Skip to comments.Even a Yale Pedigree Could Leave One Unemployed
Posted on 03/19/2002 6:45:37 AM PST by marshmallow
I worked hard in junior high. I worked harder in high school.
I took home more straight A report cards than any kid in my class. I scored just shy of 1400 on my SATs. I rode horses. I played tennis and basketball. I taught English as a second language.
I had no social life until I was 17. But I got into Yale. Then I worked harder than I ever had.
I was sure the payoff would be a multitude of attractive, not to mention lucrative, job offers upon graduation. Then the bottom dropped out of the economy.
So far, my Yale degree has secured me an e-mail forwarding address and a lifetime of alumni dues notices. Not exactly what I expected.
I was an English major which, for most people, roughly translates into "I have no marketable skills." But that's not so. I have many valuable skills honed during my days with Dickens, my nights with Nabokov, those wee hours with Woolf.
First of all, you know I can read. And I don't mean read like "Hooked on Phonics" read. I can read long, wordy, small printed works with relative speed and what's more, I can remember what I have read and write long, wordy, papers about it without any trouble. I have developed impressive analytical skills. I am trained to think -- really think -- about everything I read. And I am accomplished at putting those thoughts on paper.
So where does that all leave me? Unemployed.
I have taken that Yale degree to marketing firms, publishing companies, advertising agencies, and it has not worked any magic. If I leave the degree behind, I am hired on the spot to wait tables for $10 to $20 an hour depending on tips (and since I have well-developed public relations skills from that internship with the Commission on Human Rights, I will get closer to $20 an hour).
Erase Yale from my past and with little trouble I land a retail position helping rich ladies whose most prized degree is their "Mrs." find handbags to match the only type of investment they know how to make: shoes. Take that degree off my wall and I easily obtain a position at a local Starbucks, serving up nonfat lattes to busy professionals and harried college kids who don't know that the degree they are currently working their butts off for will be worth less than their stainless steel coffee mugs.
So I can earn $0 an hour not working at a marketing firm with my Yale degree, or potentially earn a couple of hundred bucks a night serving up fajitas at Chili's.
I can forfeit a paycheck while not employed with a publishing company, or I can earn seven bucks an hour plus commission folding sweaters at that boutique down the street. I can be broke while the ad agencies keep sending me letters beginning with, "Thank you for submitting your résumé. . . ," but you get the picture.
Will someone please tell me where I went wrong?
Shawna Gale lives in Atlanta
Tone it down a little and act dumb. You'll be hired in a skinny minute.
Sure thing, lady. You went wrong when you adopted the belief that the world owes you a comfortable living in the profession of your choice, when in fact it owes you JACK SQUAT. HTH.
If the purpose of going to college is to "get a good job", then the young lady was ill-served by her choice to major in English, since it is well known that most employers today are not looking for liberal arts graduates, without more. Those who go to college to 'get good jobs' should major in subjects with more immediate practical application to entry level middle management jobs: accountancy, engineering, management, marketing and such. However, one need not attend Yale to study such things. They are perhaps even better taught (with more urgency at least) at most second and third rank state colleges. That's where the young men and women with intelligence and ambition, but not independent means, go to learn the trades that will ensure them a middle class life.
On the other hand, if the purpose of a university (or college) education is to educate oneself, that is to say, to study the Western canon and to learn the high culture of America and Europe, its history and the like, or to study the pure sciences out of a love of learning or curiousity about the world, they the young lady was likely quite well-served by her decision to go to Yale. Were she interested in further study, or even finance or business or law school (i.e. having obtained an education as an undergraduate, learn a trade as a graduate student), she was also probably well-served, for that is the traditional path of liberal arts graduates into the practical world or, if they are so inclined, into the professoriat.
Your credential may unlock doors, but you still have to find them, and open them, and walk through them for yourself.
Mondonico (Yale BA 1985 (English))
Perhaps employers see the self-absorbed, egotistical, elistist personna behind all those wordy words.
