toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 09, 2010

dime a dozen graduates

Jenny is 27 and highly educated but her job is pretty basic. She cuts costs by sharing an apartment with two girls and a guy and a common topic of conversation between them is the gaping chasm between education and jobs.

"I was once a job snob, full of delusions of grandeur," sighs Jenny, "but I finally came to my senses."

"Because the ratio between the number of jobs requiring a qualification and those with qualifications applying for them is getting wider each year, the competition for a position requiring qualifications had become a farce."

"I saw more and more highly educated young people being forced to take on jobs that were beneath their dignity or woefully beneath their educational qualifications," adds Jenny, "and I was forced to get real."

"To put it bluntly," says Jenny, "educated women like me are a dime a dozen."

Jenny points out that going back to school to gain another degree or diploma does not necessarily improve your chances either.

"It’s very rare to see a position advertised requiring more than one qualification," Jenny explains. "And although a double degree or a post-graduate degree may give you the edge in the selection process, this nebulous advantage is really not worth the time, expense and effort of going back to school."

Jenny, like many ambitious young women, wanted to advance herself with the highest educational qualifications possible in order to gain a good position.

"I wanted to avoid the fate of many of my graduate friends who had been forced to accept jobs that were woefully beneath their educational qualifications," explains Jenny. "I thought that a graduate degree just wasn’t good enough any more, and that I needed to get post-graduate qualifications to get a good job. I was totally deluded!"

Jenny came to her senses half way through her third post-graduate qualification. She decided that enough was enough. She was already over-qualified for 99.9% of available positions and her chances of gaining an entry-level job in any of the disciplines for which she had qualifications was not going to be much enhanced by her monumental endeavors.

"Whichever way I looked at it," says Jenny, "I would be at the bottom of any field's employment heap. And I no longer had youth to my advantage. At 27, I was not going to be as employable as a 21-year old graduate."

Her decision to quit the course was hastened by three facts of life. She was having relationship difficulties -- someone studying and working just cannot give family and friends their usual attention; she was not earning enough to pay the bills doing casual work; and she was amassing an education debt that might take her the rest of her life to repay if she continued.

"When you're desperate for cash -- as I was when I quit that course -- you cannot afford to be a job snob," says Jenny. "You take what you can, and keep looking for something better. Which is exactly what I'm doing right now."

"It’s work experience that employers really want," says Jenny, "and I have a lot of catching up to do. I’ve shut the door on education and I’ve made work, any work, my new direction in life."

"There are still many unemployed grads, though, who would rather starve or take unemployment benefits than apply for a job that is beneath their dignity," adds Jenny.

"Young people, particularly, are quite indignant that they have spent anything up to five years of their youth studying hard to achieve a degree just to learn that it does not automatically give them the key to a job in their chosen profession and a six-figure income."

Jenny is angry and frustrated, but philosophical nevertheless.

"My parents tell me that it was a lot easier in the 1970s and 1980s to walk out of school or university into a plum position," says Jenny, "and, it’s likely that those people who walked into those jobs way back then are still in those plum positions and intend to stay there until they croak!"

"When people scoff at me, calling me a pessimist," says Jenny, "I tell them to get out their calculators and do some sums. In 30 years the world's population has probably doubled and due to automation the number of worldwide jobs has probably halved. Those who had permanent employment in the 1970s and 1980s are likely to still have permanent employment. And, because people are living longer -- thanks to better nutrition and medical attention -- people are also staying longer in jobs. Throw globalization into this equation and you have millions rather than hundreds of competitors for jobs. Consequently, the job situation is bleak and getting bleaker for all people, but especially graduates."

Except for the lucky few young graduates who are able to score one of the highly prized entry-level positions in the field of their choice, Jenny accepts that the only jobs that are available out there, for young and not-so-young graduates, are positions that do not require qualifications.

"I’ve gotten real about the 21st century job-market," says Jenny. "An education no longer confers upon you the prestige it once did, and being a job snob gets you nowhere. My advice to all young people is to study for fun, not in expectation of gaining a prestigious and highly paid job."

Jenny has come across taxi drivers with a Ph.D. and receptionists with a Masters degree. They were quite happy.

"Basically," says Jenny, "if a job is supportive of your happiness, wellbeing and human rights then I feel there’s nothing degrading about accepting a position for which your educational qualifications are irrelevant. But it's really sad that so many young people have studied hard hoping to get a good job, and end up in dead end jobs like the one I've got."

"The worst possible scenario for the future," says Jenny, "and one that isn’t so farfetched, would be people having to buy jobs."

"If companies like McDonalds start selecting staff on the basis of their educational qualifications, then one day we’re going to need a Ph.D. to serve fries." laughs Jenny, "and failing a Ph.D. we’ll be buying a job like that!"

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