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There Is No Huge Correlation Between Education and Income and Here Is Why

Copyright © 2006
by Ed Bagley

A client e-mailed me yesterday about her student loan debts that netted her 3 college degrees and a job without a commensurate income and future. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from New York University, a second Bachelor of Arts Degree from the London Institute and a Master of Arts Degree from the University of London. My unvarnished answers to her questions follow. I changed her name since I could not contact her in time to use her name.

Hi Ed Bagley,

I had a follow-up question to your three-part series on “Five Power Secrets of Getting Hired in Today’s Economy.”

If education is not a great factor in making the “big bucks”, why do people stress that, especially a lot of companies that only want to hire college educated employees?

OK, I don’t have a source for those stats, just stuff I have heard. I am guessing just media hype. Nonetheless, if there is any validity to that, why is that the case?

Because I so regret the major amounts of money I am in debt for because of higher education, and the three degrees I have have not gotten me any further than anyone else.

I am not surprised. I guess life isn’t fair.

Carolyn

Here is my reply to Carolyn the same day:

Carolyn,

You are reading my product! This can only help you, and you have the added benefit that I am not going to try and collect on your student loans! (it is OK to smile)

You ask an excellent question and you shall receive an excellent answer.

Here are some considerations in no particular order:

1) Colleges and universities are not part of the same world that exists around them. They are isolated special interest groups with no other primary purpose than to ensure their continued existence.

Job one for them is to stress education as the answer to all of life’s issues and ills, thus, get a degree and earn a lot more money, get a degree and start doing something you really want to do, get a degree and get hired quicker, get a degree or many corporations will not hire you, etc.

Their real purpose is to generate enough income to support the salaries and lifestyle of those involved in perpetuating the enterprise. A tenured professor must be paid even if the subject he or she is teaching has almost zero demand in our economy.

If colleges and universities really told the truth about what you could reasonably earn after you acquire your degree, enrollment would plummet in certain subject areas. Students would stop being skydivers without parachutes.

Colleges and universities will put 120 students into a program that there is absolutely no need or demand for in the marketplace. What will a student do with an art history degree when there is zero need for people to run the few museums that exist.

You cannot turn out 120 students a year at each university when the annual demand for what they have to offer is 22 openings at all levels nationwide. This is why education majors who do not want to teach in South Central Los Angeles end up as shift managers at a McDonald’s restaurant, or as a life insurance agent for Prudential.

2) Not all degrees are equal. A Bachelor of Arts in history is pretty useless unless you switch to teaching history. Get a Master of Business Administration degree from a top 20 school and your chances improve. Get a Doctor of Medicine Degree, become a physician and surgeon and your chances are even better.

Degrees that lead to a high paying profession pay off, everything else has little real impact on your salary.

3) Corporations want to hire college graduates not only because they believe educated workers will make them more money, but also because it is their best guarantee that the person they are hiring is literate.

They want to be assured that the new hires can speak and be understood by fellow staff members, and are not so illiterate that they will drive away customers and clients by showing, through their lack of communication skills, that they are stupid, lack grammar and diction, and have the personality of an ashtray.

4) Facts: Results from the 2004 Census Bureau report shows a $23,000 difference between the average annual salary of adults with a bachelor’s degree ($51,554) compared to adults with a high school diploma ($28,645).

In what may or may not be an anomaly, the income gap narrowed slightly from five years earlier when bachelor’s degree graduates made nearly twice as much as high school graduates.

Notice the fact says “the average annual salary” which means that in this total is a brain surgeon making $1.2 million a year and a ditch-digger making a minimum wage of approximately $7 an hour or about $14,000 a year. This produces an average difference of only $23,000.

Throw out the brain surgeons and ditch-diggers of which there are very few and the difference is even less.

5) This has little to do with life being fair or not. It has everything to do with you figuring out how to make money, whether you have a degree or not.