Well....there's your answer.....what constitutes "well-developed public relations skills for the Human Rights Commission" is most likely skills in one thing - ahem...rearranging facts well.
Go back, Get your Masters, and Teach. Or Write.....
There's no such thing. The purpose of a liberal education is to enable one to live a free and examined life, something that is independent of one's job. Apparently what this girl wanted instead was a trade school of some sort; by that standard she's undereducated.
A man walked into an office and asked for a job. A salary was agreed upon, and he was hired on the spot. When he asked what his first task was, the boss told him to pick up a broom and sweep the floor. He said, "oh, no, you don't understand: I have a Ph.D." The wise boss replied, "sorry, my mistake. Here, let me show you how."
Hell, that would stop me from hiring her six days a week.
Hi, I'd like a job. And if you don't mind, in six
months or so, I'll sue your ass off for some perceived
mistreatment. Oh, and I'd like 6 weeks vacation a year.
You have an English Degree ma'am. Congratulations, you are now qualified to teach English. Other then that, your degree is worthless.
You should have majored in Business and minored in English or at the very least minored in Business. You would then have a chance to break into the publishing field or any other field of your choosing. Sorry, but there are few jobs available in any economy if you are just talent.
What do you want to do?
I've told my kids that if they want to study liberal arts in college they'll be paying their own tuition.
Take the waitress job. I bet most managers would be more impressed by someone who is willing to take to support themselves than someone who sits at home and whines. It shows you're willing to work.
Lose the attitude. Nobody likes someone who thinks he or she is smarter than everyone else.
While you're looking for a job, take a business or an information science class. You would be sending the message that you understand you have a lot to learn.
Learn to market yourself. That stuff about the Human Rights Commission just screams to many employers "Oh, no. This woman must be a b***chy feminist who's going to complain and file a lawsuit." That's not fair, but that's reality. You can get around that by being ready to cite examples where you were a team player. Also, make sure your interview suit doesn't scream "uptight feminist." Avoid pantsuits, for one thing. Especially black ones.
Companies have real difficulties finding people who can write, so you want to emphasize that skill. But you have to remember that a "pure writer" is not of that much use. You have to understand the subtleties of what you're writing about. If you get a job at a software company, you have to prove you're willing to learn all the details of the software products.
Many years ago, I was in a similar position to this woman. I had my attitude, and was unemployed for a year after coming out of college. I blamed others for not appreciating my skills. The truth was that I didn't understand how I could take my skills and make them useful for an employer.
Amen to that. Too bad those high-priced "academic advisors" at Yale didn't sit Miss Shawna down and explain the Liberal Arts Facts of Life to her when she was still a dewy-eyed freshman. Apparently her parents didn't do it - but my kids are going to hear it in stereo.
This is what I would tell her: You want to major in English? Fine: be prepared to either go to graduate school, or take a double major, or get yourself a minor in an area with some demand, like Chinese or Arabic. Minor in technical writing and go to work translating engineering documents into readable English. Get one of those one-year teaching degrees (like this one at Truman State University in Missouri) which do NOT require an undergraduate degree in education.
Of course, that would mean giving up the idea that someone should pay you because you can read Nabokov and Foucault.
Nicely put, much better than the similar thoughts I expressed in #5 above.
People forget (or never knew) that the original purpose of the liberal arts was the vita contemplativa. A traditional liberal arts education, or its equivilent focusing on the pure sciences, is the greatest gift one can receive from one's parents or give one's children. At no other time in one's life does one have the opportunity to explore so much and discover the glories of civilization unencumbered by the cares of the daily need to provide for oneself and one's family.
The difficulty is that too few students understand the importance of the liberal arts or how truly difficult their serious study is. Surely, one can pass through even a good college and accumulate enough credits to obtain a liberal arts degree without ever engaging deeping in serious work. That is the fault of faculties and another day's topic. Serious, creative work in English, classics, history or the like is every bit as difficult and rare as serious and creative work in mathematics or science. Of course, a real liberal arts education would include serious work in mathematics as an integral part.
