Really in need of employment and career help
November 6, 2013 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Hello. I am really in need of help and have never been set on any stable career or employment course. What can I do with very few resources (I am down to my last $100 bucks or so; I do not own a cell phone) to get a job ASAP or at least learn more about careers? Are there any lifehacks, tricks, ideas or pathways that I am missing? I know there have to be some people here who have recently had to find new jobs and know the modern job hunt a lot better than the standard advice that's outdated. What did you do when you felt between a rock and a hard place? One thing I was interested in is teaching (either substitute or full-time) but I have no clue how to become certified or where to start. My parents are really losing their patience and I have no clue how long I can be here without contributing pay from a job.

Background: I did not have a great childhood and the abuse I received led to a later diagnosis of PTSD (this would DQ me from the uni ROTC when I was a young adult---does anyone know if this haunts me in background check situations?). In high school, I felt naturally at home in the classroom and received basically all the possible academic awards that I could. I went to a public university far away from my Rustbelt hometown and I had a scholarship cover the vast majority of it. I was afraid and confused about careers, jobs, picking a major, having a plan, etc. and I ended up getting a B.A. in uselessness. I graduated from university in 2010 and spent a year without working. I found a local job for about 9 months but the owner was scam-ish and stole around a $2K in wages from me. All that the Department of Labor did after she conceded the theft was ask that she pay and then report her to the IRS if she did not. I haven't received anything. I got another job but, again, about $1K was stolen from me. As you can guess, I don't have many past managers/bosses that I can list as a reference. I did spend some time doing long-term volunteer work in my hometown and for about a year I had a solid job out of state at a school but that was contract based and it ended. I though that and the volunteer experience would be enough to get over the hump of "We cannot hire you for this entry-level position because you do not have enough experience" but I have had failure after failure in the past few months. I am trying really hard not to have my will to go on be broken. Just this week I was turned down from a job with Americorps; my old classmate who was in the program told me that she saw everyone who applied get accepted. I don't know if that's true across the board but it is crushing. To make things worse, I've had some eye and respiratory problems whenever I live at my family's home. I thought it was regional allergies (I never saw an allergist in my life so I am unsure what I am allergic to) but yesterday I discovered significant mold in my house and I am scared for my health and the health of my family members. I've been battling eye infections, styes and fatigue for awhile now. I don't have access, by the way, to any medical care.

I took personality tests with my shrink and at my college's career center; I always scored INTJ. I am a perfectionist who has always been lymphatic, laid-back and unpassionate. I am humble and self-effacing by nature and I know that does me no favors in terms of jobs but I actually think I have started to perform a lot better in job interviews despite no recent success. I have taken non-credit courses on public speaking, communication, etc. I have spent a lot of time reading through books on finding jobs.

I tried my university's career center (due to the fact that I have been out of school for more than a year, the services, even if by phone, are no longer available to me) and it helped me to an extent (I cannot believe how clueless they were on some issues; i.e., upstate existing and that NYC is not the entire state). Please no self-help. Although I know it may be helpful or comforting to some, anything religious/spiritual would not help me specifically.

Also, keep in mind I live in one of the poorest cities in the USA with a lousy job market. I don't have the money to get out now but would be cool working a legal job for some time to save enough to leave. I also need to learn to drive (I've worked with a shrink in the past to overcome that fear) but the money issue is a problem with that.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Stop trying to figure out how to get the job you want, right now; work on just getting whatever job you can get. Even if it's clerical work or retail or fast food, just get some cash coming in, kick a bit to your parents for rent, they'll almost certainly be a lot more patient with you while you figure things out after that. Then work on finding the job that will make you fullfilled/happy/able to move somewhere less crappy. If necessary, leave your college degree off applications, it does sometimes help. If people ask why you have employment gaps at those kinds of low-level jobs, you can just tell them it was family issues or something, they're way more forgiving than better jobs will be. Once you have some cash in hand, lots of things become options that would not have been otherwise; there's just no substitute to that.
posted by Sequence at 8:09 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

That is a lot of stuff to be dealing with. You definitely need to come up with a strategy for short, middle and long term for both your career and your emotional wellbeing.

