Posts Tagged ‘ivy league’

An Ivy grad wrote in, asking for advice after not finding a satisfying job that fit with his degree. The first part of the email thread is as follows. This is part of a two-part post; the second part can be read here.

“Hey Clayton,

Thank you for writing that blog. I went through a similar period of doubt and depression and feelings of worthlessness a few years back after I finished my engineering degree at an ivy league school (arguably not the best place for an engineering degree) and couldn’t find employment.

So I figured more education would get me going. After 60k put back into the ivy league for a Master’s, I can say I’m fully employed. But I still feel a sense of worthlessness and still have my debt clinging on to me like a ball and chain.

I sit at a desk all day and punch numbers away in a spreadsheet. Not even doing any fancy cool stuff with it, just punching it in and sending it off. At first I was so insulted that I didn’t even get 50k salary, but now I realize that it’s probably way more than what someone doing these mundane tasks should be paid.

I probably sound like I’m complaining, which I am to some extent. I envisioned a much more meaningful and exciting future. Ah well.

Which brings me to my next point, the inspiration your blog set off in me.

Yes, I have a job and I’m grateful I get a steady paycheck, but it doesn’t do away with the fact that this desk job and its menial tasks are making me feel more empty than ever before.

I spent a couple of weeks learning programming about 2-3 hours/day and challenging myself. I spent a week or two reading (very enthusiastically) about how computer hardware works.

I want to be where you’re at now. I’m looking at a community college for computer science classes and going from there in the hopes that I’d be able to make a good living (six figures isn’t necessary) while being able to travel and having freedom. I feel that software engineering and development will allow me that freedom. I might as well do it soon, while I’m 24, rather than later when I’ll have much more responsibility.

Do you think this is a good idea? I’m just having a lot of trouble accepting that I’m braindead at this job, and an investment now in computer science and programming will pay off tremendously in the end, I would hope.

All advice appreciated!



My response:

“Hi [redacted],

Thanks for writing in, and I’m glad the blog resonates with your experiences.

As for your computer science idea, I say go for it. It’s still a vibrant industry with a lot of demand and a lot of high-paying positions that companies struggle to fill. I still get daily emails from recruiters asking if I’d be interested in a new position. If you have an interest in programming, then I don’t think you’ll regret making the change. And having another engineering degree certainly can’t hurt your prospects, either.

If your current job is unfulfilling, then don’t force yourself to keep doing it. Software development is a pretty safe bet so I wouldn’t be worried about losing out financially if you change careers. Depending on where you live, you can probably expect to make $40-60K in an entry-level job, and if you’re motivated and do good work, you can probably expect to break $100K within 2-3 years (virtually anything with “senior” or “architect” in the title will be six figures plus bonus and other benefits). And for future reference, don’t be afraid to jump ship if a better opportunity presents itself – there is surprisingly high turnover in the software industry.

A community college is definitely the most cost-efficient way to get a degree, and I’d venture to say you’ll be able to find a job after getting an associate’s degree in CS, especially since you’ve already got a master’s in something else. If you can continue working in your current position while going back to school, then that may ease the transition; I was mostly unemployed when I re-enrolled and it was a challenge not having much money to spare.

If you’re interested in traveling with work, then the key word is consulting (or consultant). The basic principle of consulting firms is that they provide specialized expertise which isn’t easy learn on the fly, making it impractical to recruit new people locally for new projects. Instead, consulting firms train their staff to be experts in a specific subject area, then fly them to clients around the country (or globe) as temporary contractors, which is costly for clients but often worthwhile for projects that don’t last that long. This is what I do, and it’s nice in the sense that you can continue living wherever you are and travel back and forth to client sites, rather than having to relocate permanently (although you can volunteer to relocate as well). On the flip side, weekly travel can become quite tiring and tedious; some of my coworkers say they feel like they’re living at the airport. If you don’t see yourself as a road warrior but you’re still interested in seeing other parts of the country, you can certainly apply for jobs nationwide and express your willingness to relocate in your application. Many companies recruit nationally, since they may not be able to find enough local talent, and I get emails from recruiters in all parts of the US. Bear in mind that (from what I’ve observed, at least) most companies will expect you to relocate on your own tab, but some do offer reimbursement for relocation expenses (as a taxable benefit).

If you’re looking to live abroad (highly recommended if you’ve not done it before), then I’d suggest looking at major consulting firms as a starting point (Accenture, Ernst & Young, etc.) or else companies with a global market presence (e.g. SAP, IBM, or my company, Guidewire). If you speak another language, that’s helpful as well. In my case, I was surprised when my company offered to send me overseas almost immediately after I joined. As it turned out, many of the older consultants with families didn’t want to move that far away, let alone uproot the wife and kids, so the company had difficulty filling openings with foreign clients. But for me, it was the perfect opportunity, and since the flights, work visas, etc. are all reimbursed as business expenses, I’ve been able to move around without having to make huge financial sacrifices. And thanks to all this business travel, I’ve racked up tons of frequent flyer miles and hotel points at no cost to myself. Over the course of 3.5 years, I’ve lived in four foreign countries (Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and currently, Great Britain), and so far, I haven’t looked back.

Anyway, I hope this info is helpful to you. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions.



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A college freshman wrote to me with some questions on Ivy League schools: their merit, their policies, and their preferences. My responses follow.

1. When interviewing my head of school, who attended Penn approximately 20 years ago, he told me “no one graduated without a job”. This obviously has changed, but why do you think that is? Do you think it is the quality of Ivy League schools that has gone down?

