Age 25. Huge college debt. Can't land a better job. What should I do?
November 9, 2013 12:29 AM   Subscribe

I have $40,000+ in debt, a bachelors degree in criminal justice, an EMT-B license, a basic computer tech certificate, 4 years of customer service experience as a banquet server, a bad driving history, and one misdemeanor - how can I find a better job than being a banquet server? What can I do to be competitive? Should I attend police academy or not? What are my options - what can I do to improve my life?

A little about me: I'm a single 25 year old 5'8" white male in pretty decent physical shape. I've lived in south-east Michigan my entire life. My main skills are creative. I like to animate, edit, do special effects, film, write, etc. - usually dark comedy stuff. Unfortunately, it's exceptionally tough to get a nice creative job, so I went another route to actually support me while I do the creative stuff on the side. Too bad that's not working out either.

Detailed explanation, leading up to the present: I live in southeast Michigan. I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Criminal Justice. For about a year afterward I took a few more classes, and received a CompTIA essentials certificate (Demonstrates competency as a computer technician). However, once I got into the programming classes, I realized it wasn't for me.

I then decided to move on to a more "sure-fire" way to get a better job: an EMT class. According to, EMT's & Paramedics are being hired far above the national average. I took the grueling 3-4 month class, and received my national and state licenses in October.

I then began applying to all the EMT places around, but a recent interview I had crushed my hopes of being an EMT - the interviewer said that with my driving record, I wouldn't be hired. My driving history is admittedly poor: about 6 incidents overall, 2 were over 10mph, and I've had 2-3 minor accidents. On the plus side, It's been 3 years since any incident, and I have no points on my license as of right now. I told the interviewer I felt a little bit like a victim of the criminology theory called "labeling theory", like I was labeled for my past and wouldn't be able to get away from it, like a criminal. He then said "well you know, we have hired sexual offenders and felons." - Awesome. So they'll hire them, but not someone with a spotty driving record. I guess I'm a worse hire than a sexual felon.

In addition to the driving history, I have one misdemeanor offense: an M.I.P. (minor in possession). Some detail: it was the holiday season. I was in a frat. Exactly 3 weeks prior to my 21st birthday, a party I was at was busted by the police. I had taken a few sips from a beer and admitted to it. I subsequently left the frat and switched colleges. After the probationary period, it was expunged from the public record, but certain employers can still see it - such as ambulance companies and the police. Don't get me wrong - I realize the driving record and misdemeanor were horrible mistakes. They were wrong. Trust me, I know this all too well.

Now for my present situation: I am a 25-year old part time banquet server ($12 an hour but few hours) living with my dad to save money. I'm taking a Spanish class at the local community college while I sort out this whole employment mess. I have deferred my $40,000+ college loans for at least another year. My plan has been, and at the moment still is, to attend police academy if I'm accepted in next year. It would be about $8,000-15,000 more in college loans, 6 months long, and I couldn't have a job at the same time due to the extreme time constraints.

Here's the problem with that: I spoke with the head of the police academy, and he basically said that would not be competitive. I would certainly not be in the top echelon of candidates. There are others out there with clean public records and military service. I spoke with a career counselor at the community college I would be attending the police academy at, and he recommended I still attend the police academy. He said other career opportunities in the meantime could be things such as: security, probation officer, and corrections officer... although the most likely option would have me finding an internship program and getting some clerical/office job at the end of that. I should add that I'm willing to move, but only if I know I'm getting a job first.

I need an outside perspective. I have applied as an emergency tech at an ER, security guard jobs, Geek Squad at Best Buy, EMT jobs, and soon I'll apply to the rest of the jobs mentioned. I ask you, what do you think? Should I attend police academy? With $40,000+ in debt, a bachelors degree in criminal justice, an EMT-B license, a basic computer tech certificate, 4 years of customer service experience as a server, a bad driving history, and one misdemeanor, how can I find a job? What can I do to be competitive?
posted by usersname to Work & Money (48 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
40k and no children to support... The easy answer is to live at home or live with others and save and pay it off within a few years. Huge student loan debt is 100k+.
posted by k8t at 12:50 AM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: "40k and no children to support... The easy answer is to live at home or live with others and save and pay it off within a few years. Huge student loan debt is 100k+."
True, I could have dug myself into an even worse hole, but frankly I still think my situation sucks, and you haven't really answer my question(s).

