Why don't you get a job?
February 15, 2013 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Some people say, "don't quit your day job." I want a day job not to quit. This has turned recently into "I need a day job not to starve." Employers don't agree.

So, details, I guess. I don't have a full-time job. I freelance currently, and in my field I am both well-respected and very good at what I do. (I can't go into much more detail because I feel like it will be counterproductive in a job-application sense to attach my name to this.) I'm incredibly grateful for all this, of course -- but it is not enough to pay the bills and never will be. Even beyond the basic Maslow facts of "not having a place to go every day has slowly ground me down to nothing": I have one month of rent left in my bank account before I literally have no money remaining. Getting a job immediately is now my only option. But I've been trying for six months to get a full-time job and have gotten nowhere.

Moreover, I don't have health insurance anymore. The copays from medical bills in the past, from when I did, were a large part of what eroded my savings, and considering I've had to spend that much on health care when I was insured, young and healthy-ish, so who even knows), it terrifies me to think how much I could have to pay without. I need cavities filled, but now I can't afford that. I haven't had a checkup since high school, but I can't afford that either. I'm still young enough to theoretically go on my parents' plan, but in practice I can't because I haven't spoken to my father in years, and my mother just lost her job and insurance and is unlikely to find a new one soon. (I'll never tell her that, of course -- but, well, it's true.) This also means I can't move back home. I'm completely on my own. Special snowflake details all, but I'm also literally in tears typing this.

So: every day I browse the job listing sites for anything even remotely applicable to my experience, but this only results in a few applications per week, just on sheer "what am I even qualified for" grounds, and I haven't had a job interview proper in months. Needless to say, it is incredibly demoralizing applying to entry-level job or internship after internship and not even getting a polite email back. I've been told by friends/colleagues that I should aim higher, but when aiming even at the bottom gets me nowhere that doesn't seem to hold much weight. It is a like a parallel world where I am simultaneously successful and worthless, and the worthless part is what determines my income and my life. (Before you ask, I cannot really dumb down my resume -- or rather, I can, but the nature of my work means that any prospective employer can Google me, find everything I left off within seconds, and then have questions about why I lied. It would take no conscious effort at all.) What I want, of course, is a job that I enjoy and that will lead to a career where I can actually know what the fuck I'm doing in 10 years. But I can't even get a terrible dead-end job that I hate -- I can't even get an interview for that job -- so I'm at my wit's end.

One thing that doesn't help, I'm sure, is that I used to have a full-time job, but leaving it was not my choice. This sounds like a euphemism because I don't even know what to call it. It wasn't part of mass layoffs, and my position, such as it was, still exists, but when it happened they cited no issues with my performance (I asked), and I was given what I gather is substantially more severance than usual. (That thing about my mother getting laid off? She got less severance than I did, which boggles my mind.) So now there is that classic six-month gap with freelance work afterward, which every HR representative knows is often obfuscating bullshit, even when (as in my case) it isn't.

Things I've tried or considered: temp agencies (busts, all of them; a few have flat-out told me I am overqualified, the rest just never get back to me); retail and food service (never heard back from anyone, which is understandable as I have no experience and I'm in a city which asks for another tier of in-city experience); tutoring (I'm in interview purgatory with one company and haven't heard back from any others; no private postings have even bothered to reply, which is understandable enough for parents vetting experience-free strangers to be around their kids but also doesn't help me); selling shit (I don't own anything valuable enough to substantially offset shipping/packaging costs, and besides that's just a temporary bandage); letting everyone I know in my field and out know I'm looking (a few leads, all of which went precisely nowhere); pretty much anything else you might suggest, above or under the table.

Please help. I've tried everything at this point, but nothing's worked, and as Eminem would put it: success is my only motherfucking option; failure's not.
posted by dekathelon to Work & Money (53 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (and, because I know people will mention this: yes, this is coming from an incredible position of privilege in many senses, but on the other hand, I also have not enough income to live on, and I can't pay my rent using a detailed acknowledgment of everyone who has it worse.)
posted by dekathelon at 3:17 PM on February 15, 2013

You should definitely aim higher. There's more competition from people willing to take less money for entry-level positions, and if you're overqualified, employers will pass you over quickly.

You were laid off, it sounds like, which isn't a mark against you.

Go to a number of recruiters. Whatever your field is, and is adjacent to, find those people who place people like you in jobs.

Also (and this sounds like crap, but it isn't), go on informational interviews. Find people who would be your boss if you worked in your field for any given company and ask to talk to them. Take them to coffee or lunch and ask them about what's going on in your field. They may have connections or jobs that aren't advertised, and people do like to talk about their positions.
posted by xingcat at 3:19 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

The best way for many folks is to get a job through who you know--network, network, network. Join places (either professional organizations or social or religious or...) and then network there. You say you are well-respected in your field. Now is the time to go through your contact list and let everyone know that you are looking. Then contact as many folks as you can by phone (harder to duck than email) and set up "informational interviews" to have them let you know what kind of people they are looking for and offer some feedback on your resume/etc.

After years of freelancing (as a writer) I decided I needed a "real" job with benefits, etc. A government job is what came to mind. I found one and have been happily employed for 11 years. I am earning a very good salary, I have great benefits and I have a level of job security and anticipated retirement security I'd never experienced before.

