Help me find a a concern that can use me
December 30, 2011 6:50 AM   Subscribe

What should I do now? I have no job, no child, no B.A., no debt, no mortgage, am female and am in my 40s. Help me see the possibilities! I have both no idea and every idea.

I'm open to almost anything. One answer is getting a B.A. somewhere and then an M.L.S. at San Jose, tho how to manage this and to pay rent without getting into horrendous debt is beyond my understanding.

In the last year I became happily aware that my formerly almost crippling psoriasis is fading. So I am no longer tied to medicine; I can work anywhere.

My professional background includes epidemiology (interviewing drug users about their lives re HIV and giving HIV results) and cataloging libraries, particularly law libraries. Without a degree, I can't find work in these fields now.

Help me figure out what to do now! I want to contribute, make a very modest living, and generally step up. Any ideas?
posted by goofyfoot to Work & Money (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a workforce center in your area? They will often give you some tuition assistance if you are unemployed and looking to get into school.
posted by Think_Long at 6:57 AM on December 30, 2011

Maybe you could apply to jobs at universities that allow employees to get degrees for free.
posted by beyond_pink at 7:05 AM on December 30, 2011 [9 favorites]

Even with a degree it's unlikely you'll be able to find a library job that will pay you a decent salary, so bear that in mind.
posted by booknerd at 7:09 AM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Years ago, I took one of those hour-long career surveys, where they asked you a bunch of questions and compared your answers with those of people working in dozens of professions.

So then, the survey would tell you "Well, X% of your answers were consistent with those answered by Engineers, Dietitians and Trapeze Artists".

The idea was that I would want to consider working in one of those fields since my thinking matched the thinking of those particular professions.

This was about 15 years ago, and I don't know if these types of questionnaires have evolved, devolved or if the theories behind them have been outright debunked, but it did provide me with some motivation when I didn't know what to do with my life.

Also personality tests might be interesting (maybe a Myers-Briggs assessment or something similar), but similar caveats apply.

Or here's an out-of-the-blue idea: get a job on a cruise ship or at a resort where your room and board would be paid and you can meet interesting people from all over, who are in many cases, also looking for that inspiration to get started!

Good luck!
posted by bitteroldman at 7:13 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seasonal employment in a National Park? I've commented on this before but it really is a great melting pot of people/jobs/etc. You sound like a prime candidate. Memail me if you want more info from my experiences.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:14 AM on December 30, 2011

I'm sorry, I realize that may seem a bit glib. What I mean is, library jobs are few and far between, and San Jose doesn't provide much in the way of funding or support for students. I know this, because I went there. At your age, going in to a lot of debt to pay for school isn't a wise decision (not that it's ever a wise decision, but it's especially unwise when you now have only about 30 years to save for retirement, and paying off loans on a small salary is a huge burden).

Did you like working in epidemiology? There are a lot of career tracks in the health care sector that require far less time spent in school before you can begin working, and many more jobs are available there than in libraries. Maybe look into programs for physician's assistants or registered nurses? Jobs like these can be very rewarding if you like to work with people and to help people, and have lower entry-level education requirements than professional librarian jobs (and comparable salaries).
posted by booknerd at 7:14 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

booknerd is right, the job market for librarians in general, and newly qualified MLS graduates in particular, is just beyond atrocious right now, and likely to remain so for years to come. One thing I think you should consider that involves organizing and managing information but has much better career prospects is Health Information Management - as a plus, the usual qualification path is a bachelor's in HIM and an RHIA certification rather than a master's degree.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:29 AM on December 30, 2011

If I were in your shoes, I would avoid incurring any educational debt, given the awful job market all around. Or just keep the debt as low as possible.

If your expenses are low, you probably have more job options than a lot of people in your age group (I'm thinking of myself with a mortgage; the income has to be $X a month, or else.)

Do you have any hobbies or interests other than those you've mentioned that might translate into jobs? I like the idea of seasonal Park Service employment; wish I could do it myself. If I had my druthers, I'd also like to work at my local bird feed & birding supply story, albeit for peanuts.

You might also want to check the courses of study at your local community college and see if there are any relatively inexpensive certification programs that appeal to you.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:41 AM on December 30, 2011

There are a lot of career tracks in the health care sector that require far less time spent in school before you can begin working

I think this is very true. There are many jobs that you can do with only a certificate in a specialize area or maybe even a 2 year degree from a community college. It would be much cheaper route than a masters degree and it would take less time. I am not sure what salary range you are going for, but this options seems to give the most bang for your buck to me.
posted by Jaelma24 at 7:42 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

how to manage this and to pay rent without getting into horrendous debt is beyond my understanding.

I think one path that has become popular to help minimise costs is to take all the credits you can at a community college with a transfer arrangement, and then transfer to a state university for the last two years to complete your BA. If you can do this on a HIM path as strangely stunted trees suggests, that seems worth looking into.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:44 AM on December 30, 2011

Maybe you could apply to jobs at universities that allow employees to get degrees for free.

