The Craigslist Experiment

This guy is a genius.

He posted a fake Craigslist ad for a job, and received over 600 responses in 24 hours. These numbers don’t surprise me at all. The idea that a job with health benefits got so many responses also doesn’t surprise me. The idea that “candidates” with over 20 years of administrative experience applied for this job doesn’t shock me, but it does make me sad.

A few things that do surprise me:

  • Why would you look for a job on Craigslist? (Sorry.)
  • Why would you simply cut and paste your resume into an email without tailoring it, or spam potential employers with unreadable files? Are you a job hunting bot?
  • Why is everyone on Earth so dismissive of Liberal Arts educations? Why doesn’t English major translate to Exceptional Writer? Why aren’t critical thinking, analysis, and writing considered exceptionally important skills to have in a variety of fields?
  • Why are English Majors with Masters Degrees applying for jobs as administrative assistants? Are we looking for any job at all? Or are we not looking for low-stakes work with health insurance that pay the bills while I write my first novel?

As an educated person with a liberal arts degree in history, and (what was supposed to be) a professional masters degree in arts administration, it always shocks me that my education is dismissed out of hand. Nobody cares where I went to school. Nobody asks me about my masters degree. The only time it comes up is when I explain why I loved to New York (why did I move here, again?) I went to interview at a temp agency, and the lead interviewer told me that she loved University of Chicago graduates because we are so whip smart and work so hard. Thanks. It has never come up anywhere else. My masters is sometimes a topic of discussion, but most of the time I defend my choice of not going to Yale for Theatre Management, or cite a specific class that would be relevant to the job.

I don’t feel over-educated. I am starting to feel like the debt I incurred to go to graduate school is not worth it. But my goodness, if a college diploma is the new high school degree, then for Christ’s sake, we need to acknowledge the skills that are imparted in a liberal arts degree.

h/t Colleen Ross for this article!

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1 comment
  1. morgan said:

    “Why is everyone on Earth so dismissive of Liberal Arts educations? Why doesn’t English major translate to Exceptional Writer?”
    ^ English major doesn’t translate to Exceptional Writer because almost no English majors *are* exceptional writers. Most of them are crap at writing. So are most other people, whatever they majored in. Liberal arts educations get dismissed out of hand more than other kinds because they are in abundant supply and of wildly varying quality.

    In my experience, a physicist is just as likely as an English major to write eloquently. But while there are plenty of e.g. engineers who can write, there are almost no English majors who can, say, build a bulldozer or land a rover on Mars. Writing is taught, nominally anyway, to everyone. Engineering is taught to people who self-select. Hence the imbalance. It’s unfortunate, really — and Lick-Wilmerding makes engineers of everyone to some extent, so it’s easy to forget how unequal it really is in the general population.

    You also came from a high school that put a lot of energy into ensuring that every damn student came out an incredibly fluent writer, too 🙂

    “Why aren’t critical thinking, analysis, and writing considered exceptionally important skills to have in a variety of fields?”

    They are. They just aren’t the domain of English majors. And let’s not forget that analysis is not just a qualitative undertaking — quantitative analysis is rarely taught in any form to folks who major outside the sciences/trades, which creates a big hole in their usefulness as analysts. Someone with an understanding of accounting and statistics will be far more effective and persuasive at shifting how an organization does fundraising than someone who writes really persuasively but can’t generate their own supporting data…

    Of course, people non-liberal arts degrees aren’t necessarily particularly good *critical thinkers*, either. The difference is mostly that the methods engineers learn are more specific to easily valued economic activity like building toasters or speeding up production lines for potato chips.

    The people who happily hire English majors are the people who make money from English. Largely advertisers and publishers… But they still vet on the basis of who you turn out to be in real life, since the average degree is virtually meaningless…

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