Job Hunting for the Vastly Unqualified

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Do you work a job for which you were technically unqualified or underqualified?

I’m currently on the prowl for both a temporary summer job and a full-time teaching job. Reading through job qualifications is a surefire way to take to my joy from sixty to zero.

One of my first bosses, a liberal arts grad who triple majored in Latin, music, and history, told me the key to getting a job is fake it till you make it. (He works in marketing now.) One of my friends said that nobody gets a job unless they apply for jobs for which they’re not qualified. Everybody at school said that everybody in the real world valued critical thinking skills and a good work ethic over previous experience.

I don’t know if I believe them.

Having attended a liberal arts school, we got pep talks all the time about the incomprehensible value of a liberal arts education…and the impracticality of it. You’ve got two options as a liberal arts major: go to grad school, or teach.

Being burnt out and broke, I opted for teaching — which I love. Unfortunately, I am not only uncertified but unable to be certified unless I go back to school. This is not realistic for me right now. (See “burnt out and broke,” above.)

My husband used to tease me about not having a real major. I used to chase him down the halls of the Strosacker science building every time he made a jab at my beloved Christian studies major.

But now I see his point. He majored in chemistry and got a job within a few weeks of looking, in a field wherein paychecks swiftly accrue more zeroes — at least compared to my job options.

Me? I’m still having this conversation:

“What did you major in in college?”

“Christian studies.”

“Oh. What can you do with that?”

“Nothing.”

“Oh.”

On the plus side, when I lift my head from yelling into the existential void of how royally screwed I am, I theoretically can reinvent myself. I’ve been looking into criminal justice (thanks, Criminal Minds), real estate (thanks, Flip or Flop), community planning (thanks, extroversion), and chaplaincy (thanks, Biblical egalitarians).

Everyone wants a relevant degree, plus at least two years of experience.

Cue scream into the existential void.

I’ve just started searching for “jobs in Ozaukee County” now. Just generic, unspecified jobs.

OoI can answer phone calls for a nail salon! “Looking for a friendly, fashionable” — never mind. NEXT.

Oo, I could walk dogs this summer! “Must have five years of relevant dog walking experience.” NEXT.

Oo, I could work at this daycare! “Must hold this, that, and the other certification, and have worked for over twenty years in the early childhood sphere. Bilingual preferred. Pay less than what you’re earning right now.”

I give up.

What’s your job? Were you qualified for it? Do you love it, hate it, recommend it?

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44 thoughts on “Job Hunting for the Vastly Unqualified

  1. Alyssa

    This just reminds me why I didn’t end up attempting college a second time (after health issues ended the first attempt) – none of the stuff I have any interest in is PRACTICAL. I did my research, watched friends and acquaintances make their own mistakes, learned I didn’t have the temperament for the only thing I’d previously looked into that might lead to stable employment, and… have ended up working in retail while I attempt to get my various heart-projects to blossom into a life I actually want.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bailey Steger

      You know, I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything, but now that I’m out of college and in the job market, I see now why a lot of people forego college and just try to get the training or experience for the job they love.

      Also, I like how you put it — “heart projects.” What are your heart projects? One thing I’ve been thinking about is how even though I absolutely love writing, I hate writing as a job — and that’s about the only heart project I have! So I’m fascinated by creative, passionate people who not only love their personal projects but want to and can turn them into a career. I wish you the best!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • #themaskwriter

        hey bailey,
        you can actually make money while writing, and not turning it into a job. or not thinking about it as a job, but only a passion that you’re being payed for.

        i’m also not the kind of person that likes to create passions into jobs because they feel like an obligation instead of pleasure. and then… well, i get tired and unmotivated pretty easily. so i am taking a different approach now: i write whenever i feel, about whatever i feel, the genre i most compelled to at the moment. and then… i decide if it’s good enough to sell it. maybe that will work for you too?

        oh, and i was also burned out and broke. now, i am just broke. but i have a feeling that it won’t be for much longer. (;

        Like

      • Bailey Steger

        You sound exactly like me! I have the same energy level — really passionate, but easily tired, unmotivated, and burnt out. I haven’t looked into selling work that I enjoyed creating under no obligation. Maybe I’ll toy around with that in the summer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alyssa

