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If you were a recent college grad with a liberal arts degree...
Old 04-24-2010, 05:06 PM   #1
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If you were a recent college grad with a liberal arts degree...

The aspect of this forum that I value most is the wealth of experience that so many of you bring to the table, having made careers at Mega Corp or government agencies. I'm hoping to lean on some of that experience here. I'll cut to the chase and then give some more specifics:

If you were a young, recent college graduate (say, May 2009) with a liberal arts degree and little or no experience, what would you do?

My wife is struggling with this question right now and I'm doing my very best to help find an answer. The good news is that she went to a respected university, achieved a very high GPA, and we've already paid off her student loans. The bad news, as I've figured out looking at job listings, is that her degree is in Linguistics. She studied Spanish and Arabic, but is not completely fluent in either of them. After graduating she interned/worked at a small marketing research firm for about six months doing a variety of things. I think it was decent work experience (albeit low-pay) but she had to give that up to relocate with me (something we might have to do often - another challenge). She is bright, well-rounded, a quick learner - has all the characteristics that the liberal arts schools talk about cultivating. I have heard that this is supposed to be desirable among employers, but I just don't see much opportunity out there for people who haven't specialized in nursing, accounting, engineering, etc. or who don't already have 7-10 years experience. We are looking at graduate school for her - teaching or speech language pathology that would at least give her a specific certification. We can afford to send her back to school, but I kind of recoil at the idea that yet another $20-30k investment (not to mention several years) is required for her to get a decent job. Am I looking at this the wrong way or not? What kinds of jobs do you think she should she look for and how should she try to market her current skills?

Tim
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Old 04-24-2010, 05:29 PM   #2
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Before I jumped at graduate school, I would get some sort of practical experience. Then I would look at what type of graduate school degree would best advance her in a given field taking into mind her experiences.

Another angle would be to become fluent in one or both of the languages. I can't imagine the U.S. government would not have a good opening for someone fluent in either or both of these languages.
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Old 04-24-2010, 05:32 PM   #3
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HR was my field so let me share with you the direction I would go if I could do it all over again: compensation. It requires good analytical skills and very good political skills as it is a corporate hot-seat. The best way to get in is to find an assistant position in that department.. even an admin assistant. Take a couple classes at your local university on compensation, writing job descriptions. Network like crazy.

A Compensation Specialist is paid well. A Compensation Manager needs to wear body armor and is entitied to combat pay (so to speak).
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Old 04-24-2010, 05:58 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by timwalsh300 View Post
The aspect of this forum that I value most is the wealth of experience that so many of you bring to the table, having made careers at Mega Corp or government agencies. I'm hoping to lean on some of that experience here. I'll cut to the chase and then give some more specifics:

If you were a young, recent college graduate (say, May 2009) with a liberal arts degree and little or no experience, what would you do?

My wife is struggling with this question right now and I'm doing my very best to help find an answer. The good news is that she went to a respected university, achieved a very high GPA, and we've already paid off her student loans. The bad news, as I've figured out looking at job listings, is that her degree is in Linguistics. She studied Spanish and Arabic, but is not completely fluent in either of them. After graduating she interned/worked at a small marketing research firm for about six months doing a variety of things. I think it was decent work experience (albeit low-pay) but she had to give that up to relocate with me (something we might have to do often - another challenge). She is bright, well-rounded, a quick learner - has all the characteristics that the liberal arts schools talk about cultivating. I have heard that this is supposed to be desirable among employers, but I just don't see much opportunity out there for people who haven't specialized in nursing, accounting, engineering, etc. or who don't already have 7-10 years experience. We are looking at graduate school for her - teaching or speech language pathology that would at least give her a specific certification. We can afford to send her back to school, but I kind of recoil at the idea that yet another $20-30k investment (not to mention several years) is required for her to get a decent job. Am I looking at this the wrong way or not? What kinds of jobs do you think she should she look for and how should she try to market her current skills?

Tim
Try any of these occupations

1) Sales (degree needed, most may not care what its in if she gets results)
2) Teaching (masters needed, but a school district might pick up the tab)
3) Software industry/ Technical writing... all the online help you see for any software is written by someone. If the company is big enough (software is popular??) that help is translated into other languages... your wife's spanish background would really help in this regard. I am a technical writer, and the people working around me are part of the translation group.
4) Anything which involves people skills- Human resources, administrative assistant (office assistant), event planning, charity fundraising...
5) seasonal work (preparing taxes, gardening, lifeguarding)


The most important thing is passion...followed by common sense. If wife is young and might stay at home with kids, I would recommend NOT investing 20-30k on a masters, as that is money down the drain for the 5-7 years a mother stays home with kids.

