An article in today’s New York Times Magazine asks, “Why do Harvard graduates work in the mailroom?” You can read the article here.
Author Adam Davidson refers to the best-selling book, Freakonomics, which noted the peculiar behavior of drug dealers. They accepted low pay and dangerous conditions on the slim chance they would hit the jackpot and become wealthy kingpins. Davidson said it’s like entering the job lottery.
Davidson has a point. However, he lumps together all kinds of apprenticeships: working in the mail room while waiting to advance to an executive job, serving tables in a restaurant, working as a law firm associate and spending time as an assistant professor while hoping for tenure.
The truth is that the time invested in this apprenticeship will often have some value, even if the outcome is not what has been planned. Lawyers and accountants can get jobs elsewhere, even if they don’t make partner at a specific firm. College professors often move to other universities (and if they teach in business, law or engineering, they’re not poorly paid). Actors who hang in there often do get some experience or get into a related career; I’ve met successful business owners who learned from their auditioning experience (not to mention their acing lessons).
Plan B opportunities still abound, especially for those who don’t reach their original goals. They’re just not called jobs anymore. They’re small business owners, often in service businesses. I recently talked to a woman whose “Plan B” teaching job went away. She started her own dog walking company. Her parents were horrified but she’s making more money with less pressure and certainly lower wardrobe expenses.
What do you think? Comment below (if you don’t see a place to comment, click on the title of this post).