It sounds like you are younger--would you have any interest in law enforcement? Our agency is hiring and the starting salary for a police office is $66K with health benefits and a defined benefit retirement program. Requirements are good physical health, 2 years of college, the ability to pass a variety of test (including drug and psych testing). So look at public agencies near you and see what they have.

I guess what I'm saying is be creative in your thinking.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:21 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I would try every retail business in your area, particularly large department stores and discount stores. They hire people every day that have no experience. Department stores like Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Macy's tend to prefer more polished people so I would target those over Target and Walmart.

Try the temp agencies again and try to talk to a person. If you're doing it all online, you'll never get anywhere. You can explain that while you have your Masters's in Underwater Basketweaving, which makes you look overqualified, you also have solid office skills.

If you have space, consider getting a short-term roommate to give you some financial breathing room.
posted by shoesietart at 3:25 PM on February 15, 2013

Have you considered getting a part time job as a barista, waitress, or the like? A lot of very serious and well-respected professional type people do this. My brother, who is a bartender full time, has several coworkers with full time white collar jobs (including at least one who is either a doctor or lawyer, I forget). I know people in my field who have kept their part time bar jobs for years because it's easy money. I sorely regret not ever working in a bar during my "I need a day job" phase, and still contemplate trying to get into it even though I don't entirely "need" the money.

Especially if your main concern is health insurance -- Starbucks offers insurance even to part-timers and is supposed to be a great place to work.

For many years I supplemented my film industry income running a flower booth in a greenmarket for a farmer who happened to be a friend of a friend. All cash and easy money, though it didn't provide health insurance.

I was until literally this week in your exact situation (woo finally got a job!) and started filling out applications for service industry type jobs out of desperation. I had an interview at Crate & Barrel (on the back of college retail experience) which went brilliantly, I was a shoe-in, and of course I got the job. Which I was lucky enough to turn down, but I'd have taken that job in a heartbeat and liked it, goddammit. Also, it paid partially on commission, so kaching. It might have eventually offered benefits, too.

TL,DR: go back to your pre-career day job experience. Whatever you did to make spending money in high school and college. Is it glamorous? No. But you're a freelance writer. Nobody makes a living at that, and nobody's going to turn their nose up at you for having a side gig as a restaurant hostess.
posted by Sara C. at 3:26 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been told by friends/colleagues that I should aim higher

This is just a thing people say.

Frankly, I hear it a lot from older colleagues, especially bosses and boss type people. I've always chalked it up to a lack of perspective after years in a comfortable superior position. It's also a lot easier to say, "it only pays how much?" or "the hours are what?" than it is to actually hire someone, pay them a living wage, and treat them decently. Middle aged folks who've spent decades in a salaried position have no idea how hard it is to hustle for work when you're not terribly experienced.

I mean, keep aiming higher, by all means. They're probably right, and eventually you'll get there. But in the mean time, don't let that bit of small talk dictate how your life should look.
posted by Sara C. at 3:32 PM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't have any pre-career day job experience. None. I didn't work during high school (this was when my family could afford my not working), and in college my experience was all internships (paid) related to my field. And as the OP stated, food service and telling my contacts multiple times that I am looking are both things I have tried.

(small clarifying note: I'm a freelancer but not a freelance writer.)
posted by dekathelon at 3:34 PM on February 15, 2013

You mention you're well-known and respected for what you do... but are you compensated appropriately? As in, are your rates are competitive with your peers, plus a markup for your recognized talent? Or is it that your field as a whole is poorly compensated? (this may be, I'm not judging, just checking to make sure you're getting paid what you're worth.)

Aim for jobs that you can find a way to leverage your freelancing skills. Can you at least identify what it is you do?

Go talk to several temp agencies in person to get some economic security while you hunt. If you were a writer (preview I see you're not), I'd say look for tech writing or marketing or university jobs. Artist? Jobs at galleries, museums, coffee shops, or even creative agencies. The key is figuring out how to show how your freelancing skills transfer to what you are going to do next. Without doing that, you're just hunting blindly in the dark - and as someone who has done that in the past - it is soul-sucking. So I empathize, believe me, I've been there.
posted by canine epigram at 3:38 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm having trouble understanding why the freelancing "is not enough to pay the bills and never will be" if you've got a name in your field and are good at what you do. Is there no way you can market yourself more assertively and raise your rates? Are you sure you can't charge more?

Doing freelance work at a healthy fee with multiple clients is more secure than trying to win and rely on one employer. I've been working independently for a long time and would never go back to the insecurity of a job.
posted by ceiba at 3:38 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

In your situation I've always temped, and no agency ever said I was overqualified, so I'm wondering how you presented yourself to them. I was quite clear that I was looking for a "day job" and that I did not want to go perm and that I would prefer assignments that were not that intellectually taxing. The resume I gave them reflected that. This was fine at countless agencies in various parts of the country. I'm sure it's different in some places, or maybe you just have some sucky agencies around you. If so, just disregard this. But if you took a different approach initially, maybe try again and sort of downplay your capabilities.

Good luck.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:40 PM on February 15, 2013

Oh, and if this isn't obvious, I'm not saying to entirely dumb down your resume, just use a different one for temping (or retail or whatever you're looking for) than you use for your freelance career.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:43 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

a few have flat-out told me I am overqualified

This is not a real thing. Temp agencies place people at all levels of experience. However, if you have specialized skills, you may need to find a temp agency that places people who do what you do. For example, I know there's a company called AccounTemps that specializes in people with finance and accounting experience. (Not that you do, just, like, as an example.)