In the short term is there a temping agency where you live? When I was out of uni for a while and still hadn't figured out what I was doing I went to an agency and got a job doing admin/reception work. It was minimum wage but they got me a job within a week, and I had a succession of one or two week contracts with them for months, until I was kept on for a year by one company and then everything followed from there. It gave me an income and stability while I figured out what I really wanted to do. If that works for you it will give you a bit of breathing space to sit down and come up with some kind of five year plan in terms of what you want to do, how to get there, where you'll live while doing so, etc. Good luck.
posted by billiebee at 8:13 AM on November 6, 2013

"Please no self-help."

This kind of attitude is standing in your way. I'm not discounting every other difficulty you've faced -- and clearly, there are a lot of valid issues -- but you absolutely will not get anywhere until you do more work with yourself, your capabilities and your self-awareness. I am saying this as someone who is absolutely sick of examining her own life, but it has to happen.

You describe a BA in "uselessness" -- okay, but what kinds of skills did you learn? Did you do group work that helped you figure out how to collaborate with people? Did you find that you absolutely do not want to collaborate with anyone, ever again? That's something (even though it'll be really damaging to your future prospects).

Every job experience is useful. EVERY ONE. I worked at a shitty corporation that took advantage of young workers, and I learned a lot about how not to behave when managing a team. I had a degree in opera singing -- OPERA SINGING -- and ended up delivering mail and scheduling conference rooms. But because I was delivering mail to top administrators and their staff, I took the time to get to know them, how their offices worked and what issues they faced. Now that I've moved up to writing speeches for those same people, they trust me because they know I've thought things through and am discreet.

You absolutely must get a phone of your own and learn to drive. Buy a tracfone at Wal-Mart and 20 bucks worth of service. Learn to drive on your parents' car in an empty parking lot or cemetery. You are not participating in modern society if you don't.

Get any job at all that you can find. Work at a pencil factory, watching souvenir slogans get stamped onto pre-made pencils. My husband was recently having a discussion with a friend about how the time they worked together at Hardee's was one of the best times of their lives, because they had a good team and made the experience fun.

GET SELF-HELP. You sound depressed and not willing to take additional steps to get un-depressed. (Which is, of course, a big part of what depression is!) Feeling Good and its affiliated handbook have been of help to a lot of people. You can get it for 5 bucks used, shipped right to your door. Or go check out the book section at Goodwill; I guarantee there are a ton of cheap books there that can offer any number of options.

It doesn't matter that you have tons of problems. It matters that you do something. I know how hard it is when your life seems like it is filled with nothing but "no" at every turn. Do SOMETHING. Do one small thing every day.

Get an online buddy or Joe's Goals and go for accountability. Don't do things despite being scared and depressed; do it BECAUSE you're scared and depressed.
posted by Madamina at 8:14 AM on November 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think knowing your degree would be helpful. Please let one of the mods know what it was to update your post.

As for the PTSD diagnosis, thanks to HIPAA it won't be a problem in most job situations. Some highly sensitive ones, but your average job it will not. The ROTC is probably different being it's a military organization, which does do background checks of that nature.

Unemployment is insanely high for young people, which based on your post, I'm guessing you are. In addition to what others have said, I'd look at craigslist for odd jobs. It might not be fun raking leaves in the cold, but a few bucks here and there you can earn will go a long way, and show your parents you're trying.

You said you are living at home but don't have health insurance; are you 26 or under, and can you go on your parents plan?

I'd stop worrying about the mold. Yes, it might be an issue, but probably not. A lot of houses have some mold and people freak out over it; because of the few horror stories. But most mold in houses is pretty harmless unless you're allergic or immunocompromised. It could be a thing, but more likely it's just a little mold. Don't let it distract you right now. It shouldn't have even been in this post, which is why I'm mentioning it. It sounds like you're obsessing over it and really shouldn't be.

I'm a bit surprised about the money you lost, I know labor laws vary from state to state, but most will compel an employer to pay - unless they declared bankruptcy. But both are amounts I'd consider taking to small claims court if it's not over the limit in your area.

