1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why I can't get a job

  1. Mar 6, 2014 #1
    Math jobs tend to be ones that you have to dig for more. Not just a matter of getting the degree and picking up employable skills. Stuff like networking and internships are also helpful for getting your foot in the door.

    Looking at some job postings might help get a feel for it. Usually, they are looking for very specific skill-sets that a math major won't have by default. Various programming languages being towards the top of the list. It's hard to find postings that you'll meet the requirements for, and probably they'll just screen you out if you don't meet them. Unless you have a contact who can get you around the screening/HR obstacles.

    One of the few places where you can find where a BS in math is specifically sought after is the actuarial profession, but you have to pass one or two of the exams first.

    If you don't fancy that sort of job-search stuff, go for engineering, where it's easier to just apply for something and get it. It's still a good idea to do that stuff--it's just not going to be as hard in engineering. Start thinking about it a couple years before graduating.

    The non-academic job search in math can be a long, hard process if you are not prepared. I'm an under-employed recent PhD going through that now. In this economy, employers tend not to be very flexible about long-term investments, like me, where my talent is up there and given a little time, I could easily clobber a lot of the competition, if given a chance to catch up (and in some cases, it's not even a matter of catch up, but not having the official credentials), but I can't hit the ground running because I don't have all the stuff they want right off the bat. So, I'm left under-employed and working my head off on programming and actuarial exams and all kinds of stuff to try to make myself more marketable. Better to have more of it taken care of before you graduate.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 6, 2014 #2
    Or perhaps you come across as arrogant? A little humility at job interviews works wonders...
     
  4. Mar 6, 2014 #3
    What interviews? I haven't had any.

    Also, there's a very fine line to walk between selling yourself and humility. And that line may be different for each person you talk to.

    The problem is I haven't applied to that many jobs yet because there aren't many that fit me.

    I'm just trying to make the point that I know I'm better than some C student EE major at the jobs that they are getting but I still don't get the job because I switch to math and didn't finish my EE degree. I know because I studied EE for 3 years. The point wasn't to brag. The only reason I'm talking about myself specifically here is that that's the most concrete example I have. With some people, you can't even try to get a point across without them judging the hell out of you. I don't even matter for this discussion. The point is that you can be a great candidate, but that's not good enough if you don't have the official credentials or the job search skills.
     
  5. Mar 7, 2014 #4
    That is what they hire engineers for. To hit the ground running. I agree with Mal4mac. You seem very arrogant. What companies hire C student engineers? I haven't heard of any. What specifically are you better at? There is RF,Analog/Digital design,Control systems,Power Systems,Solid State electronics.

    This is a great forum but the bashing of engineers is getting old.
     
  6. Mar 7, 2014 #5

    StatGuy2000

    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    Here is a question specifically for you -- what branch of math did you earn your PhD in? Depending on your area of research, perhaps you could market yourself the skills that you have gained thus far, or at least proceed with teaching/private tutoring to make ends meet while you retool yourself.

    You stated above that you are working on programming and actuarial exams -- have you spent any time teaching yourself more on statistics and machine learning (similar to what ParticleGrl had done)?
     
  7. Mar 7, 2014 #6
    Does it make sense to hire someone who is going to be better for only 6 months and then not as good for the X number of years? No. It's only a matter of HR and screening obstacles, and the fact that they don't have more training periods and stuff like that. Not every single company wants you to hit the ground running, and especially in the past, things were more flexible. The other EE students who are just graduating can't hit the ground running, either. I don't care if I get an engineering job or programming or whatever. The point is there's not much demand for math by itself. That's my point.

    SEEM. I'm glad you say "seem". Appearances can be deceiving. I only come off arrogant 0.01% of the time in real life. That's why it's called being judgmental. Judging based on a small amount of info. If I seem arrogant on here, it's often because I am angry at people for making STEM subjects boring and sucking the life out of them, and you become a target for my rage if you are on the wrong side of that debate. I have suffered a lot at the hands of such people. First, I left engineering because of it, then I left math, partly because of it. I'm not arrogant, I'm just angry. I don't care what you think. I have a perfectly realistic idea of my skills. I'm not superman. I'm just another smart guy. There are plenty of others smarter than me.

    Anyway, you're focusing on the messenger and not the message. The message has nothing to do with me. The message is that math isn't in demand by itself. It could be in demand if you are a double major, but not just math, even applied. The actuarial profession is almost the only one where it's in demand, but they are open to almost anyone with a degree, and the entry-level market is flooded.


    Well, I don't know if they are C students across the board, but the ones my dad complains about. He teaches EE.


