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The Misconception About Philosophy Graduates: We Use Cardboard Boxes for Recycling, Not For Domiciles

It’s articles like these that drive me absolutely batty:


Source: Yahoo Education- Don’t Bother Earning These Five Degrees

I like to think of myself as a really nice, happy, and optimistic person, but hell hath no fury if I hear someone say in my presence that philosophy graduates are destined to live in cardboard boxes or something to that effect. I will call you out on it because the assumption that philosophy graduates spent four years on a dead end career path is absolute drivel, ignorant, and quite short sighted. 

My first philosophy class was during my second semester of freshman year at Hartwick College. I dropped out of my biochemistry major and wanted to explore other academic areas before I declared another major. I decided to take Values and Society, which was offered by the Philosophy department because it looked like something I would be interested in, and boy, was I right. I fell in love with Plato’s works, especially Symposium. I treated those texts as if they were gifts from above because the writing was so rich. I thought it to be a privilege to develop valid arguments from these texts about these ancient values and how they fit in with our modern society.

Notice that I said valid arguments and not arguments because there is a difference. The meaning of philosophy is “the love of wisdom,” and the study is centered around teaching its students how to use logical reasoning to identify valid and invalid arguments. Because of that training, we learn how to read critically and not passively. We are not intimidated by big passages of words, such as proposed bills. We will go through it, line by line, and find the mistakes to tell you why parts of the proposal aren’t valid. 

What does that sound like? Oh, it sounds like a lawyer, which isn’t a surprise because, other than economics and mathematics majors, philosophy majors perform better on the LSAT than any other major in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. As you see, I got a little tired from hyperlinking sources, but you get my point.

What about the GRE? Well, we’ve got that one covered too.


And if you don’t believe me, here’s some sources here, here, and here.

Not bad for people who are destined for the cardboard box chateau, right? 

What I feel is the pitfall for college graduates, in general, is actually something that has to do more with themselves more than their degree. In the end, it is up to the individual to market themselves to compete for a job. If you don’t know the strengths of your degree and why they will help you attain a job, then the truth is, maybe you shouldn’t get the position because you can’t market yourself. I like to use the example of Pitbull. Love him or hate him, he knows how to talk, dress, and promote himself to get what he wants and approaches each professional situation with class, even when he’s sent to Kodiak, Alaska against his will. He could have acted like a diva about being sent to one of the most remote places in the country, but he didn’t. He had fun with it and gained a lot of respect from the people in Kodiak for taking out the time to come and visit them. Market yourself with the same confidence as Mr. 305 and you’ll be set. 

In a more realistic situation, when potential employers ask me about my philosophy degree and why I chose it to advance my career, I say it’s because it was something that I enjoyed, I’ve developed excellent critical reading skills, and I can effectively deduce arguments. I then bring up how those skills have helped me in my previous positions. Those are all valuable traits to any employer because not do I bring experience and desirable skills to the table, I actually have fun with them. See? It’s all about marketing yourself. 

What I would recommend to any major who is unsure about their future career is, first, reach out to your professors and have a honest chat with them. They know what’s it’s like and will be your best ally.

Secondly, seek out who the best career services advisor is on campus. Don’t just go to the career services center on a whim, find out who is the best one to talk to because in my experience, a lot of people who tend to work in that department do not know what they’re talking about. I was told by a random career services advisor that being involved in the campus radio station would amount to nothing for my career. Wrong. I received an internship with the Federal Communication Commission because of my radio experience. That internship was the springboard for me to attain my jobs in political campaigns and government relations. If I had listened to her and solely focused on the Political Science club, I really doubt I would be where I am today. When I told one of my friends about my dismal experience with Career Services, he told me that I was talking to the wrong person and directed me towards the best career services advisor and I never looked back. 

After you find the best career services advisor on the block, talk to them about your major and your career path (or lack thereof). If you took the time to find the best career advisor on campus, use them to your best advantage. Your tuition dollars pay their salary. Use them to their full potential so that you’re prepared for the real world. Ask them to conduct a series of mock interviews with you because the more practice you have, the better off you’ll be. One is helpful but it’s not going to fully prepare you for what’s out there.

