The LGBTQ+ community is large and made up of a diverse group of people, all with unique identities and from different backgrounds. However, rates of substance use and abuse are significantly higher across this population than in cisgender, heterosexual individuals. In fact, recent research exploring substance use trends in the LGBTQ+ community discovered that individuals in this population are more likely to use illegal drugs, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and have substance abuse disorders. Further, these higher rates of substance use were noticed across “subgroups of adults defined by sex and by age group,” suggesting that this is a serious and significant issue that could affect all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In the United States, it’s estimated that 4.5% of the population is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. This means over 14 million people in the U.S. alone are at a significantly higher risk of misusing substances or developing a substance use disorder. Misusing substances can have devastating and far-reaching consequences for individuals themselves, their friends and family members, the healthcare system, and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. In order to effectively address this issue and better support people struggling with substance use, it’s crucial to understand more about the LGBTQ+ community, how and why substance abuse affects this population, and what treatment solutions and resources are available that can help LGBTQ+ individuals overcome this issue.
The LGBTQ+ community faces myriad unique challenges that heterosexual, cisgender individuals do not. Someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not intrinsically cause problems or make them abuse substances; rather, the difficulties the LGBTQ+ community faces stem from external factors and societal attitudes regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some of the biggest challenges include:
For many LGBTQ+ individuals, these issues can occur on a daily basis. They can affect every aspect of daily life, from minor interactions and casual conversations to more serious quality-of-life factors, including employment and housing. Many experts view these challenges, pressures, and stressors through the lens of minority stress. This framework suggests that members of stigmatized minority groups experience higher levels of chronic stress for longer amounts of time because of widespread, large-scale discrimination and prejudice.
Minority stress has been shown to have multiple negative health outcomes for the LGBTQ+ population, including physical health problems, effects on mental health, and a decline in overall wellbeing. Additionally, minority stress has also been linked to substance use among members of this community. When faced with these constant stressors, some LGBTQ+ individuals may turn to harmful substances as a way to cope. Though this coping mechanism can provide temporary relief from these problems, it can create even more health issues down the road or lead to a dependency on these substances.
Whether or not someone is part of the LBGTQ+ community, when someone misuses substances or becomes dependent upon them, it doesn’t just affect that person or their loved ones. It can actually have a huge impact on other members of the LGBTQ+ community and society as a whole. Some of these far-reaching and potentially devastating consequences include:
Though choosing to use substances of any sort seems like an individual choice, it ultimately has a ripple effect that can both directly and indirectly impact other people, communities, and institutions across the United States.
Any type of drug or substance, regardless of its legal status, can be misused or abused. However, some substances are used more frequently than others, especially by members of the LGBTQ+ community. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual (LGB) Adults, these are the major substance use trends among the LGBTQ+ community:
Substance use disorders are complex and closely related to other mental health conditions. In fact, substance use disorders commonly co-occur with other mental illnesses. This is referred to as a “co-occurring disorder.” Over seven million adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders. In addition to being more likely to have a substance use disorder, LGBTQ+ individuals are also more likely to have co-occurring disorders.
Although it can vary greatly from person to person, co-occurring disorders can be both a reason for and a result of substance abuse. People experiencing mental illnesses may turn to substances as a coping mechanism; conversely, using substances can cause a decline in mental health. It can be difficult to determine which condition arose first, especially since they may change in severity over time, but both conditions are usually treated simultaneously.
Some of the most common mental health conditions that co-occur with substance use disorders include:
Anxiety disorders are typified by overwhelming feelings of nervousness, worry, and fear. Temporarily feeling anxious is a normal part of daily life, but when someone has an anxiety disorder, those feelings may not go away; in some instances, they can worsen over time. There are several different types of anxiety disorders — including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias — and someone can be diagnosed with more than one at the same time.
Research studying the intersection of anxiety disorders and substance use suggests that people with an anxiety order may self-medicate as a way of coping. This can lead to the development of a substance use disorder, as well as more severe anxiety symptoms, especially when sober. The study linked above also notes that individuals with co-occurring anxiety and substance use disorders tend to have greater difficulties and impairments in day-to-day activities.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is “an illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior.” Symptoms of BPD include extreme mood swings, difficulties maintaining stable relationships, distorted self-image, and impulsively engaging in risky or dangerous behaviors. BDP was once thought to be difficult to treat, but in recent years, treatment options have greatly improved, including new forms of psychotherapy and medication.
BPD frequently co-occurs with substance use disorders, and, in some instances, with more than one. One study suggests that as many as 25% of people diagnosed with a substance use disorder also meet the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. Additionally, an expanding pool of research shows there is a close link between BDP and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, especially when compared to other personality disorders.
