Tell me how you found your career.
March 26, 2013 3:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm a really bad student, but I want to do something I love and get paid decently for it. Tell me what to do.

I'm in a top Canadian university (if that is even a thing...), with a really shitty GPA - 2.3 on a 4.33 scale. If you only count courses towards my majors, then it jumps to a 3.2 which is still pretty bad. I'm not getting bad marks because I don't understand the material. I'm getting bad marks because I generally hate school and I find it difficult to go to class. I probably shouldn't have went to university, but everyone makes it seem like it is absolutely necessary to obtain a decent-paying job so I went.

Except, I'm a social sciences major. I have had dead-end jobs in grocery stores and such but I went to university so I wouldn't have to do that for the rest of my life. Except, this degree is most certainly not job training. I don't really have a skill to market. It's not like I can go around telling people that I can do A or I can do B. I don't really know what I can do except for read and write. As a result, I'm really at a loss here because I don't know HOW to market myself. I feel like this degree added NOTHING to my resume and I'm really not sure how to proceed. Also, the bad marks don't really help my situation at all.

So what should I do? Should I stay a year to boost my GPA and get into business, law or grad school so I can learn some job skill? What did you do? Did your career find you or did you find your career?

I'm already frantically trying to get into some internship programs and stuff, but it's hard. A lot of them are unpaid and I simply cannot take a whole summer off for this. I also feel like I'm not doing enough to find a job but I also don't really know what I should be doing since I don't even really know what I should do.
posted by madsy to Work & Money (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What are you passionate about?
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 4:08 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sales. Nobody cares about grades there, only sales success. Good for hard working extroverts.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:08 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Do you have basic office skills like answering phones, using a copier, faxing things, etc?

That's pretty much how I settled into my career after college -- I got an internship in my field that capitalized on such skills, and I used my couple months as an unpaid copier jockey to transition into a paid position with a little more room for growth. I then worked hard and tried to be a fun person, and seven years later I have a career that isn't perfect, or really anything to write home about, but it beats flipping burgers or bagging groceries.

The best part is that through years of administrative type work in my field, I now do have skills worth leveraging. I'm a whiz at coordinating things and dealing with logistics, as well as with talking to outside vendors, certain kinds of research, and just generally making stuff happen in a seamless sort of way. Do I wish someone was paying me to write rather than paying me to arrange for a megacorporation to send my boss a free washing machine care of a popular morning chat show? Sure. But I'm good at it, and again, I'd rather be on the phone with a PR person than doing a lot of other things.
posted by Sara C. at 4:15 PM on March 26, 2013

I like marketing a lot. I've done marketing work for a few small fundraisers and events with a lot of success and I enjoy it a lot. Except, I'm not trained in it. I just do it.

I am fairly interested in foreign affairs as well, but I don't really even know what a job in foreign affairs would consist of.

I cannot go into sales. I don't have the patience or the speaking skills for it.
posted by madsy at 4:17 PM on March 26, 2013

Except, I'm not trained in it. I just do it.

Obtain marketing internship.

Rock it, hard. (usually accomplished with hard work and being fun to be around.)

Parlay that into a full time job.

posted by Sara C. at 4:18 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you can, finish your degree. If you don't want to do social science, do business. It applies to everything.

Unless you're applying to some ubercompetitive organization, which you aren't with that GPA, nobody cares about your GPA after your first job. Not having a degree on your resume will, however, get your resume binned.

Secondly, what do you do in your free time? What would you do anyway if no one paid you? The answer to those is going to inform your internship/job/etc.
posted by bfranklin at 4:20 PM on March 26, 2013

But marketing IS sales!

I'm not trying to be flip -- if you like marketing, it's probably because you're good at it, and that means certain skillsets can transfer.

Seek out your university's student union or any office on campus that might need marketing assistance and offer yourself up as an intern. Learn photoshop in your spare time; of the people I know in marketing, few lack Photoshop skills, and that may really bolster your move into that field if it's really where your passions are. :)
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:29 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Missed your update. If you do marketing, then go do marketing. Get a job, any job at a marketing firm, even if it's answering phones. Finish your degree. Parlay your job at firm into an entry level gig in the field. Kick ass. Get promoted.
posted by bfranklin at 4:37 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I asked a question on Ask Metafilter when I realized that 3 years into my electrical engineering degree I didn't know what voltage was and had no idea what I wanted to do with myself. Somebody suggested that I go into finance, which appealed to me, so in my final year I took a bunch of math courses and applied to master's programs in mathematical finance. Got the master's and I've been working in the finance industry ever since. Still don't really know what voltage is.