Then, have them put you in resume boot camp. Don’t leave campus without a resume that has a format that is crisp, easy to read, and is one page. Yes. One page. To me, creating a resume is like curating a museum. Of course there’s a lot of interesting historical pieces, but if you put them all in one room, it’s going to look overwhelming to the eye. Think of your resume that way. You have that one room to curate. Make sure you put out your best pieces in it. If you want to put more experience on it, create a professional website or create a LinkedIn profile and slap it on your resume. LinkedIn is excellent because you can have your colleagues vouch for your skills. 

Lastly, it’s all about location, location, location and taking risks. I grew up in one of the most beautiful places in Upstate New York but it wasn’t a good launchpad for my career. I could have made it work if I really wanted to but I knew the easier way to start my career was to move to either Albany, NY or Washington, DC. I decided that Albany would be more affordable for me, so I took on a lease for a studio that cost me $650 and temp jobs that paid me about $11 a hour. There were a lot of times that I got frustrated but I kept saying to myself to wait until campaign season started because that’s when the opportunities would pop up. After my temp job was over, I volunteered with a campaign, and eventually, I was hired. Looking back, it was worth all of those times where I was wondering if I was going to make end’s meet with my bills and I wouldn’t of traded it for anything. Your career isn’t going to move in a progressive direction if you don’t make the moves yourself. 

If you need help, let me know. There’s nothing more that I love than coaching people towards their dream career, for any field. I know I gave out a lot of tough love, but tough times call for tough people. You can do it, just like Dr. Seuss said: 

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

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Scoring the Dream Job

I absolutely refuse to believe that my generation is the “lost generation.” In fact, I think that we have what it takes to be the greatest generation because things haven’t come easy to us, which has forced us to work harder and be more creative to get where we need to be.

Trust me, I get how easy it is to be disillusioned by it all. It took me two years of being unemployed, underemployed, and laid off to finally get where I am now. Through all of the headaches of wondering if I’m good enough, struggling to make the bills, and changing my lifestyle to fit my budget- I wouldn’t change a thing. It brought me to now. 

I am in a specific field, but I feel that my advice is applicable to people in any field. So you want your dream job? Here’s my advice.

1. Take Baby Steps.

When I was in college, I said to myself that I was going to work for __________. I knew it was a lofty goal- although I had two jobs with my college, had great grades, a DC internship under my belt, and I held a leadership position in almost every extracurricular I was involved in…just because I did all of that didn’t mean that I was going to get a job in my field right off the bat. I had many connections within higher education but I didn’t have connections within my field. So when I graduated, I knew that if I wanted any shot in hell of getting the dream job, it was time to do whatever it takes to get connections in my field.

I had to think of a couple things:

  • Am I in the right place to get those connections? After graduation, I moved to my parents’ house but I knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere by staying there. I had to move to either Albany or DC and take whatever job I could find, even if it was unrelated to my field. If I was in the right location, I could build on making those connections. I knew that DC wouldn’t be possible for me financially- there is a higher cost of living there and I didn’t have much money saved up. However, Albany’s cost of living was affordable and I liked the idea that my field’s infrastructure was a little smaller because it meant that it would be easier to find some opportunities. 
  • Speaking of doing whatever it takes- I had to learn to be humble. Taking temp jobs that I was extremely overqualifed for wasn’t easy. Although I sometimes got upset about that- I didn’t let that discourage me. I kept saying to myself that I will get where I need to be, I just need to do what Senator Robert Byrd said: “learn to labor, learn to wait.” 

2. Volunteer and Network.

I knew I wasn’t going to get ANYWHERE in my field if I just stayed home or went to the bars after I got home at 5PM. Even though work was done for the day, I still had “work” to do. So I looked for volunteer opportunities within my field. Each field is different- but I will tell you this, I don’t care what field you desire to be in, if you want to be apart of it, there are volunteer or networking opportunities available to you. The one thing that matters is the timing of them. I know for my field, the volunteer opportunities are ample around June and I had to wait for that. If I couldn’t be paid for work in my field, I knew that I was going to volunteer to be noticed so I could get paid to work in my field. At the end of every week, ask yourself: what have I done to volunteer or network towards attaining my dream job? Keep track of your progress.

My one tip when you receive an opportunity to volunteer or network is that you need to be remembered in a good way. This is your chance to be noticed so whatever task you do, make sure you play to your strengths! When I finally got the opportunity to volunteer within my field, my task was to serve the soda at a birthday party. That seems like the most menial task ANYONE can do. I could have just poured soda for people but I didn’t. I know my biggest strength is my ability to connect to people and after years of being a waitress at my father’s restaurant, I knew that you always had to provide service with a smile. So that’s what I did. Next thing I knew, I had people who were in my field coming up to me and asking if I worked with the organization. Within a month, I was hired within my field…all because I made sure to be personable while serving soda. 

