Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"The real world is really tough"

This year's "whiny college graduate unprepared for the job market" letter to the editor is in the Buffalo News.
Upon graduating, I was helplessly launched headfirst into the “real world,” equipped with a degree in history and $32,000 in student loans. Before ricocheting back home, I would learn two important lessons: 1) There are no well-paying — let alone paying — jobs for history majors. 2) The real world is really tough.
(That should be "there are no paying — let alone well-paying — jobs for history majors". That's how the "this, let alone that" structure is used: The first example is general, the second more specific. Otherwise it makes no sense. But then you're a history major, not a language major, aren't you?)
Desperate times called for desperate measures, and I had no intention of living in a society that was as unfair as this one. To seek a haven devoid of the ruthless 9-to-5 ebb and flow of contemporary America, I moved to Alaska.

As a liberal arts major, I dreamed of making a profound difference in people’s lives.
Doing what, exactly? What kind of life would you judge your history degree has prepared you for? What did you have in mind?
Instead, for a year, I lived in Coldfoot, a town north of the Arctic Circle that resembles a Soviet Gulag camp. My job as a tour guide for visitors...
This "Soviet Gulag camp" of a town has a tourism industry? Why, yes it does. It isn't the bustling metropolis Cicely is, but it has its charms -- apparently lost on Ken, here.

I've read this letter five or six times now, and it keeps getting funnier every time I read it. I just wish the paper had done a sidebar interview with his parents.

See also:


Anonymous said...

Hmm... Where's my link to last year's AJC guest editorial from the young UGA J-school candidate telling the world how much unemployment bites?

There must be enough of these pieces around to constitute an entire sub-genre of op-eds. Call 'em 'Failure to Launch' stories.


Anonymous said...

Here it is!

Atlanta Journal Constitution (10-17-06)

“Hands-On Experience In Unemployment”

By Jaime Sarrio

At 26, I found myself somewhere I never imagined I'd be -- the unemployment line.

I'm not a factory worker. I'm not a blue-collar employee. I have a college degree. [Just like Plankton! -- RNB] I'm not the type of person who needs government assistance, right?


After six weeks of applications, e-mails and interviews, I swallowed my pride, took one last look at the University of Georgia diploma hanging on my wall and decided to seek help.

I Googled the location of unemployment offices in my area and luckily, there was one just a few miles away on North Druid Hills Road. How come I never noticed it when I was getting groceries at the Publix next door? Or while grabbing drinks at the nearby pub? It's like realizing there's a button on your remote that lets you go to the last channel rather than entering the number. You never go looking for it until you need it. I made sure I had everything I needed -- the severance letter, the last paycheck, the proper I.D. -- and set off to get in The Line.

Surprisingly, it wasn't the awful experience I imagined it to be. The Line moved fast, and the facilities were up-to-date: There was air conditioning and clean restrooms. It was not at all the government nightmare that TV dramas, such as "Law and Order," make it out to be.

Even more surprising, I saw people just like me -- young professionals willing to work, eager to make something of themselves and surprised that the road of life led them to the unemployment line.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 906,000 college graduates claimed unemployment last month. The good news is, that number is down from about 1 million last year.

I found out something else, too. Apparently, We the People don't actually pay into unemployment; employers do. I had no clue what my dad was going to gripe about for the next 10 years after I told him this. But it wasn't all pleasant surprises on my little journey into government assistance. Turns out, based on my income, I am only eligible for $300 a week, before taxes. That's $1,200 a month, less than half of what I was making as a magazine editor before I lost my job to downsizing.

The unemployment rules state every dollar I earn over $50 each week will be subtracted from my check. I thought about getting a job waiting tables a few nights a week, but unless I can bring in more than $150 a night, it won't be worth my time. It could potentially just be one more thing standing in the way of me getting a job in my field.

And, when you sign up for unemployment, you have to attend at least three two-hour seminars on how to build a resume and perform well in an interview. You see, they don't just give you the money without consequence -- they actually make you learn how to be a better worker. Another myth debunked!

We're also required to fill out a sheet that proves we were looking for jobs -- at least two -- every week. So someone is keeping track of where this money is going. Dad, guess you were wrong again.

Luckily, I don't have children or any mouths to feed other than my own. But I do have about $20,000 in student loans that bought me that nice little diploma, not to mention the credit card debt I accrued in college.

The hard truth is that this month, I'm not going to be able to make ends meet.

Even though I graduated from college a long time ago, I am still learning a lesson. A college degree doesn't mean a path of financial stability and steady employment. Not anymore, at least. And if college graduates are having trouble finding work, imagine how tough it must be for people with even less education and experience.

Yep. Times they are a-changin'. Guess someone should break the news to my dad.

Anonymous said...

(A quick Google indicates that Ms. Sarrio is now working up at 'The Tennesseean.' Nice she found work.)

Daniel said...

Apparently, We the People don't actually pay into unemployment; employers do. I had no clue what my dad was going to gripe about for the next 10 years after I told him this.

I can't tell if she's being sarcastic or straightforward.

(Background music for this comment should be "The World Owes Me a Living" from Disney's version of the Grasshopper and the Ant.)

Anonymous said...

Why don't I paste in the letter I sent to the AJC (which they never printed):


Three things I learned (or inferred) from Jaime Sarrio’s 10-17 piece on being unemployed:

First, whatever field Ms. Sarrio’s UGA diploma is in, it’s not Economics

Second: “Apparently, We the People don't actually pay into unemployment; employers do.” That’s right. And they use leprechaun gold to do it.

Third, Ms. Sarrio has real “Daddy” issues. I predict that, sometime in the next five years, she will find herself spending much less time making humorous remarks about what an idiot her father is. But I could be wrong.


10-17-06, 12:20 p.m. [Not printed]

Anonymous said...

Re: "I can't tell if she's being sarcastic or straightforward."

I suspect she was being another S-word: Stupid.

Anonymous said...

Yep, a budding sub-genre:


Anonymous said...

I think you should show a bit more sympathy. Today's college graduates grew up in an education system that constantly told us nonsense like "you can be whatever you want to do" and "take classes you like." Unfortunately, at the same time, some of these students were paying tens of thousands of dollars they didn't have. I'm in the exact same position as the student in that article, I did what I was good at, History, and I excelled at it. Now I'm unemployed, I just applied for medicaid two days ago, and I'm probably going to have to defer my loans in the next couple of months. I have absolutely no job prospects, 60k in debt, and the biggest positive in my life right now, is that if I were to put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger, my family would not be obligated to pay back my loans, since I refused to let my parents cosign on them. People make mistakes. Just because you didn't doesn't give you the moral right to belittle their struggles.

Daniel said...

You think I'm unsympathetic? I've been unclear. I place the blame on the advisors you told what you wanted to study and didn't ask, "What kind of paying work do you see this preparing you for?" Mine said exactly that, and made me change my minor subject to better prepare me for the job market.

We made mistakes. I have yet to work in the field my degree is in. I made a decision early on not to relocate to where the work was, and I paid for it.

Where I'm unsympathetic is for those people who have learned nothing from their experiences. That doesn't sound like you.