My sister has said she feels badly for young professionals because they are skilled and want to do more than their jobs allow, but without the years of experience, they can’t be in the positions that really challenge them or are particularly meaningful.
I think something that contributes to this is the way our culture presents higher education and the pathway to the golden career! We runrunrun through school, gain minimal experience, and expect a big fancy job with a big fancy paycheck and big fancy tasks. Unfortunately, this is the reality for a rare few. I really wish that people would talk to youth honestly about the MANY options they have and the real pros and cons.
Penelope Trunk wrote about graduate school recently and I love what she has to say:
It’s pretty well established that non-science degrees are not necessary for a job. In fact, the degrees cost you too much money, require too long of a commitment, and do not teach you the real-life skills they promise.
Then she goes on to comment on the six most common arguments people make for graduate school and why they’re wrong.
1. My parents are paying.
Get them to buy you a company instead… if you spent the next three years running a company, even if it failed, you would be more employable than you are now, and you’d have a good sense of where your skill set fits in the workplace
2. It’s free.
But you’re spending your time. You will show (on your resume) that you went to grad school. Someone will say, “Why did you go to grad school?” Will you explain that it was free? After all, it’s free to go home every night after work and read on a single topic as well. So in fact, what you are doing is taking an unpaid internship in a company that guarantees that the skills you built in the internship will be useless.
3. It’s a time to grow and get to know myself
If you’re looking for a life changing, spiritually moving experience, how about therapy? It’s a more honest way of self-examination—no papers and tests. And it’s cheaper.
Bah! I love that one. Yes, therapy.
4. The degree makes me stand out in my field.
Yes, if you want to stand out as someone who couldn’t get a job. Given the choice between getting paid to learn the ropes on the job and paying for someone to teach you, you look like an underachiever to pick the latter.
Before I went to graduate school I solicited a lot of advice: work force v. school and people had very different opinions. Obviously, there are times when I wish I had gone the other way. I don’t think my degree is useless but I don’t know that it has made me stand out…especially with such a large group of peers who have the very same degree.
5. I’m planning on teaching
Forget it. There are no teaching jobs.
6. A degree makes job hunting easier.
It makes it harder. Forget the fact that you don’t need a graduate degree in the humanities to get any job in the business world. The biggest problem is that the degree makes you look unemployable. You look like you didn’t know what to do about having to enter the adult world, so you decided to prolong childhood by continuing to earn grades rather than money even though you were not actually helping yourself to earn money.
In some ways I think this statement is very true and applicable. I believed I couldn’t penetrate the public health field without a degree but people do it ALL the time. Why was I so different? I don’t know … but I think I was afraid to start working and stop schooling, especially when graduate school was always in the plan.
Obviously I am not the biggest fan of graduate school. Degrees seem to be a business transaction these days – you pay money, you get a piece of paper and some letters behind your name. I absolutely believe in the benefits of education but in today’s world, work experience is a bigger asset and more rare to come across.