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Value of higher education

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crissdee
1244337.  Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:25 pm Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
I was actually thinking that earning under 20k FTE with one undergrad and two post-grad qualifications is probably rare enough to qualify as an achievement of some note!


I only have a 2:1 BA(Hons) and I made 26K in a shit job run by cowboys that didn't even need a degree!

 
GuyBarry
1244346.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:46 am Reply with quote

Alfred E Neuman wrote:
GuyBarry wrote:
Nope. Not me. I just don't like being told what to do.


Considering the amount of time you spend telling others what to do, that's a bit hypocritical.


Do you only ever come into threads in order to stir things up?

I shall ignore the temptation to reply to the rest of your post, as it's clearly flame-bait. I've made that mistake on too many other forums.

 
Alfred E Neuman
1244347.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:55 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
Alfred E Neuman wrote:
GuyBarry wrote:
Nope. Not me. I just don't like being told what to do.


Considering the amount of time you spend telling others what to do, that's a bit hypocritical.


Do you only ever come into threads in order to stir things up?

I shall ignore the temptation to reply to the rest of your post, as it's clearly flame-bait. I've made that mistake on too many other forums.


I come into threads when I have something to say and usually only bother when no one else has said it.

And you've no room to accuse others of stirring it up, the big difference is that you do it and then back down, claiming you posted when tired or some other excuse, I at least post what I want to say and stand by it.

And no, it's not flame bait. I'm genuinely interested to know why someone would spend years of their life and a considerable amount of effort on "rubbish".

 
GuyBarry
1244348.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:15 am Reply with quote

cnb wrote:
GuyBarry wrote:

Nope. Not me. I just don't like being told what to do.


The idea that in order to live more than a subsistence lifestyle you have to do things that other people want in exchange for their money is pretty fundamental to our society. It's been that way for hundreds of years.


Well it may very well have been so, but I don't remember being consulted about it. You can't force people to cooperate with a system that doesn't suit them.

I've had dozens of different jobs throughout my life, so I'm clearly employable. However, with one exception, I've never been able to stick in a job for more than a few months. I get bored very quickly. I start off with bags of enthusiasm, and then after a little while I'm thinking "why do I have to do this again?" I'm 51 now and I still haven't found a solution to the problem.

The one exception was running a newsagent's kiosk, which I stuck with for just over two years - but there were special circumstances, because I knew from the outset that the site was due for demolition and that I'd eventually be made redundant. So I stuck it out to get the redundancy pay, but there were several occasions when I felt like walking out.

My ideal lifestyle would be one where I moved continuously round between one job and another from day to day. Or even from hour to hour. I think that's why I did so well at school, particularly 'O' level (as it was then) - I enjoyed the stimulation of moving from one lesson to another all the time. As soon as I had to specialize, I started to get bored and frustrated. I hated being told that I had to choose a degree subject.

This is what I find so ironic about the whole issue. At school you're told that your choice of 'A' levels is really important, and it'll affect the whole of the rest of your life; and then you're told that your choice of degree subject is important, that your choice of university is important, even (in the case of Oxbridge) that your choice of college is important. And then after than you're suddenly told that none of it mattered after all and no one cares what you studied at school or university. It doesn't make sense to me.

Quote:
Your suggestion that the education system failed to prepare you for the reality of work is bizarre.


Well it's true. When I took my first job after graduating, as an administrative "high-flier" in the Civil Service, I felt completely unprepared for it. I didn't understand the subject-matter (mental health policy); I wasn't used to working set hours; I didn't like the working environment, in an office with just one other person (my manager, who ignored me most of the time); and worst of all I felt that everything I'd ever learned up to that point, everything that I cared about and felt passionate about, had been a complete waste of time. I almost felt suicidal at one point.

I've learnt far more about the world of work since I left formal education than I ever learned in it. They didn't really teach me anything about working life at school. There was a careers library but hardly anyone ever used it. I really didn't feel that it was relevant to me.

Quote:
You shouldn't need to be taught something that fundamental, you should be able to work it out by being part of society throughout your childhood. My 6 year old daughter understands the basic principle that I go to work to do what my boss wants me to, and that in return he gives me money to pay for our home and food.


Well I knew that grown-ups went out to work when I was six years old, of course. But at that age I couldn't imagine being grown up - it seemed such a long way away. I was enjoying being a child, playing games and making up stories.

