Help a slacker live up to her potential.
November 13, 2007 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Help me live up to my potential and get a real job.

Ok, here's some requisite background info.

26, engaged, recently moved to Chicago. Graduated in 2003with a degree in psychology from undergrad. Went back to school right away to get a teaching certificate in secondary education and a second major in English. Completed my student teaching in Dec 2005. Have been working for a large retailer in a field totally unrelated to either of my degrees for the last two years because it's easy and a steady (but paltry) paycheck.

And here are the requisite complications in no special order.

1. I do not want to teach in the public or private school system. I found student teaching to be the most harrowing experience ever, and I don't think I have the ability to function properly in a school environment. I had a very difficult time planning my lessons.

2. My original intentions for getting a teaching certificate were to teach in the prison/corrections setting. I had an excellent service learning experience in college where I volunteered at a local prison two nights a week teaching poetry and creative writing. I love love loved it. That's the reason I have a teaching certificate. While I have no desire to work at a public school, I'd love to take my certificate to a prison and teach GED classes.

3. My transcripts from my undergrad are less than stellar. Up until my senior year of college, I had pretty good grades (in the 3.65 range). During my senior year, depression, coupled with a horrible break up (no excuse, I know) pretty much kept me confined to my dorm room, and as a result, I have three E's in relevant classes on my transcript. (Juvenile Probation Internship is one of them. I actually finished the hours requirement for the internship, but I never turned in my final review paper for no good reason.) I fear sending my transcript out completely because I worry that I won't be able to spin my bad grades to the hiring managers.

4. I haven't done a thing with my teaching certificate in the two years since I finished it. I've just been working at a large retailer for no particular reason, and as a result, I have no recent applicable experience.

Ok. Now that that's out the way, help me out. How can I get over my fear of my transcript? Retaking the classes isn't necessarily an option, as one was an internship which I can't repeat, and the classes would have to be retaken at a college where credits cost $750/hour. What should I do about the fact that I've been generally worthless for the last two years, rather than substituting, volunteering, etc. How do I even begin to motivate myself to get out of my rut of a job and get myself a career?
posted by santojulieta to Work & Money (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I've never had any employer ask for my transcript (non-profit world). This includes three major job searches over 8 years, and about 40 interviews. And I also worked several year in retail after getting my masters before I finally transitioned to my current career field. You have a degree and relevent experience which are really the most important things. Even though you didn't get "official" credit for the internship, the experience is what employers will want to know about. I don't think the transcript is the stumbling block you think it is.
posted by kimdog at 8:45 AM on November 13, 2007

I think a lot of people spend a couple of years after college not sure what they're doing. Don't make a big deal out of the time you haven't been spending on creating the best resume in the world, but start right now building one for the future.

Can you get into a relevant voluntary programme, assisting people who teach in prisons for a couple of hours a week, or something? A year of targetted voluntary work in a relevant field would go a long way to showing potential employers that you're serious about what you want to do, as well as getting you some good contacts. Lots of people have a bad time in college, and way your student years panned out doesn't have to define you for the rest of your life, as long as you set about proving that you've moved on, and are interested and committed in the long term.
posted by penguin pie at 8:50 AM on November 13, 2007

That hoary old chestnut, What Color Is Your Parachute, might help you decide how you can harness your education and experience in order to get a job which you love (or at least like) to do.

Informational interviews with people who have the kind of jobs you want will give you an idea of what you can do with your particular qualifications.

Resume books like The Damn Good Resume Guide can assist you in writing resumes (you want to tailor your resume to each job you apply for).

Also, no employer that I know of asks to see transcripts. They want to know that you've graduated; anything else is gravy.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2007

Sorry - didn't read the last few lines properly and you do mention the volunteering thing - but my comment still stands: it doesn't matter that you haven't been volunteering in the past - start now.
posted by penguin pie at 8:51 AM on November 13, 2007

This is more of a question than an answer, since I really have no knowledge about your particular areas, but is teaching GED classes in prisons such an astoundingly competitive field to get into that you need to be worrying this much? It doesn't exactly have the bleeding-heart cachet of teaching at inner city schools, and I can't imagine it pays that well.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:16 AM on November 13, 2007

First, try getting a job in a prison with your current transcript.

If no jobs are currently posted at the institutions where you want to work, schedule an informational interview. Get your foot in the door, then impress them with your articulate, enthusiastic, and professional manner in every contact from pre-interview to post-interview thank you note. It may yield nothing, other than the knowledge that you do need to polish up your transcript a bit. OR, you might find out that your current credentials and enthusiasm are enough to get you the job. You have nothing to lose by diving into a job search with your current credentials.

Don't go into this thinking of yourself as worthless and under-qualified. Instead, remind yourself that you were smart enough to get great grades when life wasn't throwing you curve balls, and that your desire to do this type of job will show through and impress the person interviewing you.

Good luck.
posted by man on the run at 10:38 AM on November 13, 2007

At 26 a few years out of school, with more than one degree, an employer is _very_ unlikely to look at your transcript. I would not fret about this. In fact, if you wanted to be a little liberal with the truth, you could say that you became so passionate about the prison teaching thing that you started prioritizing it over your other school work and did so to a fault. That way you can talk away any issues that _might_ come up _if_ they did want to see it. I am not incredibly familiar with the industry, but I can't imagine that prison teacher is an especially competitive field.

Someone with the proper background, passion for the work, and enthusiasm for helping people is an absolute shoe-in. Get that interview (informational at the very least) and make it happen. If the position does not exist, your cover letter needs to get you in the door and your interview needs to compel them to make the position. Go forth with confidence.

Make it happen!
posted by milqman at 10:55 AM on November 13, 2007

I'm going to second the opinion of some of the other posters, that it's your passion and enthusiasm rather than your grades that are important in this case. To be honest, it's extremely rare for most employers to even ask for grades, and if they do it is just to verify that you have the credentials that you say that you do.

Anyway, have you tried using an organization like I would start there (or your phone book, or googling) to find either nonprofit organizations that volunteer with prison populations, or a literacy organization (you may really enjoy that too).

Then volunteer. At least a day a week (with the population, such as teaching class again). I wouldn't stop there, however. Volunteer in the office - ask if you can help write grants, do fund raisers, etc. If you can learn the skills and how the organization works, I have no doubt that they would hire you.

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 5:58 PM on November 13, 2007

I don't even know if employers can ask about your transcripts. I had to show my degree and teaching license a few times, but each time I was told not to forward transcripts, just copies of my diploma.

I also quit teaching after my student teacher experience. Some of us just hate being watched all day. Love the students, love the subject matter, but hate the job. The kinds of teaching jobs you are looking for are not the hardest to get, nor are they the highest paying. But if that's what you like, go for it.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:09 PM on November 13, 2007

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