Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Jobs and Degrees
I read an article in the Atlanta paper recently by a young, recent (within the last 5-6 year) graduate who had been let go from their job as a magazine editor and hadn’t been able to find a position in six weeks of effort. This young person is now taking unemployment as they look for a position. It reminded me of another article in a women’s magazine a year or two ago about a young person who decided to take six months off after getting their soft degree in college and sail the Great Lakes rather then pursue a job, they complained that all the good ones where taken when they got back and how unfair it was.
I guess I am lucky in that the longest I have ever been out of work in 34 years was 2 days, over a weekend. Of course I also believe you make your own luck by hard work and planning. I have had over a dozen different jobs and each paid more than its predecessor. Up until 1991 I didn’t have a degree. Of course I had the benefit of military training from the US Navy in the Nuclear Field which some viewed as equivalent to a BS in Nuclear Technology. However, when I left the shelter of the Nuclear Industry in 1990 I realized I would need a degree to validate my skill set and got a BS in Computer Science.
So many young people today are getting essentially low-worth degrees, I call them feel-good degrees. Degrees in the Arts, English, Communication, Biology, many of the sciences and many other “soft” subjects have limited market appeal and unless you can find a job in publishing, teaching or a museum, especially at the Bachelor level they aren’t going to do you a lot of good unless you have some real experience to back them up. I’m afraid the days where there were jobs as tutors for the idle rich are mostly gone.
In order to make it in today’s world you need a marketable skill or degree, something with some meat on it. Degrees in Engineering, Computers, Management or advanced degrees in the Sciences (Doctorate level) are most marketable. However, you also have to be careful about overloading your degree.
An example of an overloaded degree is a PHD chemist applying for a lab position at a power plant chemistry lab. Most of the chemistry done in industry is cook-book chemistry where you follow a recipe and get a result. This is where many of the BS in Biology folks end up. When I worked in Nuclear Power Plant labs we passed over Doctorate level folks for interviews because we felt they would get bored and leave as soon as something better came along.
You also need to show a bit of good old fashioned gumption. You probably need to consider leaving the comfortable nest of places and people you know and go where the work is. I have moved over 20 times if you count cross-town type moves. I hear of well qualified people who “can’t” get a job, later to find out they couldn’t get one because they wouldn’t move to find it. In today’s mobile society I am afraid living, growing up and working all within 5 miles of your childhood home is a rarer and rarer thing.
You need to get a degree in something marketable and minor in something you enjoy. I pursue my interest in writing by writing part time and make a pretty good second income from it, without a degree in English. I make a majority of my income in computers, right where my degree sits. Of course, I enjoy working with computers and databases and problem solving, I also enjoy writing.
In the Navy (back in 1973-79) I made about $500/mo take home to start, after six years I was maybe up to $1000/mo. I guess that was my “trench” time. You have to put in your trench time, earn your dues, whatever you want to call it. You can’t expect to make 60K out of the gate, if you start at the top, there is only one way to go.
Many times it is not a case of not being able to find a job, it is not being able to find a job a person likes. Bills don’t care whether you like your job. Feeding your family (or just yourself) doesn’t mean you are in rapture at work. That’s why they call it work, if it was fun, they would call it play and charge you for it.
There was a show on TV called “Night Court”, in it a young lawyer got appointed to be the Judge for Night Court simply because he was the only one who was home to answer the call. Similar to that I got my first position as an Oracle DBA (at least I believe it to be so) simply because I was willing to show up, in Iuka, Mississippi, for the interview and was willing to relocate there (well, actually to Florence, Alabama and a 45 mile commute.) What I am trying to say is, sometimes just by showing up, dressed properly and ready for the interview, will carry you a long way towards a job. It isn’t selling-out, it’s showing your intelligence to take the time to figure out what the job requires and meeting those requirements.
Am I saying don’t get a degree in English or Biology or something you love? No, but be aware you may not be able to work in that field unless you have an advanced level degree, want to teach, or already have something lined up. College is to prepare you to take your place in society, not to make you better at your hobbies.