How elite students get elite jobs

I really stand with the idea Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed covers which is that students who grow up with challenges, whether it be economic, academic, family…etc actually build better character, grit and the ability to overcome obstacles that other students with more affluent lives may not.

This interview in the Washington Post just made another point that demonstrates the disadvantages of students who aren’t from affluent families.

In terms of getting jobs at elite firms, the author of the book Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs by Lauren Rivera describes a few of the inequities that privilege elite students.

The essence of her book is:

Whether intentionally or not, elite parents expose their children to different experiences and styles of interacting that are useful for getting ahead in society. Many of these are taken for granted in upper and upper-middle class circles, such as how to prepare a college application (and having cultivated the right types of accomplishments to impress admissions officers), how to network in a business setting in a way that seems natural, and how to develop rapport with teachers, interviewers, and other gatekeepers to get things you want from those in power.

Another specific point shows that even in college those extra curricula activities help showcase your skills and if you can’t afford to participate because of part time jobs or family commitments, you may miss out on those recruiting opportunities – even if you are at a top university.

employers also use extracurricular activities, especially those that are driven by “passion” rather than academic or professional interest and require large investments of time and money over many years, to screen résumés. But participation in these activities while in college or graduate school is not a luxury that all can afford, especially if someone needs to work long hours to pay the bills or take care of family members. Essentially, extracurriculars end up being a double filter on social class that disadvantages job applicants from more modest means both in entering the recruiting pipeline and succeeding within it.

She also notes that many recruiters are looking for people just like themselves, causing them to often search at the same or similar schools, social circles and attributes that may not lead them to explore all available avenues for recruiting. This practice keeps the same general types of people employed and doesn’t allow for a great deal of outsiders.

The interviewer asks Rivera what her intention was in writing the book. It turn out that there is a great deal of people purchasing the book as a how-to to get an elite job. Rivera says while she thinks it can be helpful for the non elite students to understand that gap and strive to make it more relevant to their lives, her intention was the bring these biases to the fore front and hope that recruiters change their behavior.

She acknowledges though that it may just reinforce the current behaviors and give elite students a firmer leg up in the game.