useless-diplomaFor generations people have fallen for that whole “work hard in school to get a good job” bull crap that is starting to sound more and more like a line of lies these days. After hitting the books and taking the smart people classes to avoid turning out like Jimmy, the town screw-up who never went to college, the unemployed have taken to staring blankly at their diplomas and asking themselves, “Is that all there is?”

Many people went to college for various reasons: to work hard for the rest of their lives, to get drunk, to get away from home, etc. No matter which path they took, whether they actually earned the degree or had Daddy pay for it so they could eventually become president some day, the idea was that a college diploma would help them find better jobs than the ones they had in high school. And, of course, the notion that sacrificing fun for studying would lead to getting into a better college and thus, better jobs, always drove people to work harder and even pursue advanced degrees.

After accumulating years of debt and being unable to answer haunting questions such, “Why did I major in dance?” the unemployed are struggling to make sense of what went wrong. Sure, they might have taken their college years for granted, deciding to party instead of actually studying. But at the end of it all, they still walked away with the same piece of paper as everyone who actually secreted blood, sweat, and tears to graduate. The diploma alone should have guaranteed at least some form of mind-numbing employment, right? Unfortunately, recent graduates, or people who’ve been booted out of the work force are finding that having something to “fall back on” could have easily been their ability to tie an apron around their waist and say, “Welcome to Starbucks, what kind of overpriced coffee beverage would you like to order to jump start your employed day?”

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29 Responses to “#146 Staring At Their Useless Diploma(s)”

  1. heather says:

    For what it’s worth, in a good economy I don’t think having a degree alone makes that much difference. With only a high school diploma and no college, I worked hard, networked, had mentors take me on and show me the ropes. Eventually I worked my way into a successful career in project management.

    In a bad economy, it sucks for everyone. With a diploma or not.

  2. Jen says:

    This scares me because when I could not find a job, I went back to school…hoping for something better!

  3. elcahun says:

    People forget that you go to college to “learn how to learn.” That said, employers these days seem to view someone with an education as a threat or over-qualified or too specific for the position. I have a degree in film, but have worked in advertising, sales, publishing, construction, customer service, data-analysis, and a few more things.

    Yet these days, I can’t even get a call back for a $12.00 telemarketing job…

  4. Zoe D says:

    It’s true. After over four years of being told I didn’t have enough experience to do anything, I applied for and entered a master’s degree program. I now have a master’s degree, but I still get told that I don’t have enough experience. It’s a $75,000 piece of paper. Like elcahun, I can only find low-wage, low-level jobs. It’s utterly depressing.

  5. Dana says:

    Oh my goodness! So right on target. This is the very thing that got me vexed and into the whole blogging game. Of course, I chose the most ridiculous educational path: earning a BA in rhetoric and a MFA in film directing – BUT my MFA is from an Ivy and I thought that would count for something more than $78K in debt + reoccurring unemployment, while my “less educated” friends are loaning me money. All I can do is laugh… and blog, and post my diploma on my blog so that at least it gets some screen time for all that it cost me, correction – for all that it’s still costing me. Thanks for the laugh.

    broke is the new me

  6. Ivy says:

    Great website, considering my friend and I are unemployed, sitting in front of our laptop and laughing at this. Our life is…

    I don’t even know where my degree went, it’s underneath all the junk.

    Education =/= experience. They want experience, and maybe a degree nowadays.

  7. Ericka says:

    Staring at it? Please, I like to use it to wipe my ass after a big shit. Seems it’s more useful that way.

  8. Kelby2012 says:

    LOL, I got three pieces of crap to stare at. Unemployed twice this year “currently on day 95 of my most recent unemployment”, with two masters degrees and a Bachelors. Currently stuck in a place between purgatory and hell, when I am not blogging, I definitely wonder where in the hell did I go wrong. I did all the hard work in my 20s studying to ensure that I would always be able to find employment with my degrees. Now I find myself either too experienced/educated or not enough experience for because I haven’t worked in a certain field. I am an IT professional by the way. It is a depressing road to be on, the silliness of the economy is enough to drive a sane person insane. I feel like the business model for the American Dream is broken, and it doesn’t look like it is going to be fixed anytime soon.

  9. Cate says:

    yup. I got one of these pieces of paper.

  10. Silvia says:

    I have a dozen of such diplomas, but for one year I have no job.
    The funny and the scary situation is that those papers are the main cause of my uneymployment. At the interview, the recruiters said that maybe I will ask for a large payment. :)
    So, maybe the solution is not to declare them.

