ONTD Political

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it takes a B.A. to get a file clerk job - classism ahoy!

8:17 pm - 02/21/2013
The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.

Consider the 45-person law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh in Atlanta, a place that has seen tremendous growth in the college-educated population. Like other employers across the country, the firm hires only people with a bachelor's degree, even for jobs that do not require college-level skills.

This prerequisite applies to everyone, including the receptionist, paralegals, administrative assistants and file clerks. Even the office "runner" — the in-house courier who, for $10 an hour, ferries documents back and forth between the courthouse and the office — went to a four-year school.

"College graduates are just more career-oriented," said Adam Slipakoff, the firm's managing partner. "Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They're not just looking for a paycheck."

Economists have referred to this phenomenon as "degree inflation," and it has been steadily infiltrating America's job market. Across industries and geographic areas, many other jobs that didn't used to require a diploma — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — are increasingly requiring one, according to Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job ads from more than 20,000 online sources, including major job boards and small- to midsize-employer sites.

This up-credentialing is pushing the less educated even further down the food chain, and it helps explain why the unemployment rate for workers with no more than a high school diploma is more than twice that for workers with a bachelor's degree: 8.1 percent versus 3.7 percent.

Some jobs, like those in supply chain management and logistics, have become more technical, and so require more advanced skills than they did in the past. But more broadly, because so many people are going to college now, those who do not graduate are often assumed to be unambitious or less capable.

Plus, it's a buyer's market for employers.

"When you get 800 resumees for every job ad, you need to weed them out somehow," said Suzanne Manzagol, executive recruiter at Cardinal Recruiting Group, which does headhunting for administrative positions at Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh and other firms in the Atlanta area.

Of all the metropolitan areas in the United States, Atlanta has had one of the largest inflows of college graduates in the last five years, according to an analysis of census data. In 2012, 39 percent of job postings for secretaries and administrative assistants in the Atlanta metro area requested a bachelor's degree, up from 28 percent in 2007, according to Burning Glass.

"When I started recruiting in '06, you didn't need a college degree, but there weren't that many candidates," Ms. Manzagol said.

Even if they are not exactly applying the knowledge they gained in their political science, finance and fashion marketing classes, the young graduates employed by Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh say they are grateful for even the rotest of rote office work they have been given.

"It sure beats washing cars," said Landon Crider, the firm's soft-spoken runner.

He would know: he spent several years, while at Georgia State and in the months after graduation, scrubbing sedans at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Before joining the law firm, he was turned down for a promotion to rental agent at Enterprise — a position that also required a bachelor's degree — because the company said he didn't have enough sales experience.

"I am over $100,000 in student loan debt right now," said Megan Parker, who earns $37,000 as the firm's receptionist. She graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 2011 with a degree in fashion and retail management, and spent months waiting on "bridezillas" at a couture boutique, among other stores, while churning out office-job applications.

"I will probably never see the end of that bill, but I'm not really thinking about it right now," she said. "You know, this is a really great place to work."

The risk with hiring college graduates for jobs they are supremely overqualified for is, of course, that they will leave as soon as they find something better, particularly as the economy improves.

Mr. Slipakoff said his firm had little turnover, though, largely because of its rapid expansion. The company has grown to more than 30 lawyers from five in 2008, plus a support staff of about 15, and promotions have abounded.

"They expect you to grow, and they want you to grow," said Ashley Atkinson, who graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2009 with a general studies degree. "You're not stuck here under some glass ceiling."

Within a year of being hired as a file clerk, around Halloween 2011, Ms. Atkinson was promoted twice to positions in marketing and office management. Mr. Crider, the runner, was given additional work last month, helping with copying and billing claims. He said he was taking the opportunity to learn more about the legal industry, since he plans to apply to law school next year.

The firm's greatest success story is Laura Burnett, who in less than a year went from being a file clerk to being the firm's paralegal for the litigation group. The partners were so impressed with her filing wizardry that they figured she could handle it.

"They gave me a raise, too," said Ms. Burnett, a 2011 graduate of the University of West Georgia.

The typical paralegal position, which has traditionally offered a path to a well-paying job for less educated workers, requires no more than an associate degree, according to the Labor Department's occupational handbook, but the job is still a step up from filing. Of the three daughters in her family, Ms. Burnett reckons that she has the best job. One sister, a fellow West Georgia graduate, is processing insurance claims; another, who dropped out of college, is one of the many degree-less young people who still cannot find work.

Besides the promotional pipelines it creates, setting a floor of college attainment also creates more office camaraderie, said Mr. Slipakoff, who handles most of the firm's hiring and is especially partial to his fellow University of Florida graduates. There is a lot of trash-talking of each other's college football teams, for example. And this year the office's Christmas tree ornaments were a colorful menagerie of college mascots — Gators, Blue Devils, Yellow Jackets, Wolves, Eagles, Tigers, Panthers — in which just about every staffer's school was represented.

