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Do you know anyone who has many college degrees, but is working in a job far below his potential???

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Question - (4 December 2011) 14 Answers - (Newest, 6 December 2011)
A male United States age 36-40, *tudentForLife writes:

Hello all,

This is a question on career options. I know...I know...this site is mainly dedicated to relationships/love/sex questions. But I am posting a career question here as my experience with this site has been good so far and I get the most sensible answers here.

So I graduated with a masters degree in aerospace engineering in May 2011 from The University of Texas at Austin with a good gpa. My academics have been excellent right from the beginning. The only drawback is, I went to grad school straight out of undergrad (even though I got very good and pretty lucrative jobs). So, I dont have any work experience except for my stint as a lab assistant and teaching assistant during grad school (which nobody in the corporate world recognizes as formal work experience).

So, I got stuck in this "No experience-no job" paradox (one gets a job only if he is experienced. But nobody gives him/her the first job, how is he/she going to get that experience....it is like saying - the key to the locked door is inside the room).

I was on the lookout for an internship (was okay with even an unpaid one) from Jan 2010, but was not successful. Once I graduated, I started looking for full-time jobs, but again couldn't end up in a job in my field. The usual feedback I got was that my study in grad school was in a very niche area and was more on things that were of interest only in the academia....so corporates didn't consider me for any openings. The research labs insist on a PhD, and I couldn't handle the pressures of a PhD...thats the reason I came out with a masters degree.

I realized that my degree was getting me no where and started learning a programming language and passed a certification exam on it. This finally got me a job in a small start-up with a measly per hour pay of 8$ (after a masters degree).

The only positive thing is, this job has a future (this is not a dead end job).

What is ur opinion on me starting out from the bottom of the career ladder after slogging for several years to earn 2 college degrees with good acads??? Is it a bad choice? (Financially I am pretty OK....my earnings aren't of primary importance in my family.....I am working only for the experience).

Do you know anyone who has many college degrees, but is working in a job far below his potential???

View related questions: my ex, university

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A female reader, maverick494 United States +, writes (6 December 2011):

My mom always told me (and she's a very wise woman indeed) "It's never for nothing. Every piece of knowledge, every bit of experience is good for something."

I was skeptical of this at first but she is right. Your hard work was not in vain. It may not bring you where you want to be in a straight line, but very few things do.

Also do not feel bad at being 24 and living at home. I've lived on my own on and off since 18 but now at 23 I'm back at home again because I'm not certain of my future and the rent fees for my apartment was sky high. Living with your parents actually has a lot of advantages:

- If you ever want to go abroad, you won't have an apartment/room to pay rent for

- You don't have to arrange for someone to look out for it

- you don't have to do every single thing alone, like cooking dinner and doing groceries

- you save money, a lot of it

- and if you're lucky, you have a nice family and that makes it nice and cosy as well.

Half of my classmates in Uni still live at home. Some of them are nearing their late twenties. They are nice, intelligent people and they're not ashamed of their circumstances.

Hell, Alicia Sacramone, an gymnast who medaled at the Olympics and at several World Championships and who is currently working towards London 2012, is 24 nearing 25 and still living at home. She actually said in an interview: "I'm trying to make living at home cool again."

Look, some of us are late bloomers. Don't let anyone tell you that BS about "at this age you should live on your own, at this age you should have a career, at this age you should be married and have kids, etc." Life doesn't follow plans. Plus I thought we humans wanted to stand out, not be a part of the herd?

And all those guys bragging about their jobs...no job offers long term security, not unless you're a AF pilot contracted for at least 10 years. And ten years fly by fast...no pun intended ;-)

So get your head up, shoulders straight. It's not all so bleak as it may seem. Everyone else's lives aren't so great as they want to make it look, either. Put it in perspective.

You'll do fine.

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A female reader, chigirl Norway +, writes (6 December 2011):

chigirl agony auntJust keep your eyes open, you will find use of your education in time if you just keep your eyes open and jump at the opportunities.

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A male reader, C. Grant Canada +, writes (6 December 2011):

C. Grant agony auntMy cousin earned a MSc in Biology in the late 80s and never found full-time work in his field. He's done a number of things over the years, including quite a lot of time teaching in Africa. Today he manages an apartment building. A sad waste of his time and effort in getting the masters, but he seems quite at peace with himself.

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A male reader, studentForLife United States +, writes (6 December 2011):

studentForLife is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Thank you all. You have been kind in your replies and very sensible too. I just wanted to clarify that, I am not someone who expects a grand salary package of a CEO in the first year itself. However, I never expected to work for an hourly rate of 8$ after a masters degree.

It really pains me to realize that I fell for this "academic trap" and fell for the "degrees make your life" argument. Ultimately, I realize now that my degree is a waste. All my long hours of slogging, my part time jobs to pay my tuition etc amounts to a naught.

I feel ashamed to move back with my mom and be a burden on her at the age of 24. As though this isn't enough, my acquaintances and friends at college keep talking to me about their "corporate entry level jobs" and keep telling me that they are "set for life". Bragging is all that they do. I asked them for help in my jobsearch but didn't get any. I still wonder how they got those jobs in the first place.

Also, as long as I keep working for such paltry wages, I don't feel confident in getting into a relationship. So keep myself away from a girl who keeps asking me out. The last thing I want now is a woman reminding me in a girly voice that I don't make much money and nagging me to get a better paying one (which I have been trying and I am trying now too, anyways).

I just hope that my financial future gets brighter as I get more experience. The only solace is that - this programming job has got a future, unlike jobs at fast food chains or retail stores.

So this pretty much sums up how exactly I feel now. Any advice to make my life better, to improve my career etc will be greatly appreciated. After all, I have a lot to learn.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (5 December 2011):

This is the nature of life.

