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Elizabeth Davies on lies and the career path as young people try to get established in the workforce

Elizabeth Davies on lies and the career path as young people try to get established in the workforce
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By Elizabeth Davies

“The amount of lies I’ve had to tell about my future these past few months is just staggering.” My friends’ words hit particularly close to home when she and I were recently discussing the painful and depressing catch 22 situation that is the ‘for now’ job.

I’m in the stage of my life where I’m looking for a ‘career job’ whilst working a number of part time ‘for now’ jobs in order to pay my rent and generally just support myself. I’m left torn between committing 100% to a job that I don’t want to work in forever, or being honest about my future aspirations and therefore likely getting fired.

It seems like every job wants a long term commitment, a serious relationship so to speak. It’s nice that people want to keep me around, it’s flattering, kind of like being proposed to by a guy you’ve been dating casually for six weeks. It’s a nice feeling but it’s not quite what you were hoping for.

Employers don’t want employees who are going to quit the second they get offered a job in their field. That being said, every recent graduate is working a job that they hope will eventually be replaced by something better. My career progression is not in my boss’s best interest; in all honesty they would rather I resigned myself to a future in hospitality or retail. My friend put it particularly eloquently when she said; “It’s such a hindrance that the job market essentially doesn’t want you to think about progression”.

Over the last couple of decades the number of university graduates has been steadily increasing each year, as a country our youth are aiming higher, wanting more, pushing harder. Whilst this is ultimately a really positive thing it does mean our workforce seems to be becoming more and more over-qualified. You may think it’s flattering to be told you’re over-qualified. It’s not. It’s incredibly depressing. These days when people ask what I do for a living I’m hesitant to answer, I eventually rattle off my multiple jobs and quickly follow up by explaining my university qualifications and talking about my aspirations for the future. I find myself simultaneously embarrassed and ashamed of being embarrassed.

As I get older and venture further away from my education I’m realising that in some cases honesty isn’t necessarily the best policy. Actually it’s a pretty unfavourable one. The trick is learning to lie just enough to scrape through, and then attempting to live up to that lie. If someone asks you what your plans are for the next year, if you intend to get a job in your field, you lie. You claim you are totally focused and committed to your McDonald's job, because no employer wants to hear that they are one (hopefully short) stop on the road to something better.

Then once you have the job you work really hard, you commit, you show up on time and you do the best job you can possibly do, all whilst quietly keeping an eye out and applying for other things. Just because you have a crap job, that doesn’t give you an excuse to DO a crap job.

I love my jobs, I work really hard, and I’m happy to be able to pay my rent and not rely on anyone else. I hope that one day in the not too distant future I’ll be able to get a full time job that is a little bit more relevant to my field of study. I won’t apologise for that aspiration, though I will definitely keep it a secret if I have to apply for another ‘for now’ job.

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*Elizabeth Davies is a 23 year old post-graduate journalism student at Auckland University of Technology. She lives with her partner in Epsom and spends her free time refurbishing vintage furniture and attempting to bake while fighting a daily battle against her bank balance. She writes a weekly article for interest.co.nz on money matters and financial struggles from a young person's perspective.

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16 Comments

Unfortunately, you are witnessing the dimise of the value of higher education...."what happens when everyone as a degree, then no one is special"...

 

Eventually the only differentiator will be your creativity. Good luck with that

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Enrol in a degree only if it offers an embedded internship and a variety of industry projects as part of the study. Make sure that some of the lecturers are working or consulting while teaching or have recent industry experience. Use the faculty to network with industry contacts before you graduate. This will help you transition to a career in your field. Ask the University or institute of tech before you enrol. They will be making $15000+ from your fees and another $15000+ from govt eft funding so make sure you get your ROI..

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Just as a heads up, when heads of state, sports stars and pop icons elucidate that "you can be anything you want", holding themselves as bait, it really is a con job. The machinery behind them is massive, viciously selective and highly profitable.

The rent seeking educationalists will not stop selling their wares just because there are no jobs at the end of the course, that's not their fault. Arts, history, languages, psychology, journalism, among other courses all spit out very educated rich kids who will eventually capitulate to menial work with the rest of us unless they the have the right family contacts and were groomed for elitism regardless of their major.

Jounalism today is just PR dressed up. Hook the audience with pretty faces and human interest pulp and say nice things about the sponsor at the right time. Anything else just doesn't get the return on investment, especially if the truth is inconvenient for those paying the invoice.

SEEK may wish to appear as some sort of public service but presents a low percentage of actual avialable jobs among the many agency phishing ads and serves as an awesome front for sales of  courses toward "qualifications". They copied the university model right there.

If you select your course based on your perception of the lifestyle you find most attractive rather than looking about you at the skills currently most in demand and being personally honest about your aptitudes, you will be asking a lot of people if they want fries before you see your dreams come true.

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A more recent definition of a third world country is the presence of masses of unemployed well educated university graduates.

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India has tens of 1,000s of MBAs and BEs ... woring for a few rupees as clerks etc...
Yes, you need real, high value jobs with decent incomes to make progress and to utilise human capital.
Once globalization has stripped 1st world countries of manufacturing, retail, small independent businesses then do they decline into low wage, high ed countries?

