I Need a Job!
May 25, 2004 11:08 PM   Subscribe

I have a serious problem. I've managed to screw up rather badly, and have lost a $10,000 scholarship. I don't have a job and my rent/food/everything money is from student loans and is carefully budgeted to run out with the end of the spring semester. I need a job but I live in a city where the largest employer is the post office. I have 5/8ths of a BA in English. My resume is none-existent. The last paying job I had was almost two years ago. I worked at a McDonald's for the federal minimum wage. Between now and the end of August I need to either earn $13,000 ($3k to live on, the rest for school), or find a career that has long-term security. I'm quite frightened, actually. I have several skills but no evidence—references, resume, awards, etc.—to prove it. Short of committing a crime, which I will not do, does anyone have any practical advice? A brief list of skills I possess are inside.

By far my greatest skill is reading speed/comprehension. I get what I read instantly. I'm not a bad writer, although I need an editor. This suggests a few highly unlikely possibilities to me. The first would be to write a book. Another would be to write freelance. Slightly more realistic, I think, would be to work for a publisher reading through the slush.

My next skill is computer literacy. Tech support, maybe? I don't know how to get a job like that and, considering where I live (Baltimore) and my lack of transportation, I don't know how realistic it is.

I'm competent to proficient in the use of a wide variety of commercial applications. Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, InDesign, etc. An entry level position with a design firm? Besides where I live and the previously mentioned lack of transportation, the market is still poor. Oh, and there are two colleges in the area that offer degrees in computer graphics and graphic design.

And finally, I can build webpages. Problem with that is that most job listings I've seen have required both experience and knowledge of Dreamweaver or some other app, and more and more they also require experience with perl or php or asp. While I've picked up enough of each to get by, that's like saying I know enough French to avoid ordering horse. What I can do is write clean, standards compliant xhtml and css. And then break it so it works with IE.

I can do a wide variety of other things, but again, I have little to no real-world experience.
posted by Grod to Work & Money (30 answers total)
a lot of places offer tuition reimbursement, I would look into that. I know blockbuster does, I did that in college.
posted by rhyax at 11:23 PM on May 25, 2004

Starbucks pays pretty well and gives good benefits.

If you get really desperate, maybe telemarketing. Consider this only if the job smacking babies doesn't pan out.
posted by NortonDC at 11:39 PM on May 25, 2004

Don't, ever, consider telemarketing.

/worst 3 days of my life
posted by alex_reno at 11:49 PM on May 25, 2004

Student loans are a time-honored tradition that exist for a good reason: to guarantee a certain amount of interest to government lending institutions. A side effect of this truism is that the money can often be applied to exactly the sort of expenses you mention.

Otherwise, you could build a time machine, travel back to the early 1800s and hang around English cemetaries with a file and a loaf of bread. With any luck, you will happen upon an escaped convict-cum-benefactor who will return later in life to bestow upon you an education and noble upbringing in reward for your kindness.
posted by Danelope at 12:04 AM on May 26, 2004


worst *four months* of my life, but hey, I was only 15.

It can be good money, but only if you're good. Being good means getting people to part with their money. And since most people are cheap assholes who are too savvy to even talk to a telemarketer for more than a few seconds, this boils down to milking nice old ladies of the one $20 luxury they can afford this month. At 10% comission you've now made $2. And then on to the next old lady. 16 answering machines later, that is.

Good luck. If you have to interrupt your education to regroup and find new funding, you won't be the first. As a holder of an English BA, I can tell you right now, it's not worth smacking babies for.
posted by scarabic at 12:26 AM on May 26, 2004

I was a telemarketer for 4 years during college... wasn't fun, but I'd do it over to get to where I am today.

Of course, slow and steady wins the race. You can't take a quarter off to get squared away? Why must you do anything? Chances are you won't be able to raise 13K in the next 3 months. You can't go part time? You can't get a summer job and then get a new loan in the fall? Then work and go to school? I always had to work full time during school, so it can be done (in fact I'm working full time now and getting a subsequent degree). Get creative.
posted by pissfactory at 3:28 AM on May 26, 2004

Get thee to the library and get a "Library Assistant" job! I'm not talking about shelving books, but checking them out, filling ILL requests, and maybe learning some copy cataloging. Most academic libraries are union shops when it comes to non-MLS folks, so you'll have good benefits and the ability to take classes part time for reduced cost (example: one of my minions is finishing up his undergrad degree at 50-80 bucks a course).

You'll have to slow down your degree, but at least you'll keep working at ut, which should keep the Student Loan bugs at bay.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:40 AM on May 26, 2004

If you want the degree, decide that and work to finish it. From experience, I understand how crisis can be, but you can trust that it will work out. Don't be un-Dude, so to speak.