I have to disagree. The greatest gift a parent can give a child is the ability to survive in this world.
I can earn the same $0 at marketing firm and I didn't go to Yale.
As a matter of fact, I am so talented, I can earn $0 at many careers.
Amazing the flexiblity that chem degree will get me.
Seriously, your mistake was majoring in a field in which there are really very few jobs. If you as intelligent as you sound, and a good career after college was your goal, why didn't you pick a harder (but more valuable) major?
You made a poor decision- get some education and training that will be useful to an employer, and you will be employed.
It's really that simple.
I'm not defending her or her attitude, but the $20/hr figure was for waiting tables and included tips. Ten years ago, I lost my job and after some soul-searching, decided to make a career change. For two years after that, I went to tech school full-time days, and bartended/waitered at night.
Yea, I made the equivalent of $35-40K/yr., but that was a tough way to make a living. Many a night I came home with a headache, sore feet, and dried out hands wondering about the path I had taken.
Like I said, I'm not defending her, but I can understand why she would be less than excited about this option. Additionally, this women made the commitment to attend Yale and get a degree. Nobody requires a degree to wait tables. I can certainly understand a little "why did I bother" self-questioning on her part.
With that being said, I agree with the poster who said take the waitressing position. At least she'll be making money while showing she has some ambition.
Monday comes around, and our hero reports to the boss's office at 9:00 AM.
The boss looks up from his work to ask what the young fellow wants.
The young fellow says, "Sir, don't you remember me? You hired me last week."
The boss replies, "Oh yeah. Here, take this broom and start sweeping the floor."
The young fellow responds, "But sir, I'm a Harvard Graduate."
The boss answers, "Oh alright--I'll show you how."
I could start all over tomorrow mowing lawns, cleaning pools or something, and make enough money to get by until I ran across an opportunity to do something that I liked that would utilize that education. Then I would soar like an eagle, never looking back and would someday bore the hell out of my grandkids with tales of hardship.
While one of the purposes of formal education -- by which I take it you mean as a student in school or a college -- is to have one's studies and learning directed by educated men and women who can save one untold time and trial-and-error efforts, many who have achieved greatness have been self-educated. Schools have no monopoly on learning. It is the inquiring mind that seeks knowledge, and the enterprising spirit which enables one to make an opportunity in almost any situation. Neither gift is common. Once, this country emphasized the enterprising spirit and respected the inquiring mind, especially in combination. For many years, however, we have succumbed to an emphasis on formal credentials rather than the knowledge they once represented.
Same here. I graduated college in a recession and spent months looking for work. Ended up taking a part-time tech writing/office assistant/guy friday job that was "beneath me". But I didn't go whining about it, and guess what, I parlayed the experience on that job to a full time position with the same firm, then took that to a Fortune 500 software company that paid for night school. I took that and parlayed it into a good programming career.
My point? The lady should stop whining, start small, and work up. That's the way it happens in real life.
I graduated from Yale in 1964. I also majored in English, plus a separate complete major in Political Science. I also worked my butt off.
There was not an economic downturn going on when I entred the job market. But I chose to move to San Francisco, where jobs do not grow on trees. So, what was my first job as a Yale graduate?
I sold Fuller Brush products door-to=door. That's right, lady, a sample case of brushes, well-shined shoes, trudging up to the doors of house after house. It sure as heck wasn't what I expected when I got my sheepskin in New Haven. But I had a wife to support and a child on the way.
I did not have time to whine about people not bowing down and offering me money when I waved my degree. I needed honorable income. I needed it now. And whining about anything would have done me and my family no good.
Since then I've done many things that I thought better justified the excellent education I got at Yale. But I will never forget the experience of my first job as a graduate.
