Please help me plot my escape from Retail!
February 11, 2013 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I need help focusing my job search, finding something decent with a degree but very little relevant work experience, and keeping from getting too discouraged in the process.

So I know the economy is bad and everything, but feel like I need some external direction / tips on finding a job. I'm currently working at a supermarket deli. This was a great job while getting my degree in Anthropology / Archeology (gradated in 2008) but now I would really like to find something more challenging.

I have minimal work experience due to having severe depression/ social phobia before college. I had a few receptionist / administrative assistant positions that I got through family connections that I try to play up on my resume but none of them were more than a year.

I have decided not to pursue Archeology due to most of the jobs disappearing (including those of my best professional connections) and just rethinking the lifestyle - living out of motels all the time, working long hours for little pay and never knowing where to find the next job. Does this mean I have to have to go back to school for something else entirely?

I'm not sure what I want to do long-term. For now, I just want to get out of retail. I've been applying for receptionist jobs for almost a year with no call backs. I tried the best temp agency in the area and was told I'm not qualified for receptionist work because I have so little experience. The best they can offer me is filing or data entry. How can I get experience if no one will give me a job?

I've applied for positions like cultural diversity assistant at an university with no response.

My home university basically gave me a "What you can do with this degree" handout, but I have no idea how to transition from retail-working Anthropology graduate to marketing, for example.

I have been considering trying to make a living off of Textbroker or pet-sitting or something because no one will hire me.

So....please help! I am being treated for the depression and anxiety, but this is a very big trigger for me. I have tried and given up several times, but don't want to give up anymore for fear of spending the rest of my life working in a supermarket. Any suggestions on what to do, avenues to pursue or tips on overcoming discouragement are all welcome! Thank you!
posted by seraph9 to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Does your University have career counseling? Mine offers this service both to current students and alumni. Even if you don't want to be an archaeologist -- what about anthropology? You are qualified to do this as well. You could get a job as a lab assistant or something like that.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:17 AM on February 11, 2013

First of all, cut yourself a break; in a shitty economy, it's often not about you but about there not being enough jobs open. Try not to take the lack of opportunities personally.

Geographically speaking, could you move somewhere with more jobs? This entails a risk (moving w/out a job) because you often can't get interviews if you are not already in the area.

However, re temp jobs, if you take the filing or data entry jobs, you will get a shot at the admin jobs eventually...they tend to overlap. Also you have to sign up w/ multiple agencies and call them every single day to ask about openings. And in the meantime, filing is boring but you get paid.

Long-term, I know nothing about Archaeology as a profession, but could there be any related (museums, or working for the Corps of Engineers) fields that you could go into on an entry-level basis? Do you have the wherewithal to do an internship and live at home or similar?

You definitely need a real career counselor to walk you through this; you need to find other people with your degree who worked it into a career.

Are you also sure you want to give up on archaeology itself? Is it really disappearing as a profession? Do you have any feelings about what else you might do?
posted by emjaybee at 8:27 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I second the suggestion that you see a career counsellor at your alma mater, and that you take the data entry/boring jobs with temp agencies. Also, it's a risk, but you could try interning or volunteering at a place that interests you in order to a) get more experience and b) make contacts. If you're really lucky, you might even eventually be offered a job. But in the meantime, I wouldn't give up on the temp agencies, and I would avail myself of my university's career counselling programs, they can help you orient yourself through career assessments and the like. Good luck!
posted by faraasha at 8:42 AM on February 11, 2013

How can I get experience if no one will give me a job?

Volunteering and internships. These count as experience. Look at the non-profits near your area and see if you can help them for free for an agreed upon time. If you're motivated and good this could lead to something part time or even full time paid, and if not, it will be legitimate experience on your resume.

You also need to hound your network. You sound kind of introverted and this is not pleasant for you, but everyone you know--family, friends, passing acquaintances...need to know you are looking for an office job. People like helping people they like and someone will come along and give you a chance. But you really have to put the effort in of talking to people and getting yourself out there. This will be much more useful than emailing your resume around.

