Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Vicious Circles

Well, I read the comments to yesterday’s post, and started to write a comment back. Then I realized just how much I wanted to say, so I decided to write a new post about it.

First is MC Etcher’s comment:

I can totally sympathize with the whole qualified to do something (like computers) but having no piece of paper that says so. I guess you could pay to get certified in PC maintenance. Pay someone else to give you a piece of paper... Why not print your own Certification? It's not like anyone is going to contest something like that.

During my first full-time job search just after I graduated, I found that the main attitude of my friends and family was: “You’ve got a degree, you’ll just walk into a job.”

This is from the viewpoint of someone who’s been working for years and years, and got started in their career 20 years ago, when very few people went to University. (In England it’s only really my generation that went to college, before that, University was the domain of the rich).

Unfortunately, (or fortunately) times have changed. With government grants and student loans pretty much anyone can go to University now. The current system in England is that you get a loan through the student loan commission, and then after you graduate, your loan is paid back directly from your paycheck. You pay something like 15% of everything you earn over 11,000.

In short, it’s no longer an advantage to have a degree, it’s become a disadvantage to not have one. The playing field has changed from most people not having degrees, and a select few having one…to a playing field where nearly everyone has a degree, and few people don’t.

In short, the same percentage of people who had degrees ten years ago is now the percentage of people who don’t have degrees.

Because of this, all a basic Bachelors degree will do is get your application looked at.

As to why I don’t want to pay someone to give me a piece of paper, or print my own certification…well, there’s a few reasons.

The first is I simply don’t want to go back to college. Not only can I not afford it, I’ve already spent 6 years of my life in further education. If I was going to get certified in computers, I’d want an actual degree. I’m 25 right now, and I don’t want to be pushing 30 by the time I start my career.

It’s the same reason I didn’t stay on and get my Masters degree. In my old college, you didn’t apply to do your Masters Degree, your Bachelors Degree tutor would ask you if you wanted to continue in their Masters Degree course. My English Literature tutor asked me to stay on and do my Masters Degree, but I turned him down. Another 3 years at college? Then, I don’t see the point of spending that extra time to get a masters, if you’re not going to do your doctorate, which takes another 5 years.

Spending another 8 years in education when you’ve just completed 6 long, stressful years? I don’t think so.

The second, and much bigger point, is I simply can’t afford to go back to college.

As for printing my own, or paying some internet site to send me a certificate, employers have become a lot more savvy in that respect. Too many people are applying for jobs with ‘fake’ degrees from unaccredited universities. Even if I managed to hoodwink an employer and actually got the job, faking a resume (and I mean ‘faking’, not ‘embellishing’) is grounds for instant dismissal, and I don’t want to go into work every day wondering if this is the day I’m going to be found out and sacked.

My only other major point on this is the principle of the thing. While I’m in no way qualified to do a job like OzzyC’s (Either officially or practically), I can do standard maintenance standing on my head. I resent being forced back into college to ‘learn’ something I already know and paying for the privilege. I had enough of that when I was in college when I did Information Technology, and I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but I knew more about actual computers than my tutor did. Sure, he knew his way around excel, but I was the one who opened up his computer when his display went dead and seated his graphics card properly.

Now for ‘The Girl’s comment, that really highlights the other big problem I have:

…Are you opposed to admin work? If not, sign up with temp agencies. With a degree in English, you could probably substitute teach or be a teachers assistant. Check at the local community college for their job board as well. Also, law firms would drool for a good typist/ proofreader with proper english skills.

Actually, it’s Admin work I’m looking for. Unfortunately Temp agencies are a big no-no.

One, I need steady, full time work. The second problem won’t last forever, but it stops me from signing on with temp agencies right now.

I’m an immigrant. My British Drivers license was only valid for the first 90 days I was in the country, and I’ve been here for over two years now. Without a Green Card, which I’m still waiting on, I’m not officially a permanent resident yet. (Well, I am, I just don’t have the piece of paper to say I am. I have the piece of paper that says my other bit of paper is on the way, but that I can’t use that as proof). At this point, it’s just a matter of time and paperwork, but the big problem is that until I have proof of permanent residency, I can’t get a drivers license.

Can you see where I’m going with this yet?

We have one car, and I’m 100% dependent on Sunny for transportation. She works nights and only arrives home at 8:30am. This means any job I get has to start at 9am and be within a half hour of my house.

Working as a temp, I’d need to be flexible, and flexibility doesn’t fit with my situation right now. I need a job that has definite set hours at a set place.

In other words, I’m in a bit of a vicious circle. I need a car and a drivers license, but the only way I can get a car and license is to get a job, and my choice of job is severely limited until I get a car and drivers license.

As for the rest of your advice, I’m already doing that. My resume is posted on Monster, Local Jobs and Careerbuilder, and I’ve applied for admin positions in pretty much every field I can think of.

Right now, It’s just a matter of playing the waiting game…and as Homer Simpson said:

"The waiting game sucks…let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos”


MC Etcher said...

You can get certified in WinXP, or Java, basic PC repair, or any number of other individual skills.

That's what I meant by certification - not a diploma or degree. Sorry I wasn't specific.

I completely agree with you about the ratio to degreed/non-degreed folks - I've been mulling the same issue, and debating the worthiness of getting my own degree.

I decided that as long as I could get good paying jobs without it, I'll keep doing it. So far I have been fortunate, but I fear that my luck has almost run out.

The Girl said...

Just thought of something else for you!

A lot of larger law firms have night transcriptionists. That way you and Sunny can work nights.

I know the no drivers license thing has to suck and it's not like the US is known for public transportation.


OzzyC said...

I can relate to the education problem. I went to school and got my 2-year degree. When it was time to transfer to a 4-year school, I went to the academic counselor and told her I needed to take my classes at night, because I was a non-traditional student, working during the day and trying to raise a family at night. She said "No problem."

After completing my first semester, I signed up for classes and promptly found out that they only offered one of my main courses at 10:30 AM. I said "What about that whole 'no problem' thing?" She didn't have an answer and I had to drop out. To add insult to injury, the university already had me on their alumni mailing list and was hitting me up for money!!

I went to another school and took the Microsoft cirriculum for MCSE, but didn't take all of the tests. By this time I was totally burned out on school -- and I didn't even have a 4-year degree to show for my efforts.

That was about six years and $20,000 ago. Now my wife works for that university that screwed me over the first time, and they offer a Bachelor of Applied Science degree. Basically, I can get some credit for my real-world experience and try to get a bona fide 4-year degree. I'm kind of leary, but it would help me reach that goal I've been (unsuccessfully) chasing off and on for about ten years.