Why Applying Sucks, Part 1 | Hour Blog

I loved college.  Many do.  I didn’t love college for the friends or the parties or the stories I have about friends at parties. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t love my friends.  That’s not it at all.  I always will.  It’s just that those experiences weren’t particular to the college scene for me.  The classroom experience was.  And that brings me to what I loved most about college: Class.  I know.  This probably isn’t something I should admit.  But there it is: I loved going to class.  I loved the discussions (during and after class), the readings, the assignments, and the exams.  Yes, I even liked the exams. College for me was challenge, but a manageable one.  Do the work.  Read the book.  Write the paper.  Study for the exam. The rules were straightforward and simple: do this and you’ll get that.  While all this is certainly easier to type than do, at least the challenges were known.  It was predictable.  Knowable.  Controllable.

Then I graduated college, and I entered the job wilderness…er, market.  Dear lord…what a weird transition.  Perhaps I had been buried in my Shakespeare for one too many nights, but the whole reality of the task never really hit me until, well, it became my reality.  I scoured the web for every company or school I thought could benefit from my skills, but the magnitude of the problem overwhelmed.  Each application was so time consuming, with so many facets and rabbit holes.  All the factors I wanted to know dangled out of my reach: what kinds of applicants am I facing?  Who would actually be looking at my application?  Are my credentials strong enough to merit all the time and effort I’m putting in?  These and many more questions would float around my head, taunting me with their unanswerability.  To make matters worse, at every turn my mind seemed determined to keep me from focusing on the task at hand, while every time I turned from the task at hand, my mind would pester me with what it had been distracting me from—namely, the task at hand.  And the result of all this was, among other things, the occasional mental shutdown, which is a formal way of saying panic.

I don’t know if this is an experienced unique to humanities graduates, but it certainly struck me like a bat between the eyes.  Being an introspective type, I’ve put in  some good hours trying to figure out why it freaked me out as much as it did.  And I think now I know why: my education.

This is certainly a generalization, but I’ll use it anyway, the mission of the whole educational system is twofold:

1. Provide you with foundational knowledge.

2. Prepare you for a career.

While its overall success at the former goal is debatable, I think its performance of the latter is often seriously lacking.  And I believe this is (at least partially) a product of fundamental aspects of teaching tradition: rewards, punishments, and teacher led learning.

This is the end of part 1 on this topic. To be continued on Sunday.