Millennial generation

$100K blown on an education with no tools to find a job

Why the Millennial Generation is screwed

Dear Dean Vernon Warner,

I am of the millennial generation and a recent graduate of your prestigious college. I just wanted to thank you because I am realizing that I have learned the greatest life lesson and I have your college experience to thank for it.

I just spent the last 4 years of my life trying to offset future college loans by working 25 hours a week with a minimum wage job. Despite all of those hours I could have spent studying, I am still in debt to the tune of $85K. Your school is $25K a year and after 4 years, I spent $100K on tuition. This doesn’t include the books I purchased for $100.00 and then 3 months later was able to sell back to the school for $15.00. This doesn’t include the lab fees and it doesn’t include the room and board, which ran $10K a year while sharing a room with three roommates. I consider myself lucky. I have a number of friends that were not able to graduate in 4 years and will end up spending another year in school to finish, but since tuition went up this year, they will spend an additional $27K.

Other millennial generation friends couldn’t afford to finish and had to quit after 3 years. These folks are in debt for $105K (3 years of tuition at $25K and 3 years of room and board at $10K) but although I am sure they are worse off than me, I am not sure I feel any better about it. With only 3 years of education they won’t qualify for jobs requiring a college degree. Like myself, this leaves them in debt and not just unemployed, but they can look forward to being unqualified for jobs requiring a college degree.

4 months ago, with diploma in hand, I and my fellow millennial generation graduates were ready to take on the world. I was looking forward to the American dream. I had finished my education, and had your signature on my gold leaf embossed diploma to prove it. I even spent $75.00 on a real wood frame at the university bookstore to frame my newly minted diploma. I was ready to start a new job, climb the career ladder and retire with a gold watch.

4 months later I am flat-out depressed. I have sent out hundreds of resumes and have had 2 phone interviews and 1 in person interview. I haven’t heard from the hiring companies after any of the interviews and the situation feels pretty hopeless.

I have  moved back into my parent’s basement and because I have yet to find a job they question my work ethic and intelligence. They don’t doubt me, they doubt the entire millennial generation. Intelligence and work ethic??!! I just went to 4 years of school and graduated with honors!

My parents want to kick me out of the house because these last few months have felt like DOG months to them. They may feel like each month is the equivalent of 7 months for them, but each month under their roof is 14 months for me. My father reminds me that the average rent in Seattle is $1,800.00 a month and I should be “chipping in”. He says I will learn more on the street than in college. I have a friend with a college degree who is a Barista at Starbucks and he says he can get me a job as the guy who writes the customers orders on the cups and rings up the customers. But hey! At least I get free coffee every week and will be eligible for benefits, even if I work part-time. Hell, they even have a college reimbursement plan. Maybe I will go back to your school and get my MBA!

While going to your prestigious institution, I worked 25 hours a week at a national burger chain. Now I cannot land a job with that same chain in my home town because with a college degree I am “over qualified”. They don’t want to hire someone like me because they are afraid that as soon as I find the job I really want, I am going to quit. (don’t list the college degree on the resume, just list the 4 years of hamburger experience)

Over the past 4 years, within the confines of your prestigious academia, I took classes on the topics of English, math, physics, accounting, astronomy and 3 years of Spanish. I took art history, business, and computer science, Quantitative reasoning, Cultural Diversity, Critical Thinking, Natural Sciences and English just to name a few. And this is NOT a liberal arts degree. I feel sorry for the folks that busted their asses for that degree. When was the last time you saw a job description on that was looking for a liberal arts degree. You have a lot of nerve even offering that program. I thought I was a well-rounded individual. I thought I would use this diploma to land a good job and then contribute to society.

As of my graduation date, I can:

  • Recite the periodic table by heart.
  • Name 100 artists and their paintings from the Renaissance and Impressionistic periods.
  • Explain the BigBang theory and identify the MilkyWay through a telescope.
  • Tell you how to calculate EBITDA.
  • Speak in Spanish at a conversational level.


When I was going to school, I figured anyone that is charging a kid $100K knows what they are doing. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now I know what I don’t know.

What I know: I just spent $100K to get a piece of paper I thought would help me land a job.

What I don’t know: I don’t know how to write a resume that will grab a recruiter’s attention and I don’t know how to conduct myself in a job interview.

How do I know that I don’t know how to write an effective resume? If I did know how to write an effective resume, you would think that by sheer odds, one of the hundreds of companies I applied to would have at least sent me a “we received your resume and would like to talk to you about a potential opportunity” email. Crickets bitches. . .crickets.

If I don’t know how to write an effective resume, I sure as hell don’t know how to effectively interview. When I ask my unemployed friends if they took a class on interviewing, they all just shake their heads in silence. Nothing listed in the curriculum. Who would have thought?

Where was the class on how to write a resume? Where was the class on how to interview in Corporate America? God forbid we have a class on how to negotiate a raise or a promotion.

I spent 5 hours a week learning the periodic table and 5 hours a week for 3 months learning the paintings of 100 Impressionists, but no class on interviewing?

Yes, there was that 1 hour session in the business class where a couple of recruiters came in from Acme Publishing and gave the 300 of us in the class a crash course on how to find a job. The only real practical knowledge we walked away with was:

How do we introduce ourselves at a career fair?

How do we shake hands with a recruiter or hiring manager? Yes, we all lined up to practice shaking the recruiters hand and introduce ourselves. We were all a little insulted when we were done and realized the lesson was over. Question for you: If I need coaching on how to introduce myself, don’t you think I need coaching on the actual interview?

(HRNasty quit volunteering at these “how to find a job’ sessions at the local college when I was assigned to role play the career fair introductions with 150 students which consisted of a single hand shaking exercise. This was all we could help folks with in the 60 minute sessions and no Purell was provided.)


How do I answer the question: Tell me about yourself

How do I answer the desired salary question? Hell, What is my desired salary? I need to pay off my $100K student loan. The average price of a home in Seattle is $504K and not only requires a 20% deposit, a home requires a J.O.B! The average rent in Seattle is $1,800.00. Where was that discussion? I didn’t get drunk in school, I attended class. I was a good student. Why can’t I find a job?

The lesson I took away from my 4 years at your institution for the bargain price of $100K?

Buyer beware. For every sucker out there, there are 10 to take him for it. And if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Yes, I am the sucker, you took me for the $100K, and will take thousands more following in my footsteps. Why did I think that spending $100K on an education would get me somewhere. What I really need to know is how to write a resume, how to interview, and how to manage my manager. I wish there was someone out there that could really make a difference and had a blog or something I could research.

Thanks for nothing,

Millennial generation, Class of 2015

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Harvard Business Review HR

Harvard Business Review July / Aug 2015. A must read issue for HR professionals

Harvard Business Review HR issue

I just read the July / August 2015 Harvard Business Review HR issues and if you are in HR, I would highly recommend you read the entire issue, front to back.

10 years ago, Fast Company magazine wrote an article titled Why we hate HRand within the HR and executive level communities it caused quite a buzz. This was a must read for HR at the time, and I think that it still holds a lot of valuable insight. If you are in HR, and haven’t read this, do so. 

I am confident that this Harvard Business Review HR issue will make have the same impact on the HR community as the Fast Company issue. If you are working in HR this is the must read for 2015. Remember, the subscription base for this publication: C-levels and Sr. leaders in business. If they are reading this issue then so should all HR practitioners.

A couple of points that stuck out

“Too many HR managers wait to be told which issues to tackle. If a company starts a wellness program after the Chief Executive has a heart attack or launches a woman’s initiative after his daughter takes a job in the business, you can be sure that HR team is not leading the charge.”

I wanted to point out that it might be the HR departments fault, but there can be some nature vs. nurture aspects to HR’s attitude as well

I know plenty of Directors of HR who are leading teams, making the best place to work lists and adding strategic value to their C suite that started in admin roles. Throughout their careers, they figured out how to be proactive and update their personal brand / image. They made the leap from roles that are typically reactive to roles that are driving forces. 

Many HR departments are short-staffed. When a team is under-staffed in any discipline, you end up putting out the biggest fires instead of checking to see if the fire fighting equipment is in working order. All anyone has time for is putting out fires. This is not the environment for a department that wants to drive initiatives in ANY discipline.

If the HR department is reactive vs. pro active, it won’t receive respect. If an HR department doesn’t have respect, or executive support, it is hard to gain an investment in HR. HR needs to learn how to effectively pitch ideas to the c level suite. We have to realize that our ideas are probably not going to fly on the first pass and this is OK. We need to ask for feedback, retool the idea and pitch it again. At this level, very few ideas from any department fly on the first pass. We need to be OK with this. This doesn’t mean that the C suite is saying no to us personally, it means the idea didn’t have the right pitch, or the company isn’t ready for the idea “yet”. HR needs to realize that if an idea is rejected, it isn’t personal, it is business. Very few of us rode a bike without training wheels on the first try. We fell down and tried again, and again, and again. We need to be willing to do the same with our pitches.

Harvard Business Review HR point number 2

HR is usually looked upon to be strategic in an employee driven job market (there are many jobs and not many candidates). In markets where there are few jobs, (think Depression / recession years) managers are motivating with a stick vs. the carrot. HR isn’t usually requested when management is holding the big stick.

It is the above philosophy that reinforces a recent personal experience. I live and work in the Seattle area and with companies like MSFT, Tableau, AMZN all being founded here and growing, the candidate pool is very limited.

As readers know, about 6 months ago, I took a month-long fishing trip with plans on entering the job market unemployed. The company I worked for in 2014 was being sold to a larger company and with myself working on the operations side of the business, I knew my position was going to be eliminated. I knew this from the day I joined the company and looked forward to it. The goal of the company was to sell to an outfit large enough that my job would literally be eliminated. 

Fortunately for me, the job market or technology in Seattle was (and remains) an employee driven market. Even though the market is driven by technology and I work in HR, HR experience with fast growth technology companies gave me a few more options.

A number of CEO’s, founders and Sr. leaders were reinforcing to me that this was an economy that appreciated HR. They were showing a new-found appreciation for HR. In an employee driven market, where recruiting and retention of employees is a very difficult thing, HR practitioners that are considered strategic will be in demand. Many of us have always known this, but this was coming from folks that were newly discovering the potential that HR could have on a company. These leaders realized that corporate culture is more than ping-pong tables and beer in the workplace.

Leaders that would not have considered hiring an experienced HR professional were suddenly trying to figure out a way to make the numbers work. CEO’s that would normally hire a single HR person were trying to figure out if they could hire 2 or 3 HR employees. There was and is an investment in HR.

These folks understood the cost of recruiting and the cost of an employee quitting. They understand the nuance of retaining top talent. Luckily, I was able to land a great job with a great team while on that fishing trip and am currently employed.

Business Logic

Typically, recruiting agencies charge the hiring company 25% of the first year salary for a candidate that is hired. When the average price of an experienced developer tops 6 figures, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that hiring 4 new headcount without an outside agency can save a lot of money. Retain each of these folks for an additional year or two when the average tenure in Seattle is 18 months, and the numbers work out pretty quickly.

Incorporate normal employee turnover, add a few new projects which require additional hiring resources and just the cost of bringing on these hires can add up quickly. Retaining great talent doesn’t happen by accident. 

HR needs to strike while the market appreciates us. We need to be strategic and prove we can make a difference when the market is giving us the opportunity.  

Yes, the magazine is expensive. Seventeen US dollars expensive to be exact. For this money I can download the Iliad on Advice to the HR folks out there, get your hands on this months Harvard Business Review HR issue and read it cover to cover. 

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

PS. This week I am on a business trip with the company’s CEO and the VP of engineering. We were eating breakfast at the hotel this morning and guess what magazine article the CEO was asking me about. Yes, he is a subscriber and I was glad I could talk about articles in a few of the recent issues.  Best $17.00 I have ever spent.  :)