Life/School/Work advice, please!
March 16, 2012 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Struggling, College Educated 23-year-old Needs Solid Life Advice

I'm 23. I graduated last May with a B.A. in History with minors in Business Administration and Sociology. I live at home. I have a crappy job that barely pays my $37K student loan payment plan. I have not been able to get an entry level job. I am professionally unsatisfied as well as personally. My best friends from school don't live close to me and I rarely get to go out and enjoy myself. There are basically zero girls in my life, and it sucks.

My family is great, and I am thankful to have a roof over my head and not have to pay for food and shelter. My family is also helping me pay my Federal loan while I pay the private one.

I basically don't know what to do with myself. I don't want to teach. I've never had a "real" job, so no "real" job experience. I went to a very respectable liberal arts school that is comparable to Ivy League schools. I learned a lot. I consider myself to be smart, well informed and professional. I don't know how to get a job that will hire a bright young graduate where I can make decent pay and room for growth. I don't want to do sales. That's about it.

I am considering going back to get my Masters in International Sports Management. Sports are my only true passion and I want to make it my career. I don't know if it would be smart to take out another $20k loan though with the government. I really want to do this and go back to school and learn more and feel like I am doing something positive with my life, because these last 10 months have been anything but. In the program I would spend at least one semester abroad and hopefully work there and lead the way to a job overseas.

I don't even know what I'm asking here. I'm just upset and lost and could use some advice. With this economy, clearly it was not the best idea to go to a liberal arts school and get a degree with no track to a particular job.
posted by foreversport to Work & Money (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: also, I have been trying to get a legal assistant/entry level paralegal job because of my research and writing background with history, and I have taken a few law classes as an undergrad. no such luck there, either. that's one thing I was trying to accomplish, but it seems no one wants to hire without any experience.
posted by foreversport at 8:43 PM on March 16, 2012

Have you been to any temp agencies yet?
posted by oceanjesse at 8:52 PM on March 16, 2012

Response by poster: I've been to a few temp agencies and they haven't really worked out. One was only hiring for heavy call centers and the other set me up with what I thought was going to be a job, and they said they would hire me after the interview, to then call the agency and say "hold off."

Now they are going to give me a job for 12 bucks an hour where I drive around in my car.
posted by foreversport at 8:55 PM on March 16, 2012

Are you only applying for stuff in Long Island or are you hitting up the city as well? If you have any friends in the five boroughs who would be willing to do you a favor, I'd put their address on the resumes and applications you're sending out for NYC stuff.
posted by griphus at 9:04 PM on March 16, 2012

Also, summer is coming, and that means cheap lease-free sublets and college kids quitting entry-level jobs. If you save up the scratch to live in the city (well, Brooklyn or Queens) for at least a couple of months, you'll stand a better chance at landing a decent gig.
posted by griphus at 9:09 PM on March 16, 2012

I don't really have any solid advice for you, but I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone in all this. I actually posted a very, very similar question to yours just a few days ago. I, too, am a recent college grad and am similarly lost, vaguely depressed, don't have many friends around, am underemployed, and trying to make changes for myself. Also, I'm in NYC! If you ever feel like commiserating, feel free to message of the biggest encouragements for me is knowing that I have close friends going through the same thing. Support is good stuff.
posted by Emms at 9:13 PM on March 16, 2012

Well, pardon me if this seems obvious or you've discounted it, but since you've got a roof over your head and a crappy job, you should check out unpaid internships in the city, whether in a sports-related capacity or in a writing/research-related capacity. That's what college grads with History/English/Classics/etc degrees do to get a foot in the door, as far as I know. Apply for internships abroad as well (there are a bunch of overseas internship summer programs for people around college age-- like in London, etc-- google it, visit/write your school's career center, etc).

I think that grad school is a great idea, but you don't necessarily have a great attitude about it right now, and you'll need a lot of positive energy to succeed. Plus you still have year if you apply in the fall, so spend it wisely and beef up your application. Apply for those internships, and consider short-term teaching abroad (which energizes you and gives you experience, too). Consider joing the Peace Corps or similar organization. But the best bet is a variety of internships in the area, or other volunteer opportunities. Basically, whatever your dream job is, try to volunteer in some close-by version of it and be really ready to dive in and explore, talk to people, etc.
posted by reenka at 9:16 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would think twice about grad school if you don't know what you want to do. Change for change's sake can be a good thing, but that's a pretty high price tag. If you do go to business school, I'd advise getting a more general MBA and trying to find internships in sports management rather than specializing in it from the outset. I would also look for MBA programs that cater to new grads. Something like international sports management sounds like it is tailored to people already within the industry.

