What can I do?
November 7, 2017 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I need to re-enter the workplace, but I have no flipping clue what my strengths or aptitudes are. Of course, snowflakes inside...

I've been a graphic designer for my entire career. After being downsized out of my last office job, I spent the last several years trying to eke out an income as a freelancer, but have been more-or-less a failure at that, owing to a gigantic lack of self-confidence and a growing realization that I just really don't enjoy the work anymore. But, after so many years at it, it's really the only talent or value I have.

So, I need to get a job that's, hopefully, a couple of steps above being a WalMart greeter. But how? I don't have so much as a single-page resume anymore (and no portfolio to speak of) How does one go about assessing your skills and converting that into a job? At this point, I think it's more a matter of what can I do, rather than what do I want to do. And, honestly, I have no clue what I can do.

To muddy things even more, I'm just a couple of months shy of turning 60, which makes me pretty unemployable these days.

So, how do you do it? How do you even begin to take stock in yourself and recognize any valuable skills you might have (after doing one thing for over thirty years), and how do you go about converting that into a paycheck? I honestly am all at sea here.
posted by Thorzdad to Work & Money (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you done any nonprofit work? Being committed to a mission might rekindle your enthusiasm for the work. That's been my experience as a burned-out writer. Tight budgets mean you end up wearing many hats - doing their social media, any digital advertising, writing grants and other development communications, etc. so you'd develop additional skills on the job.
posted by headnsouth at 11:42 AM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you just need to get some cash flow while you begin to get your head in the game, try temping for a little while. Everyone can file and do data entry, and once the company sees that you are not a flake you will most likely be offered a job that needs real thinking. It will get you used to getting up in the morning and talking to people during the day. After a couple of weeks (or whatever your time line ends up being) you will likely be ready to start getting your resume out there. Meanwhile, I've never had a temp job where I wasn't offered a permanent position (not that I took all of them, but it does help the self-confidence when you're job hunting) so that's a possibility if it takes you longer to figure out what your next step is.
posted by vignettist at 11:48 AM on November 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

Perhaps you might enjoy UI/UX design? It's a graphic-related field with some added research things and lots of testing.

You also might look into teaching some local community college classes. Design is a sought-after skill these days and if you can demonstrate the basics of the programs / skills you use there are plenty of places who would jump at the chance to hire someone with your level of experience. I have at least 3 friends who have gone this route (photography, film-making, and VR design respectively), and I don't recall them mentioning needing any kind of educational certification before being hired.
posted by ananci at 11:58 AM on November 7, 2017

You say you don’t enjoy the graphic design work anymore, is it possible you just don’t like the subjects you work on? Or your clients? Or your medium? Or something else that can be changed? It seems a shame to turn your back on such solid experience and expertise if in fact you just need to be doing it in a different way or perhaps moving to an adjacent job.
posted by machinecraig at 11:59 AM on November 7, 2017

+1 for temping.

I was having trouble finding a job after I went back to get my degree in my late twenties so I signed myself up with a temp agency just for some income and if a job came out of, great but I just needed some income.

I was promptly assigned a temp job processing orders to help a company upgrade all their computers. That assignment lasted nine months and had my boss at the company trying to create a role for me so they could hire me permanently but it didn't pan out.

A week or two later they had another assignment for me in a different department of the same company. After about two months of screen capping info and saving it to PDFs for various systems the head of that department told me that he was going to hire me permanently they just needed to figure out what they wanted me to do. I landed in a nice position doing QA work for one of their underwriting teams (the company is a bank). I didn't really have any experience at it and told them so but also that I'll give it my best shot. I've since been promoted thrice.

It's not going to work out so well every time, my situation is a little different and I was VERY lucky. But at worst you should be able to re-acclimate yourself to that environment and get some ideas of what you can do and what you LIKE to do and have at least some income while you do it.
posted by VTX at 12:02 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry for the threadsit, but I knew I should have included a bit about the work I've done outside of general design...

That last office job I had was with a small software startup, and my duties included UI design. I've also done a bit of basic website design, but, honestly, none of that work really interested me. It struck me as something I'd have to do all day, every day, just to keep up with the constant changes in the field, and none of it clicked with me enough to want to devote myself to that.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:55 PM on November 7, 2017

Nthing temping. If you are pleasant and have a good work ethic, chances are you will find placements unless you live in an area with very high unemployment - and even then, someone who is reliable and easy to get along with is going to be placed first.

Your local employment development department might be of some assistance - YMMV, as quality varies with area, but some will have programs that cater to out-of-work professionals. If nothing else, they might have some kind of aptitude testing or counseling for you. They also might offer resume-writing help; it may be that they can help you pull a resume together even if you don't think you have one.

Aptitude testing varies widely - but I have found SkillScan to be helpful. See if you can find a place near you that offers it. (The EDD might.)

Good luck! Remember, you are not the only one in your position. Lifetime employment and a gold watch is now the exception rather than the rule.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:49 PM on November 7, 2017

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