Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Why Did I Go to College Again?

As I sit here at my desk inside a corporate accounting office, I wonder what I am doing here. I hate accounting. Accounting was my least favorite subject in school, and it almost deterred me from majoring in business. Yet here I am at State Street, performing the same tasks on the same mutual funds on the same computer every weekday from 10-6pm. I like the people I work with, and I like the atmosphere here, but at the end of the day I haven't accomplished anything a monkey couldn't do. There are plenty of people here that do a lot of important work, but I am not on that list. Many of them are busy non-stop, all day every day. My work here is just about as basic as can be, and judging from the fact that I write this blog entirely from my desk every day, the work isn't too hard or important.

So this is it? This is why I went to college?So I could consistently experience Groundhog Day? I went to college for marketing, but can anyone tell me what a marketing degree gets you nowadays? I know. A door-to-door sales job that pays strictly commission. Thats just about the best that is out there. The only thing this degree is doing for me, for which I am grateful, is keeping me from working a job outdoors doing manual labor. My degree got me an extra hour of sleep in the morning, and a heated office to work in. Its probably going to take a bit more than that until I am happy.

The worst part about college is that it struggles to provide the key to getting any sort of good job; connections. Sure, if you are in a frat or sorority, or in groups on campus, you get to meet a lot of people that eventually will be in positions of power during their careers. What happens to the guy who changed schools three times, changed majors twice, and commuted to class? How is he supposed to find a good job when he didn't make any connections? Does that nullify his degree to the point where he has to take a shitty office job or work on commission trying to shake people down on their own doorsteps? It doesn't make any sense. I was on a college baseball team, but I don't think there was one person on that team that would be willing or able to help me out in my career.

The other thing is experience. Why would a company demand I have 2-3 years experience for a job? Does that experience help a person so much that others wouldn't be able to do the same work?If I know I can do better than anyone they have working there, what good is that experience doing? These companies, all companies, must miss out on many people that would be really great hires because they lack experience, or a flashy resume. I watched last season's Apprentice on tv. Each week the teams had to perform tasks that usually involved promoting a product, or problem solving, whatever. Almost every week I came up with an idea that was not only better than the ones the people on the show came up with, but it took half the time to think of it. I'm not saying someone should hire me because I would be good on The Apprentice, I'm just saying that if Donald Trump is hiring the best, he should broaden the scope of his search. You always see people on the show with multiple degrees from Ivy League Schools who can speak multiple languages. I want to see the day when a contestant on that show has the words "College grad; Trying to Figure it Out" underneath his name.

Degrees and awards can mean a lot when going for jobs. The name of your school can be huge when trying to apply for a good position. Yet how many applicants are turned away as soon as someone sees that they didn't attend a prestigous school? How many people with college degrees never get a shot at success because their degree from Dartmouth says 'Umass' in front of it? Sometimes having this degree makes me feel like I did the day I tried out for the Umass Amherst baseball team. I got 5 pitches thrown to me by an assistant bench coach in a batting cage on the side of the field. How can you make any sort of decision based on so little information? If that team was being made from scratch and everyone on the field had the same tryout I had, more than half the team would have been cut. (I took solace in the fact that the team that year lost 16 in a games in a row.) The same thing happens when someone sees my resume and job experience. The people hiring at these places are either stupid, ignorant, or stuck-up, probably a solid combination of all three. The problem is, how do you get a fair shake?

I emailed Apple last year, suggesting an improvement to their iPod. I got a return email two weeks later saying that Apple does not accept suggestions, and that nothing would be done with it. Based on that email, I can assume that if I were employed at Apple they would have at least listened to my idea. How do you make your business better by turning a blind eye to people with ideas? As far as I'm concerned, there are 3 types of prospective workers; those with the credentials, those with imagination, and sometimes a combination of the two. The first group consists of people who went to good schools, retained a lot of information, and can recite it back. The third group is obviously a mix of two. I place myself in the second group; those with imagination.

I have a bachelor's degree, but I have something Jonny Harvard probably doesn't have; imagination. Creativity. The ability to think outside the proverbial box. I am not confined to every single little rule or idea that has been formulated about marketing. While you are trying to decide which form of marketing to use, I am half way through devising the marketing campaign. It might take you all day to come up with ideas for a new ad for Nike; I have a stockpile in my head. The knowledge accumulated in school can only supplement real world applications. Nobody has ever gotten a promotion because they can name the Four P's of Marketing. The people getting promoted use what they learned along with their natural ability to create and figure things out.

For everything college does for you, it handicaps you as well. I couldn't have cared less about classes like Urban Philosophy or Art Appreciation, and it reflected in my grades for those classes. That shit is part of the colleges' plan to expose people to different things, but mostly it just costs more money and lowers GPA's. In the end though, the only thing you have is the results you have produced. But how do I get to a place where I can measure my work by what I produce and not whether I have accrued on my funds in a timely matter? College is intended to prepare you for the 'real world' while giving you a background in a certain discipline. What good is any of that if you can't put it to use in this much talked about 'real world?'

I'm hoping someone else reads this and knows where I'm coming from. I hope this one finds its way to someone who handles hiring for a company. A person is not summed up by a degree, or a resume. A person with an active and creative mind, someone who can adapt to situations and think in color instead of black and white, is infinitely more valuable to a corporation than someone who simply has a degree and the right connections. Maybe thats how our government got so fucked; people in power hire other people they know, eliminating any competition that would be brought on by people with actual skils, thus deteriorating the quality of the task being performed. Competition is supposed to be the driving force of our economy, but how much competition is elimated from the equation by these various factors? Someday I will be in a position to work in a field that I am not only interested in, but feel compelled to excel in. Until that day, I can be found at this computer in the back cubicle of a Quincy office building, making sure the expenses get paid on the mutual funds of the people who have connections.


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