Modern graduate life.

Yesterday, I contributed to a piece concerning graduates who are only able to find non-graduate work, which was published in The Daily Mail today:

I found the article itself well-balanced and insightful. However, I’m writing this blog post as a response to various comments on the article, such as this one from Big Mama Mai, London: “Her own fault for picking a Worthless course and her Degree is a Mickey Mouse one. Learn a Trade Girl !! Or go on a Very Good Business course.” Other comments ridicule graduates for presuming they can automatically land a high-paying job post-university. Essentially, many of these comments seek to deny the humanities (particularly English Literature) any value whatsoever and jump to the conclusion that all graduates have nothing but their degree to their name and are sitting around in family comforts wondering why nobody has thrown a giant pile of money at them yet. Case in point: “It is completely dependant on the degree in question. ‘I have a degree in English literature’ Yes that’s very nice dear but what’s your point? What do you want to do with it? Did you think that through before you spent three years of your life having a nice party with your friends?”

(I wonder if a male graduate would have been met with the same patronising tone, the term “dear”?)

So, firstly, I thought I’d break the news to those in need that, believe it or not, some people choose degrees for the joy of education in itself! Not as a passport to ceaseless riches to buy up all the cocaine and hookers! Additionally, to all those writing off my degree as “easy”, trying writing a dissertation on Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, interspersed with close analysis of Satan’s rhetoric in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, topped off with germane musings regarding Jacques Derrida’s concept of forgiveness. In fact, just fucking go and read Clarissa. Then we’ll talk.

It should also be observed that, actually, most graduates do not expect to waltz into their dream job on some massive salary in an immediate or imminent manner. I’ve got a high 2:1 in English Literature, a traditional subject, from the University of Manchester. I would call that a good degree from a good university. Further to my degree, I have various work experience in journalism and PR / marketing in addition to previous employment history (temporary office work and luxury fashion retail) and an extensive self-taught IT skill set.  I do not expect to walk into a high-flying job with just my degree, yet I also do not see why it is unreasonable to expect, with the combination of a good degree and work experience and relevant skills, to gain at least an interview for entry-level employment that pays the Living Wage in, say, an appealing head office environment (museums, charities, fashion, etc.).

[Side-note:] I lost count a long time ago of the number of graduate jobs I’ve applied for, but so far none of them have even confirmed receiving my application. Considering that a single application can easily take an hour after researching the position, the company, tailoring your CV / cover letter to the position, in addition to the series mini-essays you usually have to write as answers to various questions posed in online application forms, this complete lack of response can be rather infuriating. After spending so much time on applications, some feedback would be appreciated or at least a courtesy rejection email to confirm they received the application in the first place. I’m currently saving up for an MA next September, so my circumstances are only temporary, otherwise I’d probably implode with rage.

So, there you go. My cultivated opinions as a skilled and experienced graduate. I love my degree. I love to learn. I would also love a position that pays Living Wage in a remotely intellectually stimulating working environment. I don’t see why that’s such an entitled and impossibly deluded dream.

EDIT: Just thought I’d share with you this cracker of a comment: “Come on she is blonde cannot wear a hat correctly and she thinks a bar job is beneath her, get real ducky.”



Filed under Feminism, Life, Literature

4 responses to “Modern graduate life.

  1. OscarNotSoWilde

    The responses on that article are misinformed dross. I’ve tried to post my angered response but the website won’t let me register. I agree wholeheartedly with everything that you say. It’s such a shame that the current work climate is tailored towards the monkeys who shout the loudest (like those who have posted narrow minded comments) rather than the eloquent academics who excelled in their field whilst at a good University.

  2. Sounds regretfully like the sorts of comments that sadly do not surprise me from Daily Mail readers. Graduates don’t expect super first jobs unless they are the 1% who bag the specific graduate training jobs at prestigious places (and that’s a whole other whinge). Getting a basic office-y job is what most people assume is appropriate, with the hope that one might then progress a little more quickly than non-graduates, due to a good set of transferable skills (ability to learn, prioritise, manage time, write properly, have good interpersonal skills, know how PowerPoint works, pick up new skills quickly, blah blah). That’s how it worked for me and all of my friends. Eng Lit from Manchester certainly isn’t a Mickey Mouse degree. Just shows how little people know about subjects of which they presume to criticise. Daily Mail-itis. Yuck.

  3. Gotta love the Daily Mail… some people don’t recognise that all students regardless of the subject they study will leave university with transferable skills that are relevant in the workplace such as presentation skills, organisation, logic, coherent reasoning etc. The university environment is the perfect place to develop other Life Skills such as getting on with all types of people. Good luck with the MA and job hunt!

  4. Techno Trousers

    I have recently finished my MA in English Literature and before that achieved a first-class honours in BA (Hons) English Literature. Can you guess what my part-time job is? I’m currently working in retail as a night shift worker. It frustrates me that my educational, creative and personal skills are now being wasted. After reading your struggle, I feel your pain.

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