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by a low or sad mood across most activities and situations for at least two weeks. It is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world, and the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 264 million people suffer from some form of depression. There are several different types, some of which persist for longer amounts of time (such as clinical depression and persistent depressive disorder) or only arise in certain situations (such as postpartum depression or seasonal affective disorder). Common symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, sudden changes in appetite or sleep schedule, and loss of interest in hobbies or enjoyable activities.
Depression frequently co-occurs with other mental health conditions, as well as substance use disorders. Alcohol use disorders are more common than drug use disorders among people with other major depressive disorders. In addition to being at a greater risk of substance use disorders, both LGBTQ+ youth and adults are more likely to experience depression than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop after witnessing or experiencing a dangerous, terrifying, or otherwise traumatic event. Many events and situations can cause trauma, including assault, the death of a loved one, or abuse. It’s natural to feel scared, stressed, or upset both during and after a traumatic situation, but when those feelings persist long after it’s over or interfere with daily life, it may constitute PTSD. Flashbacks or bad dreams, trying not to think about the event, and being jumpy or easily startled can all be symptoms of PTSD.
PTSD and substance use disorders are closely linked; as many as half of the individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorders meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Further, individuals diagnosed with PTSD are more than twice as likely to meet the criteria for a substance use disorder than individuals who are not. LGBTQ+ individuals are at a greater risk of developing PTSD at some point in their lives. Some researchers attribute this risk to the “greater exposure to violence, exposure to more potentially traumatic events, and earlier age of trauma exposure” that may occur when families and communities reject LGBTQ+ individuals because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Schizophrenia is “a chronic, severe mental disorder that affects the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others.” Compared to other mental health conditions, it is uncommon, affecting only an estimated 0.25% to 0.64% of the U.S. population. Although rare, it can be incredibly debilitating when left untreated, with symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.
Again, schizophrenia is much less common than other mental health conditions, but it has high rates of co-occurrence with substance use disorders. As many as 47% of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia have a severe problem with drugs or alcohol at some point in their lifetime, compared to just 16% of the general population. Like other mental health conditions, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, especially gay and bisexual men. Schizophrenia that co-occurs with substance use disorders is associated with significantly higher risks of negative health outcomes and greater difficulties accessing treatment. These challenges may worsen already-existing disparities in healthcare for LGBTQ+ individuals.
On top of being at a greater risk for developing substance use disorders and certain mental health conditions, members of the LGBTQ+ community also face greater challenges when accessing healthcare services and receiving effective treatment. There is no single cause for these care disparities among LGBTQ+ individuals — the reasons members of this community are either unable or unwilling to seek treatment are varied and diverse, such as:
Improving education about LGBTQ+ health among medical professionals is perhaps the best solution to addressing these issues and overcoming these barriers. Lack of training and education can have a direct impact on patient outcomes and ultimately result in suboptimal care. Simply put, cultural diversity in healthcare is a necessity to ensure all patients, regardless of their background or identity, receive the care they need.
Healthcare workers who interact with patients on a daily basis, like nurses and CNAs, are a crucial part of this solution. Part of a CNA’s job duties is specifically to communicate with and comfort their patients, and they must be able to do that for LGBTQ+ patients, no matter what their personal attitudes or beliefs are. Doing so may contribute to more positive health outcomes, both in the short- and long-term, for that patient — which is precisely why comprehensive CNA training is so important. However, this doesn’t just apply to CNAs and nurses; everyone, from doctors to administrative staff, must be able to work with every person who comes into their practice for treatment. By making an active effort to provide the best care for every patient and taking steps to learn as much as possible about LGBTQ+ health, it’s possible to eliminate these healthcare disparities for the LGBTQ+ community.
While education about treatment for LGBTQ+ health issues is important, so is preventing substance abuse among members in this community. When done effectively, prevention is thought to be the best strategy for reducing rates of substance use and lessening its overall societal impact, particularly among adolescents and youth. Because LGBTQ+ individuals are at a significantly greater risk, it’s especially important to focus on preventing substance use before anything else.
In addition to preventing substance use, there are also myriad resources available for intervention, treatment, and recovery. For more information and support in helping LGBTQ+ individuals with substance use, please consult the following resources:
There are many reasons a mother may want to get a job, whether it be for financial freedom, gaining paid-vacation time, or gaining a sense of financial security. While getting a job may seem straightforward enough, it can be overwhelming for moms to find the right fit for their lifestyle. For instance, if their partner works days, they might want to find a job with night hours to save money on daycare.
Currently, the majority of mothers are in the workforce, as 70% of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force. However, some working moms may require flexible positions in order to balance the needs of their children with their professional obligations. Below we have compiled a list of the eight best flexible job examples for mothers.
