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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

Jul 14, 2014

More on the Invisible Job Market

Back in 2012 I wrote an article called ‘Using the Invisible Job Market'. It outlined how to network your way to landing that all-important first interview. This piece neglected to take into account the longstanding disparities that exist in our society.

I bring this up because in my town it’s glaringly obvious that networking is less of an option for poor black job seekers—with or without a college degree. The Invisible Job Market is not freely available to everyone.

A colleague called my attention to an interesting article in the July/August 2014 Johns Hopkins Gazette that explains more fully why. It talks briefly about the soon to be published book of Dr. Karl Alexander. In his research he followed 800 Baltimore city youth—of varying socioeconomic backgrounds—for 25 years and discovered that, “where you start in life is where you end up in life…blacks don’t have the social networks whites do to help them…” even with the same educational, criminal, and economic roadblocks.

This is well illustrated in one of the research findings: white men of low income (backgrounds) with no college found the best-paying jobs in their group. 45% of them worked in the construction and industrial trades—as a result of their social networks—earning 28% more money than the other groups who ended up in this field.

The networking involved here includes familial ties (fathers, brothers, and close friends working in the field are able to refer their kin, etc). Here’s a quick example of this that I witnessed in our field:

I was tasked with vetting resumes for a graphic design position at my organization. In the 50 or so email applications I found a resume and samples from a former college friend. I noticed her resume but could not, in good conscience, recommend her to my director as a viable candidate. She lacked sufficient real-world experience and had spent the last two years working odd jobs outside of our field.

One day after her email, I learned that (get this) her fiancé’s mother put in a personal call to our events manager—someone who she knew socially—in order to get her application noticed. I was floored at the brazenness of it. However, I understood why she thought to use that tactic. 
To be clear, both white and black women, and black men in the low income strata of the study fared much worse than white men of the same economic standing.

What does one do about this distinct lack of networking opportunities?

My advice, make your own. When you’re in college:

  • be active in campus and professional organizations, 
  • get a mentor,
  •  keep in touch with professors who are influential/inspirational to you, 
  • and for god’s sake! Seek out internships. 
While these ties are not as strong as blood or marriage, these are people who will happily go to bat for you or just add your name to a list if you ask.


Read the Johns Hopkins Gazette: Study looks at how inner city childhood affects adult success In addition to the findings discussed here, Dr. Alexander found that only 33 subjects (of the 800 total) in the low income bracket moved into the high income bracket, and 19 subjects from high income moved to low income. 


**Photo Credit: chuckp via Compfight cc

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