Leaving my job, looking for great ideas of what to do next
September 10, 2013 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Hi all: I'm leaving my job in March 2014 and I'm looking for ideas of what to do next. Details and criteria below.

Background: I graduated with a degree in philosophy in June 2012 (so I have very few practical skills) and have been working for a public relations/communications firm since July of last year. I'm leaving my job because I am not very interested in this field and I want to broaden my experience, challenge myself, and learn more. By the time I leave in March, I should have at least $50,000 saved. Thankfully, I do not have any student loans or debt. When I leave in March, I plan on enrolling in an LSAT prep course and taking the exam in June 2014 (I want to knock that out while I'm not working in case I decide to go to law school later on, I'm not wedded to law school). After that, I'm free.

What I am thinking: Broadly speaking, I would love to do something that would help sharpen my business skills and instincts. For example, John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who shorted subprime mortgage loans, did something that I really admire. He took a trip to Ecuador during a college summer to visit an uncle and ended up selling shirts made in Ecuador to NYC department stores, and even sold parquet flooring from Ecuador in NYC. He made pretty good money, but the money isn't why I'm interested in doing something like that. I'm more attracted to the incredible learning experience that must have been, as well as the thrill of "making moves" like that.

Obviously doing something exactly like that requires significant entrepreneurial spirit, which I don't necessarily have, so I'm trying to find similar opportunities where I wouldn't necessarily make any money, but would be a part of a business on the ground level, basically as an apprentice of sorts.

On the money issue, I would also like to preserve as much of my $50k as possible, especially if I do in fact end up attending law school.

Does anyone know of anything programs or anything like that?

The best things I have come up with are more of the typical "gap year" adventures:
1) Teaching English in China (or elsewhere abroad): I'm very, very interested in the Chinese economy and this seems like an easy way to get into the country, though teaching wouldn't really help me build the kind of skills I'd like to develop (I think)

2) Working on a farm in the US or abroad: Through some program like WWOOF. I would enjoy the manual labor aspects of this, but, again, not sure about the business aspect.

3) Series of seasonal jobs in the US: Working at national parks, etc.

4) Work for a non-profit abroad: This is perhaps the closest on my list. It would be cool to work for a non-profit abroad (for room and possibly board), maybe one focused on micro-lending.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total)
Why are you considering law school when you're obviously interested in business and not law?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:55 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't go to law school, that's madness. Going to China seems like a cool adventure, particularly if you can turn the experience into some level of Chinese-language proficiency for yourself. No matter what you do and where you go in life, I think speaking a Chinese language with some degree of proficiency will do you a great service in the next 20 years or so.

I have a friend who when to China to teach English, found he was very good at the language (I don't think he studied it before), ended up getting a job with a news agency (maybe in Taiwan? I don't remember the whole story), came back to the US, went to law school (though don't you do dare, this is a long time ago and things were different...), ended up at the State Department or something doing something with China, and now is in private practice. It sounded like a great adventure. His Mandarin is excellent, I'm told.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:57 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

From your list, it sounds like teaching English abroad is your best bet. Many people use that as their stepping-stone to get into other things in another country.

4) Work for a non-profit abroad: This is perhaps the closest on my list. It would be cool to work for a non-profit abroad (for room and possibly board), maybe one focused on micro-lending.

To be clear, if you're hoping for room and board in a developing country, that is a paid position, not a volunteer one. And if you don't have the skills, you're unlikely to find this. The simple reason is that, in most developing countries, there are plenty of locals without skills willing to work for what amounts to room and board. And these folks are fluent in the local language, understand the local culture and how things work, and are more likely to stick around. International volunteers require a lot of training and support, and are unlikely to stay very long. This is why most international volunteer opportunities either require you to pay your own way (including training and support) or require a long commitment (ie, Peace Corps, which is something you should consider). Or they're associated with religious groups.

I do know people who have done what you're considering - they mostly found their positions while already abroad (one teaching English).
posted by lunasol at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I strongly think you should consider the Peace Corps. If you are particularly interested in learning Chinese, you can do so via the Peace Corps' English-teaching program there. However, there are many programs in other countries oriented around small business development and I think that might be an even better bet for you. You could add a language and get entrepreneurial experience under the umbrella of a program that is well-respected by both graduate schools and future employers. Additionally, if you do decide to go to graduate school as an RPCV, many schools will offer you full or partial scholarships. Finally, the timing is almost perfect - contact a recruiter within the next few days and you will be perfectly on track to leave right around when your work is wrapping up.

Do it!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:33 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Doctors without Boarders and Habitat for Humanity both have programs for folks who want to volunteer abroad.

I will echo folks who are telling you to forget law school. Seriously, just give it a miss.

I graduated with an MBA from the Nova Southeastern School of Business and Entrepreneurship, the H. Wayne Huizenga Business School. (no shit.) You may want to look at a program there. I found it to be a pretty rote B-school, but it'll be cheaper than Law School and your chances of finding work upon completion are good.

