Jobs for a living wage
March 20, 2017 4:59 PM   Subscribe

College graduate. What kinds of jobs can I get that pay at least $15 / hour?

I have a bachelor’s degree in music. I use it to get part time work when I can, but at the moment my primary income is $10.50 / hour at a Starbucks kiosk in a grocery store. I’m making about $1000 / month and I swear to god there’s got to be something better out there.

I’ve been looking into receptionist and administrative assistant type jobs, with the hope of working up to something more interesting and better-paying, with more responsibility and leadership (project management?). Am I likely to get these jobs without office experience? Some of the ads say that education can substitute for direct work experience. I’ve been told by a friend who directs a company that my resume is good -- I don’t have much work experience, but I do have quite a few awards and scholarships. (But no grand delusions about how much this actually helps.) I've worked in customer service as a hotel receptionist, now as a barista. Lots of music gigs, piano teaching, some light construction. Was treasurer of a collegiate chapter of a national music organization.

What other kinds of jobs are there that a recent graduate could potentially get? I'm thinking white collar / office-ish, but open to other ideas. I'm really at a loss and don't know what to look for.

Please hope me.
posted by switcheroo to Work & Money (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I hate to say it but: learn to code. You're probably hearing this from everyone right now, but frankly there is not likely to be a shortage of coding jobs anytime soon, and they mostly pay just fine. Places like General Assembly will teach you how. If you want to be on the creative side of it go for interface or graphic design.
posted by Oda_a_los_calcetines at 5:05 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you considered civil service jobs? Not sure about other states, but in New York there is something called the Professional Career Opportunities exam that is used to fill a variety of entry level positions. It's not a quick way to get hired, as you have to sign up and take the exam the next time it's offered, then wait for job openings to come up. But if your state or municipality has an equivalent, it might be worth trying.
posted by jkent at 5:12 PM on March 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you want to go the office route, try temp to hire via a temp agency. Having customer service experience is good, they'll probably make you take some basic typing / word / excel / grammar tests, and always wear biz cazh when you go in. Should pay at least $12-13 for receptionist jobs and $14-16 for admin assistant stuff, you'll probably get a pay bump if you get hired on permanently.

Being a bank (or credit union) teller is traditionally pretty well-paid for not requiring much specific experience. I think it's still possible to work your way up from teller row, but not certain. Extended open hours at branches may make this less appealing / interfere with your side gigs.
posted by momus_window at 5:21 PM on March 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Search for "[your city] temp agency" and apply to a few. I'd also recommend learning some office software skills in the meantime:

* Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook). Specifically make sure you know how to mail-merge, vlookup, pivot table.
* Can you type at 50 wpm? If not, you can probably get there with 10 to 20 hours of practice, especially as a music major.
* Quickbooks
* Photoshop/illustrator. You aren't going to become a pro overnight, but can you move some graphics around or change text in templates
* Survey monkey, mail chimp, Google Analytics etc. Again, goal isn't to become pro, but know the vocab and what these tools can do.

With these tools in your toolbox you are now equipped to do a whole bunch of office/admin type of work!
posted by TomFoolery at 5:24 PM on March 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have no idea what your area has to offer in this regard, but maybe check for admin/marketing/customer service positions related to the entertainment and performing arts industries in your area. I've found, for entry level positions, arts orgs can be more willing than most to overlook specific credentials if they find somebody motivated and trainable who cares about the mission. That's the path I blundered into after finishing art school, anyway.

(Also I picked up some SQL, which they seem to think is magic.)
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 5:26 PM on March 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you want office work, temping is the way to go. It likely won't be $15/hr at first, but you'll get experience and more stuff to put on your resume, and there's a very good chance that somewhere along the line the company you're temping for will decide, fuck it, the hiring process sucks and this temp is working out well, let's just call this a day and hire switcheroo.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:51 PM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Would you consider being a nanny/babysitter? These jobs pay $16-$20/hour where I live.
posted by saradarlin at 6:43 PM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Would you consider updating your post with info about what role you want music to play in your life going forward and what impact that might have on your schedule? Is your secret wish to make a living through music, and what might the path to that look like? I think you'll get different answers if your ideal means that you need to preserve different kinds of flexibility or if it would be ideal for this next step to build towards something specific that relates to your music interests.
posted by carmicha at 6:52 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would suggest getting some experience as a nanny or childcare worker, while perhaps picking up experience in teaching music and exploring music therapy as a career. If you love working with people, music therapy may be an opportunity and you can still have the job you have now, while you work toward it. In many areas, there's no set criteria for becoming a music therapist, so you could work away at it, perhaps starting at $16 an hour as a nanny and then working your way up to $40 or $75 or more.
posted by shockpoppet at 7:43 PM on March 20, 2017