Do I think you have been snookered on the education trip? Yes I do. Why? I have too much experience and evidence to think otherwise.

Both of us come from educated families that would naturally stress education. I was appalled when my son and daughter had zero interest in continuing their education after high school.

My daughter is now a loan officer with Washington Mutual making good money, probably far better than you are, and she has zero student loan debt.

My son did get a 2-year certificate as an automotive technician; he refused to take the 4 or 5 academic classes with the occupational training so he could get an Associate of Technical Arts Degree rather than a certificate as an auto tech.

He told me, “Dad, I do not need any more education.” Remember what Mark Twain said: “I never allowed schooling to interfere with my education.”

My son is 28 years old and already has a $540,000 house, 4 upscale vehicles, a rental property and two auto repair shops with an income well in excess of $12,000 a month plus the net profits from his businesses.

Did he need a college education to succeed? You decide. This is why I say that there is more correlation between people skills, having technical skills and being in an activity that is in demand than there is between pure education and income.

6) Do I believe everyone should have a college degree, say at least a bachelor’s? Absolutely, because you will be exposed to multiple areas of knowledge and get some well-needed breeding and culture.

My son could care less about classical music, plays, culture, reading, etc. He is focused on making money and when he looks at anything he is only interested in discovering the answers to two questions: Where is the money? and How can I get it?

This is the clear difference between an entrepreneur or businessperson and a college graduate who is thinking his or her education is going to bring them big bucks.

Nothing will bring you a lot of bucks unless and until what you bring provides a service or product that is in demand, has little competition and you can charge big bucks for your service.

This is why brain surgeons and auto repair technicians who own auto repair shops make money. Cars break down. People have brain cancer. Who cares whether you have 3 degrees, or 20 degrees, or whether you know hip-hop from opera?

7) Given your circumstances, this is what I recommend you do: Use your expensive education, street smarts and intuition to figure out what people want to know and then provide the knowledge or information they want and need, and charge for your service.

The more they want the information the more you can charge because no one else will be providing the information they want at a lower cost.

This is America, the land of opportunity. This is a needs-based, on-demand economy. The market you want to earn your living in is capitalist based, not education based. If you cannot figure out the economy, become a teacher and settle for whatever salary and benefits education pays a teacher.

8) Also, stop acting like there is some big secret about how to make it in your chosen field. Get into the field and act like you are the secret. Do not chase people and opportunities, act like you are THE person and THE opportunity is with you.

For example, you cannot find a better resume writer and personal marketer in America than I am. Period. I dare you to scour New York, Boston or LA and then come back to me when you figure out I am right.

Most people in my profession are just sucking money out of their clients and moving on.

When you call I answer, not my secretary because I do not have one. You get the expert. You do not have to work through me to get to the top. You start at the top.

This is why I do not have employees. I am the authority.

You are bright, educated and capable. You are the answer to your own quest to find someone else to hire you. Start acting like you are a person of total substance.

Make people appreciate and understand instantly that when they are talking to you, or doing business with you, that they are dealing with a person of substance. Repeat, a person of substance. Let there be no mistake.

If your thing is hip-hop music, become the authority, brand yourself and build a reputation so that no one thinking hip-hop is doing squat without consulting you first because you have the answers, and are worth whatever you are charging and 20 times more!

Think about who you need to be, not who you are at the moment, then be that person, becoming a magnet that will attract people to you.

Now get out there and make me proud of you. You are Carolyn, an expert. You do not know everything and quickly acknowledge so, but in your area, there is no one who knows more than you. Period. That is it.

And if you do not agree with me that I am an expert in my field, no matter, others do.

You are not some silly girl with three degrees who cannot find the right job at the right income. Start 2007 as an expert, not as someone looking for a job.

You know I believe in you. Now you need to believe in yourself and get out there and let the world know who Carolyn is. People will start listening when you decide you are a person of substance, know what you are talking about, and then continue to get more knowledgeable and helpful in your area of expertise.