Are you sure you're hearing what your various job leads and interviewers are really telling you?

Are you framing your experience accurately? I kept thinking I had no recent experience that would be relevant to a service industry job -- then I remembered my flower selling gig, and volunteering at Housing Works, and the events I bartended when I was part of an arts collective, etc etc etc. There is no way that you somehow made it into your twenties with zero relevant skills beyond freelance underwater basket weaving.

(On preview, re having zero work experience outside your field -- I got a job at Pier One Imports with no work experience when I was sixteen years old. And I'm nothing special. You're either not framing yourself right or giving up too quickly.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:49 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Being unemployed sucks. I have a MA so getting a job at Starbucks or Target were out of the question where I was hunting, although not for lack of trying. I ended up getting a job by sheer perseverance and luck, I think, but one thing that helped get my resume moving up was making sure I SOLD THE SHIT out of myself for every job I applied for. Are you doing that? I always see folks shopping the same generic resume around thinking that everyone will see their talent and knack for ___ but hiring managers/HR can't read your mind.

general suggestions:

- does your college have an alumni center, that may have career counseling/job listings, that sort of thing?

- have you looked into online test scoring? I did this and while it's not super steady work, it paid well.
posted by sm1tten at 3:51 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a little surprised that you haven't had much luck with temp agencies yet. It sounds like you are educated, youngish, and have a pulse. These are typically the prerequisites for temporary office work. But, understand that to get the attention of a temp agency you have to be very assertive. Simply submitting your resume is not enough. You have to talk to someone on the phone and arrange an in-person meeting. (Just a "getting to know you" chat even if they say don't have any work available at the moment.) When you have this interview, present yourself professionally. Dress conservatively, be polite and gracious. You want the agency to be confident that they can drop you into any client's office and not having to worry about you at all. Temp agencies are very used to people who need work but have some other thing going on like a freelance career, acting auditions, whatever. You need to do this with multiple agencies, and you need to call them every single day after you have that first interview. If you seem like you want to work, one of the agencies will come through for you and find you work. Even if you are sent to some rinky-dink assignments right off, behave and dress appropriately at all moments because you are being auditioned for better assignments. (Word gets back to the agency right quick.)

I am sure some other MeFites can chime in with some NYC-specific temp agency suggestions!

I know that with everything else that you've been going through it will seem like a lot of effort. (I hate making calls like I describe!) It may not be a permanent solution but you need money quickly and it's completely within your capabilities. Also - I think it may help you to get outside of your circle. Just interact with people where it's not so high-stakes relative to your freelance career or friends, you know?

I wish you the best of luck!
posted by stowaway at 3:53 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at ways to increase your business? Who else can use your services? Can your current client refer you to others, have you asked? Are you marketing yourself? Can you post your skills on guru.com/elance.com and similar sites, even craigslist? Do you have a website? Are there organizations that support your field that provide job postings. Can you work for the companies where you did internships?

Nthing what Destination said, create a different resume for temp/retail work. Highlight skills necessary for office or retail work. If you're an astrophysicist, you don't need to explain that you've identified black holes or discovered heretofore unknown planets. You can say that you pay close attention to details, are thorough, take good notes, are reliable, consistent, have good math skills so could work a cash register.
posted by shoesietart at 3:56 PM on February 15, 2013

I have a MA so getting a job at Starbucks or Target were out of the question

In New York, OP should be looking at higher end retail and food service. I know I suggested Sbux myself because the benefits are reportedly fantastic, but keep in mind that half the baristas, waiters, retail staff, etc. in Williamsburg are liberal arts grad freelancers doing it as a day job. I don't know specifics about how fancy of a graduate degree renders one "overqualified" to sell designer dog toys, but rest assured that many an MA is walking dogs in their spare time.

Which reminds me of another way to make easy money -- did you by any chance have pets growing up? Congratulations, you are now a dog walker and/or pet sitter.

(If you feel up to working as a vet tech, I may have a job lead for you, in fact. Vet tech-erie is entry level work that doesn't require any special experience or degree, though you should be comfortable working with animals obviously.)
posted by Sara C. at 4:02 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you tried any of these steps?

-Tell your clients that you are a job? If they don't have jobs do they know if anyone else is hiring?

-Contact.every.single.company.in.the.city.related to your type of work (an email with a few bullets points summarizing your skills). I used to pick up clients this way - and some start the conversation asking if I would consider a job, so I think this strategy should work for a job, too. If you are more phone oriented, try that. I do have 2 lists, one that is NYC-centric. If you want to give it a go, memail me and I can share, although I am not sure if we are or are not in the same industry...but you can find these by googling/LinkedIn research, etc.

-Let go of the idea that it is bad that you were let go from your last job. This is pretty common in some industries...and some companies will not even say anything whether you were laid off or were a steller VP, and will only confirm work dates. Instead of presenting this as "everyone can see I was laid off because after 6 months I need to go back to work", rethink this. Some people can make it as freelance but go back because of they want to be around people or in teams. Tell them that; you like working in teams and with other people. You do have clients, so they don't know or need to know why you want to go back.
posted by Wolfster at 4:03 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely go in person to temp agencies. I did some temping last year; I'd submitted my resume online, with a special temping cover letter even, and didn't hear back... but when I walked into their office, with just the resume, they were interested in finding work for me straight away. Tell them BEFORE THEY ASK that you're willing to be a clerk, file, stuff envelopes, etc... temp agencies appreciate workers who are open to any kind of assignment.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:07 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can look at temp jobs on indeed.com and tweak your resume to emphasize desirable skills. I've seen lots of people temping in jobs they are overqualified for, so if temp agencies say this to you perhaps they are wanting you to re-iterate that you really do want to do temp work. "It's true that I have a lot of experience in X field. However there aren't a lot of projects in my area right now and that's why I'm pursuing temp work."

