Getting a Job: Luck or Effort?
A recent article from Recruiter.com called 4 Habits of a Highly Successful Job Seeker stirred up quite an interesting topic (and/or issue). In the article, I offered this example:
Jane graduated college six months ago. She worked three internships while in school, graduated with honors, and has sent her resume to hundreds of companies. But, Jane is unemployed.
Bob also graduated college six months ago, no honors. Bob didn’t work at any internships while in school and has never applied for a job, yet Bob is employed. One day while he was playing basketball in a local gym, the president of one of America’s largest auto manufacturers sees Bob. The president has a company team and wants Bob to play on it so he can win a championship. He hires Bob immediately (true story).
The rest of the article went on to explain how although instances like what happened to Bob aren’t always common, some people do just seem to come across job opportunities more effortlessly than others. But why? I offered the following four attributes of such people/job seekers (people unlike Bob) and how they approach opportunities—features hopefully others could incorporate into their job search: proactive, outgoing, team player and stepping out of comfort zones.
The story, especially the Bob and Jane example, caused an interesting discussion among Recruiter.com readers. Some main points included:
- Bob is lucky and Jane is not
- Jane worked hard while Bob knew the right people
- Bob is probably a white male and lives in the type of neighborhood where he can play basketball with a president of a company
- Bob’s “supposed” background affords him opportunities others with differing backgrounds do not
- The article didn’t offer advice on job seeking, but more on how the rich obtain jobs versus the non-rich
What was interesting was the idea of the inequality of the job search. Jane works hard and is not rewarded, while Bob, who doesn’t work hard, is rewarded. The fact is that things like this (hard worker versus “spoon-fed”) happen, but how common is it?
You see, my Jane and Bob example was only part fiction. Bob is real (although his name is not). At the time of this event, Bob had just graduated from the University of Michigan and moved back home to Detroit. Bob is a black male from a non-wealthy, single-parent home (being his mother). He was leisurely playing basketball with a group of friends in a gym when the president of the automaker approached him. Where the gym was, whether Bob’s neighborhood or not, this information wasn’t disclosed to me.
So, looking solely at his background, Bob is not privileged. Bob’s family doesn’t have all the right connections, yet Bob was in a certain place at a certain time where he ended up making a connection that benefited him with a job. Most would call this luck, while others may say, like the American dream, everyone has the opportunity to become successful no matter their background.
So, we’re back to examining the issue of inequality of the job search. Jane worked hard during school but cannot find a job. Bob didn’t do everything Jane did, yet Bob still has a degree and now has a job, even though, unlike Jane, he never exerted himself in the job search. Is Bob lucky and Jane unlucky? Is it fair that Bob is employed while Jane is not?
I read a statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that said 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. Yet, in thinking of this concern of the inequality when job searching, does it matter what type of jobs those 70 percent now have? You’ve heard the saying about being in the right place at the right time; so, is the concept of networking to gain employment still an equal opportunity if some have the chance (and means) to be in certain (and/or better) networking arena than others?
Like the discussion mentioned, would the president of a big-time company be in lower income areas, thereby giving an entirely different group of job seekers (income level) the advantage to be in the right place at the right time and network? Does it not matter how long you went to school and how many credentials you have if you cannot afford to be in the place to network with “the right” people? Or does hard work count for something? Is luck simply happenstance but the majority of success stories come from the worker’s diligence?
Recruiter.com is interested to hear your thoughts. Please weigh in on this discussion: Is the job search an unequal playing field? Does who you know (and/or can get to know) have more impact on getting a job than your hard work and credentials? Or is it equal, and no matter an individual’s background or connections, everyone has the same opportunity to become successful?