Monday, 24 September 2012

Lazy People Opt for University Degrees

Something is eating me up. Or to put it more correctly, a thought has been spinning in my head. Was on facebook and I read something on a friend’s wall.
A girl had applied for 2,500 jobs in a month and got just six interviews. I assume none of them went well because my friend's post turned into an outburst after she discovered that the girl had studied media.

In her opinion, some courses equip students with nothing more than a gratifying piece of paper; a status symbol that qualifies them to be called graduates. To her, courses like journalism are an utter waste of precious time given that there are very few jobs in the industry and those few jobs belong to the elite anyway. 

Being a graduate of media and communications, and print journalism, her comments stung. I had to disengage my emotions to be able to take in her analysis.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that it is abysmally unfair for universities to offer courses with very little career prospects. In my case, for instance, pursuing a postgraduate course in journalism did not come cheap, but I was told it would give me an edge in a fiercely competitive industry. Just imagine the costs:
School fees
Living costs
Fees for professional exams
Unending and unpaid work experience
Raw, unadulterated stress in every sense of the word

The average journalism job on offer paid 10-12k a year. And from my experience in newsrooms, they don't just take the last drop of sweat; they take the last grain of salt. Talk about modern day (voluntary) slavery!

Question is - should universities be held responsible for 'micky mouse' courses, or should students be responsible for their own decisions?

In my opinion, a degree should make commercial sense because in the UK, for instance, students accumulate thousands of pounds in student debt. Why take the risk if it will not pay off ultimately?

However, universities cannot be blamed for poor economic conditions and a lack of jobs. Youth unemployment is a global phenomenon at the moment.

Personally, I think prospective students and graduates need to modify their expectations. A degree is not the be-all-end-all.

Students Need to be Savvier 
Signing up for a course just because you love it is a tad naive if not stupid. Think profit. You will be investing your time, money and life - are there good career prospects for the course you are about to study?

Caveat: I know people who chose courses solely for their career prospects/potential monetary rewards. They got jobs quite alright, but every work day for them is a death sentence. Rather than get stuck in a career you detest, opt for a course you have some measure of interest in.

Demystify Degrees
Conventional wisdom says work hard, get a degree and you'll get a good job. That is erroneous. Consider a degree a stepping stone. It may not necessarily be the goose that lays the golden eggs.

A degree adds value to your life in many ways - broadens your worldview, expands your mind, gives you an air of refinement and class, opens up opportunities and so on. However, it might not put food on your table. So, think outside the box.

You don't have to work in your field of study. Extend your tentacles far and wide. You never can tell, you might become a juggernaut in a field you never imagined.

Do you have a passion different to your degree? Pursue it - it might be your ticket to the good life. Don't simply sit on your hands waiting for your degree to yield dividends.

Are you stuck in a career that is refusing to take off? Take a detour. Consider studying a different course with brighter job prospects - just be careful studying doesn't become your career!

Be realistic - a degree is not a magic wand. Always keep your eyes open for fresh opportunities. Develop new interests. Keep your pulse on the jobs market. Look beyond your degree. Most importantly, never give up. Nothing is impossible if you persevere and believe.


  1. Thank you for being so honest with words.

    Each I speak to an audience, I was inform them that the school system is it today, is designed to make you think about work and employment. Only a handful are able to turn their talents and passion into businesses.

    I pray this piece will enable folks realize that it is not only about our degrees but about about value and service delivery.

    Keep up the good work ma!


    NB: I would like you to take a look at my manuscript..... Please lets talk more by email. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for your comment, CFA. It's highly appreciated. Yes, the orientation schools bequeath to their students does not prove very helpful or practical in today's economy. We need to go beyond scholastic learning & learn useful skills that will help us spin our ideas, passions and talents into gold.

    About your script, please send me an email.

  3. Okay, I believe there are two things responsible for the unemployed state of graduates- mentality and understanding of times.

    "Go to school, get good grades and you'll get a good job" is the mantra that many undergrads recite these days and seriously, I don't blame them for having this mindset. This is because it still works for some. You can get rich by simply following this rule but here's what annoys me most- when you go for a job interview with hundreds of other graduates with the same qualifications as you, how the heck do you expect to get that job? It doesn't make sense.

    If I were the head of an IT firm, I'd rather employ a certified network personnel with second class grades than a first class graduate of computer science. Why? Simply because of LEVERAGE! To get a job in these times, grads need to prove their worth by showing that they know their stuff.

    It's too bad that we listen to our parents but what choice do we have? It's something we must do if we really want to make headway. Most parents are still yet to realize that the mentality that worked during their time (industrial age) is not effective in this age of information. Even drop outs can become financial giants once they find the blend between their passion and information. But finding what we're good at is always the hard part because to a lot of us, money comes first. This time around, if this is what we think, then a lot would become hustlers like some guys in my neighbourhood :-).

    We actually need more entrepreneurs than we need job applicants. We can get paid to do what we love to do, all we have to do is try it. No one told me freelance writing could feed me before I tried it out. Though it took almost a year before it actually started covering my expenses. I didn't say being self employed is easy, but hey, it's worth the effort.