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I've got five kids, all with partners. So out of ten eight have degrees. All have jobs and are pretty much doing what they want.

The couple without degrees are Infact earning the most dosh by a margin, driving trucks in a WA hell hole. Hilarious.

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You're describing the Higher Education Bubble.

 

Essentially, the increment to lifetime earnings from a given piece of paper, has to be weighed against the cost thereof.  The 'cost' is not so simple...

  • Monetary cost of the fees and living if not paid for by debt
  • Opportunity cost on these outgoings
  • Debt cost if debt-funded
  • Cost of later family formation if delayed by Edumication - e.g. birth risks increase dramatically from late 20's onwards
  • Cost of delay to first house (especially if house price inflation exceeds general inflation)
  • Risk of job market changes over the term of the qual
  • Risk of over-specialisation in a milieu where multiple careers are the norm
  • Direct loss of earnings over those years

 

The credentialisation of the world has fed nicely into academic salaries, institutional empire-building in the education sector, and feel-good stuff all round:  the oft-quoted 'knowledge society' meme which rather glibly equates Weight of Pieces of Paper, with 'Usefulness'.

 

But it is a sucker's game for the students involved, who come down off the podium wearing the cap and gown and generally with a swingeing debt, to....the real world - a much harsher, colder place, where experience, the ability to fit in,  and learn real fast, and make profits for the business from day one, are much more important than them pieces of paper.

 

I did a late-life MBA some time back now, having no undergrad qual except bits of a failed engineering degree.  I earned well above average wages in four different careers:  machine operator (Tonka Toy phase:  scrapers, dozers, graders), local authority administrator and treasurer, then IT and of late BI specialist.  No debt.  Early family formation.  Early FHB.  It all worked out, but then I'm in the top 5% cognitively if not socially.  Which helps.

 

Not so rosy for most, now.

 

Another bubble.

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Success is not in predicting the future.  It is creating people who can thrive in a future that can't be predicted.

Heard that at a workshop, don't know who to attribute it to, but do believe it is valid for our times. :-)

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Fantastic quote! I'm often torn between making big goals and constantly looking forward to them, or embracing the present and making the most of where I am at the moment. Thank you for your thoughts. 

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Wamad - yes, you are, cognitively.

 

So why that 'Whole Earth' thing? It's deconstructable in about four easy 'first-principle' steps. You can do that standing on your head. But choose not to.

 

I charted a counter-cyclical path, using exactly your understanding of how things are. By defaut, one has arena that more to oneself. Her problem is that she's part of a generation who joined the game late. All the weapons have been grabbed by the other players, and the Gamemakers are controlling the arena.

 

Go well

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At the begining of a career it doesn't matter what you earn, it only matters what you learn.  Go somewhere you see a lot.

 

As they say, nothing in life is free, and even secrets have a cost.

 

Sometimes over analysing the start of a thing isn't useful because it's really where it leads that counts more that the whether the beginning was perfect.

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Elizabeth .... stick at it , you'll get there .

The causes of your frustration are  :-

  • Life is not what you dreamt it would be like when you were a teen
  • The labour makert has changed even for the Baby Boomers
  • You are a product of the instant gratification generation.
  • We are mired in the worst recession in living memory
  • Your frustrations are something we have always had , for many generations

 

You need a goal and a plan and clarity about what you really want

Then you need a map (or GPS) on how to get there.

Then you need to constantly review the goal(s) and plan(s) .

And remember not to look over your shoulder or into the next paddock at what  others like your friends are doing , its very deceptive .

The grass is always greener in the next paddock , until you get into that paddock and take a closer look . The grass is much the same , it just looks greener from a distance .

Your friends who tell you that they have found this fantastic job earning the big moolah , and this is it............... are probably lying

 

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I often find it very hard not to compare my life to those of the people around me. I even recently deleted my facebook page because I realised I was concentrating too much on what others are experiencing and it was causing a personal lack of appreciation for my own life. I think everyone in my generation feels the pressure to have everything together and be 'successful', so much so that you're right a lot of people are lying about just how great their work situation is, which isn't helping anyone, including themselves! cheers

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I tend to think that dismissing a candidate as overqualified is a sign of a disfunctional organisation and hiring person who is going "they could do my job and I can't". I'd much rather have people on my team who want the job and have good skills than want the job and don't.

Admittedly, I'm saying that from a position of priviledge rather than being one of people struggling to be among the 30% of under 25 year old women that actually have a full time job.

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Opps, just correcting myself. I accidentally used the 2006 census figures rather than the latest 2013 figures (much of which are out). For the Auckland region in 2013, the number of women with full time jobs aged under 25 was down to 23%. So yes, getting a real "proper" job has clearly gotten much harder over the past 6 years.

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Thank you! I hate the idea of qualifications being held against someone. My degree won't make me a bad waitress, (granted it won't make me a better one). I'd also like to thank you so much for bringing those stats to my attention. I was unaware of just how many young women are in the same position as me. Whilst the figure it depressing, it's somewhat comforting to know that I'm not alone, or doing something wrong, things have just gotten a little bit harder for everyone. cheers, Elizabeth.

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