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Nicole Suddard
Nicole Suddard Marketing Coordinator
6/7/22 10:54 a.m.

So, my sister has been working in retail customer service for several years now, and is trying to pivot to a more "polished" career path while making a move from the Orlando area to the DC area. She's ambitious and whip-smart, but doesn't have a ton of work experience outside of her current job. She has a Bachelor's degree and has continued to be well-read since graduating college.

Do y'all have any advice I could impart to her that would help her in her job search? I know finding a job in a real city is a lot different than the experiences I've had finding work in Daytona through the years.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
6/7/22 11:00 a.m.

I would advise not living in the DC area, or anyplace else as similarly expensive (e.g. NYC, San Francisco, L.A.). Ideally, find a place that isn't as hip, but with a lot of job opportunities. Big but unsexy cities: Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Atlanta, Minneapolis, etc.

Beyond that... everyone starts out with limited work experience. Figure out what marketable soft-skills you have and significant non-work accomplishments you've made. Highlight that and find concrete examples that demonstrate your ability to learn and adapt to a role.

Nicole Suddard
Nicole Suddard Marketing Coordinator
6/7/22 11:03 a.m.

In reply to Beer Baron :

She's moving to live with her partner, who has an established career in that area, so that's what she's working with. Not a matter of "where" but rather a matter of "what" and "how".

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
6/7/22 11:04 a.m.
Nicole Suddard said:

She has a Bachelor's degree and has continued to be well-read since graduating college.

Is the Bachelor's in something that can sustain existance in such an expensive market?  

Find some way to be part of The Machine: https://www.usajobs.gov/

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
6/7/22 11:10 a.m.

Have her go to night school and get a Paralegal Certificate. There is plenty of legal work in DC and not enough people willing to go there and pay the high rents. She could work for a lobbyist, a major law firm or even the Federal Government with all the benefits they offer.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
6/7/22 11:20 a.m.

In reply to Nicole Suddard :

As long as her partner knows the situation and is willing and able to pick up the tab for both of their living expenses, good on her. That's a fun place to be.

All other advice remains the same. Lots of government jobs. Lots of jobs for companies who want to sell things to the government.

trigun7469 UltraDork
6/7/22 11:20 a.m.

Some of my former students moved there, they specialized in Intelligence studies, you either have to live there or visit often with that degree. I think someone who is successful in that career can effectively research and present information at a high level. It would require at the very east to working towards a degree/Masters/Certificate but because they are short staffed in that area my students in the program were hired while studying and did projects virtually and was hired by the company fulltime as soon as they finished.

Javelin MegaDork
6/7/22 11:56 a.m.
John Welsh said:
Nicole Suddard said:

She has a Bachelor's degree and has continued to be well-read since graduating college.

Is the Bachelor's in something that can sustain existance in such an expensive market?  

Find some way to be part of The Machine: https://www.usajobs.gov/

Seconded. Also http://www.governmentjobs.com which is where you'll find the local, municipal, county, and state jobs. 

Katya4me New Reader
6/7/22 12:04 p.m.

Plenty of contract positions in the area, if she's looking to do that.  I'd also recommend Indeed.com.  Going along with the degree question, what field does she want to work in? 

Nicole Suddard
Nicole Suddard Marketing Coordinator
6/7/22 12:59 p.m.

In reply to Katya4me :

I think she's open to a lot of different fields but her degree is in Political Science and History.

Brotus7 Dork
6/7/22 1:27 p.m.

Smithsonian is cool, wonder if her background would help get in there.

Alternatively, my wife was an English major and has had a pretty good career as a paralegal after doing some night school to get her certification.  It's a really mobile field, lawyers are everywhere.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
6/7/22 1:28 p.m.

If she marries this guy, is it likely they will stay in Metro DC or might she move when he moves?  I ask because with a degree (even PoliSci) she might be able to have a Nursing Degree through an accelerated program in 1 year.  Nursing seems to me to be a great career field if moving often is part of the immediate plans.  

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/7/22 1:29 p.m.

In reply to Nicole Suddard :

Can she pivot her retail experience into commissioned sales? Maybe start with something easier to get her foot into the door - literally - like a shoe store, or some other retail place that's primarily commission-driven?

I don't have the personality for that kind of work, but if she does that's something she can find work in anywhere. 

CrustyRedXpress HalfDork
6/7/22 2:58 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

Another vote for commissioned sales. 

Why: Low barrier to entry (just have to be smart and in need of money). Incredible upside-fastest way to financial independence for somebody who doesn't have a computer science degree. Tailor made for humanities majors who understand psychology and have interpersonal and communications skills. At the B2B level it's almost entirely work from home.

How: Like Pete said, start with a retail location (I did cell-phones) and move up quickly to B2B and get into technology B2B as quickly as possible. The retail stuff usually sucks but when she gets to technology sales the wold is her oyster. After she is at a solid company she can move laterally from sales into other areas-sales trainer, management, subject matter expert, etc.

Downside: You'll learn to deal with stress, and it can be a process can be painful. 

Personality doesn't matter as much as you think-I'm an introvert and was pretty awkward at first. If she's interested pass along my info. Sales was good to me and I could talk about this stuff for hours. 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
6/7/22 3:41 p.m.

My nephew just left the DC area.  He was working for a company that contracts to the Smithsonian for restoration work an monuments, statues, etc.  He recently spent a lot of time supervising people on the roof of the Jefferson Memorial.

