Nancy Ditomaso on The New York Times Opinotator blog writes how “Black” Twitter and your Facebook friends who put extra sayings in their names like Natasha Ohsofine Washington, are not helping you get a job. This is because they don’t know anyone. This is unlike your friends on “White” Twitter and their Facebook friends who don’t have clever handles because they might know someone who has a job connection and everyone knows fancy job places don’t hire people with elaborate nicknames as googleable public record.
From The New York Times:
Favoritism is almost universal in today’s job market. In interviews with hundreds of people on this topic, I found that all but a handful used the help of family and friendsto find 70 percent of the jobs they held over their lifetimes; they all used personal networks and insider information if it was available to them.
Help is not given to just anyone, nor is it available from everyone. Inequality reproduces itself because help is typically reserved for people who are “like me”: the people who live in my neighborhood, those who attend my church or school or those with whom I have worked in the past. It is only natural that when there are jobs to be had, people who know about them will tell the people who are close to them, those with whom they identify, and those who at some point can reciprocate the favor.
Because we still live largely segregated lives, such networking fosters categorical inequality: whites help other whites, especially when unemployment is high. Although people from every background may try to help their own, whites are more likely to hold the sorts of jobs that are protected from market competition, that pay a living wage and that have the potential to teach skills and allow for job training and advancement. So, just as opportunities are unequally distributed, they are also unequally redistributed.
All of this may make sense intuitively, but most people are unaware of the way racial ties affect their job prospects.
Before the whole “blacksnob” thing happened and back when I used to look at Essence Magazineand The American Prospect and other magazines and wondered how people got to be writers there, I used to say my parents’ only sin was that they didn’t know anyone. And by “anyone,” I mean I grew up in the Midwest with an engineer father and an ex-school teacher mother who had no connections to the worlds of art, television, journalism, film and writing I wished to be part of. So even though I was writing my first crappy novels at 13 and drawing elaborate cartoons and art pieces even earlier than that, I didn’t get much more than a nice pat on the head and some attaboys.
What to do with my talent? No one really knew, including myself. We would go to the occasional art show or writing competition and just marvel at how everyone seemed to be in on something but us — the only black people there.
Connections are how you get jobs. But you can’t make connections unless you either are A) born into them B) go to the right schools and live in the right neighborhoods or C) get the right kind of jobs where you meet people. But often you can’t get the “right” kind of job unless A or B happens. You need the connection BEFORE you get the job to get the job with all the connections in the first place. Since I went to Budget University and was not born in a major east or west coast city and my first gigs were in Midland, TX and Bakersfield, Calif., I needed an equalizer to get out of obscurity.
For me, that was the Internet and blogging, but I STILL needed to move to New York and Washington, D.C. to make the connections you need to get work, to stay in the forefront, to get offers and gigs and opportunities. I needed that network and I could only get it by going out there and creating it.
The same exists for jobs in engineering and accounting and other white collar positions where family and friend networking hook-ups are crucial in a work environment where black unemployment is more than 13 percent.
In the same piece, Ditomaso writes that for workers: “70 percent of the jobs they held over their lifetimes; they all used personal networks and insider information if it was available to them.”
That’s a lot of friends and family helping friends and family. And when so much of life is about who you know, what do you do when you don’t know anybody?