        My primary heart-project is my writing – that’s been my passion since I was a tiny bug, and it’s *starting* to look like a viable career choice, FINALLY… gonna be another few years of effort before it all pays off, but so worth it. And there are other things, little flickerings, and probably stuff I don’t even know about yet…

        Like

  2. Mandy PS

    Most studies I’ve read about the wage gap and differences between men and women getting jobs say one of the key differences is that men are willing to apply for jobs they are vastly unqualified for and women aren’t. Then the men get those jobs they theoretically weren’t qualified for and do the whole “fake it til you make it” thing. And mostly it seems to work for those men. So keep in mind it never hurts to apply. Worst that happens is they don’t call you/you don’t get an interview.

    That said I was a STEM major who didn’t have to job hunt because I got sniped out of grad school by a job/company. Engineering has its perks. I love my job because rocket science is literally the best, but it’s engineering so it’s not for everyone.

    My little sister on the other hand had no qualifications for anything when she graduated with a master’s degree in a not super useful field, spent a lot of time between jobs and trying to figure stuff out. She just kept applying and had to work a lot of really crap jobs–mostly as admins for lawyers actually–and now she works two
    jobs, one as an admin on a college campus and the other as an international conference planner (a job she would not have gotten if not for working for a lawyer for many years). So what I’m saying is, it’s okay to not have everything figured out and to bounce between a couple of jobs over the next few years. You’ll figure out where you fit, and it might be rough in the meantime but eventually you’ll find a place you probably never expected and love it!

    Like

    • Bailey Steger

      I’ve heard about that statistic too, but forgot about it until now. The perfectionist in me freaks out at faking it until I make it…and the lazy in me freaks out at taking more time to fill out applications (perfectly, per perfectionist standards) that might lead to nowhere, but I need to start getting some guts and just going for it.

      It’s good encouragement to hear that it works for some people to bounce around before settling into their niche.

      And congratulations on your “sniping”! What an awesome opportunity!!

      Like

  3. villemezbrown

    As an English major I can TOTALLY relate! Here’s the thing – I am now a Database Engineer and I am not just qualified for my job, I am really good at it. And I love it. And I make a good salary. It can happen for you too! You are on the right track looking for a job – any job. You need to get your foot in the door, preferably at a company that does something you are interested in. My first “real” job was as an admin assistant at a publishing company. I had no intention of making a career out of being an admin, but I loved books and reading. Now, admittedly, I got phenomenally lucky. I was running reports and making spreadsheets for my boss and I reported directly to a VP with a lot of sway, so when a beginner programmer position opened up he arranged for me to get the position and get the training I needed. But he did that because I had shown him I would learn quickly and do well in the role. You just need to put yourself in a position where you have opportunities to show people what you can do.

    Oh, and imho you should change up that conversation a little bit:

    “What did you major in in college?”

    “Christian studies.”

    “Oh. What can you do with that?”

    “Pretty much anything. I have excellent communication and critical thinking skills. I know how to talk to people from all different backgrounds. I can be really persuasive. I have a lot of experience related to writing, childcare, teaching, public speaking, counseling, project management . . .”

    Good luck!

    Adele

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bailey Steger

      This is incredibly encouraging!!! Man, I would LOVE to work in publishing. Your story of how you went from English major to database engineer is truly something. And I laughed at you changing up the conversation. I never thought about it that way, but your version is far more empowering! :)

      Like

  4. milkandpickles

    Man, job hunting is the worst. I feel for you. Don’t know if you’re interested in working from home, but Flex Jobs has some great work-from-home options to apply for. I teach ESL online and found the position through them. Just keep at it and maybe have Adele write your cover letters for you. :) Sounds like she knows how to sell it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bailey Steger

      Thanks for the suggestion! This is the second time teaching ESL online has come up in the past 24 hours. Do you have any certification or degree to teach to work this ESL job? Is it decent pay? I’m very interested in doing something like this if I ever have children.

      Like

      • milkandpickles

        I do have a CELTA certificate (two week class from 8:00-5:00 every day), but you can get TOEFL certified online for a bit cheaper though possibly slower as well. This particular company pays quite well–I’m making $20 an hour, which isn’t too bad for getting to stay at home and teach.

