Looking for a new job, but don't know where to start
November 25, 2013 8:06 PM   Subscribe

What are my options for good jobs without a bachelor's degree?

To give a little background info, I'm a late 20's guy living in the Pittsburgh, PA area. I've been at a dead end cashier grocery store job for just over 5 years, and I've decided I want to quit and take my life in a more fulfilling direction. I did have opportunities at promotions here and there over the years, but I didn't take full advantage of them because I had no sense of ambition; I was content with doing just enough to get by. I know I'm capable of more than this though and I want to start proving it. I've been going to college at the same time off and on over the years, and started out with that same lack of ambition to do well, but I managed to turn things around in the past couple years and graduated with an associate's degree in general studies and an overall GPA above 3.0. Going back to school next year to get a bachelor's degree in accounting or a tech field is high on my priority list, but for now I want to make the most of whatever entry-level job I can get. Fear that I couldn't find anything better has kept me where I've worked for so long, but I'm determined to face my fears.

I'd like a job where I'll still have the opportunity to regularly interact with other coworkers or the public; I used to be pretty shy, but I've come to be more of a people person and enjoy chances to be social at work. I'd prefer more varied and interesting work than the same repetitive actions of ringing and bagging groceries over and over again. It would be nice while on the job to be able to learn skills or to earn awards or recognition that would give me more leverage than being just another replaceable cog. I don't expect to be earning a decent wage until I've gotten a bachelor's degree or promotions, but it would be great if I could get a starting hourly rate a dollar or two above minimum wage, or at least a job with fairly regular or merit-based pay raises. Even if the job doesn't have all of these qualities, I wouldn't mind working for a company known to treat its employees well.

I hope I'm not being unrealistic in the kind of entry-level job I'm looking for, but I've been out of the job search a long time; I'll take even a rude awakening of what the job market demands to be a valuable lesson. But any recommendations of jobs with some or all of the qualities mentioned above, or suggestions about what I should do in order to increase my chances of getting such a job in the near future, would be much appreciated. Thank you!
posted by Ryogen to Work & Money (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I know you say you're not that interested in repetitively ringing people up all day, but cashiering, POS systems, cash-handling and customer service skills are all pretty useful.

If you're interested in accounting and have cashiering experience, I'd look into bank teller gigs.
posted by Sara C. at 8:29 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you think IT might appeal to you, consider going for a certification like the CCNA. Certs like that are transferable just about anywhere. It's been a really good career path for my husband, who had a similar background to yours. He's had quick advancement and his confidence has skyrocketed.

He started in entry level jobs like internal call center stuff and the like, but the certifications are really what made him move up. But don't discount the experience you've already had in working with people.
posted by Madamina at 9:01 PM on November 25, 2013

You might check out Mr. Money Mustache's list of 50 jobs that make over $50,000 per year without a college degree. Some of the their ideas require both hard work AND luck to make it happen so you need to a reality check but you find it inspiring. (It's a two part blog plus a follow-up article.
posted by metahawk at 9:21 PM on November 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Local government administration!

Different municipalities in the same region will generally hire using one third-party website. All of my city's jobs are posted through governmentjobs.com.

Paraprofessional work in libraries and on college campuses!

Getting a job on a college campus can be a great way to get your degree, btw. I'm a clerk in a public library presently, but I'm always on the lookout for plum jobs on campus. I love my job, and while there isn't a whole ton of room for advancement it's relatively easy, great for interfacing with the public, and there's excellent perks.
posted by carsonb at 9:26 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get any job doing tech-support and work your way up from there.
posted by empath at 11:02 PM on November 25, 2013

Is there any chance a trade might interest you? I wish I'd fully understood the advantages of developing skill in a trade--and the accompanying $$$ potential--before I went to college.

Consider asking specifically about training in the trades at your local job center. My state has a fully funded program that trains people FREE over four weeks in various trades (e.g., carpentry, welding, electrical, plumbing) and then provides continued training and/or guidance toward apprenticeships--which pay rather well compared to unskilled office jobs.

It seems under the right circumstances you could find yourself in a formal apprenticeship program within a matter of months. I think many of these are arranged through a trade union, and some directly with larger employers. Your job center should know more.

On a related note, there's a recent article out there somewhere about how skilled tradespeople are highly valued and in short supply, so much so that a group of Midwest employers developed a training program in industrial sewing so they'd have skilled labor. In my limited experience I've been told that if you are bright, don't drink or do drugs and show up on time--particularly in the trades--you will be highly valued and go very far. Worth thinking a little outside the box on the subject!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:06 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Customer service, entry level tech support, distribution/warehouse, inventory, tour guide, accounts payable/receivable
posted by KogeLiz at 1:04 AM on November 26, 2013

Many years ago I worked for an independent (quick) printer as a CSR. No previous experience was needed in printing. Things I loved about it were the customer interaction, the creative aspect of helping clients choose colors, fonts, paper etc. and the technical aspects of printing which vary according to each job's requirements. So, the variety of work is great, you'd definitely be learning a skill and it's a good field if you like something both creative & technical and of course the human interaction. It was fast-paced and stressful at times too. I was on my feet most of the day so if you don't want to be stuck at a desk all day that is good too but can be physically tiring. As you gain experience you can move to better/bigger print shops and some people have great careers as CSR in quality shops with great regular clients. You may not have to start in quick printing like I did to find entry level. You might want to also consider other technical and creative jobs like a digital photo lab, etc.
posted by wildflower at 3:56 AM on November 26, 2013

Really depends on where your interests lie.

I started out in Customer Service at the phone company. It was a union job back in the day so great money and benefits. I took advantage of training opportunities, learned a lot and worked my way up.

I finished my bachelor's on the company's dime (Tuition Aid Program!) Then they sent me to grad school for an MBA! Boo-YAH!

I really liked learning about telecommunicaitons, data networking and stuff like that there. Then I moved into sales and make indecent piles of money.

Given that, I'd suggest that if you like finance, look into UPMC billing department, or working at BONY-Mellon or PNC. Basically look for entry-level jobs at the large coprorations in Pittsburgh. If you were at Giant Eagle try for this corporate job:

Support Representative Merchandising

You're already at the company, but you're doing more corporate/accounting/merchandising stuff, and that's a pretty great springboard!

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on November 26, 2013

The advice above is great if you want to start a new career, but if you are planning to go back to college next year, maybe all you want is a job to keep you going until then. If that's true, then I think your best bet might be to stay where you are, talk to your manager and tell them that you are ready to take on other responsibilities and see what happens. You could be moved off the register and into customer service or floor manager within a few weeks, hopefully with an increase in pay.

Of course, if you can get a job in the type of career path that your college would steer you, or if you decide to start a career in trade or government, then yes, take that job. But I don't think getting a DIFFERENT dead end job while you work through college is any better than keeping your same one.
posted by CathyG at 6:48 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the rec to start in an entry-level job at a place that does tuition reimbursement. Most IT folks don't care whether you have a degree or not until you get up in management (and then not all the time), but at many corporations they'll be more than happy to help you get one. Those Cisco certifications I talked about? They'll help you get those, too, either as part of a degree or separately.

They may also have access to specialized training courses, so instead of having a half-semester to do stuff, you could go to a week-long workshop in beautiful Schaumburg (Ikea! Medieval Times!) and git 'er done.
posted by Madamina at 7:10 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

The tuition reimbursement idea is a great one! As you know, Pittsburgh has tons of universities and colleges, so you could probably find a gig at one of them that doesn't require a degree and go to school at night.
posted by anotheraccount at 11:42 AM on November 26, 2013

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