You might also volunteer for organizations where you can get different types of experience.

If you are having trouble finding adequate work in your current field - and assuming you have already done all of the things above for marketing yourself effectively and - have you considered a career change? You would consider where you want to be, assess your transferrable skills, and re-write your resume to emphasize them. In cover letters you would explain (succinctly) how your experience would relate to a position in a new career. Even if you don't want your "new career" to permanently replace your current career, this could help you address apparent skill gaps.

Regardless - post your resume on indeed.com, and if you don't have a linkedin account then get one. Do some research on how to make the most of your membership - get people who have been happy with your work to write recommendations for you for one thing.

The informational interview is a good idea too.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2013

Also apply for temp jobs online. You might already be doing this, but if not - when you've run your searches for jobs in your field and there's nothing, look for temp jobs.
posted by bunderful at 4:24 PM on February 15, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit but:

* I'm being paid competitively with my peers. Researched, asked around. The only differential in pay might be because I'm a woman in a male-dominated field, but that is both hard to pin down and certainly impossible to really change. The problem is the amount of work out there (demand far outweighs supply - I'm one of the really lucky ones in this field in this boat) and the amount the field values it at (not much, and declining all the time). I have a LinkedIn account and my resume is on Indeed, both of which would be thoroughly humiliating if I thought anyone was ever going to see it. Nothing has come of either.

* People kind of do need to know the circumstances of my last job. Most online applications ask for a reason for leaving, and the ones that don't I assume either address it in the interview or make their own assumptions at the reading-the-resume point. I don't know what my old job will tell (is telling?) people about why I left and don't really have a way to find out.

* I don't even know what I'd change careers into. I'm not qualified for anything and I can't see myself enjoying anything my skills can be used for - but that's a moot question anyway, since nobody is even interviewing me.
posted by dekathelon at 4:24 PM on February 15, 2013

Are you looking at temp agencies aimed at the work you do?

Most people know about places like Accountemps for finance related gigs, but might not know about the Creative Group (which places people in the marketing industry and related content and design gigs.) There are all kinds of specialized staffing agencies; make sure you're targeting the right ones.

I would not walk into a temp agency with a paper resume, by the way. (What are they going to do with a paper resume? They need the electronic copy; paper goes straight in the trash.) In any of the agencies I worked in, this would be a big mark against a candidate because it speaks to judgment and professionalism. Better to research who's out there and e-mail them. There is high turnover at the agencies, by the way, often 100% within a few months, so don't assume that just because you checked in a while ago you shouldn't check in again.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:30 PM on February 15, 2013

This will not solve your immediate problem (and I'm sorry about that) but have you considered volunteering, if you have time in your day when you're not freelancing? I know I often mention 826NYC on the green; I really enjoy tutoring kids and doing various nonprofity tasks there. Volunteering can be a good way to keep occupied, make contacts, and work on skills that you can add to your resume. I have used volunteer bosses as references too on occasion in addition to employers for my paid work.

I do agree with the people telling you to aim higher, even if it does sound like a platitude--sometimes the competition for entry-level jobs is really fierce, and resume screeners might not consider you if they can find someone less qualified/fresh out of college who seems like they will work for less money.
posted by mlle valentine at 4:31 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry too much about that gap in your resume. Just say you were laid off, because you were. Whether they just laid off you or a 1000 employees -- it doesn't matter. I think agonizing over that detail now doesn't help you in your search. Be breezy (but professional) about it when it comes up. Make some noises about organizational fit or something.
posted by stowaway at 4:33 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

So: every day I browse the job listing sites for anything even remotely applicable to my experience, but this only results in a few applications per week, just on sheer "what am I even qualified for" grounds, and I haven't had a job interview proper in months.

This is insufficient. In the world of hiring, job sites list .01% of available positions. Identify as many potential employers as possible, check their websites or call HR for career/hiring info, and then send cover letter and resume to the appropriate contact person, whether or not there are any listed jobs. After a few days, call to confirm receipt of resume/CL.

I would also encourage you to persist in looking for something in food service/retail to tide you over while you look for a job in your field. I find that with many of these kinds of jobs, your best bet is physically going into the store with your resume and talking to a manager. Do not go during busy hours.

Also, if this question and your responses are any indication of your attitude towards job searching, you should work on changing it. I understand that your naysaying is based on your experience over the last few months. But the shitty thing about job searching is that you must KEEP SEARCHING until you get one. I feel for you, but the only answer is to continue persevering until you have a new job, even if it means trying the same avenue over and over until it actually works.
posted by murfed13 at 4:36 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]

I wonder how much your negative thinking is seeping into your interactions with people who could get you jobs (whether that's networking sources, temp agency hiring managers, or the assistant manager at Barnes & Noble).