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) provide basic care and help aid patients with their daily activities. To become a CNA, you must receive the proper training to get certified. This certification will show employers that you are knowledgeable and up to date on caretaking and nursing methods. Other duties of certified nursing assistants include:
Many nursing assistants work in nursing homes or residential care facilities, but they are also seen in hospitals. In 2018, the median salary for CNAs was $28,540, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is expected to grow 9% in the next ten years. There are many reasons to choose a CNA career, including the benefit of working in shifts, full time, or on an hourly basis. Not to mention, CNAs have job security through economic fluctuations as well as an affordable program to get certified.
Customer service representatives help customers solve their shopping problems, process orders, and answer questions. This type of work is excellent for mothers for two reasons:
Most representatives need a high school diploma and are trained on the job, which makes this job ideal for previous stay-at-home mothers. While the median hourly wage for customer service representatives is only $16.23, this job still remains flexible because you can work from home. For instance, Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, wants to employ 3,000 seasonal customer service reps that work from home.
Data entry keyers verify and prepare data before it is printed or entered into data entry devices. Industries that hire these types of workers include:
The annual wage for data entry keyers is $32,170, and many are able to work part-time.
Financial clerks can work for many types of organizations, and typically perform administrative work, keep records, help companies, and carry out transactions. Examples of financial clerks include:
The financial clerk industry is projected to grow 5%, which is on par for most occupations. This means that there is a steady demand for these types of workers. Also, there is no degree requirement and most learn their job duties through on-the-job training, which makes this type of work ideal for mothers that have either had a long work hiatus or don’t have a strong work background. The BLS also states the average salary lands at $39,570, which makes financial clerks one of the highest paying jobs that don’t require a degree.
Graphic designers create visual concepts using computer software. Many designers are employed by publishers, advertisers, and service industries. On a day-to-day basis, graphic designers create labels, illustrations, and entire brand identities. They also collaborate with upper management and clients and use various software and systems to make different kinds of content.
This job is ideal for moms because it is highly customizable. Many graphic designers are freelancers, meaning they work out of their homes and rarely go into offices. You can also work part-time or full-time depending on your needs. According to the BLS, the median salary for a graphic designer in 2018 was $50,370, and the job expectancy is supposed to grow by 2028, albeit slowly — the field of graphic design is competitive. In order to stand out from the competition, you must get a bachelor’s degree in either graphic design or a related field, as well as a portfolio.
Social media specialists communicate and connect with the public through social media on behalf of their clients. Often, a company or a marketing agency will hire a social media specialist to carry out daily tasks. These tasks include:
This job can act as a creative outlet for mothers, especially when it comes to solving customer problems online. To become a social media specialist, you typically need a bachelor’s degree. However, some companies may hire you if you have the necessary experience. The average salary for a social media specialist is $56,770 and job demand is expected to grow as more people and businesses discover the power of social media.
Virtual secretaries and administrative assistants perform all the routine clerical duties that an in-office secretary does — only at home. They organize files, prepare documents, schedule appointments, and support other staff. Since they are remote, the job duties have also expanded to marketing, web design, and bookkeeping.
While some virtual assistants could work for a company, many operate their own virtual assistant business out of their home, and use freelance sites to acquire jobs. This allows flexibility with mothers by letting them choose their own jobs and hours. Virtual assistants are extremely similar to in-office secretaries, and so have similar salaries. As of 2018, the median salary for secretaries and administrative assistants was $38,880.
Mothers who are looking into writing will find that this is one of the most flexible jobs because writers can work anywhere they have access to a computer and the internet. This means moms could either stay home with the kids, or write somewhere else and get away. Writing is a versatile job in that they can choose what they would like to write, including:
Those looking to become a writer can expect to make an average of $62,170 per year, and typically need a bachelor’s degree to obtain work.
Flexibility is a vital concern when choosing a job, but it is not the only consideration to keep in mind. You’ll also want to ensure that the job you take fits your lifestyle. For instance, if you need to be off at 3 p.m. to pick kids off at school, it’s probably not pertinent to get a job that has strict 9-5 hours. If you are unsure which job is right for you, keep the following criteria in mind.
Your career option should be a reflection of your skillset. If you are proficient in math and science, it may not make sense for you to take a job in graphic design. Focusing on your skillset will help ensure you find a job that you are interested in instead of just focusing on the paycheck.
Your life objectives could have a huge role in deciding which type of job to get. Your potential earnings must match your aspirations in life, including:
By choosing the job with the right earning potential, you can reach certain benchmarks in your life faster and more easily.
