The Lies They Tell the Young

I saw this article in the Huffington Post a few days ago.

When I read it, my immediate thought was, “now that’s a pile of shit.”

I say that as a Drone who holds an M.A. in a humanities discipline, and who has been at the Hive for nearly 20 years. Back in the early 90s, there were companies who looked to hire young grads who were smart and well rounded.  That has all changed. What employers want now is an army of automatons that can “hit the ground running” and who require no training or investment.  They whine about the nonexistent “skills gap,” in which they want that elusive purple unicorn candidate–the one who is a finance whiz, who can work in Dream Weaver, has a great presentation style, can write technical specs, can deliver new products, comes to the job with a following of 500 accounts, and can speak Mandarin and Latvian.  In other words, they want one person who can do everything.

What this means for liberal arts grads is that the deck is stacked against you, more so now than ever before.  The skills you bring to the job–clear communication, research skills, critical thinking–mean nothing to them.  It will be incumbent upon you to help show them the money.   First, you’re going to need more than just a one-semester internship.  You’ll need at least two semesters of internship, and those done full time at a recognized company are the best.  Yes, this might mean having to suck it up and miss a full semester of liver damaging binge drinking, but it will be worth it in the long term.  Second, you need to think about where you plan to live/work after graduation.  If you want to move to New York and work in advertising, then you need to go to New York and do an internship in advertising.  Don’t do your internship with an ad agency in Harrisburg.  Madison Avenue won’t care about that, and they will have other applicants who have more impressive internships.  Third, get some kind of crappy job while you are in school and use it to your advantage.  I worked part time in an office for 2 years while I was going to graduate school, and that experience, not my degrees, led to me being hired into my first full time position.  Yes, employers now want experience even for entry level candidates.  A friend’s daughter finished her M.A. in French last May, and still has no job prospects.  No experience, no job.

Think about how your skills, internship, and job experience relate to the position for which you are interviewing.  Whatever you do, DO NOT go to an interview and talk about something like the content of your thesis.  Yes, we know you are proud.  We know you spent a lot of time on it, and that it is your opus.  But you don’t go into the interview and discuss Goethe, the Boer War, or gender based poetics.  No one cares.

Most importantly, you need to lower your expectations.  Your first job is going to suck.  You’re going to be doing stuff that you don’t want to do.  You might find it demeaning.  You will be paid crap.  You’re going to be bored.  You’re going to think that maybe you should go to law school.  Get over it.  This is how it is.  You do not need a degree of any type in order to do most corporate jobs.  Most jobs  could be performed by a trained circus monkey.  But the degree is a filter that an employer applies to screen people out.

Not only are articles like this one from the Huffington Post irresponsible in that they are giving young people false hope, they are patently offensive!  A fellow Drone pointed out that, immediately following the article, there’s a slideshow about the most sought-after college majors.  There are no humanities disciplines listed at all.  In fact, when I first saw the title of the article, I thought that it must be from The Onion. 


One thought on “The Lies They Tell the Young

  1. DIck Gozinya says:

    Liberal arts degrees are worthless.

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