Suggest a career for someone who hasn't worked since 1998

I have a friend who got an Ivy League BS in Math, then dropped out of grad school, then developed a problem with depression and hasn’t worked since.
She wants a career, because she thinks it’d be good for her psychologically.

Starbucks or Whole Foods.

I recently read 100 Bullshit Jobs And How To Get Them. Just the contents list alone will provide much food for thought.

P.S Barista is one of the jobs.

First off what has she been doing for the past 15 years? [Serious question. Is she used to being around people at all? Done any volunteering? Been a soccer mom? Depending on what she’s done with herself since school may help answer your question]

I just reconnected with her. Not sure what she’s been doing, and it seems like the answer is ‘not much’ or ‘living with her financially secure parents’.

In that case, Starbucks or Whole Foods or some other similar gig probably wouldn’t be a bad idea as a place to start. She can focus on building up a career once she’s gotten her feet wet.

Nice find, I like one of the final items:

Vice President of the United States

Is she reliable and generally competent? If so, I’d expect the particular job wouldn’t matter, and finding a company where the workers are treated reasonably well should be her priority. Competence will let her move up.

Frankly, I’m brainstorming and can’t answer that question.

Many employers are going to be wary of someone with a 14 year long resume gap, so I would really just suggest applying for whatever she thinks she has a shot at and seeing who bites rather than trying to be picky at first.

Lancia mentioned volunteering, which is an area I’m involved with.

We do recommend it as a way back into the workforce for the long term unemployed. The situation you described would make it a really useful stepping stone. She doesn’t need the money, her skills are probably out of date.

As she is dealing with depression, volunteering may help her refocus on other people and build her self esteem.

Your friend will gain practice in interviewing, presentation and organisation just to get herself a placement. Depending on the role(s) she takes on, she can fill in gaps in her skills and build experience in her field.

While volunteering, she’ll be practicing her responsibile attitude, reliability, people skills and ongoing presentation (having one good outfit for the interview does not mean she can put together and maintain a wardrobe for ongoing shifts).

If nothing else it looks better to have *something *on her resume.

She can volunteer while searching for paid employment, it’s not a zero sum game. Volunteering in an area similar to her career goals can provide contacts for employment.

And where does one go to apply for her old position?

Is your friend in a position to go back to school at all? That might give her a better chance of finding a much better job than she’s likely to get otherwise.

With a little more graduate study she might be able to become a schoolteacher. At least a few years ago, I remember that there were some schools here in the US that would hire a bachelor’s degree holder as a teacher and give them X probationary years to complete a master’s degree while teaching.

Inner city or low income area schools will probably have lower practical standards for hire because those positions are less prestigious and there are probably fewer highly qualified applicants.

Teacher is a relatively demanding job, that can be psychologically taxing (especially in difficult areas). It also requires some level of self-confidence. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone trying to recover from depression.


I have a cousin just like this. She’s in her mid 40s and hasn’t worked for many years. She is completely dependent on her parents. Claims to be bipolar.

Every couple of years her parents will “get tough” with her and force her to go out and look for a job. She makes a half-assed attempt and then claims there are “no jobs that suit her.” The truth is 1) She doesn’t want to work, 2) She doesn’t have to work, and 3) She no longer has the discipline and drive to show up to a job every day.

Her parents have enabled her for so long, and she has been out of work for so long, that it is doubtful she will ever again hold a regular job. She’s an only child, and will be dependent on her parents even after they’re gone (via a large inheritance). It’s ultimately the fault of her parents.

Depending how fresh her math knowledge is, maybe she could tutor rich local students in math for $50 an hour. There’s no expiration date on an Ivy League education, and if her parents are that rich, they’re probably quite well-connected locally.

I had a buddy with a less than ivy league math degree. Fucked around for years playing cash poker games at the local casinos. Then he took whatever the requisite tests are to be an actuary. He does that now. Really depends how much your friend loves math, if she’d want to be an actuary. I’d rather stab myself with a mechanical pencil, but then again I really hate math. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yup. Tenured college professors in a liberal arts field. Probably connected well enough to make that go.