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Non-Academic Jobs: resume and general advice?


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Apologies in advance for long-windedness.

Hello all, I was wondering if anyone might have any advice about looking for more "menial" jobs, for lack of a better term. I have a MA and have gotten great grades, won awards, and given talks in my obscure arts field, but I ended up turning down a PhD offer this year because my mind's pretty exhausted and I want to take a break for a couple years. I thought about applying for things like Teach for America and whatnot, but I really think it would be best for me to find a job that does not require any off-the-clock work. As a student, I've gotten pretty bad about never taking time off for myself, and always thinking I should be reading more whenever I get a moment free. I'm sure a lot of you can relate! Due to the fact that I fully intend to reapply to PhD programs after next year, I don't feel any pressure to seek a specifically career-oriented job at this point. In fact, that's the last thing I want. It's not that I am work-shy or can't handle working in a stressful environment, I just need a job that pays by the hour and is a little different from what I've been doing these past few years. I'll be living in a busy neighborhood in a large city.

The problem is that I have little work experience. I worked as a cashier in high school, and then at a deli counter for some time in college, but that's pretty much it. I am a terribly selfish person, it seems, and don't have any volunteer experience past high school. I would love to tutor, either in writing, languages, or even in standardized test prep, but I have no teaching experience whatsoever. I'm guessing I can put ads up on craigslist and see if I find a few hours of tutoring work, but I'm not counting on being able to live off of that. I would really love to work even the lowest position at a museum, but all the museums in my area seem to rely entirely on unpaid interns and volunteers, and I need to eat! I imagine I should be looking into waitressing or working in retail. I have general customer service experience, as well as experience in food service, but I have never worked in a restaurant or in retail. Any advice for finding such work without the right experience?

This brings me to my specific question, which is, should I include my academic qualifications in the resume I submit to such places? At the moment I just have an academic CV, with my degrees, thesis titles, languages, awards and publications listed. How much of this should I keep on my resume? Should I keep everything except for the thesis titles and publications? Should I acknowledge my MA? I am looking for ongoing full-time work, but I'm concerned that potential employers will consider me likely to flounce on them after a short while in search of better prospects. And yet, I don't want to sell myself short by censoring my assets.

Specific answers or general advice would be much appreciated!

Edited by Gelpfrat the Bold
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I was able to get a part-time position teaching at a local community college after tutoring there first. The pay for both jobs was pretty terrible, but the hours were great, and I was happy to get the teaching experience. To get a teaching job, you would need to admit to having the MA :rolleyes: . No actual teaching experience was needed to get the tutoring job -- in fact, they provided paid training for that.

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  • 1 month later...

I have minimal work experience myself - mostly freelance work, and one "real" job which I will not list on any resume. Why? My last employer was a scammy call center that I refuse to let anyone know I was associated with. And I think if you're applying to something not in your field of study, consider leaving off the master's degree. If I finish the shit I'm doing and need to work retail or fast food, I will not include my degrees on my resume because I don't want to be told I'm overqualified and that some schmuck with a seventh-grade education needs the job more than I do.

I don't think it's so much employers will worry that you'll jump ship on them as much as they will see you as being too expensive due to your degrees. One of many reasons I was fired from the aforesaid scammy job was because I needed time off to go to class and finish the huge assignment I was given with a short deadline. They weren't interested in someone whose butt would not be in their seat eight hours a day making them money for minimum wage. So if you're going to apply somewhere that looks favorably upon an educated person, then sure, list your degrees and publications and all similar goodies. But if you're looking to stock shelves at Wal-Mart? Yeah, leave off anything beyond a bachelor's degree.

This is just in my own experience.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Depending on the job, I would even leave off the bachelor's degree... I tried circulating resume's with and without my bachelor's degree listed, and honestly, I got more call backs and interviews from the ones where I didn't mention it at all. Just my 2 cents.

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I think tutoring may be the way to go for you. I recommend that you figure out what subjects you can tutor, a competitive rate, post an ad on craigslist, and try to develop a solid client base.

If you do go this route, I suggest that you only tutor those students you want to work with, and conduct your sessions in a very public place. (Like the library.)

If you want to go through the process of applying for jobs, I recommend that you find a way to communicate the work skills that you do have. You know how to work hard, you know how to think critically, you know how to learn, and you know how to write.

