29 Oct 2012
By Heidi Staseson
So you’ve graduated from college or university. You’re officially a social worker—or an agricultural scientist—or a graphic designer.
You’ve proven your ability to complete something much greater than the highest levels of Call of Duty or Mario Kart. You can hold your own in a lager-fueled discussion on the subject and you’ve got the letters behind your name to prove it.
You’ve also got a whack-load of debt and can’t find a related job to speak of in your chosen field.
This is the sad reality facing numerous college graduates throughout the United States—a trend being mimicked in Canada.
Fort Myers, Florida-based author, former high-tech marketing executive and mom, Diana Wilcox Layman, is so intrigued by the situation she’s writing a book about it.
Entitled Screw the Resumé, the not-as-yet-published book is co-authored by Small Business Professor Bruce Freeman.
Instead of feeling bummed by Corporate America’s slamming of doors and rote rejection notes filling up their inboxes, the authors, in less-colloquially harsh terms, are advising you, the recent and skilled matriculate, to say “suck it,” rise above the unemployment malaise and channel your inner entrepreneur.
Choose your own adventure
You don’t necessarily think of a particular kind of business as giving you a leg up in your wanted career—but it can be, says Layman. “What we’re trying to say is becoming an entrepreneur [first] is a way to a path you might not have considered in finding a career job—or developing an alternate career that you’re interested in.”
No, they’re not telling you to hearken back to that lemonade stand you and your best friend in grade two set up at the ‘U’ end of your cul-de-sac. What the authors are suggesting is actually quite simple: find a field unrelated to your chosen career but one that once you’ve mastered delivering the business behind entrepreneurially—eventually, at a later time, you’ll be primed to: a) go out and nab that originally chosen career job; or b) stay put and grow your start-up sight unseen.
Say your degree’s in social work. Instead of wasting your mental energy firing off applications to no avail for a job as a social worker, there are actually a slew of jobs you could feasibly do, right now, by virtue of the skills you’ve picked up with your degree.
Set up your own credit counseling business, as an example.
Really, think about it. In this debt-laden economy, who doesn’t need to hear more lyrical about churning credit cards into blocks of ice or cutting back on that daily no-foam, half-sweet, pumpkin-spice latte?
Face it, there’re a ton of ads on TV these days showcasing dumbed-down and jaunty jingles about credit scores and the like. Obviously this is trending stuff. You don’t have to be a math whiz to succeed as a credit counsellor; you already know what’s involved in providing social services to a range of socio-economic levels.
So say the authors: You’re a counselor, so counsel!
“Do you really think about credit counseling as a business you want to start if you want to be a social worker? Not really…” says Layman, “…But if [later on] you interview for a social worker job and are [then] able to say ‘I’ve counseled people on how to handle their credit; I’ve dealt with people who are down on their luck and have a great deal of difficulty in dealing with their lives…and I also understand keeping confidentiality as I have 50 clients and I have to be very circumspect in how I deal with them…’
“All of these things are skills that you are using to become more valuable in an interview situation with a social services organization,” she explains.
The same type of entrepreneurial scenario can be applied to a degree in architecture and design, she adds. You could become a cartoonist, etiquette adviser, garage sale coordinator, graphologist, makeup artist, personal shopper, tailor, party planner or house painter.
Same goes for a degree in agriculture. How about trying your hat at: farm sitting, lawn care, handyman work, horse-training, plant- or auto maintenance, grant or proposal writing, tree servicing or taxidermist work?
“These are all examples of small businesses a graduate in [architecture, design or agricultural science] could potentially start up,” Layman notes, adding she’s grouped approximately 250 entrepreneurial-type jobs organized by college major for a chapter in her book. Further, they’re jobs she says would cost anywhere between US $2,000 and $5,000 to start up.
While not directly related to your degree, Layman points out there are enough parallels and transferable skills that you might as well dust away your shame, hang up a shingle, bulk up that paper-thin wallet and pay off some of that current debt—while affording yourself some semblance of a life, even if some of it’s happening in your parent’s garage.
Pretty much any entrepreneurial start-up gives you a leg up in any future interview situation, says Layman. “It gives you something to talk about; it’s something that differentiates you from the rest of the crowd.”
It also gives you an introduction to the world of business and the people that inhabit it. “You get to know the people you’re dealing with and it’s a lot easier to get a job when you know people who will recommend you,” Layman says, referring to the many new customers and suppliers you’ll be working with in your start-up.
You’re getting “entré into the business community,” she remarks, where now you can do things like join the Chamber of Commerce to meet other business people and even potential employers. Also, she adds, when you hear about people who have interesting job openings “you’re not just sitting at home on your parents’ couch waiting for your resume to come through on the internet–you’re out there doing it every day.”
Your breakout into the start-up world is also demonstrative of the vow of maturity, decisiveness and persistence you’ve taken, explains Layman—“the whole host of positive attributes that line up behind an entrepreneur.”
And that, she says, makes you more valuable to anybody, in any career position, anywhere.
Basically, you’re taking action here and now to acquire some business smarts, a little extra cash and you’re positioning yourself to launch as a social worker, or whatever the case may be, in a different time and space—one where you’ll be better-equipped financially along with possessing the business wherewithal to get the job more easily and without being crippled by debt—notwithstanding a decent salary.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover your start-up’s more fulfilling and lucrative than a career in counseling!
On the other hand, there’s always McDonald’s or Wal-Mart.