When will I be able to confidently ask for mayo?
September 24, 2007 4:56 PM   Subscribe

[Rambly-what-should-I-do-with-my-life-filter] Useless Master's degrees! Impending weddings! Mild-to-moderate homelessness! Help me figure out my next step before I resort to prostitution or, worse, telemarketing.

This spring I finished a master's degree in museum studies and fashion history. This program in particular. I knew going in that there weren't a ton of jobs in that field specifically, and so have availed myself of a pretty diverse bunch of internships and part-time jobs (archives, museum registrar's office, etc.) to try to make myself more broadly employable. I live in New York, the museum capital of the country. I am willing to move pretty much anywhere for a job. However, after spending several months looking for work, it's become painfully clear that there really aren't that many jobs, period, in any branch of what I'm trained to do: museums/archives/conservation labs/etc. If I loved the work, I'd be more willing to put in the time to make it, but I don't know if I'm as crazy as about it as is necessary. I like the work, but the low pay, job shortages, museum bureaucracy, etc, all give me pause. Like many people, I went to grad school because I couldn't think of anything better to do. That was mistake #1.

Mistake #2 is the result of a familial culture in which it was always understood that as a student, school was my job. So I didn't do any of the customer service/retail/office/food service jobs that most people do during high school and college. I had scholarships, so I didn't ever need to. So now I have no experience in any of those things, and my few recent attempts to get any of those kinds of jobs have been met with mockery.

Mistake #3 was getting engaged. I'm very happy to be getting married, but due to annoying circumstances, my fiance is 2000 miles away and will not be able to move to the same time zone until I have a job, and therefore a reason to live in a particular place. This adds an extra level of time-based pressure, because we're really sick of having the Midwest between us.

Also, my lease ended in August, and I'm currently sleeping on my brother's couch. This is getting old. In New York, it's very difficult to get approved for an apartment or even a sublet without a job, and I'm hesitant to up and move elsewhere, when the few jobs I'm remotely qualified for are mostly here.

It doesn't help that all of this is making me something of an emotional wreck. No one wants to hire someone who starts sobbing when asked if she wants mayo on her sandwich, because she's come to wonder if she even deserves mayo.

So I turn to you, Internet. How do relatively smart, easygoing, pleasant-to-work-with kids get decent jobs these days? At this point I'm willing to do anything that pays the rent. Short of prostitution. I'd be a terrible prostitute.
posted by doift to Work & Money (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, assuming your rent is too much to live off of retail in the first place, have you utilized your school resources?

Does your school have a career placement office? If so, go talk to them.

Does your school like to employee graduates? Try looking at open positions at your school. Maybe you could teach, or at least work some kind of wage job or work as an assistant for a prof.

Network with recent grads from your program. Look up who's gone through your program, see where they are working, call them up and say "hey, you did this with the same level of experience. Can you help me out with a job, or at least with a lead?"

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Just don't act so desperate about it when you go talk to people. Act like you know what you are doing, you are confident about it (even if you aren't), and that you are an employer' dream.

The first step to take care of is the homelessness, then you can work on everything else.

Good Luck.
posted by greta simone at 5:29 PM on September 24, 2007

Don't take this the wrong way, but do you think your waning enthusiasm is somehow showing when you are looking for jobs? The people I know who are getting great museum jobs are incredibly passionate about their specific fields, have gone to conferences on their own dime to present papers, have published journal articles and have networked like crazy. How are your public speaking and presenting skills? If you come across as a "kid," you aren't going to be taken seriously, especially by established museum professionals.

There is a demand for museum professionals who can write grants and work with funding agencies, so if you haven't already, it is worthwhile to develop some skills in these areas.

You just completed a highly respected textile history program and no doubt have developed great technical skills. If you know about textiles and fashion *and* have good technical skills, you might want to try working in the fashion industry. What about fashion journalism or fashion writing? Have you considered teaching or perhaps working in the arts, perhaps in a gallery setting?

Good luck and keep trying!
posted by pluckysparrow at 5:33 PM on September 24, 2007

Move in with your fiance. You could be waiting forever to find a job in a city that, while having a lot of museums, sounds like it also has a lot of aspiring museum workers. There are museums everywhere (hell, even my simple Midwestern town has a world class art museum), and maybe moving cross-country will give you that serendipitous nudge toward the perfect job. Get off your brother's couch and go be with the man who, as your future husband, is there to give you some emotional and financial support. (Not in the sense that, as the man, he's there to support you, but in the sense that, as partners, you're there to support each other.)
posted by spacewaitress at 6:38 PM on September 24, 2007

I temped, I feel that's sort of what everyone does for $12 an hour until something better comes along or you are made permanent somewhere. It kind of sucks, but I'm assuming you have basic computer skills and could fake the rest. Also, you could consider substitute teaching, I don't know about NYC, but in most places there is such a major shortage that you can get an emergency teaching certificate pretty quickly. I had to take a painfully easy test in California and not be a pedophile. Doesn't pay great, but its super flexible and as long as you continue not to be a pedophile you will have pretty regular employment.

So I say step 1, give you resume to every decent temp agency in town and walk in in person, they are more likely to sit you down, have you take the computer tests and actually look for jobs for you. Then get online and see what it takes to be a substitute in case the temp market sucks (it is very dependent on the economy in the area).

Stop freaking out, just get a job for now, once you have a constant income for a couple months you can really evaluate your career options and figure out how to make them happen.
posted by whoaali at 6:41 PM on September 24, 2007

Hey, FIT rocks. If you temp in a brain-dead cubicle for $15/hr you'll likely get time to surf jobs during the day and zap yourself into your new life. Temping also allows you to take days off randomly.
posted by rhizome at 7:29 PM on September 24, 2007

Do look into clerical temp. I wish I had figured out sooner that by virtue of knowing how to work a computer, being able to speak in proper English, and being a reasonable typist (not dictation grade, but it's not necessary in most office work) I could get plenty of mid-level office work. It was fairly easy to work my way up into the high 30K range. I just went in to various agencies, took some computer tests and there it was, with zero office experience. It's as close to perfect work while you're looking for work as there is. Which is to say it sucks, but I supported myself on temp for a few years here and there nonetheless.
posted by nanojath at 9:30 PM on September 24, 2007

Seems like you have enough money to rent an apartment there, if only you had a job. I see you are willing to relocate. There are many parts of the US where what you would pay for your first, last, and deposit in NYC will easily cover an entire year of rent, on a large apartment or even a house. The only reason you give for staying in New York is that there are jobs in your field there, but you also say there are none available. Maybe it's time to move.
posted by yohko at 10:16 PM on September 24, 2007

Dogwalking for a few months?
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:38 AM on September 25, 2007

Why haven't you interned anywhere?
posted by amtho at 7:46 AM on September 25, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, folks, I will take those that I'm not already doing into consideration. I'm not going to mark best answers because everyone's made good points. I've been resistant to temping because I've spent most of the summer "waiting to hear back" from some job or other, but the time for waiting may need to be over.

spacewaitress, your points are good ones, but neither of us wants to be where he lives now, and there are next to no long term job prospects there for either of us.

yoyo_nyc, I would love to but I am hilariously bad with animals.

amtho, I mentioned in the (very long and admittedly easily-skimmed) question that I've interned several different places. And I'm regularly pumping those connections. However, so far that has come to nothing substantial. I choose to blame the job market for that.

, so I can add you to my mailing list when it comes to that, then?
posted by doift at 8:12 AM on September 25, 2007

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