This is a really great idea. You incur no debt, and make money while going to school. You can do any job there (for schools that offer this), not have to worry about an application, and get your B.A. for free which will then lead to advancement opportunities.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:04 AM on December 30, 2011

Oh -- also, some schools offer tuition reduction for non-traditional students, so you could check into that as an alternative, though cost-wise it would be smart to get a lot of credits at a community college first. Though I'd recommend transferring to a school that has a deal with the community college so you know your credits will be accepted.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:06 AM on December 30, 2011

When I took my answer-these-questions-to-find-what-career-you-should-have, three out of my top ten were religious jobs and two had to do with agriculture.

In our economy creativity pays off, so I'm going to support all of the ridiculous ideas like bitteroldman's cruise ship job. The cruise ship is only an example, but working someplace that lots of unique people come through could be very enriching, I would say. Plus, some of them might offer you another job somewhere for them.

I dunno. I'm kind of just talking out of my arse here.
posted by MHPlost at 8:15 AM on December 30, 2011

How about Peace Corps?
posted by unreasonable at 8:54 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're lucky. Since you're not 18, very few people in your age group apply for Pell Grants and other educational assistance that does not have to be repaid. There is a quota for each age group, so you'll likely get your assistance. Start applying. Apply for everything. See if there are any scholarships available in your current fields of experience; if not, look around and see what is offered and go from there.

Our public library is blessed in a number of ways, but one of the librarians is an absolute wizard-ess when it comes to finding programs for older students. Check it out. Ours works in the Research department.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 10:37 AM on December 30, 2011

Thank you all for your answers. Health care. Cruise ships. National park. Yeah, more like this!

I wish the Peace Corps would take me! But they won't because of my lack of B.A. - at least, that was the answer last time I asked, ca. late 2009.

I've done over 100 credits over the years at community colleges, excluding my library tech cert, so my first two years at college, at least, are done. For what it's worth.

It would be lovely to get a permanent job at a college that offered tuition, but it hasn't happened yet, even tho my library work has been mentioned in "Here's what we accomplished this year at U!" reports. Yeah, booknerd, my beloved library career is dead. As a university employee, those were the best chances I ever had.
posted by goofyfoot at 10:40 AM on December 30, 2011

On the "what to do" front, the book "What Color is Your Parachute" might help.

Also, here is a good site to get basic data on different types of jobs:

It tell you about the growth expected and wages and such.

But anything medical related should have good growth.

There are also programs roughly similar to the Peace Corps, where you make little or no money but serve a greater good and room and board are taken care of. Such as an internship with Project Vote Smart:

Here are some more possibilities:

Another option is longist-term house-sitting, if you can make a little income otherwise. Then your housing is taken care of.

On the school front, consider an external degree. These usually have more flexibility, often have little or no residency requirement, and can allow you to test out of classes. So you could get a custom degree and possibly for less cost.

I recently started with Charter Oak State College. A couple of peer schools are Thomas Edison State University and Excelsior College. These are fully accredited.
posted by maurreen at 11:09 AM on December 30, 2011

What do you love? What do you want in your life?

Education's a goal. Go visit the admissions dept. of the nearest state colleges/universities. Ask them what assistance they have for adults trying to figure out an educational direction. Get some vocational testing. You may be able to test out of some coursework. It's not at all too late to start Spring Term. As in, January. Identify core courses that will transfer, or a degree program. There may be programs where you can get a Masters with just 1 more year. Even if you take just 1 class, getting started will make you feel better.

There's a semester-at-sea program that hires some staff - bonus - you can take accredited courses.

It's a combination of liberating and overwhelming to think about All the Options. Once you narrow it a bit, and know about some real options available to you, you'll be able to choose and feel good about your choice. I totally recommend working at a University for the education benefit. This requires persistence.

While you have few monetary assets, you have no debt - yay, you! And less health crisis - that must be a big relief!
posted by theora55 at 11:57 AM on December 30, 2011

Even with a degree it's unlikely you'll be able to find a library job that will pay you a decent salary, so bear that in mind.

People have been saying this since I started library school (in 2002) and yet everyone I graduated with that I'm still in touch* with found a good job, many with salaries into the $50-60K range. The graduating classes in the years following mine have had similar results -- I know because I volunteer there. Making a good living with an MLS is pretty easy as long as a) you're willing to relocate; and b) you don't rely on the school to teach you what you need to know.

Smart MLS students graduate with some level of specialization and expertise (usually technical, so that you're not competing for jobs with people who've been in the field for 25 years already). Otherwise, you're just one of the herd.

Of course, because you're just starting out, you have the privilege of not making the mistake SO MANY of us do -- you can get a USEFUL undergrad degree. An engineering or science degree will make you infinitely more marketable than a liberal arts degree whether you choose to work in libraries or not (Engineering Librarians are HARD to find and always in demand).

*All work in academic libraries. I don't know anything about public libraries.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:49 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a big believer that life is not really about credentials but it is about networking. The way education is heading, it is becoming increasingly possible to get a fantastic education in an open source environment. I wouldn't be surprised to see an MLS curriculum or an MPH in an open source format soon. These online environments are also, as you know, fantastic opportunities for networking. If I were in your shoes that's the road I might venture down while working part time and volunteering in an environment that will add to my networking possibilities and opportunities.
posted by Xurando at 4:44 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Many thanks for everyone who posted; you've given me a lot to think about.

Mine is such an open-ended question, maybe it can be built on for Mefites who are similar unencumbered/footloose?
posted by goofyfoot at 9:23 PM on January 2, 2012

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