Unorthdox Gigs to Get You Through College and Beyond

College graduates are coming up on an unforgiving economy and a Congress that screams SOCIALISM, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!! and plays possum every time legislation comes up for safety nets for the young, struggling startups like you and I (a little help, please??).

That's a sweet bridge. Look for large support structures to shield from gusty winter winds.

The facts are—adapt or die.  I mean, not literally.  You could live under a bridge.  My suggestion: think outside of the box when it comes to acquiring skills and experience you’ll need for your career.  Everyone’s waiting tables and applying to the same internships—the right question to be asking is what can you do to stand out?

When I was kicked out of school a few years ago for failing grades my dad said “don’t come home” which was crazy at the time.  I was 18-years-old, had only worked at Chili’s as a hostess and Pitti’s Pizza as a delivery driver.  I wasn’t exactly in high demand, and I owed Princeton a lot of money to come back the next year.  I did what any normal 18-year-old would do and hightailed my butt down to KY to ride racehorses.  I had only had informal experience riding horses but the training was on-the-job and once I broke into the industry I knew I’d be set.  And I was.  I waited tables for a while but wound up riding and training thoroughbreds for three years and at the end of it, here I am back in school but with a wealth of knowledge to bring to my next position (and a fat wallet—I was making upwards of $30/hr, sometimes more).  You get perseverance, dedication, and a good work ethic.  I learned how to deal with problems on my own (no Human Resources on the racetrack)… you get the picture.

You have more options than the typical barista gig, serving job, Abercrombie & Fitch or the elusive office internship.  Furthermore, and this is huge, it will give you a cushion when you leave school, hopefully giving you greater leeway to wait for the right job (as a rule of thumb, a year is the average time it takes to find the right job out of college) while working at a place or learning a trade that has room for growth. Consider also that most of your fellow classmates are waiting tables.  Employers have seen the same old b.s. bullet points under “Server/Bartender at Buddy’s Bar”.  It’s not exciting, it’s vanilla, and it’s too comfortable.  Of college graduates who don’t get jobs, the majority stay at their serving job or barista job.

Job #1 that will get you through college and beyond:

Personal Training: A member of Payscale’s 20 jobs that pay over $20 an hour list.

Let’s break down the job and certification here:

Depending on where you work, you can recruit and manage your own clients, as well as run your own business.   Some gyms allow their personal trainers to ‘freelance.’  The trainer pays a fee to the gym for the use of their equipment and space, but everything else goes directly into the trainer’s pocket.  At other places, you will be paid by the gym to train their clients.  This usually shakes out worse for the trainer per hour but you’re responsible for less bookkeeping (a plus or minus depending on your schedule).

For $400, you can get an ACE certification, plus your exam fee is covered.  In a Mid-Western Town, with only ACE credentials, you can expect:

Average Pay:  $11.72/hr

With more certifications, and certainly in areas where the job is more in demand, the median pay range is  $20.08 – $27.55

I have a few friends who are personal trainers and they adore their jobs.  They meet lots of cool, interesting people and they make changes in people’s lives.

Job #2 that will get you through college and beyond:

Construction:  Two unskilled construction jobs make Payscale’s 20 jobs that pay over $20 an hour.  Ladies, when I type into google ‘female construction worker’ it autofills ‘costumes.’  That’s pretty insulting considering men are not inherently better carpet installers or drywall finishers.  Yet they have a corner on the market.  According to the December 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, construction is coming out of a long industry-wide depression—people are building again!  No degree necessary, you get on-the-job training, which means BOOYAH! your training is paid for by the company.

It’s unorthodox advice, but consider that graduates fresh out of college have a reputation for being undisciplined, not ready for the working world and soft. (adult babies, basically, who need to be potty-trained in the business world).  A consortium held by hiring managers found that the three most important (and lacking!) skills in recent graduates are:  Work Ethic, Teamwork/Collaboration and Oral Communications. All things you can’t help but pick up while doing manual labor jobs (if you don’t want a hammer dropped on your head).   Working in an office isn’t the only place you can pick up skills that make you more valuable to employers, and it beats the heck out of the $7/hr you’ll make at the G A P.

Construction Project Managers make upwards of $100,000 a year and most of them are terrible.  Of all the industries that rely on contract-work, construction ranks worst.  Most of them get paid obscenely well for doing their job at a mediocre level.  Think you can do better?  Start climbing that ladder–get out there and show em!

Job #3 to get you though college and beyond:

Blogging is a great way to make money while you’re attending school but you didn’t think I’d tell you all my secrets, did you?


I’m reading Essentials of Biology