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Ex-Yelp Employee Talia Jane Needed More Than Higher Pay

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by Helen Lu

A common piece of advice that I hear when discussing what major to choose in college is to follow your dreams, to do what your hearts tells you to do. Recently, some college kids are going after a true calling, something off the beaten path in an effort to avoid the stable, cliché career that sounds too much like what their parents advise them to do. This idealistic belief, in theory, is not a necessarily flawed approach, but realistically, many students do not realize the success of their dream depends a steadfast work ethic.

On February 19th, Talia Jane, a Yelp customer service employee, posted an open letter to her CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, detailing her grievances against the company for a salary that she claims is unjustly low and insufficient. Two hours later, she was fired. It’s important that Jane posted her letter, and individuals in an effective society should be encouraged to voice concerns, no matter how trivial or major the public may consider them. Jane brings to light the rising issue of our younger generation forgetting the elbow grease that our forebears put in to make a living. Instead of put in extra hours, a growing population of individuals in the US are shying away from tough, service line jobs. Perhaps, the same ones that “Americans don’t want,” leading to increased outsourcing and a large unemployed population.

Talia Jane mentions that she came out of college with a degree in English Literature and “without much more than freelancing and tutoring under [her] belt.”  A college degree may have been able to guarantee a stable job years ago, but clearly times have changed, and Jane’s dream to work in media was not fulfilled right out of college. This is not to say that all English degrees are poor investments, but instead that if pursuing your dreams really means an English degree, then it would be best to gain as much work experience as possible.

Jane’s situation is not atypical; many English majors cannot find jobs right after graduation. Generally, many graduates of any degree have difficulty finding a job in this weak job market, but it’s impossible to refute that comparative to a heavily demanded engineering or computer science major, English majors will find more difficulty. However, the lack of immediate success does not preclude future success, and after listening to your dreams in college, committing to them and working for them may be the only way out.

Jane’s choice of major was not the true problem, but her lack of work ethic for a career path that, is arguably, one of the ones that require the most long-term determination, caused her to feel the injustice that is expressed in her letter.

Jane needed to work for a year in support at Yelp before the possibility of switching departments to a content job. One year of tough work in exchange for a step towards her “dream of working in media” was not short enough for her. Her impatience for fulfillment outweighed her desire for a better job, showing that these career decisions were made without considering that extraneous work would have to be put in.

Jane can’t be faulted for needing a change of scenery when she “wanted to die every single day of [her] life,” but her decision to move to the Bay Area, one of the top 3 cities with the highest cost of living in the United States, can’t have been well thought out (Economic Policy Institute 2015). Sure, she chose to move closer to her dad, but that doesn’t mean she thought about moving in with her dad to avoid paying “80%” of her salary on rent for an apartment.  Even when 33% of young adults aren’t living independently, Jane doesn’t choose to take on roommates or to move in with her dad (Pew Research 2015 Report). She states that a coworker moved East where the minimum wage could double as a living wage, yet with that knowledge she decided to move to California, where she likes the weather.

Sleeping with clothes on and eating rice everyday may not be ideal living. But if Jane was really determined to follow her dreams, as she did in college, then perhaps this lifestyle should have been worth it.

Students in college must not only think hard about what career goals they want to achieve, but also accept that those goals may require years of side jobs and difficult living conditions. Hindsight is famously 20/20, so the real challenge is for young millennials to seriously develop foresight.