Hello greetings salutations, and yes! – it is time for another episode of Beth Talks About Uncomfortable Things On Her Public Blog!
I’ve just received another rejection, for another job I really wanted and which I worked really hard to apply for. I was really proud of my application, too – I thought it made a compelling case for why they should at least give me a chance. “You win some, you lose some” doesn’t really seem applicable here. It’s more like, “you lose some, you lose some more, and pretty soon you’ll have lost all your money, your house, your bed and any hope you had left for a successful or even tolerably average future. And then you look around and realise you’ve joined the ranks of homeless people sleeping in shop doorways on Manners Street at night, and in the morning you sit outside McDonald’s and hope that someone is kind enough to drop you a fiver or a hash brown on their way to work. And you realise you can’t even hope to marry rich now, because ain’t no rich white man gonna want to marry a girl with one pair of socks, a ripe body odour and 80 cents to her name. So you’re like well, at least it can’t get any worse from here! And then you lose your good sleeping spot to a more hardened and experienced hobo and you think shit, I’m not even good at being homeless.”
I shouldn’t really be complaining, because I’m nowhere near the second-rate hobo stage yet. And when I talk to other people about it, it seems they’re struggling just as much as I am. I have a friend in the US who spent four years in college, and has now applied to around seven hundred jobs without getting a single positive response. Other friends closer to home (read: VUW graduates in Wellington) have been out of university for the better part of a year now, and are still working unfulfilling jobs in retail for lack of better opportunities. The question that has been at the forefront of my mind whenever I think about this: why did we bother spending multiple years of our lives, and getting tens of thousands of dollars into debt with the government, if at the end of it all we’re at best still stuck in terrible retail/hospitality jobs, and at worst unable to find any employment whatsoever? When will having a degree pay off?
This hasn’t been the only thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately over the past couple of weeks. I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about whether I should scrap this graduate job search altogether and focus on going back to university. I know. It sounds crazy to me too, especially given the rather large fraction of my life I’ve already spent in school. But on my hunt for graduate and entry-level jobs, I’ve been wondering more and more if having a post-graduate qualification would make me significantly more employable. I’ve also been wondering if indeed I even studied the right subjects when I was at university. Here’s a little bit of background for you on my history of tertiary education:
- In 2012, at eighteen years old, I was in my final year of high school and was trying to figure out what I should study at university. All I knew that I was passionate about history and writing – and consistently performed excellently in both of these disciplines. I also knew that a career in history or writing was probably not going to be very lucrative, so I also wanted to study something that would likely lead to a decent job straight out of uni. I settled on a conjoint degree in Law and Arts (BA/LLB), with a major in history and potential second major in philosophy.
- My first year of university could not have gone much worse. My health was bad pretty much all year, which made attending classes and putting in the work almost impossible. My law and philosophy papers made me miserable: the only papers I really enjoyed were my two history papers.
- At the end of first year, I decided to do a complete overhaul. I scrapped my LLB, and chose not to take any further philosophy papers. Down to just my Arts degree, I continued my major in history and started a major in media studies, a) because I didn’t know what else to do, and b) because my RA had told me several times that I should do it because I would be good at it and it was interesting. I also started a minor in creative writing.
- At this point I still had no concrete ideas on what I wanted to do when I graduated.
- It wasn’t until late in third year (2015) that I really discovered what I wanted to do for a career. It was ambitious, it was a long game, and it was almost impossible – and I knew that. Perhaps of most immediate importance was the fact that it also had little to do with history and media studies. But I was only a trimester away from finishing, so I’d worry about that if and when it became an issue.
And here we are! Looks like it didn’t take that long for it to happen. If I could, right now I would go back in time to little first-year me, and advise her to study something other than media studies as her second major – something that has more relevance to her future career goals (policy, perhaps, or education). Because now I’m wondering if that’s what I should do. But, another three years at university? And then maybe postgrad on top of that? I don’t want to be in my forties by the time I finally graduate with a degree that can actually get me somewhere. So I’m currently looking into other options. I can honestly say I’ve never thought so much and so hard about my future than I have in these past few weeks. I definitely never thought much about it while I was at university: between working on my studies and learning to manage my anxiety and IBS, there wasn’t much space left in my brain for that.
Basically, right now I feel like it’s taken me nearly four years, and taking out a fucking huge-ass government loan just to figure out what I want to do – and realise that my current areas of expertees might be next to useless when it comes to getting me there.