Get a job, any job

You’ve graduated from a good college with a humanities or social sciences degree. You can’t find a good job, so you’re living at home and letting your parents pay your bills. What should you do?  Take any job you can find, writes Jason Fertig, assistant professor of management at Southern Indiana University, on the National Association of Scholars blog.

In American Dream is Elusive for New Generation, the New York Times told the story of a 2008 Colgate graduate, Scott Nicholson, who turned down a $40,000-a-year job as an insurance claim adjuster because it wasn’t a management trainee position.

Fertig shares his own experience as a college graduate in Management Information Systems. Hired in the boom as a technical consultant, he found himself preparing PowerPoint slides and other menial work, then laid off when the project ended. He found another job, ended up doing clerical work and let his discontent affect his job performance. When the company merged, he was considered expendable.

Unemployed for the second time in two years, he moved back in with his family.  After six months holding out for a “good job” in line with his training, he realized that college hadn’t trained him for a job.

Higher education is designed to develop the mind, which in turn allows the graduate to bring that developed mind to the workforce.  It does not, nor should it allow one to bypass the lower rungs of the corporate ladder.

. . . Knowing what I know now, I need to ask why you think a political science major with minimal job experience qualifies you for a mid-level management position at a large corporation.

Fertig worked at a gym for $10 per hour. “I learned that a career was about learning a business – it was about doing the work that others will not.”

Trust me, if you worked anywhere for these last two years, and you showed a work ethic that conveyed that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty, your stock would be exponentially higher than it is now.  Even if you worked in fast food, you would be able to show experience in dealing with pressure, working with difficult people, and learning a business from the ground floor.

. . . The longer you hold out, the longer you convey an entitled mentality and a high maintenance attitude to those organizations where you seek employment.

. . . Don’t leave the bat on your shoulder – swing it!  Just get out there and work, and you never know how your career will twist and turn.

Don’t expect to love your job, Fertig adds. Love your spouse. Lead a balanced life.

In my second job, as associate editor of a filmmaking magazine, I was responsible for taking out the garbage, which meant carrying the can down the steep steps of our Victorian, then retrieving it when it was emptied. When an advertising manager was placed in an office overlooking the street, I persuaded the publisher to put her in charge of bringing up the can as soon as it was emptied so the restaurant below us, the Noble Frankfurter, wouldn’t take it with their can. As a Stanford graduate in English and Creative Writing, I learned a lot in that job.

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