So what should I do? Should I stay a year to boost my GPA and get into business, law or grad school so I can learn some job skill?

I think you should look at your skills and interests, which often don't overlap, weigh making a living vs. following your passions, and figure out what your options are. I'd love to support myself writing novels, but I'm a crap writer so I didn't go that route. I'm good at making Excel sheets, but I'd be lying if I said that's my life's passion. But it pays the bills.

Don't be too worried about learning job skills. Nobody is really expecting you to have any at the entry level; I think degrees are just a useful way for employers to filter out applicants. Even in my very specific master's program I think maybe only 10% of what I learned was relevant to what I do on a daily basis, and the other 90% I taught myself or picked up on the job. And that 10%, I usually forget and need to look up on Wikipedia when I really need it.

The only thing I really wish is that I had done more internships, because for a lot of subfields in my industry, it's basically impossible to get a full-time job unless you've done an internship in that particular subfield. The internship is basically the one chance you get to break in with zero experience.
posted by pravit at 4:39 PM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I fell into my career, but I had plenty of jobs before I found it that prepared me to go to work. I don't know about Canada, but in the US, no one cares about your GPA. Are you organized? Do you see the relationships between disparate groups of things, people, events? Can you write clear, coherent directions on how to do something or get someplace? Can you do basic math? Can you explain things clearly? Do you know how to use various software programs, including Excel and Word? You probably have more skills than you think you do.
And passion, schmassion. Concentrate instead about what you do well, and who needs someone who does what you do.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:39 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

My career is not even related to what I studies for my BA. Don't feel limited just because you didn't study something in school. It will mean investing a bit in your future, through internships or entry level jobs, to get your foot in the door.
posted by dottiechang at 4:46 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can you switch majors to Accounting?

What jobs/companies are your friends in your major applying to? Companies recruit students from prestigious universities not because they want people with a specific skillset from a specific major, but because they want people from your university working for them. Find out what those companies are-- your classmates are probably applying to them-- figure out what their interview process in like and apply to those companies.
posted by deanc at 4:47 PM on March 26, 2013

First up, try your best to finish college. Really push yourself. You can do this. Don't deny it.

Then take some time out. Think on things. Careers can wait.

With a degree you can teach English in Japan, or Korea. Find something that takes you out of your comfort zone, pays you for the privilege and go for it.

Give yourself space. The career can wait.
posted by 0bvious at 4:50 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did IT gofer jobs in high school for companies in the area I grew up. I dropped out of college after a couple years, moved to LA, and did more IT work. Then I got bored and went back to school.

I wound up getting a degree in Art with a concentration in photography, and thought I never wanted to sit in front of a computer for a living again.

Fast forward through a couple years of really shitty jobs and a lot of travel, and decided to go back into IT because I wanted money - for retirement savings, to raises a family, to enjoy the benefits of having money.

That went really well for 8ish or so years, then I had a breakdown and wound up in a mental hospital.

If I'd done it differently, IDK, I'm not sure if I'd do it differently. I'm still in my early 30s, but I've got 2 kids to support, so there's a lot less flexibility. Maybe *maybe* if I'd done it differently I'd have gone the no-kids route and found a partner who wouldn't mind going to teach in Mongolia for a couple of years if that sounded like fun.

My advice to someone in your shoes: What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 50 years? The 5-year goals are probably the ones to focus on.

As for jobs, skills are a lot less important than you think. If you're punctual, polite, and wiling and able to be smart and get things done, doors will magically open. Smart and Gets Things Done.

Just find any crappy office job in the paper or on craigslist, and kick it's fucking ass eight ways to thursday. That way, when something that really grabs you comes along, you've got some solid accomplishments to lean on.