I have zero sympathy for you, lady. You have a rotten attitude to go with your degree. Maybe if you sold some brushes door to door for a few months you would wake up and smell the coffee. In the meantime, take your whining elsewhere. This homey don't buy it.
Post Script to my friends on FreeRepublic: I am bone wery of trying to communicate with or through the Atlanta Constitution. But if anyone wants to send them by response to this article, feel free. If they had the guts to print it, I would cheerfully give them my name, address, phone number, social security number, identifying moles, and a description of my supervisor at Fuller Brush in the fall of 1964, who was a fine boss, by the way.
This is the time of year when Seniors are waiting to know whether one college or another has admitted them. Perhaps this will enable them to perceive that not being admitted to "THE" school is not only not disastrous but may be advantageous long term.
Second, find out what the employers in your field of interest NEED, and learn how to fill that need. No employer cares how great you are. You have to be USEFUL to them.
First, take whatever you can get that will put beans on the table.
Second, volunteer your services to a worthy cause, and start your second career (the one you really want) from there. If you're really as good as you say you are, you will be recognized.
Third, quit the whining!
Let's see - leftist, elitist wench "deserves" high-paying job despite lack of demonstrated business achievement. Cry me a river.
Boortz was talking about this the other day. He's ALL OVER this gal, has invited her to call in. Like that will happen! HA!
Here's Boortz's commentary on this from today's Nealz Nuze:
ATLANTAS WAILING YALIE
We first started talking about this a week ago. Her name is Shawna Gale, and she is a Yale graduate. (Ill pause here to let you get over your sense of amazement.) Shawna wrote a column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution a week ago bemoaning her difficulties in finding a job. It wasnt supposed to be this way, you know, because, after all, she graduated from YALE! With an English degree no less!!!!
If you havent yet read Shawnas column .. heres your link. http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/epaper/editions/tuesday/opinion_c3692eaa024a915a00f5.html
Now please note the last line of Shawnas complaint. Will someone please tell me where I went wrong?
I bring this up again today because Shawna has become somewhat of an Internet hot-topic! One particular website has names here the Wailin Yalie. Readers of this website have been taking her to task since her column appeared. No, you dont have to go search for that site. Heres your link. http://www.obscurestore.com/letters.html
OK lets read her column and take a stab at this where I went wrong bit.
Its not your Yale degree thats holding you back, Shawna. Its your leftist, anti-achievement, holier-than-thou, snotty, arrogant elitist attitude. You somehow have developed an idea that youre really some kind of hot stuff with your Yale degree and all and that people should be dragging their butts through ten miles of hot coals just to pick up a copy of your resume!
Just look at these excerpts from your AJC column:
I have many valuable skills honed during my days with Dickens, my nights with Nabokov, those wee hours with Woolf.
Well, isnt that special. Dickens, Nabokov and Woolf. Those people who could offer you the jobs you want probably dont know Nabokov and Wolf from their neighbors gardener, and your elitist name-dropping fails to impress them. Tell them youve read The Wall Street Journal and that youre a fan of Thomas Sowell.
I can read long, wordy, small printed works with relative speed and what's more, I can remember what I have read and write long, wordy, papers about it
Its not the reading, its the understanding. And businessmen dont like long, wordy papers. Tell them you can read something obscure and complicated and translated it into language that someone with a sixth-grade education can understand. So, you can write on a Yale level. Can you write on an Atlanta government schools level?
If I leave the degree behind, I am hired on the spot to wait tables for $10 to $20 an hour depending on tips (and since I have well-developed public relations skills from that internship with the Commission on Human Rights, I will get closer to $20 an hour).
Take a hint. First of all theres nothing demeaning about making $20 an hour waiting tables. Youll learn a lot more about people in this job than you did in your years at Yale. Secondly, forget that internship with the Commission on Human Rights. Telling people about this experience is like tattooing Im a brain-dead liberal with no rational thinking skills on your forehead. If I was looking at your resume I would guess that you think the U.S. is a major worldwide violator of human rights. I would then toss your resume in the circular file.
