I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

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Contemplating future permie needs career advice  RSS feed

 
Glenn Kagan
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I'm a 27 y/o SWM who wants to join an intentional community eventually, but my personal situation feels pretty daunting. Sorry if it seems like a messy summary of my life, and I'm happy to clear anything up if I seem incoherent at any point along the way.

I guess I should just ask this first: "Are there any communities that would be willing to take on a relatively fit single guy with a ton of enthusiasm, but no developed skills and only basic permaculture knowledge?"
Otherwise, it looks like I'll need a long-term plan to master permaculture theory, attend workshops/apprenticeships, and save up 200-300k to cover all the costs of acquiring land, materials to build a house, and installing utilities.  I guess another important question is, "Am I wrong? What's the estimated cost to join some of these communities?"

It's been immensely difficult finding work in the midwest US because I only have a bachelor's in Psychology (I discovered permaculture shortly after graduating). It also doesn't help that I got 2 marijuana charges - a felony for intent to sell at age 21 which has been expunged, and a misdemeanor for possession at 24 which is still visible by the public. Both show up in criminal background checks despite the expungement. There aren't a lot of dumber things you could do in this world, and I'd give anything for society to believe when I say that I just want to move forward. 

I've already tried working in multiple trades and gotten rejected, either because of my record or they thought that I wouldn't be too keen on working with my hands because I have a bachelor's in a white-collar discipline.  I'm disappointed that I won't be able to kill two birds with one stone by simultaneously securing a stable career and mastering a skill that I could share with my future community (i.e. plumbing, electrical work, carpentry), so I decided to just move on to a different field where employers might be more willing to take a chance on me.  On the bright side, at least I won't get permanently injured or killed while working at a desk.

Right now I'm in the process of becoming a self-taught web developer/programmer, which looks like one of my best options when you consider that they tend to overlook criminal records if you're skilled enough.
It would also allow me to work remotely, which would seem to make it a great fit for living in an off-grid community. I'm about 6 months to a year away from full-time employability as of now.

I guess another question I have is, "should I continue pursuing a job in modern tech, or am I better off opting for a less mainstream trades job such as a natural builder or greenhouse/organic farm laborer where I'd learn valuable skills, but probably only make 1/3 of the money?" Working for a nonprofit like the Sierra Club is another option that has been suggested to me, but I hear it's very competitive and I would seem to be a reach for most positions based solely on my track record (though the passion is definitely there).

Option D would be going back to school for environmental engineering, which would be the biggest all-or-nothing route given that I'd need to sacrifice 3+ years of opportunity cost, take out a massive loan to pay for school, and seriously improve my analytical skills to make it through the program. However, the reward would be the highest in the end, as it would have the strongest regenerative effect on our planet. While I'm on the topic of additional degrees, I suppose I could also return to school for just two years to get the rest of the credits I need to turn my Environmental Science minor into a major. This would probably qualify me for a Sierra Club position.

Please feel free to point out any ways in which I might be misguided or if you have any other suggestions for me.  References to outside sources are also welcome, though I don't know if they're allowed in these forums (this is my first post).

Thanks SO much to everyone who read the whole thing!
 
David Livingston
master steward
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Frankly I think for you the IT option seems on the face of it best as you are already half way or more there
Secondly why not move to some where wacky baccy is legal then your previous convictions are less of an issue

David
 
Todd Parr
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Glenn Kagan wrote:

Right now I'm in the process of becoming a self-taught web developer/programmer, which looks like one of my best options when you consider that they tend to overlook criminal records if you're skilled enough.


If you are set on staying on the IT path, I would urge you work your ass off and get your CRISC certificate.  There aren't a lot of people that have it, and if you get it, it's pretty easy to get independent consulting jobs where no one gives a shit about your marijuana charges.  If you decide to stay on your current path, I would suggest you take a look at how many web developers and programmers there are looking for jobs.  Many, if not most, of them are going to have degrees.  I've been in IT more than 35 years and it's not easy to start out in this field without a degree.  You can, but you'll generally have to start out with a low-paying job and work your ass off.  If you do that, you can move up, just like in any other field.  It's may be much harder than you think to learn web development and then get a job where you can work from home.  There are jobs like that, but the competition can be pretty fierce. 