    Power and communications is what I would be most ready to handle. I'm not saying I'd be a great engineer right off the bat, but my reasoning is that the only real difference between me and the people who finished the degree is that they did a senior project and took a couple more electives. And the senior project is a big advantage, but I don't think it's magic, either. The fact is, the people who are fresh graduates are barely more prepared than I am, or less prepared, in some cases. Anyway, I'm not looking for a great job. If it's a crap job that allows for advancement, that's all I want. Give me stupid beginner tasks and pay me low until I prove myself. I don't care. But I can't get my foot in the door because they usually look for EE degrees specifically, and if not, they have a list of requirements, like having experience that I don't have.


    Where am I bashing engineers? That's a misinterpretation as far as this thread goes. If you're talking about other threads, yeah, I might have bashed engineering students and professors, not actual practicing engineers (yes, they were once engineering students, but now they are doing something slightly different and so none of my comments apply to them, since they are not really affecting the system I have problems with). Why? Because they made me suffer through their way of teaching (and the students are often a bad influence on that, too because they don't know better and are missing pieces of their education that should have taught them to seek deeper understanding). And I'm angry about it. I'm also angry at physicists and mathematicians. I "bash" (I'd prefer to say criticize) them, too. I'm not arrogant, I'm just angry because STEM fields don't NEED to be so annoying for people like me who want a deeper understanding, but people make them that way. I respect these people as individuals, but that doesn't mean everything they are doing is A-OK and I should just shut up about it because it's not okay. It's a problem. I've heard from a lot of people on here who feel similarly to me and can relate to the problems that I've had. They appreciate hearing this and knowing that they aren't the only ones who feel this way. Actually, I'd say my favorite EE professor is one of the ones who is also guilty. It's not that he was guilty across the board, but he did contribute significantly to me changing my major. Anyway, that's off topic for this thread.
     
  8. Mar 7, 2014 #7

    micromass

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Uh, what makes you think they will be not as good for the X number of years?
     
  9. Mar 7, 2014 #8
    Topology, the most useless subject of all. That's part of why I quit doing it, but also because it's so damn useless, I don't have that many skills to show for it. My friends doing doing numerical PDEs would be better off with all the programming experience they have.



    Tutoring is what I'm doing. I'm under-employed, not unemployed. Teaching is too much work for me, that's why I don't want to do it. And don't think I'm lazy. If I taught, I would feel obligated to literally work 14 hours a day on teaching and not have time for anything else because that's how bad I am at teaching. In fact, that's pretty much what I did the last time I taught. I literally didn't do anything besides teach and basic stuff like sleeping and eating. I'm not kidding. And that was just to be an okay teacher, not a great one.


    I did sit in on some statistics my last semester and I was trying to start on a machine learning book, but the actuarial exams are taking up a lot of time because I wanted to get them out of the way, so I have one down, and a month and a half until I have two, at which point, I can put any more on the back burner because 2 exams is really all they want for entry-level, typically.
     
  10. Mar 7, 2014 #9
    That's the hypotheses. The argument was "IF they will not be as good..."

    Because the point I was making was just to argue against expecting people to hit the ground running.

    It's quite obvious that the people who can do best at first will not stay that way, in general. People with 1 year less experience/training are identical, except being 1 year behind.

    I'm only saying I'm better than SOME people who get jobs. I'm not making a comment about being the best, overall. I'm not the best overall. If I thought that, I'd be trying to get the best job. I'm not. I'm trying to get the worst job that will allow me to get my foot in the door. Even an unpaid internship, perhaps.

    I have a lot of skills that would be useful to people out there, but they don't want it because they want the whole package right away, and I only have part of the package. Even if I did study on my own and fill in the missing pieces, I'm not sure if that would work because they like to see a degree. I could go back and finish mine, but it's just a beaurocratic/logistical/financial nightmare, so I'd rather just keep networking and applying to actuarial jobs or programming jobs or whatever until I get something.
     
  11. Mar 7, 2014 #10

    SteamKing

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    That's your opinion, and it may be why you have become disillusioned with your education.

    Topology is useful in many disciplines, not the least of which is physics. Your friends doing numerical PDEs are probably using mesh generators and other tools which relied on topology in order to be developed. Now, it simply could be that none of your professors had a practical bent and were focused exclusively on the mathematics.

    If you look at this article, under the Applications of Topology section, you may come away with a different appreciation of your subject:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topology

    Perhaps some of the fields discussed in this article could help you focus your search for a job using your current skills and knowledge.
     
