Time to get a new job.
July 3, 2013 8:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find a new job so I can start actually saving some money and move into my own place. I'm a college grad with a linguistics degree living in northern NJ. For the past three years, I've been living with family, paying a small amount of rent each month, living a paycheck-to-paycheck existence and working a job I don't particularly enjoy. I'm done with this, but I don't know where to begin. I know there are a lot of posts such as this one on here, but I'd like to try to find answers particular to my situation.

So: I've been out college for three years now, after earning a bachelor's in linguistics in 2010. While I was at school, I stayed with family (an aunt and my cousins) to save money. I worked a whole bunch of different jobs during college, and ended up working as a clerk in the deli/catering department of a supermarket in late 2009. It was only meant to be a part-time source of income while I was finishing school...but I'm still there. I want to get out, badly, but I have basically no savings. What little money I earn goes to rent, gas, food, and until recently, car insurance. Though I no longer have my own car, I do have access to a car.

My present goal is to find a new, full-time job that will enable me to actually save some money. My eventual goal is to have enough money saved up to move to Philadelphia, where I can start looking for more rewarding, career-type work. The only trouble is, I'm really not sure what job titles I should be looking at. I need a little guidance.

A short overview of my work experience:

- Supermarket/Deli etc. - I work the deli counter, do some food prep, train the new employees, and am kind of a walking encyclopedia of product/equipment knowledge.

- Student assistant - I was a student assistant for the linguistics department at my school. Mainly, I tutored other undergrad linguistics majors. I also did a little grunt-level research assistance work (transcribing/annotating data).

- I have also been a pizza delivery driver, an assembly-line worker, and occasionally a house-painter.

I am willing to continue to work retail/customer service if I can find a job with decent hours and pay, but I doubt I'll find one. Ideally, I'd like to find something with regular, 9-5 hours. I have considered tutoring, but I have had a lot of trouble finding any full-time work in that field. I applied for a writing tutor position at a private college in my town months ago and never heard back from them.

So what other jobs are out there, that I would be qualified for and which suit my criteria? Any suggestions are much appreciated.
posted by zchyrs to Work & Money (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The most important question is what did you WANT to do with that linguisitcs degree?

Now is the time to look for teaching work, you could probably get into teaching English on a certification path through an Alternate Certification program. Here's the state certification site. I did this in Florida. Turns out I HATED teaching, but it was pretty easy to get hired.

Another option is Teach for America.

Customer Service for the phone company or electic or gas company, even the cable company is also a good job. Look on-line for those kinds of jobs.

Full-time, benefits, Union if possible.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Considering your approach, I would just recommend asking a family member, friend call in a favor and get you a job in the United States government (municipal, local or federal). Then, whatever you do, don't let that job go.

Otherwise, I fear it will be very difficult for you to compete with thousands of highly motivated people looking for very similar jobs.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:06 AM on July 3, 2013

Check out job listings for entry-level records management positions at big companies. The work conditions are sane (air conditioned, quiet, moderate levels of human interaction), the benefits can be good, the locations are often in a secondary city or suburb convenient to a large city, and having a college degree can make you a competitive candidate. To be clear, much of the work will be administrative, but there will likely be opportunities to identify process improvements or solve problems that can get you into more interaction with people on the business side.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:18 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Were I in your shoes, I'd be looking to get 3 part-time jobs and working 16 hour days to save up a bundle of cash to make your move. Or get a car, or whatever it is you need to have to get up and get out.

I worked two jobs until I was 30, mostly because I like having money, money gives you choices.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:18 AM on July 3, 2013

Now is the time to look for teaching work

This is definitely not the time to begin looking for teaching work in Philadelphia, which just laid off thousands of teachers and support staff in the public school system. However, in PA, you do not need certification to teach in private schools-- the competition is just very, very fierce right now. Federal government positions are great, but the application process can be excruciatingly difficult. If you do apply for a government job at any level, google around for guides online to see what kinds of keywords and formatting that you will absolutely need.

What you might want to do is go through the job listing on sites like Idealist.org just to see what kinds of positions are being posted: what hours are they, what kinds of jobs are they, what kinds of skills are they looking for. Look at what interests you and what your background can help with-- how can you tailor your background (customer service, tutoring, data entry) to fit what they want? Philadelphia does have a lot of education and health care-based jobs; it's also the hub for larger companies like Vanguard (in the suburbs) who hire entry-level positions. Have you used the alumni network at your college? Gone over your resume/CV with the career development office? Had networking cards made through Vistaprint or another cheap service?

The good news is, Philadelphia can be relatively inexpensive and for most jobs/living arrangements, a car isn't necessary. I sublet an apartment in a relatively safe part of the city for $650 and honestly overpaid-- your "startup" costs, so to speak, won't be as high as most of northern NJ or NYC.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:23 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

In northern nj, there are a lot of tutoring agencies that hire people part time. Get a tutoring job for one of these agencies that allows you to work nights and weekends so you can save up more money. Then move to Philadelphia and start looking for jobs from there (even if you have to get a retail job in Philadelphia, you will be in a better position to find a career-type position living there than you would where you are).

Other tips I would give include surreptitiously stop buying your own food at home to save money during the last couple of months, hoping that your parents don't notice.
posted by deanc at 9:27 AM on July 3, 2013

How much is this "small" amount of rent you are paying to your family? My guess is that if you are not saving money, that it is not as small as you think. See if you can negotiate it downwards or move to someplace with roommates that is less expensive.