Everything you do is an opportunity. Do not forget that because you never know what can happen. 

3. Be Relentless.

I know it is so easy to throw in the towel and just say to yourself that you’re a victim of circumstances. As hard as it is to keep your head above water, especially with bills to pay- don’t lose hope. It is not only important to stay focused, but you must also be relentless. I can’t tell you how many jobs within my field that turned me down or didn’t even consider me- even though the rejection hurt, I didn’t give up. And now I’m here because of that tenacity. You have that tenacity too. All of us do. 

When you don’t take advantage of your inner tenacity, you’re not going to be a victim of the economy’s circumstances. You’re going to be a victim of your own circumstances. It is tragic to me to see so many talented and smart people languish in jobs that are not in their fields because they aren’t being relentless and tenacious enough. If you’re not where you’re at, as hard as it is to write this, I feel it’s because you’re not being relentless enough. You are either not working as hard as you should be or you’re in the wrong location. Something needs to change. You’re the only one who can change it. 

4. Take Care of Your Own

I know I wouldn’t be here if someone didn’t take a chance on me. Make sure that if you are in a position to help a talented person out, do it. No one makes it alone and no matter what field you’re in, we all have the responsibility to ensure that our fields are stocked with the top talent. Although we may have struggled, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to.

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Take Your Passion and Make It Happen: A Way to Overcome The Dismal Economy and Realize Your Dreams

Yes we can.

Yep. That’s a line from the Obama campaign but I feel that we, the unemployed and underemployed youth, can also use it to motivate ourselves. 

On Wednesday, I said that I was looking forward to yesterday because, for the first time since November 2nd, I will be in a work environment in which I will be doing something that I love.

I was right. I’m going to be a receptionist at the office and I start on Tuesday! Although it’s a volunteer position, I can’t even tell you how much I treasure this opportunity. I remembered why I love politics- because it gives me a chance to help people. I’m sure you all out there have reasons why you love your passions.

Unfortunately, with the way things are, a lot of us aren’t getting the chance to get paid to do what we love- including yours truly. I’ll be dead honest right now- I don’t know many people who graduated with me, regardless of what college they went to, who are working full time within their fields. Because of this, it is SO easy to be:

1. Discouraged

2. Frustrated

3. Depressed


My friend, JOC, pointed me to this fabulous blog: Coming of Age in a Crap Economy. It tackles topics from Making the Best of a Shitty Job to How to Love Living at Home. It’s not written by some 45 year old self-help guru who has already made millions…it’s written by an English Literature major who graduated from the Class of 2009 who, from her bio, has yet to receive a full-time job offer. Seriously- check out that girl’s bio…she is my age (23) and has accomplished SO MUCH. Based on what she’s done- I would hire her in a heartbeat! However, just like you, me, and a lot of other people we know…she can’t get a job either.

So where am I going with this? In order to survive unemployment or underemployment…here’s a tip.


It’s been well documented that there is a growing sense of entitlement among young people today. I have certainly seen that in my classrooms.

Graduating seniors have this notion that they should be hired because of their creative brilliance. Too many are unhappy with the idea of starting at the bottom.

My advice has always been: “You ought to be thrilled you got a job in the mailroom. And when you get there, here’s what you do: Be really great at sorting mail.”

No one wants to hear someone say: “I’m not good at sorting mail because this job is beneath me.” No job should be beneath us. And if you can’t (or won’t) sort mail, where is the proof that you can do anything?

-Randy Pausch

I wish I could have had the privilege to take a class with this man. He is truly an inspiration to me, especially now. 

Simply having a degree cannot give you a job these days. Having that awesome internship cannot give you a job these days. Stop thinking because you have a degree in X and that since you have X experience that you are entitled to an awesome job.

If you sit there and whine about how things shouldn’t be this way, that you’ve worked so hard in the past, and that you’re done paying your dues…where is that going to get you? Nowhere. Why? Because you sat there whining! In this economy, throw out the notion that “you paid your dues” and “you’re entitled to a better future.” I’m pretty sure the people who had jobs for 20 years and then got laid off because of budget cuts feel that they also paid their dues and are entitled to a better future. 