Which ever route you pick, please note that you may be playing with fire. A year off to make some money and to recharge the batteries can quickly lead to another, and another, and another. . . . (In this regard, you may actually benefit from the fact that the job market is so competitive right now.)

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Yeah, run for cover. These days you are lucky if you can get a $50k a year job with a PhD. The US economy is absolutely hemorrhaging high tech jobs and other well paying work like a slit wrist. Once we get out of this depression most of the jobs that will have been created will be in retail sales, janitor and cleaning services, food prep, RNs, nursing aides, and other low paying service jobs that can't be outsourced. Many new jobs won't need even a college degree. It's highly likely you are probably better off with your masters than a PhD.

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Yeah, run for cover. These days you are lucky if you can get a $50k a year job with a PhD. The US economy is absolutely hemorrhaging high tech jobs and other well paying work like a slit wrist. Once we get out of this depression most of the jobs that will have been created will be in retail sales, janitor and cleaning services, food prep, RNs, nursing aides, and other low paying service jobs that can't be outsourced. Many new jobs won't need even a college degree. It's highly likely you are probably better off with your masters than a PhD.

I don't understand why you got downvoted...Somebody is mad that their PhD might not be as useful as they think?

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I don't understand why you got downvoted...Somebody is mad that their PhD might not be as useful as they think?

It's because the majority on here don't want to believe that the mantra they've been fed their whole life--that more education is always better no matter what the cost--is really not that true at all. Next year when the department of education starts tracking default rates on student loans out to 5 years the default rate on student loans is projected to almost double from 7% up to 14%. Only 40% of student loans are currently in repayment, the rest are either in deferment or are in default. The US has a massive ticking time bomb with regards to education and debt. The numbers don't lie, education costs keep soaring while jobs that pay livable wages continue to be off shored or are disappearing all together as the manufacturing base in this country declines. I bet the vast majority of kids on these boards have never even had a job or even looked for one. They have no idea what's waiting out here for them once they get out. Right now we live in a time when we are sending the most kids ever in the history of this country on towards higher education while the US economy is suffering from severe systemic and structural problems that will take decades to fix (a lot of problems may not be able to fixed at all). Suggesting that people should go to college or grad school no matter at what cost, because more education is always better, is completely stupid, especially when the economy is increasingly unable to absorb the huge swaths of new grads and pay them livable wages. College these days for many kids leads to nothing more than underemployment or temp jobs with no benefits with tons of student loan debt. Grad school just prolongs the underemployment while the interest builds on the principal and then you're caught in 20+ years worth of student loans. The whole f^cking system is one giant scam.

Edited by fibonacci
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  • 2 weeks later...

I wouldn't leave off your degree(s) on an app. It could come back to bite you in the behind later on. You never know how long you will be at this job. My wife who used to have a job in her field hasn't for 3 years. For over a year now she's been in retail. She started $2/hr higher than everyone else and she was fast-tracked into management because she has her Master's - they know she's capable and is responsible. The pay is better too - though $12/hr still sucks when you used to make 60K - but for retail and in this economy it's not half bad.

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  • 1 month later...

There are different types of resumes you can use when job hunting. A skills based resume might be more suitable for you versus a job history resume. I don't think you should leave off your education. That is something employers value especially if you don't have job experience. But realistically, you might have to use your networking skills a bit more to secure a decent full-time job. Now a days, job openings are flooded with resumes and the chance of getting a call back is incredibly low. Maybe you should visit a temp agency and let them handle the job hunting for you?

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If you're still pretty fresh off the degree, I'd recommend visiting your university's career center for a consultation or some advisement. When I finished my MA, I was fairly certain that I wanted the PhD as well. However, I didn't want to apply straight-away. I didn't want to start a PhD just because I didn't know what else to do. As well, though I wasn't feeling TOO fatigued mentally, I was a little worried that my social skills (and accompanying ability to get a non-academic job) had atrophied. I was a little uppity about approaching the career center (I didn't want to attend seminars to learn how to shake hands properly), but once I acknowledged that a huge bulk of the work is learning to articulate your academic experience and tailoring resumes and cover letters, I really gleaned a lot from one-on-one meetings and job panels.