Another option, and one a number of my friends have pursued that have criminal records is apprenticing in a trade.  I have two good friends with serious felonies that did very long prison sentences, and both are electricians.  Both are now making good money and living good lives.

 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Welcome to permies Glenn!  I would lean away from getting a big loan and doing environmental engineering unless you know fully what it entails (math, science, etc) and are truly excited about it.  Otherwise you could end up with tons of debt and a job you may or may not enjoy.

Glenn Kagan wrote: and save up 200-300k to cover all the costs of acquiring land, materials to build a house, and installing utilities."


Depending on where you want to live, you can get an existing house with acreage for much less than this.  I'm guessing if you're quite flexible with locations, you can get something workable for $75-125K.  Of course, if you want 5 acres within 10 miles of a major city for under $125K, you'll be out of luck.
 
Jarret Hynd
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Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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Glenn Kagan wrote:Please feel free to point out any ways in which I might be misguided or if you have any other suggestions for me.

As someone who never went on to get secondary education or pick up a trade, but keenly watched those that had one or the other, I see trades come out on top most often in terms of financial security. I know electricians that have been laid-off from the oil field and yet can maintain their lives while out of work solely from doing odd jobs for 10-20 hours a week. Here mechanics/electricians charge $50-100 an hour.  Although, I guess in other areas of the country, IT's do end up with similar situations aswell.

Regardless, your long-term goal needs to be clear for you. Is it to buy land and create a permaculture lifestyle or enterprise? If you get some land, many small towns you might end up in can use a carpenter, electrician etc on a never-ending basis, and this is also a way to gain contacts/friendships in your community - not to mention endless freebies/barter options.

Something else to consider is that if your job is going to require good, reliable internet, then that will increase your land price because of location. Example: Around here, the boonies, you can buy farmland for $1,000/acre, but we almost have 0 services and our internet is getting worse each year. If you buy land within 5KM of our largest city 1.5 hours away, it's $10,000-25,000 per acre. Rural internet is more horrible than you can possibly imagine and it's getting worse each year, so having a job that relies on the internet will limit your amount of land options.

Glenn Kagan wrote:I've already tried working in multiple trades and gotten rejected, either because of my record or they thought that I wouldn't be too keen on working with my hands because I have a bachelor's in a white-collar discipline.

Just a bit of consolation, but I don't think it's entirely your run in with the Law that is causing this. Here's a social experiment done in taiwan where CEO/COO's were shown resumes and asked if they would hire the person. They didn't know however, that they were resumes of famous people when they were starting out. Spoiler: They said they wouldn't have hired any of them.

Moral of the story is that the world is a pretty demanding place at the moment. There was a quote I'll paraphrase from a topic I read on Permies, I can't recall who said it, but it was something like "if you want to have a good life in (north) America, you need to own your own business". Something to think about.

To conclude, considering you have 3 choices in front of you: EV-Engineer, Programmer, Permaculturist, I would eliminate the one about being a "permaculture student" as the other 2 are likely to get you further in your situation in my opinion. But starting over with EV-Engineering is a big risk also as you noted. You've already invested your time into Programming, so this seems like the logic path to continue on with. Though a curveball in all this is that you actually need to enjoy Programming enough to do it for the next decade at least. If you got established in that career to the point where you were freelance, you could at the same time take classes in a trade. I know about 8 electricians, but it applies to most trades around here, and they only had to go in for classes 6 weeks per year for 4 years + get a certain amount of work experience per year. After that, you are officially a Journeymen Carpenter/Electrician or what not. Definitely good to have a trade in your back pocket, especially with permaculture/homesteading/rural living.

Best of Luck!
 
Scott Foster
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I think this is a question that only, "you" can answer.  Where do you see yourself?  Sitting in a cube in a corporate office or working with your hands 16 hours a day.  What makes you smile more.
'
What motivates you?  If money is your main motivator then that's what you go for.  Enough money is one thing, sacrificing everything for as much as you can get, is another.  If you live frugally you can do a lot with a low paying job if you save and live the stoic lifestyle.