"pay it off within a few years"
... with what, exactly? My banquet server job? Should I get 2 more waiter jobs to pay it off? The whole point of this thread was to get a better job, and to ask the mighty internets if they have any constructive ideas as to how to go about that. If I can find a better job, I won't have to depend on others for my living situation, and I can pay off my loans more quickly. I want something a little better for myself given the work I've put into my degree and certifications. I hope that doesn't sound too ostentatious.
posted by usersname at 1:15 AM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Okay - how much are you making right now and how much are your monthly payments?

Maybe a second job waiting tables is in the cards for you right now if you want to get rid of this debt.

Also, even though living at home is a good idea, maybe moving to a place that is not Michigan - I. E. Has more jobs - would be a possibility.
posted by k8t at 1:20 AM on November 9, 2013

Response by poster: "maybe moving to a place that is not Michigan"
Haha, I'm sure you've heard about Detroit going bankrupt. Yeah, this isn't the best state to be living in career-wise. I just can't justify moving unless I pretty much know I'm getting a job ahead of time. I would be fine with moving if I only knew I could sustain myself financially once I did.

"Maybe a second job waiting tables is in the cards for you right now if you want to get rid of this debt."
I'm not looking for a flame-war. I'm making $12 an hour, but not getting enough hours. I'm fine with getting a second job - but please, let's try and fit some of my education and certifications into the picture of this second job.

I appreciate what you're trying to do - you're saying get off your lazy @$$ and grind away at that debt. I get that. I didn't need a thread for that - I made the thread for ideas how to leverage my credentials toward a better job, not just to pay off the debt. Fine, I will consider waiting tables, but let's try and focus less on the debt and more on the career options.
posted by usersname at 1:33 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Even though he led with the debt, I think the OP is most concerned about getting into a better job that actually has a future ...

It sounds like the Police Academy at your community college is just another route to the same disappointment you have right now with the EMT. There's no reason to go more in debt for education if you have reason to think that you won't be hired at the end of it.

If you already have a Bachelor's degree, have you talked to your college's career office?
posted by Metasyntactic at 1:34 AM on November 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

How do you feel about joining the military? Other people can probably speak more to the specifics of that choice if it sounds appealing. From my (civilian) point of view, unless you have very strong feelings against joining up, I would at least look into it. Given your interests in law enforcement and trouble getting a career foothold, I think it's probably the most likely path to immediately lucrative work, would provide the most solid career ladder, and would open the most doors to you long-term. However, I'm around a lot of active military who are about 5-10 years older than you are, and they're all vets, so there is that to think about.

On the other hand, if you want to stay a civilian...well, I was in a similar situation at the same age, and what I did was work as a building super and wait tables. It was surprisingly great financially, and gave me plenty of time and mental energy for my own (creative/academic) work. If you want to stay a civilian, it's really what I'd recommend, at least until you're financially comfortable, because I don't think that there are any other (near-)entry level positions that pay you enough to live on (and believe me, I looked). In the longer term, those jobs would probably lead to becoming a property manager or a restaurant manager respectively.

For waiting tables, I'd try to leverage your banquet server experience into a server job at basically any restaurant, but at the top of your list I'd put:

1. Big chains. The big chains are usually willing to hire even completely inexperienced people (which you aren't) and work them up from a host position, so you can probably get your foot in the door and they've probably got training systems in place to show you the ropes. They tend to be more compliant with things like labor law (because they have more to lose), which is about to get really important with ACA legislation.

2. A place that's as close to a club environment as possible. To be honest, as a man, your best bets for real money are either working as a bartender or working in fine dining. Since fine dining restaurants tend to have few open positions and are snobbier, you're more likely to get bumped to bartender than to becoming a fine dining server in the near future. Plus, you can double as a bouncer.

For being building super, I kind of fell into it. When I was leaving, my boss advertised on Craigslist and on the nearby community college's jobs board, so I would check out those places.

If you think either of those jobs sounds good but you still have questions, feel free to memail me.
posted by rue72 at 1:51 AM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

With $40,000+ in debt, a bachelors degree in criminal justice, an EMT-B license, a basic computer tech certificate, 4 years of customer service experience as a server, a bad driving history, and one misdemeanor, how can I find a job?

