Career advice for a recent college grad looking to change direction
September 11, 2014 10:32 AM   Subscribe

I recently quit my full-time job and I'm figuring things out. I have some ideas on what to do next, and I'm looking for some feedback and, as always, additional ideas and perspective.

Hey everyone, I'm hoping to get some thoughts on what "moves" I should make with my career. Skip to What I'm thinking and would like your thoughts on at the end if you don't want the bigger picture.

-Graduated from UChicago with a BA in philosophy in June 2012 (loved it, did very well, but didn't focus on much else).
-Decided late in the game that I didn't want to get a PhD in philosophy, got a job in NYC working in corporate communications/pr consulting (only job I landed).
-Did not like the work because it wasn't very analytical or interesting to me and I didn't really develop new skills (i.e. analytical skills that you'd develop as a strategy/management consultant or investment banking analyst, common choices for new college grads that set you up for a lot of great jobs in the future).
-Looked for a different job for over a year but could not get interviews/offers in something I wanted to do.
-Quit in May 2014 on very good terms with the firm, got a part-time job to pay for living expenses so I could have time to de-stress and think. (I also have a lot of savings, thankfully).
-Took the Business Fundamentals & Tactics class at General Assembly to learn some analytical skills often used in business (see: and confirm my interest in strategy work.

About me/interests
-I'm an INTJ, so I love thinking about problems and how to solve them, as well as thinking about how to make things better/more logical.
-I'm an analytical person, but I lack specific analytical skills (more on this later).
-As an INTJ, I really like strategy and I'm drawn to strategy work; this is pretty much the only thing I find interesting in business.
-I like technology, new things/ideas, inventing, and in my free-time I've been working with Arduino and teaching myself about hardware and making progress on an internet of things device that I'm trying to patent.
-I'm really good at managing projects, as in figuring out what we're trying to do/the problem we're trying to solve, making a plan/schedule to get that done, assigning tasks to people, and overseeing the project to completion. This is more a natural skill for me rather than something I have expertise in.

What I'm doing now
-I've been trying to land a new full-time entry-level business role that's analytical (e.g. strategy analyst at a company, some of the more analytical/strategic, or non-sales focused, business development roles, etc) since my class ended in August.
-This has been difficult because I haven't applied analytical skills beyond just being a rational thinker in my past jobs. As I mentioned, I'm an analytical person, but I don't have concrete analytical skills that I can reference on my resume in connection with a job (e.g. financial analysis, financial modeling, data analysis etc). I know I'm smart enough to learn this stuff quickly though.
-I'm being considered by some companies that have the kinds of roles I want and I've been networking to find other opportunities/people to talk to.

What I'm thinking and would like your thoughts on

On getting an analytical business job
1a. It seems to me that unless I can get a job with a consulting firm/investment bank that is geared toward rising college seniors, it'll be very tough to get the kind of experience I'd need to do something analytical like strategy work down the line.
1b. It is very tough to get these kinds of jobs since I'm not a college student anymore and there's nothing in my background to really indicate that I have the kinds of analytical abilities/skills that I'd need to do the work (e.g. a lot of math, economics, statistics, or other similar coursework....I'd argue that philosophy is just as, if not more, analytical, but it is not quantitative in nature, so it is held in low regard comparatively).
1c. I'm going to keep trying, but I'm a realist: there's little chance of this working if it hasn't already.

On going in a different direction
2a. I like technology and I think I have the right personality to be a programmer. So, if my job search really doesn't lead anywhere in the next few months, I'm considering doing a coding bootcamp in the hopes that I could transition to that line of work. This would cost between like 11k and 13k, depending on the program, and 12 weeks of full-time study, minimum. I can afford to do both, as long as I can get a job after (always a big risk, of course).
2b. I think I'd like coding and working in a startup environment, and learning to code is an invaluable skill these days.
2c. I'm also networking to learn more about different startups in NYC and what kinds of roles might be a good fit for me in them. I'm weary though because I feel I'll be pigeon-holed as a communications/writing-based job person and doing that kind of work just doesn't interest me. Again, if I had analytical job experience, I could put that to use in a startup.

On going back to school
3a. One thought that I've heard is to go get an MBA so I can have a chance at a strategy job through recruiting, but I'd only feel comfortable trying to do this if I could get into a top 5 or top 7 program. I don't think my work experience in communications/pr is "legit" enough to be taken seriously by business schools.
3b. In a sense, my biggest problem is that I'm a strong INTJ that lacks the technical skills to do what INTJs do best (i.e. problem-solve, conceptualize, come up with new ways of doing things, etc). So, I'm considering the idea of getting a masters degree in engineering through Boston University's LEAP, which is a program for liberal arts people to study engineering (see: It seems like a good program for someone like me, and it does fit with my interest in internet of things devices and technology. With that degree, I could go work as an engineer somewhere and eventually transition into the more strategic/business side of a tech company. It would seem to open a lot of doors for someone in my position and I'd love the opportunity to really sharpen my math and science skills. This would cost quite a lot and I'd be out of work for two years. I wouldn't mind taking student loans to do this, but it is certainly more of a "no looking back" move than doing a coding bootcamp is (in theory, I could do a coding bootcamp, try working as a programmer, and then do LEAP if I wanted to, for some reason).

