Needed: A Career.
May 1, 2007 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out a career. And help me move in that direction, before I finish my degree. ...alternately, help me find a job that would will look good on a resume in a few years!

I am a senior college student who desperately needs to take a semester off from studies (I'm burning out and I don't want my work to suffer...yes, it might be "easier" to complete the degree now, but I'd probably just give up on it at this rate. Personal backstory there, but it's irrelevant. Degree will be in English, transferred out of Broadcast Journalism.) Of course, the catch is, I need to secure a job in order to do so. The only work experience I have is three semesters as a Resident Advisor at Uni. of South Carolina. I live close to Columbia, SC, a smallish city.

And I do not know what to do to get a job. I don't really know where to look, which jobs are desirable. I don't know who to talk to, I don't know what to say. About all I DO know how to do is make a good resume (lots of training as an RA.) Some have suggested working for the university itself but they're not hiring currently. I like electronics and have applied online to places like Radioshack, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. but with no response. I've also applied to SAT Prep companies since I had a 1410 on the SAT a few years back. I got interviews but they were presentation-style which apparently aren't my forte (no callbacks).

My strengths are writing, reading, conflict resolution, emotional maturity, and building computers. My weakness in this case would be mathematics, lack of job experience, and lack of a degree. ...Also I'm not really a people-person, per se. I'm extremely friendly, I've never had an enemy, but I don't speak unless spoken to, so I suck at cold sales.

Given this, please tell me what I need to do to secure a job, and where. I can work full time starting in a few weeks, through probably January or later. Sorry this was so long, thanks for your time.
posted by Phyltre to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help with the overall question, but time honoured advice for 'no experience desperately need money' is to work as a waiter/in the service industry. If you find something that involves working nights, you can keep looking for a day job without (as much of) the panicked need for money.
posted by jacalata at 7:50 PM on May 1, 2007

USC is hiring. They are ALWAYS hiring, it's a major public university and there are 12 pages worth of jobs. Don't work at those retail stores, everyone I know in Columbia that works in those stores hates it. Try working for The State. Talk with the career counselors at your school and your professors, they'll have leads. Talk with your old friends that graduated and stayed in the area (which, seriously, I'm sure they all did) and see if their companies are hiring.

For the time being, if all you want to do is work, register with one of the personnel agencies in town (Gallman Personnel is a good one). You'll get some good work experience and better money than a retail store.

There is no shortage of jobs in Columbia. You could easily work for one of the radio or tv stations, or check out monster/hotjobs for local entry level positions.
posted by ml98tu at 7:52 PM on May 1, 2007

P.S. If you do want to work retail, don't apply online. Go into the store looking all nice, ask for the application, fill it out, meet the manager, etc.
posted by ml98tu at 7:55 PM on May 1, 2007

Response by poster: @ ml98tu: So far every single entry I've seen requires a degree, which is why I did not consider them. Should I ignore this and apply anyway? Also, Gallman has two open positions in Columbia: a welder and healthcare professionals. How often do they update entries? Or am I missing something?
posted by Phyltre at 8:01 PM on May 1, 2007

Don't sell yourself short; you sound like a potentially great employee. I have, in the last year, had my first experience hiring employees, and it has been shocking --- absolutely shocking --- how many people who apply for jobs are complete, utter fucking idiots, who could not string a literate sentence together if their lives depended on it. I had actually, naively, assumed that most people were reasonably smart.

I know this doesn't provide the specific suggestions you are seeking, but I just wanted to let you know that your intelligence and skills are assets that you may be tempted to undervalue. Don't.
posted by jayder at 8:05 PM on May 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

(I do realize that referring to a sentence as "literate" does not speak well of my own literacy.)
posted by jayder at 8:09 PM on May 1, 2007

first: breeeaaaatthhhee.

it's important.

second. you're at a university, which is a huge plus. you may be taking a leave, but you're still a member of that community. go to the career office and talk to them - i'm sure you are not the first person who has come to them with this predicament. they will have city-specific ideas for you.

also go to your uni's human resources office; ask them about any temp jobs on campus or student openings. outside of that, try to get face time with anyone who might be hiring (campus coffeeshop? library? bookstore?)

my experience with retail jobs (and with any job, really) is that you have to chase them. so i would do that. like ml98tu said, go to the store with your resume, meet the manager, and then hound them.

your years as an RA are attractive - they show that you're responsible, mature, that you can be a leader. i would advertise yourself as a babysitter and a private tutor - those RA years will be especially attractive to parents - take out ads in the paper, put up fliers, and come up with a good one liner for why you're taking a semester off of school (changing studies and wanting a breather sounds good to me).

the most important thing is to put yourself out there, to put your resume out there. something will stick.

good luck!
posted by sacho at 8:15 PM on May 1, 2007

I would go ahead and apply to the entry-level positions - though explain in your cover letter that you are in the process of completing your degree and have XYZ semesters remaining but that you are looking for full-time employment. Though you may want to say it more gracefully than that. Yes, a lot of people want the piece of paper, but I think it's worth at least trying, since you never know what areas people are flexible on. Remember that on a job listing, that's the ideal candidate. That means not everyone will meet every single criteria, but if they could build the perfect person, that's how s/he'd look. Give it a shot, particularly if you think you'd be qualified given your other skills and experiences.

I saw the Gallman listings too, they don't look too great, and I'm not sure if they have more than they list. It doesn't hurt to register, you aren't committed. Hell, you can register with four different agencies if you really want.