This is not a mind game. Do not believe with your head, believe with your heart as if your life depended upon it and people will accept you as an expert.

When they offer you less money than you want, look them straight in the eye and tell them you would like to help them but other people are offering you more money, and then shut up.

Do not try to justify or explain yourself or your value. If the person you are talking to cannot figure it out, find someone else who can.

There are two possible outcomes in this scenario: The result you want or excuses.

Settle for the result you want, or walk away.

Recruiter Suggests “Dumbing Down” Your Resume So You Will Be Less of a Threat Getting Hired in a Recession Economy – Is This a Good Idea?

Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley

An article by Katie Johnston Chase appeared in The Boston Globe on June 22, 2010. It talks about “dumbing down” your resume to get hired. I could not disagree more with this tactic, and will explain why.

But first, here is the article by Katie Johnston Chase:

After hearing from several potential employers that he was overqualified, high-tech salesman Joe Collins of Medfield worked with a recruiter to come up with two resumes. One emphasized revenue gains and the number of people he oversaw as a manager; the other omitted those details, concentrating instead on his hands-on sales experience.

Collins, 55, figured that someone looking to fill a routine sales job might review his more high-powered management experience and assume: “He’s only going to hang around until he finds something else.”

As the tight job market forces the unemployed to apply for lower-level positions, more job seekers are “dumbing down” credentials, wiping graduate degrees and high-level experience off their resumes, recruiters say.

Applicants say the idea is to get hiring managers to at least look at their resumes, instead of figuring someone with extra qualifications will demand a bigger salary or leave for a higher-level opportunity once the economy turns around.

But too much background doctoring can be risky. Wakefield recruiter Bruce Allen, who has had more clients ask about altering their resumes during the economic downturn, stopped short of calling it unethical, but he said leaving off degrees and experience may come back to haunt job seekers. It’s hard to hide skills in an interview, he said. Background checks and the Internet can also quickly reveal what job seekers leave out.

“It’s less about ethics and more about what kind of quicksand are you about to step into,” said Allen, of Point B Search, who helped Collins craft his resumes.

Modifying a resume to fit a specific opening is nothing new, but when jobs are scarce, recruiters say, applicants are more willing to undersell themselves. Stephen Ford, of the career consulting firm OI Partners in Concord, sees this resume customization — not mentioning that you managed a $1 million budget if the company you’re applying to has a half-a-million-dollar budget, as he counseled one job seeker — as a way to broaden a job seeker’s appeal.

“I think we see it in each deep recession,” Ford said.

Former Web analyst Nicholas Carroll, who was laid off from his consulting job for IBM in 2008, is such a believer in dumbing down resumes that he dedicated a section of his 2009 e-book, “The Layoff Survival Plan,” to it.

In the section titled “How to Downgrade Your Resume for a Tight Job Market,” Carroll recommends taking titles down one peg, from director to manager, from manager to specialist.

Carroll removed his bachelor’s degree in technology management after he lost a job as a website developer during the dot.com collapse of the late ’90s in order not to appear overqualified for blue-collar work, and he didn’t stop there.

During an interview for a management position at Econo Lube `N Tune, “I deliberately hesitated a quarter second before every answer,” he said, and at one point decided to fake a “faint look of panic.”

The morning after the interview, he said, he was offered the job. “Somebody finds out you know that much more than they do, they get nervous,” Carroll said.

That’s true, says Robert Akerlof, a post-doctoral associate at the MIT Sloan School of Management, who is working on a theory about how it can be difficult to maintain authority over overqualified workers if they think a job, or a boss, is beneath them.

Dumbing down a resume is a way for job seekers to show that they are going to be respectful, said Akerlof, citing the “20 percent rule,” which states that bosses should be 20 percent smarter than their employees.

“I think it’s not so much that you’re lying about what your resume is, it’s that you’re trying to convey an appropriate attitude,” he said.