I'd say follow your interests. Ditch law school. Volunteer abroad, go to B-school, then do what you do!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:55 AM on September 10, 2013

Of the four things you listed, working on a farm abroad is probably the easiest to get yourself into. There are numerous programs that let you work on farms abroad in exchange for room and board.

Working in a non-profit abroad is actually a very difficult and competitive thing. The peace corps would be your best bet to get into that sort of work but you're looking at a 2 year commitment. Most folks who find this type of work have very specialized skills - medicine, engineering especially, or find employment with an agency like USAID or MercyCorps, which are pretty competitive and will take some work.

Teaching English abroad is probably doable enough, though these days most people have completed some sort of ESL training course which you'd definitely want to look into. Though this is certainly not a way to get yourself into doing business-related things in China. For that you'll need to become fluent in mandarin and get an MBA. No joke there - the folks I know pursuing careers in business with the Asian market and/or logistics go to business school where they can do part of it abroad in China and do intensive language courses.

Seasonal jobs - it really depends. Park service jobs are very competitive and are sought after by those wishing to join the park service and become rangers. You could likely get a job as a seasonal ticket taker or similar at a museum or the like, maybe at a national park or national attraction without too much trouble.

I don't know dude. I would say try to narrow done a little bit more of what your goals are before you ditch the job to live off your savings. If you're "very,'very interested in the Chinese economy," then enroll yourself in some Mandarin classes at night, take the GMAT and think about an MBA.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:58 AM on September 10, 2013

Also on the John Paulson thing - I dunno, in the current world that's a pretty hard path to swing you know? If you want to be a hedge fund manager nowadays, you go to an Ivy, you get into a training program after you graduate, etc. There's basically zero bootstrapping in finance and the like anymore. So if you want to take some time off and travel, by all means, do it - but if you're looking toward getting into microlending and the like - I mean, all those programs are more or less run through the major banks, and you'd be better off trying to get in with Deutsche Bank or similar.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:03 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, I wouldn't go to law school. You have plenty of savings to ride out a career change and working your way up. Three years of real life work will pay off more than three years of law school. Don't turn five figures of surplus into five or six figures of debt.

Since you seem to have no obligations and a large nest egg, I would take a chance on some hobbies and passions and seeing if you can turn them into a career for a year. Even you don't even up making any money, at least you got to do something you enjoy.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:06 AM on September 10, 2013

[This is a followup from the asker.]
Admiral Haddock:

I am very fond of the teach English in China route. One of my reservations is, in all honesty, my skin color/features. I'm half White half South Asian, and I have heard that organizations in China really prefer to hire very White looking people. I am pretty tan (but not dark) and some people recognize that I am South Asian. Has anyone had any experience with the ethnicity issue when trying to get English teaching gigs in China?

pretentious illiterate:

The Peace Corps is definitely something I'm considering pretty seriously, though I don't know how comfortable I am with a 2 year commitment. That is something I will have to reflect on. That being said, the small business development stuff seems awesome.

Ruthless Bunny:

Thanks for the Doctors Without Borders and Habitat for Humanity links. Those look pretty interesting and I'll have to read more about them.


I definitely agree that "bootstrapping" is not really possible in finance anymore. I actually attended a "target" school for high finance, but I did not properly capitalize on that during recruiting season since I wasn't very interested in business/finance at the time. Please note that I did not say I want to be a hedge fund manager in my question. I am just familiar with what Paulson did that one summer during his college years, so I used that as an example to illustrate what I'm thinking of.

Per your previous comment, I think you have tempered my enthusiasm a little bit, which is good; doses of reality are important for things like this, I think. Thanks for that.

BTW: I would love to enroll in night classes for Mandarin, but I actually can't due to my job. I'm required to be available 24/7, which means I often have to abandon my prior engagements.

Apple Turnover:

On the law school issue, law is something I am pretty interested in, and I think I would be a good transactional lawyer (I've gotten exposure to this through my current job). That being said, I am not sure I would like the environment, so I want to explore other things before I pull the trigger.

As for pursuing hobbies, that is something I hadn't really thought of too much. That's largely because I spend my free time reading and trying to study/learn topics like finance and investing. But, that is worth consideration!
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:07 PM on September 10, 2013

Even if you can't take a scheduled class, it seems like it would be worth it to commit to something like Rosetta Stone or another self-paced language class, so that you can get a sense of whether learning Chinese is actually something you're interested in pursuing seriously when you have a more open schedule.
posted by decathecting at 3:28 PM on September 10, 2013

Hey, in case you're still checking this, wanted to encourage you to feel free to memail me if you have any Peace Corps-related questions. I did public health in Kenya but I've got a relatively wide PCV network. People are doing a good job tempering an initial wave of perhaps over-optimistic enthusiasm, but honestly I think you're in a pretty great position. Good luck!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:55 AM on September 11, 2013

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