The foreign feeling of ‘you can’t get there from here’


Yesterday afternoon I spent a don’t-tell-the-boss amount of time perusing the Wall Street Journal’s list of college majors* categorized by popularity, employment rate and income range, and feeling general anxiety on behalf of everyone who faces that decision. 

I don’t know about you, but I often like to think about what I’d study if I went back to school. There are some professions that seem really interesting to me that I didn’t know existed when I was picking what to study. Hell, some professions, including the one I’m presently in, didn’t even exist when I was in college.

But last week I read about the terrible situation the 25-34-year-old generation is in. One statistic in particular, I think from this Demos report, still lingers in the back of my mind:

One third of young adults holding a four-year college degree told researchers that they are not working in their chosen profession. And 29 percent of those who attended graduate school said they weren’t working in the field they’d studied. Among students who attended “some college,” the figure jumped to 54 percent.

The idea that studying a new field wouldn’t necessarily be a path to getting a job in that field is disconcerting. America is by definition the land of opportunity. I know everyone is focused on upward mobility right now, but I’ve always been more proud of Americans’ lateral mobility -the opportunity for reinvention, to try and succeed at new things. (I always found Nancy Pelosi’s argument for freeing people from “job-lock” to be one of the more convincing arguments for health care reform.) My American brain has a hard time processing “You can’t get there from here.”


*I’m not sure if this is behind their paywall, but remember that you can access WSJ pages through Google results. 

The foreign feeling of 'you can't get there from here'