Recruiters also say they are seeing more older workers who delete the year they graduated from college, along with details about their early job experiences — both of which can date them.

But a job seeker who left the first 10 years off his resume didn’t get far with the Burlington public relations firm Davies Murphy Group. “In my book it automatically disqualifies the candidate because it shows a comfortableness with dishonesty,” said principal Andy Murphy.

People are so focused on getting back into the workforce that they are setting aside not just complete work histories, but their egos, to go after the kind of position they may have had years before.

Unemployed Denver science educator Nancy Hansen removed her master’s degree in ecology and her two Fulbright scholarships from her resume to send a message to a potential employer: “I don’t want you to think that because I have a great resume I’m above doing the work that is here.”

Hansen is still not getting many callbacks from the museums and schools she has been applying to, but at least she’s not hearing the dreaded “overqualified” word anymore. If she is asked about her education or work experience in an interview, she said, she will tell the truth.

That’s what Adrienne Rodney did after sending in a master’s-degree-free resume for an executive assistant position. Convinced that her graduate degree from Boston University was hurting her chances of getting the publishing and public relations jobs she was applying for, she stopped including it.

When she came clean about the omitted degree to her potential boss, Brooke Allen — who runs the website NoShortageofWork.com, about unconventional paths to employment — Allen told Rodney that he had left his MBA from New York University off his resume years before.

Much discussion, and a job offer for Rodney, soon followed.

End of Katie Johnston Chase’s Article

Start of Ed Bagley’s Reaction:

When resume writing clients of mine approach me about “dumbing down” their resume to help them get a job in a down economy, I discourage such foolishness, and here are some reasons why:

1) It is very bad form for anyone who wants to get ahead in this world to apologize for being educated, literate, ambitious or productive.

Just because the world is full of mediocre minds and mental termites (many of whom take up space and do nothing more than enough to keep their job) does not mean you should be sucking up to them at their level of thought power, education, literacy, productivity and accomplishment.

You can temporarily lower your level of employment expectations, but do not lower yourself or your qualifications in the process.

Take a lesser job and salary if you must to survive until the economy turns around, but stand your ground when it comes to your qualifications.

Do not dumb down your resume by taking off your degrees, job titles, productivity and accomplishments.

You can tell me that they will not hire you because they feel you are a threat to their position.

You can tell me that they will not hire you because they are afraid you will leave for a better position when the economy turns around.

You can tell me that they said your are overqualified for the position.

None of these comments from potential interviewers or decision-makers amounts to a hill of beans.

If no one has every told you before, I need to tell you now – when someone says you are overqualified, that is simply the most polite way they have of saying they do not want to hire you.

It could mean they do not want to hire you because you are a threat, or because you may leave at the first opportunity for a better job, or any other reason, including the way you part your hair, the color of your eyes, or the sound of your voice. It flat does not matter.

You simply need to move on to another interview for another opportunity. Think this through for a moment.

If they think you might leave because you are a threat, what makes you think they will not undermine your effort and production if you are hired?

If they think you might leave because you will find a better opportunity, is it not clear then that you will be penalized for trying to better yourself? What kind of a person or boss would hold you back from becoming a better person, or trying to find a better, more productive way to support your family and yourself?

I will tell you what kind of a person would think and feel this way toward you. A loser, that’s who. What person in their right mind wants to work for, or with, a loser? Losers will always drag you down before they would ever think of lifting you up, that is why they are losers.

Winners do not think like losers. Winners do not talk like losers. Winners do not act like losers.

What would a winner’s reaction be if you came to him or her acting like you were educated, literate, ambitious or productive? They would read you resume, interview you and act appropriately – that is, make you a job offer.

Why? You must be kidding to ask such a question.

For openers, when you are educated, literate, ambitious and productive, they may not have to spend a dime to train you to do a job at a much lower level than you are accustomed.