Managing expectations was a huge part of the game. Like you, I wasn't necessarily looking for a career route, but I wanted to be stimulated, learn some real-world skills and have enough money for rent and some loan repayment. I've had 6 jobs in the last year, mostly 3/4 month. part-time contracts, everything from menial to unpaid to somewhat-in-my-field. It quickly became apparent that I wasn't getting a 50k (or even 20), full-time with benefits kind of thing, but it was an adjustment to realize that part time, short term and even unpaid work was hyper-competitive and hard to come by.

I'm actually a chef by trade (which is what I did to make money during my undergrad), so I had that to fall back on; but I wanted to challenge myself to look elsewhere first. I thought about a government gig, but departments kind of like to recruit for the long-haul and I didn't want to fib about my intention to return for the PhD. I did some of the standardized placement testing anyway (and did well!) but affirmed that that wasn't the route that I wanted. In the second month of full-time job seeking (and not a single call-back)I walked into a bookstore and struck up a conversation with the owner about Oscar Wilde. He offerred me a part-time gig (I told him about my BA, in which I had a second major in English, but didn't bother to mention my legal-ish MA). I'm still working there! To supplement, I worked as a co-instructor at my undergrad university. It was a 3 hour commute twice a week, but worth it, because it led to a short-term research position and some conference attendence - I loved the instructor post and it confirmed my desire to do a PhD. At the same time, I held an unpaid internship at a non-profit that a friend had recommended (25 hrs/week, unpaid, money was tight for those months). Totally worth it! Their recommendation secured for me an interview at a large NGO and I've been consulting here for 4 months (I plan to be here until I start the PhD next fall).

I'm sorry that this is so long, but I actually really like sharing my experience with others on the job-front stuff! I was really conflicted about the job hunt. I was happy to take the bookstore post but felt guilty for not wanting "more"; I was eager to try a "grown-up" job but was dismayed to learn that the MA didn't always give me the edge over those with just BAs; I was very committed to the job search and felt that I was doing the "right" things in my applications, but I had no (non-academic) network in the city and no one was calling me ect; Anyway, I'm always happy to share because I felt like such a schmuck at the beginning of the hunt, and now I'm refreshed and I'll never wonder "what if I left and tried to hack it in the "real world"?" because I'm out here, doing it and surviving. I tried a litany of new things in different sectors (private, governement, non-profit, academia) and now I feel confident in my decision to return for the PhD (I want to work in academia, hopefull as a prof., something I NEED the PhD for).

TLDR (My advice in brevity)

1. Know thyself: This sounds glib but it's actually a lot of work. A career center can help you articulate this stuff. You won't be able to convince other people that you want a position if you can't orient yourself and explain how it actually makes sense to you. When I sat with someone and boiled down what I excelled in and enjoyed during the MA (TA-ing, research), I suddenly had great focus and was able to turn this traits into workable resume points (without any fibbing!)

2. Know others: certain parts of networking (like coldcalling) totally sucks; but it's so important, even for "menial" posts. Talk to everyone. Tell everyone that you are looking. Talk to people who have, or have had, the positions you want (they will be the best resources to answer the "cite the degree on the CV or not" question). I heard about the internship through a friend, my supervisor at the internship introduced my to a NGO HR person who gave me a line on the consulting gig, I leveraged my litany of contracts to get the current one and here I am. Opportunities will lead to other opportunities.

Cosider this analogy: Harrison Ford worked as a pretty face in Hollywood for YEARS doing no-name, pretty-face stuff. He became disillusioned and took up work as a carpenter for sets, where he met George Lucas, who liked the cut of his jib and cast him. And then he was freakin' HAN SOLO!.... Moral? Keep your eyes peeled for your George Lucas! Everyone downplays the "luck" element that comes from networking and how this contributes to success, but it's important (even for "just menial" stuff, it's important to being in a happy place with a job that fulfills you/suits your needs, "menial" or otherwise)!

Finally: If you ARE planning to return to academia, consider what a "time-off" period of JUST "menial" (or non-relevant) experience is going to look like on your apps. I know that the economy sucks and few of us have the luxury of having something paid, and in our field, fall into our laps; but if you are committed to your work vision as articulated above, please also consider dedicating some of your time to something that will build skills that you can transfer BACK to academia, even if this just takes the form of unpaid work or volunteering!

And good luck!

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