Short answer: get the hell out of Michigan. Whatever you're looking for, that's not the place you're going to find it. The economy is bad everywhere, but it's almost non-existent in southeast Michigan. Move some place like Texas or California, or even the Mid-Atlantic, anywhere the economy is actually moving along a little. Texas might be your best bet there, as cost of living is relatively low. Or hell, even just go down the road to Fort Wayne. It's close to home, relatively prosperous, and the living is dirt freaking cheap. Show up, rent a shitty apartment month-to-month, and spend all day every day looking for a job until you find one. The kind of jobs you're going to be able to get aren't the kind that you can apply anything but in person.

You don't want to hear that, and that's your prerogative, but really, what have you got to lose? Pack your stuff in your car, apply for forbearance on your loans, and get the hell out. You're working as a banquet server. Those jobs exist elsewhere.

You've indicated that you're trying to find a way to "leverage your credentials." Honestly. . . you don't really have any. A degree in criminal justice lets you check the "I have a college degree" box, but that's about it. Even police departments don't actually view such degrees particularly favorably most of the time. You also didn't mention where you went to college. Makes a huge difference. If you went to MSU, that's one thing. But if you went some place like Baker College, that degree isn't necessarily going to help you all that much. Your tech certificate is also likely fairly useless. The EMT license is not likely to help you at all, because such outfits are unlikely to hire people with misdemeanors and bad driving histories.

My suggestion? Get a job in the trades. Skilled manual labor. Consider joining some kind of union local as an apprentice. Word on the street is that many such outfits are desperately looking for young applicants, as their workforce is aging. Construction unions are about the one non-public sector of the economy where unionization is still at least somewhat strong, largely because it's not really something you can outsource to China. Someone has to actually show up on site.

But again, not in Michigan. The economy is shit, so no one's really doing much in the way of building projects. Union guys are basically unemployed. But some place like Texas, the Mid-Atlantic, or California? Where businesses and governments are actually doing building projects? You might have a shot. Work that restaurant job to keep yourself fed until you can get yourself in with a union local. Or a plumber or something. Skilled manual labor is probably your only route out of underemployment, and I highly doubt you're going to be able to find that anywhere in Michigan.
posted by valkyryn at 2:14 AM on November 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

What about some kind of Alaskan fishing boat job? Or whatever the US equivalent is to Fort McMurray's oilfield jobs?
posted by bquarters at 2:27 AM on November 9, 2013

whatever the US equivalent is to Fort McMurray's oilfield jobs?

That'd be working the oil shale in North Dakota, most like.
posted by valkyryn at 2:28 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just a thought: it seems to me that the combination of your existing education, training, and skills would be a good mix for police dispatcher/911 job, and it might be worth looking into? It's high stress, but so is an EMT job... and your computer proficiency and working-with-people skills should be big pluses. If you're a good, clear communicator and have steady nerves, I'd certainly check it out. It seems that it's the sort of thing that could maybe also open doors to other positions within the department once you're a known quantity.
posted by taz at 2:50 AM on November 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

Thirding joining the military. You can probably even get paid training and work experience in one of the areas that interest you.
posted by rpfields at 3:23 AM on November 9, 2013

My suggestion is that you go on Apply for paramedic jobs. There are currently 103 hits for "Emergency Medical Technician."

Browse other, similar jobs. The federal government is always hiring people. With a college degree there are dozens of jobs open to you.

Also, don't catastrophize. This is a solvable problem. Don't forget that.

Finally, policework. A hard job that pays well. It isn't for everyone. Also the issue is an exit strategy if you don't like it--the experience has limited application. Some find it super rewarding. (I work with police unions). I would not take a big city police position unless I positively desired it.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:03 AM on November 9, 2013

Do not go to the police academy. Trust what the guy in charge of it is telling you--he knows more about that kind of thing than the guy in the career counseling office (who very well may be working from a list of priorities topped with "keep students enrolled"). Essentially, it's just going to be repeating the same pattern--getting minor academic qualification after minor academic qualification (most unrelated to one another) with no job to show for it.

You and I are about the same age, and at the risk of spouting a lot of overgeneralizations, I think the major hurdles that I had to get over, and that I've had to watch a lot of my friends get over (with varying degrees of painfulness), is (a) nothing is ever enough--looking up the BLS statistics for most hired jobs and just getting a credential related to one of them doesn't mean the job will be there, or that you'll be hired. As you point out, too, the police academy credential will likely just be a stepping stone on to more (unpaid? low-paid? does it really matter which?) time in an internship, etc., and that as a result, (b), you have to be totally fucking shameless, basically. No one our age can afford dignity anymore (unless they were born into money, I guess.)

