Help me make a living out of making life better for others
February 26, 2015 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Whilst I am still very much in employment and financial crisis, I think I may well have had an epiphany of sorts: That I would like to eventually, or better yet ASAP, build a career in which I help, one way or another, make the world a better place. Elucidate me?

Now, this may not be the opportune time for career planning; I am still in a bad situation and things have not improved much. I have secured a menial part-time (avg. 15h/wk) job, and have been scraping together some other 1-shot and short-term gigs, but it's not enough...I am behind in rent and bills and have maxxed out my only credit card, and have defaulted on my old school loans. So really, I should be, and am, begging for any job at this point, though I am having no luck anyway.
That said, I am now feeling that if I could be so fortunate, I would like to have a job/occupation/career in something that actually benefits society. I'd like to make a tidy living for myself and help make the world more livable.
Right now, I am in need, yet -- right here in the city I live in there are many who have it worse. Hungry and/or on the streets in the cold and/or fighting addiction and/or dealing with mental issues and/or trying to escape abuse...I would like to step up and be part of the solution, while solving my own dilemma. So, now what?

Quickly, some bullet points:
- I'm 41
- I have little formal post-secondary education; I did not finish Graphic Design (15 years ago), I did achieve a certificate in Art Fundamentals (I do practice design as a hobby)
- I had a sort of career: for 7 years of was a territory sales rep
- In that position I also hired/managed/let go up to 25 seasonal workers
- I am a talker - If I believe in something, I will talk all day long about it
- I seem to be adept at handling explosive situations; in my previous job I often was called away from whatever I was doing to mediate and solve "911" situations
- Again, I have bad credit and I have no savings. I do not qualify for loans or assistance. I have no family or partner to help me out.
- (Oh, I have been diagnosed ADHD)

- I'm not trying to get rich from whatever I end up doing. That's not in the cards.
- I would simply like to pay the bills and eat and live in an ok place...
- As well as: I would also like to travel a bit, not expensively, but still. I have never traveled.
- And: I would like to get my bad neglected teeth fixed. (It's a $12,000 job.)

With all that in mind, I now reach out to you, MeFi - What can I do with this?
What are some occupations that allow me to do this?
How do I go about it? Education? Is there any way that I haven't thought of to get educated when I can't afford it and won't be able to get assistance?
Is there any way to this fast? I welcome the hard work, but I got to pull my head above water soon (as in right now, really) otherwise I'm drowning.

How do I make this happen?
posted by Soap D. Spencer to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Consider volunteering for community organizations that help people. Get yourself known as the talented kind person you are and eventually start applying for jobs in those organizations. You write well and that combined with your background in art should make you good at creating and designing publicity and educational materials for such organizations.

Any chance of finding a live-in building manager position? You're good with people, are you also good with mechanical stuff and physically strong enough to shovel snow, etc.?

Are you in a city that has a college of dentistry? I got many thousands of dollars of high quality dental care for next to nothing at one of those because my income was so low.
posted by mareli at 5:20 AM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I worked for the phone company as a customer service person in the call center, I helped people navigate one of the most monolithic, bureaucratic institutions in Christendom. I got great personal satisfaction from being the person who helped them figure out their bill, move their service, solve a problem with a phone feature, whatever it was that they needed. I got lots of letters from happy people and it made me feel good that instead of being frustrated or annoyed at having to call the phone company, that my customers had a good experience and that I hopefully brightened their day.

In my job with the phone company I helped people deal with their services after hurricane Andrew, I worked restoring the gulf coast after hurricane Katrina, I developed a presentation on disaster recovery that I delivered to companies all over the US.

An awful lot of this is attitude. You know that old story: I'm Building a Cathedral, that's how I approach all of my jobs. So you could choose to bloom where you're planted and become the best darn X right where you are.

Now, where does that leave you? Well if you're asking the question, you don't have a particular thing in mind. You don't yearn to be a police officer or fire fighter. So it's not like you have a specific idea in mind and honestly, those who enter into helping professions usually BURN to do what they're doing. They are intensely involved in whatever it is that they're doing. My dad was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and he LOVED his work. But he made that happen against all the odds. He got a full ride scholarship to UC Berkeley while he was married with two kids, and my parents scrimped and worked to get him through it. He had a wonderful career where he helped lots of people, both in the non-profit sector and later in the Department of Defense. He is now retired, playing Santa at the holidays and volunteering at a hospital a few days a week. That man is one happy camper.