        Like

  5. Mary P

    . You know, I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything, but now that I’m out of college and in the job market, I see now why a lot of people forego college and just try to get the training or experience for the job they love.

    Like

  6. pockettreasures

    I could’ve written this! I studied philosophy in uni and everyone thought what the hell are you going to do with that. It has taught me so much that any other generic degree may not have. It has empowered me into the person that I am now. I have no regrets and even though it’s the long road to getting into teaching, which I had in my mind when doing the course, I’m glad I did it. I know with enough nerve I can reach where I want to be. 😁

    Like

  7. Bethany

    You have to have five years of experience ce to walk a dog? What is our world!? Haha. Peeps at McDonalds really do need $15 because they’ll start requiring 60 college credits or something. 😂

    Also, I think forensics is cool. Let’s had a midlife crisis and go into Criminal Justice together! :)

    Like

    • Bailey Steger

      Okay, so maybe I exaggerated about the exact number of years needed to walk a dog. ;) But it was definitely way more experience than I anticipated! (And, honestly, you know me — you probably wouldn’t want me walking your dog. I’m no dog whisperer.)

      Dude. Let’s just recreate “Criminal Minds” together. :D (I would be so stressed and freaking out home alone for the rest of my life, though…..)

      Like

  8. Korie

    I have a teaching license, but I’m not interested in teaching right now. I quit teaching after being a working mom for part of the school year and decided I would prefer to be a stay at home mom. Now, I wish I were working again, at least part time. I’ve looked into working at the library. I applied for teaching online through VIP kid, but decided I would hate working from home. I tutored for one summer, and while the money was fantastic, I hated doing it. I’m not sure what else to do besides teaching. Job hunting is hard.

    Like

    • Bailey Steger

      That’s kind of where I’m at — I don’t know what else I would like to do for a career except teach.

      You disliked tutoring? I’m fascinated as to why. I’ve never done it before, but since I love teaching and love working in small groups and one-on-one, I always assumed tutoring would fit right in with that passion.

      Like

      • Korie

        I hate tutoring because it’s so BORING. The things that I liked about teaching: lesson planning, classroom management, giving feedback, speaking, reading what my students wrote, seeing how sometimes they would all do poorly on an assignment and I would have to figure out how to re teach it and where we went wrong…

        Tutoring is different. Tutoring is slow. You are doing one thing at a time. One student at a time. You don’t have your ears open for something else to happen. You’re just sitting there. And there are wonderful “ah-ha!” moments that are so satisfying. But mostly, the pace of tutoring is slow. The pace of tutoring was so slow. I felt like all I did was sit there and stare off into space while I waited for my students to think.

        Like

  9. Justine

    Oh man I feel you. Except I’m not job hunting… I’m trying to decide what kind of career I want and so is my husband. Weve both mainly done general labour type jobs, which are fine, but not what we want for a career. I always thought I’d be a stay at home mom but so far we don’t have kids… Right now I’m a nanny and I love it. I’m trying to decide if that would be a good career or if I should go back to school. I think if I could afford it I would go to university for the rest of my life lol. Learning is fun. Trying to find a way to apply it? Not so much.
    P.S. I love Adele’s way of changing the conversation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bailey Steger

      “Learning is fun. Trying to find a way to apply it? Not so much.” RIGHT?! Though, I got so burnt out from college that the thought of grad school made me physically exhausted. I’m always amazed at you people who can stick with the higher ed academic life for so long!

      Like

      • Justine

        Well to be honest so far I have only been to community college, not university. So I am speaking more from ambition than from experience. But it seems like your college courses were ones that really challenged your ideas and views, whereas I would probably study math and physics which would be less emotionally taxing I think.

        Like

      • Bailey Steger

        Math and physics! That’s very different than anything I ever studied. Good for you! I feel the burn out came more from just having so much to do and no time to do it and having really high standards for it all.

        Like

  10. Elizabeth

    I’m currently working as the #2 person for a local start up business that works in database and sales management technology. I am absolutely not qualified for it, but love it. I’m not even the type of person who loves spreadsheets etc, but I often get to do “fun” things like composing emails, tech support, writing user manuals, website management, managing member accounts. Its something different everyday, but I’m learning a lot of invaluable skills and I love the idea of growing with a company from the ground up.

