Overqualified and underemployed


“Overqualified and underemployed 

Carly Hicks

Popular Culture: Looking In The Mirror Essay


For many, the harsh transition from university life to the real world can be an overwhelming and sometimes disappointing adventure. All too fast, the glamorous lifestyle that we imagined for ourselves is met with the realization that our generation is being faced with obstacles and problems that generations before us never imagined. Some have found the rewards plentiful from their hard work, dedication and persistence, while other who try just as hard and sometimes harder, have not been received with as much luck. Until recently, media consistently portrayed a glamorous and carefree lifestyle associated with university life and life after. And while shows like that with a fairy tale glow to them are still relevant, I’m pleased that shows are emerging that reflect the struggles that are relevant in real life. The younger generation, and the people currently struggling with the expectations set for them need to understand that the media has set unrealistic stereotypes.

First, I think it is important to review examples in media that glorify some expectations for college and post college students in regards to job opportunities. In the TV show Greek which aired on ABC Family; it is easy to notice a clear class divide between the people who are born into wealth and opportunity, those who have to work for their success, and the few who are ‘slackers’ or wanderers just getting by. In this show, there is a character named Evan who is son of a wealthy and widely known man in town. Other characters judge him for that sometimes, and eventually he cuts ties with his father to try to make it on his own and make his own decisions in life. That puts him in about the same realm as Casey, the main character. They are both in sororities/fraternities and it feels like all of their career opportunities just fall into their laps because of that. It gives a confused feeling that you don’t have to work too hard to get your ideal career, if you just attend university and surround yourself with other wealth. The other character, Cappie, is a college wanderer, a sort of slacker who wanders through college with no particular direction. His exploring of every degree and his pursuit to stay in the college lifestyle is seen as a negative and he almost loses relationships because of it.

Overall, this show perpetuates the idea that minimum wage jobs are of a lower class, than the internships and careers that some of the other characters land. But either way, all of those opportunities, good or bad, is a ‘result’ of them being in college and the opportunities being their ‘right’. One of the sorority sisters at one point says: “Fate is for poor people. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a state lottery.” Her character, and many others perpetuate the idea of a class divide of opportunities within college, and out. It seems like now in order to have a leg up on the competition, you need a master’s degree in your field of study. Whereas before, a college degree was plenty to have under your belt going into the work force.

Another show that focuses more directly on the contrast between ‘types’ of characters trying to make there way financially is the TV series “Don’t trust the B”.  The premise of this piece of media is based on June, a hard working type A who has just moved to New York to pursue her career dreams. She is met by her roommate, Chloe, a scam artist who tends to use less than legit antics to pay her rent. Through the whole of this show, Chloe is constantly trying to break June down and get her to go with the flow. June is devastated though when she cannot find a high paying job that she and her parents spent their whole life savings on getting her through college for. Instead she must work at a local coffee shop, which is seen as grueling and beneath her. These characters, while nicely contrasting and meshing two stereotypes, are in there own ways also perpetuating said stereotypes. It is made very obvious the negative connotations associated with being underemployed. It is estimated that “The U.S. Department of Labor shares that nearly half of working college graduates are “underemployed” (Forbes)”.

June may be the main character, but she can come off as boring and rigid. Her persistent manner seems frigid, yet she is scrutinized for doing what it takes to reach her goals just because she is working a minimum wage job. One of the characters that are a friend to Chloe’s rich best friend confronted her saying:  “Because in the past four years, you’ve borrowed… over $20,000 from James. Dinners, shopping sprees. And I’m not even counting James’ stunt double you ‘lost’.” Little inputs like this really poke fun at Chloe’s laid back financial attitude. Her manipulative and scheming ways are usually seen as endearing and successful. Of course, this is a comedy television series and she is definitely the comedic relief. But its subtle stereotypes like these characters, that when juxtaposed, highlight the expectations and judgments associated with being underemployed.

As a college student myself, media reflections are what I grew up to think university life would be like. I expected lots of partying and social life and when I graduated, I expected a job and a career to just appear. If examples of real life struggles like “don’t trust the B” were made when I was still in high school, it might have given me a more realistic idea of what to expect. Shows and media are a little slow to reflect the common struggles of the time, so it can be expected that shows like that are a little late to the metaphorical media party. With the popularity growing of shows with more realistic expectations, I hope that the negative connotation with minimum and entry level jobs as a means to achieve your ultimate goal can be erased. Some people are fortunate enough to have opportunities presented to them simply from knowing connections or being in the family that they are in regardless of work ethic. Some people work hard and receive jobs that they worked towards. And some people work hard and take all the steps they are supposed to, but the opportunity they want are never presented to them. There is no right or wrong way; you just have to do what feels right. Life is a gamble, and in the words of Chloe, You have to walk away from the past in slow motion as it explodes behind you like in a John movie.”



Caprino, Cathy. “How Millennials Can Better Prepare For Today’s Workforce: 10 Critical Steps.” Forbes. Feb. 22nd, Web. 10 Mar. 2014. 

“Greek.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. Mar 1st. 2014.



3 thoughts on “Overqualified and underemployed

  1. Hi Carly,
    Wow your essay was very impactful and your title is very catchy. I honestly never thought about how college life was depicted in the media, but it is glamorized a lot! I have seen Greek before and I like how you explain each type of personality presented. There is definitely a divide between the rich college students with a lot of direction and opportunity and those who are not born into wealth like you said, seen as the “wanderer” like Cappie. A lot of these shows showing wealthy college students make college seem easier and more fun because they have the money to do what they want and are not seen to struggle as much. I feel like these images making college look easy might make it so new incoming college students are underprepared or prepared to party too much, setting some up for failure or a harsh reality of what college really is like ultimately. Like you said as new modern shows are coming out appealing to those who can relate to real life struggle, I hope college can start being depicted as something that is difficult and not just a party all the time that leads you to automatic success. I really liked your ending how you talk about all of the different paths people might have after college and that there is no right or wrong answer. I think that’s important to keep in mind. No one should pressure themselves to fit the ideal image of a person who spends four years in college and has their dream job, it may take people a lot longer because they have to support themselves or a family along the way, but that does not mean it should be seen as bad. Everyone should work towards success in their own way. Overall, great job, I enjoyed your explanation of your sources, quotes, and your own personal insight.

    • Wow thank you for your positive words! Im glad you agree and can relate to some of what I said. And even though shows like Greek arent exactly realistic, they are somehow still so addicting. We forget it sometimes, but a lot of media outlets are very new to society, so at first we get so excited and over do things and only after a while do we reel back and adjust to reality. Kind of like when high fashion became so glamorized with those bone thin models. And now body positive images and advertisements are all the rage!

  2. Hi Carly I feel like I really relate to this topic. Growing up we think our lives will just fall into place once we graduate from college but in reality finding a decent job with a degree is still a struggle. I have had a lot of friends come out of college and they are still working at restaurants and coffee shops because the job opportunities they thought would show up on their doorsteps are actually few and far between. Scary to think about while Im in college working hard to get a degree but I suppose thats just a new part of life in our society.

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