    I've missed this blog Oluchi :-(. Keep up the good work! Hope to stop by more often.

  4. Lanre!!!!!!! Where have you been? I've missed you!!! Yes please - do stop by more often. My presence on blogosphere has been erratic, as you've probably picked up. Will be stopping by your blog too for the latest.

    Your comment is simply POWERFUL. I wish as many graduates as possible could read it. Too many people pursuing too few jobs, yet we're too fearful to step out of our job applications comfort zone.

    Choosing to be your own boss is HARD WORK. The path is littered with setbacks and frustrations, but I feel it is the way to go under present circumstances.

    I didn't know you were a freelance writer. I need to steal some tips from you. Will get in touch later.

    As always, your comment is greatly appreciated.

    1. Ha ha ha Fresh Angle, a brilliant article as always.
      Yes, the idea that it was possible to get all the distinctions and higher grades at the highest levels of academic pursuit yet remain amongst the 'job-seekers' would have been difficult for me to comprehend a decade ago.
      But I think in learning the lessons that are necessary to move forward in our present generation adopting the mindset of an entrepreneur is (as pointed out in the write up) the key not just to our daily bread, but to a vibrant sustainable economy sought by many nations.
      For those who wish to ask what the mind of an entrepreneur is, I would suggest that it involves not waiting for a source to supply your financial needs, but looking inwards to how such finances can be generated inwards-out, from your present skills and gifts.

    2. Dlaw! Thank you for your comment. It's much appreciated as always. I agree with you, look inwards to generate income is key. You need to be a lateral thinker - constantly looking for gaps in the market that needs to be filled, exploring ideas, piloting projects and so on. That's the practical side of it.

  5. " ... a degree should make commercial sense ..." - I agree. However, there is that pesky little detail: the economy. Sometimes, the degree that looked promising at the time a person was started pursuing that degree, does not yield the 'expected' profit because the economy tanks and affects EVERYONE before graduation. In the US, that has been the case.

    I think every single degree choice is a risk, and even traditionally profitable professions are no longer predictable job-wise anymore. Except maybe for the health professions which are always in demand.

    And yes, pursue your passion. But there's also a process of turning your passion into a profit that many people don't talk about. Bills have to be paid and all that good stuff.

    P.S. I preferred the "something is eating me up" intro.

  6. Relentless builder, it's nice to read your comment.

    You have a point. There was a time when IT was the in-thing to study because the industry was thriving. Demand has since fallen & many who jumped on the bandwagon were left marooned on a fast-receding landscape.

    Every degree choice is a risk - true. I was trying to point out that obtaining a degree does not always translate to profitable employment. It adds a lot of value to the individual, but a person must expand their horizons in trying to break even financially.

    Absolutely, if we can be taught to turn our passions into profit, wouldn't it be perfect?

    Thanks ever so much for your comment.

    Lol lol lol - thanks, I should have stuck with 'something is eating me up'.

  7. You spoke the raw truth, Oluchi. In as much as everybody keeps going to the university with the mind to land on a goldmine after their degree course, this situation will keep happening. I have always told people when I have the time to; that the only reason I am still in the university is because I just want to get the convention (that you must have a certificate) done. Seriously, I don't see the University making me, I am only there as a matter of necessity. Maybe something little will change here and there, but I daily live my life thousands of yards beyond the University. Though still in the university, I am daily preparing myself for the real life, because I know what are obtainable out there - the reality.

    1. Strong Self! Long time, no see. I'm with you on everything you said. How I wish I had the same mindset when in university. You're spot on - university is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself.

      Thanks for your comment. Will visit your blog shortly.

    2. Yeah, it's really been a while. How has blogging been? Looking forward to your visit on TrueTalk.

  8. Oluchi: I just passed on the 'Versatile Blogger Award' to you. Please visit my blog for more details:


    1. Thanks a mil, Relentless builder. I promise to check it out.

  9. Good thinking Oluchi. However, all well said, there are still many positives for obtaining a degree (there are many write up on the positive side of a degree in the web).

    One of the most important aspect of getting a job is to remember demand and supply. One need to project into the future and find a course that will be in demand three or four years down the line. For example, right now, some one reading Automation & Control Engineering will likely get gob after graduation, than someone studying Civil Engineering from the same school. Why? Because automation is on the increase whereas civil engineering has not changed much for the past decade. The demand is likely to increase for people with skill in Automation.

    Remember chicken and egg situation; to become self employed, you need some capital, and to have fund, you need a good job. Therefore one need to get a relevant degree, save some money and then because self employed. In addition, one need to stay positive and should never allow external circumstances to negatively effect one's out look.

    The future is still very bright for the young graduate but they need to think outside the box


  10. Prof G, thanks for bringing in a fresh angle. I'm not completely rubbishing the acquisition of degrees. I mentioned that degrees have a lot of intangible benefits.

    And you have a point, even business takes a while to grow. There is no shortcut to success. The key is to keep exploring all options.

    I highly appreciate your comment.