Help Gertrude out!

Screen shot 2009-11-15 at Nov 15, 2009, 6.48.38 PM

One of my favorite parts about having a blog is getting reader mail. I love when people ask questions. Not because I think I can provide some incredibly insightful advise, but it affirms that people value my opinion. Instead of me directly responding to the following email, I figured I’d post it up here and we can all help her out. After all, 20 opinions are better than one….right? Here’s the email…

I graduated in 2005 with a BA in psychology and realized I did not want to go into working in counseling. Now I am unsure what to do as I have spent the last 4 years in a couple of dead end jobs: customer service, travel industry, waitress and bartender. I have no idea where to even begin. It is too late for me to take internships and I have no way of knowing if I sign up for graduate school if I will like the job in the end. I am thinking of HR management or international relations, as I would like to one day work for the foreign service, however knowing how hard it is to get in, I would be happy in HR in a government position. It is just so frustrating to find oneself with a college degree and no qualifications to do anything but wait tables or be a customer service rep. Any advice is appreciated.

-Gertrude

Well thanks Gertrude for a delicious piece of humble pie. Last week I wrote an article about my quarter-life crisis, but after reading Gerdies E-mail, realized I need to be darn thankful for the position I have. Anyways, on to my thoughts…

Gertrude, I think it’s important to not limit yourself because of your degree. I too received a degree in Psychology, but don’t really use it in my position. Don’t limit your career choices because of the degree you received. Upwards of 50% of college grads work in a field unrelated to their course of study. If you want to work in HR, pursue HR. If you want to be a trapeze artists, join a circus. You can’t change your degree, but you can certainly change your career.

Turn what could be seen as a negative situation and make it positive. Maybe you haven’t held steady employment over the last couple years, but explain to your potential employers what you DID learn and how you grew from your part-time employment. Make yourself stand out, be positive, and be confident.

I wouldn’t recommend graduate school for you, primarily because you’re not 100% sure that’s what you want to do. Grad school is a HUGE decision and can cost a pretty penny. Remember, holding a degree, masters, or PhD doesn’t guarantee income….ever. The worst thing you could do for yourself is get a masters in a field you end up hating, be $50K in debt, and another 2-3 years behind on work experience. Hold off on the grad school for now, until you get a better idea of exactly what you want to be doing.

If you want to work for the government in an HR capacity go to USAJobs.gov and start applying. That is where 99% of all federal positions are listed. Lastly, apply for EVERY job you want, even if you think you’re under-qualified. The wost thing the company could do is tell you “No.” which is not that bad in my opinion. If you are applying to positions you truly want,  it only takes one offer to change your life.

That’s my $0.02 for Gertrude (by the way that is a fake name I made up for her). Now it’s your turn to throw down some comment love and help a girl out. What do you do if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, but you’re already an adult?

*feel free to shoot me an email if you got a question*

2 thoughts on “Help Gertrude out!

  1. Gertrude, seeing as you are changing careers, you should consider a downward movement in the industry of interest. So if you want to be in HR, I would say try applying for jobs as an HR Assistant or a Junior Generalist. I would advise against internships as they are unpaid, and you may have undergrad debt that you are still working out. Start low and work your way up. It's a great way to get exposure and enough information for you to make a decision.

    Given the current employment market, I wouldn't limit yourself to one sector (government) even though that is where you ultimately can see yourself. I would say get HR experience anywhere and leverage that into a career in government. Moreover, you can actually try to get a job in another field in the government sector and then use that to get into HR in the government sector. I think the second option will take a little longer, but it's really wise to use all options right now to get where you are going.

    Good luck with everything.

  2. Gertrude,

    I am new to this Punch Debt in the Face blog, but really enjoying it. I would recommend going into a field that is somewhat in the area of interest. I was in the customer service industry for two years and it had nothing to do with my degree. I hated it, but I did not know what I wanted to do for a career. Then I got a job in education. I am not an educator right now, but I work within education administration so it is a step closer to a potential career job. I guess what I am recommending is not aim low, but look for a job within the arena of what you want to do and then work your way up.

    again just a recommendation

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