  12. Mar 7, 2014 #11
    By the way, if you think I'm just complaining and bitter about my situation, that's not the point. I messed up and was stupid and didn't prepare for the job market because I was too slow to admit that being a math prof was not for me. Yeah, it would be nice if there were more stuff in place to help career-changers, such as myself, but that's not the point. I'm trying to WARN, not complain. The point is not to say look at poor me, I can't get a job. The point is, "don't end up like me". Get some marketable skills. Have a back-up plan. And seriously consider your alternatives before studying math. Math is way oversold and overrated, especially if it isn't just a means to an end like engineering.

    As for me, now that I am facing the job market and see the challenges, I'm doing what I need to do. I'm not very good at the job search. In a way, it's kind of a mutual problem for me and these employers. I could be an asset to them, but it's hard for them to find me because they have to be able to screen people out. Plus, it's more of a long-term investment, and it's hard for me to prove myself to them because I don't have an official degree, besides math. So, I'm not blaming the employers entirely. I do think they could be a little bit more open-minded and have better systems in place, like the one the actuaries have, to prove your credentials, besides just degrees. But that's not the point. It's my fault for not being prepared, and the only reason I'm talking about how bad it is is to scare other people into being prepared and to have back-up plans if they are going to do something stupid and risky like getting a PhD.
     
  13. Mar 7, 2014 #12
    It's a little more than my opinion. There are topologists who take pride in it being useless. I'm skeptical of the applications. Maybe they are just force-fitting the math to it, rather than being a genuine contribution. I think the jury is still out on a lot of it. Yes, some topology is useful, but I'm not sure that any of the ultra-complicated research that is being done is good for anything. It's the simpler stuff that tends to be more useful.


    Yes, I actually did topological quantum field theory, and it was pretty far from actual physics. It's relevant to string theory, but string theory is also pretty much useless. And there may be condensed matter applications, too, but from what I've heard, the physicists tend to use the more basic stuff. Anyway, even if it is useful, it's almost all academic. Not useful in the sense of anything you can do in industry, except in so far as it builds your mathematical skills and intuition, which can be applied to other subjects (but getting a PhD in it is over-kill for that, just take a couple classes, if that's what you're after).


    Possibly, but I doubt it's very advanced topology of the sort that people are doing research on today. It's fine to take a couple topology classes. It develops your higher-dimensional intuition. But to do research in it? I don't recommend it.


    That's definitely true. My adviser claims to have some interest in physics, but discouraged me from studying it.


    Yeah, I kind of know about that stuff. As I said, it's mostly academic. Doesn't help you in industry. And I'm sick of academia. I know I'd be absolutely miserable there, at least for many, many years, until I could get enough teaching experience to keep myself afloat without working myself nearly to death.

    If I could take it in a physics direction, that would be cool, but you know as well as I do, that's a dead end in terms of jobs, in my situation.
     
  14. Mar 7, 2014 #13
    Congrats on passing your first exam!

    I disagree about putting any exams on the backburner. My adivce:

    Two exams is uncompetitive for the US, and nearly unhirable in Canada. Being uncompetitive in the exam area isn’t as bad as it sounds; you’re just going to have to make up for that lack in other ways. (Nearly unhirable is as bad as it sounds).

    Start making contacts now. Go ahead and send out resumes to actuaries. Even if you don’t get a job, you may get a foot in the door, and that will help later. If you do it right, then when they get their opening for an analyst, you should come to mind.

    Next, expect to go through three exams before your hire (we can always hope for fewer, but let’s be realistic). The third makes a big difference, because MFE/MLC have a much higher stump factor than P & FM. Managers know this and having 3-4 exams does give you a significant edge over those with 1-2 exams.

    Finally, there have been times in the past where finding good candidates was so difficult that exams took precedence. These days a few exams just gets your resume read. Make sure it’s awesome.

    And bring your A-game to the interview. One nice thing about there being plenty of candidates is that managers can actually hire people they want to work with (imagine that!). A lot of candidates at in interview make the mistake of worrying too much about the qualifications that got them there instead of the attitude that could get them the job.

    Best of luck.
     
  15. Mar 7, 2014 #14
    Thanks.

    Hmm. I'll have to think about the extent to which I should put it on the back burner. Perhaps, there's more advantage to having 3-4 exams than I've heard. My impression was that you end up with a mismatch of exams vs. work experience if you have too many. Also, I was hoping to get the 2 exams in, just to get myself in the game and then not put all my eggs in the actuarial basket.


    I've done a little of that, but I'm not very good at it. I'm still pondering how okay I am with living on the East Coast, so that limits my options a bit. Priority is to get a job, but still, I was going to try and apply out west for a little while.