It also sounds like you see all potential networking and ways of putting yourself out there as "humiliating". This is how the sausage is made, hon. You're never going to get a job if you act as if trying to get a job is beneath you. I also have to wonder if you're taking this approach to your freelance career, and if that might be at the root of your whole problem.

Re your old job. Your "reason for leaving" on any application is "laid off". Period. When you are actually in an interview, you spin it as positively as possible and don't dwell or overexplain. Say something about the company doing some internal reshuffling and then shift to talk about something positive. Something like, "But I had always been interested in trying out the freelance thing, which has been great these past six months because..." or "But it turned out to have a silver lining, because without that kick in the butt I never would have ..."
posted by Sara C. at 4:42 PM on February 15, 2013 [22 favorites]

I have a LinkedIn account and my resume is on Indeed, both of which would be thoroughly humiliating if I thought anyone was ever going to see it.

If you're a freelancer, you own a business. This is not the way to market a business. It sounds like you have problems with esteem and self-limiting thinking. You might take a look at Overcoming Underearning, which gave me a good kick in the pants.
posted by ceiba at 4:47 PM on February 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

I don't know what my old job will tell (is telling?) people about why I left and don't really have a way to find out.

It is highly likely that your former employer would just confirm dates of employment during a routine reference check - it's pretty standard, regardless of what you really think of the employee (good or bad) due to concerns about lawsuits. In any event, you can test this theory by calling anonymously to preform a reference check on yourself. (Have a friend call if its a small company and/or you think your voice would be recognized.) At least then you can have peace of mind on that point.
posted by cessair at 4:48 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Identify as many potential employers as possible, check their websites

Seconding this. Identify types of industries etc. where you could potentially -- even tangentially -- put your skills to work in any sort of capacity (say, for example, museums or publishers or photography studios or printers or whatever). Then systematically identify every single individual company or organization that falls within that category in your area (e.g., google "museums New York" or whatever). Then you check the job page on the website for every single one of them. Then you cycle back to them once every week or so to catch any new jobs that get posted. This is precisely how I got my job 12 years ago (initially as a freelancer, then hired full-time a year later) -- I'm pretty sure my position was never actually posted at a general job site.
posted by scody at 4:50 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm really not sure why the reason you left your old job is a big deal. You were laid off, not fired, right? There's a world of difference between the two, and a layoff, especially if you're young, is not a big deal. The economy sucks. Everybody got laid off!

That is not your problem.

Are you/were you able to collect unemployment as a result of that layoff? Look into that if you haven't already.

Do you need fast cash? Like, how desperate are you? Can you sell plasma? Work as a movie extra? These are not career jobs, but if you need cash, it's not a bad way to go about it.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:05 PM on February 15, 2013

If they let you go from your last job without a performance reason and you received severance, I'd say you were laid off. That's how it's done. Sometimes there is no big "layoff day" or advance notice.

I have a LinkedIn account and my resume is on Indeed, both of which would be thoroughly humiliating if I thought anyone was ever going to see it.

I don't understand why this would be humiliating. All sorts of people have resumes online, even when they're actively working and even if their names are known. I'd suggest you embrace the heck out of your LinkedIn page. You want people to see it and know that...

1) You are an excellent and very well-respected Widgeteer. You are available for freelance Widgeteering, but would definitely consider working for a company as their Widgeteer.


2) You are an excellent and very well-respected Widgeteer who's looking for a change. Widgeteering for so many years has taught you X, Y, and Z skills which are applicable to many different types of jobs.

Point 2 can be made for Widgeteering, or working at McDonalds, or working in a lab or whatever job. Project management, organization, time management, handling money or widgets or specialty equipment, working with customers/clients/models/flammable objects, training others, etc.

You are definitely qualified for something. Good luck!
posted by kimberussell at 5:15 PM on February 15, 2013

* I don't even know what I'd change careers into. I'm not qualified for anything and I can't see myself enjoying anything my skills can be used for - but that's a moot question anyway, since nobody is even interviewing me.

Maybe no one is interviewing you because you're not seeking out the right jobs. You need to think about how to market yourself and target your job search in order to get job interviews.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:18 PM on February 15, 2013

I think this question is somehow connected to previous questions. Most people get jobs through people they know, not through online applications, random CL postings, etc.. If you've got trouble with your social network, you're defeating yourself from the start. Does your field have professional associations and if so, do you belong to any? Do you participate in online forums, like Yahoo groups, for your field?
I've been a freelancer in a male-dominated industry for over 20 years and when I'm not actually working, looking for work is my full-time job. I've had side gigs, to pay the bills, but usually--I'm finding someone who needs my skills, and I look everywhere, I ask everyone I can, and that's how I hear about work. Sure, there are probably people who don't love me to tiny bits, but I try very hard to keep my professional reputation clean and clear. Not every person is going to be my BFF, but I'm pretty good about asking for favors and returning them, which is how you network,
posted by Ideefixe at 5:30 PM on February 15, 2013

