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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vey's Razor: ponderings on careers and higher education

It’s a simple fact that many people who go to school for any sort of degree, be it bachelor’s or an advanced degree, often end up working in a field that’s different from the one that they studied.  The exceptions to this rule may be those with associate’s degrees from technical schools (which focus squarely on one career choice and often provide exceptional career-match services) and PhD’s, wherein you’ve put so much into a degree that working in that field is pretty much all you’ve got left.

You see, there’s an interesting process in effect here which I’m going to propose and call Vey’s Razor. The common wisdom is that higher education opens doors, and yet people with higher end degrees are having extremely difficult times finding jobs and especially changing careers. There are a lot of societal factors in play that make this a seemingly complicated issue; if higher education opens doors, why is it so hard for those with higher education to find employment?  Certainly the economy is a factor, but I also posit this is only true to a point; in fact, the higher you go in education, the more doors close to you. This is because once you achieve Master’s or Doctoral level, you are then seen as overqualified to do many jobs outside of the one that you studied, while at the same time are considered underqualified in your field if you have not done an internship or had prior experience. In this sense, education is actually a practical hindrance to employment. This, in any case, has been my experience thus far.  I completed my Master’s degree over a year ago and only recently have had any sort of nibbles for employment, and these have not been in the field that I studied, but rather in a field where a “generic” amount of education is always seen as valuable: business administration.

Another paradox comes into play—people who don’t have an MBA are sometimes seen as more valuable as administrators than those who do.  Why?  Because employers are looking for well-rounded administrators.  Thus, those who have degrees in, say, humanities with graduate studies in information science and a number of years of experience working in low-level management or even as an executive assistant, are sometimes seen as more valuable than those who have pursued an MBA, which is firstly a wildly common degree, now, and secondly tends to create a rather dogmatic outlook in those who possess it.  This of course is not true in all cases, but seems to be a trend that I’ve observed.

It’s a confusing time, overall, for one who is pursuing advanced degrees and/or trying to change careers. In many ways a lot of us are simply locked into the career path we’re already in—as much as we’d like to believe otherwise there is precious little cultural mobility in our society. If you work hard and play the right cards you can potentially move upward in your current trajectory, but making a right or left turn is a much trickier prospect.

Why am I pontificating on all of this? It’s because a year in with almost no interest in my resume and a single interview that was…bizarre, at best, I’ve pretty much given up hope of finding a job in a library, working as a librarian.  I’m still applying for the jobs as they come along, but I’m just not waiting for those interview calls anymore.  I’ve tried thinking outside the box, looking for other ways to apply my information management skills, but even that has yielded no fruit as most people want computer programming skills to go in hand with the information part, and those I do not have. So I began looking back to the career path I’m already in, trying to find a way I could be happy, and I determined that the real problem is I’m not challenged at all in my current job, merely frustrated by it. I have, thus, begun putting in for jobs that are well above my current pay grade.  “What have I got to lose?” I figured.  I have administrative skills, and I believe they are skills that could develop to make me a very effective upper level administrator.

Things may be coming to fruition.  There’s still a chance that a certain person who has proved a bane to me in the past (and who wants to keep me trapped exactly where I am, as I am “too valuable” to let go) could queer this entire venture…but if I can get past that particular hurdle, I could be looking at kicking open a door that I’ve been trying to get through for a long time.  I may have come to the end of my plateau and reached a rather high level which would solve a lot of problems and get me into a position where not only would I be challenged and hopefully more fulfilled, but can feel as though I’m actually doing an important job, which I don’t feel right now.

I don’t want to jinx things by posting too many details. Those close to me know what I’m talking about.  Everyone else, please, just wish me as much luck as possible.  Thanks!

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Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom, and Mary Magdalene.

I'm not a mad bible thumper--Sophia, however, is my inspiration and always in my heart