Why I Have a Job: the PhD who sells cashmere when not crusading against student debt

The face ready to take on the student loan system.

Name: Ms. C. Cryn Johannsen

Major: B.A. in History with honors, University of Kansas; German Language Studies, Goethe Institute, Munich, Germany; M.A. in the Social Sciences, University of Chicago; M.A. and Ph.D. research in the intellectual and cultural history of Modern Europe, Brown University; Exchange Scholar, German Intellectual History, Harvard University

What I do all day: Too many things to list, but here it goes: I am a salesclerk, an advocate for people struggling to pay their student loan debt, a freelance writer, a legislative researcher for United Professionals, and also the creator of Education Matters.  I  like to tell customers at the high end dept. store about my background. I think some of them are horrified when I say that I went to an Ivy, while others are sympathetic. It’s shocking how nasty rich people can be. Oh, well . . .I used to teach these people’s kids as a grad student (and it was an honor and a privilege), now I sell them fancy cashmere sweaters. As of February, I’ll be teaching English and History at a private institute abroad.

What I’d rather be doing all day: I’d rather be helping people  (full-time) who are part of a student lending system that is unjust, broken, and in desperate need of regulation. [Editor’s note: If you are struggling to pay your student loan debt, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Ms. C. Cryn Johannsen]. I’d also be able to write more (I’m working on a book about the student lending crisis and a memoir). But I’m too busy selling sweaters and doing freelance work – it leaves me little time to advocate, write, and read. I miss reading. A LOT.

Where I found this job: I was offered this teaching job abroad a few years ago, but I took a job in publishing instead (that’s why I’m in D.C.). I looked them up again, and they offered me a job like that. I was shocked! I mean, they called me, offered me a job, and that was that . . .

Why they hired me as opposed to hundreds of other overqualified Ivy league grads: I think other overqualified Ivy League grads could get hired, but they’d also have to be willing to leave the country.

Best part of being employed: Knowing that I’ll be able to teach (I love teaching) AND write – I will be able to write, write, write, and then submit, submit, submit for possible publication of things.

Worst part of being employed: I’m not sure yet. I’ll tell you once I’ve left the country and am adjusting to a new place!

Heartfelt advice to your jobless friends who may have been freeloading off of you for months: I have no pals who have been “freeloading” off of me for months. If they had been, I’d only be able to offer them crackers and Pabst. I don’t really have advice. I just hope people will be able to survive and that things will improve for others. 

If you would like to be featured in the weekly Why I Have a Job column or know someone who would, holla.


6 thoughts on “Why I Have a Job: the PhD who sells cashmere when not crusading against student debt

  1. The story of Ms. Johannsen echoes the stories we hear every day at United Professionals, except hers has a happier ending — I hope — with the offer of a job overseas. Our educated young people are not being valued, and neither are our middle-aged, skilled professionals.

    In the late 70s I earned a double major in English and Classics. In 1981, as directory assistance operator, a caller asked for the number for the Odyssey Lounge, and asked if I wanted him to spell it. Having read Homer line by line, more than once, in college, I was able to say, “No thanks!”


  2. Pingback:   AllEducationMatters editor featured on Ivy Leagued and Unemployed — EduBubble

  3. Pingback: Gazelle Intensity: The War On Personal Debt

  4. Shortly after attending UNF, and getting my first job as a social worker, I went to TGIF for dinner with my husband. Our waitress had a master’s in English.

  5. Pingback: New York Times to College Grads: Your Future Is Bleak « Ivy Leagued and Unemployed

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