    What did I do before this that gave me the relevant experience?

    I filled vending machines. No joke. For two or three years, then switched to doing cleaning at the same factory who’s machines I used to fill. However, these jobs, even though a) I didn’t particularly “want” to do them and b) are looked down on widely as menial, unskilled labor provided invaluable evidence that I could (and would) work hard and produce quality results with little to no supervision.

    My husband currently works in HR as a recruiter. The job market right now *needs* workers, so I’d get out there and get a job that will give you good skills now, even if its not technically what you want. Most companies put in that “experience” qualifier to weed out people who don’t hold jobs well. Most companies will take a hard worker with a good attitude who can learn new skills over a lazy, entitled but experienced individual. The job market right now is in your favor, so I’d land a job that gets me some useful skills and then leverage that experience in one or two years to get a job more to your liking.

    Also, make an online resume. I created an online website marketing myself as a freelance writer, student, etc and all my employers I interviewed with *loved* it. I didn’t attach social media to it, I didn’t promote it. I just included it on cover letters and paper resumes. They went nuts for that hahaha.

    Like

  11. Rebekah

    Oh, Bailey, I relate SO MUCH. For years, I intended to be an English professor, but then marriage happened, and we decided that two people in grad school wouldn’t really work (I didn’t want the stress of finding two academic jobs in one place after finishing grad school, not to mention many other considerations). Plus, I found out that I loved editing through internships, and realized that I would rather read books than write a dissertation. I wasn’t super burnt out by college, but I didn’t mind being done.

    But then I had to figure out what to do. Freelance editing for academic presses occurred to me as a job idea one day, and it seemed great (flexibility, working from home, reading books ALL the time, staying in the academic world in some way). As a former homeschooler, I loved the idea of working whenever and wherever and however I wanted. I could sprawl out on the floor or sit on the couch. Or go to the local public library. (Also, there weren’t any presses within easy driving distance of where I was going to live, so I didn’t have too many other options if I wanted a career in publishing.)

    Getting into the industry was really hard, though. I had sent out a few e-mails that said, “I’m interested in becoming a freelance editor. Do you have any openings?” And I heard nothing. I panicked, thinking that I was never going to be able to find a job and would just be stuck in a new town when Daniel started grad school with absolutely nothing to do and no friends!

    But then I got some good advice: to simply call myself a freelance editor. After following that advice and confidently calling myself a freelance editor (even though I felt, of course, that I was unqualified) in every inquiry e-mail I wrote, I sent out several hundred more e-mails (literally), and while most presses didn’t respond, enough did so that I now I have full-time work that I love with ten different presses.

    I wish you the best of luck throughout what I know is a grueling, unpleasant process! I hope it all works out.

    Like

  12. Tom Cooper

    I’ve spent a lifetime hiring people. It’s true, work ethic is more important than experience. If I were you I would seek jobs that need strong communication skills. You write well and that’s rare. I was on a panel that hired a woman yesterday for a tech position ($55k) who had little tech background, but great oral and written communication skills.

    Like

  13. coffeeteaandbooks

    ^ Completely agree! You can write, argue, and think well. Communications=lucrative.
    —your friendly neighborhood politics/German major who accidentally became a communications director

    Like

  14. MNNelson

    When I entered the job market ( 2008ish) my parents were the same way “You don’t know until you try, apply even if you’re underqualified.” I got a job I hated and then when I got laid off, I went back to school for accounting. Fast forward to graduation and no one would hire a fresh off the press college grad. For entry level, they wanted minimum 3 years of experience because, in essence, they didn’t want to train anyone and it was cheaper to hire someone with experience who was willing to work for less pay than it was to show a newbie the ropes. So now I work retail to pay off the debts of schooling that never got me anywhere to begin with. It’s frustrating.

    Like

  15. The Writing Waifu

    I relate to this so much it hurts. I currently have a work from home job as an editor, which makes basically $0.00, but trying to find something I can do in addition to what I’m doing now has been impossible. I majored in English and economics, and while I thought economics would be my practical degree that would land me all the jobs, so far everything has been retail/call center/sales stuff.

    Perhaps I should follow Rebekah’s advice, too, haha. We will find our way. :)

    Like

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