Down the line, as your children grow up and your schedule becomes less strained, you may want to pivot your focus to a more career-oriented lifestyle. It’s important to determine if your job will allow meaningful advancements for you because it resembles a sense of purpose. For example, in a CNA career, you could look into becoming a licensed vocational nurse or a traveling nurse.
Moms want and obtain jobs for many reasons. By researching the job and ensuring it aligns with your schedule, life objectives, and skill set, you’ll be able to balance a career while still being a parent.
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Consider the following scenario: A senior Irish woman was hospitalized and scheduled to have surgery. Several days before the surgery, the woman told her family that she was experiencing extreme pain, but she didn’t say anything about this to her physician. The doctor, who was unaware that Irish culture typically minimizes expressions of pain, failed to recognize the woman’s worsening state. When the senior requested that the surgery take place sooner, the physician viewed it as unnecessary — and so she ignored the request. By the time the scheduled surgery took place, the patient was in a substantially worsened state. As a result, she died during the operation.
This is from a case study provided by cultural diversity expert Dr. Geri-Ann Galanti, and it is but one of many stories of inequity in the healthcare system. Stories like this highlight the necessity of cultural diversity in healthcare. Healthcare professionals, from leadership to entry-level positions, have a responsibility to ensure each patient has access to the care they need. Without a diverse and culturally competent workforce, however, this goal cannot be achieved.
Why is cultural diversity important in healthcare, and how can we achieve it? This article will discuss these issues and shine a light on the path toward a more equitable healthcare system.
Statistics indicate that there are substantial racial gaps when it comes to minority representation in healthcare — particularly when it comes to African American and Hispanic healthcare professionals. These groups respectively account for 13.4% and 18.3% of the U.S. population, but they are underrepresented in most healthcare fields.
Take a look through the occupations below to see the extent of these disparities, based on data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration:
|Healthcare Occupation||% of African American Professionals||% of Hispanic Professionals|
|Dietitians and Nutritionists||15%||8.5%|
|Emergency Medical Technicians||6.3%||10.3%|
These are but a few examples of the many gaps in representation in healthcare, but they are not reflective of all occupations in the field, nor of all disparities. American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and other minorities are also underrepresented in many roles. Conversely, Asians are overrepresented in many categories. Further, women outnumber men in over 80% of all healthcare occupations.
Of particular note is the fact that many entry-level healthcare positions have greater minority representation. For example, African Americans represent 32% of all Nursing, Psychiatric and Home Health Aides, while Hispanics represent 26.1% of all Medical Assistants. This is partially due to the fact that there are many options for accessing free certified nursing assistant programs, making this an accessible way to get involved in the field. Such representation has a profound impact on patient outcomes — a fact that we’ll explore further below.
A lack of cultural diversity in healthcare can lead to many problems, including stereotyping and unequal patient treatment — particularly in cases where cultural differences in healthcare expectations lead to poor patient outcomes. Indeed, negative results are arguably inevitable when there is an underrepresentation of cultural and ethnic diversity in leadership and throughout training.
Stereotyping is the act of making (often incorrect) assumptions about groups of people based on their perceived shared characteristics. Discrimination occurs when those beliefs affect the way individuals treat those groups of people.
Such practices have no place in healthcare, where a false assumption can have alarming effects on patient outcomes. The case study from the introduction of this article makes it clear that cultural competency is a must. As a result of a lack of it the physician did not act in the best interest of the patient, which led to fatal consequences. Such errors can have a profoundly negative impact on the efficacy of treatment plans and medical procedures, not to mention cause needless suffering.
Such anecdotal accounts alone paint a disturbing picture, but the magnitude of this problem is backed up by studies as well. For example, in a study on breast cancer treatment, it was shown that, without intervention to help breast cancer patients understand their medical options fully, black women had an 80% five-year survival rate. In contrast, white women had a 91% survival rate. With intervention, however, this gap disappeared entirely. This is but one of many examples of disparate patient outcomes down racial lines.
Different cultures may have different expectations for how healthcare procedures should be carried out, how treatment plans should be enacted, and how healthcare information should be conveyed. Here are a few examples:
As you can see, a lack of understanding of the ethnic-, age-, or gender-related cultural differences among patients can lead to compromised healthcare.
The key to preventing the risks outlined above is to improve minority representation in healthcare and emphasize cultural competency on both an organizational and individual level. In “Cultural Competence and Ethnic Diversity in Healthcare,” the authors state: “Measures to improve cultural competence and ethnic diversity will help alleviate healthcare disparities and improve health care outcomes in (minority) patient populations.”
Hirers and executive staff can take a few different approaches to achieve these goals.