Unfortunately, your experience is not unusual for a new college grad these days. My advice (which is worth nothing) would be to stick it out until you find a more congenial job.
posted by elizeh at 9:16 PM on March 16, 2012

It seems like you aren't interested in a paralegal job but feel obligated to get a paralegal type of job because you think it relates to your degree.

Instead of looking for paralegal jobs look for OTHER jobs that you are actually interested in.

I think a communications based job type might be something worth considering. It would also allow you to develop more transferable skills as well.

I found this Sports Management Internship page through the St Johns University website. There are a lot of NY based organizations that are not necessarily IN the city which might be of interest to you although I'd recommend finding a gig in the city.

Send these organizations emails letting them know that you are interested in interning because you are passionate about sports. You should receive at least a few responses which would be better than nothing.
posted by livinglearning at 9:18 PM on March 16, 2012

Your school should have a career services office of some kind. Have you worked with them yet? Some charge a small fee for alums, but it's in the school's best interest to have you employed, so contact them for general help with marketing yourself (resume writing, interviewing, etc.) and for specific job leads.

Without work experience, though, you're definitely at a disadvantage. However, you can do a resume that has a more general "Experience" section and include any leadership positions in extracurricular activities and significant or ongoing volunteer experience, too. Since you're not in any danger of losing your home or basic services (I assume your parents can cover your insurance as well), I'd consider figuring out how to build your resume with volunteer experience that relates to more professional endeavors (genealogical research for the history side of things, volunteer coaching for sports, tutoring English for the international exposure) or even an internship of sorts if you can find it.

Grad school is an expensive way to try to fill a gap like this, so be sure you're not doing it just because you can't get a job. Grad school is full of those kinds of people right now, so you certainly wouldn't be alone in making that decision, but do some very serious research about the employment of people leaving any grad-level program you're considering. Make sure they're giving you the methods behind the numbers, too (or at least the response rate to any surveys they're working from), since low response rates can lead to an unrealistic picture of the post-grad school employment prospects.
posted by BlooPen at 9:20 PM on March 16, 2012

I am considering going back to get my Masters in International Sports Management. Sports are my only true passion and I want to make it my career.

Hello, I am a sports-career person. I have some disjointed advice about pursuing a career in sports.

First, the easiest way into a career with a pro/DI sports club with only a bachelor's is sales, either tickets or sponsorships. Basically every club is semi-constantly hiring entry level sales reps, and the like it if you have done the kind of "heavy call center" stuff you don't want to do. I got jobs with two different clubs and interviews with many more with temp agency sales experience. If you are not willing to do this, it is way harder to get into sports, at least the way most people think of it. This is the easiest way in.

Are you scouting TeamWork Online and the NCAA marketplace? Are you willing to move? If you're on Long Island, try to get an internship with the Long Island Ducks. They usually pay (or at least they were paying a couple years ago), but offering to work for free would probably help. Right now they need a Promotions intern.

Basically, I think Sports Management degrees, especially the master's, are a huge scam. You will not learn anything you couldn't learn in a couple internships in the degree. It's only advantage is that it gets you into credit-only internships which will hopefully let you get a job- but a job is not guaranteed in the way it is in, say, accounting internships. Of all the graduate school options I am considering, the Sports Management degree is, like, eleventh of ten good options.

If I were at all science-y and wanted to get into sports by pursuing a master's, I would become an athletic trainer. That field is exploding right now.

There are also Americorps positions which involve coaching sports and organizing sports leagues and similar things like that for young people, disabled people, etc. You won't make much, but if you can live at home and make the most of the year it will substantially improve your resume for positions at the collegiate level in admin and rec centers. Check out their website. Search youth/education and health in the drop down menus.

What do you want to do in sports? Coach? Commentate? Just be around the game? There are ways to do all those things while paying the bills with a day job, and I think a lot of the people in the industry, especially kids our age, owe it to ourselves to really evaluate why we want to be in the industry and determine if we can be happy keeping the game (or games, as the case may be) in our lives without making it our career. It's a long and winding road because so many people want to do it, but it IS doable if you are flexible and willing to sacrifice. Only you know if it's worth it, ultimately, but I wish you the best.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:20 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

Have you looked into Americorps? I don't know if there would be any positions specific to sports, but there are tons of interesting positions and there might be. I'm positive there would be positions working with kids and sports.

You don't get paid much at all (it's technically volunteer with a "stipend"), but you don't have to make federal loan payments (you probably will have to make the private ones, though) for the year, and you get ~$5,000 paid of your student loans at the end.