Good luck.
posted by the foreground at 8:45 AM on February 11, 2013

Are there such things as corporate anthropology jobs? Like, studying corporate cultures?
posted by goethean at 8:45 AM on February 11, 2013

What about something like AmeriCorps? In my experience it can be a great way for somebody without much work history to do something that's meaningful and that can open a lot of doors; at the very least it would give you something to put on your resume other than retail.

My experience is with Public Allies, which is one of many, many programs under the AmeriCorps umbrella. I applied right out of high school, but almost all of my fellow members were recent-ish college graduates with really diverse work/academic backgrounds. Public Allies might be a good fit for you because it's focused on developing future nonprofit and public service leaders which means there's lots of extra training and mentoring, much specifically focused on helping you develop your career. The pay, while still not great, is also much better than most other options because the majority of your salary is paid by the nonprofit with which you are placed. As one last upside - they have a strong preference for hiring from the community in which you would be working, and since you're in Raleigh you'd have an advantage if you applied to the North Carolina branch.
posted by exutima at 8:48 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

The best they can offer me is filing or data entry.

So do filing or data entry. That will get your foot in the door, and I'll bet that you can probably work your way up from there.

You want something "better than retail." So focus on that. An office job, to me, is better than retail as long as it pays better than retail. Not on your feet, not dealing with the general public, not handling food. So get in on a data entry position and make connections there.
posted by xingcat at 8:50 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing you might want to explore is a Customer Service job.

I majored in English Lit and thought I'd be a teacher. But the job I got while in college turned out to be a 25 years career!

I started in Customer Service with the phone company. I learned a ton, and started applying for other jobs, learning more, getting more experience, and earning a very good living in conjunction with benefits.

While working in customer service seems like a lame-o job, I've found that most entry-level jobs are what you make them. You can just see it as a continuation of drudgery or you can see it as a springboard to all kinds of interesting things.

I went from helping people with their phone stuff to planning and executing large data networks. I loved it! I loved my customers, I loved my work and I loved all the people I worked with.

Now, after getting a more than decent buy-out after 25 years in the industry, I've now learned and I'm in demand all over again for those skills.

You can do airline reservations (comes with options to travel!), ditto hotel reservations, Banking, Utilities, or any call center that's affiliated with a large corporation. Corporations have the most interesting jobs, one person I know went around the country to deal with real estate, moves and office re-configurations.

You are not your job, and it's possible to have a job in corporate American that's fun and challenging and pays well and might even be unionized.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:50 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just to add a voice--do the temp filing and data entry! Temp agencies want you to have "office" experience... they don't really mind what you were doing in the office. You won't be stuck entering numbers forever, you will definitely move towards admin assistant roles. (Whether you really want to go in that direction is something else--but it is better than retail.)

Another option is to focus on smaller businesses, which are more likely to hire you with less experience. For example, instead of going to the best temp agency in the area, go to the worst. They'll have a smaller pool of applicants, so you'll be more likely to get more interesting work, which you can then put on your resume when you go back to the best temp agency in six months. Apply for reception gigs at small doctor's offices or 15-people-or-less local businesses. They are likely to take someone based more on personality fit than resume, and you can use that experience to get into bigger corporate jobs later, if that's what you want.

Absolutely don't feel bad about not getting university admin jobs. I got my BA in 2008 also, but have been working in office admin since then. Over the last six months I've probably applied to 20 admin jobs at two local universities, and not had a single call back. These jobs are hotly contested and they're also usually very unionized, so internal applicants have a big advantage. If anything, try for temp jobs at the university to get your foot in the door. Don't be discouraged because universities don't call.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:22 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone!

I have contacted my University about career counseling. I'll also consider the temp jobs although they sound boring as hell :)
posted by seraph9 at 8:37 AM on February 13, 2013

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