Or find a lawyer who's willing to work for a percentage. If you have a strong case, you should be able to find someone to do that. If not, then you know it's not worth pursuing. What I wouldn't do though is spend a lot of time on it. Pursue it, yet don't let it get in the way of other plans. It's the past, and it's not guaranteed. Look ahead, not back.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:15 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's hard to make a plan for yourself when there are so many unknowns. So, find out what you can:

1. You have no clue about how long you can stay at the house. So, ask your folks how long you can stay and what they expect.
2. You have no clue how to become certified to become a teacher. Do some internet research for your state (or the area you want to live) and find out the education/certification requirements.

Sometimes it's good to have a plan, even just one to get you going. While I was waiting for Plan A to start (and down to $64 in my bank account), I took some temp jobs and made some connections. You can work anywhere while you're gathering resources for Plan A -- office temps, manufacturing, restaurants. I'm on Plan W (X? Y?) and I love my job.

There's a lot of negativity and apathy in what you write -- sounds like you've been through a lot, and that's OK. PTSD is serious, but don't let it set you back. Try to make a small accomplishment every day to get your confidence back: set and reach a small goal, run a mile, do 100 jumping jacks, do a good deed, make a baby smile. Realizing that you're an awesome, worthy person will help others see this, too. (And hire you.)
posted by mochapickle at 8:18 AM on November 6, 2013

Repeating what was said above. Having a low-paying menial job is better than having no job. Are there fast-food places? Flip burgers. Are there retails stores? Run a cash register. Are there diners or restaurants? Wait tables.

Almost no one starts their career path in the job they eventually want to have - you have to start somewhere. Working a job like this will also give you the good feeling of actually earning money and being able to contribute to the household

I'm a VP in a software company responsible for hiring decisions. If I were hiring for an entry level position and I saw that a potential candidate had worked jobs like waiting tables, running cash registers or flipping burgers, it would reflect well in my eyes because it would speak to their work ethic.

I have been where you are: at zero, facing mental health challenges and no visible way to get to where I wanted to be. I took a job working security at a car dealership. It wasn't part of some grand plan; it was just a job where I could earn some money and look at myself in the mirror. That job didn't get me my next job; I don't even work in a related industry. But it was a job, and it made a difference.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:28 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

" I live in one of the poorest cities in the USA with a lousy job market"

This to me is the biggest obstacle before you. It is pretty tough to get a job everywhere right now even in places that don't have this much of a problem. But since you can't leave yet all I can recommend is that you go online. Sell your stuff on Ebay. The internet transcends bad location.

Go to a staffing agency near you. Dress appropriately for your interview with them. I don't want to get your hopes up--- If the job market is that bad in your area they might not have any work available, but at the very least the representative you meet there can review your resume and give you suggestions on it. If they don't automatically give them to you- Ask directly.

Do you have any skills that you can sell on your own? Such as- can you fix bikes? Mow lawns? Clean houses? Cook? When you live in a terrible market you have to create opportunities for yourself.
posted by manderin at 8:35 AM on November 6, 2013

For the long term, take a look at
Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron.
posted by jgirl at 8:37 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to become a teacher look into Masters of Arts in Teaching (or MAT) programs at your local state college. There is a big need for teachers in math, all of the sciences, and special education. Memail me with your location and I'll help you find a program at a state school.
posted by mareli at 8:40 AM on November 6, 2013

You're down to $100, don't have a car, and don't have a cell phone?

Beggars can't be choosers. Now is not the time to figure out how to get your dream job, or what job will give you the best experience. Now is the time to take any job, the first one that comes along, that will pay you anything.

Hit up every fast food joint and grocery store within three miles of your house. They're almost always hiring, and the barriers to entry are pretty damn low.
posted by valkyryn at 8:42 AM on November 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Temp agency.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:01 AM on November 6, 2013

If you have a BA and are interested in teaching, why not teach in Taiwan or Sout Korea etc. ESL teaching often takes native English speakers with any sort of undergrad degree.

Housing and flights paid for too although you may have to earn or borrow cash for outgoing flight up front.