Finding a 5 k a month (taxes) job for less than three months is pretty tall order given your resume. A better way to do this would be to work to spread the 13 k out over the year (more on that later).

Right now work on maximizing your income. I would look for jobs in construction/moving/labor as your best bet. Something that pays 20$ an hr and lets you work overtime is pretty much what you need. If you can't get 20 an hr, look for two jobs at 10 an hr.

The problem needs redefinition. Work to not need the full 13 k by August. I would strongly suggest talking to your school's student affairs office. They want to help you. Worst case they should let you defer for a while. Some schools have installment payments, so you wouldn't need the full 13 k up front (note: they will charge interest if they support this policy).

If you can spread the cost out, you can work while you are in school. If you aren't working a job while you are in school, that is also a valid option. Find any job now till school starts. Take out a loan for the difference and work a job for the school year.
posted by rudyfink at 5:05 AM on May 26, 2004

I'd suggest applying to universities in the UK, where tuition fees for the remaining part of your degree won't be half what they are over there. You'll get a job doing whatever you want easily, because you've got an American accent, and you get to have fun in the UK, sleeping with our women, dancing with our wolves, and drinking if you're under 21.

No, seriously. Think about it. UCAS is the place to search for colleges and courses.

Let us know what you do!
posted by armoured-ant at 5:15 AM on May 26, 2004

what robocop said--apply immediately for a job at school, explaining your situation. I did it for part of my studies, and got some credits free each semester, and went at night, and when i could swing it during the day with permission from my boss. You could be an administrative assistant, or a library person, or do data entry, or even work in the school's publication office, if you can demonstrate enough graphics skills.
posted by amberglow at 5:32 AM on May 26, 2004

armoured-ant :the UK, where tuition fees for the remaining part of your degree won't be half what they are over there.

Are you sure about that? Tuition fees for a year of undergrad courses in the arts will set him back about £8,000p.a. in the UK (give or take, see this example or this one), that's about $14,500 at the current exchange rate. And I bet the cost of living isnt that favourable either.
posted by biffa at 9:18 AM on May 26, 2004

Most academic libraries are union shops when it comes to non-MLS folks, so you'll have good benefits and the ability to take classes part time for reduced cost (example: one of my minions is finishing up his undergrad degree at 50-80 bucks a course).

robocop, are you being literal or figurative? Are there actually library paraprofessional unions? Where are you seeing this? I work in a state university library (non-MLS) and have never heard of such a thing.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:40 AM on May 26, 2004

Also consider the parent-PLUS loan. It is a relatively new loan where your rents actually apply for the loan and it goes in their name unless they fail it whereupon the loan changes over to your name, no questions asked. My parents took out the loan for either $3000 or $5000 and I get around $57 taken directly out of my checkings every month for the next 5 years (note: you MUST pay the PLUS loan monthly, unlike the loans you most likely already have). You can also take out a good chunk of change in the PLUS loan department.
Do you have a car you can sell? Music equipment? Your should? Just how far are you willing to go to pay for a college education?
Also, has been recommended, go to a cheaper college. Mine costs less than $5000/year in tuition which works for me.
Lastly, apply for a lot of jobs. Work 100 hours/week if you need to. I worked 80+ hours/week three summers ago which allowed me to go an entire year without needing a job (I was a bartender which can be damn good money).
OK, one last thought: some colleges will allow undergrads to TA which can greatly reduce or even pay for all of your tuition.
posted by jmd82 at 9:46 AM on May 26, 2004

College Pro Painters, maybe? They give you a business plan & support, you pay a franchise fee, they provide name recognition.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:52 AM on May 26, 2004

Definitely look into getting a library assistant job, especially if you can land a gig at your university's library. The best benefit will be the truition cut, but you also might find that you like libraries and would consider pursuing an MLS. [/recruitment] Ask at the library or stop by your student affairs office and ask about a work-study or job openings.

For general job hunting in Baltimore, stop by the Enoch Pratt Library's Job Center, which has lots of resources for job seekers. (Though I am discouraged by the fact that their website advertises "new 2002 editions" of GED books. Hopefully the rest of the resources at the Center are more up-to-date.)
posted by arco at 10:02 AM on May 26, 2004

Your profile doesn't mention your gender, but if you're female and in relatively good shape (but don't need to be a knockout), and you're in such dire financial straits, you might want to think about stripping. Seriously. Assume a low-ish figure of $250 a night and it will take you 40 nights to get to $10,000. Work four nights a week and you'll be done by the end of August. The pay is better on Fridays and Saturdays.