So be shameless. Where do you work as banquet server? Start asking around about management positions. Every single employer in your town that might need a tech guy? Drop off a resume. Even if it's some shitty-ass doughnut store that's probably a front for laundering money, but has one computer, drop off a resume. Look for advertised positions/help wanted signs, sure, that always helps--but don't stop with them. Another option (especially since you have creative and technical skills) is to do some sort of freelancing. Elance and Odesk and such are kind of meat-markety, but it's more or less immediate work that you can do while you're still looking for a job.

Oh, and when someone says they won't hire you due to XYZPQ on your record, for the love of God, don't start in on criminal sociology. That is not going to do squat to get you hired, however personally satisfying it might be in the moment. It may very well be unfair, but that's not what you should be focusing on. Ask what other positions they might have that aren't restricted by driving, ask if they have a time cutoff past which they don't count past offenses as strikes--basically, ask anything that makes them think of you as "that guy who was really game for a job" and not "that pompous fucker who started going off about labeling theory."
posted by kagredon at 4:06 AM on November 9, 2013 [16 favorites]

Also, what police academy are you paying to attend? They pay you. In my experience as a police union lawyer, that is highly unusual.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:06 AM on November 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

For example, where I live, you are paid to attend police academy:
posted by Ironmouth at 4:10 AM on November 9, 2013

When your student loan debt comes due in a year, you'll want to look into income-based (IBR) or income-contingent (ICR) repayment plans, while you're working everything else out.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:39 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

You've gotten as far as interviews on the EMT side even with that driving record--it might not be the long-term plan you want, but at least for the moment I would start rehearsing a considered answer as to how your driving history does not reflect your current driving skills and habits, start following speed limits exactly and driving defensively in general--taking a defensive driving course might help. It might be true that a lot of places won't hire you, but that doesn't mean nowhere will. In general with interviewing, anyway, if you're going in with what you know is a black mark against you, it's important to go in with the ability to explain it calmly and confidently in a way that makes it clear that it's no longer an issue. You don't need every place to give you a chance, you just need one, you know?
posted by Sequence at 4:47 AM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I am scratching my head about you having to take out loans to attend the police academy, and all this stuff about the "top echelon" of candidates. In the big urban area I'm from, you don't pay to go to the police academy, and if you make it through the academy then you're a police officer, there's no concern with being in the "top echelon" at least with regard to whether you'll be hired. If you're accepted into the police academy and make it through, you're hired.
posted by jayder at 5:01 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you have good stand up and speak skills, you could be an electronic medical record trainer - teaching healthcare people how to use computers. Or work the help desk at a hospital. Or become a pharmaceutical sales rep.
The applying as an ER tech is a good idea if you can eventually leverage it into a better job like hospital administrative work. Also I know EMTs who pick up extra time working for funeral homes, that could be another good career path.
Consider being a mental health aide or work in group home. Your customer service plus EMT would be appealing and it might satisfy your interests too. Not the best pay but high demand and you could leverage it into something more.
It is the rare job that will hire someone non local. Do you have friends or family in other states you can crash with for a week while you look for work?
posted by SyraCarol at 5:06 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Did you enjoy the EMT courses? If you did you should consider becoming an RN or a Physician's Assistant. Here's a graduate program in Michigan for Physician's Assistants. If you need to take out more student loans to go to grad school it will be worth it.

Is there any way in Michigan of getting your misdemeanor off your record? Youthful first-time offender? Perhaps a mefi lawyer, not your lawyer, type could offer advice on doing this.
posted by mareli at 5:11 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Go join the Coast Guard. Go rescue people for a living.
posted by 99percentfake at 6:28 AM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Don't get me wrong - I realize the driving record and misdemeanor were horrible mistakes. They were wrong. Trust me, I know this all too well.

No, they're normal mistakes made by teenage boys. Quit beating up on yourself; it's not going to help your situation. If you really feel that despairing about yourself and your past, consider therapy.

