How do I get a job in San Francisco with a paper-thin resume?
January 18, 2013 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I'll try to make this brief. I recently turned 23, and due to a combination of drugs and depression since getting out of high school I have essentially no work experience. This makes responding to job postings very frustrating and humiliating as my resume feels like a complete joke.

The only work I've done is give piano lessons to a few students from 2010 to the middle of last year, and I worked as one of those sign waving people over the summer but got fired after a few weeks, so I feel like putting such a short stint on my resume is more of a liability than an asset. I don't have many references either, unless I ask some people to completely lie for me. But I hate lying, not because I'm some especially moral and virtuous person; I'm just lazy and it's hard to keep track of lies, and I find being honest to be more easy, but I can't help but feel sometimes that being honest is for suckers. It sucks because yeah, I made some unwise decisions and kinda dicked around for a while but now I'm really trying to become a productive member of society and it seems no one is willing to take a chance on someone like me. But I digress...

I guess I'll list some of my skills/assets:

I can play piano pretty well, and I gave lessons for a while but as I mentioned previously, based on the lack of responses to the applications I send out being self-employed doesn't mean a whole lot to HR people.

I completed just about two years of community college (focusing on music), no degree though.

I am fluent in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP (like just about every other person in San Francisco, where I live).

So many job postings I see require a year, two years minimum experience, so in a nutshell my question for the hive mind is, besides just outright lying about having a degree, previous jobs, etc, how can I get a job (or 'how can I get income' is what I suppose I'm really asking) without any workplace experience? I haven't done any volunteering either, and no exhortations to see a therapist, please. I don't have a car so I can't easily travel very far outside the city either.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
'how can I get income' is what I suppose I'm really asking

Food service. Yeah, it sucks, but you can wash dishes or wait tables or make lattes while you look for better work.
posted by Etrigan at 8:26 AM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Shake down everyone you know for connections to even the most menial jobs you can get. Apply to be a busser in every restaurant in town. Drop off applications at every retail store and fast food place you can get to. At this point you just need someone to say "well, we need a warm body with arms and legs and you showed up to the interview sober, so we're giving you a chance."
posted by griphus at 8:29 AM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check into some of San Francisco's program's for youth services, including Matchbridge and the Workforce Development Division of the Office of Economic & Workforce Development. I don't have personal experience with either, but additional googling for "youth job programs" + San Francisco brings up more resources.
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on January 18, 2013

Restaurants have high turnover and will hire anyone -- be presentable at the interview and work hard in the dishroom and in a year or two you'll have a less thin resume. Meanwhile, maybe advertise on craigslist to do music lessons on the side to earn a bit more and possibly make networking connections in a field you're more interested in.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:33 AM on January 18, 2013

I am fluent in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP (like just about every other person in San Francisco, where I live).

Put up a portfolio of work that you've created. If you haven't done work for clients, create projects for yourself and make them available via github.

Establish an account on services like elance, odesk, etc., and point people to the work you've put on github, etc. as evidence of your skills.

Given your in-demand skillsets, you should have freelance contracts fairly readily. These can serve as a springboard to full time employment.
posted by dfriedman at 8:34 AM on January 18, 2013

Yeah, seriously, just get a job in a restaurant. They'll hire you to bus tables or wash dishes. Seriously don't overanalyze this - go, now.
posted by downing street memo at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a job in a restaurant that will teach you to be a server. You will meet lots of customers, and some of them will offer you jobs or give you leads. This happens on a regular basis once you become a decent server.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:48 AM on January 18, 2013

You can do some volunteer work to get experience and references in an area you're interested in while you work at McDonalds/ wherever.
posted by windykites at 8:54 AM on January 18, 2013

This is what temp agencies are for. You can use a computer and construct a coherent sentence. Go put your name in at some temp agencies and you'll be working pretty quickly. And not in food service. And you can put it on your resume for office level job experience.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:56 AM on January 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

Seconding volunteer experience. Look for volunteer experience in which you can use your web design skills. And get whatever temporary or food service job you can in the meantime while you build up your reputation and your portfolio by volunteering.
posted by mareli at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2013

In the short term, I agree with the others that you should look at temp agencies and restaurants, with the idea of being a eventually becoming a server.

defriedman also makes a good point. If you're legitimately fluent in PHP and JavaScript, spend your free time coding up a portfolio. Build some things people would use, and apply for the lowest level coding jobs you can find. In your spare time, consider either volunteering to build something for a non-profit or picking up gigs on Craigslist/elsewhere that pay little or nothing.

Once you've built some things, point people to your work, not your experience. A low-level programming/scut work job can turn into something more fairly quickly.
posted by cnc at 10:08 AM on January 18, 2013

Just get in the workforce.

Don't go so much for jobs where you'd use a resume, but a job application. Blinking and breathing is a good start.

When my dad ran a Methodone Clinic, there was a guy there, total junkie, but he could always get a job. Here's what he said.

1. Use a black, felt-tip pen to fill out the application (if it's on-line won't really work)

2. There's always a place on the form for extra information, put three positive statements about yourself, such as:

A. I am punctual
B. I am reliable
C. I enjoy working in teams and I will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

That was pretty much it. He always got called, and he always got the job. Kept it too, until he'd go on a bender and disappear.

Look for entry-level customer service openings at AT&T, PG&E and other large companies in the city. They just want decently smart folks who can learn what they're taught and can do the job. When I worked for BellSouth in Nashville, they'd hire ANYONE who could pass the test. I'm talking 12 piercings, green mohawk, goth dudes. Didn't matter. Can't see that shit on the phone, and the guy was good on the phone.

It's hard, but not impossible.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2013 [13 favorites]

Seriously, my friend went from being a drop-out, drug-addled dude with a record to a bike delivery guy for a restaurant, to a waiter, to a manager, and now to an owner there from the age of I think 20-27. So yeah, start in the restaurant biz. Also try construction or apprentice to a woodworker or furniture maker.
posted by greta simone at 10:27 AM on January 18, 2013

If you are in SF and you know some web dev, then apply for the web stuff. You have web experience already, and you likely did it on your own, not part of a job, which actually can be viewed as a positive. That's not lying. We're still in the growth side of the current web boom, and you're at ground zero -- everybody is hurting for web and programming talent and as cnc says above a entry-level job can turn into a good one quickly. Also check out temp agencies.

If sitting at a screen all day will drive you batty, then yeah, restaurants are great in that being willing to work hard right now counts for more than your past.
posted by troyer at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2013

Get your restaurant job and start meeting people. Make everyone like you. When on your off hours either 1) expand your dev skills if that where you want to go, or 2) be out and about making lots and lots of friends. Make enough friends that know you need work and they may/will call you up for any temp work they need a body for. Use this temp work to shine, and hopefully create skills for yourself. Do this for a while with enough friends(making more the whole way), and you may find yourself in enough demand that your pay goes up job by job and various people want you full time. Use this adventure to direct your life as you want it to go, and welcome, you just read my life story for the last year.

I hate resumes and applications. The only one I have filled out is for a specific corporate temp job I really wanted(and got). My name is my brand.
posted by Folk at 1:36 PM on January 18, 2013

You were made for Job Corps.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:07 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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