"You know, if we had someone here with just a G.E.D. or something, I can see how they might feel slighted by the social atmosphere here," he says. "There really is something sort of cohesive or binding about the fact that all of us went to college."


fuck you and your classist attitude, Mr. Slipakoff. and fuck every other employer who behaves like you. you're half the problem with the fucked up job market these days. the elephant assholes in Congress being the other, obviously.
amethystcitrine 22nd-Feb-2013 03:25 pm (UTC)
"Of all the metropolitan areas in the United States, Atlanta has had one of the largest inflows of college graduates in the last five years"

Explains why I can't seem to get a job there. I have the degree, too, and it's next to impossible. My friends are in the same boat. T_T
karma_aster 22nd-Feb-2013 11:01 pm (UTC)
Boy, join the club. Fellow Atlantan, I've got a BA, and I'm working at Panera. And I'm happy to have that job too, especially with going back to school for a more "practical" degree in nursing.

Right now, just HAVING a job is an accomplishment. Good luck on your job hunt!
aviv_b 22nd-Feb-2013 04:08 pm (UTC)
You'd think a lawyer would know this (but often they are the worst at understanding the law).

If your job requirements are not actually 'requirements' for the job and intentionally or unintentionally filter out a disproportionate number of members of a federally protected group (women, minorities, people with disabilities), then you may be breaking the law.

I believe you have to have at least 50 employees to fall under these requirements and his firm is almost there. Time to read up on discrimination law asshat, or you'll be getting a visit from the EEOC.

In fact, evil person that I am, I will be forwarding this article to the EEOC regional office in Atlanta.

alexvdl 22nd-Feb-2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
You're saying that if you have 800 applicants it's illegal to determine that you're only going to take a look at the ones that have college degrees is illegal?

EDIT: I have no real experience with or knowledge of said laws, so am asking for education sake.

Edited at 2013-02-22 04:21 pm (UTC)
aviv_b 22nd-Feb-2013 04:36 pm (UTC)
If it is not a bonafide job requirement and results in qualified individuals in protected groups being impacted more than individuals not in protected groups, then yes, it is discriminatory.

The classic example is requiring a college degree for a job that doesn't require one. It's the one all the books, seminars, white papers, etc. warn against. This generally will screen out a disparate number of minorities given that a smaller percentage of minority adults have college degrees than non-minority adults. http://scorecard.assetsandopportunity.org/2012/measure/four-year-degree-by-race

It is not illegal to have a bonafide job requirement that screens out more minorities than non-minorities (maybe something like a Ph.D in a specific field for a professorship).

Now the employer can, of course, probably find some reason to choose who they want, but to come right out and say 'hey I will only consider applicants with a college degree even though its not a job requirement' is not only illegal it's incredibly stupid.

But leave it to a lawyer to think that the law doesn't apply to his firm.

edited because I crossed out instead of bolding (headdesk).

Edited at 2013-02-22 04:37 pm (UTC)
castalianspring 22nd-Feb-2013 04:51 pm (UTC)
Pretty sure most of these places put the degree under preferred qualifications, not required. Not sure if it's still legal for them to use that to filter through all the applicants, but that's what happens.
aviv_b 22nd-Feb-2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
They can say its 'desirable.' And frankly, they can probably find some reason to hire the college graduate if that's what they want, (Look - he took a course in the Alphabet!).

The problem here is the wtf of coming right out and saying that you won't even consider anyone for a job without a college degree when you've acknowledged that the college degree isn't required.

My own theory is that people like this guy are so steeped in their white male privilege that it never occurs to them that the way they think could be, gasp(!) potentially discriminatory.
castalianspring 22nd-Feb-2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, sure, it wouldn't surprise me. It's definitely stupid to come right out and say it - even if their practices look fine on paper, he's given plenty of evidence that it's not in actuality.
maladaptive 22nd-Feb-2013 04:51 pm (UTC)
From what I studied in law school: disparate impact is not necessarily grounds for discrimination. It can be a sign of it, but if there's another, valid reason for it, it's fine.

EDIT: just looked at your other comment, and I don't know how it is in hiring or re: requiring degrees, and without that knowledge it didn't strike me as something that'd be discriminatory. But it might be if there's law on it.

Edited at 2013-02-22 04:53 pm (UTC)
aviv_b 22nd-Feb-2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
YOu are correct. But once disparate impact is found, then the burden of proof (e.g. that a college degree is necessary) falls to the company not the plaintiff.
romp 23rd-Feb-2013 12:16 am (UTC)
happythree 22nd-Feb-2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
"College graduates are just more career-oriented," said Adam Slipakoff, the firm's managing partner. "Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They're not just looking for a paycheck."