Instead work towards the future you deserve. There’s a saying: God helps those who help themselves. If you’re not religious, just substitute “God” for “Life,” and it will mean the same thing. The economy may change. The job market may change. Yet from what I’ve seen- prospective employers always love someone who’s willing to take the initiative. This is your time to be creative and show what you’ve really got.

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

-Randy Pausch

Yes we can.


Yes, that’s a line from the Flashdance theme song. Not going to lie, this is my go-to song when I’m feeling really inspired and when I want things to happen. 

I love telling this story just because it’s an example that in life, anything is possible. I feel really blessed that this happened to me because seriously- when does stuff like this happen? In April and May, I had this wonderful temporary job as a receptionist. The contract ran out though and I found myself unemployed for a second time in 2010. I didn’t let it bring me down, even with a rent check looming and bills to pay, I decided that I was going to create my own destiny. Since I couldn’t find a political job, I signed up to volunteer on a political campaign so I could get some experience in the field. I had the time of my life. I was so excited whenever my friend D asked me if I could help out. Eventually, I did get a non-political office job within the month of June. But I’ll tell you- I always looked forward to clocking out because nothing made me happier than going down to the campaign office and stuffing envelopes or making phone calls. One day while I was volunteering, my friends at the campaign did a wonderful thing for me- they forwarded my resume to campaigns who were hiring. The rest is history.

If it worked before, I’d like to see if it could work again. I decided to make Sullivan County my little Albany. I want to make this something more. Right now, I’m on unemployment and I’ll say this- I’m really thankful for the money I receive because I haven’t asked my parents to take care of my bills. They don’t deserve to take care of my burdens. While I’m on unemployment, I really want to find the job that I’ll be happy with and will give me financial security. When I score another interview, I want to show my prospective employer that I didn’t just sit down and wait for life to happen to me- that I took charge of my life and searched for opportunities within my field…even if they are volunteer positions. I’m going to contact a couple more offices tomorrow to see if I can volunteer there too! My dreams are so precious to me. I’ll do anything to make them happen.

Anyone can do this. It’s honestly as simple as making a phone call. Whether you’re unemployed or underemployed- ask yourself this question: what do you want to do as a career? When you have that figured out, look at your surroundings. Are there any local businesses around that may give you some good experience to jumpstart your career? If there are, ask if you can volunteer! Even if you’re underemployed, you can still see if you can work things out. See if something could fit in with your work schedule. Even if it means working more hours, look at it as an investment in your dreams. You could be one step closer to launching your career!


Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.

-The Shawshank Redemption

Above all- this is the most important thing. It’s not going to be like this forever. If you feel like having a bad day, by all means, have a bad day. If you feel confused, let yourself be confused. It’s better to let yourself feel these feelings than hold them inside of you. Don’t let them take over your life though. We are still so young. We have our whole lives ahead of us. Let us not be remembered as the forgotten generation. Let us be the Greatest Generation v.2.0. After all, it wasn’t until after The Great Depression that The Greatest Generation  came about. We’re more than what our circumstances are giving us. 

We can do it.

Yes we can.

Say it louder.

Yes we can!

I still can’t hear you!


I will leave you with this song. It always makes me optimistic.

Matt and Kim- Daylight

We cut the legs off of our pants
Threw our shoes into the ocean
Sit back and wave through the daylight
Sit back and wave through the daylight

Slip and slide on subway grates
These shoes are poor mans ice skates
Fall through like change in the daylight
Fall through like change in the daylight

I miss yellow lines in my roads
Some color on monochrome
Maybe I’ll paint them in myself
Maybe I’ll paint them in myself

These sidewalks liquid then stone
Building walls and an old pay phone
It rings like all through the daylight
It rings like all through the daylight

And in the daylight we can hitchhike to Maine
I hope that someday I’ll see without these frames
And in the daylight I don’t pick up my phone
Because in the daylight anywhere feels like home

I have five clocks in my life
And only one has the time right
I’ll just unplug it for today
I’ll just unplug it for today

Open hydrant rolled down windows
This car might make a good old boat
And float down grand street in daylight
And float down grand street in daylight

And with just half of a sunburn
New yellow lines that I earned
Step back and here comes the night time
Step back and here comes the night time

And in the daylight we can hitchhike to Maine
I hope that someday I’ll see without these frames
And in the daylight I don’t pick up my phone
Because in the daylight anywhere feels like home