Erase Yale from my past and with little trouble I land a retail position helping rich ladies whose most prized degree is their "Mrs." find handbags to match the only type of investment they know how to make: shoes.
Oh, I see. You went to Yale. You can read wordy, small printed works. You have an English degree. Youre hot stuff and much too good to spend time with those evil rich ladies who have done nothing in life but get married and buy shoes. I cant think of any employer, save a college or university, who would want an elitist snot like you on their payroll. You want to work for a publishing company? Fine --- what if those rich ladies want to buy something youve worked on? Would that offend your Ivy League sensibilities?
Look, Shawna. Cut to the chase. Youre a leftist. Private businesses dont like to hire leftists. Get a teaching job at a college or university where you belong. Go look for a permanent paid job on that Commission on Human Rights. Send a resume to the Democratic Party or the U.N. There just has to be a place for you somewhere.
Oh, poor baby. Too hard.
My advice: go out and apprentice yourself to a plumber.
My sister started out teaching school. Burned out after 6 years. Took a non-paying job at an advertising agency for one year. Hired by Disney; soon rose to director of a division called "Disney School House", which sold educational aids for teachers based on Disney characters. Got pregnant with twins. Began working from home as a childrens' book writer. Developed contacts in Hollywood and eventually became a successful screen-writer for childrens' TV, working with Shelly Duval and Jean Stapleton.
Interesting career, eh? Notice she did not feel sorry for herself, explored her potential, and worked hard--ending up doing very well.
Add to that a pompous sense of entitlement. Then add in the resentment others are sure to feel when they see you sneering at making only $20 an hour, whatever the job is, and brushing it off because it's not in your field.
And to top it all off, I'd say writing this article was a really huge mistake. One can have that kind of egotistic attitude and still manage to be employable as long as you can feign humbleness. However, what company is going to want to hire someone who will certainly, thanks to the internet, now have a well-publicized and notorious reputation?
I'd gladly be an NFL quarterback, a Travel Channel correspondent, or a culinary writer for $0 an hour.
I have no sympathy for this whiner. When I think about cops and teachers in my area making $25K a year and doing it gratefully, I wish her a long and miserable career in food services. Maybe in 5 or 10 years she can move up to assistant manager.
Your comment reminds me of my friend's grandfather. He had a civil service type, 9 to 5 job and was moderately happy. At 65 he retired and moved to Florida. Got bored with mowing his own lawn. Started mowing neighbors' lawns. Pretty soon he had to hire a bunch of people because his lawn service was the largest in the area. At 75 he was having the time of his life!
I couldn't agree more. On March 11, I was told that my job position would be eliminated on Friday, April 5, and that I had until then to either find another job within the company, or outside of the company. Either way, on Monday, April 8, my desk will be unoccupied.
Knowing that the job market for computer programmers in this city isn't that great, I was pretty nervous. But within a week, I had secured 2 part time jobs. The pay from them, added to my paycheck from weekend drills with the National Guard, would keep my income level about the same, and still allow me time to search for a job.
Neither one of those jobs was anything even remotely related to the degree I spent years working for. One of them was a warehouse job and the other was working for a janitorial service where I would actually be cleaning the office building I used to work in.
As luck would have it, I actually did find another job, working in a different division in my company, and so I won't be laid off on April 5. I still intend to work the part time job in a warehouse, the hours won't interferre with my full time job, and the money will help pay off my massive student loan debt.
Take away my job if you want to. It won't slow me down. There are plenty of jobs out there that are left unfilled because people think they are too dignified to work them. But it's hard to retain that dignity when your hungry and homeless.
So now, armed with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems degree, I find myself employed as a computer programmer, a forklift driver in a warehouse, and as a medical supply specialist in the National Guard. Hmm, maybe I should take up a paper route.
After a few months of that he went back to school with zeal and now makes more money than you would believe if I told you. He laughs and says he owes it all to that "first job".