roamingmemoirs

Posts Tagged ‘life’

The Pitfalls of Being in Your Twenties

In Canada, Europe, Poland, rambling editorials, United States on January 25, 2013 at 11:42 pm

hello pitfalls

I was short on inspiration to write for the bigger part of the month, and that is mostly because of the very exciting new addition to my life.

No, I’m not pregnant! My US work authorization arrived in the mail around mid-December and once the Christmas festivities ended, I really had no more excuses to postpone my plunge into the not-so-handsome job market. In other words, January brought the lovely pitfalls of being an immigrant looking for a job fresh out of college.

It’s been a while since I first heard my friends’ hysterical stories about the dreaded prospect of turning your hard-earned degree into a minimum wage job (also probably stolen from a high schooler). Working an unpaid internship, and running tables at a nightclub over the weekends,  juggling several part-time jobs 7 days a week for months at a time. While these may be very common stories, they come from some not so ordinary young people who lack neither poise nor brains to succeed, but just like me, chose to do a degree that doesn’t translate into a sellable set of skills.

We made our choices way before the prestige of a solid university degree began to crumble. If we only knew! Newsweek‘s Joel Kotkin hit the note just right when he dubbed young Americans the Generation Screwed.

“The unemployment rate for those 18 to 29 is 50 percent above the national average, and even those who have landed jobs are often overqualified and underpaid. They’re swimming in debt, recording unprecedented levels of stress, and most will never be able to achieve the economic status or lifestyles their parents enjoy.”

Maclean‘s Chris Sorensen and Charlie Gillis followed in the footsteps publishing an article on emergence of well-educated, smart Canadian underclass. The article took facebook by storm and I took note – I’m neither American nor Canadian but that is now also my reality.

I was an international student about to complete my degree in Canada when the European economic crisis reached its peak. It seemed unrealistic to count on a decent-paying job back in Poland when I could do financially better staying and working a minimum wage job. There may be nothing to be ashamed trying to get by working odd jobs, but that’s probably not what I imagined when I decided to invest in overseas education.

There is a high price my generation is now paying for being hoaxed into thinking that higher education open doors, when in reality the market pushes us to “rebrand” ourselves in order to become “sellable.” Because the degree itself is not. Something we could have done without enduring the ridiculousness that happens at top-tier universities. What I’m referring to is a psychological toll of stress, academic rat race and unrealistic expectations for the future – things that university students feed off, and are being fed by academia.

If you are in your twenties, you have to be prepared to let go of the high hopes and your shortcut to success. Get ready to start from scratch, again and again. Expect nothing, be ready for anything. So there is that, but there is also more freedom to explore non-traditional paths to making a name for yourself – and that will require a lot more creativity and drive than any college degree can offer.

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