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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.

What Is the Most Critical Career Choice Graduating Students Make?

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Imagine my surprise Wednesday (3-5-08) when I discovered that Warren Buffett, who has played second fiddle to Bill Gates as the world’s richest man for several years, is now the wealthiest billionaire in the world with a net worth of $62 billion.

For the uninitiated, a billion dollars is a million dollars 1,000 times. At $62 billion, you could also say that Buffett is worth a million dollars 62,000 times. Gates slipped to No. 3 at $58 billion on the just released 2008 list by Forbes magazine.

Equally surprising to me was the fact that, after reading The Tao of Warren Buffett, I discovered that Buffett had some very valuable information on what students should know when selecting their first job after graduating.

“Managing your career is like investing—the degree of difficulty does not count,” said Buffett. “So you can save yourself money and pain by getting on the right train.”

According to Buffett, one not only needs to learn what kind of business to invest in but what kind of business to work in.

If one goes to work for a company with poor long-term economics, then he (or she) can never expect to do really well because the company does not do well. Salaries will be below average and raises will be few and far between, and there is greater risk of losing your job because management will always be under pressure to cut costs.

But if you go to work for a company that has great long-term economics working in its favor, then the company will be awash in cash. This means higher salaries and tons of raises and promotions for a job well done. Plus there will be plenty of room for advancement as management looks for ways to spend all that free cash.

In short, Buffett says you want to work for a company that has high margins (of profit) and makes lots of money. And you want to stay away from businesses that have low margins and lose money.

One is a first-class train ride to Easy Street; the other is a long, slow, hard freight-train ride to nowhere in Siberia.

A good example of a company with high margins, no debt and billions in cash reserve is Microsoft.

The next step to getting on with your career is to also work for a company that allows you to do what you love doing.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want,” says Buffett. “Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you do not like because you think that it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”

It is not hard to figure out why Buffett is a very smart person. He did not become the wealthiest man in the world by being stupid. It takes no talent to lose money; it takes a lot of talent to make a lot of money.

According to Buffett, spending a life getting up and going to a job that you hate, with people you do not respect, leads to frustration and discontent, which you bring home with you from work and share with your family, which makes them unhappy as well. This, of course, makes for a lousy life for everyone you love, including yourself.

When you find a job you love, going to work puts a smile on your face, which you can take home with you at the end of the day to share with your loved ones.

If you are worried about money, remember that the people who love what they are doing are the ones who rise to the top of their fields and end up making the most money. Do what you love, says Buffett, and the money will come.

(Editor’s Note:  The Tao of Warren Buffett is written by Mary Buffett (Warren’s daughter-in-law) and David Clark, both of whom were the best-selling authors ofBuffettology.

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.