I do have an advanced degree and I do work at a research laboratory. Even among us "lucky ones" we are doing work that is beneath us and not the cutting edge research we imagined. Yes, there are a lucky few who are doing what they imagined, but that's just not the case. I have very many colleagues with PhD's in planetary science or other fields who are working jobs a grad student could do.

It is sort of the opposite condundrum that art students have when they are forced to get a job in the "real world" but at least we are highly paid for our mundane jobs.

My suggestion is to focus on what you want out of life and achieve that. That may be more than just your job or academia.

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A female reader, pinktopaz United States +, writes (4 December 2011):

I think of it this way: experience is what counts and having a degree is an extra unless it's very particular--like an engineer. People can blame the economy but if you have no job experience, you're going to be put in an entry level position.

I decided not to go to college right out of high school--I worked, I started in retail and now work in finance for one of most recognized corps in the world. I now make twice as much than most of my friends who have degrees and no job experience and I have no degree. However, my pay is kind of at a stand still so I'm finishing up getting my degree--it's way harder working full time and going to school part time, but I know that it's essential if I want to advance even further.

So having your degree is going to help you earn more in the long run--but don't expect to be in the field you majored in (employers will hire you just because you have a degree because you were obviously able to be dedicated and complete something). Also, don't expect to go in thinking you can have a management or exec job just because you have a degree: no job experience means entry level. So just get some experience and having your degree WILL help you progress faster than someone with no degree--just get some job experience and you'll be okay in a few years.

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A female reader, maverick494 United States +, writes (4 December 2011):

I have two degrees and I currently work the night shift sorting packages. I have also worked as a receptionist at a hotel and I took care of snakes and spiders for a year at a zoo. I'm currently looking for an internship for my latest degree but I'm not having a lot of luck--just like you.

In this economical crisis you have to roll with the punches. I know what you're thinking: you're young, you want to start out fresh, get a career. We all want that. The problem is, in the current circumstances, only a select few end up getting what they want and even in ideal circumstances this is still the case.

Your current job sounds good. If the pay is too little to make a living out of, get another one on the side. That's why I work the night shift. It gets me extra $$. I plan my sleep wisely so I don't get too deprived.

Keep your head up!

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A female reader, hannah76 United Kingdom +, writes (4 December 2011):

hannah76 agony auntYes the economy is bad at the moment. Many people I know work below potential. Also, many are simply unable to find any work whatsoever and it is not through lack of trying. Sometimes you just have to grab whatever is out there and hope you get it.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (4 December 2011):

Honeypie agony auntYes,have two degrees and not working atm. But would take s job below my "potential" to keep my family afloat. I would also do it while looking for a job that is more in the area I have my degrees.

Not uncommon at all.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (4 December 2011):

Let me say this! you are doing the right thing by working in a job in which you are not completely happy rather than sitting back and waiting for that dream job to come by.So you don't have to worry about this part.At the same time keep looking for a better opportunity. Actually it is advisable to change jobs at least 3 times in the beginning of any carrier before settling in a permanent job. At the same time never belittle what you are doing, always aspire to give best performance in whatever job you are and always keep learning and improving your skills.You will be fine.

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A female reader, mystiquek United States + , writes (4 December 2011):

mystiquek agony auntYes, me. I have 3 degrees and work part time at Walmart. Its called bad economy and no jobs. Things are so bad in my part of the country (highest unemployment rate in the US!) that I feel grateful to just have a job. You just have to hang in there, and keep plugging away.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (4 December 2011):

I know plenty of people in your situation and pardon me for saying this but anyone who leaves college that expects to be in their dream job straight away is not very bright.

There is this idea amongst students that their degree will get them the position they train for but even in a great economy that is quite rare, you always have to work your way up unless you know people.

College qualifications just give you the key to open more doors you still have to put the key in, turn the handle and walk on through.

This is just the way the world works very few people get a golden ticket and you know from experience that a college degree/masters etc is no substitute for practical experience.

Look my own personal opinion is the money is not as important as job satisfaction and security.

You're working in a job now which seems to have both so you're fine.

I always find it strange when I read about Americans talking about jobs.

You talk about things like job 'potential' and put a hell of a lot of focus on what you earn. I just find it strange because every time I talk to yanks about these things it seems to the true value of a person and how they view themselves is how successful they are and how much money they have. They just seem very unhappy because they always want to earn more and have greater status. Always calculating where they want to be and never being happy with where they and they call that "ambition".

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A female reader, chigirl Norway +, writes (4 December 2011):

chigirl agony auntOh sheez, YES. Every recently graduated person ends up like you. Except those who are lucky enough to be needed in that precise moment they graduate, which change from year to year. One year they want engineers, the other teachers, or chemists etc. It fluctuates. So far I have a friend who graduated with a master in English literature in May, and he JUST got a job in a kindergarden. He's been unemployed until now. Then there's me, soon to have a masters in political science and I haven't even bothered to look for a job yet until I get my degree completely done with (will finish in a few weeks if I can get off my ass), and I plan to just work at my two part-time jobs until I find something better.

Then there's 2-3 student-colleagues of mine, also graduated last May, who are still looking/are unemployed. And these are just the people I personally know. I only know one girl who got a job in her field right after graduation, but she had to move across the entire country for it and hates the new city.

The key here is: this is the norm. Take your time to find the right job. In the meantime do what you need to do to get an income, and keep your eyes open for opportunities to work in your field of expertise.

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A female reader, person12345 United States +, writes (4 December 2011):

person12345 agony auntThis is what's called underemployment and is unfortunately common in this kind of economy. It's not about starting at your dream job, very few people do that. It's all about getting your foot in the door and getting experience. As long as your job has a future (either through experience or the potential to move up) then you're doing exactly the right thing. Good luck.

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