Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Great Equalizer

Remember my epically amazing job interview? (If you haven't read that entry before, I highly encourage you to do so - it was like an out of body experience for me!) An article I read on HuffPo recently reminded me of my own, very humbling job hunt experience.

As a recent grad just breaking into the work force, my heart sinks a little every time I read an article like this. According to the girl in the article, it's been increasingly difficult for young people to find work (even seasonal positions) because many employers are demanding experience. To me, that just means there's a lot of competition - a lot of people are looking for work because the job market is bad, so the bar is raised higher. Last year I had a temporary telemarketing gig that required three interviews!

When I was looking for my Big Girl Job earlier this year, I remember the helplessness I felt every time I was told that I didn't have enough experience for a position. How was I to acquire any if I couldn't get started anywhere? I wondered. No one cared that I speak five languages and my international experience seemed to count for nothing. If only someone would just give me a chance, I thought.

Eventually someone did, thank goodness, and right in the nick of time too, because it was right before my student loan payments were to start. And fortunately, it was also in one of my chosen fields. Many of my postgrad classmates ended up doing generic administrative ot reception jobs because they couldn't break into the industry. I even know some people with degrees doing retail and restaurant jobs.

I've also come across several articles about Ivy League graduates who have been paying off their loans forever and can't see a light at the end of the tunnel - many of whom are graduates of professional programs like law and medicine.

It's so ironic because many (if not most) people go to school to get that piece of paper that will enable them to find a job and make money later on in life. But that piece of paper can become an enormous and often lifelong burden.

And that's when I realized how lucky and grateful I am to be Canadian, because in Canada, postsecondary education is The Great Equalizer. Unlike the States and many European countries, there are no private universities in Canada. I went to public elementary and high schools and then I attended university with both people like me as well as people who went to the most expensive, exclusive private schools in the country. We all end up in the same place.

I have a cousin my age in the States who went to Boston University, which is a decent school, but not really an Ivy League - it's not some of the first schools that pop in mind when people talk about The Best American Universities, you know? But a year of undergraduate tuition at her school costs more than all the money I had to borrow from the government to finance my undergraduate degree (so the price of my education minus my scholarships, grants, bursaries and RESPs). In other words, a year of tuition for her costs almost as much as three years of all my university expenses put together. If I grew up in the States, I wouldn't be able to afford to go to a top tier school, and I'd hate to feel like I couldn't have the same opportunities as other people because of my family's financial situation.

So while Canada's education system isn't perfect (especially since it's so expensive to go to university!) I'll take what I have.

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