It's sounding increasingly like you're struggling with issues around self-worth and depression (incredibly common among those who are job hunting!) but you really need to re-think some of your beliefs:
  • that being let go is a stain on your permanent record. You list "laid off" on your resume, and move on. Trust me, it won't merit another look.
  • that people seeing your resume on LinkedIn or Indeed is humiliating? Why? What is driving that idea? The entire point of those sites is to be seen. LI in particular has groups associated with virtually every industry where you can find job postings, network, and reach out for informational interviews. Have you joined those? Are you looking there?
  • that you can't dumb down your resume because people will Google you. Unless they are *explicitly* asking you to list every single job you've had, the idea is that a resume communicates the relevant business experience for that job. Someone with a MA could totally leave it off because it's not relevant to the job (and might get them pegged as overqualified.) Sure, some employers might google you, but plenty won't - and so what if someone says, "Whoa, you didn't say you did X on the Internet?" You shrug and say, "Well, I didn't think it was relevant, so I left it off."
  • that temp agencies "get back to you." They have tremendously high turnover, so here is what you have to do. Go in person, have the chat, get the card of whatever reps you talk with. Then you call them twice a week, telling them you're checking in, you wanted to see what work they have for you. If and when they leave, you find out the name of whoever replaces them, talk to them, rinse lather and repeat. You need to make yourself known to them, as many of them as possible, so when the right job comes in, you are the first person they call.
  • that you're not qualified for anything. I don't know what it is you do freelance, but being a successful freelancer in any field is tough, and high marks to you for that. The challenge is, as people have said, identifying those transferable skills - and I'm quite positive you have some. The problem is, you need to believe that before any of this can work.
I'm not talking from a high horse. I was under-employed for several years following the dot.com crash, and a big part of my problem (with a lot of hindsight of course) is that I didn't know what I wanted to do, just what I didn't, and nobody wants to hire someone who can't figure out how to show off what they can do. Once I figured out what I did want to do (or at least what transferable skills I had that I could build on to move me in that direction) it started falling into place.

You're in a hard, hard place. Reach out to friends, fellow freelancers, heck, posting here was a great step, and maybe we (collectively) can help provide some clarity and prompt you to re-think some of your assumptions that are holding you back.
posted by canine epigram at 5:31 PM on February 15, 2013 [22 favorites]

I was going to say one other thing, too, since people are suggesting changing careers. It sounds like you enjoy and are good at what you do, it just doesn't pay enough. Without knowing what you do, if it's portable I'd consider moving. I freelance and yeah, I'm broke, but if I still lived in New York I'd be living in a cardboard box. Since leaving New York I've lived in several cheaper cities and towns and that's allowed me to freelance AND there's a lot less competition for temp jobs.

So I was going to say that and then I noticed your name and remembered some of your previous questions and thought maybe a move would be good for you all around.

Maybe not something you can do, but just a thought.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:32 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

A good friend of mine is working at a high-end craft store with a PhD in neurobiology, and if that's not overqualified... I think the difference is that she had a long-standing (though obviously non-professional) interest in crafting and was able to play that up during the interview process. I know this is a little out there but are there any hobbies or non-academic interests you can draw on in a similar way to get a more "niche" type of job? Good luck, I know this is hard and I really feel for you.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:20 PM on February 15, 2013

The way you will get a job is through personal connections and introductions, friendships, networking. Your time would probably be well spent doing much more of that.
posted by Dansaman at 6:28 PM on February 15, 2013

I freelance currently, ... but it is not enough to pay the bills and never will be. The problem is the amount of work out there (demand far outweighs supply - I'm one of the really lucky ones in this field in this boat) and the amount the field values it at (not much, and declining all the time).

Along with all the other suggestions, keep in mind that plenty of people in your field (whatever it is) quit because they can't handle the low pay anymore. That means there is almost definitely some other field they general go into that uses their skill set when they leave your field. Find out what that is and look into doing that as your day job. Ask around your colleagues for examples of people who quit and figure out how they leveraged their skills and what they ended up doing.
posted by deanc at 6:41 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

You've said a lot without telling us anything about your line of work. Your profile doesn't say it, and you seem to like to tout that you are good and special at what you do and demean it by trying to not say whatever it is at all... You simultaneously don't respect yourself, yet you know that you are *better* than that.... its weird - really.

If you want to wait tables, but you have no interest in the industry - there's a reason you aren't landing it. There are millions of folks that don't really care and just want a job that pays bills. The restaurateur wants to hire people who are going to improve his (or her) business. Find ways to tout your people skills, your short term memory, and maybe your agility. Definitely play up a longer-term commitment aspect. Help them want to take a chance on you. Just presenting your resume presents yourself as tone-deaf to what the position requires, and probably unlikely to actually care about the business. Remember, your idea of a good (Get Out of Debt) job as a server is actually someone's business - treat it with respect.

Those low paying jobs? Folks are actually somewhat passionate about them. Some do it just for that bit of mastery that lets them feel superior about some aspect of their lives. Some do it for the schedule. Some do it for the work culture (riding fixies, drinking PBR, etc.). But most do it for one of those reasons and because they have no other options. How many people would look at what you do and just flat out assume that you have another option? If you don't - try honesty with them (find a way that the honesty includes some excitement for your new career and an understanding of why you are a good investment for that business).
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:51 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't want to depress you. But this will (with a bright side, though).

At the height of the recession, I got laid off - IT (which went almost unscathed), but working in a manufacturing facility (which got hit the hardest). What delicious irony.

It took me roughly a year to get a new job - And I took ALL the advice you see people giving you above.

If you've run down to one month's rent left - Move in with someone. Anyone. You say you can't move in with your parents, but even splitting rent with them would save both of you money. Get yourself some form of longish-term shelter before you have to call friends to help you pick your stuff up off the curb one evening.