It's definitely not for everyone, but it's a good way to get interesting experience and take a break from loan payments while you figure out a more long term plan.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:24 PM on March 16, 2012

I feel your pain. I'm also on the Island, and my situation was in many ways even worse than yours. I use a wheelchair and couldn't afford a van, which made many people, with varying degrees of tact, consider me unemployable. I'm in the middle of solving my problem right now. I'd leave the area if I were you.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:28 PM on March 16, 2012

Well, pardon me if this seems obvious or you've discounted it, but since you've got a roof over your head and a crappy job, you should check out unpaid internships in the city, whether in a sports-related capacity or in a writing/research-related capacity.

This is what I came in here to say. I know someone who got a job with the Islanders after interning with them. There are tons of sports management offices in the city -- Knicks, Rangers, the colleges. You could even ask temp agencies if they have sports offices as clients and try to get in that way. Long ago I temped for an agency that had a lot of theater type clients. i don't know if there ARE any sports related ones, but just ask.

I know you have the debt and the social life expenses to worry about, but yeah if you've got the crappy job to help with that a little and the roof, go for unpaid, because a lot of people worrying about rent don't even have this option.
posted by sweetkid at 9:30 PM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would you ever consider teaching English overseas? The JET program in Japan and its equivalents in S. Korea and Hong Kong pay well, would give you some solid work experience, you could pay off your student loan if you stayed for a few years would get to live overseas!

It also buys you some time to live a bit and sort out your next step, while making enough money to feel as though you are working toward something.
posted by lulu68 at 10:19 PM on March 16, 2012

Have you been talking to people who are doing the kind of thing (international sports management) that you say you want to do? Unless they are unanimously telling you to get that masters degree, don't go down that path; I'm willing to bet $5 that you are going to instead get advice similar to what you are being told here -- intern/volunteer/take any entry-level job and work your way up.

For whatever it's worth, every job I've ever gotten (except one) has come from social connections, or maybe you'd call it "networking" or just plain old "talking to semi-strangers," rather than applying to posted job openings. I suspect this is far more important now than when the economy is booming, because employers are being super cautious about hiring, so the safety of being a known quantity really helps.

I also hope you at least take a look at the kinds of overseas opportunities that people are suggesting (Peace Corps, JET, etc). Those can give you experience you will never get here, and will open opportunities later. If you are serious about eventually wanting to have a career internationally, it's important to demonstrate an ability to live and work comfortably abroad, which these programs will provide.
posted by Forktine at 10:26 PM on March 16, 2012

I basically don't know what to do with myself.

The young man that isn't confused is not on the path. Welcome to the path.

Seriously. One of the biggest bullshit myths of our culture is that you're officially "mature" by the time you're 21. You're not. If my life is any indication, you'll start to get a serious, rational grasp on shit around the time you're 25 (culminating by the time you're 52).

Until then, concentrate on your breathing.
posted by philip-random at 11:31 PM on March 16, 2012 [11 favorites]

First of all, get over the idea that because you went to a good college and you're smart that you will find a great job right away. You've only been out of school for less than a year. In this economy, that's a normal timeline for finding a job. On the plus side, you can rest easy knowing that lots of people are in your shoes. I know I was, once upon a time.

I would say focus on finding better work before anything else. Once you have enough money to pay your bills, you'll have a little breathing room and you can think about things like dating and getting your own apartment. Since you can't do much to improve your social life in mom and dad's basement, just bracket your social life for a little while, as hard as that may sound. Funnel 100% of your effort into finding a job that will get you the income to move out.

Don't think of your first "real" job as a long-term position. It's just a stepping stone. Think of a decent job you'd really enjoy and figure out how you can take baby steps to get there – what qualifications and skills does [insert dream job here] have? Then boil that down into a first position and start building your resume. Maybe do part-time or freelance, it doesn't matter, as long as you're earning qualifications.

You could go the grad school route, but it doesn't sound like you're very passionate about the field. If you do go, make sure you're not just doing it to avoid the job market. Otherwise, you may end up with a big expensive degree that qualifies you for a job you don't really want.

I really sympathize with you. I was in almost exactly the same situation a few years ago, and I felt really lonely and isolated. One bit of advice: pay attention to your health. You need to make sure you're taking care of your body during this stressful time.
posted by deathpanels at 12:20 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm speculating that your parents are solid citizens, and they have friends and acquaintances that are solid citizens, too. After school, and again after the Air Force (in similar economies), it was my parents friends who steered me toward jobs they knew about. There's no better reference, period. They're the people who can say things to your prospective boss like, "Yeah, he's sharp, just needs some direction," and have it come off like a compliment instead of a curse.