    Yeah, I'm not sure how well I'll do at that because I've never even had a job interview before. All I've done is be a TA and one internship at the end of high school with no interview for that, either. Thinking that I'll come off as arrogant is pretty clueless, though, in my opinion. I'm more afraid of being perceived as lacking confidence and being nervous about being interviewed and not knowing what I'm doing, as far as the interview itself. I'm trying to work on that stuff, too, but it's just a lot of stuff to work on. So, I may have to try to find something better than tutoring to keep myself afloat until I can get more of all these skills (or at least get more serious about my marketing for tutoring).

    Thanks, and thanks for the advice.
     
  16. Mar 7, 2014 #15
    Thanks to an effort to be more even handed, we have created a new bureaucracy. In decades past, you posted an ad in the newspaper, you got a small pile of resumes and you asked some of them in for an interview. You looked them in the eye, asked them a few interesting questions to see how they deal with them, and then made a decision based mostly on the personality and knowledge the applicant showed.

    But we don't do things that way any more. Today we need certifications and degrees, we need resumes and documented experience, we need all of this because people abused the earlier systems and rejected candidates they didn't approve of, especially women and minorities.

    The problem is that the cure may be worse than the disease. Now we have very well documented employees who may be entirely inappropriate for the work --but whom we can not fire because that might look bad in a court of law.

    Some people are really good at passing tests. Some people are actually adept at the work but really poor test takers. The problem is that an HR bureaucrat can not tell the difference and is very afraid of questions that might indicate some sort of aptitude that they can't document. So entry level jobs are really tough to get in to.

    I don't have any answers. I only know what the problem is. Trust me, it chafes those who do the hiring too.
     
  17. Mar 7, 2014 #16

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    If a job applicant that I interviewed gave out the same messages that are in this thread, I would need a lot of persuading to recommend making a job offer. The basic reason is that everything is negative. You started an EE degree, and quit. You started a PhD, and quit. From what you discovered about academia, you want to quit that. I'm not getting any positive reasons why you want to be an actuary, either. It just seems to be the least worst thing you can think of right now.

    Sure, people discover they made the wrong career choice, and change directions. But doing it 3 or 4 times in succession is a big "red flag".

    There's no way to judge if your "talent is up there and given a little time, I could easily clobber a lot of the competition", or if that's just wishful thinking. But if you don't have any track record of sticking with a challenge till you get to the end of it, then from an employer's point of view it doesn't really matter how smart you are if they won't get any long term payback for the short term cost of hiring you.

    BTW in the group of mechanical engineers I work with, one of them started out as a mathematician, and has a PhD in topology. Not that he uses it much on a day to day basis, but he's just as willing to get his head down and work on a different tough problem for several years on end, as he was to get the PhD.
     
  18. Mar 8, 2014 #17
    That would be your loss, then. The point is to convince other people to not follow my path, so naturally, it's not a surprise if it isn't persuasive for giving me a job. Not the intent. This thread started in a thread about whether math is employable. I vote no, not really, unless you're a wiz at job-searching or get things going before you graduate.

    Yes, at that point, it was actually a positive thing. I thought I had found math and everything was going to be great. It was hard to know I was going to be wrong about that. My undergrad profs thought I showed some promise. I now wonder what they were talking about. Sure, I'm good at math, and a lot of people struggle with math. But I'm not good at research.


    No, actually, I finished that one.

    Well, who wouldn't want to quit? Grad school was awful. Most of my friends in grad school feel the same way. Even some of the people who went on to do postdocs thought it sucked, but did it anyway. There was no way to know that it would turn out that way. Everything was great back when I applied to grad school.


    Well, it might be the only thing I can do that's not flipping burgers for all I can tell. But the thread isn't about reasons to be an actuary, so naturally, I didn't give reasons for being an actuary. They are not relevant to the thread.


    3 or 4 times? Engineering. Math. One. Two. I'm not sure where you got 3 or 4 from. Unless you want to count tutoring, but that's obviously a temporary kind of stop gap job. Although, I wouldn't mind doing it for a living, I guess. It's just hard to get enough customers for that. There's a very logical story behind my career mistakes. I thought math was great, ditched engineering for it, and was horribly wrong because research and teaching is nothing like taking classes. That's the story. Pretty short and sweet. Maybe it should be a red flag, I don't know. It's hard to know what I'd be happy with. But really, the issues I have with math are so extreme, there's just not even the tiniest doubt in my mind that I should leave. With engineering, I think it might have been a mistake to leave, but it was REALLY hard to see that at the time. My math classes were just a smashing success, and I was really enjoying them. It just felt so natural. At the time, it seemed like an easy choice.


