Recent social-science graduate looking for job guidance
March 18, 2015 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm a recent graduate with experience in the non-profit and graphic/web design fields looking to find sustainable, permanent work that matches my skills and experience before continuing my education.

I'm a recent (2014) Sociology graduate living in the Greater Boston area and want to get a full-time, permanent job that I could hold on to for the next year and a half. I'm 29, if that helps (I was a non-traditional student).

I know underemployment is common for recent graduates, but I wonder if there are ways that I could improve my job search so that I can find something that matches my skills and experience; a lot of stopgap jobs don't.

I've had a mixture of contracted work (one doing graphic design and beta-testing for a government agency and remote work for a non-profit) and temp work (where I did email/phone tech support and web design/beta testing).

One of my issues is that I have two paths I can follow with my career choices: I can do non-profit work, primarily working on civil rights or anti-poverty work, or I can do graphic and web design. My résumé reflects those two prongs. I feel that if I pursue one of those things, I'll be leaving the other behind. I have quite a bit of internship experience in both non-profit work (mostly with LGBT groups) and design (often for non-profit groups)!

I actually have a bunch of anxiety around job searching because I tend to think I'm not that qualified, and think that there are a bunch of people out there with a lot more skills and experience. I know some of the typical advice like asking for informational interviews and trying to network, but I keep thinking I'm wasting people's time.

I'm registered with a temp agency, but I haven't had any real work come in for me since that position I had earlier. (That was the one where I realised I didn't mind doing web design all the time, but that I'm really not cut out for phone support.) I don't really know if I want to conitinue temping because they just can't seem to find things that fit. (If you're in the Boston area and know of any temp agencies there, could you please point me to some that are better for creative work?)

My goal is to make enough money to cover my expenses like rent and paying off loans (most of them are currently in deferment, and I've submitted an application for deferment for the last set), have a little spending money and be able to save up to cover some of my master's degree fees (I plan on going to get a master's degree -- preferably outside the US -- in 2016 or 2017, depending on my financial situation when it's time to apply. Studying abroad, particularly in the country I'd like to be in, does require some savings).
posted by Elephanzee to Work & Money (5 answers total)
As someone with a similar skill set, I don't really have any good answers, but do have a couple of thoughts.

1) You don't have to leave either career path behind permanently, but it probably makes sense to choose to focus on one or the other full time until you go back to school. What do you plan to study when you go to graduate school? I might choose whichever line of work would be most compelling on a graduate school statement of purpose in your field of choice.

2) When I was in your position, I decided to do non-profit work full time but did freelance design work nights and weekends. Boston is expensive and non-profits don't pay well, so you would likely find uses for the additional income. You'll lose some free time but the additional income combined with opportunity to keep my design skills sharp (and build my design portfolio) made it worth it for me.

3) Have you thought about looking at non-profit communications or development jobs? I've met a number of people working in those sorts of roles in small non-profits, and they do do a million different tasks that you might be good at (writing press releases, interacting with donors, formatting annual reports in Publisher or Illustrator, updating websites, managing social media accounts, etc) without a formal background in PR or non-profit development. If that interests you maybe while you're looking for paid employment see if you can volunteer or intern in a communications or development department to build your skills and make connections?

4) I know this isn't the case for most people, but every non-profit job (international & domestic) I've ever had started as a volunteer position. Finding a job is about who you know, and non-profits are thrilled when they find volunteers who are reliable and skilled. Even if there aren't openings at the place you choose to volunteer, the people you volunteer with will have connections in the non-profit community and as long as they're not jerks, they'll happily act as references as you apply for full time positions at other agencies. (Don't volunteer for jerks.)

5) Did you go to school in the Boston area? Even if you didn't, have you gotten in touch with your school's career services or alumni association? Networking is the worst, but career services & alumni associations can really help you make connections with potential employers.
posted by cimton at 2:23 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I actually have a bunch of anxiety around job searching because I tend to think I'm not that qualified, and think that there are a bunch of people out there with a lot more skills and experience.

PLEASE do not fall into this rancid, debilitating woman trap. You know the quote "Son, let women figure out why they won't screw you. Don't do it for them"? That's how you need to feel about employers.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:03 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @DarlingBri -- I'm actually a guy, but I have heard that the imposter syndrome tends to affect women pretty badly, possibly because of sexism in the workplace and different expectations at school.

@cimton -- This is actually really helpful. I'm interested in the academic side of educational policy and theory, especially for people with disabilities (like improving educational programming, teaching methods that are learner-friendly, redressing the achievement gap), and have thought about getting an MA in Disability Studies, and a PhD later on with a similar focus, probably through a Sociology department. I'm interested in doing my advanced degrees abroad because there are some countries with a better understanding of the social model of disability than the US. I'm pretty sure I don't want to be a classroom teacher for anybody under the age of 13.

One of my current jobs is actually very relevant to disability studies -- the main issue is that it's part-time and I'd like to have another job I can do alongside it so I can actually build up some savings. I do need to pay the bills so volunteering more than a few hours a week probably wouldn't work, but it is an idea. I'd also be open to applying for communications jobs for relevant organisations.
posted by Elephanzee at 3:15 PM on March 18, 2015

An entirely different option is to run with the sociology major and look for research coordinator or survey research jobs at universities and for-profit evaluation firms. That route would give an okay salary, good benefits, and stability for the year or two you're looking for.
posted by metasarah at 6:52 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why don't you look for digital jobs with nonprofits? That seems kinda like the perfect thing for you. I'm in that field - it's pretty small, but if you can code AND design AND write and you are willing to do other stuff in addition to web work (email/social media writing, for instance) then you will be pretty marketable. Feel free to PM me with any questions.
posted by lunasol at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

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