The benefits of diverse representation can be seen in entry-level occupations. Employees such as certified nursing assistants — an occupation in which, as noted above, nearly a third of the workforce is African American — typically have the most “face time” with patients. CNAs must adhere to a strict code of ethics and have strong communication skills, which makes these employees an effective intermediary for patients of diverse backgrounds, helping them understand medical processes and their options.
However, in order for healthcare institutions to truly embrace diversity, they must do so in every level of their organizational structure. They must employ diverse individuals in leadership positions, as well as prioritize hiring diverse staff throughout their workforce. These employees must be given support and a forum to communicate their thoughts and suggestions if they are to be truly engaged and committed to organizational objectives.
In addition to hiring a diverse staff, healthcare employers must implement effective cultural competency training programs. While these aren’t a substitute for diverse hiring, they can augment a workforce’s ability to adapt to meet the unique needs of each patient.
The specifics of a cultural competency training program may differ from role to role. For example, understanding cultural and spiritual needs is a key skill that prospective nursing assistants must have, as evidenced by its focus on the NNAAP exam. As such, a program designed for these employees should emphasize that skill. This may involve learning specific cultural expectations based on the employer’s region.
Healthcare employers can also improve the care of marginalized populations by advocating for improved hiring and patient care practices. This means prioritizing diversity in mission statements, hiring practices, and workplace processes. It also means engaging with local communities to highlight the needs of minorities.
Professionals can also arm patients to become advocates for themselves, enabling them to better seek out the care they need. Patients and providers can locate nearby self-advocacy groups online. These are great resources that can help patients acquire the information, tools, and financial help they need to achieve optimal health outcomes.
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Whether it’s from the passing of a spouse, little-to-no family members nearby, or lack of desire for human interaction, social isolation in seniors can take a great toll on their physical and mental health. This article will analyze and offer potential solutions to help address the potential problems associated with loneliness in older generations.
The number of health risks associated with social isolation may not be apparent at first since a majority of them are internal ailments — particularly so in senior citizens. Health risks often associated with social isolation include, but are not limited to:
According to the Health Resource and Services Administration, “loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Other statistics on the loneliness epidemic reported by the HRSA include:
A few factors that can contribute to social isolation in seniors include:
Understanding how to recognize the signs of social isolation can help ensure that preventative measures are taken before it is too late. Those who are often around older populations, such as family members or hospice certified nursing assistants (CNA’s) should be watchful for the following signs of social isolation.
Boredom is one of the many outcomes of social isolation. This can include the complete loss of interest in an activity that an individual was formerly engaged in, finding little to nothing to do around your living space, or losing interest in personal relationships with those once closest to you. Intense boredom could potentially lead to a lack of activity, which may help to decrease your overall mental and physical health.
Boredom can hinder lives by taking a toll on one’s psychological health. For example, an individual may be suffering from an immense fear of the world, resulting in them shutting down and sheltering themselves entirely from what they feel is the unknown.
Seniors experiencing social isolation may exhibit poor hygiene due to the fact that they either aren’t able to take care of themselves or they’re not wanting to get up in fear of falling down. Poor hygiene can consist of foul body odors, dirty, greasy, or dry appearance of the skin, unkempt hair, long finger/toenails, dirty clothes, and more. The impact of poor hygiene is particularly harmful to seniors because it may lead to bacterial/fungal infections, hair/skin/nail infestations, rashes, and other more severe illnesses such as septicemia.
Poor nutrition can be a common side effect in those who experience social isolation. This can partially be because they have no one to grocery shop for them, they aren’t able to shop for themselves, or the assisted living home and staff that cares for them isn’t providing them with the necessary nutrition they need to survive. This can increase the deterioration of their physical and mental health. Poor nutrition may lead to:
Elderly individuals who experience loneliness may demonstrate a lack of care for their home environment. Signs may include increased amounts of clutter, hoarding of old objects, dust build-up, insect infestations, etc. This can be extremely harmful to anyone, even more so, seniors. Having an excess amount of clutter can lead to more in-home accidents like slipping and falling, as well as increases the number of fire hazards.
If the clutter gets to the point of hoarding, it may even lead to health conditions like upper respiratory problems. In fact, hoarding is a common problem afflicting those who tend to live alone, more specifically, senior citizens.
Understanding how to address the senior social isolation epidemic can help to ensure the safety of this population, and what preventative measures to take in the future to prevent these situations from occurring.
