Fixing a Career Derail Five Years After Graduation
January 30, 2013 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I was a re-entry student graduated in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in Public Administration. My entry into the field got derailed and since 2008, I've been working out of the field, underemployed. How can I get back on track?

I'm 39 and life handed a big opportunity to start fresh, but I feel old and rusty. Am I doomed to underemployment? How can I explain the gap between graduation and now? Is it worth pursuing a master's in PA at my age? Any advice out there for me?
posted by entropicamericana to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to mention--I'm also open to working in the private sector.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:46 AM on January 30, 2013

An MPA is definitely worth pursuing. It will not only allow you to learn more, but professors and the departments are connected to employers. That will allow you do to internships, even if you have to start with an unpaid one.

I found that being an older graduate student made me stand out in the crowd with professors.

If you decide not to go to graduate school, you can volunteer in the community. Are there any political campaigns or issues that you feel passionate about? My community is filled with professionals in government and non-profits, and many extended their networks by working on campaigns or volunteering together.
posted by frizz at 7:47 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I am in an MPA program and at 27 I'm definitely at the younger end of the spectrum. Many of the students are around your age.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:18 AM on January 30, 2013

Do you have a story for your gap? Can you think of something you were working on, learning more about, or studying during that time that's related to your field?

I think the advantage of a program is that people recruit out of programs, and are much more likely to consider you if you're enrolled in a program.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:51 AM on January 30, 2013

Response by poster: Well, the real story is that I was staying local to be a caregiver to my dying father, so I guess the answer would be "no."
posted by entropicamericana at 10:05 AM on January 30, 2013

So sorry for your loss, entropicamericana, and I honor you for making the time to care for your father.

So. Being 39 is sooooo not a thing in most MPA programs. I doubt you will be anywhere near the oldest student. If you can make it work financially, absolutely go for it! So many of my friends have had great experiences doing their MPA.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:12 AM on January 30, 2013

Response by poster: So is everyone pretty much saying that a MPA is my best shot at this point?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:16 AM on January 30, 2013

Oh, sorry. Yes. If it's feasible financially, you'll leapfrog over entry-level positions that way.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on January 30, 2013

Why is staying local to be a caregiver to your father not usable as your explanation for why you had a gap between graduation and now? It's understandable, true, and says some good things about you. In any case, in terms of getting back into the field, I think networking and informational-interviewing and so on will help you much more than cold applying. You are not doomed!

If you are interested in an MPA, it's a great degree - really practical, lots of usable skills, and lots of good networking and career-placement opportunities. And don't assume that you will have to pay or pay full-price for it; plenty of schools, especially public universities, have good scholarships and financial aid packages for MPAs. 39 is a very reasonable age to get an MPA, and it will set you up to jump ahead of entry-level positions.
posted by aka burlap at 7:11 PM on January 30, 2013

Response by poster: If I get to the interview point, I'm sure the caregiver explanation will be well received, but I feel my problem might be getting past the initial review to the interview.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:40 AM on January 31, 2013

I think you might be right about that, entropicamericana - but that's why I think focusing on networking and making connections will be a better route for you.
posted by aka burlap at 4:57 PM on January 31, 2013

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