You will likely be a high achiever and performer, saving them time and effort in monitoring your work habits.

They will be able to give you projects and assignments, and they will not micro-manage you in the process; they will be moving on to another challenge to make them and the department – including you – look better than your competitors to the higher ups.

You will likely make your boss look good, increasing his chances of an earlier promotion. And what do you think your boss will do when he is promoted? That’s right, take you to a higher position with him; he would be nuts not to, especially if he knows how valuable you have been to him under his charge.

Should you be offered a better position than the company you are working for can match, you boss will not be all that upset if you leave. Why? Because you may leapfrog over his position, turn around, and bring your boss with you. After all, he was smart enough to hire you.

2) Acting and playing dumb to take a job that pays significantly less than you were making is hardly an intelligent career move unless you want to devalue yourself and what you have to offer, and move backwards at the same time.

When you interview with someone for a lesser position, and you know that person is not even making half or one-third of what you were making in your prior position, do not let the interviewer make you feel like a lesser person by sitting there and listening to that baloney.

Be polite, be patient and then be gone. Life is short. You do not need to work for losers who want to tear you down while trying to build themselves up at your expense.

I fully recognize that in life there is no vacuum for followers, the vacuum is for leaders. Followers do not, and cannot lead if their life depended upon it. When a follower sees a leader, he will follow and become a good team player; he knows his place and will be happy as a follower.

Leaders do not enjoy any such comfort. Leaders are not comfortable unless they are leading. And yes, leaders were once followers before they became leaders; they just did not make a career out of being a follower.

There is nothing wrong with being a follower. As Shakespeare said, “Act well your part, therein all honor lies.”

Smart bosses and smart people in the hiring business know they are always money ahead hiring a smart, educated, literate, productive and ambitious person. People who fear competition are losers and will never get ahead in this world, unless, of course, their daddy owns the company and their daddy would let an idiot run the company.

Most winners in this world got where they are at by lifting themselves up by their bootstraps by the honest sweat of their brow – all they needed to become successful was an opportunity, not a handout.

And, this is important, when they were denied an opportunity, they created their own opportunity. Some people have a job; other people create a job with a business – in other words, they do not have a job, they own a job.

When you have your own business, you are not going to fire yourself or lay yourself off. If you want more income, you raise your prices, and operate only in the market that will pay your prices. Who says you have to serve everyone? You just have to serve someone in a special market segment to be successful in America.

One final comment – have some pride and backbone in who you are, and what you have to offer. Do not allow two-bit interviewers and snot-nosed personnel types to push you around mentally or emotionally, they haven’t lived long enough to earn that right. Let people know real quick that you are a person of substance and, if they cannot handle it, find someone who can.

Life is short. Idiocy is rampant. Success is elusive. You must reach out and grab success by the hand, and do not let loose of it until you bring it to you. You can do it. Anything you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. Create desire, develop belief, and get on with it.

Online Hiring – 94% of Candidates Are Hired the Traditional Way: With a Hard Copy Resume and an Interview (Part 3 of a 4-Part Series)

Copyright © 2007
by Ed Bagley

The only two reliable studies I am aware of show that less than 6% of prospects on average are hired through the online process only. That means 94% of candidates are hired the traditional way: with a hard copy resume and eyeball-to-eyeball contact during an interview. I wonder how Diane Stafford was hired.

A company or organization may, in fact, require the initial resume or an application via email because HR does not want to fuss with paper copies of resumes. I would advise any candidate who has to apply online with an email attachment or in the body of the email, to take 6 or 7 hard copies of their resume and cover letter—pre-signed—to the interview.

When the interviewers (and today it is one to a committee of several interviewers more often than not) are passing the single email copy back and forth trying to read it and ask questions (which is tacky but they do it anyway), the prospective candidate should get up and say, “I brought hard copies for everyone today” and hand them out.

You cannot imagine how positive an impression this will make until you try it.