Also might be good to leave home if you have PTSD and mold fears from living at home.
posted by bquarters at 9:04 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've been thinking more about your question and wanted to add one more thing that I suspect may be hurting you in interviews:

In interviews, it's very important to see yourself from the perspective of the hiring manager. What do hiring managers want? Capable people who will do the work and who can stop problems from rising up to management level. And who will get along with the rest of the team.

That's it. Hiring managers don't want to interview -- they want to HIRE people, and they will hire the first person who will fit every requirement (identified or non-) and who will provide the least amount of obstruction/hiccups.

That can be you.

You have a degree (that's important -- don't sell yourself short), and you sound pretty smart. In interviews, resist the urge to say anything negative about your past work experience. It's a given that not every job is perfect, and some past jobs will be worse than others. But only share the details that help give the impression that you're reasonable, smart, and can be trusted. And a reasonably pleasant person to work with.

(By the way, some of my favorite people are INTJs -- they're natural engineers, able to solve problems and keep personal opinions in check. They are very, very valuable in their organizations.)
posted by mochapickle at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here are some ideas to facilitate getting a job; these suggestions are not necessarily careers, but I do think that you can get there.

The phone. Since you are using a computer, have you looked into google voice? With google voice, which is free for now, you can set up a voice message (and messages that pple leave for you are recorded and also transcribed and emailed to you). You can also forward GV to a home number, cell number, and keep on changing it as long as you need. So even if you do not immediately answer a call, it sounds professional.

Interviews. I'm mentioning this because I'm also introverted and it sounds like you currently aren't very positive, so you may want to work on projecting enthusiasm, etc. How? Practice interviewing with people (I know it sounds silly). But I studied up on possible questions, and studied up on possible jobs. So in the end, although I am almost never excited about working with team A and company X, I could learn about the product/things that I wanted to learn (think of it like school, it sounds like you enjoyed or did well in that environment), so at least in an interview I would come across as excited about the chance to learn those things. I think that you can do the same thing and it is subtle but it is likely to be your first and possible only interaction with a potential employer. But see if you can practice with your family or if there are any job clubs in your area, or even with friends on SKYPE or whatever.

Location. I agree that your big limitation is where you are. What about former friends from college or other family? Would anyone be okay with you traveling there and crashing on the couch if need be? What I am envisioning for you is: 1) pick city that has many more jobs (closest location/friends are nearby), 2) set up GV with area code for that area 3) submitting resumes EVERYWHERE 4) When calls are made for an interview, schedule them for days that fit with your hosts and go to the city. When you are there, you may want to consider walking into places and asking about jobs, too. As a fellow introverted person, believe it or not, if people just see a face in front of them, sometimes that leads to jobs.

I think that you should continue your quest for a career, too, but I think getting any sort of job what start you on this path. Re-evaluate your college career, too, before interviews. Many people who had a BA in X don't end up in a job focusing on the same field. What they learn from college (hopefully) is how to learn and problem solve, so that you can do the same in a work environment. Try to think about your degree in a positive way and make a list of what you learned. I'm stating this now because an interviewer is likely to ask you about this experience, especially since you are young and don't have much job experience. You want to project enthusiasm and positive things, even if it wasn't entirely what you wanted it to be.

Good luck. Feel free to email me. I'd be happy to listen and help you brainstorm if possible.
posted by Wolfster at 9:16 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Get a survival job.

Start making connections and asking them if they know of any opportunities.

If there are no opportunities in your town, save up some money and get the hell out. Find some smaller city with a strong economy and lower rents like Bellingham WA (I am sure there are others out there) and make a go of it.

But if it ain't working for you in your current town, it is time to get the hell out.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:48 AM on November 6, 2013

I have a friend who received great help from Jewish Vocational Services and no she isn't Jewish so don't sweat that part of it. They help everyone find jobs. My friend raved about how awesome their help was. I did a search for NY and here is the site of one in NJ you can ask them if they have anything in NY or try Jewish Family Services as they seem to be related organizations and may have one in your area. Also you ca make use of your local EDD office.

I'm not sure why you were thinking self help resources are spiritual or religious. Many if not most are not. Maybe you were thinking of 12-step groups?
posted by wildflower at 4:23 PM on November 6, 2013

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