You have quite a few options:
  • Better paying food service jobs. Is there a Bonefish Grill or an Outback Steakhouse near you? Slightly higher end dinner chains should net you more than twelve dollars an hour in tips, and eventually you can move up to bartending and make even more money. If you have food service experience, there's no reason to settle for twelve dollars an hour. Go today as restaurants are opening and apply to every one you can.
  • Freelancing. Are you still doing that creative stuff? Start looking into sites like elancer. Check metafilter jobs and NYC craigslist telecommuting jobs. Post to your facebook network that you're willing to do freelance projects and work your connections that way. If you feel capable of writing kids' books, write a few sample chapters and apply to work for book packaging companies like Working Partners.
  • Is your school loan debt federal? If you work in non-profits you can eventually get that debt forgiven. Apply to every non-profit job in your area listed on Craigslist and idealist.
  • Any interest in teaching? If you teach in low income areas you can likewise eventually get your student loans forgiven. Teach for America is an option, and also programs like City Corps. They're taking applications now. Spend a couple days researching similar programs and applying to all that you can.
  • Apply to other police academies that would not cost you money. This will likely entail moving.
Mostly, I want to caution you away from listening to old farts who are doom and gloom about your prospects in life and want to tell you what a screw up you were at nineteen, or whatever. You are young. You are able-bodied. And believe it or not, your background means you have plenty of options, even if they're not for professional, management-level jobs. Your situation is completely stock standard for people your age and is nothing to be ashamed of, so don't let boomers who have no idea what it's like to be a millennial get you down.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:52 AM on November 9, 2013 [16 favorites]

I told the interviewer I felt a little bit like a victim of the criminology theory called "labeling theory", like I was labeled for my past and wouldn't be able to get away from it, like a criminal. He then said "well you know, we have hired sexual offenders and felons."

Oh, also, this is not a good thing to say to an interviewer. You might want to do some practice interviews with friends (google "practice interview questions"). Interviews are bullshit, sure, but you really don't want to be THAT honest with the people who are potentially hiring you. If I had your driving record and someone pointed it out, I'd say something like, "I made a few mistakes when I was young, but those mistakes taught me the importance of committing to a job where I'm employed working for the betterment of others," or something like that. Turn it into a positive. Sell yourself, hard.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:55 AM on November 9, 2013 [14 favorites]

Look, I think, in general, you need to get out of Michigan. The economy is different there. Job opportunities are lacking. But, okay, if you can live at home and save rent money, maybe you don't need to leave immediately.

So what should you do if you don't leave? Get a second job waiting tables. Get a job at an office somewhere as an entry level something. Apply for everything, network all the time, and see what you can get. This is what people with bachelor's degrees and similar do and should do. You know what doesn't matter? Your educational certifications. Those don't matter. Forget about them. They're a sunk cost and, unfortunately, not particularly valuable. For sure don't get another, and yeah, you can talk them up on your resume and in interviews, but they don't lead to a career in a certain field, so forget about that.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:55 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

One possibility, if you're not up for a full-on military enlistment, would be to join the Reserves. You could continue building a career and saving money while you're serving, and it would provide you with useful experience as well as a large, tightly knit network that would be particularly strong in the police/EMT fields you're interested in. At the same time, it would also signal to employers more generally that your bad driving record and 'criminal record' are solidly in the past. I feel like "wayward youth --> upright military man" is a narrative that people are very familiar with, and even admire. No one is going to give you shit about a bad driving record after you've spent a couple of years learning how to drive a tank.

Obviously, I offer this suggestion only because it seems like the military would track well with your other interests. No one should feel obligated to enlist in order to wipe the slate clean, and your slate isn't even that dirty. There are lots of other ways to get what you want; this is only one of many options.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:31 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

One last thing - when I got my EMT certification back in the dark ages, I didn't get hired onto the student ambulance I was going for, either, but I did get a job as an ER tech, so that might very well work out for you. I didn't stay on that route, but I believe there is a certain degree of upward mobility in most hospital settings...get your foot in the door at a big, decent hospital, impress people with your demeanor and work ethic, get the necessary certifications as they come up, and you might find that job turning into a solid career.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:36 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jobs are 80% found by the people you meet, and the impression you make on them. So, meet lots (LOTS) of people, ask them what they do (people like to talk about themselves), and if you find it remotely interesting, ask if they have any openings.

You'll need to practice a three-sentence response when people ask you about your past.
1-Yes, I did that (insert stupid thing here).
2-It was a stupid thing to do.
3-I'm not going to do anything like that again.