(No, I've never been a stripper, but I have a friend who's done it for years as a second job. And please, hold the "exploitation" faux outrage: stripping is far less degrading than many shitty low-paying menial jobs. And stripping to pay your way through school is a time-honored tradition.)
posted by Asparagirl at 10:03 AM on May 26, 2004

I can't speak to loan solutions, but I can offer a job idea: selling wireless service. Really, you have no idea how lucrative it can be. My next-door neighbors both work for a wireless company, the wife is an assistant store manager, and with a high-school diploma, on a fixed salary of $65K. The husband is straight sales-floor, and with commission earns about $80K (I think salary is about $20-24K to start). Also h.s. diploma only. This is in a suburb. The wife tells me that there are folks in her store earning $100K+, but they are in a "hipper" location (more businesses, plus more young, single people).

Another friend whose son is just out of h.s. works at a kiosk in the mall has earned as much as $600/day, salary + commission.

Obviously you have to hustle, but it sounds like you really need the money, so your motivation is there.

Good luck!
posted by vignettist at 10:10 AM on May 26, 2004

Talk to your parents. Is a temporary move back home feasible?
posted by konolia at 10:10 AM on May 26, 2004

I agree with everything said here. And even if you are a guy, you can strip. An old friend strips to pay his way through school. I had to go through the same deal as you. My advice, is to lock down your expenses to the lowest they can be. For a couple of years, I literally lived on $5 a day or less. Get rid of your cell phone, phone, cable, car, a/c, eating out, internet [gasp], books, cds, move in with a roommate or three, etc. Buy pastas and sauce and drink water. Make chili's and burritos so that the leftovers last for days. Need textbooks for school? Your library has them. It is surprising how far your expenses can go way down. You don't need 13k right now, most universities have payment plans. Talk with them, you can work out a deal.
posted by plemeljr at 10:22 AM on May 26, 2004

Life is interesting because of the twists. When parts of it rear up and smack you around other things come into focus. I had a smack-down in the fall, still not back in stride, still struggling financially, but Man-oh-man is my art focused...for the first time in my life. I'm happier and more in touch with myself than ever before...it is just the whole rent/carpayment thing which is a hassle.

my younger brother has spent the last 8 years or so in and out of school, working in alaska, traveling, taking a semester or two at a time as he can afford it. I think his next 2 stops are Taiwan and Antartica while he works on his final project for his B.A..

life is way more interesting than school.
seriously, Don't Panic.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:36 AM on May 26, 2004

Tech support, maybe? I don't know how to get a job like that

Out here, there are temp agencies which specialize in this. Move to a major metro for the summer, live in a fleatrap residential hotel, and find the right temp agency. If you're able to parlay any of that into independent contracting (bill $35-$50 an hour), you can conceivably *make* 13K in 3 months, but I dunno what you're going to live on...
posted by scarabic at 10:41 AM on May 26, 2004

Grod, are you sure you've used all the resources your college and/or University has to offer? Have you discussed alternate tuition financing sources with the financial aid office? Have you visited the Placement office on your campus for job hunt/resume assistance? Have you discussed this problem with your academic advisor?

Remember that services like placement and the financial aid office are services that you are currently paying for as part of your tuition, so take full advantage of them.

And don't panic. Even if you can't go back to school in the Fall semester, it does not mean that you never will.
posted by anastasiav at 10:52 AM on May 26, 2004

Pretty much ditto on everything (but the stripping) said above.

One area to look into may be a newsreader for a clippings company, if there are any in your area. You read newspapers and take notes on _very_ specific topics.

If you're in the DC area, there are probably plenty of organizations that need the service... even with the advent of digital news, there is plenty out there that's still print-only.
posted by silusGROK at 10:57 AM on May 26, 2004

I managed to hold down PT jobs and still got a honours degree at university. It isn't the most fun thing ever, but it's totally doable. Now that you don't have the scholarship pressure, you don't need an A++++ average all the time.

I'd look into bursaries, and get to know the departmental secretary where you are. The one I knew (and bought a few beers) got me around $1000 in bursaries I didn't know existed. When you're the only applicant, hey, it's easy.

I worked as a waitress. It ain't stripping money, but it's decent and the hours you work as a student are good for tips. I'd look into that as a part-time option. Don't bother with the student pubs those - those cheap jerks are lousy tippers. ;)
posted by Salmonberry at 12:03 PM on May 26, 2004

...if you're female and in relatively good shape (but don't need to be a knockout), and you're in such dire financial straits, you might want to think about stripping.

For 20something females in good health, another option is egg donation. The student newspaper usually has an ad or two, and I've seen several that claimed the "donor" would earn 10k in exchange for permitting herself to be shot full of ovary-stimulating hormones repeatedly and then undergo surgery to remove the eggs. Definitely not something that's right for everyone, but sounds like you're willing to entertain even the extreme options.

