This English Major Just Got Fired. Here’s Where I Went Wrong

tumblr_nof8igts8n1qbceqdo1_500This is pretty interesting. It tells us quite a lot about how it is out there in the job market. But it tells us something else, maybe. Maybe our young people are coming out of college with rather overblown expectations of what a degree is worth. The best thing that college can teach you, is to be responsible for yourself, and it sounds like this person got that lesson, but that’s not enough to start a career at anyplace but the (or pretty close, anyway) bottom.

For the first time in my life, I’ve been fired. It was probably as easy an experience as it can ever be. I had known it was coming, since I had gone in the day before to check the coffee shop schedule, and found my name wasn’t on it.

I wasn’t fired for incompetence; the manager made that clear. I could do the work required as well as anyone. The trouble was that I’m not a very enthusiastic, outgoing, or bubbly kind of person, and I couldn’t pretend to be for six hours at a time. I’m not a “people person,” you see, and begging is not my style.

Only trouble was, no one else wanted me, either. Nine years ago, I went into college with only a vague notion of what I would do when I got out. I took a degree in English writing, since my intention was to eventually become a writer, although I knew I’d need some kind of suitable day job in the meantime. I figured that would just work out and that pretty much anything would do.

During college I considered and rejected pretty much every career option you can think of, from teaching to law enforcement, but never settled on anything definite. I ended up taking a job at an auto parts company upon graduation.

About a year ago, after leaving that job, I found myself looking for work.  I had a college degree and almost four solid years of work experience under my belt. I am intelligent, dependable, and courteous, and I have a record of learning new duties quickly. Apparently, that qualified me to work in a coffee shop. Then I was courteously dismissed from it with no further prospects.

College Taught Me I Didn’t Need College

Weeks have now turned to months. I’ve sent application after application. About one time out of a hundred, I’ve been called in for an interview. Most of the time I receive nothing. As of this writing, I am still unemployed.

My experience is not unique. There are thousands of college graduates in my shoes today. In fact, I’m better off than most: thanks to my wonderful parents, I don’t have any student debt weighing me down. I was also fortunate that the school I went to included a Great Books program, which is where I first truly learned to think.

Having learned that particular skill, I’ve concluded it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to go to college. Oh, I’m grateful for many things—the aforementioned Great Books program, the friends I made, and so forth. But looking back, I can’t avoid the conclusion that if I had learned to think a little sooner I would have realized that I shouldn’t have gone to college at all when I did.

I would have been better off going into the military or getting a job right off the bat. That way I would have had the kind of skills necessary to find the kind of jobs I want. College, for me, was unnecessary. Many people have to go into debt to attend a school where, instead of teaching you to think logically, they teach you how much the world owes you. It’s a liability.

Could well be so, hard to say from here. But there is also this, most employers, for a job with any kind of future don’t want to talk to you if you don’t have that piece of paper. It likely has to do, amongst other things, with how risible a high school education has become, and it’s an easy marker for computer sorting. To continue:

Searching for work is a potent cocktail of urgency, confusion, rage, and helplessness. You are keenly aware that you need a job, and you want to get one, but at the same time it feels as though it is completely out of your hands. All you can do is send out your applications, wait, do your follow-up calls, and wait again while whatever money you have saved dwindles and the gap in your resume grows.

That’s the worst part of looking for work: how utterly powerless one feels. You don’t get to set the terms. You don’t control if or when the other side will respond. You have to jump through the same tedious hoops over and over, laboriously entering the same information time and again, all the while knowing your only reward is likely to be a form letter stating they “have decided to go with a candidate who better fits our qualifications” and they “Wish you luck in your search.”

That’s if you’re lucky. Most of the time your application simply vanishes into the ether without leaving so much as a ripple. You are competing with untold thousands of others, leaving it highly unlikely that anyone will even see your application. But you’re forbidden from applying in any other way.

via This English Major Just Got Fired. Here’s Where I Went Wrong Do read it all.

I sympathize, boy do I sympathize. I too have been there, and applying online just plain sucks, although I completely understand why most companies do it that way now.

I suspect I would, if I were still active in growing a business, would love to have this person on board. That way of thinking is the key going far. But as they’ve discovered, even with a college degree, they have to start at the bottom. What they may not know is this. It’s always been that way. Back in the day, when being the ‘Standard Railroad of the World’ meant something, a newly graduated civil engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad started as an assistant rodman, and worked through many positions before their title included that coveted word ‘engineer’. No matter what you want to do, there are many things that you can only learn from experience, not from school. Although schooling is always helpful, if not always required.


