Unsure about next steps in my career...
February 25, 2019 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I have an AA degree in Web Admin, currently working as a graphic designer, and feeling a bit hopeless about my future. Please help!

I spent the first 12 years of my career doing web design, light development and UI work until the .com bubble burst. I was unemployed for about four years due to lack of jobs. Then my father fell ill and I stopped working to take care of him. After being out of work for so long I no longer felt confident in my coding skills. I also noticed that pretty much everything I could apply for requires an bachelors. (I live in a university heavy town.)

I ended up applying for a graphic design position and I’ve been with that company for 5 years now doing graphic design, social media and some light WordPress work. I’m underpaid, underutilized and bored and there is no room for growth at all. I’ve mainly stayed there because the benefits are good, the team was great and it was an easy no-stress job. But our department has had high turn over, and the last of my team is most likely on their way to a better job. I really need to be making better money so I know it’s time to move on.

But I’m feeling hopeless. I have a portfolio (mostly graphic design, the web work on it feels seriously outdated), resume and many glowing refernces. If I wanted to stick with just graphic design, there aren’t that many jobs out there and when I do come across a few of them they require a bachelors degree or specific skills that I don’t have (such as hand illustration). And I don’t really want to stay in graphic design, I would much rather get back into the web world because that’s where the money is at. It was also more challenging and I was happier. There are very few jobs that I felt I could confidently apply for at my current coding skill level as well as the lack of a bachelors degree. Moving to another state is not an option.

So my first line of thought was to apply to a coding boot camp in the area. They are expensive but often guarantee job placement. Both boot camps have online tests that you need to take before they will even talk to you, and I failed both because they were heavily math and logic oriented. Something I will fully admit are not my strong points, but never found that to be a problem given that I do have experience in coding. The slightly less expensive Boot Camp was willing to talk to me despite the fact that I did not pass their assessment, and the recruiter there said that it would be a waste of my money given that most places in the area are still going to want that bachelors degree even if I improved my coding skill set.

I have looked into going back to school online. But that’s as expensive as the boot camps and I’m not even sure what I should get said degree in. I’m lucky enough to not have any college debt hanging over my head. But I’m also paid peanuts at the place that I currently work, so most of these options are going to have to require me to take out some sort of loan. :( I feel that I learn better in a classroom environment, but I’m open to learning coding skills on my own if possible. That’s just an avenue I haven’t gone down yet because of the bachelors degree issue as well as available time. If lack of direction has also kept me from exploring that. I’m not even really sure what to focus in on. Front-end, full stack, UI, apps?

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. <3
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Seems like UI would be a great next step. Having a UI designer with a coding background would be great. This Coursera certificate looks pretty good: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/user-interface-design

You probably already know a lot of what's in there, but it would be nice to be able to put the certificate on your resume and it'll boost your confidence when you do start looking for UI jobs.

Or, if UI isn't your thing, look on there and other similar sites for the stuff you're interested in.

Also, any new projects you could take on, either at work or freelance/volunteer will help bring your resume up to the present as well. Look for projects where you can learn something new rather than just building another Wordpress site or something like that.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:19 AM on February 25, 2019

I work in user research and would be happy to chat if you would like to memail me.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:40 AM on February 25, 2019

I would recommend going for a second AA in web design. Those programs can frequently be found at community colleges, and will help you bring your skills current in a classroom setting without breaking the bank. You have experience, and that will be to your advantage. It would also make you more marketable so that you could find a better job situation while you consider your educational options. Then, if you want to continue to a 4-year degree, you should be able to transfer to a 4-year institution and get a CS degree or whatever field you would prefer.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:46 PM on February 25, 2019

Apologies if I'm not practicing the appropriate etiquette here. I was actually looking for some help with Wordpress myself and thought I'd ask if you've considered going freelance. You could keep your day job and learn as you go while working on freelance gigs that might offer more creativity and opportunity to stretch your skills. You could also pursue formal training at a slower rate, making the cost more manageable. It might also help build your confidence back up and create a potential workaround to not having a BA, as people may refer you to others for your good work and reasonable prices. As I said, I could use some help myself. Feel free to memail me. Good luck!
posted by bestillme at 8:05 AM on April 21, 2019

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