If wife could do sales, and has a passion for that... it could be very profitable.
If wife is interested in teaching, then that provided some good benefits and decent job security.


I would also look at your relationship and ask how you see each other (and their roles as far as income is concerned). My wife and I are "equal" workers... we split taking time off when kids are sick or need to go somewhere.

I see other couples where the mother (wife's) career is compromised for the kids. Meaning if someone needs to be at home at 3:30 to meet kids off school bus, the wife's hours are reduced while the husband pulls in a higher wage and more hours.

I see other couples where the mother wants something to keep them busy and get away, but does not want a a lot of responsibility. In this case seasonal work or doing administrative assistant work makes sense.

Some people want a job where on Friday they leave it at the office and don't worry about a thing all weekend... again administrative assistant would be a good one which fits that category, as does teaching.

When I met my wife she could barely find a temp job which paid her $8/hr as an HR assistant (she has an HR degree)... at the time I made more than 3X what she made... fast forward 13 years and her income is catching up to me (quickly)... so it is important you see the earning potential of both spouses as well as help each other make decisions where w*rk is tolerable. I recognized early on that my wife's occupation had a low starting salary, but most mid range HR people made more than I did (I have an engineering degree)... when dating my wife would talk about friends which made low 6 figures (for example) and they had been working no longer than me (meaning we each had about the same number of years experience in our field).
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:15 PM   #5
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I graduated with a B.A in English and American History in 1976. Never took any education classes or had any intent to teach. What was I thinking? My parents were big on education but felt that liberal arts prepared one for life which was much more important than something more vocationally oriented. And my Mom was a public school teacher herself, and I think she liked her job. She didn't encourage either my sister or myself to go in to teaching, for whatever reason. Towards the end of my senior year I hastily took the GRE and got a masters in Library Science at the same school that I attended as an undergrad. I enjoyed my work in various corporate, government, academic and public libraries. I, too, moved around quite a bit with my husband as he did several hospital residencies and was also in the military. I found my degree, at the time, to be fairly portable. Nowadays, I don't think it would be. Libraries have experienced budget cuts, and the whole scope of research has changed with the internet. It is hard to advise someone in career matters as they have to like the work and also have an aptitude for it. If your wife became more fluent, could she do translating? I took Spanish lessons when I lived in CA from a woman who was a physician from Argentina. She decided not to practice in this country but instead did translating for various entities. I believe it was quite well paid and she did most of her work from her home. You wife might also look into government jobs. Wishing her the best. She will find her niche as we all do eventually(I presently work for a state agency and do not do anything remotely related to librarianship).
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:18 PM   #6
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Join the military or the CIA.
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:33 PM   #7
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I'd definitely go to work for the federal government.
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:35 PM   #8
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I guess it depends on how important it is that she be mobile to follow you in your career, as opposed to the other way around. CIA programs for undergrad and grad students in linguistics which are a way in to either open-source intelligence analyst positions or clandestine service linguistics jobs. The former are going to be in Washington DC metro area, and the latter could be anywhere in the world.

State Department - either as an FSO or Foreign Service Specialist.

Federal law enforcement. If she doesn't want to carry a badge and gun there are many other career positions available. Intelligence analyst or non-criminal type investigator. She can apply for hardship transfers to follow you around if that's what you guys want/need.

The government is hiring, it's secure work, and there is the benefit of protecting your homeland.
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Old 04-24-2010, 09:04 PM   #9
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Most posters are pointing toward job descriptions: salesperson, admin. asst., HR specialist, CIA analyst ,etc.There's nothing wrong with that advice, and I agree that some thought about her career interests and options is important.

But in terms of job-hunting, I would also do some research on the employers in your area who are most likely to value the language skills your DW brings to the job. Fluency is only an edge if the employer has a need to conduct some aspect of their business in the foreign language.

For example, a candidate executive assistant possessing some Arabic skills would be attractive to a firm doing business in the Middle East. Spanish skills could be useful if the company does business in Latin America or domestically in a field that does service work catering to immigrant populations.

Don't overlook service businesses that subcontract to the local Megacorp that has business overseas. There is probably a local law firm that helps them negotiate their deals. Or a freight forwarder who helps get the Megawidgets on their way to overseas destinations.

I found this tip Googling. It seems logical:
If you can speak more than one language, increase your job searches to include searches based on language alone—such as “Arabic teacher,” plus search according to your specialized skills using keywords like “accountant jobs.” Don’t forget to combine searches for both using keywords like “Arabic and teacher.” If you find one of those, and you have the specific skill set a company seeks, you are likely to be a strong candidate for the job.
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Old 04-24-2010, 09:36 PM   #10
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I have a niece with an English degree. She had various awful jobs, then found that a little training in massage and yoga soon put her on a controllable and very lucrative career.

