When that dream career doesn’t just fall into your lap, sometimes you need a dramatic change of pace—and perspective.
Many of us have reached a moment that feels like rock-bottom when we’re jobless, broke, and not sure where to go next. It usually goes hand-in-hand with the term “post grad”—but that’s certainly not a requisite—and it’s accompanied by indescribable frustration. You feel like you’ve clicked through every job listing, haven’t heard back about an interview in weeks, and despairing, you wail: “I think I might actually wind up washing dishes.”
Why do we consider working in a kitchen the worst possible scenario? Because it doesn’t make use of our higher education? Most of us won’t find a career in the same field as our majors. Because it doesn’t pay well? Many of us will take jobs that we find fulfilling but pay terribly with no regrets.
Or maybe it’s just the image of disgusting half-chewed food and grease caked to dinner plates. If that’s the issue, we’ve got no real retort except maybe: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
Here’s what we’re getting at:
Sometimes the job you want is nowhere to be found. During periods of drought—when your field looks more like a post-apocalyptic wasteland than a land of opportunity—don’t beat yourself up. Instead, consider some less glamorous options to tide you over. They might actually (dare we say it?) help you find exactly where you need to be.
Why do we consider working in a kitchen the worst possible scenario? Because it doesn’t make use of our higher education? Less than 27% of us will find a career in the same field as our majors.
featured photo via madewell
image via libation magazine
1. Bartender or server
Look, we’re just going to say it: it’s hard to get along with people in general; it’s exponentially worse if they’re inebriated. The job’s not easy, but working as a bartender or server teaches you many things: multitasking, focus under pressure, people skills. You might even learn a thing or two about good food and great wine. Plus, considering food sucks up a huge part of your monthly budget, working in restaurants gives you access to heavily discounted meals—some restaurants even feed their teams for free.
Aim to work in a restaurant that serves alcohol to land better tips. Then try living off them while putting your full paycheck (or as much as you can) toward savings. Before you know it, you’ll have a financial buffer that you can use to travel or take some time off to focus on finding your next gig.
Working in hospitality also gives you incredible flexibility. You can spend your free mornings at interviews or in classes, plan last-minute trips, or pick up extra shifts when you’re feeling financially uneasy.
image by bethany menzel
We’ve all heard the childcare horror stories. Working with kids can be exhausting, especially when you’re dealing with helicopter parents or questionable family dynamics. But if you pick the right situation, nannying offers some uncommon perks. Many families take their caregiver on vacations abroad, giving you the opportunity to travel for free. And after you’ve put the kids to bed early, you can focus a few hours on your job hunt (guilt-free while still getting paid!).
Try living off your tips while putting your full paycheck (or as much as you can) toward savings. Before you know it, you’ll have a financial buffer that you can use to travel or take some time off while you focus on finding your ideal gig.
Finally, we’re about to tell a hard, cold truth: if you’re really broke? Working as a nanny typically means a free lunch (and possibly breakfast and dinner, too) thanks to a well-stocked kitchen of healthy foods. Have you seen the pantries of wellness-focused parents?
image via who what wear
3. Retail Assistant
The key to this option is choosing the store wisely. If at all possible, work in a local boutique in your neighborhood (or any neighborhood you love). Typically smaller shops don’t require that you wear their clothes exclusively while working—a costly investment when you start considering stores like Anthropologie or J. Crew—and you’ll get to play a role in your local economy.
Working in retail teaches you people skills, including the not-so-fun elements like dealing with difficult customers or situations. It also forces you to attain a certain level of accounting knowledge, which believe it or not, will come in handy in everyday situations—like when you’re trying to split a check five ways or calculate tips.
As you serve them cold brews, customers inevitably start conversations. When you meet people who work in fields that appeal to you (people you may never have met otherwise), build relationships with them.
If you work at a higher-end store, you can also use your discount to purchase interview clothing—a necessary investment that still makes us wince just thinking about it. But play it smart: your low hourly wage doesn’t allow much room for impulse buys. Plan carefully to avoid burning through the limited cash you earn on clothes you don’t need.
photo via 88 food
4. Barista at your neighborhood coffee shop
Not recommended if you’re not a morning person, but this is our number one for almost every other reason. Here are just a few:
1. Free coffee is free coffee is free coffee.
2. You’re typically off by 2 or 3pm meaning: naps before evening plans, pain-free trips to deserted Trader Joe’s, and movie matinees in empty theaters.
3. You make decent enough tips to keep your head above water and set aside some savings (see our points about working as a server).
Most of all, though, working as a barista is one of the best ways to network organically.
People tend to stay loyal to their coffee shop, often stopping in daily. You start to recognize faces and make friends. As you serve them cold brews, customers inevitably start conversations about who they are and what they do.
Ask questions and convey interest. When you meet people who work in fields that appeal to you (people you may never have met otherwise, incidentally), build relationships with them. When you’ve comfortably established a rapport, try asking them for advice about your own career ambitions.Who knows? Someone might appreciate your personality and candor and offer you a job.
What was the best “write-off” job you’ve ever had?