You could work fish boats in Alaska, save and buy land...so many options.  Check out Dave Ramsey's books on paying off debt and saving that may be a good start and it will help you get focused.  Finally, "do something" and other things will open up.

Good Luck

   
 
Glen Kagain
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Thanks so much to everyone for giving me so much support and advice! I should've posted here 5 years ago when I first found the site.
It looks like I'll continue with web programming for now because I actually enjoy it and I'm almost employable, but I'll also get some other certificates and learn the security side of the trade so I can eventually  become a consultant.  I'll also keep Electrician open as an option and I'll have a look at Ramseys' books on debt payment.

For the record, I've personally never cared about living near a big city, but I like to have a  huge cushion when i spend a lot of money in case something goes wrong.  I'll keep my eyes out for anyone looking to integrate back into urban society and see about acquiring their property if the price is right.
 
Jim Fry
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And in the meanwhile, in your spare time, you could do some wwoof'ing and get some actual experience in what you say you want to do. There are lots of communities and farms that offer weekend or week long visits in return for a spot of work/help. Or check out ic.org. There are hundreds and hundreds of intentional communities worldwide to which you could apply. There are tons of communities that are desperate for folks to come live. There are even some communities whose remaining elders may eventually deed their land over to "youngsters" like you.
 
Rick English
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I have be working in web development teams since 2000. Nearly always, you will learn more doing the work than you ever will in school. Figure out where you want to live, and then search for the local web development companies. Call them up (or email) and ask if they are interested in in an intern, keep trying and even stop by their office if you don't hear back the first time. Be persistent. Make sure you have a sample website you made to show them. Make sure it is responsive. It is perfectly fine if it is a free template and a  free wordpress site. You will get at least one interview, because it shows you have a full-stack understanding of domain names, mobile/responsive, cms, css, etc. Bonus points if you write your own small plugin for the site.

If needed during the interview, offer to intern for free, especially if you like the vibe of the people and the reputation of the company. If you work hard and learn fast, the internship will lead to a paying job pretty quick. Most web development companies, especially outside of cities, are desperate to find/hire good people. Most college degrees do a dismal job at preparing web developers or programmers for an actual job.

Web development companies are a great way to learn, but they are often mediocre pay (for a college grad) and high-ish stress, but the fastest way to build your employable skills. After a few years at one, you will be very qualified for a more corporate job, or to be an independent consultant, or even start your own business. Heck, if you are good enough, your employer will probably let you work remote to retain you. At that point you can move anywhere, and have a job with less time commitments to give you more time to focus on permaculture.
 
R Thomason
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Glenn,

I applaud you for admitting your mistakes and giving serious thought to moving on to a better live. That is the biggest and best step you can take, and congratulations for taking it. You've lifted a serious burden from yourself and that will make your subsequent decisions more likely to succeed.

The folks who gave advice about learning IT, especially with some sort of internship or earn-while-you-learn component to it, were speaking prudently. My sense is this is probably one of the better first steps since it will increase your income potential.

The folks who suggested woofing and checking out IC.org give good advice.  At some point when it is right for you and you find the right situation, try working in a permaculture or an intentional community a little before making a commitment.  It seems you have already put in a lot of thinking about your choice, and it is time to start testing those thoughts and growing from the results.  It will show you what works well for you and what you want to avoid in the future. Spiritual communities might have more to offer you than others at this point, but you will see for yourself what works best.

It could take a few years, but you probably can either combine some sort of IT with a permaculture lifestyle, or at least find a way to split your time between the two.

If there is a river watcher organization or some sort of citizen scientist group that is monitoring the health of local waterways you might want to volunteer with them a little. It will put you in a like-minded community that could make use of basic IT skills such as database administration (even if it is a simple database).  Without making a big commitment you can test out some of your ideas and get advice from good people while keeping an eye on our waterways.

R
 
Liar, liar, pants on fire! refreshing plug:
Permaculture Playing Cards by Paul Wheaton and Alexander Ojeda
https://permies.com/wiki/57503/digital-market/digital-market/Permaculture-Playing-Cards-Paul-Wheaton
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