Help me prepare for a job hunt with little work experience.
July 5, 2012 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Lots of life experience/education, not so much work experience. Help me get ready to get a job.

Hi all. I'm a 30 year old man currently finished with my 1st year of a 2 year Master's program in International Relations. I don't have a great resume prior to entering grad school. How can I minimize this and what should I be doing in my second year of school to put myself in the best position to get a good job when I finish my degree next summer?

Background: I moved overseas (Japan) when I was 24, and the original plan was to teach for a year or two and then come back to the states for grad school, but I ended up staying significantly longer. This was partially because I was enjoying life as an expat English teacher, and partially because after my second year of teaching English, the 2008 financial crisis hit and it seemed like a bad time to quit my job and go back to the states. Long story short, I taught English in a variety of different settings and didn't get into a grad program until I was 29 and about to turn 30. About 6 months before coming back to grad school, I did manage to land a "real" job, working at a web development company where I helped coordinate user experience research projects with companies from abroad looking to do research in Japan. It was good experience, and I actually wish that I hadn't quit at times, but I had been accepted to a good grad program, and the job started out fairly slow so by the time it picked up and I realized that it would be a good job to stay at, I'd already finalized my plans to go back to school. I've now just finished the 1st year of a degree in international relations, focusing primarily on economics and international business. I left the web development company on good terms and I'll actually be going back to intern this summer, learning more about the business side of their user experience research division. However, I'm interested in export development, market entry strategies and market analysis, and this internship isn't necessarily directly related to those fields. Ideally I'd either like to work for a consulting firm that does this kind of work, or for the Commerce department, maybe working for somewhere like the Foreign Commercial Service.

I go to a good grad program, and people in my program do get these types of jobs coming out, but some of them have more extensive relevant work experience, or they're a bit younger and went straight through school. What I'm hoping is that, at worst, potential employers will view me on the same level as the people in my program who went straight through school and have little relevant work experience. I am a bit worried though, that they might look at my resume and wonder what the hell I was doing teaching English for so long.

Is this going to be a problem? I already have some ideas that I hope will help polish up my resume during this next year. There are businesses in my area that are looking to expand into Asian markets, so I'm going to try and do some market analysis/export strategy work for them over the course of next year. Any other ideas, ways that I can improve my resume, or things that I need to be thinking about as I prepare to find a job next summer? Thanks!
posted by tokaidanshi to Work & Money (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
the SBA/Department of Commerce Export Assistance Centers do internships that are unpaid but often offer school credit, and would put something similar to what it is you want to do on your resume. I think it's easier to get into that program as an intern than to do similar work as a job after you graduate, but interning there would probably help out a lot in getting that job or one similar after graduating.
posted by saraindc at 9:20 PM on July 5, 2012

You'll probably want to get into a "Management Trainee" program (or something of that ilk). The expectation is that you worked to keep body and soul together during this time.

As for teaching English in Japan for so long, what is so terrible about saying, "I was having a fantastic time, lerning the language, immersed in the culture and given the prospects for employment back in the US, it seemed prudent to continue on." Any good manager will see the good sense in this and respect you.

Being in Grad School gives you a warped view of the world. You're spending so many hours crossing T's and dotting lower-case j's that you think that there's only one right way to do something, and it simply is not the case.

When doing your resume, don't merely list your jobs, explain what you got out of them. Tell the story of what a great job you did.

Employers you want to work for are interested in you because you bring something to the table. Sure, it's great to tick the boxes, but if you are charming, have language skills, are talented and aren't flakey, those are the attributes that make your manager want to work with you!

If you have an interest in getting into the Commerce department, start applying to jobs NOW on Getting into Federal employment is a huge honking deal and it takes for mother-loving ever.

Also, check out the CIA. They have a deal where they have agents who also work in the International sphere. It used to be that the cover was "state department" but now they want folks who are in business and who have lived and worked abroad.

Once you get into the federal system, you can go anywhere.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:50 AM on July 6, 2012

I have been in exactly the same situation (minus the grad school) and I actually managed to change from being an English teacher to a government track in economic development and international trade.

I would say that you might want to consider going back to the web dev company, as it has a real Japanese connection and will allow to both expand your network and also get some credibility on your resume working in the private sector (private sector likes private sector, govt international trade like private sector experience).

The age of 30 is really just a little too old to be starting in an entry-level position in government, and, while I don't know what the US is like, I found the international trade/relations/Japan trade community in Canada to be incredibly competitive.

Plus, Japan is just not a focus at the moment, although the country's energy crisis is changing that in the short to medium term.

Anyway, you ought to at least try to get that job back that you liked so much, and try to leverage that experience in a few years, combined with your Masters.

If you approach the job search in the right way (ie, do not rely on submitting resumes to databases or calls for application, but instead leverage personal networks), your English teaching career is not going to matter one bit.

However, having been in a similar situation, I can say that absolutely no one outside of the TEFL community takes Eikaiwa jobs seriously back in North America. It's not that it's a bad career, it just has a bunch of flags on it. In fact, I found during my job search after returning to Canada in my early 30s that even mentioning Japan was some sort of weird red flag.

However, if you can get private sector experience at a meaningful job with a Japan connection, you really ought to take it, as the road to a fulfilling government career will be long, hard, and full of potential setbacks and pitfalls.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:18 PM on July 6, 2012

« Older Business in Boston   |   Why would a landlord offer only a six month lease? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.