People will want to believe you, and you want to show them that you learned from the experience.
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:37 AM on November 9, 2013

I work part-time in an ED. The culture is important. If you can get a job in any big ED, even part-time, prove your worth and make connections with fellow-workers, you have a foot in the door that could lead to more employment. No driving required. Techs, nurses and lab techs help each other with info on other jobs etc. And if you have that experience, after some time and become well-known and well-liked, perhaps the driving could at last be put to rest in the past where it belongs after you prove yourself and you could apply for an ambulance job if that's what you want.

Needless to say, unlike being a banquet server, working in the ED is almost a calling. Either you like it or you don't and if you really don't you won't be good at it. You won't know till you try and you have the qualification already, so I say give it a go-persevere.

Once you have even a part-time job you could possibly spend time (your own time) in a lab and see if lab tech work would be for you. Learning phlebotomy, for example, could give you one more skill and should not be too expensive. Hospitals have many jobs from the basic medical to lab to administrative and so on. The first one is the deciding factor.

I would apply everywhere-even out of state. Techs who work in the ED are in demand in Texas for example. Do you need to brush up on making a good first impression or interview skills? If so, do.
Good luck.
posted by claptrap at 7:54 AM on November 9, 2013

I don't know how you feel about the Army but pretty much every unit in my state (NC) needs medics. So much so that they offered me (former paramedic turned Stay at home mom) a ridiculous signing bonus to join the National Guard (I declined, my husband is already in the NG). If you joined you'd make a couple thousand at basic and AIT ($10k or so) and could then do your 1 weekend a month ($300ish for lower enlisted) and have the most amazing good ole boys job network to leverage. You can memail me if you have questions, good luck!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:11 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also with a degree you could go in as an officer which starts at $45k/ year for active duty and about $10k/ year in the National Guard (1 weekend a month and two weeks of training in the summer).
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2013

I've said this before in a different thread but if you have a Bachelor's degree then usually you can get ESL teaching jobs, in South Korea, Taiwan etc. Apartments are paid for and you can save money in the process, just have to get job first and front money for the flight. Anyway, just another idea.
posted by bquarters at 9:14 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would hold off on applying for any more EMT jobs until your driving record clears up some. Companies simply cannot hire drivers with records like that, for insurance purposes. It's not discriminatory, it's just not possible.

As for the MIP, nobody cares. It's not holding you up from meaningful employment; living in Michigsn and trying to get a job that requires you to drive with a bunch if points on your license is. I live in Michigan. Get out while you can, or go Military.
posted by checkitnice at 10:01 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think that a security foot patrol job would be ideal for you. If you can keep a uniform clean and understand the importance of sturdy footwear, you can pick up as many evening and night shifts as you can handle. Those jobs are filled with guys with exactly your sort of experience and qualifications, and foot patrol doesn't require any driving.
posted by Kakkerlak at 10:51 AM on November 9, 2013

I agree with everyone who say to leave Michigan. Where I live (CA) our probation officers do not get their jobs through our local police academy. They either transfer in from another department or get degrees in criminal justice, like you have.

I really cringe at the suggestions of the military. Are you willing to go to war? If not, find another route.

A number of members of the next generation in my family have gone the ESL route and they all love it. Two of them are in Taipei and I am not sure if they are ever planning on coming back. They are paying off their student loans and have a quality of life there that they could not find here with our economy.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:57 AM on November 9, 2013

You've got to save up and get the hell out of where you are now... there doesn't seem to be a good job market there. If alls you can find is part-time work as a banquet server...

Can you try to find another part-time job?

If I was in your position (and I have been in your position) I would be working 80 hours a week to get the hell out of town. 80-100 hours a week.

I've been there, and I escaped.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:12 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Browse other, similar jobs. The federal government is always hiring people. With a college degree there are dozens of jobs open to you.

In general, I agree wholeheartedly with everyone saying look for *big* organizations, because they have more positions at both the bottom (to get your foot in the door and get trained) and the top (so you can work your way up from "job" to "career" within the company).

Usually that would include the federal government....except that we're in sequester -- there's a hiring freeze and wage freeze. The federal government is basically a non-option at this point. The job posts you're seeing on USAJOBS are largely crafted to give a specific person a promotion, because the government is legally required to post those "positions" before filling them. There are some jobs on USAJOBS, so it's not a complete waste to look, but don't get discouraged if nothing comes of it because that's a function of sequester, etc, not of you.

