became a bookkeeper, and now I'm pursuing an accounting degree. But the important thing is: I only took two classes (and spent something like $400) to become qualified enough to pursue an entirely different career and a more than 40% wage increase.

Aside from paying for classes, look at volunteer opportunities and unpaid internships for experience (if you can work it out with your full-time schedule). Since they're not paying you, they will be less picky about qualifications, and are a great way to get professional feedback and samples. (Small companies will be better than large, if you don't know what you want to do, or you want experience in lots of different things.) My unpaid internship the summer after graduation turned into an offer to ghostwrite a book for a doctor (the work never materialized, but probably could have if I'd pursued it harder), a file full of sample copy, experience with copy-editing, eventually a full-time, paid job at the place where I interned, years of professional experience, and finally an excellent reference to this day.

Basically, anything you think you might want to do more than what you're currently doing is worth an investment of your time, and if you're not where you want to be, you should be looking for places to invest the time necessary (and maybe some money) to get somewhere else.

Also, per my mom, don't get hung up on whether you think they'll think you're qualified: if you think you can do a job, just tell them exactly why. I've done this in many situations where I didn't think I was qualified, and gotten called in for interviews. An excellent cover letter is probably even more important than a resume -- you're essentially telling them how to read your resume, how your experience will be transferable to what they need. If you don't believe this yet, you need to pretend. Pretty much all of us start out in that position.

But, given that you're unemployed now, use your sales-focused resume to apply for sales jobs (unless you have unlimited savings or someone else's financial support). Until you have some job, you should try for both. Once you're employed, you can focus your energy on doing better.
posted by emumimic at 2:24 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm still at a loss on how I can tailor this experience to a particular, non-sales position though.

That's the point, you can't tailor to a particular position without having a particular position in mind. Link to a job ad that you would like to have. It doesn't have to be local or current, just show one you fancy.
posted by Iteki at 2:33 PM on October 13, 2010

Thanks for the complement! I like your new phrasing of that bullet much better. The ideal bullet is accurate, strategic and pithy. On further reflection, I realize that I (erroneously) assumed your MRP work entailed non-profit clients since you subsequently joined the Theatre.
posted by carmicha at 2:53 PM on October 13, 2010

Iteki: here's one:

No HTML. Gotta start calling in a minute.
posted by SansPoint at 2:59 PM on October 13, 2010

You need to broaden you skills, possibly through temp work - go to an agency tomorrow and get registered.

Also, why are you ignoring all sales jobs? You may want to try for a business to business contract sales job. Basically you'd be working for a company (lets say an office supplies distributor) that has contracts with other companies (like universities, hospitals, or other businesses) to provide the goods. Your role here wouldn't be as much like pushing products onto unwilling buyers as it would be customer service and strategy planning to make the buying process as easy and painless as possible for your contract customers so that they buy more from you because it's easy and they don't have to worry about setting up new procedures with another company.

You'd make more than nothing too. In phila, you'd likely start in the high 30s / low 40s.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:50 AM on October 14, 2010

Dude, that job ad is like they wrote it just for you!

So, you have utterly digested all the information on their site I am guessing. I haven't but I did have a look through their other info under their opportunities link on their site to see what kind of wording they use, and what kind of qualities they value.

I see that they are also looking for an intern to do what sounds like your old job at your theatre, Straight off the bat that makes me want to find out if you have done any training or introduction of new colleagues in your previous workplace. Remember, that it doesn't have to have been your primary task or have been in an incredibly official way, "Hey, SansPoint, this is Bob Newbie, show him how we do things round here will you?". So, push gently on your cooperation skills, your leadership skills etc. There's a lot of wording in the interns section that implies that they like people with strong interpersonal skills who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do what needs doing.

In that you are using your domain to host your email, ensure that every word there is sparkling, just in case. I would probably just use a different mail address for now.

Your long experience of contact with patrons serves you well in the type of contacts they are talking about with donors, and your experience from specifically the theatre business is gold, concentrate on your extensive contact with the philidelphia theatre crowd, and boil down your second two points to "consistently exceeded established fundraising targets" or whatever is the correct way to put it.

In your other job, you can put the sales end of things more on the back burner. Here you want to pull up your writing experience and your database experience.

Created campaign specific scripts, wrote lead sheets, timelines, etc.
Responsible for vetting of external communications for content and context
Maintained and ensured quality of client details in Seibel database
Compiled result reports for sales and campaign managers, had budget and decision making responsibility.
Identified key decision makers in relevant organsiations and researched contact details.

