How can I assist my girlfriend in finding a decent job in a difficult college town?
September 11, 2007 12:55 AM   Subscribe

How can I assist my girlfriend in finding a decent job in a difficult college town job market?

My girlfriend, who is currently attending school for a bachelor's degree, moved in with me a little over a year ago. Ever since (yes, for over a year), she has been looking at least weekly at jobs, and she must have applied to well over 100 at this point, but has found not a single decent job offer. That is unless you really think fast food is a great career! Needless to say, she's been in fast food for about a year as well.

I know what you're thinking, there must be something wrong with her or what she's doing. As far as I can tell though, she is doing nothing wrong. In fact, I assisted her in building a resume that is about as good as it can get (and I was able to get a pretty good job with mine). She is also very intelligent and personable as well as bilingual. The only negative to her resume is that she did not hold either of her 2 previous jobs for very long, and of course, she has a high school education.

The strangest part is that maybe only 5% of the places she applies to even bother responding (even stranger that she keeps on top of the job sites and applies before most people get a chance). I am starting to think it's the town (Davis, CA) that's the problem. College kids everywhere filling in positions as fast as possible would make some sense to me. We also don't know very many people here, which is probably a factor. We have seen several jobs go to less qualified people for seemingly little reason. Of course, she has no car either, so looking in other towns or in Sacramento has little point for her. I have started considering moving into Sacramento just so that she can have a decent job at some point, but that solution seems a bit extreme.

This has been drawn out for too long and the problem is taking its toll on my girlfriend. Minimum wage and terrible management and hours are soon going to force her out of her current job. Are there any methods I can use to cheer her up or make finding a job easier? Perhaps we should give up on Davis and try for public transportation? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated! :)
posted by Anthony84 to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am aware that this is coming from a total different market and so YMMV but as far as I can gather in the local market (Central Belt of Scotland) it is very difficult to get any kind of good/prestigious job without a degree or some relevant experience.

I know that possibly the last thing your gf wants to do after a hard shift is to be doing any volunteering but it may be an idea to do so in an area that she is interested in. It may open many more opportunities for her.

One other option would be moving to a larger city. There are so many more opportunities to be had. If your gf is prepared to move quickly when opportunities arise, she will be more likely to get the job she wants.

I hope it all work out well.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:17 AM on September 11, 2007

My SO and I are in the same predicament, albeit worse; we moved from NY to Lawrence, KS (a college town) a year and a half ago so I could take up a great job offer, but she hasn't been able to find a decent job here. The employers here mostly pay minimum wage for shitty jobs; back in NY, my SO was easily able to hold down decent jobs. Your SO has an edge in the education and language departments, so I despair considering our own situation. :-/ It's been quite a stress on our relationship, and we've considered leaving the area in no small part due to this. We're truly at our wits' end over this; I'm afraid this is going to end up in either us breaking up so she can go back to NY, or in sacrificing my job here.
posted by korpios at 3:32 AM on September 11, 2007

For a job that she truly wants, is qualified to handle, or is serious about taking, I offer the following advice:

¤ Revise the résumé on a per-application basis.

(Have a master document that contains every job. Depending upon the job for which one applies, exclude the part-time jobs and emphasize the life experiences that concern the target job. Wait until the interview to explain gaps and not-so-ideal jobs.)

¤ Along that train of thought, investigate the résumé standards of the particular field.

¤ Present the résumé in person. Ideally, hand the résumé to the manager/director/head honcho. Otherwise, get to know the ladies and gentlemen who relay your application packet.

¤ Follow up the desired jobs in person and enthusiastically.
posted by bonobo at 4:58 AM on September 11, 2007

What field is she looking in or is she looking for some PT work to pay some bills? It's hard to compete with college students with limited expenses, especially if you're in a town chock full of them. Employers get used to the inexpensive labor and, if they're offering work studies, the tax benefits.
posted by wangarific at 5:32 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

if possible, find a way to network. Just ask around to people you know (your dentist, the ladies at the bank, etc). It's not what you know its who you know.
posted by ZackTM at 7:05 AM on September 11, 2007

I have a friend who was in this situation. She was finally able to find campus-funded work. For a while, she had a work study job - these jobs are sometimes available only students with at least some demonstrated financial need. Then she got another on-campus job that was advertised through the university and aligned with her academic interests.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:34 AM on September 11, 2007

Hmmm...was was thinking of going to Davis for grad school.