If government or a civil servant job appeals to you, I would suggest looking for state and local government positions...which might be a rough market because of Michigan's economic problems, too, so again, don't get discouraged if nothing comes of it. There *is* some money getting funneled into localities (from the federal government) for homeland security-related stuff, so, especially since you're interested in law enforcement and have an EMT certificate, maybe look into local government programs related to emergency preparedness. Even if there aren't jobs, there are often (free) volunteer/training programs which might allow you to network and which might be interesting/fun for you. You might also want to look into volunteering for your branch of the Red Cross or a similar organization, for the same reasons.
posted by rue72 at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I live in Seattle and there are a bunch of gaming companies here. In your position, for a better job in the future, I'd create a nice portfolio of animations and art that you think would work well with different kinds of games, and I'd start applying for jobs in game companies. Also, you don't need too much programming for a website, I'd consider making one to showcase my work. Doesn't help you with debt right now, since I understand it takes a few months to build up a portfolio like that, but I still thing it's a good bet for a little later.
posted by uncreative at 12:40 PM on November 9, 2013

What do you want to do? Where do you want to live? Save up six months of living expenses, and work towards getting a part-time internship in whatever creative thing you want in your dream city. Rent a room with some roommates. Work some part-time gigs waiting tables while doing your part-time internship and applying for jobs. Live frugally, work your face off and make it happen.

That's sort of kind of what I did. I didn't have student loans but I did have credit card debt. It was rough but I'm proud of what I did. $40k isn't a lot of debt. You're young. Worst case, you can move back home.
posted by kat518 at 1:04 PM on November 9, 2013

do you know anyone who lives in another city, like Columbus or Pittsburgh, where the job market might be better? Can you visit them and look for a job? It's a lot easier to start over in a new town if you know one or two people who can help with things like finding a roommate & leads on jobs. Or, what about getting a job with a chain restaurant, and then after 6 months or so asking to transfer to another city? Just to smooth the transition to a place with better opportunities.
posted by katieanne at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2013

2 years ago,
I was in a similar situation as you (without the MIP and my driving record had a few less accidents):
Recent college grad, living in a midwestern city, with lower/intermediate skills in a tech-related area, $50k loan debt.

Do you have a website, portfolio, or at least a collection of files that you can send to someone that demonstrates your interest and skills in animation and special effects?

If you don't, Do this.
If you don't have a site, don't feel overwhelmed that you have to create your own and learn CSS overnight, because you won't learn CSS overnight. It wouldn't hurt your job prospects either to have basic proficiency in CSS and HTML (see my next paragraph) but A simple website on wordpress can suffice.

Did you learn the animation and special effects on your own, without any formal training or taking any classes ? If you learned it on your own, emphasize and mention this in your cover letters and interviews. It shows that you have initiative, innate curiosity, that you're willing to learn new things to accomplish your goals, and that you can learn through reading tutorials, trial and error, asking questions. When applying for positions that you may feel underqualified for, you can say in your cover letter, hey - I can learn (this program I don't know), because I already have learned Final Cut (And let your work speak for you).

Even though your town/city/area may not have any potential mentors (I finally found one, after looking for over a year), begin to find people whose animation work you admire on twitter, deviantart (if applicable), carbonmade, or elsewhere. Is there a favorite piece of software that you use? Look for forums or stackoverflow websites that feature it and check out what type of jobs those users have.

Continue to work on 2-3 bigger pieces that you feel proud of and that show off your capabilities in animation and special effects to potential employers.

Regarding the career counselors and job advising: I take the advice of a person directly in the field over a career counselor. In my experience, many career counselors don't understand of the changes in the economy recently (especially for recent graduates, from 2008 to present). Their disconnect is even more profound with newer industries and tech-related areas like: film editing/animation/special effects.

The hardest part of all of this, you'll have to continue to work at a side-job until you catch a job in what you're looking for.

Regarding job leads, I realized that many

Many of the job leads for short-term/side jobs that you receive from friends, family, acquaintances, the random person you meet when you're volunteering, or at a party, or from career counselors (from your community college, the college that you received your BA at, a local jobs training agency) will be crap, but there will be a few that will be great leads. I never found a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff
besides focusing more attention to people 35 and under (not to be ageist, but younger people had a better idea of your situation and will give you more relevant suggestions).

