If not, I'm just gonna leave.
March 9, 2014 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Mefites, please help. I am deeply unhappy with my life, and have been for a long time. I need help figuring out where to start/what to do about finding full-time, professional employment.I am out of ideas. I can provide background if necessary, but to keep this short and (relatively) emotion-free, I'll just list the complicating factors.

1. I don't know what I want to do. I don't even know how I could go about finding this out. I've taken inventories (Myers-Briggs, etc) and have a decent idea of where my strongest skills lie. That still leaves a very broad range of possibilities, though, with no guarantee I'll even like the work. I have work experience in various industries, but do not want to go back to or stay in any of them. Alma mater career counselors have been of no help.

2. I do not want to remain in my geographical area. This makes job-hunting even more daunting. Where do I put my energy? Here, where I hate being? Somewhere else, where I want to be but can't go without work? I did a great amount of job-hunting/applying in my desired area, but had no results at all. Based on that, on talking to people in the know and reading others' experiences, it is nearly impossible to obtain employment out-of-state unless you're a super-specialized, highly-in-demand candidate.

3. I am in a (long distance) relationship with someone who lives in an area where housing is so expensive she can't even afford a place of her own with a full-time, government job (no, this is not CA). So, there's no way I can move closer to her or move in with her in order to help myself get work in her area. Also, I don't particularly want to live there, and she's not sure she wants to stay in the area, either.

All these factors converge, in my mind, to make what I'm looking for and trying to do an impossibility. If anyone has any ideas on how to overcome these things, or get what I need in spite of them, please share your insight. I would be very grateful for anything that helps me move my life forward. I am at the point where I've seriously considered just running away. Actually, I've been at that point for a long time. Please help.
posted by msbadcrumble to Work & Money (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would start by enlisting the services of a reputable career counselor (not the ones from your school). I found that doing that really helped point me in the direction I wanted to go.
posted by amro at 5:31 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

As far as #1: Sit down and make a list of pretty much every job that has come up as something you might potentially enjoy or be good at. I mean, you might leave of "astronaut" or "A-list actor", but everything even vaguely plausible. Then start going through the list and researching each. Start with broad stuff about requirements to enter the career track, start to weed out stuff where the qualifications are things you absolutely cannot do or would hate. Work up to more specific things--reading industry publications, blogs, actually trying to find and talk to people who have that job.

Start narrowing down the list, start making it more specific. (I.e., "writer" becomes "tech journalist" or "novelist", "something with computers" becomes "front-end developer" or "database administrator", that kind of thing.) Keep reading. Keep talking to people. Once the list is shorter, start actually learning some of the skills involved with your choices--do you enjoy them? Leave in the ones that are challenging but cut out things you absolutely hate or find boring.

This is what I have been doing recently. This is what I wish I'd done in, like, high school or something. It's time-consuming, but it has been a very revealing process.

Once you have a better idea of the "what", the "where" will start to figure itself out.

Do not deal with the "I don't know what to do" by going to law school because other people think it's a good idea, especially if you do not actually like any of the lawyers you know. Just, uh, FYI.
posted by Sequence at 5:39 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might want to pick up a copy of Barbara Sher's book, "I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was." She gives very practical and concrete advice to help you focus on what you might want to do for work.
posted by agatha_magatha at 5:46 PM on March 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you want a job you like more or less than you want to move? Because if it's more, then you should concentrate on finding the kind of work you want. If it's less, you should concentrate on finding any job you could do that would bring in enough income to make the move.

Now, if you don't have enough money to move yet, and moving is your #1 priority, you should find any job that will pay you enough to live on and save for your move. This will also give you some time to explore what work will make you happiest.

If you're more interested in great work that will make you happy in your career, I would suggest you spend time where you are thinking about the career change, because adding the stress of moving on top of that might lead to a bad, hasty decision.
posted by xingcat at 5:56 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try to pick something you don't mind doing vs trying to figure out the perfect career path. Stabilize yourself in a non miserable situation and then it's likely serendipity will open up the path.
posted by mistsandrain at 6:08 PM on March 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Have you ever done anything in the past that you really enjoyed--either as work or as hobby--where you got to experience a state of flow? That's probably the best place to start looking when it comes to a career.