Anyway, it took me forever to get a job in my college town. Now I have two. Of course my suggestions assume she is also a student, which I could only sort of glean from the post.

- Campus IT is a great option, esp for women because most don't employ many women and it gives a little edge for those women that do apply. You usually only need to know basic networking.

-Suck up to professors. Get good grades, go to office hours, do academic activities. A lot of departments have fund that go specifically to hire student workers.

I also attended a few job, interview, resume, and leadership workshops, which were free at career services, but I think the single most important factor was my computer skills.

Work study is another good option, provided you can get it. If your girlfriend is either from a poor family or not receiving any money from them, she will probably qualify. Apply! I got rejected, but there are lots and lots of jobs that either prioritize or are only available to work study students.
posted by melissam at 8:07 AM on September 11, 2007

Does she have time to do any volunteering? Even a couple hours a week helping serve at a soup kitchen or at the animal shelter is another line on the resume. If she sticks with it for awhile, it also may help negate the stigma of the short term-ness of the other jobs. If she can do something related to her field of study, so much the better. Otherwise, I think I'd look into taking the bus to Sacramento.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:34 AM on September 11, 2007

We have seen several jobs go to less qualified people for seemingly little reason.

Did you do too good a job on her resume? I'm guessing she's applying for entry level jobs. If there is something in her resume that makes her seem too wonderful, people will think that she's just applying for their job because she's desperate for work, and that she'll jump ship to something higher paying as soon as possible.

Secondly, bosses are probably worried about hiring people who are only in town temporarily. They have students and spouses of non-tenured faculty who come and go every few years. Anything that she could put in her cover letter that conveys her long-term interest in the company or in staying in the area might help.

I may be completely projecting my own problems here, since I'm also unemployed in a college town.
posted by saffry at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2007

These are all great suggestions. I think volunteering and work study are two that I will bring up. In response to wangarific, she is just looking for a bill paying job.

Of course I didn't mention every detail of the situation. Part of the problem here is that my girlfriend has been very stubborn about what jobs to apply for. She won't even consider going outside of our town for work. Having to take an hour of bus rides each way to get to outside works makes me somewhat agree with her though. Regardless, I will have to get her to reconsider this if things don't change.
posted by Anthony84 at 10:19 AM on September 11, 2007

I think ultimately when you're competing on the low end of the scale, you have to be really aggressive. That means not just applying to online jobs right when they show up, but showing up in person to turn in resumes, following up on everything, and particularly looking for open positions that aren't advertised or asking for informational interviews, etc. The key is to find situations where the question is the binary "should I hire her?" rather than "which of these 500 similarly qualified applicants should I hire?"

Also, she should ask any friend she has with a decent job if they can hook her up.
posted by YoungAmerican at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2007

Wait, she's in college, right? Well, tell her to either go through her career services office, or through her department internships, or to suck it up and get a shitty job to pay the bills. That means filling out every goddamn form application in town, and hounding people until they hire her, then continuing to look for work from the relative safety of her new soul-crushing shitjob.

This is an American rite of passage, y'know? She's just gotta do it.
posted by klangklangston at 11:46 AM on September 11, 2007

If she's in school, well, the best jobs for students are on campus. Check the libraries. Good place to work, usually - quiet, often time to study, hours will be flexible as they're used to employing people around class schedules, pay won't necessarily be spectacular but at least it's clean, air-conditioned and it isn't food service.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:47 AM on September 11, 2007

Get thee to a temp agency! If she's employable, they'll employ her, for a cut. Try and push them for some training courses in Excel, or better yet, QuickBooks. Functional knowledge of QB commands $20/hr and make-your-own-hours pretty consistently here in CA.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:38 PM on September 11, 2007

Job sites are a problem. Millions of people look at job sites. Apply in person to companies you're interested in, even if they're not hiring. Avoid applying on some faceless job site whenever possible. Follow up in person or by phone always, always, always. I know job-hunting sucks but I hate to hear people complain they can't find a job when they're just emailing a CV and then whining that no one called them back.
posted by loiseau at 7:29 PM on September 11, 2007

re: shitty jobs- I think its easier to get a job if you've already got a job, versus being unemployed. I know it sucks to take an hour bus ride to another town, but that's also two hours a day that can be used for reading or studying. Unless she's using her unemployed time very productively, it's hard to make the argument that two hours a day on a bus is a waste of time.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:58 PM on September 12, 2007

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