It's cheesy, but don't give up. And I won't lie, my advice may not always work, I ended up finding a nice full-time job in a field outside my dream profession that directly resulted from networking with my now boss a year earlier at a young professionals' event.
posted by fizzix at 1:30 PM on November 9, 2013

Also, I really agree with kagredon's advice
posted by fizzix at 1:33 PM on November 9, 2013

Another vote for working in a hospital ER. They hire EMT-B folks to do essentially nursing assistant-like tasks - vital signs, stocking rooms, etc. Driving record is a non-issue, and you get to use your skills.
posted by jeoc at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2013

I like to animate, edit, do special effects, film, write, etc.

I work in the film industry, and there are a lot of different jobs where your skills would be an asset, and it is certainly a business that you can work your way up from the bottom without necessarily having training specific to the job you are aiming for. Unfortunately, you do need to be living close to where the work is happening. Obviously, moving to new york or LA is going to be prohibitively expensive, but there are a number of other smaller film cities where its much easier to break into the field. In Canada, that would be Toronto and Vancouver, but I'm not sure what the comparable areas would be in the states - I think Atlanta is one? This is something you could research. fizzix's advice to create a portfolio is excellent - getting ahead in film is all about proving yourself. It may take a while to learn stuff/make connections/figure out where you want to be, but it can eventually lead to an interesting and rewarding career.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:13 PM on November 9, 2013

If you are willing to move if you have a job lined up in the new location, you could start looking at civil service listings. The hiring process is very slow but there may be positions that are a good fit for your background. Administrative work with the police comes to mind, dispatcher as taz mentions, etc.
posted by sepviva at 3:41 PM on November 9, 2013

Usually that would include the federal government....except that we're in sequester -- there's a hiring freeze and wage freeze. The federal government is basically a non-option at this point.

This is not true at many agencies - check USAJobs and treat this advice on a case-by-case basis. My agency is actually busier hiring right now than the last six months because numerous jobs went unadvertised during the furlough.
posted by arnicae at 7:07 PM on November 9, 2013

On the jobs front - you've got free time? Start volunteering for your local fire department. Put your EMT to use. This was the first thing I did and it directly led to me getting a paid job using my EMT. Does your local FD not accept volunteers? How about a Search & Rescue organization (I also did that)?

Once you're volunteering (even if you've only been doing it for a month), add that to your resume and resume applying for EMT jobs. It sounds like you've been applying for AMR and other private ambulance companies, right? To be honest, those are not the ideal jobs - tend to be pretty exhausting without much support or pay-off. I would try to leverage your volunteer experience into a job at an ER somewhere or possibly in dispatch.

Like previous responders have suggested - have a simple, calm response to questions about your past (that doesn't include suggesting you're being profiled). Something like, "Yes, X happened, however it has been more than three years since my last ticket/more than five years since my one and only infraction occurred and I have worked in progressively more responsible positions since then" (and find a way to spin banquet server into that).

Perhaps one avenue to consider is working as a firefighter for a municipal fire department? This is a longer-term goal, and one that will take a number of years to achieve, but the starting point is volunteering, then having other roles that use your EMT (frequently folks spent a few seasons as a wildland firefighter as one of these jobs), then applying around the country and being willing to move to whatever municipality (Bangor, Maine...or Beloit, Wisconsin) that offers you a job. If you are interested in going this route feel free to MeMail me.

Good luck! And I agree with others - don't feel bad about where you are right now! I think it is increasingly common to be unsure what you are doing/where you are going well into your 20s. Hell, I think continuing to explore options well into your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and dare I say 70s is a mark of an agile mind. Embrace the ambiguity, and jump into the unknown.
posted by arnicae at 7:20 PM on November 9, 2013

I just can't justify moving unless I pretty much know I'm getting a job ahead of time.

Come to Seattle, then. Everyone I know who has moved here without having had a job lined up has nevertheless been able to land a job within 1-2 weeks. Seriously. The cost of living is higher than you're used to, but the opportunities MORE than make up for it.
posted by kindall at 10:57 AM on November 10, 2013

You're in a bit of a pickle, I think, but you're not "screwed". I suggest you find a way to just pack up and move. Michigan is still hovering around 9% unemployment. The Midwest, outside of a few large metro areas, has far fewer career prospects than other areas of the country. At least get away from Detroit. The only benefit of staying where you are is that you can live rent free, but you are sacrificing a lot of potential opportunities in exchange. It will be scary and risky to move away, but I think it's your only option if you want better prospects. Managing your debt is going to be a constant no matter where you live.
posted by deathpanels at 3:03 PM on November 10, 2013

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