Nationalized Nepotism

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There are always memorable people in our lives, some good memories, some bad, or some people just make an impression on you. That would be several of the people with whom I went to college. One of them dressed to the nines every day in college, or at least in all of the classes that I had with the person. They were quite “preppy” looking and would have fit right in at Harvard or any other of the Ivy League schools. Where most college students aren’t dressed that well, this person never had a wrinkle or even signs of wear on their clothing. If they didn’t have money, they sure were looking like they did. They looked like they were going yachting after class. I never had them in some of the more difficult, intense classes, but maybe we were on different schedules.

 

Flash forward five years after graduation, and I’m a supervisor in a service company, driving a truck sometimes. I forget the publication, but there was my fellow well-dressed student who was profiled in it, now a lobbyist. We had the same degree. I went to driving trucks, they went to become a lobbyist. It appears that one of the family was a patent attorney. Maybe that had something to do with it.

 

Fast forward a few decades. I graduate, again, and his person and I have same degree, but hardly get any interviews. One of my cohorts has an important position in one of the larger local firms. I don’t so much as interview with this firm, except I did get a call from them for a temporary substitute job, that they never called back on. The person that I graduated with has a position that, internet searches reveal, the median compensation is between $51,840 to $63,242 per year.

 

I know college graduates with degrees that should be valuable, that are operating vehicles. The pay is alright, but it appears very little of their college training could be said to be used in their present position. The university gave me the impression that the college degree would open many doors, and that my education would be valuable. It seems that, for the aforementioned people, college was just an admission ticket to a job that was already made for them. The same goes for several institutions that I know (and have applied to) that are only interested in legacies, and if none of your family worked there before you applied, your chances of getting in are slim.

 

Is all of this “global economy” talk just a rationalization for people who don’t know anyone or aren’t related to anyone, to calm them down and insist that their plight is just an economic phenomenon? If so, what was college for, when the positions that paid handsome salaries were already reserved for those with connections? Do the Human Resource people who actively participate, in fact facilitate this favoritism, realize that pedigree and cronyism may not be yielding the best and the brightest? More importantly, is the United State losing its global competitiveness not because it does not have the best and the brightest, but because the more qualified are simply rejected in favor of someone with connections? Is all of this “objectivity” just a façade for a rigged game? We already know that certain economic players are protected by the government, that's an open secret.

 

Was C. Wright Mills, who in 1956, wrote the book “The Power Elite” correct when he detailed and explained that “the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political elements of society and suggests that the ordinary citizen is a relatively powerless subject of manipulation by those entities” and, really, unless you’re part of the “in crowd” your chances of moving ahead are slim to none? 

I have previously pointed out that we’ve been in a global economy since the year 1620. Is the real talent of this economy sitting on the sidelines, driving trucks and buses, mopping floors, while those who are qualified and sacrificed a substantial part of their youth, not to mention a small fortune in an education that is not recognized, not because of qualifications, but because of pedigree and connections? Choosing the right person for the job is not a matter of knowing them, at least I didn’t think so, but as time passes I am more and more convinced that the opportunities are going not to the qualified, but to the connected. I think our economy is showing this more and more, and the people who are claiming to be professional and objective are spending their time rationalizing why they are turning away talent in favor of association. This is depreciating professionalism, or so it seems to me.

Comments

George N Romey Added Dec 16, 2017 - 7:55am
Good article Jeff. A college degree isn’t what it used to be. But the answer to growing income inequality? Get a college degree yet so many college graduates are stuck in low paying jobs. The elites that have hoist this lousy system on us have no good answers other than “get a degree.” They seem to forget they went to the best schools paid for by rich parents and had multiple job offers after graduation a la family connections.
 
Do you think Chelsea Clinton or Jenna Bush ever had to comb through endless online job postings?
Leroy Added Dec 16, 2017 - 9:15am
I really don't see major corporations hiring based on connections.  Sure.  It helps to have good references.  It helps to know someone who works at the target corporation. 
 
It helps in small companies.  My dad hired the preacher's hippy son as a favor.  He hired his former partner's son-in-law as a favor.  He hired my uncle because his sister asked him as a favor.  For my first job, I didn't know anyone.  It helped that I went to the same university as the owner.  He was friends with several of the professors.  He inquired and they gave me a good recommendation.  I accredit my hiring to good references who knew something about my abilities.  My second job after graduation was with a major international company.  I didn't know anyone.  I didn't use any references.  I was hired as a result of the interview.
 
I hired a Hispanic engineer for contract work.  He asked me about a permanent job.  He was a hard-headed SOB, but he did good work and was a hard worker.  He was offered a job based on my recommendation and the needs of the company.  He had a good reference who could vouch for his work.
 
The only people whom I am aware of getting special treatment were people related to the owners of the corporation.  We're only talking about a handful of people out of tens of thousands. 
 
