Job-hunting for the first time in a while. Upgrade my employment, how?
October 22, 2014 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Despite my people skills and ample experience with booze, I had to leave the food and beverage industry. I'm going to school part-time for civil engineering this spring. What positions and roles should I be looking at, especially if I want to increase my payrate? How can I best define and "sell" my skills on my resume and in person? How do I find places that will have a position for me?

Hi AskMeFi!

I'm a late 20's male living in the US and will be a part-time freshman undergraduate at community college next spring. I live in a small-ish city in the quasi-Bible belt, but am looking to transfer to a larger city in the same state the next year or 2 to continue my studies.

My strengths are my personal presentation, public speaking and people skills, along with a willingness to use and learn new technology. I have a pretty good ability to soak in lots of information in a short amount of time.

In preparation of engineering courses and career, I'm spending as much time as possible studying math/science/C/Java/Python. My primary interest in regards to civil engineering is traffic and road design, especially concerning the integration of bike paths with urban and rural conditions.

Snow-flakey stuff ahead:
For the past 2 years, I've been a manager at a local full-service restaurant. My responsibilities included maintaining the beer and wine menu, wine and beer pairing & promotion, training employees on our offerings, learning how to use, maintain and troubleshoot the iPad POS system and network (without getting trained myself), new hire paperwork, time-clock monitoring, in addition to serving tables.

Pay was reasonable, I suppose. Ballpark figures, I was much closer to $20k than $25k, after taxes. The only compensation benefit was 1 week of paid vacation after 1 year of working there. Health insurance wasn't offered except to one part-time employee who'd been there long-term.

As an aside, my co-manager and I were working there for close to or over 45 hours a week on the regular without overtime and getting paid hourly. The owner didn't believe OT pay was a valid concern since both of us served tables and had separate manager hours at a higher pay rate. And, I was coming in on hours off to fix printer issues. Ugh. Avoiding another situation like this would be ideal.

Before that, I tended bar and served at a craft beer and cocktail lounge for 4 years part-time, while co-managing at store-level for a large retail chain for 3 years.

The biggest employers in town are the hospital, a large bank and Wal-Mart, with quite a few hotels and a smattering of smaller construction companies. Craigslist is not great locally, 1 court researcher position for a 1 day a week, and tons of need for CDL (truck) drivers.
posted by TreeDodger to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I work for a wine and beer distributor and we hire people with your kind of experience as entry level merchandisers and sales reps, with starting pay well above what you were making at the restaurant. Even if there is not a distributor headquartered in your town, they certainly have people who work there servicing the grocery stores and restaurants.
posted by something something at 10:27 AM on October 22, 2014

I should have also said: I don't know for what reason you needed to leave the restaurant industry, but retail sales reps, like the ones working in grocery stores, don't really ever need to be around open containers of alcohol if that is a problem for you.
posted by something something at 10:29 AM on October 22, 2014

I went to engineering school as a returning adult (single parent, too!) and like you, I initially thought I could do it part time and work my through it. Based on my experiences (and other students I know) here's what I'd advise you to do:

Forget working, go to school full time, concentrate on your studies, and bang it out quickly and well.

A CC won't have a great deal of aid to offer you, and so you'll want to get from there to a 4 year Uni as fast as you can (I did two semesters instead of two years - work with admissions at the engineering school, they have excellent guidance).

The bigger school will have better financial aid and at better terms. Also, a bigger school will have work study jobs/placement available - and often in a relevant field! After second or third year, you can do Co-ops that will both pay you and give you resume padding and experience that will help start your career. Plus, student groups and clubs are also great resume padding, and very useful contacts later on, too.

Lastly, engineering is a hard discipline. You have to master lots of other disciplines to do well at it. It will go better for you if you can focus on that and getting relevant experience. Engineering grads who have relevant work experience (co-op, workstudy, etc.) are many legs up in finding jobs than someone who worked something else through college.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:48 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "Engineering grads who have relevant work experience (co-op, workstudy, etc.) are many legs up in finding jobs than someone who worked something else through college."

This is 1000% true in any and all fields. My advice to anyone entering a new career is do. The. Work. Get as much entry-level and internship experience as humanly possible. Even as a receptionist or office drone in an office that does the kind of work you want to do.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:32 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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