Also, with your encyclopedic knowledge of food and equipment, apply for a sales job with your deli/supermarket's supplier.
posted by deanc at 9:33 AM on July 3, 2013

Having lived at home in Jersey after college (in Northern Jersey), New Jersey is a money pit and will suck away both your savings and your motivation to change if you let it. For this reason, I would not recommend getting any type of lifer 9-5 in North Jersey (and most 9-5 jobs are). I'd begin applying to jobs in Philadelphia now. One option that always worked well for me were support staff jobs in colleges and college libraries. Philly has a bunch of schools; go to each of their websites and check out their "jobs"/"human resources" section. If you have friends in Philly, get permission to use their address; otherwise, make it clear that you already have plans to relocate there and are available to interview at their convenience.

Then borrow money (or do your best to save up about a few thousand dollars) to sublet an apartment in Philly until you can move there permanently. If need be, get a second, crappy, part time job in Jersey to help you do this. Wait tables at a diner or your local IHOP. Whatever it takes.

Get out of Jersey. I love the state, but you will feel so much better when you do.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:36 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take the New Jersey Civil Service Exam.
posted by pickypicky at 9:47 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Supermarket/Deli etc. - I work the deli counter, do some food prep, train the new employees, and am kind of a walking encyclopedia of product/equipment knowledge.

If you were looking for jobs in Philadelphia, this could be very helpful for applying to jobs at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or the specialist retailers of food/caterering (and there are many) in the area: the Jose Garces group/Stephen Starr Catering, DiBruno Brothers, and so on. There's a big expansion of restaurants and retail near Drexel that's slated to open soon, and I do see signs for help wanted in other areas of the city. If you're serious about Philadelphia, it might be worth it to come down and do some investigating of places and talking to managers now.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:07 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

It does not matter that your undergraduate degree is in linguistics. A degree is a credential and great to have, but employers are not really on the lookout for that next liberal arts grad to knock them over with delight. I agree with others -- leverage on what you know...deli/product/equipment knowledge.

I'd save every penny I could while living with your relatives, get a second job if you have to - and get yourself to Philadelphia with some savings and start looking.

Good luck!
posted by Lescha at 10:14 AM on July 3, 2013

If the new job isn't supposed to build a path to the career-type work in Philadelphia, then have you considered continuing with the painter gigs? That is, if you have a craft/skill, put it to use!

Does somebody have a link to the legend of the guy who started a pressure washing business?
posted by maulik at 12:42 PM on July 3, 2013

doesn't the CIA and NSA need people with linguistics skills? Have you looked into that?
posted by TestamentToGrace at 1:23 PM on July 3, 2013

You could look for entry-level jobs with food distributors/wholesalers and food service companies who call on supermarkets and/or restaurants. That could give you some sales and/or marketing experience, which could then be a stepping stone to other jobs in the same functional field and/or same general industry. Alternatively you could look for a food buying job. If you search for "food" in "New Jersey" on major job listing sites, you'll find lots of things come up. The important thing is to do something NOW - the longer you wait, the more stuck you'll be, with less doors open to let you in.
posted by Dansaman at 4:07 PM on July 3, 2013

Have you done any computational linguistics courses in your degree? We're looking for two new team members right now; large corporation, medium-size team. Memail me if interested.
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:19 PM on July 3, 2013

You should totally go to China (or somewhere) and teach English for a year or two! Dave's ESL Cafe is an excellent place to start researching your options.
posted by désoeuvrée at 2:45 AM on July 4, 2013

I seem to have a slightly different take on this questions than most people, but hopefully my experience as career-type employee and supervisor can be helpful.

From my perspective, the first questions definitely needs to be, what kind of work do you WANT?

I say this for two reasons.

First, You mentioned that you would like to find rewarding, career-type work, so keep in mind that what will feel rewarding is completely unique to you. Personally, I find the work I do very rewarding (most days), but all the work I do with spreadsheets and analyzing data would drive most people crazy!

Figure out what kind of work you want and move toward that. If your ideal job is inaccessible right now, chances are there are steps you can take now that will lead you in the right direction. Get your foot in the door any way you can! Even if the this means doing volunteer work one hour a week or taking a job that is beneath your skills for the moment, knowing it is a step toward the work you want will make the process palatable.

Second, many hiring managers receive dozens of applications for every position, probably from people just like you. If you know who you are and why you want the job, your enthusiasm may be the thing that sets you apart from the crowd.

As an example, three months ago I posted an opening for a very part-time entry level customer service position. I received 60 applications! I needed to weed out applicants quickly, and it was painfully clear as I scanned the resumes and cover letters which individuals had sent me the exact same application they had sent to dozens of other managers. Those applications didn't make it past the first reading.

Everyone I interviewed made it clear that they knew who they were and that they really wanted not just a job but the job I offered. I ended up hiring a great woman who has little direct customer service experience but has done a fantastic job. She started working 15 hours for not much money but was offered full-time hours (and benefits) after just three months.

Ok, my point is that given the tight job market, it can be really tempting to apply for whatever job you might be qualified for even if you don't like the work.

But in this tight job market it is even more important than ever to set yourself apart. Figure out what job you really want, tailor your resume and cover letter for every job you apply for (no form letters, please!), and get your foot in the door. And remember, be professional but be YOURSELF. No one wants to hire an automaton - unless they're looking for someone who can easily be replaced - and sincere enthusiasm makes all the difference. Really.

I'll get off my soapbox now. This subject obviously brings up strong feelings for me - and even though I didn't really answer your question, hopefully some of this we relevant. Good luck!
posted by meganh44 at 7:41 PM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

So my plan is, put a lot more effort into finding a second part-time job, get one, work my ass off and save as much money as I can for the next six months, and in the mean time, look into jobs and places to live in Philly.

This has more-or-less been my plan for a while. But I feel like I have a clearer sense of what my options are, so it's easier to stay motivated. So I'd like to thank everyone for the replies! It's been helpful.
posted by zchyrs at 5:06 PM on July 6, 2013

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