Have you looked at what criteria are important to you vis-a-vis where you'd like to live? How does your list mesh with your partner's?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:25 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry you're feeling stressed out and unhappy - I've certainly been in a similar situation to yours before with various factors compounding each other, and it can definitely feel like a Gordian knot. People above have given some good advice, but I want to come at it from a bit of a different angle: it is an angle that has recently proved helpful to me, but which obviously may or may not be helpful to you.

I think it might be a mistake to think about the nature of the work you might want to do in a discrete fashion, without taking into account more practical considerations (employability, location, etc.). Rather than posing your vocational goal as one of finding the job where the work is the absolute best fit for your interests and abilities, I wonder whether it might be wise to think about what you actually value most in a job. Is it the actual work that you're doing that would give you personally the most value in a job, or is it the other things that your job enables that would do this (making enough to live where you want to live, being in-demand enough that you can easily get [re]hired, being able to live near your girlfriend, or what have you)? Because if it's the latter things, then the question for you becomes not so much "What would the absolute best vocational fit for me be?", but instead, "What job would I like well enough that would afford me the things I most value?" If the "wide range of possibilities" that you mention includes some jobs that pay more and/or have more hire-ability than others, and you think you'd like them passably well, they might be the most fit if what you value is living where you want and living near your girlfriend. Or, to reframe: could you imagine yourself quite happy in a job that is a good but not perfect fit, if it had enough pay and stability to allow you to move where you wanted to and have your girlfriend with you? If so, what I might do if I were you is to investigate which jobs I might potentially have aptitude for and enjoy well enough that pay significantly better than the others, or where I might be more hire-able (either in general, or in an area I might want to live), and then pursue these.
posted by ClaireBear at 7:16 PM on March 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, I wonder whether you might be willing to provide more detail on 1 and 2 in your question: if so, I think it might help with more specific answers...
posted by ClaireBear at 7:17 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you for your suggestions! I guess I started too far ahead in my question. Experience has shown that I am not hire-able. I have very little faith that I will be able to find full-time work that will pay me enough to live, whether it's a job I'm really interested in or just something to allow me to save money to move. (I currently work a low-level, part-time job, the interview for which was the only one I'd gotten in 1.5 years of applying before and after graduating.) My major turned out to be useless (criminal justice), and even though I worked as a legal investigator (I tried pursuing this, to no avail) in school and as a research assistant on criminal justice/social science grant projects, no one was interested in my experience or skills. So, if I can't get hired doing what I already did and was educated for, how can I expect to get hired doing something that, while I might be good at or like, I have no experience in?
posted by msbadcrumble at 8:28 PM on March 9, 2014

There was a recent question about a job in the police force - crime analyst, I think it was? I'm not sure if it was a civilian job or one that would involve first becoming a police officer. There's forensic accounting, too; you'd have to study accounting. Paralegal is another thing. Most (unsure about "crime analyst") would involve a couple of years' applied training - would you consider that?
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:43 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the problem is your attitude, honestly. I find it hard to believe no one is interested in your skills. Sounds like catastrophic thinking. If you're depressed (I've been there), you might not be the most pleasant hire. People here recommended MoodGYM for decreasing negativity, and I found that to be helpful for me. Also the book Learned Optimism. If you can afford a therapist, I'd do that.
posted by amodelcitizen at 8:45 PM on March 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

I also wonder about the materials you're sending out. Can you have someone take a look at your resume? Do you think it's solid?
posted by amodelcitizen at 8:55 PM on March 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sorry, just wanted to add... I think you have to adjust your expectations. As you've learned, an undergraduate degree in criminal justice does not, in itself, educate you "for" any job in particular -- just, as with any BA, entry-level office work (which might take you somewhere unexpected in a few years, you never know. Or it might not, if you're stuck with temp work. The economy is bad, it's not necessarily your attitude.) afaik, people often take criminal justice as preparation for graduate or law school, or for police training (holding a degree increases starting pay a bit).
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:04 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I hate to suggest this, but you could probably get a job almost anywhere in the USA, in the jail or prison system. Someone I know did this so that she could move to Los Angeles. Her job sounds awful, but it was a way to finance her move to LA. If getting out of dodge is more important than figuring out your work, it could be something to consider.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 9:55 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