    • greg says:

      Silvia, I feel your pain. I, too, have been in that situation where if I list all my experience, they(employer) will think I’m “too expensive” to hire. So, I intentionally leave out some background to get the job. It has worked in the past, but now in this economy, nothing works. I’ve been unemployed for 1 month and I have had only 1 interview.

  11. Experience is far better than a diploma, Now if you have both then maybe you can become assistant manager at Starbucks.

  12. Miles Lacey says:

    It is sad but true. I wonder why I bothered to go to University to get my Bachelor of the Arts degree in History and Media Studies when the end result was being told that I’m now overqualified for the jobs at the entry level or at the bottom end of the job market but not quite good enough to get a job at the middle or upper end of the job market.

    In New Zealand it’s become standard practice of many university graduates to dumb down their CV so they can get into job training programmes or into jobs because they found that if they were honest they were overlooked.

  13. AP says:

    So true! This website is great, more people need to see this. I have a Masters from an Ivy League, studied abroad, worked in DC. And after spending all that time and effort to get to this point, 6 months and 2 interviews after my graduation (both rejections) is all I’ve gotten. Education is become obsolete, it’s survivor out there and the have-nots can’t compete with the ones interviewing b/c they are probably scared to hire someone better than themselves.

  14. OM says:

    No kidding. I attended Ivies and have a doctorate in bioengineering. Yeah, one of those applied degrees to solve the many problems that we face. However, they do need people like me, they just live in India. For me, it might just be a job in retail.

  15. Leslie Drew says:

    I think the bad economy is actually just uncovering other problems with how our whole traditional “go to college to get a job” system works. Even after four years of college or three years of graduate school most graduates still need training because of lack of experience.

  16. Hello there readers. I was just doing some research for my blog and ran into this site. I feel compelled to say something. First off, I’m certainly not a new graduate. I’m so old in fact, you might mistake me for Moses’ grandfather. Anyhow, I’m sorry to see so many great people with potential struggling in this difficult economic time. As an employer and Ages-old graduate myself, I’d like to bring a bit of hope to everyone. Here we go. I hear that “degrees and diplomas are overrated” thing all the time. And it’s true. The idea a diploma guarantees anything is plain nuts. But all things being equal, you’ll be worse off without one. You’ll be screened right out of the 1,000 deep pile of competing applications. Okay, so everybody knows that. Now to the crux of the problem. Competition. I am now going to give every job-seeker reading this site some tips worth their weight in gold. Ready? First off, go use your learning skills to consume everything out there on “networking”. Learn how to access the so-called “hidden job market”. Yes you will have to also overcome fears of meeting new people, cold calling, etc., to execute your strategy. But I can guarantee you this. Only one in five thousand of your competitors will be able to follow you into this sea of opportunity. Alright, that’s tip one. Tip two is this. Attitude. Bright, positive, energetic, determined, go anywhere-do-anything, fearless, self-starting ATTITUDE. Put it on and leave it on. I will hire the guy or gal with GREAT ATTITUDE before lots of better qualified folks every single time. Why? They are bigger and better assets to my company. Anyhow….enough said. I am now sending out a huge ray of positive Karma personally to every job-seeking soul reading this site. Grab it guys and go for it. Ciao. John Duffield

    • Anonymous says:

      First quote: ‘go use your learning skills to consume everything out there on “networking”. Learn how to access the so-called “hidden job market”.’

      There’s a reason Mr. Duffield here has put those words in quotes — its good ole’ fashioned rich people codewords. “Networking” = kissing the ass of any rich person you meet. “Hidden job market” = giant pile of nepotism that contains incompetent people who tank the performance of useful companies or consulting them to shit-can the only useful people around.

      Second quote: ‘Only one in five thousand of your competitors will be able to follow you into this sea of opportunity.’

      Exactly. Only 0.02% of any of us will succeed with the way the current job market works. The other 4999/5000 will be disposed of either because 1) we actually can do our jobs and therefore are a threat or 2) spent all our time building our brownnosing skills and have no relevance to the job we are supposed to perform, but are the lowest on that totem pole. Choose wisely!

      I’ve heard this quasi-positive pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps crap over and over again from a certain segment of people. None ever seemed qualified to hold the positions they had, nor had they any advice beyond “kiss the ass of the richest person you know really hard, and hope they kick you back a favor.” And nearly all were born prior to 1965.

      Don’t waste your time. Either spend it more wisely by starting your own company at something you’re passionate about or build skills through education and service that will make you more marketable in countries where the management culture requires business to invest in its skilled employees (I’m doing the latter). But don’t fall for the snake oil.