About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

15 Responses to This English Major Just Got Fired. Here’s Where I Went Wrong

  1. Mike says:

    Wait till they remove all value which remains in a college education by making it ‘free’. Once upon a time companies were able to pay a ‘training wage’ for those they recognized potential in. There were vast numbers of people ‘learning on the job’. The Unions have been very successful in ridding the workplace of such opportunities for young folks who were taught an irrelevant skill set in High School and College… that is they were very successful in ridding the workplace of this paradigm for everyone but the Unions themselves. They are still legally able to pay ‘training wages’. I hold that the Private Sector should return to an entry exam type of vetting for potential hires. If you can do the job then I don’t care if you have a degree.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Neither do I, in fact if I categorized the people that worked for me over the years; the best were veterans, then people who really needed a job and were willing to worked, and very far in the rear, college graduates. Which may not be entirely fair, since most of my people were doing outside labor of one sort or another, but that’s my experience, and where they ended up says the same thing, given some variance for intelligence and such.

      Liked by 1 person

      • How extensive has your experience been? Have you worked in the same general area most of your life (rural Nebraska)? If so, how can you draw conclusions from what is a very minuscule sample size?

        People often denigrate college education, often with poor reasoning. Let’s be honest, your life would likely have been much different had you graduated from college, so what is your reasoning for the criticism? You love the UK, but you have never been and cannot afford it now. Had you become an electrical engineer, you could have worked around the world, experienced things that you like to read about and discuss, but remain abstract concepts.

        Please don’t take this as a criticism of you as a person, I do not mean it that way, but your dreams do not seem to match your life, and if you had to do it over again, I think you would have preferred to have gotten a college degree and sat in the Firth of Froth cafe sipping an espresso and eating a fantastic egg and sausage sandwich on Broughton St. in Edinburgh instead of homesteading in Nebraska.

        Do you feel like you missed out?


        • Mike says:

          How delightfully Elitist.


        • How is this elitist? This is factual. Neo feels like he has an affinity for the UK, but has never stepped foot in the country. He loves talking about military history, but never served in the military. He has interests in history and the world, but has lived the vast majority of his life in a very rural area of a very rural area. He might genuinely feel like he might have done things differently, and his insight might be useful, particularly in an area where a college degree might have allowed him to overcome many of the restrictions his lack of a college degree placed on his movement and opportunities. He might be perfectly happy with everything, but he might have a differing opinion if asked. What is elitist about that?

          For what it is worth, isn’t this capitalism in action? Those who study, get degrees, get more degrees, excel, have much more opportunity than those who do not, because the market values their input more.


    • Universities in Germany are free, but still valuable. Schools in the UK are far cheaper than the US (no sports programs, I cannot say it is definitively the reason, but an interesting coincidence) but still very valuable.

      What is/are your degrees in?

      BTW, why are both cases showing a female barista, when the author is clearly a bearded man? Just an interesting presentation.


      • Mike says:

        The Universities in Germany are not ‘free’. Nor, are the schools in the UK ‘cheaper’. Removing individual wealth and adding a few steps before it reaches a function of Government, in your example Education, does not make it ‘free’.


        • I suppose you could argue that they cost the general populace, but spread over such a large body the overall increase is relatively light. But you are still incorrect. Consider…

          Harvard, as a private institution received $656 million in 2012. Oxford received 182million sterling. Thanks to Brexit the value of the Pound has fallen, but in simple terms, the US actually gives far more to Harvard than the UK gives to Oxford. For a US student, Harvard costs around $50k a semester. Oxford costs around $20k (rough conversion).

          So the UK’s best school, on par with Harvard in academic quality, receives less public funding, and costs less to students.

          And just to make sure we are adjusting per capita, the student body is roughly the same size.

          So it is cheaper.

          As for the difference between the US and UK, compare the Economist’s Big Mac Index…. it is cheaper to buy a Big Mac in the EU (which includes the UK in the index). Other things are more expensive, others less. It just depends. So by spreading the costs over the populace, there is not a significant burden.


