Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recent College Grad Seeks Job

A recent university graduate wrote to Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times. Link here.

Here is his letter: “In 2009, I graduated from a top-tier US university with a degree in European history and since then I have struggled to find work in the US. I tried civilian intelligence, then finance and venture capital – everything from sales to being a police officer. Now, in despair, I am enlisting in the swollen US military. I believe my liberal arts education has given me a good basis for joining the workforce (I also speak Russian) but it seems employers do not agree. They prefer candidates from a state university with qualifications in business or marketing. What has gone wrong?”

Actually, nothing has gone wrong. Except perhaps his bad attitude.

Kellaway is kind enough to inform this young man that degrees in European history do not have very much value in the marketplace, and, that even her own college-student daughter knows that.

It should not be news that business and marketing degree holders from state universities are more desirable than humanities graduates from top-tier, i. e. Ivy League, schools. I would merely add that job candidates who have degrees in engineering are also in high demand.

Kellaway does not exactly let this man off the hook. She points out that people who drift from job to job in different fields tend to look unfocused. This does not make them very desirable employees. This man has tried out nearly a half-dozen jobs in the space of around eighteen months. What does that say about him?

The young man seems to have come away from his top-flight education with a well-developed sense of entitlement. He has become a whiner who believes that his Ivy League degree makes him intrinsically better than those who went to state schools and mastered more practical disciplines.

His reality check is more like a gut check.

Now, having come to the end of his rope, in the depths of his despair, he has chosen to join the military. He seems to think that this is some kind of grand injustice. How will he ever explain it to his fellow alums?

Of course, as Kellaway says, he has made a very good decision. He may not know it yet, but military service will help him to undo many of the lessons he learned in college. It will also teach him some skills that will serve him well in his future job searches.

In Kellaway’s words: “For now, being in the military sounds like a good scheme. Even if you only learn what you don’t want to do with your life, that will be a start. At least you’ll be picking up some skills that really do help in the workforce. Like doing what you are told.”


Cappy said...

Good move for the guy to join the military.

My daughter in college summed it up early in freshman year:

College majors can be categorized as business, science and engineering, and pre-Starbucks

David Foster said...

I personally wouldn't want to be in a combat unit, or even a unit not involved in combat, with an individual with this guy's attitude.

His sequence of job attempts seems pretty random and does not make a lot of sense. Venture capital firms, for example, hire very few people, and they are usually either analysts who are recent MBAs or Partners who have themselves run startup companies.

Therapy Culture said...

Off topic but have you seen "Century of the Self"?

Its a BBC documentary about how Sigmund Freud's nephew Edward Barnays had infiltrated American media, political propaganda and commercial advertisement with psychoanalytical theories and techniques during World War One and they continue up til today.

If any culture on the planet is a "therapy culture", its our's.

The 4 part series can be viewed here;

Dennis said...

Eventually the law of supply and demand are going to govern what jobs are available. Universities and colleges increasingly dump unprepared students on an economy that they themselves have done tremendous damage. Academe cannot continue to degrade capitalism, American exceptionalism, and every aspect of what it is to be an American without becoming an anathema to the very concepts they are supposed to instill in a person who graduates from these institutions.
One wonders how academe can teach diversity and then instill a sense of being elite into its graduates. At best one who graduates gains a number of tools that can be utilized to build great things or can be used to destroy. A degree DOES NOT denote intelligence, management ability, leadership, et al. Only real world experience gives one a chance to learn and gain the most important thing a person can have, WISDOM.
An education without wisdom is not worth much whereas wisdom without an education can lead one to great accomplishments. Ideally, it would be the best of both if one has both.
I admit that it saddens me to see so many people graduate from every level of education who are so unprepared and the ultimate irony is that most of them have no clue. One could say that their self-esteem is almost always the inverse of their actual ability and education.
Worse yet when one looks at almost every disaster this country is now facing one finds a graduate of one of the "elite" universities making it worse. This person's attitude reflects poorly on the education he supposedly attained.
"If you can read this thank a teacher," but who does one blame when the student is incapable of anything other than feeling good about him/herself?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I was really very surprised when I read this letter to see how disconnected this young man was from reality. He graduated college in 2009... what did he think was going on?