If I'd been able to stay six years old all my life, I'd have been happy.

 
GuyBarry
1244349.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:25 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
GuyBarry wrote:
I'm probably a nightmare for any employer. If someone tells me to do something that I disagree with, I just leave.


Then start your own business. That's what my husband did when he came to the realization that he didn't really like having a boss man telling him what to do.


I have my own business - I give private tuition to A-level maths students, as I mentioned previously. Most of my work comes through an agency, but obviously it's seasonal and not always reliable. I tried to make a living out of it once but wasn't disciplined enough to organize my own advertising and do the other necessary legwork. I enjoy the work when it comes along, though, and it's a handy additional income when I can get it.

 
GuyBarry
1244351.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:49 am Reply with quote

Alfred E Neuman wrote:

And no, it's not flame bait. I'm genuinely interested to know why someone would spend years of their life and a considerable amount of effort on "rubbish".


OK, I'll give you a straight answer.

The reason why I went into postgraduate education was that I was desperately unhappy in the Civil Service and couldn't see any other way out of it. I had a friend who was doing a PhD at Edinburgh University and seemed very happy, so I decided to join him. I couldn't get straight on to the PhD programme, so my friend advised me to do a Master's degree first. It was close to the deadline, but I just managed to get a place on an MSc course at UMIST (as it was then), and subsequently got into Edinburgh, two years behind my friend.

Then after a year my friend completed his PhD and left to take up a lectureship in London. It wasn't the same without him. I tried making friends with some of the students in my year but had various difficulties with them. I won't go into detail here but I ended up having a nervous breakdown during my third year. I actually managed to complete the PhD, largely by throwing together bits of papers that I'd written previously, but by the end of the three years I'd lost all interest in the subject. I'd already arranged two years' postdoctoral funding, but squandered it and didn't do any research.

This left me pretty much unemployable at the age of 28, and I ended up going back to my mother for a while (which wasn't an enjoyable experience). I spent about four years on sickness benefits, then was declared fit for work and had to sign on as unemployed. I think it took me about another year to get a job, doing back-office data entry work in a call centre.

Since then I've drifted in and out of work, with various periods of unemployment and sickness in between. It's not an ideal lifestyle but I'm pretty much resigned to it now. I have an appointment with a therapist this afternoon to discuss my condition. Maybe I do have a bit of a chip on my shoulder, but I really don't think the system's served me at all well.

I didn't start this discussion out of self-interest - why would I object to "graduate of any discipline" advertisements when I'm in a position to apply for those vacancies myself? I've benefited from having a degree during my job search in a couple of instances - for example I did a spell as a notetaker for disabled students, for which a degree is required. I raised the issue because it strikes me that more and more people nowadays are being put under pressure to get a degree because they think they won't get a job without one.

 
PDR
1244352.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:01 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
And then after than you're suddenly told that none of it mattered after all and no one cares what you studied at school or university.


I can't speak for others, but for me as a potential employer there is a subtle point that I *do* care THAT you studied - to what depth and with what achievement, but (depending on the specific role you may have applied for) I may care much less about WHAT you studied.

Reading through your piece I kinda get where you're coming from, but can only suggest limited options. Frankly I think you might have been better off staying in academia, but that would be difficult to do now. Another option might be self-employment of some sort, but you'd need to find something with sufficient variety to maintain your enthusiasm which you could also make a living from. You sound like someone who is temperamentally suited to be a consultant, but you need to be a consultant IN something!

And as I'm sure you recognise, there are pretty well no options that earn a living without SOME degree of boring admin or repetitive work. Even as a professional engineer I probably only spend 15-25% of my time doing the interesting/inspiring/creative engineering which inspires me. The rest of the time I'm doing things like verification, configuration management, documentation compilation, management reporting, supervising/mentoring/developing staff and then the general admin/leadership stuff that gets to be progressively more of your workload as you get more senior in any organisation. Every now and then we (my fellow senior engineers) bitch about this, and sometimes they find a specific project which can be staffed with part-time seniors going back to "hands-on" roles again. Comparing the performance and behaviours of these teams with the "normal" ones is interesting, but that's another subject. But the opportunities for doing this are rare - we are a business not a summer camp for bored engineers, so you either suck it up and get on with the job or move. Those are the breaks!