Also, since you like sports, caddy at the country club for the summer. No, 21 is not too old, and no, they won't think you're hopeless for caddying. The first time you have a $250 day and meet the CEO of a sports franchise on the links, you won't feel old or hopeless, either.

Plus, girls.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:33 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might also try Title Research. Go to the county clerk's office and see if you can find out who the big names in your neighborhood are. Apply to them, but learn how to do it yourself. It will pique your interest in real time history of your location, and get your foot in the door at law firms that specialize in property transactions. It's part of the closing costs for every property transaction that is recorded.

Once you know how to do this, you can always fall back on it if you need to. It's been going on since 1541 in this country, and it's not going anywhere soon.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:58 AM on March 17, 2012

History, business administration, sociology, international sports management, paralegal -- such a diversity of interests. This may be causing you problems when you apply for jobs.

Keep in mind that hiring and training new employees is really expensive. It often takes a while before a new employee becomes productive enough to be a net benefit to the institution. Hiring someone is a substantial risk, so companies want to feel confident that the new hire will stick around and apply themselves; otherwise it's better to just do without them. Whatever job you're applying for, rewrite your cover letter / resume to make it at least look like you're really invested in that particular job or line of work. Scattered interests and a willingness to do anything that pays well probably isn't a great look right now.
posted by jon1270 at 5:37 AM on March 17, 2012

First off, you're not in a position to eliminate large classes of jobs like sales and teaching. Get the job, give it a couple of years, see where it goes, then decide if it's the right long-term choice. When I was 23 and in similar liberal-arts BA shoes, I was convinced I didn't want to teach or sell. At 25, I took a job that seemed like a terrible fit since it was a little sales-y but was better than continuing to be unemployed. A decade later, my awesome job consists of selling by teaching. You never know.

Is the crappy job you have helping your resume? A crappy job can look very good if you have the discipline to stick it out and generate a positive reference. I think smart employers would rather hire a college grad who spent a year working as a house cleaner (with sterling references) than one who spent a year doing unpaid internships. This is especially true if you're (moderately!) proud of the job when asked about it, implying that, to you, working hard is more important to you than the specific work you do.

That being said, I agree with halfbuckaroo that it wouldn't hurt to target your non-career job towards places where career-type employers hang out. Caddies, bank tellers, baristas, servers at business-heavy restaurants, and similar all have constant exposure to hiring managers and people who know hiring managers.
posted by backupjesus at 9:09 AM on March 17, 2012

I am considering going back to get my Masters in International Sports Management.

Good lord, don't do that (yet). Some professional degrees can be really helpful to your career, or course, but only if you have a career to begin with. Which you don't (yet). You've already got debt; do your best to not add to it now.

Check out every pro and semi-pro and college team in your area and see about internships, part-time office work in sales or administration or community outreach and get your foot in the door and some actual experience and, equally important, contacts and connections.
posted by rtha at 10:26 AM on March 17, 2012

I want to echo what others have said about grad school.
I would strongly advise not going until you have a really concrete idea of what you want from a career in sports management. I was in a similar situation as you when I graduated with my liberal arts B.A. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do (public sector environmental work), and immediately pursued a graduate degree. It was from one of the top schools in the field, but I thought it was a disaster for me personally.

Everyone here has offered solid advice, and I would second the AmeriCorps route. The people I know that have done it found it was hard work, but a good experience. Right out of college and living at home is the perfect time to do those types of things. In two to three years, you may not have a chance.
posted by bombastic at 10:29 AM on March 17, 2012

Do information interviews with the people in your family's circle who have jobs that are interesting to you. Prepare by learning about their company & position. Tell people what your skills & interests are, and ask them to tell you about their work, and suggest 3 other people to talk to. Practice with the people you know best and gradually work your way outwards towards strangers in fields that hold interest.

People you age & just a little bit older will likely have the most relevant advice, but people older than that will know more hiring managers.

Jobs don't get filled through advertisements, they get filled by referrals, so you've got to be out there introducing yourself.

The second strategy when you don't have much work experience is to volunteer - be an intern, or join an organization that needs your help a couple days a week. Demonstrate that you can get learn new skills ithe job and are comfortable with others and then use your volunteer supervisor as a reference.

Any job can lead you closer to your goal, you've just got to figure out how and accept that it's not necessarily easy and there may not be a direct path.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 12:39 PM on March 17, 2012

Degrees in sports, broadcasting, criminal justice, advertising, screenwriting etc. are as a rule terrible in getting people into the business in question. You need to diligence their placement records closely and use LinkedIn and other online resources to assess the education and prior employment of people who actually have the jobs.
posted by MattD at 1:13 PM on March 17, 2012

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