English degree? Poor you…

9 06 2010

I’ve heard all the usual jokes… you know, like the one asking what the difference is between a BA degree and a family size pizza, and the answer is that a family size pizza can actually feed an entire family. Yip, it’s the ridicule seen towards the regular BA kids – kids who supposedly didn’t know what they really wanted to study, and ended up doing a BA because at least it’s ‘easy’.

Whoever started those jokes and rumours, to quote Garfield, should be drug out into the street and shot.

And still, at times, I ponder about the validity of these statements… because, let’s face it, my BA degree combined with an English degree isn’t getting me anywhere. Some departments make quite a lot of empty promises, building you up to believe that good things will find you, and they (the department) will be there to facilitate your needs. *snort* Yeah right…

Of course it’s easy for me to feel rueful since I cannot seem to find employment. It sounds awful to say, but it actually makes me feel better to know that I am not the only person from my Honours year-group who is struggling to find something suitable in the job market. But what really hit things home for me was hearing this last night:

“When you date someone, it’s like you’re taking one long course in who that person is, and then when you break up, all that stuff becomes useless. It’s the emotional equivalent of an English degree.”

That little gem comes from season 5, episode 3 of HIMYM. Needless to say I sat with my mouth wide open upon hearing Ted say these words to Robin while sitting in MacLaren’s pub (this after Barney took a course, Robin101, from Ted, hoping to learn as much as possible about her because he was afraid she might dump him).

Is that that what my English degree (an English Honours degree… Cum Laude, d*mmit!) measures up to at the end of the day? Really?! Because, truth be told, that’s exactly what it feels like at the moment. Useless. Now that I am no longer busy studying, plus the fact that I cannot seem to get a job, I feel like asking myself over and over again exactly what all my knowledge matters? Who cares if I’ve read JANE EYRE and PARADISE LOST and BLEAK HOUSE? Who would want to listen to me talking about Freud and Jung, about literary theory or theories of translation? It’s not a real conversation starter, after all. My Significant Other tried to make me feel better the other night while I was in tears, me saying that I cannot remember anything I’ve learned last year, and him asking me question which revealed that I actually do remember quite a bit.

But what does that matter? I don’t even know what I want to do or what I want in life anymore.

Thanks for nothing, English degree.

And the worst part is, when you tell people you did a BA, and a BA Honours degree as well, they almost seem to feel sorry for you, or to think that you’re conversation isn’t worth their time. After all, a BA student isn’t an Engineering or a Biology student. We’re airy-fairy, go with the flow, weird and ‘out there’ people. Maybe I’m stereotyping, or seeing things that aren’t there. Yet it feels so degrading to walk into an interview knowing that they’re going to ask you what you’ve been up to since you finished studying, and your answer is: looking for work for seven months now. You can see the pity in their eyes… and you can feel that they aren’t going to employ you.

But hey, c’est la vei – ‘such is life’. And life goes on… right?

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11 responses

9 06 2010
Lize

Vir watter soort werk soek jy? Dink jy jy sal dit oorweeg op iewers klas te gee?

9 06 2010
Liske van Lill

ek soek ‘n werk in die uitgewersbedryf… weet nie so mooi van klasgee nie, hoewel ek seker nie sleg daarin sal doen nie.

9 06 2010
9 06 2010
Liske van Lill

Ja, basies 🙂 Ek gaan soos twintig keer ‘n dag op Bizcommunity om te kyk wat beskikbaar is, het al gekyk na al die links wat jy my gestuur het, maar dankie in elk geval!

9 06 2010
Lize

🙂

9 06 2010
Seamus

All of it true, sad, but true. Jobs are for people with Science degrees, BA graduates simply marry rich. Now who is the smartest?

9 06 2010
Liske van Lill

My Significant Other makes a substantial amount of money, which will increase according to his skills and experience. Maybe we BA fold are smarter! 😉

9 06 2010
jaszminedt

Oh, Liske. I know, when I was given the job I was told, ‘we are taking an unprecedented risk on you.’ Way to go for my confidence!
But fuck them and everyone who says we suck. We are INTELLIGENT and can hold an intelligent conversation*. We are well-read and that may not always land us a job but at least we are connected to the world around us. Studying English Literature may not be the smartest financial choice but who said we ever did it for the money. We (I politely exclude Seamus from this generalisation) love words and books and everything literary. It is (was?) our passion and being faulted for being passionate seems rather ridiculous.
Ok, rant over. Good luck with the job hunt.

*I resent the fact that our theory isn’t recognised as intelligent conversation. It may be abstract but that is what all theory is about, trying to make sense of the world.

9 06 2010
Liske van Lill

if i had a button here on my blog to super duper like a comment, i’d click it a couple of times for your response, Noélle!! at this rate, even if i end up staying at home jobless, i wouldn’t trade my two degrees for anything. i’ll just keep on loving words and books and everything literary, just like you said. thanks for backing me up 🙂

PS your current employer can be really lucky to have you, unprecedented risk or no. your motivated, hard-working, dedicated, and incredibly intelligent (i learned as much from our Honours year together). show ’em what you’re made of!

9 06 2010
Nate

A BS isn’t much better than a BA in today’s standards. It is merely a stepping stone to those higher degrees. Seems like a BA or BS is the equivalent of a High School Diploma and if you don’t at least have a degree you are unworthy to even think about going for a job interview.
But just think, a high school graduate equivalent from almost any country other than the States will come into the US university system with the level of education of a BA/BS college student. If that same individual has a BA/BS from their home university they are often boosted to the level of those holding Masters here in the States. So seems like the States has a low standard of education (which doesn’t say much for me) but does recognize the merits of education outside the US. So what I’m trying to say is the bar is set very high for you because of the educational expectations. You could probably walk into any editing/publishing/writing job you wanted here in the States. You would most certainly have a job as an English teacher, if not a Professor of English, if you ventured here. So keep your head up, your merits are much greater than a large percentage of “college graduates” in the work force.

10 06 2010
Sid

Hun. It’s tough for everyone. After graduating from UCT with an Honours in Science it took me 8 months to find a job. 8 months!!! There was one point where I answered phones. And yes it felt degrading and yes it was soul crushing but it didn’t last. Eventually I found something that suited me perfectly well.

I’m sure you’ll find something too.

Good luck.

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