As you suggest, old habits die hard, especially when they are bad habits that are inculcated by serious professors.

Therapy Culture said...

Regarding degrees and jobs what do you think of this take on MIT's admissions dean Marilee Jones resignation?

mm45 said...

I have no doubt that the military has a wonderful influence on many people's lives, but surely you are aware than many young men, especially now, are leaving the service a mess, with substance abuse and anger issues, PTSD, familial breakup, and without notably enhanced employment or interpersonal skills.

This guy's attitude needs some work, and I don't know how outrageous his expectations are--I've encountered far worse--but I do empathize with him in this: from such guidance as he received from whatever elders had charge of his upbringing, he thought he was putting himself on a course to be a reasonably successful and contributing adult. That presumably genuinely successful adults find such people objects for ridicule is unfortunate, and makes it look like older people in our society have no interest either in teaching the young how to become productive and successful or helping them get started when that is primarily what they need. Yes, the best people will always make their own oppotunities, but believe me, many young people, especially if they haven't got a father, or if their father hasn't got any kind of real career himself, haven't the slightest idea how one goes about getting seriously established in a professional field, or even what fields exist within his range of abilities.

As you frequently allude to, where modern people, especially young men, are most misled, which also obviously applies to the dating scene, is in thinking that it is acceptable for them to be psychologically soft, that they can still be loved, compete in a serious workplace, etc, while having nerves of jello. But isn't this also the result of the older generation, particularly their fathers, but other male authority figures as well, neglecting their responsibilities? If so, I would only expect matters to get worse.

David Foster said...

I do think that a solid liberal arts program can be of great value to an individual in a business career, but it needs to be coupled with courses developing & demonstrating strong analytical skills. Michael Hammer makes the case for this approach in a passage that I excerpted here.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I certainly agree, and should have mentioned, that this young man has clearly been misled by his elders. We do not know enough about him to know whether he has a father or uncle or mentor who might have guided him, but clearly, whatever advice he has received has been bad. He has not received any orientation toward reality. And someone in his college should have told him, as David suggests, that a minor in more practical subjects would have served him well... I do wonder whether he went to an Ivy League school where they do not offer courses in business and marketing.

Dennis said...

"DON'T TRUST ANYONE OVER 30!" Now this seems to me a pretty definite repudiation of the older generation. The young, "60s generation" were the first to make this their mantra.
Now I can understand if one wants to blame the 60s generation for the problems the young now have because they are the ones running government, running education systems, et al, but to blame the elders is just plain folly.
What is the first thing Obama and his ilk started with when trying to activate the young? Don't trust the older generation because they do not have as much "smarts" as you have gained in your short existence on this Earth.
To try and foist the ills of the young on those of us who tried to get the young to listen and respect the voices of the elders is to look for excuses for ones failures.
I live in a state that has a large amount of smart, intelligent, hale, et al senior citizens that could be a great boon to the education system and the young, but guess who gets ignored primarily by the 60s, in my opinion the worst generation, people who started the rift between the older and younger generation.

JP said...

The "generation gap" occurrs between the austere crisis war survivors and the subsequent "awakening" generation.

If you want to blame the boomers, at least realize that they are who they are because of the Great Depression, WWII and it's aftermath.

Some degrees make it possible to presume that the student possesses a certain level of intelligence, but it depends on the institution and the degree tiself.

For example, if you graduated from medical school, that shows that your I.Q. is probably over 105 (90% probability)


Therapy Culture said...

War PTSD is not knew. They used to call it "shell shock" during WWI and WWII but it was downplayed.

Psycho-therapists were hired by the US government to treat them and they came to the very Freudian conclusion that these men were not suffering from "war trauma" rather they were suffering from childhood issues that had been triggered during their deployment.

Lean more about this and more here: