Phi Beta Cons

Surviving the Low-Level Job

Perusing some Smith College alumni magazines, I came across an unusually frank and helpful article about Ivy League grads landing in low-level jobs. It sounds some of the themes of a recent piece at by Jason Fertig, that grads can use what jobs are on offer to go higher. The Smith article admits that the college stuffs its students with an exaggerated sense of their worth, which can leave them distraught when they are asked to fetch coffee on their first job.

It doesn’t actually say that, but that’s the implication: “At Smith, students are told they can conquer the world. Then once they graduate and get that first low-level job, reality hits. Where’s the corner office? Where are the perks? Why am I spending my days faxing and filing?” The article goes on to present three stories of Smith grads in just this kind of situation, and how they used the entry position toward getting more responsible and more satisfying work. Two of them land good jobs in the kind of PC work that NR readers deplore, feminism and sex education, but the ideas presented are still useful.

A sidebar gives some tips on making the best of entry-level positions: Ask for more responsibility. Learn everything you can. Interview co-workers. Train up (if there are workshops and educational opportunities supplied by the employer). Know when to move on (when you’ve learned all you can, when you can’t advance without further training, or when you simply dread going to work in the morning).  


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