    I have a PhD in math. That's not evidence? Sure, there's probably a lot of people who could clobber me, too. I was just being emphatic. I'm talking about just being good enough to be better than some of the people who get jobs. That's not saying very much. It's not wishful thinking. Maybe for the employers, yes, they might not be able to tell. But for my part? No. I'm sorry. I know I'd be better than some of the people who get jobs. They were my classmates. The only variable is the difference between school vs practical engineering.


    Well, I did get the PhD and stuck with that until the bitter end. I can give them their payback. I'm confident of that. That's clear in my mind. Let everyone else think what they will. If they disagree, they are the ones who are wrong. Say what you will. Now, of course, the problem is how do I convince them of that?


    Wonder why he left topology. Good man.

    You know, I think the trick might be to either be really interested in the work or else not to have such big motivational issues to power through because the work is just easy enough for that not to be an issue. If I was interested in the work, I'd have no trouble sticking it out. I feel confident I could tutor for the rest of my life, for example, if I could make enough money at it because I know what I'm getting into. Or something like grading. Kind of sucked, but I could do it and not get stressed out about it. The trouble is that I kept going down certain paths and not knowing what I was getting into. So, if I knew what I was getting into, I could be really confident that I could stick it out, at least long enough for it to be worthwhile to the employer. With the actuarial stuff, I think I am okay with the exam part of it, at least up to getting ASA or ACAS status, but I could take more of a sneak peak into the later exams to make sure. If I don't like the later exams, they are optional, so I think that's fine. And finally, I am planning to try some spreadsheet projects.

    As long as I know what I'm getting into, I really don't think it's a problem. Except that it's sometimes hard to know what I'm getting into. And that's why I'm doing the research and finding out about it.

    I mean, PhD in math. What do you want me to do? Work at Walmart? Is that a good use of our society's resources to send someone to study math for 7 years? Really?
     
  19. Mar 8, 2014 #18

    micromass

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Nobody "sent" you to study math for 7 years. You chose that path.

    And, really, it's not exactly a secret that a PhD in topology isn't very employable. A little bit of research and common sense should have told you that. So this is not exactly the fault of society here.
     
  20. Mar 8, 2014 #19
    It sounds to me like he started an EE degree, switched to math, and took math all the way to a phd, which he successfully finished (he refers to himself as a recent phd). Leaving academia post-phd is more common than staying in academia post-phd.

    I think a lot of math and physics types end up in actuarial type positions because no one at an engineering company will even interview them. I had a physics phd, and spent more than a year applying to everything I could find, attending every job fair I could find, cold calling all the people I could find,etc. Even getting a company to interview me was like pulling teeth, and once I landed an interview I had to convince people who think that science jobs are super-plentiful that I wouldn't leave for the (non-existent) job offers.

    At some point, you gotta eat, and you take the least bad thing that will feed you. Thats how I ended up in "big data." I don't hate the work, but its certainly not nearly as fun as physics was- but hey we can't all be rockstars and astronauts.

    I'm surprised he got an interview, let alone got hired. In my experience, having a phd in a totally unrelated discipline is a kiss of death (over qualified and underqualified at the same time- no engineering background/experience but a whole lot of totally unrelated math experience).
     
  21. Mar 8, 2014 #20
    Oh, come on. You're being a little bit hard on me. I told my story. I was absorbed in math at the time when I made that decision. I was trapped in my little happy math bubble. Things could have turned out differently. Easily. I thought I had everything going for me. And topology is employable. It's just outside of academia that we're talking about. When I first taught, that was when the problem appeared. But I was applying for the PhD program as that was unfolding. It was my first time teaching. I didn't want to be discouraged by failure at teaching my very first time. But then, in the PhD program, they only let me teach my own class once, aside from recitations, so I wasn't given the chance to overcome my difficulties. And then the double-whammy of research not being what I thought it was going to be. How could I know what was going to happen?

    It wasn't a certainty. It was stupid not to have a back-up plan, but how could I know?

    The plan was to be a professor. It wasn't to get a PhD and then do something else. That's the problem with what you're saying. I never planned on this. My "research and common sense" at the time was that being a math professor would be great. I wasn't thinking it wouldn't work out.

    A PhD in topology does give you some skills that you can apply, just not the full package of what employers would like.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Why I can't get a job
  1. How do I get a job? (Replies: 4)

  2. Can i get a job? (Replies: 1)

Loading...