A Millennial Who Went To College In His 30s When His Career Stalled Says His Bachelor's Degree Is 'worthless' And That He's Been Looking For A Job For 3 Years | Old North State Wealth News
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A millennial who went to college in his 30s when his career stalled says his Bachelor’s degree is ‘worthless’ and that he’s been looking for a job for 3 years



A Massachusetts millennial says having a college degree hasn’t helped him land a job over the past three years. Daniel Colflesh

  • A millennial quit his job in 2015 to pursue a college degree because his career growth had stalled.

  • But he’s struggled to land a job since graduation and is stuck with student debt.

  • He’s among the rising share of US men who’ve at least temporarily dropped out of the labor force.

In 2015, at age 34, Dan Colflesh decided to quit his job in the customer service industry and pursue a college degree.

“I worked my way up in a few companies, but I always hit a roadblock in promotions because I didn’t have a college education,” he told Business Insider via email.

By 2021, he earned an associate degree in physics from a community college in Massachusetts and a Bachelor’s in political science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. But the additional education hasn’t helped him much in the job market and saddled him with student loans, he said.

“No one will hire me,” he said. “My Bachelor’s degree is pretty much worthless.”

Colflesh said he’s been looking for work over the last few years and applied to more than 100 jobs. But he said there have been stretches where he’s felt “defeated,” during which he paused his search for a few months at a time. What’s more, he said an injury delayed his search for a couple of additional months.

While the US male unemployment rate is low when compared to past decades, Colflesh is among the men who have struggled to find work — or have stopped looking altogether. In 1950, about 97% of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job or were actively looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of January, that figure had fallen to about 89%.

Among the several explanations for this trend is that, in recent decades, it’s become more difficult to land a high-paying job without a college degree — a development that’s contributed to some men leaving the labor force. These challenges persist today for men, who now account for less than half of college enrollees, even as more companies have started hiring candidates without a degree.

Some men aged 25 and older aren’t in the labor force because they’re pursuing a Bachelor’s or advanced degree. But as Colfesh can attest to, having a degree doesn’t guarantee success in the job market.

Over the past year in particular, it’s become more difficult for some Americans to find high-paying jobs. A recent Vanguard report found that the hiring rate has held steady over the past year for workers who earn less than $55,000 a year, but has fallen for workers in the top third of earners, who make over $96,000, to its lowest level since 2014.

Today, Colflesh is still focused on finding a job. He shared the application strategies he’s tried, why he thinks his job hunt has been so challenging, and what he plans to do moving forward.

Experience requirements and employment gaps could be working against him

Colflesh said he thinks one of the reasons his employment search has been difficult is that the job landscape has changed in recent years.

“Once you could have a Bachelor’s degree in just about anything and get some kind of good-paying job,” he said. “Now you have to have an insane amount of experience,” he said.

He said this made it challenging to land a job with his political science degree, but that he didn’t want to take out more student debt to pursue graduate school. So he decided to plow ahead on his job hunt, expanding his search and tweaking his application strategies.

He tried tailoring his resumes and cover letters for each employer and applied to some jobs that didn’t require a degree, but he said he still had little luck. For example, he said he applied to be a cashier at two liquor stores with employee recommendations — but couldn’t get an interview.

“I keep hearing employers talk about no one wanting to work and I desperately want to work, and I can’t get someone to ever sit down and talk to me,” he said.

Physical limitations would make it difficult for him to do blue-collar work, he said. He’s also autistic, which he thinks could be contributing to his challenges in the job market.

“I’m always going to seem off to most non-autistics,” he said. “The general lack of acceptance of autistic people makes social networking challenging and that impacts job opportunities.”

Colflesh has a few other theories for why his job search has been difficult. He thinks he might be being too honest on his resumes — he’s seen research that a lot of people stretch the truth. He also thinks he lives in an area where “who you know matters,” and that not growing up in the community has disadvantaged him. Additionally, some employment gaps on his résumé might not be doing him any favors, he said.

Lastly, he said growing up in the Appalachian region of the US, an area that has struggled economically in recent decades, has been an additional obstacle.

“I would say that the No. 1 predictor of financial success is the zipcode you grow up in,” he said. Some research suggests there could be some truth to this.

Colflesh said that he, his fiancé, and his daughter live with his future mother-in-law in Massachusetts and that his fiancé and her mother have been paying the bills.

His student loans provided him with about $5,000 each semester for living expenses, which he said he used to help his family. He also received some income from a “big crypto investment.”

Looking forward, Colflesh said he recently had a second interview for a job. He’s also considering going back to the type of work he did before going to college.

“I’ll keep looking no matter how bleak it gets because I have to,” he said.

Are you a man who’s not looking for work or has struggled to find a job? Are you willing to share your story? If so, reach out to this reporter at jzinkula@businessinsider.com.

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