It’s important to keep seniors connected whether it’s with their friends, family, others within the retirement community, and even healthcare professionals such as trained CNAs and home health care workers. By coming together they can increase the efforts that are being made to help ensure that the seniors are staying connected, healthy, and happy. Here are ways to keep seniors socially connected:
Luckily there are many resources to help individuals combat senior social isolation, whether for your own use or to help someone you know — here are a few of them:
It may be difficult to adjust to living life alone, especially if you’re older. Luckily there are ways to cope and resources available to help ensure the safety and happiness of those who may find themselves feeling lonely.
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Looking for a job in a new field can be a lengthy and, at times, frustrating process. On average, it takes job seekers about five months to find a new position, but when you’re trying to switch industries altogether, it can easily take far longer. Between resume filtering systems that automatically reject your application and recruiters who only look at experienced applicants, you may find yourself struggling just to schedule an interview.
To further complicate the situation, as many as 61% of entry-level jobs require candidates to have at least three years of experience in that field. This is yet another barrier to employment that can prevent applicants from getting supposedly “entry-level” positions. Additionally, an entry-level position is defined as “a low-level job in which an employee may gain experience or skills.” Because of what entry-level jobs are supposed to be, you aren’t just losing out on a job; you’re also being denied the opportunity to gain the knowledge, skills, and training you need for your professional development.
Despite these difficulties, it’s still possible to start a career without any previous experience, in a new field, or without a college degree under your belt. You simply need to use the right strategies to sell yourself to employers and take advantage of any helpful opportunities that might arise. By working to bolster your resume and getting involved with your desired field, you can put yourself in the best position possible to successfully break into a new industry and land your dream job.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that you should continue to apply to jobs that interest you, regardless of your level of experience. In many cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to apply for a job when you’re underqualified. Not being selected for the position is the worst thing that could happen, and the only way to guarantee you won’t get hired is not applying at all.
When you do apply for a job, focus on what you do have to offer the employer. Highlight the skills and qualities you already possess or that you’re actively working to improve. Showcase your enthusiasm and passion, and explain why you want to enter this new field. Try to be as confident in your abilities as possible in your application materials or interview; there’s no need to dwell on your weaknesses.
That being said, you should be upfront about your lack of experience from the get-go. Address your inexperience in your application and resume, and be prepared to have an honest conversation about it during interviews. In many cases, being honest about the situation may not be as bad as you think. For instance, many recruiters will understand why you’re lacking experience if you’ve been working flexible or part-time jobs to stay home with your kids, but are now wanting to make your career a bigger priority. You can be upfront about your situation, and then move on to your more positive qualities, including what you already bring to the table and the steps you’re taking to improve your knowledge and skill set. By presenting yourself in the right light, you can still be a viable and competitive candidate, despite being unqualified on paper.
Finding a new job can be a bit easier if you’ve already been working in one industry and are trying to switch to a different field. Even if you’ve only got a few years under your belt, you can contextualize that previous experience to make it relevant to the position at hand. For instance, if you volunteered as a youth athletics coach, you can highlight your ability to lead, inspire, and manage other people when applying for a supervisory role. Although working as a coach for a youth sports team doesn’t directly prepare you to become a manager or supervisor at a company, it does allow you to develop and hone skills that are applicable to that type of position. Having relevant skills, even from unrelated positions, can help show employers what you’re capable of despite your lack of direct experience.
You can also use your track record from your previous positions, as well as your professional references, to your benefit when switching fields. Although your day-to-day activities may not be explicitly relevant to those of the new job, you have already worked with people in a professional environment who can attest to your abilities, work ethic, and accomplishments. Many hiring managers and recruiters will be glad to hear from your past supervisors that you’re a hard worker, fast learner, or team player. While this may not completely compensate for your lack of experience, it can be an effective way to use the experience you do have to your advantage.
If you lack experience in your desired field, it’s crucial to take steps to fill that gap and improve your knowledge. Not only does this enrich your own skillset, but it also demonstrates to employers how serious you are about making this shift. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can gain an edge, hone your skills, and set yourself up for success:
Professional certifications are a great way to gain more experience in your desired field and communicate exactly what you already know to potential employers. In some instances, such as working in the skilled trades, you may be required to get a certification or license before you can begin working autonomously. In others, you may be able to begin working and then receive a certification to bolster your credentials after the fact.
In still others, getting a professional certification can open up not only current job possibilities, but it can also pave the way for future professional opportunities. If your ultimate career goal, for example, is to become a nurse, you’ll need to undergo a lot of education, training, and licensure beforehand. There are entry-level positions that require professional certification and practical training that you can pursue to prepare for work as a nurse. Many nurses first get certified as a nursing assistant, which often involves on-the-job training in addition to meeting educational requirements. This serves as a helpful springboard for getting the experience you need to become a registered nurse in the future and helping you take those initial steps into the healthcare industry.