Good ol' USA. We would really prefer that you be career-oriented in your non-career track position.
erinleighralph 22nd-Feb-2013 05:03 pm (UTC)
I have a graduate degree and I am honestly just looking for a paycheck since even a grad degree hasn't netted me a permanent job with benefits (I've been on contracts since 2009).
happythree 22nd-Feb-2013 05:10 pm (UTC)
Really though. Degree or not, unless you've got someone else backing you financially, uh yeah, you're looking for a paycheck.
liliaeth 22nd-Feb-2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
I never understood why 'looking for a paycheck' is supposed to be a bad thing. If I were an employer, I'd love to have people working for me who need the paycheck, because they're more likely to do their best because they well... need that paycheck to continue. In contrary to people who do something 'because they like it', and then stop doing their best when they lose interest.
happythree 22nd-Feb-2013 06:25 pm (UTC)
Yep. It's classist as hell, like the subject line rightly says. Are the people out there who aren't worrying about a paycheck saints or something? No. 99.9% of the time, they're just lucky enough to be in a situation where paying the bills isn't their first concern. Being in a position where you aren't out for a paycheck is not some kind of virtue, and on the other hand, being out for a paycheck means that you're looking to get by, that you would prefer to not go bankrupt, or be evicted, or skip meals. Applying any attribute beyond that is, again, complete BS classism.
dramaturgy 25th-Feb-2013 07:12 am (UTC)
+1. This is also why I hate the question "Why do you want to work here?" in interviews. I want to work here because I want to have a good night's sleep for once instead of staying up all night worrying a hole into my stomach lining about whether I can pay my bills or not.
xyrisquint 22nd-Feb-2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
When you think about it's actually the opposite. If these college graduates are willing to work for him doing menial tasks for $10/hour then they are just looking for a paycheck until they get promoted or they get a better job.
happythree 22nd-Feb-2013 05:55 pm (UTC)
Definitely agreed. As a recent college grad, if I'm looking for a position that might help my eventual career without putting much mind to the paycheck... IT'S CALLED AN INTERNSHIP. If you're taking a file clerk position, on the other hand, I'm gonna say that that's primarily a paycheck-oriented decision. This guy is full of shit from every angle.
deathchibi 22nd-Feb-2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, a lot of folks grab jobs just to have a job - especially with the 'no unemployed need apply' and all that.
mollywobbles867 22nd-Feb-2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
Um, people getting undergrad degrees are just looking for a paycheck since the degree is required to even get an interview nowadays.

I think the next time someone asks me "Why do you want to work for our company?" my answer will be "A paycheck" if it's not a job that is actually in my desired career field. I especially hate when retail shops ask that. Why the fuck do you think I want to fold shirts and run a register? I WANT MONEY. Are they expecting "It's my life's dream"?
foureyedgirl 22nd-Feb-2013 06:17 pm (UTC)
Oh god yes. When they asked me that at my interview for Target...I just wanted to say because I need money you fuckwit.
ahzuri 23rd-Feb-2013 03:41 am (UTC)
Not even gonna lie I used a version of that (family to support) in the interview for the company I work for now lol

Edited at 2013-02-23 03:42 am (UTC)
foureyedgirl 23rd-Feb-2013 03:53 am (UTC)
haha XD
toastieghostie 22nd-Feb-2013 07:23 pm (UTC)
lol I actually overheard my dad while on a phone interview once. they asked him why he wanted the job and he said 'to be honest, I need to make money'. long story short, after ~5 years of unemployment, he now has a job!
nesmith 22nd-Feb-2013 08:00 pm (UTC)
Seriously. I'm not looking for a job for charity, I need to earn MONEY to LIVE. Now, that doesn't mean while I'm there that I won't do my best, and a company that hires me and treats me well will get a good return on investment, but I'm not about to lie and say that I'm not at work for a paycheck.
anolinde 23rd-Feb-2013 12:19 am (UTC)
I fucking hate it when employers/schools ask "Why do you want to work for our company/go to this school?" It's the dumbest question ever, smdh.
gloraelin 23rd-Feb-2013 02:19 am (UTC)
omg, and the whole idea that "working for a paycheck" is somehow less worthy of status or what the fuck ever vs "working because you are an awesome company" -- or like, how some places will not continue the interview process because you asked about salary. it's complete and utter bullshit. I don't like you well enough, jobs, to work there without consideration of the fucking paycheck.
gargoylekitty 23rd-Feb-2013 04:02 am (UTC)
I got my first job, at a pizza place, by answering "money" to the "Why do you want to work for our company?" question, lol.
happythree 23rd-Feb-2013 05:02 am (UTC)
lol as someone who knows a couple who run a DQ and ask this questions in interviews, if their experience is any indication, places use it to weed out the kids who say "Because my mom wants me to get a job."
ljtaylor 22nd-Feb-2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
This article really rubs me up the wrong way because I am starting to see this in Europe as well, and at the same time as I have found myself unable to get a directly aligned job in my field, after five years of study, I am wondering...was it worth it? I matured and learned so much more when I was working, and earning a wage is a hell of a lot better than surviving on a student loan. Yes, my degrees have opened doors for me and I feel like people take me more "seriously" when they see on my CV that I have a masters, but I feel I could have achieved what I have now by working my way up and be saddled with much less debt as a result of that.
deathchibi 22nd-Feb-2013 07:47 pm (UTC)
What's hilarious is I do IT on campus and I see a LOT of people with the attitude of 'lol gonna get my degree and get mad dollars don't need to read instructions'. A lot of them ARE just after a paycheck. So it's not a magical land filled with rich people who have the financial backing to sit and wait for their dream job.