Take any job. Overqualified for everything? Pick jobs that don't ask for a resume like "supermarket cashier". Apply for everything you see listed in the paper. Fill in any remaining time applying to everything you find on Monster/Dice/JobsInYourState/whatever At nine months into my unemployment, shit, I applied for a local bank's CEO position (professionally a software engineer). Didn't get it, but damnit, I applied.

Now, the bright side - The unemployment rate has halved since my most recent period of unemployment. Best of luck!
posted by pla at 7:23 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, as a last resort (if all the other advice doesn't work), there's always the military. If you have a college degree, you almost certainly qualify to enlist as an officer (which you should do, even though the recruiter will try to convince you to enlist as a private).

I know that the military doesn't tend to get much love around here, but I believe that it's an honorable profession, and in any case it certainly beats homelessness (which it sounds like what you are framing as your other option).
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:37 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know about the officer track, and it would probably depend on what Dekathlon intended to do in the military/which branch of service, but it actually takes a while to enlist. It's not like you go down to the recruiting center and the next day you're at basic training.

Though I agree that it can be a good career option in a lot of cases. There really are all kinds of jobs -- I know someone who is a dentist in the Navy, of all things.
posted by Sara C. at 11:59 PM on February 15, 2013

I've had good luck by following relevant people on Twitter and by going to relevant Meetups in my area. It led me to a talk that was in an office where I left a note on the desk of the person who eventually emailed me and gave me the internship I have now. Other people have alluded to this, or even said it outright, but you have to network, and that includes meeting new people.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 6:51 AM on February 16, 2013

Not much to add beyond noting that in my experience someone is only told they are overqualified as a reaction to presenting that as their own opinion of themselves - otherwise rare is that people care.


that being let go is a stain on your permanent record. You list "laid off" on your resume, and move on. Trust me, it won't merit another look.

You should not put "laid off" on your resume. That would be weird and defensive.
posted by rr at 10:50 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oops, I meant application, not resume, If they ask. Restructuring, Whatever Makes It Clear It Wasnt You.
posted by canine epigram at 6:03 PM on February 16, 2013

Response by poster: The thing about LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. is that among my colleagues and especially among their higher-ups they are... not respected. At all. Gawker called LinkedIn a "useless virtual high school career fair," which sums up people's take here as well as anything (if anything it might be more lenient than what people think of it). So being on there feels like a mark against me, like someone finding out I still use MySpace in earnest. And it's done nothing for me career-wise anyway.

I am active on forums/Twitter/etc where people in my field congregate. It has not helped me all that much. In my experience they are just the tip of the iceberg, the visible front or whatever, where the real connections happen elsewhere for the people who are popular or insider enough.

And the thing is, I know there are boring/corporate/whatever versions of my job - I just can't get interviews for them. None of them want to even consider wanting me. There are very few job listings that I am realistically qualified for. And even the ones that come close to my qualifications want more years of experience than I have even if I fudge and include college jobs. I'd love to apply to more jobs than I am but you are sort of beholden to who is hiring for what. And I'd really like a job I don't hate, but I've resigned myself to the fact that this will probably never happen. What I need, though, is a job. It is a financial necessity and I absolutely must get one, there is no way around it, but I don't know how to make that happen. Being a housewife isn't an option, it'd be amazing if it were and I could just bow out of this whole soul-sucking humiliation parade, but unfortunately that option is not open to me because of what I look like.

In a month or so I will need fast cash, yes, but I have no idea how to even get it and when you need cash that is when the scams/sketchy stuff starts proliferating.
posted by dekathelon at 10:37 PM on February 16, 2013

Before I got my current job, I got quite a few interviews from jobs I saw on LinkedIn. And the other interviews I went on, most of the HR reps had my LinkedIn profile already printed out when I arrived. In the non-Gawker world, it works. So make that LinkedIn account sparkle. Get a DeviantArt site if it's applicable. Keep hitting the virtual pavement and apply to every job. You have 40+ answers with strategies and tactics that work. It doesn't matter if you're a designer, a foodblogger or a babysitter - someone out there needs one of you.

Your colleagues? Eff'em and what they think. They are not going to help you find a job.

And the guy who wrote that LinkedIn blurb wore a pink tutu and put a sneaker on his head in order to get an interview with Anonymous. Sometimes you just have to look uncool to get what you want.
posted by kimberussell at 7:56 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

among my colleagues and especially among their higher-ups they are... not respected. At all.

I definitely hear you on this. LinkedIn is not really used at all in my field, so I've never bothered to sign up. When I get invitations, it's usually from really pushy outsiders trying to "network" but going about it in very much the wrong way.

That said, I already have sufficient career connections in my field to make a living at what I do. You don't, because you posted this question and continue to maintain that you can't support yourself on your income in your field. Which means you have two choices. You have to either identify some ways that you can make more money in your main career, or you have to put actual effort into finding other work.

Other fields use LinkedIn. If you want to gain access to those other fields, you're going to have to do the same.

I promise you that, if chronic underemployment and insufficient pay are par for the course in whatever you do, your colleagues all have other jobs on the side. Which they most likely got by putting resumes online, using LinkedIn, etc. Having your fingers in plenty of pies isn't some kind of big state secret, for freelancers in low-paying fields.

But I frankly don't think the problem here is you not understanding how freelancing works. You're doing something here that you do in almost every question you post. You pose a problem that has a finite number of possible solutions. People suggest all of those possible solutions, and you shoot all of them down as impossible. Which makes it less and less appealing to try to help you.