I think jaclata might be right on though, sounds like you might be good as a waiter.

Important note: If you're only looking to stay somewhere seven months, consider a temp agency or working as a server or intern. It might not look so hot on your resume that you only stuck around for seven months, and the folks that hire you probably won't be thrilled either. However, if there's a very real possibility that you could complete your degree while still working (like maybe taking an extra semester or two), I wouldn't worry about this caveat.

I have quite a few friends from college that never graduated and obtained jobs from employers that I'm sure would have preferred a degree. They're all doing well.

You'll land on your feet.
posted by ml98tu at 8:21 PM on May 1, 2007

I wouldn't stress the career aspects just yet, especially if you're unsure about your long-term goals. This is the perfect time to try out different industries. What you do in those various jobs may well prove more important than what those jobs were.

Lengthy personal anecdote: When I was in college, I had little idea what I wanted to do with my life. I took a long time off from school and changed my resume to say my degree was "in progress," which was technically true.

I started working as a tour guide at a theme park because it was fun, paid decently, and was super-flexible. I ended up staying at the park for three years after I graduated, for a total of seven years. While I figured out my career goals, I took every chance I got to take on more responsibility. Then, once I figured out I wanted to be a writer, I volunteered to write the company newsletter when the regular editor was on vacation. I took over my department's newsletter, which got me a job answering all the email coming into the park, which got me a salaried gig as a supervisor. (Which, in turn, soured me on working with the public ever again, and steeled my desire to be a writer.) Now I'm an editor at a magazine, in large part because of all those days I spent answering email.

Take this time to figure out what it is you want to do, but make the most of whatever job you do land. And if all else fails, I second temping, which will also give you exposure to different fields and work environments and help you figure out your goals. Win-win.
posted by serialcomma at 9:02 PM on May 1, 2007

explain in your cover letter that you are in the process of completing your degree and have XYZ semesters remaining but that you are looking for full-time employment.

I would not do this. For many jobs, employers want to believe the person they are hiring has staying power, and aren't going to leave when they complete their degree.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:22 PM on May 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmm, have you spoken to any counselors at your school's Counseling & Human Development Center? If you haven't done so yet, I would hold off on any major decisions like taking a leave of absence until speaking to a counselor. If you have already done so and determined a leave of absence is the best of course of action, then you should make an appointment to talk to somebody in your school's career center. You might be asked to take an aptitude test to narrow down career choices. They will definitely help you with the process of finding a job - they are there to teach students how to find jobs, after all.
posted by needled at 4:47 AM on May 2, 2007

What needled said: Counseling and Human Development Center

Also: Career Center
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:26 AM on May 2, 2007

explain in your cover letter that you are in the process of completing your degree and have XYZ semesters remaining but that you are looking for full-time employment.
posted by ml98tu at 8:21 PM PST on May 1

I would not do this. For many jobs, employers want to believe the person they are hiring has staying power, and aren't going to leave when they complete their degree.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:22 PM PST on May 1

Agreed - I was thinking of a situation where OP plans on working full time in a professional capacity while completing the degree, not one in which they take a job and leave after a few months. TPS' point is a good one.


Seriously, if you're really going to leave and come back to school, you don't need to go into this whole "career" thing because you're just going to make a bunch of people really mad when you leave in 6-7 months and it will look bad on your resume.

Of the 10 people I know that left school temporarily, only one went back and completed their degree. I would really think about this decision, as there's a possibility you won't go back, particularly when you start working and earning money and becoming valuable to an employer. Not to trivialize, but I often had thoughts like yours around finals time - it was a combination of stress, senioritis, and a number of other factors. Are you REALLY sure this is a good idea and not just a product of this one point in time where you are overwhelmed?

I agree with needled, talk this over with someone at school, both in terms of making sure it's the right choice, and to help you find something if that's the path you take.
posted by ml98tu at 8:11 AM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I make the same suggestion in every thread like this, but consider temporary office work. You computer, typing and personal skills are probably sufficient for decent mid-level admin assistance and reception work, the pay is comparable or better than retail, and you can be completely up front about your reasons and intentions and end up with great recommendations from people you only worked 3 or 6 months for. You can specify duration limits, no sales, and so on.

I did this for a few years total over several separate periods - some where I just didn't feel like having the commitment of a full-time permanent job (ah, youth) and some where I was making up a gap between jobs. I found it all useful, informative experience. It's a good relationship to have to allow some insurance of stability in one's job

Search for things like temporary agency, contract employment, temp work etc. for agencies in your area.
posted by nanojath at 10:24 AM on May 2, 2007

First, continue doing what you are doing here - ask everyone you know for ideas about what kind of job might be a good fit for you. Then (if they are local) ask them if they have any idea how you might find that kind of job. Then follow up. You'll be surprised how many people know someone that knows someone who can help you.

It has worked for me twice where i ended up in jobs that I didn't know existed until I talked to a friend of a friend. (In one case, the job didn't exist yet because they hadn't realized that someone with the off-beat expertise to fill their need was available until I called them.)
posted by metahawk at 7:25 PM on May 2, 2007

I wouldn't recommend going to a temp agency unless money is very tight.

Temp jobs look very bad to an employer and you always want to think about how this job will look on your resume in the future. Employers are more likely to hire you if you worked at any one company for 12 months instead of 12 months at a temp agency (without getting a permanent placement).
posted by who squared at 8:32 AM on May 6, 2007

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