PDR

 
crissdee
1244354.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:26 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
cnb wrote:
GuyBarry wrote:

Nope. Not me. I just don't like being told what to do.


The idea that in order to live more than a subsistence lifestyle you have to do things that other people want in exchange for their money is pretty fundamental to our society. It's been that way for hundreds of years.


Well it may very well have been so, but I don't remember being consulted about it.


None of us were "consulted about it" Them, as the saying goes, is the breaks.

GuyBarry wrote:
I'm 51 now and I still haven't found a solution to the problem.


The solution is to grow up and accept that life isn't all sunshine and buttercups.

GuyBarry wrote:
I wasn't used to working set hours.


So presumably your school was run on a "turn up when you feel like it" system?


GuyBarry wrote:
I've learnt far more about the world of work since I left formal education than I ever learned in it. They didn't really teach me anything about working life at school.


Join the club!

 
AlmondFacialBar
1244356.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:37 am Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
GuyBarry wrote:
And then after than you're suddenly told that none of it mattered after all and no one cares what you studied at school or university.


I can't speak for others, but for me as a potential employer there is a subtle point that I *do* care THAT you studied - to what depth and with what achievement, but (depending on the specific role you may have applied for) I may care much less about WHAT you studied.


Hmmmmm... Given your well-documented prejudice against Arts and Humanities - assuming you were recruiting for a comms focused rather than a straight engineering role, would you interview someone with my CV? Or is your THAT you studied rather than WHAT you studied approach limited to STEM subjects?

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 
dr.bob
1244360.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:57 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
I actually managed to complete the PhD, largely by throwing together bits of papers that I'd written previously, but by the end of the three years I'd lost all interest in the subject.


I can completely sympathise with this. When I finished my PhD, whilst I was still broadly interested in astrophysics as a whole, I was completely fed up with the specific area that I'd studied and could see little future in it. For sure, I probably could've got a research job, continuing to plug away in the same area, but I'm pretty sure I would've found it pretty dull and soul destroying.

In one way I count myself as really lucky. In order to continue as a post-doc, I'd probably have ended up staying in Milton Keynes. At the time, however, my girlfriend (now wife) was living in Edinburgh, so moving up here to be with her was way more important, so I took a job in the private sector using computing skills I'd accrued during my PhD.

I've since held several jobs. None of them have been for any "awful organizations" and none of them were "hell on earth." Some were certainly better than others, and some I was happy to leave. Most jobs I stuck out for a couple of years. One finished after 1 year, but that was a fixed term contract, so maybe doesn't count. I've now re-entered academia working in astronomy again and am very happy with my job.

I grew up in a pretty poor household. My dad worked on a building site all the hours he could just to get enough money. I grew up with the distinct impression that, if you wanted money, you had to work for it. I was also left with the impression that being poor was pretty sucky and it'd be a good idea to avoid it. Maybe that's why I stuck with some jobs even when I wasn't enjoying them.

At the back of my head I always had the two thoughts: "At least this is better than breaking my back on a building site"; and "If I quit this job, where am I going to get the money to pay the bills?"

The second thought meant I usually tried to make sure I had a new job to move to before I threw in the towel on any existing job.

 
PDR
1244362.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:09 am Reply with quote

AlmondFacialBar wrote:

Hmmmmm... Given your well-documented prejudice against Arts and Humanities - assuming you were recruiting for a comms focused rather than a straight engineering role, would you interview someone with my CV? Or is your THAT you studied rather than WHAT you studied approach limited to STEM subjects?


Well remember that most of what I have discussed relates only to people applying to pour grad apprenticeship, straight from Uni. If I were recruiting for a specific post I would be looking for someone with experience in similar or synergious roles and their track record would be as or more important than the quals (as I think I've already said).

But even for grad recruitment I think I did actually cover this a page or two back (probably in the other thread) when I talked about not recruiting STEM people for PM/Finance [etc] roles. If you want to rationalise that with my "well-documented prejudice against Arts and Humanities" (which I don't necessarily deny) I would place my tongue firmly in my cheek and explain that clearly we need to select lesser people for lesser roles...

:0)

PDR

 
cnb
1244364.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:23 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:

Well it may very well have been so, but I don't remember being consulted about it. You can't force people to cooperate with a system that doesn't suit them.