What I need, though, is a job. It is a financial necessity and I absolutely must get one, there is no way around it, but I don't know how to make that happen.

Go apply to cafes and restaurants and bakeries and shops and dog walking companies until you manage to convince one of them to hire you. Period.
posted by Sara C. at 8:07 AM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

And the thing is, I know there are boring/corporate/whatever versions of my job - I just can't get interviews for them.

Those staffing departments rely on Linkedin. I know because I recruit for one of the top companies in the world and I live on Linkedin. (And I get people trying to recruit me every week, on Linkedin.)

Honestly if this is the attitude you are bringing to your job search... listen, I know it sucks, it's so hard, unemployment is SO HARD and job hunting is awful, but you are competing with people who are bringing positive energy to their search, so it's time to stop worrying about whether your effort will get the cool stamp from Gawker (really??) and start thinking about doing something differently from what you have been doing so far. Start with Linkedin.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:37 AM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

There are very few job listings that I am realistically qualified for. And even the ones that come close to my qualifications want more years of experience than I have even if I fudge and include college jobs.

Well, as you say, you need a job, so you are not really in a position to decide not to apply for jobs based on your assessment of your qualifications. Do you go through job postings and decline to apply for jobs in the same way you shoot down everyone's ideas here? Because you really don't have that option.

There is this great quote from the movie High Fidelity where the main character Rob, played by John Cusack, looks at the camera and says, "I've spent 20 years listening to my gut. And what I've learned is that my gut has shit for brains." You have done a lot of explaining about why one tool or strategy doesn't work or why one set of jobs you can't apply to because you're not qualified or why something doesn't work because of your résumé. But the fact is that if your instincts were so accurate and your strategies were so good, then you would have a job by now.

So possibly instead of thinking, "I am not qualified for the available jobs posted," apply for all of them anyway. If you think you wouldn't like a job, apply for that. If you think that LinkedIn is MySpace for job seekers, look through all the job listings MySpace and apply for ones that are related to what you have experience in. If you talk to someone about a job at a coffee shop and come away from it thinking, "That person hated me, doesn't want to see me again, and I would hate it there, follow up with him in two days with a phone expressing interest in the job."

Lots of people are giving you advice. A bit of humility regarding their advice would go a long way, instead of trying to explain how you know better than they do.

A lot of your expectations for what you can do and how to accomplish your goals are clearly inaccurate. Like people with anxiety disorders, their reasons for doing irrational things seem rational to them. Your reasons for why certain things aren't possible or aren't going to work obviously seem like perfectly good reasons to you, which is why you believe those things. But at a certain point, you have to accept the fact that if they were correct, the results would be better. So stop listening to your gut. Take some advice and follow through on it, even if you think it is the wrong thing to do.
posted by deanc at 9:58 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

And the thing is, I know there are boring/corporate/whatever versions of my job - I just can't get interviews for them. None of them want to even consider wanting me. There are very few job listings that I am realistically qualified for.

This question is completely unanswerable without you actually stating what you do and where you live.
posted by rr at 10:14 AM on February 17, 2013

Fuck Gawker. A defeatist attitude will bring you down a lot faster than a profile on LinkedIn. I know this because I personally know numerous people in this economy who have gotten work -- full-time and freelance, within a few different fields -- through LinkedIn.

I want to underscore what deanc just said: But the fact is that if your instincts were so accurate and your strategies were so good, then you would have a job by now.

deanc is not blaming you or criticizing you, and I hope you don't take it that way. What he is saying is that your depression and anxiety are causing you to tell yourself certain stories ("STRATEGY X won't work because REASON Y") that are actively preventing you from maximizing your chances to get a job. These stories are preventing you from getting a job because they are not the objective truth.

To put it another way: you're already on a rocky path in this economy. But your anxiety and depression are telling you that the rocks in front of you are actually 100-foot sheer rock walls. Getting over the rocks -- walking around them, kicking them out of the way, whatever -- requires effort and can be tiresome, but it can be done. But if you're not a trained climber, a sheer rock wall is a permanent obstacle. You've got rocks in your way, but your brain is telling you it's a wall.

It doesn't have to be this way. But you have to decide that you're finally tired enough of the inaccurate and self-sabotaging narrative playing in your head to do everything in your power to manage your anxiety and depression (which, to be honest, are at the heart of most of your questions).
posted by scody at 10:30 AM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh, and another thing about depression/anxiety and their endless, negative, inner-narrative loop: like little narcissists, they actively look for proof of being right, for affirming that their screwy versions of the world are the correct ones. (I say this as someone who's dealt with both depression and anxiety off and on for most of my life.) They're the inner emotional vampires who feed on you to sabotage you. So that's why a snide, stupid Gawker article (or whatever) seems to carry so much more weight -- it's because depression and anxiety want to be right, even as they are making you miserable. You have to try to access that part of you that truly, deeply, viscerally doesn't want to be miserable, and try to stay present and mindful with THAT voice as you embark on your job search, therapy, etc.

YOU want a job. YOU want meaningful personal relationships. Your depression and anxiety don't want you to have them. So every time you come up with a reason why you can't try something, it's not The Truth; it's just your depression/anxiety trying to talk you out of something you actually want.
posted by scody at 10:48 AM on February 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

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