The impression I have of people moving without a job is that the ones that succeed have someone they can crash with for months for free or cheap while they job hunt in the area. Is there anyone you can possibly do that with?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:14 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Given that it doesn't seem like there is anything directly applicable to your degree that would be especially marketable, or that particularly draws you, I think it might be an idea to pay for some comprehensive career counseling. This might help illuminate whether it would be a better idea to try to get additional training to try to become qualified for a job in your original area of interest (maybe through law school or graduate school? I'm not sure but I bet the career counsellor would know). Or, alternatively, it might help clarify - if you're not super attached to that idea - whether it might be smarter to retrain into something really marketable. My understanding is that various allied health fields (and maybe the trades?) are booming now and for the foreseeable future. If you could see yourself being happy in a job in any of these areas, this might be something to consider. FWIW, I'm not recommending anything different than I'm doing for myself: I am a PhD student who had intended to go into academia, but having now seen the academic labor market, I have realized that I actually also value having a very high probability of a stable job that pays a living wage, so I am planning to go to medical school. It's stressful to think of retooling late in my 20s, but I think it will be worth it.
posted by ClaireBear at 3:16 AM on March 10, 2014

You do know that most big city police forces hire entry-level cops on the basis of a standardized test? Conventional "hireability" doesn't even enter into the process. (You do have to pass a psych screen though.) relevant higher education is increasingly a factor in qualification too so that means your degree is potentially of some value.
posted by MattD at 4:09 AM on March 10, 2014

I have a cousin with a degree in criminal justice who joined the Navy after an unfruitful job search. He expected to become an MP because of his background, but he tested very high in mechanical know-how on the ASVAB and became an avionics mechanic instead. He's now moved up the NCO ranks, owns a house, and is generally doing quite well (better than his cousin who spent 9 years in grad school, for instance).
posted by hydropsyche at 5:00 AM on March 10, 2014

My suggestion would be to apply for civilian positions with municipal, county, state and federal governments.

For example, they are looking for Legal Assistants with the US Attornies Office. There are numerous postings, Texas, Las Vegas, New York, San Jose and San Francisco.

I'd bone up on updating your resume for applying for federal positions, the application process will take some time. However, once you get in, it's AWESOME, and you can train for other jobs.

What's great about government jobs is that they're pretty straight-forward. Do you tick the boxes, FAB! Being willing to work in some back water places never hurt your chances either.

Your first consideration should be to find a decent paying job, in whatever place you think you might enjoy. Be mobile for your career!

If you take the job, and it's not for you, no worries, nothing is forever. Just keep on keeping on, and then start searching again.

I have a job I like fine. But I wouldn't say it was fulfilling. It's a means to an end and I don't mind doing it. I'm perfectly at peace with that.

There are NO perfect situations. There are situations that are better than where you are right now. So re-align your expectations.

I will also say that if you're going into interviews with the same dour attitude that your question is framed in, it can really hurt your chances.

So while your job hunt is happening in earnest, here's what you need to do:

1. You know you're going to move...somewhere...so get two other part-time jobs so that you can work and save money for the move.

2. Get your resume looking well. Ask a family member, or friend, or a potential employer to review your resume and to give you honest feedback. If you're not getting called for jobs, it's your resume's fault.

3. Do mock phone interviews and mock in person interviews. You should be coming across as competent, professional and happy.

4. When interviewing for jobs, it's a two way street. So be prepared to evaluate offers based not only on if you're good for them, but also if the situation is good for you.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and stop with the negative narrative in your head. You are a person with agency, and you CAN do better. You're not going to go from Part-time job at the drive thru to Job Of Your Dreams, but you can go to a job that pays well and is giving you skills and experience to get to the next level.

Good Luck to you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:09 AM on March 10, 2014

if you don't want to remain in your area, find some cities with large government agencies and lots of jobs through civil service exams or provisional interview-based hiring (ex new york, DC, maybe LA, chicago, etc). go take the civil service tests in those cities. some of them may be available online.

i think your background would make you an excellent cop, correctional employee, investigator for a civil law enforcement agency (ex. labor regulations, anti-discrimination work) or legal aid office, legal assistant, bank compliance investigator, emergency management staff, i could go on. just go take the exams and get on a bunch of lists.

in the meantime do whatever more menial type of work to make money, even slinging drinks. eventually something will turn up.
posted by zdravo at 10:18 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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