I don't think there's anyone who thinks it's perfect. Everyone would rather do more of the things they enjoy, less of the ones they don't, and get paid more for it. By not making the compromises necessary to fit in, you've effectively excluded yourself from the work element of our society.

GuyBarry wrote:

I've had dozens of different jobs throughout my life, so I'm clearly employable. However, with one exception, I've never been able to stick in a job for more than a few months. I get bored very quickly. I start off with bags of enthusiasm, and then after a little while I'm thinking "why do I have to do this again?" I'm 51 now and I still haven't found a solution to the problem.


I'm 39 and I'm on my eighth job since graduating - that's an average of just over two years in each job. I don't think getting bored is all that uncommon - it certainly happens to me and is the primary reason why I change jobs so often. Good employers will make efforts to find more varied work for me do, and I've stayed as much as five years with a couple, and bad ones make no effort at all so there have been a couple of jobs I've lasted less than a year.

The difference seems to be that you've got so frustrated that you've quit jobs, sat-out work for a bit, then gone back to another low-paid role, while I've used the negativity about one job to drive me to find a better one.

GuyBarry wrote:

My ideal lifestyle would be one where I moved continuously round between one job and another from day to day. Or even from hour to hour.


I've been slowly working towards the closest thing to that that's possible in the field I work in. With more seniority has come more influence over the kind of work I do, more flexibility in the hours I work etc; you have to put up with the crap for a few years first. My role now is essentially that of a consultant. Although I'm employed by one company and their product range means that there are some common elements between all the projects I work on, I work with different customers every day solving different problems. It's not perfect, but it's much better for me than the work I was doing ten or fifteen years ago, and it also pays much better.

GuyBarry wrote:

The one exception was running a newsagent's kiosk, which I stuck with for just over two years - but there were special circumstances, because I knew from the outset that the site was due for demolition and that I'd eventually be made redundant. So I stuck it out to get the redundancy pay, but there were several occasions when I felt like walking out.


This stands out. You talk about quitting jobs because of boredom, without apparently being concerned about the loss of income, yet you stayed in a job to get redundancy pay, so you are to some extent driven by money.
After two years' service the redundancy pay was presumably not a huge amount - perhaps 10% of what you'd earned in the two years. If 10% more was enough to motivate you, why didn't you just apply for better paid jobs? If you're in work and move to a job 'one step up' from what you're doing but at another employer you'll almost certainly get a 10% increase in pay. I think the average increase in pay I've had from each my job changes has probably been about 15%.

 
GuyBarry
1244367.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:47 am Reply with quote

crissdee wrote:

The solution is to grow up and accept that life isn't all sunshine and buttercups.


Oh I dunno. There are definite advantages to this lifestyle, however frustrating it can be at times. I've gained experience of far more different types of work than I ever would have done in a conventional career. I've also had lots more time to myself than I would otherwise have done. I haven't had very much money, but then I've never had very many things I wanted to spend it on. I'm perfectly happy just going for a walk by the river on a summer afternoon - something you can't often do in a nine-to-five job!

Quote:
GuyBarry wrote:
I wasn't used to working set hours.


So presumably your school was run on a "turn up when you feel like it" system?


No of course not, but when I got to university there were only two hours of lectures a day, plus a couple of tutorials a week. It was up to me to organize the rest of my time. Even at school we had two afternoons a week free for sport (of which I did the minimum amount required), plus free periods when you got into the sixth form. It was nothing like as rigid as the conventional working day.

I still find it very hard to do a continuous five-day week. When I had the full-time job at the newsagent's it was three days and two (Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat). That suited me a lot better, even though it was the same number of hours. Unfortunately most office jobs don't give you the option of that type of work pattern.

Another thing I liked about that job was that the hours were 6am-2pm, so I had most of my afternoons free. Again, you don't find many office jobs that give you that option. I tend to function a lot better in the mornings.

I like working when other people aren't working (and vice versa). I did Christmas afternoon once in the control room of a taxi company and it was great fun. Double pay too!