Doesn't sound like what your sister is looking for, but I thought it was a pretty cool job.  If there's any town that requires that sort of work, it's Washington.

Error404 HalfDork
6/7/22 6:01 p.m.

Can't advise much about sales jobs but if she is looking to transition to a more "traditional" white collar-y role then I recommend she refine her resume and tweak it for each job. Identify the keywords that are stressed in postings and, where relevant, incorporate them into her own resume. Glassdoor is, IMO, an invaluable resource for the job hunter. Indeed is pretty meh, just an aggregator and I hate the interface and lack of utility. Indeed recruiters are, from what I've seen, not the A-list. LinkedIn is a good thing to have up-to-date, at least while job hunting, even if it is FB with ties and the same crummy opinions. LinkedIn is not great for jobs and their filtering is underwhelming but she can only hurt herself by not having some kind of presence. The upside to LinkedIn is the recruiters, if she uploads a polished resume and can speak concisely on what she is hoping to achieve. Lastly, it's all well and good to know what she wants but it's also important to know what she doesn't want in a job/position/role, i.e. travel, low floor/high ceiling, etc...

If i had any better advice then my own job hunt would be going better, so grain o' salt and all that jazz


6/7/22 7:24 p.m.

DEMONSTRATED problem solving and project management are two skills that can take you places.

I don't care what your degree or lack of one might be,  if you can solve my problems for me and/or deliver projects on time and target, you are gold. Show me where you have done this elsewhere and how you see doing it for my organization.


Volunteer organizations can be a good place to build such a resume from scratch. So are political organizations, volunteer or otherwise. 

jwagner (Forum Supporter)
jwagner (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/7/22 11:16 p.m.

Scott Galloway's book The Algebra of Happiness is short and worthwhile for somebody at the stage in life where they're getting started in a career.  Galloway is an interesting character with some unexpected (for a silicon valley rich guy) opinions and ideas, and his book goes beyond focusing on career advice.


tldr; ten minute video version -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMW6xgPgY4s


ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter)
ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/8/22 12:07 a.m.

In reply to Nicole Suddard :

I don't know a ton, but I do know that in my own employment history, networking/personal connections have been the leg up that made the difference every time I was reaching or pivoting in terms of work, even when I was relocating or going out on a limb. It is really easy to fall into the "I don't know anyone" trap, but most of us are more connected than we realize.

Since she is making a move, she may not have a ton of connections yet, but all is not lost. You never know who might help open the door.

I'd recommend she list all organizations she is or was connected to in the past. Alumni office from her alma mater, church, service clubs, volunteer organizations, sorority, hobby/special-interest clubs, professional organizations, I don't know what she is into, but Master Gardeners, Elks Club, 4-H, Society of Germans from Russia, Facebook groups/online forums, Honda N600 owners club, or whatever...they may have a local branch in DC, or provide an avenue to alert members she is new to the area and looking for opportunities. Follow up with as many on the list as possible.

I'd also recommend she make a list of all individuals she has some connection to in the DC area, extended family, former co-workers/classmates, new nextdoor neighbors, connections her partner has, etc. After a brainstorming session of just listing them all, at least some of these connections might be eliminated as impractical/awkward, but I have found the exercise to be useful, and it generates a list of people to reach out to regarding her interest in hearing about opportunities they might stumble across or hear about.

yupididit PowerDork
6/8/22 1:44 a.m.

If she ever shifts directions and get into intelligence (HUMINT and SIGINT), cyber security or homeland defense and is able to be cleared for a TS clearance then she will thrive in this area. Almost all of the contractors that I work with are in one of those 3 areas, they all get paid in the mid 100k's at least. 

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
6/8/22 6:26 a.m.

Playing the long game. If she can get into any of the major departments of governement it will afford her good standard of living, great healthcare, and a really nice pension plan. Yes working for tbt government is boring and mind numbing and tbt pay is better in the private sector but she could retire earlier with more guaranteed money from a lower level job in a department than any other place i know. 

If she is well read. Get her a copy of what color is my parachute and that'll help with some clarity. 

Nicole Suddard
Nicole Suddard Marketing Coordinator
6/8/22 10:28 a.m.

Thanks everyone!

I've shared the link to this thread with her, and she may lurk or may respond, but she definitely appreciates all the advice.

wae PowerDork
6/8/22 10:35 a.m.

In reply to Nicole Suddard :

This is completely third-hand and potentially outdated information, but...  My father-in-law is a physician and my sister-in-law was in a very similar position: college degree but all her work experience was in higher-end retail sales.  His advice to her was that her skillset + her 4-year degree would make her attractive to the pharmaceutical companies as a sales rep.  Now this was about 10 years ago that he said that, and she never took his advice (which is a completely different story).  I don't know if covid or anything else in the last decade killed that field, but at the time they were making pretty serious money.

CrustyRedXpress HalfDork
6/8/22 12:36 p.m.

In reply to jwagner (Forum Supporter) :

I like Galloway but haven't read that book yet-thanks.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
6/8/22 12:50 p.m.

In reply to wae :

The Pharm Rep game has always been filled with the young and the beautiful (and smart.).  A lot of the job is to "get the attention" of the doctor.  Handsome males welcome too to get the attention of the nursing staff.  Of course, being Nicole's sister we can be assured she has "the goods", but if she in not comfortable competing on these goods, it might be best to stay away from the Pharm game. 

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