The most important thing to have is a good reputation for doing good work and having someone to vouch for it.
George N Romey Added Dec 16, 2017 - 9:23am
Leroy I’m talking about young people with very little experience looking for that job that will provide them with valuable experience. Those have become very few and often go to connections or at least Ivy Leagurers. Young people graduating from a state university are getting the jobs that not too long ago went to high school grads. Unfortunately these jobs are deadend jobs. For example young people could take a job in retail and if they were good enough move into management. That’s not happening anymore.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 16, 2017 - 11:01am
Thanks George. I see more and more jobs that require a college degree that previously didn't. The U.S. Army say they are having trouble getting new recruits, and at the same time they're raising the standards to get in.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 16, 2017 - 11:07am
Leroy, I see more and more institutions that are advertising positions but they hire certain people who have connections. One of them was quite deliberate about keeping the connections secret, because the closer you looked into that firm, the more the relationships showed up. Not everywhere, obviously, but enough that it is quite obvious when you look closely. The other consideration about hiring strangers is that sometimes no one they know has the credentials, or no one they know wants the job.
mark henry smith Added Dec 16, 2017 - 11:59am
If we look at most jobs, they don't require rocket scientists. They require reasonably smart people who have the ambition to work hard and obey company policy.
 
What has perverted the American way of life is that the best and brightest, who used to study real things to make real INNOVATIONS, have been perverted by the quest for money. Look at all of those smart kids who go to Wall Street? Is that really how we want our best minds spending their time, figuring out how to drain as much as they can out of a corrupt system? That's why we have to get our engineers from India and China, because they still appreciate serious scholastic exercise, not the party culture, binge drinking, the easy life and easy money, a life based on social connections, and secret handshakes, not creating new intellectual connections.
 
But let me say, that I do like partying with those people because they can afford the best, and I find their acceptance of me ego gratifying, until I say the wrong thing and get banished back to the boonies.
 
Jeff, good on ya. Hard work is still rewarded.      
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 16, 2017 - 12:19pm
Thanks Henry, and I agree. The dedicated engineers aren't coming from America as much as they're coming from Asia. I see the young people every day who aren't interested in learning much of anything, as they text and play games on their phones. I remember a law class that I had where the class before was engineering, and 90% of that class were Asians. The Caucasians  looked out of place.
Leroy Added Dec 16, 2017 - 5:36pm
"Thanks George. I see more and more jobs that require a college degree that previously didn't."
 
More and more jobs are requiring a Masters where only a Bachelor degree was required before.  At one time, it was possible to rise to top-level management jobs starting with a high school education.  No more.  I couldn't be hired in my previous position because I don't have a Masters.
 
When I worked in China, I had the lowest degree of my colleagues.  Even the office assistant had a Masters in chemistry.  The same is true of new hires in the US.
 
Soon, a Ph.D. will be required to sweep the streets.  I guess we could call it degree inflation.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 16, 2017 - 6:37pm
As college degrees become ubiquitous, not having one will mean few if any job prospects. This is another reason why the army needs college graduates, because we are going more and more into computers and robots, and they need programmers and the like to design the new equipment. We are already seeing the drones taking over the skies, hovering for days waiting to strike.  How much longer before the soldiers look at a screen and direct robots to do the fighting, and this is to say I am not against this idea. Better for robots to be shot or blown apart than our men.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 16, 2017 - 7:21pm
Leroy opines: Soon, a Ph.D. will be required to sweep the streets.  I guess we could call it degree inflation. - I remember early 70s here when there were billboards saying "Will the last one out of Seattle, please turn off the lights," and Ph.D.s in aeronautical engineering were sweeping "Red Square" at UW for a couple of bucks an hour post "Boeing collapse." Seemed broadcasting and playing music was a better future at the time from being in engineering.  Degrees are merely commodities these days.  Times change over time.
Leroy Added Dec 16, 2017 - 7:48pm
Jeff M., in Romania, many of the machine operators had their Ph.D.'s.  It was an interesting place where the women were in charge.  The men did all the grunt work.  All the engineers I worked with were women. 
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 16, 2017 - 8:04pm
The post-Cold War European countries had a lot of very educated folks who were in the military designing stuff lose their jobs. I knew a headhunter who found a Russian engineer who had previously worked in the military. It is amazing to me how very specialized people can become obsolete quite quickly.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 17, 2017 - 1:16am
The old boys club, I believe they call it. Good article, Jeff. Now, what are those college degrees really worth? I've always told my boys that in the real world nobody gives a shit what you know. They only care what you can do.
Neil Lock Added Dec 17, 2017 - 11:07am
Excellent article, Jeff. Yes, any society that judges you by who you are, rather than what you do, is on a downhill slope. Maybe going faster for a while, and then...
 