        • Mike says:

          From a Socialist point of view removing wealth from individuals is justified by the ends… My previous response was to see if we were speaking the same language. While we are not, I understand yours. So back to your original assertion. The School systems in your two example countries are designed to weed out those who cannot pass the tests required to move forward to the next stage. Both countries also offer apprenticeship programs where businesses can hire prospective youth at reduced wages while they learn a trade. The differences between European Socialism and the way the United States was designed to function is vast. But as you correctly identify, Europe begins with confiscation of wealth and allows no other consideration. In other words, the entire Spectrum of Governing Theory consists only of Socialism and it’s variants, with one end being Communism and the other Fascism. Regarding Big Macs, what is cheaper is almost always distorted by government subsidies… Which brings us to the cost of Education in the United States. The US Universities are following the rule of pricing according to demand. When the Government distorts the market with redistributed taxpayer dollars in the form of grants and artificially low student lending rates, with the wink and a nod to the students that if they vote for Socialists that debt could be forgiven, you get what we have here today. The result is Hyper-Inflated tuition costs with little or no return to the student, or the private sector. It’s the little or no return that I’m most interested in. The U.S. has no need for Keynesian indoctrinated Socialists, Europe does fine churning those folks out. We need Enlightenment Age of Reason Capitalists, but we’re getting the former if they’re semi-competent at all.

          Liked by 1 person

        • You keep using the word Socialism. You don’t seem to know what it means. Social programs do not equal Socialism. Socialism is when the community owns the means of production. Communism is a specific subset of Socialism where it is the government in particular that owns the means of production. None of this applies in the case here. I cannot think of any European industry that is owned communally, perhaps you have some specifics?

          And you have not addressed your original claim, “Nor, are the schools in the UK ‘cheaper’.” Were my numbers wrong? If so, how?

          Can you stick to your claim that the UK schools are not “cheaper” with some evidence or facts? Also, since less governmental money (tax money) goes to UK schools how can you start with the idea that “Europe begins with confiscation of wealth”. It seems to are not clear on the facts at all.

          Also your other claims are incorrect. According to the OECD Wage Tax report of 2016, US taxes are 31.7% as a percentage of labor costs. The UK is only 30.8. Belgium is the highest with 55.3. But in all of these countries, there are schemes where offsets are possible through home ownership costs and other mechanisms. So your repeated claims about “confiscation of wealth” seems like poor propaganda as opposed to rational thought.

          Back to the subject at hand, however, did you go to college?


        • Mike says:

          Force, Jobar, is the dividing line between Socialism with all of it’s flavors and Americanism. Regarding Big Macs…If you only believe your own numbers then you would also believe the U.S. unemployment rate is 5%. (It’s interesting to note that 5% meant the Apocalypse under Bush yet is a Major victory under Obama. The Left has always liked it’s numbers to justify it’s means. That’s why Freidrich sought out Karl.) Anecdotally I can tell you that the most expensive Fast Food I have ever purchased has been outside the U.S. But that takes into consideration exchange rate, various levels of taxes determined by the local of the establishment etc. All things your remedial Big Macs cannot adjust for. I have answered your questions whether you like my answers or not. My background and further explanations of what I do and do not know are all available on my site. Makeaneffort.
          But let’s get back to you.
          I ask a simple question, and only one question, of you.
          Jobar, Please explain American Exceptionalism for the few of us who read these exchanges.
          I’ll wait.


        • Ummmm….are you being serious? You don’t seem to know what the Big Mac Index is, why it exists, or what it can show, but you should have at least been able to Google it before writing.

          Do you really not understand what you are writing about or are you being sarcastic? Is this a Poe?


        • Mike says:

          Still waiting…


        • At this point I suspect you are still waiting on a great deal in your life. Unless you are pulling a Poe, which I still think is a strong possibility, you don’t seem to be sure what is going on.

          And isn’t this the essence of the OP? You do not have to go to college to gain reasoning skills, to become familiar with concepts, ideas, and sources of information. None of it is necessary, but it certainly helps to shortcut the process. And let to their own devices, most will never actually excel outside of a structured environment. You have used Socialism several times, incorrectly, because you don’t really know what it means. I doubt you do now. It is a substitute in your writings for “bad” and you label things Socialist because you want to call them “bad”, but using a bigger word and in the process do so incorrectly. It just looks uninformed. You did not know what the Big Mac Index was, but you also were not savvy enough to know to look it up. Isn’t that sort of an interesting phenomenon, you did not bother to look up something you did not know, but commented anyway. That is the sort of thing which several years of dedicated education can assist, and more often than not it is the liberal arts that conveys these sorts of skills. Engineering is great, but I think liberal arts develops the best thinkers. I am a fan of the whole person concept of higher education, not many schools offer that, but it is what I did.

          For example Neo makes a lot of mistakes in talking about Brexit, not maliciously, but because he is not as familiar with the issues. It is not that he is incapable of knowing the issues, but he is not familiar with the subject matter and misses them for this reason. It is a deficiency that is perfectly fixable, but I do not think it will ever happen, for various reasons.


        • Mike says:

          You just can’t answer a question, can you? You’ve made me bored. You’re right… I wait for far too much.


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