Should you try it and the brightest thing an interviewer can say is, “Oh, we don’t accept hard copies anymore, just email versions,” then I would recommend continuing with the interview, but understanding that when you go out the door this is not the place you are going to work, or the people you are going to work with.

They are too stupid and bureaucratic for anyone with an ounce of initiative, talent, ambition and intelligence to be fussing with. People like these bureaucrats are most often occupying space and contributing little to the progress and success of any company. They are where they are because of their level of incompetence.

They are only screening candidates so someone more important can interview them later and make a hiring decision. In other words, people in personnel may hire entry level workers but no chief executive officer or anyone else important would allow a personnel type to make an offer of employment for key company executives.

What is it with this business of “customized online forms, tailor-made to cull the applicant field”? Are we in some kind of race here? Good grief, does anyone who is a consumer or a potential hire realize what is happening here?

Why exactly do you think the big-time online services that allow you to post you resume for free also might want you to fill out a customized online form before they let you post your resume?

If you believe that the only purpose for this activity is to help you find a job you are very naïve, especially if they ask you to fill out the equivalent of a hard copy job application online. In doing so, you will be asked to fill your first name in one block and your last name in another block, etc.

Why would they do this? Answer: To build a more manageable, faster database of your personal information so they can sell it for profit. I know they say they would never sell your information, but they lie through their teeth, just like banks and financial institutions did for decades.

Why do you think banks and financial institutions must mail you a notice ever year telling you how they use your information. That is correct, they finally got caught.

Even this legislative correction does not prohibit them from continuing to do so in many cases because they have so many wholly-owned subsidiaries with whom they can still legally share information.

Banks routinely sold your personal information to credit card companies for years, for example, and pretended that they did not. It was not in the bank’s best interest to reveal what they were doing because it became such a good profit center for them.

What makes you think your banker does not continually lie to you every time you see him or her for a loan? Bankers love to lie at your expense, and they make more money every time they do it.

Do you honestly think that all of the fine print that goes on and on in your loan agreement is there because bankers want to explain to you exactly what it means in plain language? I think not. It is there to confuse you and leave you in the dark about what is really going on.

Online Hiring – Many Job Hunters Are Frustrated With the Continual Digitized ”Depersonalization” of the Hiring Process (Part 4 of a 4-Part Series)

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Many clients of mine have filled out customized online forms tailor-made to help them only to find out later that they were receiving calls on their cell phones from telemarketers, and needing to get a bigger mailbox as suddenly they were inundated with unwanted advertisements.

How did those advertisers get such pertinent information? Answer: the good fairy brought it to them while they were sleeping, in other words, they bought it from the source of the customized online information form.

Stafford continues her groundbreaking story with this piece of riveting information:

“John Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University, says most interviews are as valuable as Ouija boards in measuring whether a person will be good on the job.

Interviewers ask the wrong questions, and job candidates can lie, or simply not shine when on the job they’d do quite well, he (Sullivan) says—all the better for online assessments. Companies—especially those that hire thousands of workers and have high turnover—are turning to a range of computer-based filters to pare down candidates to a manageable number.”

I could not disagree more with what Sullivan has to say as a management professor who is likely quoted as an expert.

It may well be that Sullivan himself does not have the necessary skills and competence to get anything out of a face-to-face interview with a potential hire in his university department. That would be his problem.

Stafford does end her story with this observation: “Many job hunters are frustrated with the digitized ‘depersonalization’ of the hiring process.” Amen.

Just when personnel types and those hiring should be asking more questions of candidates in an increasing complex world they are turning to forms for the answers. Good luck and God speed.

If potential candidates hope to represent my companies or me they had better be ready to sit down, look me in the eye, and sell themselves.

In most cases I am old enough to be their father. In many cases I am old enough to be their grandfather. My children call me a fossil, but I still read people so well one-on-one that I would not trust an online form to separate the wheat from the chaff.