  17. LC says:

    Thank you for this comic relief. I just graduated from law school and like the rest of you, feel like its just dog eat dog out there, even for receptionist jobs. And I didn’t go straight through from undergrad either. I have 8 years of job experience prior to law school, including 5 years as an executive assistant and I can’t even get calls back for secretarial jobs. Its scary. But hell, we are all in the same boat. At this point, all I can do is laugh and try to keep a smile on my face, appreciate the little things and keep the faith it will all turn out in the end. Good luck on the hunt!

  18. No loser here says:

    OK all you whiners. I have 2 degrees, and could not find a job, like you. So I got a CDL. While you sit home unemployed I am making a living, and meeting some great people on the road. A truck driver, maybe. But supporting myself and not WHINING with the rest of you losers.


  19. bibi says:

    I started looking at mine one day when i ran out of toilet paper

  20. Don't rock the boat says:

    What’s really interesting is that we the unemployed can afford time on the internet moaning about being unemployed. Funny, I am here too. My story is that I have been unemployed for nearly a year. I am a recent graduate with a BSc degree and all im good for is short term contractual locum work at different practices. I cannot get proper job because of LACK OF EXPERIENCE. The only solution I could think of was to build my experience by sacrificing time and energy to do volunteer work in my field and learning new skills as an extra. The reality is we need to survive, so if we cant get what want then an alternative route has to be taken. Bills need getting paid and mouths to be fed, so working at Starbucks or wherever is a good start. It’s a waste of time to meditate on ego. No one would hire any one that doesn’t make an effort with themselves. Throw tantrums overboard and sail with clear mind though stormy seas.

  21. Greggie says:

    Hey No Loser Here. Not all of us have four grand to shell out to get a CDL. And even if we did, those jobs are just as hard to come by as ant other job. You got lucky.

  22. Jersey Al says:

    I still remember the mid-90s when anybody with a computer
    degree was getting jobs left and right. High tech was the future.
    Then the tech bubble burst and IT people were getting pink slips.
    Remember those days? So now no college degree is safe after this
    recession. Gone are the days a degree was a requisite for
    professional success. Liberal Arts degrees have been useless for
    years, now it’s the turn of the other degrees. How many lawyers
    have lost their jobs since 2009? Am I the only one leaving my MA
    off my resume? Meanwhile, after I was laid off all I heard about
    was the importance of “upgrading” my skills by returning to
    college. What a freaking joke!

  23. nojob says:

    I hate it when employers tell me I have too much education
    & experience and the job is entry level. I’ve been
    unemployed for 2 1/2 years…I think that qualifies me as entry
    level all over again!

  24. Murfomurf says:

    I have had the occasional casual part-time job over the
    past 12 years. During that time I applied for many positions and
    was either told “you are overqualified” or “come back when you have
    your PhD”. I also descended into the depths of depression for 10.5
    of those years, but still accepted some casual work and did it OK.
    However, now I have a Masters degree in Public Health I can’t get
    work all over again. I’ll be 60 soon and don’t qualify for an aged
    pension until I am at least 67. Should I take casual work cleaning
    or as a check-out chick (which I know makes me very depressed after
    a few weeks), or keep trying for a suitable position? I was one of
    those who always topped everything at school,did well at uni,
    worked hard in professional research and academic jobs and had
    often been invited to apply for other jobs- Then the economy in
    Australia went sour and I’ve been out on a limb. I seriously wonder
    [again] whether it is worth me being alive- it seems no one is
    getting any benefit from my existence, especially me. Entry level
    offerings always refuse me.

  25. Wayne says:

    BS in BioChem here. I have 4 years winery experience.
    Including working for some amazing wineries as a Assistant. Worked
    my 70-80 hours a week. Now unemployed for 1 year (laid off). Now I
    cant even get a call back for a basic internship because they think
    I am overqualified and will jump ship. Cant find a lab job that
    will pay 11 dollars an hour because I have been in the wrong
    industry or some bs. Positive outlook and networking bs. Wow so you
    mean hopefully you get lucky. Thats some killer advice. Lets see
    now, if everyone did as the people say and kiss ass and network, WE
    WOULD STILL BE IN THE SAME BOAT. My degree feels like the biggest
    lie I have ever been told. Straight from childhood. Or maybe I
    heard them wrong and they were saying “GEt a degree and maybe you
    will be lucky enough for some rich person to hire you and abuse you
    and throw you away.”

  26. Jeanne says:

    It is amazing how relevant this all still is.

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