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Altered Consciousness: Contemplations and concerns of a graduating senior

Published: April 27, 2012
Section: Opinions


After nearly four years at Brandeis University, I will be graduating in several weeks along with the rest of the class of 2012.

Certainly, I have benefited from my experience here in a number of ways. I have learned a great deal as a Politics major, about a range of topics from American government to public policy, political philosophy, law and international relations. The faculty is devoted to the well-being of the students and I’ve had very few professors who I would assert are inferior or sub-par in any major respect.

Compared to where I was when I originally matriculated, I have become a much better writer, communicator and researcher. I can analyze and critically examine complicated texts and ideas. I’ve developed a more cohesive worldview and perspective on national and international affairs.

My main concern though, even at this late point shortly before commencement day, is how I will be able to apply the skills I have acquired going forward.

At the heart of this matter is that the job market is not strong at all. For liberal arts majors who seek to work for a few years before entering graduate school, searching for a career is a miserable and even dehumanizing experience. All your life experience is boiled down to one of thousands of resumes sitting in a dusty pile on some desk in a cubicle. There is too little supply of available positions, especially given how weak this economy is, and far too much demand.

Furthermore, the vast majority of jobs out there are not appealing. Sales jobs are always plentiful. Yet selling insurance of some sort, for instance, seems like an awfully frustrating and monotonous endeavor. Lots of IT positions are available—yet one does not learn about the intricacies of Java by taking courses on Middle East politics.

Then there is the social justice career that Brandeis seems to fetishize with some do-gooder not-for-profit. If you feel that you can save the whales and would be willing to do so despite making less than the minimum wage and working 60-hour weeks, be my guest.

There are some well-paying, intellectually stimulating, rewarding jobs out there, yet it’s like finding a needle in a haystack—one need only look at websites like Career Builder or Monster to see what I mean. And although my Brandeis education has been valuable, I cannot say it has definitively distinguished me from tens of thousands of other students in my exact same position who probably found the same things for which I’ve been applying.

Personally, I’m not doomed, I will not become homeless and I have backup plans. Yet my angst is palpable.

The problem though rises beyond Brandeis and the woes of the class of 2012; fundamentally, the American Dream is dying. The notion that this upcoming generation will have higher living standards than the prior ones seems ludicrous to me. I personally doubt that I will ever become as financially successful as my parents.

A malaise has set over this nation. Our expectations are lower and 7 or 8 percent unemployment with stagnant incomes and wages seems like the new norm. As a patriot, I still try to be cautiously optimistic, do not believe decline is destiny, and hope that America will overcome this rough patch. Yet the rejection letters that I have received from the companies I’ve interviewed with—in my view, as good a symbol of larger trends as any—cause me to think otherwise.

My challenge then to the class of 2012: Prove me wrong, if you can. Congratulations, and welcome to your new life.