Research the various certification options you have in your field and consider obtaining the ones that will benefit you now, as well as in the future. If you’re deliberate and thoughtful about what certifications you obtain, you can use those credentials to get your foot in the door while making a long-term investment in your career.
Internships are another great way you can gain relevant experience. Working as an intern for an organization in your field provides you with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and make connections with other professionals. Depending on the position, an internship may give you the boost in experience you need to find a permanent job. Your internship could lead to long-term employment with the organization you worked with or a lead on another open position in your area.
Finally, consider volunteering your time as a way to gain professional, practical experience. For instance, if you’ve never worked in an administrative role but are asked to help with data entry and fielding phone calls as a volunteer, you still have a chance to learn those relevant skills and carry them over into the professional world. Similar to how you can use your unrelated past experience to your advantage when switching fields, you may be able to contextualize your volunteer experience in a way that enhances your value as a job candidate. Further, if your volunteer position is related to the field you’re trying to enter, you can also meet and connect with other like-minded individuals and professionals in your community.
When it comes to starting your career, who you know can be more important than what you know. Meeting established professionals in your desired field is a fantastic way to get your foot in the door, either in the industry or a specific organization. Networking is essential for any field, as it allows you to make important professional connections, improve your own knowledge of your industry, and make your presence (and desire for a new job) known among people in your community.
Although important, networking is often easier said than done. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there, especially if you don’t already have a few contacts or connections. That being said, here are a few ways you can start developing your professional network:
Knowledge is power, and it’s crucial for you to stay informed about the goings-on in your field. Pay attention to the latest developments, insights, and trends, at local, national, and even international levels. Be on the lookout for any news updates, read popular blogs and websites about your industry or from industry leaders, and follow industry leaders and key influencers on social media sites. Staying informed is a simple way to improve your own understanding of your desired field and demonstrate your passion and dedication to potential employers. You may not have previous work experience, but you can show how you’re working to correct that by learning as much as possible.
Finding a mentor is one of the biggest benefits that can come from your networking efforts. Mentors can share all of their knowledge with you, guide you through the industry, and help you become a stronger candidate for the position you want. They may even have professional connections of their own and be able to help you get a relevant job, internship, or volunteer opportunity. Either way, it can be comforting to have someone who has first-hand experience and can assist you during your job hunt. You can’t force or rush finding the right mentor, but it doesn’t hurt to reach out to your friends, family members, neighbors, and other connected professionals in your industry to see who they know.
Social media can be a great networking asset when you use it correctly. It’s a simple way to stay informed about the latest industry news, follow leaders in your field, and get in touch with potential mentors and other like-minded people. You can easily join the conversation about interesting articles, breaking news, or recent developments in your field. However, be careful when getting involved in social media; you have to make sure your profile and interactions remain professional and appropriate. If your existing profiles have any photos, videos, or posts that are unsuitable for work, you may want to consider making a separate profile for your professional activities. Doing so can help you make a better impression on the people you meet both on- and offline.
Finding a job when you don’t have any relevant experience can be difficult, and even discouraging. However, it certainly isn’t impossible, as long as you know how to put yourself in the best position to succeed. Learn more about your field, develop your personal skill set, and get connected with as many people as possible — it may be a challenge, but it’ll be well worth the effort when you finally land that dream position.
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With student debt on the rise, it should come as no surprise that many people are turning to careers that don’t require a college education, whether by choice or out of necessity. In many cases, the financial returns on a job that requires a background in higher education are not worth the investment. For perspective, the average student debt of 2017 graduates is $28,650, according to Forbes.
This is especially significant when you consider that the Social Security Administration reported a median annual income of $32,838 for U.S. workers in 2018, and the average interest rate for student loans is 5.8%. While a college degree was once considered a ticket to success, they are gaining a reputation as a high-stakes gamble. Luckily, there are many fulfilling, well-paying careers that do not require a degree. In fact, some of these jobs don’t even require prior experience.
In 2018, the median salary of police and detectives in the U.S. was $30.47 per hour and $63,380 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 5%, which is average. Educational requirements will depend on the individual agency and/or position, but a high school diploma is often a condition of employment. Further requirements often include:
The duties of a police officer or detective will depend on their position and the needs of their agency. But day-to-day activities of the average police officer include roadway observation, emergency response, and filing of reports. To be successful in this occupation, some helpful personal qualities are empathy, perceptiveness, assertiveness, and excellent physical fitness.
In 2018, the median salary of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives in the U.S. was $29.64 per hour and $61,660 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 2%, which is low. In most cases, the minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma. Beyond that, training will be dependent upon the product and the company.
