Recent Arts Graduate Shares ‘Startling’ Realization After Landing First Job

With a double major to her name, and dreams of literary fame in her five-year plan, a recent graduate has found herself scrubbing dishes and serving canapés instead.

Kaylee Banks, 23, epitomizes the struggles many young people face in today’s competitive job market. Despite her academic achievements, which include a University of Victoria double major in English and French, with a minor in sociology, she now finds herself working in a kitchen—far from her dreams of becoming an author or magazine editor.

“I thought about how I have always dreamed of writing books, attending press conferences and traveling the world as a bilingual superstar, and here I am, a dishwasher in the basement of a hotel,” Banks, who is from Vancouver, Canada, told Newsweek.

Kaylee Banks Works In Kitchen
(From left) Arts graduate Kaylee Banks shares insights into her catering job; Banks poses at her graduation. The 23-year-old told Newsweek that she has struggled to find work in her chosen field, despite being highly…


The graduate is currently balancing two jobs, working as a server at a local catering company and a receptionist at a tanning salon. While she is content in both positions, Banks wants more, but feels that her struggle to land a job in her chosen field is one that other people in her demographic cohort share.

“I stopped for a moment and questioned what I was doing,” Banks said. “I had just studied for five years to become educated in English literature, French language and culture, and the sociology of gender and race. What was I doing scrubbing dishes and pushing them through a machine for pay?”

She added: “I thought it was startling. I realized that this is probably something that a lot of recent humanities and arts graduates can relate to.”

This moment of realization led her to create a TikTok video about her current predicament, which went viral, having amassed 2.4 million views, and sparked a range of reactions online.

Viewers of the post from June 6 were able to see Banks working in the hotel’s kitchen, while an overlaid text on the video read: “I literally have a bachelor’s degree in English literature and French language and sociology.”

“The online response I received to this video was shocking,” Banks, known online as @kayleelouise01, said.

While many viewers offered creative job ideas, others criticized her degree choice, labeling it as “useless” and questioning her career prospects. This backlash reflects a broader poor view of arts degrees, as well as the dehumanization of essential yet low-paying jobs.

“So be a wife then,” one viewer, @ztradezoptions, wrote.

Another, @colekarl, added: “Infinity stones of useless degrees.” Their comment has been liked 17,000-plus times.

“Unless it’s STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], it’s useless, I keep hearing of people doing criminology, social studies or history,” a third viewer, @girbai1996, shared. “You will be lucky to go anywhere with them.”

Another, @user6090604076861, added: “Great background for [a] professional advanced degree…Law, teaching, social work, accounting, and healthcare.”

“While I had thousands of people commenting job ideas that could tie together all of my skills, I had thousands hating on me and my passions,” Banks said. “I received comments telling me that I was lucky to be somewhat attractive, because then I could just become a wife, and I had hundreds telling me my degree was useless.

“Why as a society do we undervalue the behind-the-scenes jobs that make the world go round, the work of a dishwasher, as well as the diligence it takes to get such a reading- and writing-heavy degree?” she asked.

In spite of a comments section brimming with inflammatory takes on women’s roles within education, Banks remains optimistic.

“I love my catering and receptionist jobs, and can’t wait to try a new waitressing position or apply at a bookshop or two,” she said. “I am in no rush to settle into a classic nine to five, and am looking forward to traveling the world, writing a book of my own, and relaxing for the first time since high school.”

Banks’ story highlights the challenging reality for many arts graduates who, despite their qualifications, are grappling with a difficult job market. Her experience underscores a broader issue affecting recent graduates worldwide as they navigate a landscape where paid opportunities often do not always align with their educational backgrounds or aspirations.

Despite the U.S. adding 2.7 million jobs in 2023 amid high interest rates, nearly 70 percent of job seekers find their current job search more challenging than their previous one.

A 2023 survey by Insight Global revealed that recently unemployed full-time workers applied to around 30 jobs, receiving only four callbacks on average. This competitive market has particularly affected Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, with 66 percent feeling burnt out from their job hunt.

“My friends and I have all spent hours sending out applications with zero responses, and have had little to no luck through emailing local shops and restaurants” Banks said. “The only reason I have two jobs right now is because my best friend recommended me to the tanning salon and my other friend’s dad is the owner of the catering company I serve for.

“Markets are oversaturated, more people are receiving degrees, so job applications are more competitive, and networking seems to help the rich get richer and keep middle-classed people in middle-classed positions,” she added.

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