This is going to vary a lot based on your location, but where I live you can get >$50/hour for private music lessons in the fancy nearby suburbs. Similarly, you can get those rates for tutoring math/science/SATs. The hard part is filling a full 40-hour work week. That can take some serious marketing and networking time.
posted by tinymegalo at 8:27 PM on March 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

Ok this is going to sound wacky but... you already work in a grocery store. Checkers are union and make decent money. And have potentially flexible schedules. Talk privately to a few of them. Ask if they'd be willing to share their evolution to checker, including pay along their timeline. Heck, ask a manager, straight up: "if I wanted to train as a checker, how much could I be making in 3, 6, 12 months?"

I rented a room from a woman in a very expensive town, and she'd been a checker at the local Safeway. Always told me I'd be surprised at how well paid they can be in the right place. She and her teacher husband built their home. I talked to a guy who started as a part-time stocker at a Kroger store a year ago, trained as a checker a few months later and was making $55k as a low-level manager within a year. Perfect storm of opportunity I'm sure, but you never know. It's one of those things you could do, burn no bridges ever, and always fall back on, in any town, anywhere.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:33 AM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can you paint houses? Here, at least, that often has a better per-hour wage than temping. It's also a good way to pick up casual gigs when you are between temp contracts. Bonus points if you can do a good job with a caulking gun, and maybe even drywall (you mention light construction -- can you already drywall, or better?).

Disgusting how devalued education has become and how hard it is to get a career in a field related to your degree, but. Those sorts of skills are always in some demand, pay decently (here, and, working for the right person), and are a decent thing to network for for income when temping when looking at dry spells.
posted by kmennie at 1:47 AM on March 21, 2017

How much customer service experience do you have? Depending on the types of companies in your area, you might be able to find a job as some type of account manager. These are the people at B2B companies that help customers once they've already become customers (as opposed to sales people, who are trying to close the deal). I worked at a software company, and a lot of our account managers had worked in retail previously.
posted by radioamy at 9:10 AM on March 21, 2017

Check all your local theater/music companies for open administrative jobs. It's one way to stay in the industry. Contact your local schools to advertise you are available for lessons. Join the music union to get listed in the directory and make some connections -- TONS of us work in non-music fields.

You can give temping a shot. But if you have a BM like me (oboe performance, I still play professionally, though most of my income is from web dev these days), you are going to face the challenge of HR drones who have no idea what this degree is.
posted by Wossname at 9:15 AM on March 21, 2017

Since carmicha asked about my interests... I'm not actually interested in making a living as a musician. My eventual goal at the moment is to become a therapist or social worker (more of the counseling kind than music therapy) and work in the non-profit sector or practice at an institution (university, most likely). I'm sure I'll have more questions in that vein eventually, but for the moment my focus is getting on my feet.
posted by switcheroo at 10:29 AM on March 21, 2017

You may want to check nearby colleges and universities, especially in the student life departments. I see a fair amount of openings for student support specialists and student life assistants and things like that that are entry level but make a fairly decent wage and usually has good benefits as well for full time positions. Bonus points if you can find an institution that has degree programs in therapy or social work and then apply for tuition waiver/reimbursement!

And even though you will make the saddest chump change doing this, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Americorps*VISTA program (assuming it doesn't become a budget casualty). One year of service and you'll come out the other side with solid office/fundraising/maybe even social work experience (depending on where you serve) and an educational stipend to put towards your existing loans or next degree.
posted by helloimjennsco at 11:12 AM on March 21, 2017

Low-hanging fruit in the office world in that pay range is receptionist / admin. If you can work a computer and are organized, these are easy entry level jobs to get, with the advantage that any office job is a gateway to higher paying work. At one company I started as an appointment setter and became the office manager after a year, which paid quite a bit more.
posted by ananci at 3:13 PM on March 21, 2017

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