That certainly may be part of it, but it’s not the whole story. The first question is, what do we mean by a “quality” education? What makes one school better than another? Is it the practical (i.e. professional) value of the education? The challenge it provides? Perhaps it’s the social experience, or the values the university conveys? I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a dramatic demographic, socioeconomic, and political shift in the Ivies over the past fifty or so years, but that doesn’t necessarily imply anything about the quality of the coursework. My general impression is that many elite private universities have rather academic curricula compared to their public counterparts, in the sense that they aren’t geared to train students for the “real world.” I’m not opposed to taking courses out of personal interest, but I think most students who are fresh out of high school are hoping to gain some vocational skills as part of their education, and in that respect I think many top-rated private schools don’t deliver.


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One might think that America’s best universities would be intent on recruiting the top minds in the nation, but that’s often not the case. Instead, many highly-ranked private schools provide special preferences for anything but stellar academics. Brace yourselves: If you want a place at one of America’s elite universities, the answer may not be to study hard and get good grades, but rather to be born into the right circumstances – i.e., to be of the right race, religion, socioeconomic background, legacy status, or athletic ability.

Affirmative action – or just plain racism?

Not long ago, Harvard was charged with ethnic discrimination against Asian applicants. The following article discusses this issue at great length and suggests that the accusation is indeed well-founded. It additionally reveals a pattern of discrimination against gentile whites (Euro-Americans), as well as arbitrary favoritism toward Jewish students. Harvard employs an affirmative-action program to ensure that it has an abundance of ethnic minorities, but in the process knocks out some of its would-be best and brightest. How good can America’s top-rated university be if it’s not even meritocratic?


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Today I offer yet another laundry list of stories, this time focused on top-tier grads who face underemployment, some of whom work in minimum-wage positions.

Harvard to Homeless and Other Anecdotal Evidence Not to Go to Law School

“In April of 2009, almost one year after I had graduated from Ivy League, I began a pretty hardcore job search […] By September, I had my first job in the restaurant industry serving room service at 6 a.m. “

“So here I am. Eight years of experience, a Master’s degree, and an Ivy League school. You’d think I could at least get an entry-level position.”


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After receiving a submission from someone saying he had never met an unemployed Ivy Leaguer, I felt compelled to find more stories of graduates of elite universities who can’t find work. Turns out, it’s not difficult… the more I look, the more I find. Below are about 35 more articles chronicling cases of unemployment, underemployment, poverty, insurmountable debt, and general shock-and-awe stories coming from graduates of top-tier universities.

A new Stanford grad on food stamps

Yale grad: “Turns Out My Ivy League Education Is Worth Squat”

Columbia grad: “$60,000 Ivy League Degree Was Just a Pyramid Scheme”

55-year-old Dartmouth graduate is unemployed and homeless

Harvard Grad Seeks Babysitting Jobs

Princeton grad works at a video store

Dartmouth grad – “Ivy Leaguer Shocked By Likely Future As Burger Flipper”

Stanford grad, unemployed and living with parents, reflects on his first year after graduation

Yale, Penn, George Washington University sue graduates over loan debts that they can’t pay back

Stanford Law school grad turned call girl under house arrest after cheating the government

Emory Law Student Lament: ‘We don’t need donuts, we need jobs.’

Being an Unemployed Ivy League Grad

Even a Yale Pedigree Could Leave One Unemployed

Discussion –how many elite school grads are in those unemployed statistics?

The adventures of an unemployed Columbia grad

Unemployed Duke grad who got a spot on the TV show “The Apprentice” couldn’t even keep that

A self portrait created in 2003 may help this struggling, 2012 Duke graduate to find her way out of poverty

Cornell Grads Find Fewer Jobs, Earn Less Than In Previous Years

“Underemployment hits double digits for schools listed below ninth-ranked University of California, Berkeley.”

From Ivied Halls to Traveling Salesman (includes a UPenn grad)

Fewer University of Chicago and Northwestern law graduates finding jobs at law firms

“It’s interesting when an alumna suggests that a professor at her law school is interfering with her ability to find employment. And it’s downright sensational when the unemployed lawyer is a Stanford Law School graduate.”

9% unemployment for recent Georgetown grads

MIT grad still unemployed after a year

MIT computer science graduate couldn’t find a job

“Six months after graduating from Princeton University, 22-year-old Kati Henderson was still looking for work.”

Georgetown graduate unemployment rises

“Unhappy anniversary: My first year of joblessness” – Recent Johns Hopkins graduate wonders what Congress is doing to help

Discussion – Unemployed or underemployed recent Top-20 college grads

Report: Many Emory Law Students Underemployed After Graduation

“8 months out, no job… I guess my Ivy League Master’s Degree was a waste of money”

Ivy League degree, no job

Life after the Ivy League: Surviving unemployment without losing all self-confidence

Google Is Not Impressed by Your Fancy Ivy League Credentials

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Still dreaming of a spot at Princeton or MIT? Still believe that a diploma from Stanford or Yale will make all your dreams come true? Here are a few more links that might change your mind:

Ivy League Graduates on Food Stamps


Graduating into unemployment

“Nikki Muller, known for her viral YouTube video, “Ivy League Hustle,” still can’t make more than $14 an hour… [she] graduated from both Harvard and Princeton.”


Is an Ivy League Diploma Worth It?


Ivy League degree, no job


30s: Ivy League Unemployed

“Good-bye, Rat race. Good-bye, Bank Account.”


Unemployment Stories, Vol. Three: ‘Absolute Hell’

“I am a mid-30s female with an Ivy League graduate degree. I just received my third layoff in a little over four years.”


Unemployed Banker and Ivy Leaguer Reaches All Time Lows


Scamployment! The e-mail inbox of an Ivy League unemployed


Is the Ivy League a waste of money?

“Princeton professor and economist Alan Krueger set out to prove an Ivy League education paid off. He wound up proving exactly the opposite.”


From Ivy League to Unemployed: How College Grads Should Approach the Job Hunt


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