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Even a Yale Pedigree Could Leave One Unemployed
Atlanta Journal-Constitution ^ | 3/19/02 | Shawna Gale

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


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Ma'am you're overeducated. A Yale English major is enough to scare the dickens out of the illiterate public school graduates from whom you're requesting employment.

Tone it down a little and act dumb. You'll be hired in a skinny minute.

1 posted on 03/19/2002 6:45:37 AM PST by marshmallow
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To: marshmallow
You need a course in resume writing and jub-hunting. You sound very employable, and only seem to lack job-search skills. I fear you are looking for jobs in all the wrong places.
2 posted on 03/19/2002 6:52:05 AM PST by samtheman
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To: marshmallow
What did you expect to do when you graduated? Where do your fellow students with the same major get jobs? You must have put some thought into it.
3 posted on 03/19/2002 6:59:42 AM PST by 2banana
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To: marshmallow
Will someone please tell me where I went wrong?

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.

4 posted on 03/19/2002 7:04:45 AM PST by Physicist
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To: marshmallow
Actually, being overeducated is not the issue. The real issue could be framed as "what did you expect to get out of Yale (or any other good college or university for that matter)?

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.

5 posted on 03/19/2002 7:06:00 AM PST by CatoRenasci
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To: marshmallow
Where you're going wrong is your attitude of entitlement, Shawna. Just because you worked hard to get through Yale doesn't mean you can coast for the rest of your life.

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))

6 posted on 03/19/2002 7:06:28 AM PST by mondonico
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To: marshmallow
Perhaps learn to write without using the person pronoun "I" so often?

Perhaps employers see the self-absorbed, egotistical, elistist personna behind all those wordy words.

7 posted on 03/19/2002 7:07:23 AM PST by Seeking the truth
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To: marshmallow
"...since I have well-developed public relations skills from that internship with the Commission on Human Rights Commission,..."

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.

8 posted on 03/19/2002 7:09:17 AM PST by goodnesswins
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To: marshmallow
Will someone please tell me where I went wrong?

Go back, Get your Masters, and Teach. Or Write.....

9 posted on 03/19/2002 7:12:26 AM PST by hobbes1
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To: marshmallow
Ma'am you're overeducated.

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."

10 posted on 03/19/2002 7:14:47 AM PST by Physicist
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To: marshmallow
internship with the Commission on Human Rights

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.

11 posted on 03/19/2002 7:15:04 AM PST by the
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To: marshmallow
bump
12 posted on 03/19/2002 7:19:33 AM PST by VOA
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To: marshmallow
Will someone please tell me where I went wrong?

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.

a. cricket

13 posted on 03/19/2002 7:21:18 AM PST by another cricket
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To: marshmallow
This article is written in the first person. So you appear to be employed at a newspaper.

What do you want to do?

14 posted on 03/19/2002 7:24:01 AM PST by Calamari
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To: marshmallow
A liberal arts education is worthless. Go to law school. Ivy league educations are quite helpful in getting one a good legal job. Only problem, though, is then you have to be a lawyer.

I've told my kids that if they want to study liberal arts in college they'll be paying their own tuition.

15 posted on 03/19/2002 7:28:03 AM PST by KevinB
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To: KevinB
You're right. That's what I had to do (go to law school, and pay for it).
16 posted on 03/19/2002 7:30:06 AM PST by mondonico
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To: marshmallow
A few tips for the author:

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.

17 posted on 03/19/2002 7:37:10 AM PST by Our man in washington
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To: KevinB
I've told my kids that if they want to study liberal arts in college they'll be paying their own tuition.

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.

18 posted on 03/19/2002 7:39:51 AM PST by ikanakattara
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To: marshmallow
Call a democRat, maybe they'll give a s##t. Stop the whining, if you didn't prepare for a job that's your fault.
19 posted on 03/19/2002 7:40:45 AM PST by bfree
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To: Physicist
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.

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.

20 posted on 03/19/2002 7:40:55 AM PST by CatoRenasci
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