 
GuyBarry
1244368.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 6:12 am Reply with quote

[I didn't expect this thread to turn into a discussion of my personal employment history! I'm quite happy to discuss it if people want but I don't want people to get bored.]

cnb wrote:

This stands out. You talk about quitting jobs because of boredom, without apparently being concerned about the loss of income, yet you stayed in a job to get redundancy pay, so you are to some extent driven by money.
After two years' service the redundancy pay was presumably not a huge amount - perhaps 10% of what you'd earned in the two years. If 10% more was enough to motivate you, why didn't you just apply for better paid jobs?


It wasn't even that much - it was two weeks' statutory redundancy payment, plus a two-week bonus for staying on to the end. There was some outstanding holiday as well, so I got about six weeks' money when I left. Six weeks' money for doing nothing is nice. I put my feet up for quite a long time after I finished that job!

But I stayed on to the end for other reasons as well. There was no one else in the company who could have done my job, and I didn't want to let my employer down. Also, I really enjoyed the last few weeks of trading when I was running down the stock, trying to estimate it so that we ran out at exactly the right time!

If there were more "time-limited" jobs of that type available then I think I might be more motivated to apply for them. When people (including prospective employers) ask me "why did you leave the newsagent's job?" it's so satisfying to be able to say "because a bulldozer came and knocked the place down" :-)

 
cnb
1244369.  Thu Aug 03, 2017 6:17 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
This is what I find so ironic about the whole issue. At school you're told that your choice of 'A' levels is really important, and it'll affect the whole of the rest of your life; and then you're told that your choice of degree subject is important, that your choice of university is important, even (in the case of Oxbridge) that your choice of college is important. And then after than you're suddenly told that none of it mattered after all and no one cares what you studied at school or university. It doesn't make sense to me.


Your choice of A-levels is important because it has a significant effect on which degree courses you will be able to get on. Your choice of degree is important because it has a significant effect on what work you will be able to get shortly after graduating.

There are some degree courses where the subjects you study at A-level are considered unimportant, and there are some graduate-level jobs where the degree subject is unimportant, but those are exceptions rather than the rule.

It's certainly true in my experience that one you've been working a few years people stop caring about your education and base their decisions on your work history instead, but to get that work history you have to have got the first couple of jobs, and to get those the degree is important.

GuyBarry wrote:
cnb wrote:
Your suggestion that the education system failed to prepare you for the reality of work is bizarre.


Well it's true.


What I meant was that I don't think it's the education system's job to teach you the fundamentals of working to earn money. I think most of us learn that from our parents.

GuyBarry wrote:

When I took my first job after graduating, as an administrative "high-flier" in the Civil Service, I felt completely unprepared for it. I didn't understand the subject-matter (mental health policy); I wasn't used to working set hours; I didn't like the working environment, in an office with just one other person (my manager, who ignored me most of the time); and worst of all I felt that everything I'd ever learned up to that point, everything that I cared about and felt passionate about, had been a complete waste of time. I almost felt suicidal at one point.

I think most people feel at least some of these things in their first job. You seem to have had an extreme reaction to something most people just move on from by getting another job. I can certainly understand why you felt how you did about working in the Civil Service - I had a summer job at the local council and then went to one of the 'open days' for the Civil Service Fast Track scheme, and the two of those together convinced me that the public sector wasn't for me.

GuyBarry wrote:

I've learnt far more about the world of work since I left formal education than I ever learned in it. They didn't really teach me anything about working life at school. There was a careers library but hardly anyone ever used it. I really didn't feel that it was relevant to me.

Everyone learns more about work in it than before it. I agree that school 'careers advice' didn't help, but everyone's in the same boat, yet you're the only triple-graduate any of us know of in your situation.

GuyBarry wrote:
Well I knew that grown-ups went out to work when I was six years old, of course. But at that age I couldn't imagine being grown up - it seemed such a long way away. I was enjoying being a child, playing games and making up stories.

If I'd been able to stay six years old all my life, I'd have been happy.


My daughter doesn't get to play games and make up stories all the time though. She has to go to school six hours a day five days a week whether she wants to or not, and she has to do homework on a couple of evenings. She has swimming lessons every Thursday evening, and she has to walk there and back whatever the weather. She has to help us with housework and preparing meals, and she has to help take care of her baby brother.

Given that she sleeps more than an adult, I'm not sure she gets all that much more free time to do her own thing than I did as a single working adult. Things have changed for me since I had kids, of course, but that's nothing to do with work.

 

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