She is good with people, very good looking, very thin, and very flexible. So this is a career where you are your own advertisement, and you have to prospect for your clients and like doing this. Likely many massage therapists or yoga teachers are barely squeaking by.

She teaches some classes, but the majority of clients are wealthy women who often have her come to their houses, or sometimes go to her studio for private attention or instruction.

It's the opposite end of the world from government jobs, but some people couldn't stand one and others couldn't stand the other.

I doubt it would be very portable, as your client base is an asset that you really don't want to abandon.

Ha
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Old 04-24-2010, 10:12 PM   #11
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My daughter has a liberal arts degree . She worked at Boston University as an executive assistant . They paid for her Master's which was in Education . She taught for a few years and also started a business designing web sites . She is now an assistant Dean at a small college and her business is also flourishing . So Liberal Arts was good to her !
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Old 04-24-2010, 10:23 PM   #12
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Were I her I would build on my Arabic even if at this point she is not fluent at this time. She can develop her listening skills with CDs/tapes from your public library. Try checking out books written for children in Arabic. Watch Arabic language TV if available.

Arabic, like English, has dialects. If an employer needs an Arabic speaker she can work on the dialect needed with that employer.
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Old 04-25-2010, 12:10 AM   #13
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Around here, if you're multilingual you're frequently employed in the visitors industry... hotel, tours, concierge, reservations/sales.
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Old 04-25-2010, 07:04 AM   #14
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Look at local universities and colleges as well -- areas like student services, the libraries (though MLS is often required, not always), and the international programs office (even small colleges frequently have them) would be a good place to look for openings that would see her multiple languages as an asset. International program administration is also a possibility, as is working in the non-profit sector. Many non-profit employers highly value multilingual staff, as well as the skill set that comes with a good liberal arts education.

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Old 04-25-2010, 07:39 AM   #15
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Thank you for all the input so far. I'll comment on a few things...

1. State Dept, CIA, etc: I absolutely agree with this one. Whenever she gets discouraged I remind her that she probably could have had a fantastic job with one of these agencies right out of college. The problem is location - you have to either live in the DC area or be willing to travel the world. With this in mind I've made it a career goal to get assigned to the DC area, but it will not happen for a few years.

2. Priorities, relationship, family plans: For better or worse, my career has to take priority right now. I'm in the military so I can't just decide to take another job. And because I'm still very junior I have almost zero control over where we get assigned or when we move. Unfortunately it puts her in a difficult position. That said, don't get me wrong, I'd have absolutely no problem with taking a backseat and letting her earn more than me someday. We don't plan to have kids for a while, but she'd probably like to be able to take at least some time off to be with them if/when we do. No matter what, I think she'd prefer work that gives her flexibility to take time off and can be left behind everyday at the close of business.

3. Leveraging her Spanish/Arabic ability: Your comments have confirmed my own opinion that this is probably her most unique and valuable asset. It's not easy to develop these skills unless one can go somewhere to completely immerse themselves, but she enjoys learning and I think she can accomplish a lot on her own. One thing we've talked about is doing some private tutoring especially since a lot of military people are trying to learn Arabic for their own careers. We'll also start looking for companies/agencies/schools in our area that might want someone with these skills. A question for the HR folks here: Is it a good idea to approach companies about this when they haven't specifically listed openings for this kind of work? What is the best way to try?

4. Yoga/massage therapy: We've actually talked about her getting certified to be a personal trainer. She is in great shape, fairly knowledgeable, and we go to the gym together all the time. I don't know if this could be a real full-time job on its own but it may be good combined with some tutoring, freelance writing, and other things.

Tim
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Old 04-25-2010, 08:07 AM   #16
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If she is interested in management or something in general business.. get an MBA. Most schools have an MBA program.
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Old 04-25-2010, 08:21 AM   #17
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3. Leveraging her Spanish/Arabic ability: Your comments have confirmed my own opinion that this is probably her most unique and valuable asset. It's not easy to develop these skills unless one can go somewhere to completely immerse themselves, but she enjoys learning and I think she can accomplish a lot on her own. One thing we've talked about is doing some private tutoring especially since a lot of military people are trying to learn Arabic for their own careers. We'll also start looking for companies/agencies/schools in our area that might want someone with these skills. A question for the HR folks here: Is it a good idea to approach companies about this when they haven't specifically listed openings for this kind of work? What is the best way to try?

4.

Tim

My wife did temp to hire and temp jobs for about 4 years out of college. My wife is unique in that her Bachelors degree is in HR... many of the "new hires" she was working with did not have a degree in the field.