But then, no one wants to starve to death.

Degree inflation stinks, especially how employers use it to screw folks over. :( And this whole article makes me wince.

Edited at 2013-02-22 07:50 pm (UTC)
vulturoso 22nd-Feb-2013 08:01 pm (UTC)
First job I could get out of college (in the prosperous year 2007) was filing. Sucked, but everyone has to start somewhere.
shoujokakumei 22nd-Feb-2013 08:04 pm (UTC)
Shit like this makes me want to murder someone.
plumtreeblossom 22nd-Feb-2013 08:16 pm (UTC)
Yep. This is why I'm taking college classes nights and weekends to finish my degree. So I can continue being an administrative assistant. :-/
omgangiepants 22nd-Feb-2013 08:17 pm (UTC)
I've been seeing this article all over Facebook and it just makes me angrier and angrier every time.
yeats 23rd-Feb-2013 12:21 am (UTC)
this article is so depressingly in line with my experiences....i'm in graduate school now at a large state school, and i tell all the kids who ask me for advice about changing majors after freshman year: DON'T DO IT. unless you're moving into a field where you know you want to work after graduation, and you know that you need a specialized BA to do it, on the job market there's really very little difference between, say, a degree in History and a degree in English. anything you do that makes you have to take more classes and spend more money is just not a good call. most jobs just want to know you have that piece of paper; they don't actually care what's written on it.
moonshaz 23rd-Feb-2013 06:27 am (UTC)
That's right in line with what I told my daughter. I was like, just get a college degree in WHATEVER, not because it will magically open doors but because too many doors will be automatically closed to you without one. It doesn't make that much difference what your major is. Just get the damned degree.

She did. She's STILL working part time at a big box retailer, but in this day and age? At least she's working.
idemandjustice 23rd-Feb-2013 12:52 am (UTC)
I remember a time, not too many years ago, in which being overqualified for a job was a bad thing, because they feared you'd jump ship as soon as something more rewarding came along.
seishin 23rd-Feb-2013 05:08 am (UTC)
This is drilled into my mind.
moonshaz 23rd-Feb-2013 06:30 am (UTC)
Same here.

I still suspect it applies if you're over a certain age and have actual experience (like me and tens of thousands of other geezers who lost decent jobs in the meltdown and haven't been able to get anything better than bagging groceries or doing temp work since then). But then I'm highly cynical and bitter when it comes to the job market these days. For some odd reason.

Edited at 2013-02-23 06:31 am (UTC)
kagehikario 23rd-Feb-2013 07:02 am (UTC)
Hell, this happens at my workplace. However, our managment has been fairly clever in hiring a lot of our former outreach volunteers; people who've shown commitment to the work.
evildevil 23rd-Feb-2013 03:23 am (UTC)

I’m hinting at the final problem, which is that this ostensibly meritocratic system increasingly selects from those with enough wealth and connections to first, understand the system, and second, prepare the right credentials to enter it—as I believe it also did in Imperial China.

And like all elites, they believe that they not only rule because they can, but because they should.

Edited at 2013-02-23 03:27 am (UTC)
yndigot 23rd-Feb-2013 07:31 am (UTC)
BA in Religion.

$10.50/hr as a shift supervisor at a drugstore. Hot damn. My boss is always freaked out that I'm going to leave her for a better job, but the truth is, no one else will hire me.
pistol_eyes 23rd-Feb-2013 02:29 pm (UTC)
This article and post is so depressing.
lizzy_someone 26th-Feb-2013 02:59 am (UTC)
I'm about to graduate from a four-year college, which I know damn well was made possible by plenty of socioeconomic privilege, and frankly? If I were hiring people, I'd probably choose the applicants who've been in the real world getting work experience instead of studying something completely irrelevant to the job. I fucking love school, but you know what prepares you for a job? Another job. People shouldn't have to put themselves in tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt just to work for practically minimum wage.
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