A word of caution: don't go deeper into debt for an English degree. Get the degree, yes, because you love the subject and need the BA. But sadly an English degree has so little market value that it's very unlikely that it'll contribute toward loans repayment. Are you enrolling f/t right now? If so, seriously consider switching to p/t. You'll pay slightly more on a per-unit basis, but your annual bill will go down while you'll have more time for earning money for tuition et al. That also means you can be applying for permanent jobs (not just short-term gigs), hopefully ones with benefits (which on further raises the value of your earnings), which helps build up the work experience/references necessary to earn the even bigger salary you're going to need when all those loans go into repayment 6-9 mos after graduation.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:23 PM on May 26, 2004

Try also talking to the administrators of the scholarship you've lost. They may be sympathetic and know of some other opportunities. I was in a very similar predicament once, and after some heartfelt discussion of what had happened, the director went back into the budget and managed to find a bit of scholarship money to send my way. It wasn't nearly enough to fill the gap, but it bought some time to pull together more money elsewhere. And remember that scholarship/grant dollars are much more valuable than salary dollars because of taxes. To replace $10k in grant money, you probably need more like $12k in earnings. So be sure you're exhausted every last possibility of getting a grant. (Hint: sometimes departments have their own discretionary funds. I got several smaller grants over the years from various academic and service departments that distributed their funds independent of the financial aid office. Friends in dire circumstances were able to get small no interest emergency loans the same way.)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:40 PM on May 26, 2004

Thanks all. Some good ideas here. For the record, I'm male, in decent shape but not ripped, so stripping isn't even an option, even if my girlfriend of nearly four years would allow it :). Part of the reason I asked is that I have a terrible record getting employed in traditional jobs. Whether it's my presentation, my lack of references, bad karma, or some combination, I usually don't get the job. Unless it's the job I don't want, like McDonald's, which allowed me to subsist for a few months though I ended up starving anyway.
I know an English BA is a waste of money. I love the subject but the amount of crap I have to do to get to the course I like is discouraging. When I manage to sneak a course that I don't have prereqs for past my advisor, I get an A. Every time. When it's some stupid survey course I do very badly. It's too late to change my major now. I have another source of funding that covers a portion of my education, but it dispears when I turn 25. If I could change my major, I'd probably choose analytical philosophy. I've done some really great work in the few classes I've taken and have a knack for it.
I guess I was hoping for an easy solution, something other than working my ass off and being miserable, but if that's what I gotta do, that's what I gotta do.
posted by Grod at 3:32 PM on May 26, 2004

First two things that popped in my mind, upon reading of your skills: TUTORING OTHERS and offering TYPING or COPY-EDITING services to other students (or business).

Best wishes.
posted by davidmsc at 4:13 PM on May 26, 2004

Try and get into what's called Production Journalism. It'll combine your English abilities with your technical know how, and since the industry's in a state of flux as those paste-up-trained fellows start to retire and computers encroach ever-more, there's a vacuum for your type.

Sadly, though, I think that not having a completed degree will be a hinderance in the US. It's not such a big deal in the UK, but it'll be difficult to get in from the US.

Hoo, wasn't that a useless answer, sorry.
posted by bonaldi at 5:21 PM on May 26, 2004

5/8th through? That shouldn't be too late to change your degree if that's what you want to do. Heck, this is college; what better time to try new directions! Talk to an academic advisor. If you're worried about losing too many units from your current major, ask about any options for an interdisciplinary degree or using the English units toward a minor. You have my sympathies on the prereqs thing. That drove me mad too. Getting into a department that allows you to better tap into your strengths, skills, and intellectual drive may be your first step to restoring your scholarship/prospects for the future. In a program better suited to your interests, your grades and recommendations should improve and employers should find it easier to envision you as a member of their team. (I'm guessing that's where you're blowing the interviews. Job interviewing is all about sniffing out "fit": will this person mesh with our culture, personalities, vibe, etc? If you're inadvertantly giving signals that you don't care about what you do presently, they're probably assuming--rightly or wrongly--that's what you'll bring to their workplace too. Once you're doing what you love, it's amazing how others pick up on that and respond in kind.)

Davidmsc's suggestion of tutoring is a good one. If finals haven't already passed, this is a great time to pick up cash from students desperate to make GPA cutoffs. Depending on degree of desperation and availability of competing tutors, you should be able too get $10-50/hr easily. Summer schoolers are also notoriously in need of tutoring, because schools try to cram an entire semester's worth of lectures into a few weeks and inevitably some students find that they need help understanding all that info being thrown at them. If it's too late for the college students' finals, get thee to the nearest private high schools. A relative of mine paid for his English PhD by doing test prep (SAT, GRE, etc.) tutoring. Thanks to the No Child Left Behind mandates, there are more parents and schools than ever in need of standardized testing tutors. You could probably make a good (cash) living on flexible hours.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:14 PM on May 26, 2004

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