Overall I'm really optimistic about things, but, as an INTJ, I know I can get stuck in my own head a little, so outside thinking would help tremendously. Do you think my line of thinking in 1, 2, and 3 makes sense? Any other thoughts/advice/comments? What seems best? Any other suggestions about full-time jobs I could be considering that I'm not? Thank you all so much.
posted by lhtw90 to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an INFJ and I work as a trainer/consultant for a database software startup. I love it because it involves a lot of problem-solving. I deal with a lot of data analysis (more qualitative than quantitative) as well as analyzing client needs to recommend system usage. Before this, I worked in fundraising for nonprofits (grant writer) and my favorite part of that job was database administration, so this was a good transition. It also involves a lot of project management, because I'm dealing with at least 20 clients at a time and I'm responsible for assigning clients and overseeing the department of consultants.

The jobs that you are thinking about are actually all fairly different in terms of preparation, training, and requirements. Being a data analyst for a big company will generally require a bachelors and almost certainly an MBA or hard quant degree. Coding, on the other hand, doesn't really even require a computer science degree; there are so many free and low-cost resources out there to learn how to code just about anything. My concern about an engineering degree would be that it might pigeonhole you into a more hard math/science role, which you don't necessarily seem to want.

I would say my best advice would be to continue to explore each of these three roles (analyst, programmer, engineer) until you have a better idea of which might be the best fit. They share a lot of skills, but the training is so different that I would be hesitant to recommend that you start a program or really invest time in one of them until you know that one or more is a better fit than the others.
posted by anotheraccount at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

2a. I like technology and I think I have the right personality to be a programmer. So, if my job search really doesn't lead anywhere in the next few months, I'm considering doing a coding bootcamp in the hopes that I could transition to that line of work. This would cost between like 11k and 13k, depending on the program, and 12 weeks of full-time study, minimum. I can afford to do both, as long as I can get a job after (always a big risk, of course).

You don't need to spring 5 figures and 12 weeks to figure out if you'd like to code. Go hit up Coursera and CodeAcademy and if you desperately want to give someone money, TreeHouse.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding the number of free or cheaper alternatives to learn to code that the agents of KAOS mentioned.

Though I would encourage you to find a code project to do with someone else quickly--liking to learn to code new things at home is one thing, but it can be entirely different to work as a programmer in a company or team. You could encounter all the monotony and scope and focus-oriented problems you encountered before.

Since you had a communications and technology background, I was going to suggest looking into the wide world of content strategy or use experience as a newbie-friendly strategic/analytical field...but then you said you don't like writing. Content strategy is a fantastic field full of analytical digging in and strategic solutions, but it really helps if you enjoy communication and words.
posted by ninjakins at 11:33 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @anotheraccount: Thanks for sharing your background and thoughts. By "analytical job" I didn't mean being a data analyst, which is definitely different from being a strategy analyst (though strategy analysts use data analysis in their work). I definitely agree that I need to explore each option more. I have a good sense of what it would be like to work as an analyst in a strategy setting through the class I took and networking, but not much about what it would actually be like to work as a coder or engineer. I definitely wouldn't want to be pigeon-holed as a hard math/science person, but it might make sense to work as an engineer for a while and then move to the business side (either by making a lateral move in a company, or by getting an MBA). Overall, I just need something to get me started on a path that I actually like (my old job did not do this, and would have just led me further into communications/pr, which I have no interest in).

@the agents of KAOS: 100% agree. I've done a little bit of coding myself as part of the internet of things project I'm working on, so I already know that I like it. I could certainly use free or low-cost resources to learn more to try to get a job, but that isn't necessarily time-efficient or a structured way to go about it. To me, paying for a program would make sense because its more structured and a lot of these programs have relationships with companies that specifically hire students, which makes things simpler.

@ninjakins: I like the idea of finding a project to do. I have a few things in mind that I could work on, either myself or with someone else, as a way to check things out a bit. I agree that I might like coding, but not working as a coder in a company or a team, so that's something I'll have to investigate further. I like working with other people directly and I like bouncing ideas around, but I also enjoy just getting things done. My sense is, working with a team to build something, even if my part of that is really, really tiny, would appeal to me because I'd see the big picture too, especially at a startup.

I'm not sure why you say I have a technology background...I don't. I just like tech and I'm working on an Arduino project. I do know about content strategy, but I don't think I'd find it very fulfilling. I didn't say that I don't like writing, but I don't like positions where writing is the main focus (I actually do like writing....I do a lot of writing in my free time). I'd like to challenge myself in new ways rather than continue to get better and better at writing because I have the aptitude to do a lot of different things. Since I already have a strong writing-based resume, I'm looking to change to something else that could open other doors for me that are currently shut. I don't think content strategy will do that sufficiently for me.
posted by lhtw90 at 12:12 PM on September 11, 2014

Hello, fellow INTJ and philosophy major!

Have you thought about policy work, perhaps as a research assistant or project/program manager at a think tank? Depending on your research area of choice, you could set yourself up very nicely for later-career work in a variety of fields.

The quantitative thing will be an Issue, though, in many fields. I would learn a statistical software or two (SPSS is easy, then maybe STATA) and add those proficiencies to your resume. You could also benefit from economics and statistics coursework, though I don't think you necessarily have to do a full-on Master's to see the benefits in your career.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:15 PM on September 11, 2014

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