Marketable Skills…and Whatnot

coding

Recently I started learning coding. I was bored so I went over to codecademy.com and decided to start taking lessons on HTML. I’ve found coding is an interesting entity because realized, that compared to me now, there are only two groups of people:

First, there are people who actually know how to code who will scoff at the idea of me talking about it. We could call these people nerds or dorks or asshats, but those words only apply to the people whom I know personally that talk about coding. These people are the professionals of coding and I’m just the guy who was allowed on the field at halftime to try and kick a 30 yard field goal.

Then, there are people who know nothing about coding. Saying phrases like HTML, CSS, and Javascript to them are like describing green, blue, and red to Stevie Wonder. Sure, he may understand the concept, but he really doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

The most important thing I’ve taken away so far is that “/thread” in the comment section of Reddit means “end of thread,” because in HTML </p> or </h1> means the end of a paragraph or heading. Already coding has helped me better understand the website on which I spend most of my free time (at this point in my life “free time” means “time awake”).

You may be asking, “Why are you even bothering to learn any of this computer jargon?” To that I say, “Because I apparently didn’t learn any real world skills in college.” Sure, my history degree may have taught me that New Deal politics changed the way the courts looked at the implied powers of the president and greatly expanded them, and my film classes may have taught me that “Non-diegetic” music is music that the characters in the film cannot hear, but apparently they didn’t teach me any real world skills.

These days, these jobless days, I’m trying to use my free time to improve my resume. This is annoying for two reasons. One, my resume is already a full page, so what the hell do I take out to add my new “skills?” And two, I shouldn’t have to be learning skills in which I have no interest to get an entry level job. I know this sounds like a douchenozzle thing to say, but I went to a very good university. Why does my lack of technical know-how for some reason preclude me from graduating into the professional world?

I got a degree in history. I studied history because I find it fascinating, not because I want to continue on to graduate school to one day teach history. Yet, when I apply for writing and editing jobs, of which I have experience in both fields (case in point, I just ended that clause without using a preposition), every application says “English degree required.” Really? Did I not use the written word to express my opinions in papers of equal length, but on a different topic? I wrote about how government indifference and an escalation of racial violence in post-Reconstruction America led to the establishment of Jim Crow laws and racially based superiority, and they wrote about how the jaded expression of extreme violence in “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” was a commentary on society’s blasé response to the same topic (Padraic only cared about violence against his cat). Both involve critical thinking, abstract thought, and the ability to translate your brain-thinky’s into paper-squigglies. In actuality, both papers were written by me, because I took both classes, but I can’t fit that into a pre-fab, one page document that shows my professional merit.

Great Play. But, apparently a terrible place to raise children OR cats.

Great Play. But, apparently a terrible place to raise children OR cats.

I am more than my major. I am more than my resume.

I see all of these jobs on LinkedIn and other websites that I think I would be great for, but the “Qualifications” sections say I don’t qualify. Everyone always tells me, “Apply for it anyway. The worst thing that can happen is they say ‘no.’” Wrong. The worst thing that can happen is that the all say no, or worse yet, they all say nothing.

I, like I imagine many people did, received a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go,” when I graduated from college. As cute a sentiment as it may be, I don’t think Dr. Seuss had in mind that the place that you’d go would be back to your parents’ house.

It’s ridiculous. The Huffington Post published an article (which by now has probably been transformed into a “Listicle” by Buzzfeed.com) that showed 50% of graduates moved back in with their parents after college. Sure, you can blame some of that on the economy and some of that on Obama (if you really want to), but the fact is it seems that that there are loads of young adults leaving four year institutions with nothing more than pieces of paper. I could have gone to a technical school for half the time and left with a job as an electrician, but I decided to pursue less applicable knowledge. I decided that knowing the difference between David O’Selznick and David O. Russell was important (turns out, woah, it’s not). But, regardless of what I identified myself as in college, I would like a fair shake at the jobs in which I am interested. I think there should be a more in depth and communicative approach to the job hunt, at least at the entry level, and I don’t think I’m alone.

  • Sophie Syed

    Totally feel you. Just graduated in May (from a good uni, with a BA) and went through the same dilemma! Well still am going through all of this really. Sigh…

  • Jessica Church

    I have a job and recently started to learn how to code because it turns out that most employers think that if you’re under 30 you automatically know how to do it….

  • Kevin Hart

    This will be me next year.

Cameron Johnson is a writer based in New York City. He likes to tell stories about his life. This is his podium. Follow him on twitter @CameronCJohnson