And Leroy is right when he criticizes "degree inflation." I find it hard to avoid the thought that the political class want to promote only those who have spent the longest time in their indoctrination system! Albert Einstein would never have had a chance in today's world.
Dave Volek Added Dec 18, 2017 - 12:40am
I graduated from university in 1982. Back then, there were all sorts of degrees that really did not provide direct employment in that field. Try getting a chemistry job with a B.Sc. in Chemistry in 1982 or in 2017. There never was a golden age for this degree--or many other degrees.
 
What does matter is the statistics around a university degree. Everything I have seen is that university graduates in all disciplines make more lifetime income than trades or high school diplomas. It seems that university training does parley into something better--even if one is not working directly in the original field. 
 
Those who say university is not worth it should provide some stats to prove their point.
 
And those who choose an academic path that does not have a good history of hiring graduates--let's just say they made a choice. 
 
But let's get off the wagon that there was a golden age where all university graduates got good paying jobs.
 
 
 
 
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 18, 2017 - 1:05am
Thanks Dave, and yes, having a degree can earn you more money. College graduates do make more money, no doubt. There truly was a golden age, and it is still here if you know the right people. In fact everything in life is golden if you know the right people or come from the right family. 
George N Romey Added Dec 18, 2017 - 8:03am
A college degree at one time could get you on the road to a successful career. Not only do we have degree inflation but we have a deficit in good jobs. To get those jobs you need training beyond college but employers no longer are willing to train. Unless your Daddy is rich and connected. 
Utpal Patel Added Dec 18, 2017 - 8:45am
“The university gave me the impression that the college degree would open many doors, and that my education would be valuable.”
 
I don’t fault the university one iota for giving you this impression.  The alternative would be to tell you the truth and that a college degree may open only a few doors.  After all, it depends on what school you get the degree from, what degree you get from that school and how good your marks were.  It also depends what kind of interviewee you are and how well your prior work experience meshes with the duties of the position you’re trying to obtain.  In short, I know of no institution that is only interested in legacies, that just sounds like sour grapes. 
George N Romey Added Dec 18, 2017 - 8:51am
I read a good book the other day that said only about a third of STEM graduates are working in a STEM job in part thanks to the widespread use of HB1 Visa workers (which includes the use of cheap foreign labor beyond the traditional HB1 visa program). So much for getting that “valuable degree.” Dr Paul Craig Roberts has also written extensively on this issue and the STEM graduates he hears from,
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 18, 2017 - 10:28pm
Utpal, at this point in my life, when someone makes promises, I insist that they show me some of the results that they promise. No examples means they're just speculating on what could be. I have had more than a few folks do this, and when I said I would believe them when they showed me some examples, they did the old "well, what do you expect" routine. I expect the truth, nothing more, nothing less. Did my education come in handy? You bet. The glittering future they predicted an education would bring? Nope.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 18, 2017 - 10:34pm
Thanks George. The H1-B visas have indeed been abused by companies that hire cheaper labor. The university where I studied used this, got caught, and faced a lot of fines. The attorney that set the whole thing up, (who was already making a few hundred thousand a year) was fired and lots of bad publicity followed. We are indeed "farming out" work so a few can make more. I think that's called greed.
Ari Silverstein Added Dec 19, 2017 - 8:13pm
It costs roughly $3,000 for an employer to sponsor an immigrant via the H1-B program.  Because of that cost, employers would prefer to hire an American citizen, the reason they don’t is because those employers made the decision that the immigrant was worth the extra cost.
 
I wouldn’t call hiring the superior candidate evidence of greed.  Based on that loose definition, all employers are greedy because all employers wish to profit from their employee’s labor.  Perhaps those that save the $3,000 by hiring the American citizen, might be the greediest of all.  If you haven’t noticed, if there is one thing I can’t stand is when people accuse others of being greedy.  All I see is envy.  
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 19, 2017 - 10:23pm
There are 7 deadly sins. Greed and envy are two separate sins.
George N Romey Added Dec 20, 2017 - 8:15am
Ari needs to do some research on the mills that bring over people here often illegally then find loopholes to get them HB1 visas. These mostly Indians live 5 to 6 in a small apartment waiting for an assignment. I’d say anyone with common sense would call that greed not to mention immoral.
 
And by the way it’s both parties, conservatives and liberal politicians alike that allow this pratice to go on. No surprise there. 
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 20, 2017 - 9:08pm
And the folks that want to "save money" are the first ones who insist that young American men (and now some women) go off to protect their right to be rich.
Katharine Otto Added Dec 21, 2017 - 11:56am
Jeff,
My best jobs, before I went to medical school, came from doing temporary work and from volunteering.  The first got me a full-time job in publishing in New York, and the second--writing book review for free--got me a full-time reporter's job in Telluride, Colorado.  
 
These two approaches show employers you are capable, reliable, and worth their investments.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 21, 2017 - 5:07pm
Katherine, I must not be much of a writer. None of my writing samples ever got me anything.

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