You want to make it clear to them in your cover letter that you are a uniquely qualified candidate for this position. The intersection of donor experience, theatre background, database skills, writing experience/english degree, and that you have a proven interest in their business. You also have an above average IT skill, knowledge of social media etc, all things they are looking for interns to work with, so while you obviously dont want to take on all the work they want interns for, knowing that those skills are duplicated in the staff can be a reassurance.
posted by Iteki at 11:45 AM on October 14, 2010

God, I am a dork, I completely forgot to mention that your writing sample should be proofread to bits, and turned and polished and checked some more. I would imagine there's someone in thread that could cast an eye over it.
posted by Iteki at 11:54 AM on October 14, 2010

Seconding Iteki's post above: if you reword your Theatre experience to sound more like development work and less like time spent in a call center, then you're golden! And me-mail me if you want an outside set of eyes again.
posted by carmicha at 7:37 AM on October 15, 2010

Oops! I didn't see that you'ld updated the link to your most recent version; it looks much much better!
posted by carmicha at 7:40 AM on October 15, 2010

(The other 5% was the "research" part, and writing lead sheets.)

If that's more of what you want to do, then that's what you talk about on your resume, and that's what you talk up to potential employers.

I'm reminded of the advice that a Bulgarian immigrant gave while job hunting: "this is America. To get a job, you say that you know how to do something, and then you figure out how to do it."
posted by deanc at 8:21 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you given any thought to working in university/college administration? That's what I do with my BA in English, and I'm not the only one - there are 5 other English majors in my office alone (we've formed our own little cabal). Our program? Nursing, but there are English majors scattered everywhere in admin roles.

University admin is its own strange little world where you can easily go in all different kinds of directions. Grant writing or communications - definitely. Advancement/fundraising too. I began as an entry-level receptionist, and I fear that this is where most English majors begin in the absence of further training. Use your communications skills to your advantage though, and you'll likely work your way up quickly. You'll find that even an OK writer and communicator is a valuable asset to any organization, but you'll often have to convince your employer of this in practice by working your way up the ladder.
posted by owls at 12:45 PM on October 15, 2010

The above advice is excellent (go do some informational interviews; tailor your resume, and polish it to bits). I have one other idea, though, that directly addresses your sense that you don't have any experience doing what you most want to be doing:

Go do some of what you want to be doing.

WeekendJen's suggestion of getting temp work is terrific, but as emumimic says, you can also find ways to volunteer.

In particular, if you're looking for technical writing jobs, you can contribute to an open source project. They're ALWAYS looking for help with documentation, and you should find it easy to do as little or as much as you want. You can contribute to several different projects to gain experience with different types of software (an image editing program, a page layout package, and so on). You'll have a portfolio of specific items you've written, and you'll also have tangible evidence that you're a person with initiative.

Finally, try using LinkedIn for specific jobs. When you find a job opening you want to apply for, before you apply, hop onto LinkedIn and search your network. If you want to apply for a job at ArtsWriters Inc, search your network to see if you're connected to anyone who works there. Chances are, you don't personally know anyone who works there - but there's an excellent chance that you know someone who knows someone who works there. Once LinkedIn tells you that, you ask your friend to ask their friend if they can recommend you for the position. In many companies, that can get you a better chance of getting an interview than applying directly.

Good luck!
posted by kristi at 12:15 PM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

How did it go with the application?
posted by Iteki at 8:59 PM on October 31, 2010

Iteki Nada. Not even an interview. Even with Becki Sassi, the Director of Institutional Advancement at the Walnut speaking for me.

Clearly, I suck.
posted by SansPoint at 8:45 AM on November 8, 2010

I very much doubt you suck, especially not in some sort of all-embracing, Olympic-class loser, way. If nothing else your work and study history show you to be committed and hardworking. And that's not nothing. The next step on this one would be for me (I don't know how appropriate this is in the US, can soemone chime in? Although sometimes inappropriate is mould-breaking) would be to get in contact with them, either in person or through my contact (Becki) to ask for feedback on my application. There may be something specific they can put you on to. I would also probably ask about the opportunity to volunteer with them, if you aren't going to work for them you can still move into that arena and gain experience and credentials with them as a volunteer. Would you be comfortable linking to the cover letter you sent them?

So that's looking back and sideways. Looking forwards, what's the next "I really fancy this one" job you are looking at?
posted by Iteki at 10:39 AM on November 10, 2010

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