Find an Adecco office, or another temp firm (in your area) and have wife sign up with them for HR positions.

The advantage of temping is the jobs and experience comes diverse and fast. In a 3 year span my wife did recruiting, payroll, employee relations and HRIS work. A huge advantage to this is she could see what she liked and what she did not like. If my wife does not process payroll again (for example) that is good with her...

The downside was she was single, making a low wage, and receiving no benefits. Once she had "foothold" with some entry level experience, she was interviewed much more for low level and mid level full time positions.

She now works as an HR consultant for a large payroll processing company in their HR premier service. Her company consults her out to about 20-40 clients, and my wife handles anything from Legal consulting (workers comp, COBRA), job descriptions, employee handbooks, facilitating any 401k or payroll issues with other departments within her company and many other issues. She is usually at a client for about 1-3 hours, then off to another client... and that really appeals to her as she can set her schedule when kids have doctor appointments and similar.

My wife's company, in certain markets, would have some manufacturing clients which might have need for a spanish speaking consultant. I am sure the competitors of the same company would have the same need. There are times (for example) my wife does harassment seminars or other training for the companies... here in midwest USA her clients speak english... but I could see assignments in larger metro areas where most of the employees were spanish or bilingual.


HR is an interesting field... it is clearly overhead... and its one of the first places "job cuts" happen. It is also a clear need for 100% of companies with 3 or more employees which are not family (related) because of payroll and other legal issues the government keeps changing.

Look in Paper for jobs titled HR assistant, administrative assistant, payroll specialist and HR representative.

All of those could be an entry level position until the right position comes along. If your wife can process payroll, there is job security in that as well once the skill is learned.

My wife's other titles have included
HR Generalist
HR Representative
HR specialist

My wife has friends which are
VP of Human Resources
HR Manager

and I probably missed a few in there too...

You need to read the job descriptions carefully... especially using services like Monster... my wife would scour administrative assistant jobs and see HR functions in them and apply for those.

It was tough breaking in... so wife went to temp agencies... and once she had experience (about 2-3 years) the interviews were frequent. My wife also holds a PHR (Professional in Human Resources) and most of her friends have it too. That is good for a 5k-10k raise within 2 years of passing the test (kind of like an accountant getting CPA). My wife could not do her current job without that (it was a requirement to get it).
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Old 04-25-2010, 10:17 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timwalsh300 View Post
...

3. Leveraging her Spanish/Arabic ability: Your comments have confirmed my own opinion that this is probably her most unique and valuable asset. It's not easy to develop these skills unless one can go somewhere to completely immerse themselves, but she enjoys learning and I think she can accomplish a lot on her own. One thing we've talked about is doing some private tutoring especially since a lot of military people are trying to learn Arabic for their own careers. We'll also start looking for companies/agencies/schools in our area that might want someone with these skills. A question for the HR folks here: Is it a good idea to approach companies about this when they haven't specifically listed openings for this kind of work? What is the best way to try?
...
Tim
Wrangle an "informational interview" Without knowing the specifics of your environment it is difficult to suggest with whom, but consider who in your area might have the need for the language ability. See what can be learned about the employer on the internet then casually ask one of their employees who she might talk to. Often employers haven't considered the need, didn't know that a skill set is in their neighborhood. Jobs have been created around the skills of an individual but the manager must sell the need internally.

Language ability is only one facet of a job description. She should consider what other skills and abilities she can bring to the table. Federal contractors are obligated to list their employment opportunities with the State Employment Service (specially the Veteran's Rep but most State offices post them all after a couple days), she should look at those to learn more details about the employer's needs.

She should continue to develop the language skills, particularly Arabic. Lots of Americans speak Spanish as well as English but rarely Arabic. THAT has real value.
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Old 04-25-2010, 10:47 AM   #19
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Dyncorp or similar contractors. They support a lot of federal military and civilian missions all across the country and overseas. They have a division that does nothing but supply linguists. It can be a stepping stone towards regular federal jobs as well.
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Old 04-25-2010, 12:23 PM   #20
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I agree with Brat.

If she's going to focus on gaining true fluency (extremely difficult without immersion) then Arabic is obviously the more valuable tool for government jobs just from the standpoint of available pool of fluent American citizens who they'd be willing to grant a clearance to.

I can't imagine it's very difficult to find Spanish speakers as this country has tens of millions of Americans who grew up in Spanish speaking households. I suspect if you picked a random army platoon serving in the Middle East right now there would be several who are fluent in Spanish.

That said becoming fluent in Arabic without either going to DLI or living in the Middle East will probably take years, so not sure if it's a reasonable goal.
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