There is a wide variety of sales representatives, and therefore their duties can also vary widely. However, their duties usually involve interacting with potential customers either in-person or over the phone, with the goal of selling their product. Because of this, they are also expected to know the ins and outs of the product and company policy regarding it. People who perform well as sales representatives are usually extroverted, charismatic, and ambitious.
In 2018, the median salary of electricians in the U.S. was $26.53 per hour and $55,190 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 10%, which is faster than average. The minimum educational requirement for this position is usually a high school diploma. However, there are many barriers to entry in the form of training and on-the-job experience. Depending on the state, vocational schooling may also be necessary. In the U.S., electricians are legally obligated to comply with state laws regarding licensure requirements.
The day-to-day duties of an electrician will depend on available work, level of licensing, and specialization. However, common duties include installation, inspection, and repair of electrical equipment. Personal qualities that will help an electrician thrive in their profession are stamina, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail.
In 2018, the median salary of plumbers in the U.S. was $25.92 per hour and $53,910 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 14%, which is much faster than average. The minimum educational requirement for this position is usually a high school diploma. However, as in the case of electricians, there are often training and apprenticeship requirements necessary to work as a plumber, depending on state requirements for licensure.
The day-to-day duties of a plumber will depend on available work and level of licensing. However, common duties include installation and repair of pipes, sinks, bathtubs, showers, dishwashers and water heaters. Personal qualities that will help a plumber thrive in their profession are stamina, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail.
In 2018, the median salary of insurance sales agents in the U.S. was $24.33 per hour and $50,600 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 10% which is faster than average. The minimum educational requirement for this position is usually a high school diploma. Insurance agents are trained by their organization, and must acquire a license in their state. They may also choose to obtain certifications of specialization, which are not required.
The day-to-day duties of an insurance sales agent include upselling clients and renewing their policies, maintenance of records, and thorough review of both laws and company policy regarding relevant insurance policies. Personal qualities which can be a benefit to someone working as an insurance sales agent are charisma, patience, and good memory.
In 2018, the median salary of firefighters was $23.85 per hour and $49,620 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 5%, which is average. The minimum educational requirement for firefighters is usually a high school diploma. Training is usually conducted through fire academies and apprenticeships.
The day-to-day duties of a firefighter depend on their specialization; wildfire firefighters have very different duties and utilize different strategies than structural firefighters. However, some common duties include the operation of vehicles and hoses, support of emergency medical personnel, the rescue of survivors, and filing of reports. Personal qualities that will help a firefighter succeed in their line of duty include bravery, physical strength, and the ability to stay calm under pressure.
In 2018, the median salary of real estate brokers and sales agents was $24.18 per hour and $50,300 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 7%, which is faster than average. The minimum educational requirement for real estate brokers and sales agents is a high school diploma. Real estate brokers and sales agents must be licensed in their state. Individual agencies may have their own training requirements as well.
The day-to-day duties of real estate brokers and sales agents include examining properties up for sale, promoting properties, advising clients, conducting walkthroughs, facilitating negotiations, and organizing documents. Personal qualities that are beneficial in this profession are charisma, organizational skills, and an analytical mind.
In 2018, the median salary of construction equipment operators was $22.59 per hour and $46,990 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 10%, which is faster than average. The minimum education requirement for construction equipment operators is a high school diploma. Construction equipment operators often learn their trade through on-the-job training and/or apprenticeships. Additionally, these operators will be required to hold the appropriate licenses to operate the machinery, per the guidelines of their state.
The day-to-day duties of construction equipment operators include maintenance and operation of equipment. Good personal qualities for construction equipment operators are diligence, cleanliness, and patience.
In 2018, the median salary of licensed practical and vocational nurses was $22.23 per hour and $46,240 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 11%, which is faster than average. Licensed practical and vocational nurses must be trained through an approved educational program, and then must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). They may choose to pursue certifications for specializations if they would like, and additional certifications can really improve one’s job outlook. Getting certified as a CNA is a popular option that can really improve a nurse’s career prospects, and CNA training only takes three to twelve weeks.
The day-to-day duties of licensed practical and vocational nurses include attending to patients, providing basic care, updating other healthcare professionals about the status of patients, and keeping records. Personal qualities that will help a nurse succeed in their profession are empathy, patience, charisma, and organizational skills.
In 2018, the median salary of massage therapists was $19.92 per hour and $41,420 per year. The expected job growth from 2018 to 2028 is 22%, which is much faster than average. Massage therapists are trained through approved educational programs. They must be licensed according to the laws of their state. A high school diploma is often required.
The day-to-day duties of a massage therapist include evaluation of somatic issues, performing massage on clients, and keeping client records. Personal qualities that will benefit people who work in massage therapy are empathy, patience, and charisma.
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