You could become a CNA or a nurse if you have the aptitude and desire. That would require additional training, but if you were truly convicted about it, it wouldn't be a problem. CNA training isn't all that long, and you can work in hospitals or nursing homes pretty much right away. Home health aide is another thing you might do with a CNA certification. Going into the homes of folks who need assistance, being a connection for people who might otherwise be isolated.

Having an amorphous idea about helping people...everyone has that. You have to get it together and make it happen. Not everyone does that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:52 AM on February 26, 2015

Contact public health, often they have programmes for low-income people for dental work. How is the employment rate where you are? Maybe you should consider moving where the jobs are (not Fort Mac...)? If you are in Toronto, there are actually a lot of jobs in the suburbs, so don't limit your search to just downtown - even look in Hamilton-area (because of cheap rents). Did you ask EI about second career? I know so many people that found it turned their life around by providing them with free tuition and the extended EI payments kept their head above water. Meanwhile, get on OW (and backdated, if possible).

It is good that you want to help others, but, I can't help thinking you really need to put your own oxygen mask on first. "Helping" jobs are notoriously gendered, low paid, and precarious work. There is nothing wrong with aiming for a well-paid position and then volunteering.
posted by saucysault at 6:04 AM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

What about teaching English abroad? You'd be helping people better themselves by telling them what you already know, thus not requiring any further education; you'd get to scratch your travel itch; you'd earn enough to live on and probably be able to save a little; you might have access to a lower cost of living and correspondingly cheaper dental care; and I'm sure there are other benefits.
posted by resurrexit at 7:40 AM on February 26, 2015

If you're interested in child protective services, Title IV-E programs may pay for your training in exchange for a commitment to work for county social services for a few years.
posted by metasarah at 8:59 AM on February 26, 2015

Based on what you've written - emergency responder - EMT/paramedic. (I feel like you are kind of leading us to that, but maybe that's for a reason, and it's a fit :) )

Are you in the GTA? Because: Paramedics in Ontario in such regions or cities as Ottawa, Toronto, Peel Region, or Durham, will have an annual salary starting from $70,000 to $82,000 as a Primary Care Paramedic, an Advanced Care Paramedic salary can on average range from $82,000 to $86,000, and Critical Care Paramedics range from $100,000 to $110,000

Is there any way that I haven't thought of to get educated when I can't afford it and won't be able to get assistance?
OSAP; Second Career if you're eligible; bank loan.

posted by cotton dress sock at 10:26 AM on February 26, 2015

Sorry, you said no school assistance. If you settled on something like paramedic training, which is short so you'd only need tuition and living expenses for 1-2 years (or 6 months, even, depending on where you go), and you found you were ineligible for the kinds of supports saucysault described, one way to go might be to cut down your fixed monthlies - live with a roommate if you have to - move to a cheaper town, work as much as you have to, in whichever jobs, and save hard, for like six months. And then apply to study in one of the low-COL places paramedic training is offered.

This would be brutal. But if you had a solid end goal in mind, and it took no more than a year, and you took as good care of yourself as you could in the meanwhile, it might be endurable. I hope the options saucysault mentioned are open to you, though.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:05 AM on February 26, 2015

You might consider working with developmentally disabled people it pays not great but if You get into the right organisations They often offer many types of training which can open other doors in related fields. It is really a rewarding job and many of the clients enjoy art.
posted by BarcelonaRed at 3:33 PM on February 26, 2015

This is going to sound completely out of left field, but here goes- why not consider working for Costco?

You would not directly be helping the homeless, fighting addiction, etc. But you would have a shot at a decent, steady paycheck with good benefits, all from a Big Box store that actually practices corporate responsibility. Costco has one of the lowest employee turnover rates- that in itself, should tell you something.

With your sales background & skills at diffusing tense situations, it could be an ideal match. You could then focus on your other goals- building your savings, attending to your health, and volunteering for non-profits in your free time.
posted by invisible ink at 8:07 PM on February 26, 2015

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