Reflections of an English Major College Graduate

My personal experience as a college graduate going nowhere with my respectable degree, and how it relates to countless others in the same situation.

Partial image of own diploma by Social Thoughts

I have decided that, instead of ranting on a social networking site, I would rant on here in a productive way. Perhaps, my story will either inform others about the struggle of job searching after graduation or, at the very least, make other graduates feel less alone.

Hi,

I am a college graduate and the holder of a bachelor’s degree in English writing with honors a.k.a. “cum laude,” as of 2012 . This should be semi-impressive, especially on a resume; however, I have never been an employed writer nor never employed for my writing skills on any official basis; however, I was employed through minimum wage positions for about thirteen years.

Yes, I began my accidental career in low-wage customer service in 2007 as a cashier, during my second semester of college, which continued until January 2020. Meanwhile, customers frequently asked me questions such as “When are you graduating high school?” Eyeroll. Sigh!

I was writing on HubPages for years. Oddly, it was suggested by Monster, several times; so, I decided to give it a try. I was unaware that it would never provide a reliable income, but it was an enjoyable platform to use to write and express myself, as well as meet other writers.

Side Note: I’m moving articles from my account on there to here, as this is MY content. I deserve the credit for my own work; instead of another company, like HubPages.

Helping High School Students Get a Head Start

Returning to the topic of high school: After each 2-4 hour session of job searching and applying, most of which I can tell will never consider me due to the need of experience using obnoxiously specific computer programs — each listing different computer programs I have never heard of for their exact company, of course — I desperately wish to go back to my high school, demanding to make a speech before the entire student body to inform them on the importance of volunteering for various fields, now, before they enter and graduate college.

The reason being that in today’s job market “a minimum of five years experience” is a requirement. Where does one acquire this? I guess I should have begun when I was a teenager? Who knew that half a decade of experience in something that I didn’t know existed five years ago would be the only way to be employed after graduation?

Most unemployed college grads are angry with their colleges for failing to provide the real tools needed to become employed. While this is understandable, there is no way I would have the time to volunteer during my college education to meet these expectations. I would have had an internship, but I barely had time outside of homework, class, and my part time job. How would I pull off an internship? Plus, who wants to spend half a decade after college graduation collecting years of exposure to things that they could have gained during high school?

Learning From Interviews

Most of my applications never generate a response; not even a quick “Sorry, you don’t quite fit what we’re looking for.” However, the ones who have asked me for an interview have taught me a lot about my worth, or lack there of.

First, interviewers ask if I’ve edited before. Well, of course I have, but that was for my college papers. Apparently, college experience doesn’t count. Lesson one: Educated professors threw As and Bs at me, apparently; meanwhile, lower grades were given to other less deserving students? Is that how college works?

Now, the new lesson: After editing for two nonprofits for several months: “how much were you paid?” Well, one was volunteer, while the other was an unpaid internship; except for the one time there was a sponsor for the organization, which meant that the director split the profits with me, the writer.

Ah, this must mean that I am not a “very good writer.”

Yes, one interviewer said this; even though both nonprofits loved my writing and would hire me if/when they could afford it. It’s a common issue for nonprofits—if that guy knew anything about nonprofit organizations. Had it not been for a complete stranger interviewing me, I wouldn’t have known that I should quit writing, since I’m apparently so awful at it! I mean, he hasn’t read a word of my stuff, but I haven’t been paid before. That’s how anyone could know that you have nothing to offer.

Speaking of money, how does one really discuss salary with any of these interviewers? Shouldn’t they offer a salary so that we know if we’re asking too much/too little?

That same interviewer who told me that because I was “not paid” for my work for the nonprofits means that I “must not be a good writer” also told me that the salary I was asking for was “too high.” After I got back home, a quick search on glassdoor showed me that what I was asking for was significantly lower than the average salary of someone in that position in that location, which means the salary he was offering was pennies compared to the average. Nice.

Bottom line: We are supposed to be educated, paid-well by others, but ask for less than we deserve.

Resumes for Editing Lovers

One of the most time-consuming parts of my job search is updating my resume. I wish that I could say it’s because I keep being hired for new jobs, but no. Every week, there are new articles on how to construct a perfect resume, and what to avoid. If, like me, you read articles on how to improve your lack of a career, on a regular basis, you may have read articles that completely contradict each other.

One article will say to use a particular phrase that makes the interviewer choose you; the second says to never use that phrase because it ruins your appearance as a candidate.

How are we college graduates supposed to succeed in the job market with conflicting advice like this? The saying about how “women don’t know what they want” should be applied to modern day employers. If every job listing is looking for us to read their minds for what is “taboo” vs. “desirable,” how is anyone hired for these jobs? Honestly, I would love to meet these hired applicants, so that I know what I am lacking, as a motivated person who wants their work to reflect their skills.

Is Temping a Career?

As of 2020, I have been staying afloat with a series of temporary positions. I am grateful for what I can get, as long as it seems worth it. Each gives me more experience for the next. Personally, I enjoy data entry. I no longer have to communicate with customers. Naturally, having had worked for them for over a decade in order to receive even a small paycheck, I receive calls and emails regularly, praising me as a “perfect fit” for their customer service or client service position. No, thank you. That ship has sailed. One cannot pay me enough to endure the psychological abuse and immense anxiety of trying to please a “paying customer.”

Each time a new person contacts me about a potential job, I am asked why I have had a series of short-term positions over the years. Well, it was rarely my choice. It’s not preferable to have fleeting employment; on the other hand, if the environment or position is toxic for any reason, I know that it will end in the near future without a need to quit.

I am getting by.

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