As for school - I'd say stick it out. Way too many recruiters automatically send any resumes without a degree into the bin. But maybe choose a different major. Choose something that excites you, and makes you want to work hard. Nobody works in the field they got their degree in these days (except attorneys, doctors, nurses, accountants, etc...). Just go for a degree you want, that intrinsically motivates you.

And take any crappy job and kick its ass.
posted by colin_l at 5:11 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I got a degree in biochemistry because I thought I wanted to become a medical researcher. I did some research in biology and chemistry during my undergrad and realized that I wasn't prepared to sell my soul to science and I didn't want to go to grad school (at least not right now).

I had been sure what I wanted to do with my life until soon before I graduated. When I got my degree I was lost. I posted my resume online and was soon recruited by a software company. I now work as a software tester. I had no experience in that field, I took absolutely no computer science courses in college. I enjoy my job but never had any passion about programming and never saw myself doing it.

Most companies recruiting for entry-level positions expect to provide extensive job training. I spent the first six months of my job basically just taking classes/tests/practice projects.

How did I actually land the job? Not sure. The company is very selective and they get over a hundred thousand applications a year. I think I came across as confident and relaxed during my interview because I felt I had nothing to lose. I also had a great letter of recommendation by a former professor who I had worked with.

So you really never know what you're going to end up doing. I never would have guessed a year ago where I am now. It's a job: some parts are a bummer, and some parts of it are fantastic. I look at it as a job and not a career. I do not want to do this for the next ten years, but if I stick it out for a couple years I can sell my experience into something bigger and better.

I think the key is to take it a day at a time and not get too worked up over the distant future. The best baseball players don't worry about the next season or even the next game; they concentrate on the next pitch.
posted by WhitenoisE at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2013

Do not go to graduate school if you do not like school. The pay-off is not guaranteed. Do finish your undergraduate degree and if you love marketing/event planning/fundraising, maybe take elective classes and pursue intern/extern opportunities related to those things.
posted by steinwald at 8:52 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think i was probably like you. It's not that I didn't like school, but i was bored easily and did best with self guided study. I dropped out to take a job in an internet company (pre dot com bubble, we were gonna be rich!) anyway, after bouncing around technical jobs, I discovered I love web design. It started out as a hobby I did at work and then got promoted to a web technician, which basically helped other people with their websites. Eventually I started freelancing then landed a job doing that. All the while I was absorbing information in my free time because I loved doing it so much. I had to step out of my career recently because of health issues, but after struggling, I had become the person everyone went to for answers; and had been sought out by big name companies. When and if I go back to work I have some catching up to do but I'm sure I can do it the same way I did before, a love of the subject matter and a drive to be the best.

That being said, don't drop out, the one thing I regret is not getting my degree. I was recently contacted by an executive recruiting firm, and even though I would have been a good fit skill wise, I wouldn't have qualified due to my lack of degree even if I could work now. The recruiter just didn't know I didn't have my degree. In fact, many people are shocked to find that out about me. So you can make it without your degree, but you'll likely hit a wall if you're successful.

Two other things that might help you. For some people, they have a single thing they know in their bones they were meant to do. For others, probably most of us, we can do many things, and excel, and wrap themselves up in that as part of their identity. But really, that's not how we work and that's why people make career changes. I'm still wildly interested in biology, and it's my hobby. But I've been thinking of doing MIT's open courseware to get more knowledgeable. As easily as I could see myself going back to web design, I could see myself switching careers. And I love me some physics, but I didn't discover that until the last 10 years. And I've been getting known in my hobby as a writer, and am trying to write a book since writing is something I can do with my current limitations. (don't look at this text as an example, i do much better with multiple drafts) The point is, we're lead to believe we need one true calling, and without it, many people feel lost. Embrace it and understand that you can pick from a multitude of options.

Lastly, looking back on my areas of interest, it's pretty clear there were hints in my childhood for design, biology, and writing. Physics, no, but all the others were areas I was interested in. So what interests have followed you through your life?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:48 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

My college grades were not much better than yours. I took shitty jobs during college and short breaks (spring, winter) to earn what money I could, and engaged in clubs that interested me, and begged my way into unpaid internships over the summers while living rent-free with my parents, and those experiences gave me something to put on my resume. I have never had to disclose my undergraduate GPA. I sell myself based on what I have accomplished.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:22 AM on March 27, 2013

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