College-educated Blacks have less job security

I’d like to follow up on a post from Brandon from last week on the gender gap in Black students with undergraduate degrees.

Are we protected by our education?

In the midst of this economic downturn, it only makes sense that people take refuge in education. This is especially the thinking of minorities and disadvantaged people, and rightfully so. “Education,” they say, “is a great equalizer.”

This may indeed be the case for entering the workforce. However, some recent, alarming data seems to indicate that having that degree isn’t helping Black folks keep their jobs.

Unemployment of college educated workers, by race

Unemployment of college educated workers, by race

What does this mean?

Make no mistake: you have more security being educated than you do being under-educated. That being said, we may need a little more nuance in our thinking about the whole “get educated to get employed” approach that most of us take to education. As my mentor & friend Calvin Mackie often says, “if it only makes dollars, then it doesn’t make sense.”

In this time where cornerstone companies like GM are entering bankruptcy and promising to come out “leaner” (read: they’re going to fire/lay off/buy out a lot of people), we have to protect ourselves. The harsh truth is that even good people are being let go.

What can we do?

Here are some things we can all do to survive & thrive in this economy:

  1. Add as much value as you can.
    At your job, do what you can to over-achieve. This goes without saying typically, but it’s especially important now. This is good because a record of over-achievement will serve your career well.
  2. Keep your resume up to date.
    Even if you’re not looking for work, re-visit your resume every 6 months. Have you had interesting projects or achievements on the job? Have you attended trainings or acquired some type of certification? Promotion? Adding these things as they happen ensures that you’re never unprepared. Consider creating a profile on LinkedIn. (For an example, look at my profile).
  3. Build transferable skills outside of your day job.
    Try to read, practice, volunteer and/or consult in areas of interest or expertise you have outside of your primary work. If there are things that you enjoy or are good at or want to learn that could have monetary value, grow these skills. After you’ve done some work on them, add them to your resume.
  4. Network to net work.
    The people you know can and will help you get the work you need and want. The old saying is “network or not work,” but I like this more positive, proactive version. We all know people that know people that are [at least] tangentially connected to whatever you want to pursue professionally. What we fail to realize is that they are often more than willing to talk with us, offer advice, and help us take our next step in our careers.

I’m sure many of you have tips we all can benefit from to help us find and keep jobs in this day and age. Please share them.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

6 responses to “College-educated Blacks have less job security”

  1. Young, Black, Educated and Living in the D says :

    Its sad but true. I can’t count how many of my friends who have gotten laid off in the past few months. Ivy League degrees and all. I’m starting to understand that there is no such thing as job security…unless you work for yourself (Light bulb!).

  2. Pat says :

    The missing piece on job security may well be the woeful absence of black teachers who may be the best models yet for black as well as white students.

    Education is not racist; people are.

    Blacks have enormous personal and life experience education that needs to be imparted to youth, without the racial bias.

    Educational curriculum is clinical, and therefore, impartial. Anyone can teach. In the 1700’s all of the teachers were male ministers, so we know anyone can teach.

    Blacks need to take their humanitarianism into the classroom, not into the streets.

  3. Garlin II says :

    @Pat,

    Are you saying that there’s Black people are underrepresented in the profession of teaching? I’ve never heard that, but if you have data to support that, please share it.

    Regardless, I agree with you that society as a whole would benefit from having teachers from diverse backgrounds in the classroom. I’d love to see that if it’s implemented in a way that trains them properly and in a way that’s not insulting to existing teachers. Basically, don’t do the Teach for America model.

    That being said, I doubt that college-educated Black people have received lower quality educations that would contribute to our “least hired, most fired” status.

    One Love. One II.

  4. Y,B and living in the D. says :

    I don’t think blacks are purposefully underrepresented in the profession of teaching. However, I do believe that economic and social circumstances have resulted in a lack of black, and more specifically black male, teachers. One cannot teach at any level without a college degree or an efficient amount of college earned credits. And that in itself has been a diffult task in the black community.

  5. Brandon Wallace says :

    Hi Garlin et al,
    I definitely want to comment on this issue. Firstly, I agree and wholeheartedly concur that it is worthwile getting an education–though this economy is turning over on its head-one of the basic definitions of “middle class” is still having access to wealth, education, and culture–and it still holds its seminal value as far as operating and existing in this culture is concerned. However, some things I have noticed over the years–and made some commentary on–as well as have posed to other people are that the dynamics are definitely shifting- drastically, much like they did during the depression, if to the same or a greater degree, I can’t tell yet. That said, one thing that I have noted is that it used to be–pre-Civil Rights Era that it was people of color–especially women of color- who went to school, got degrees and ended up working as somebody’s maid. Nowaways, its EVERYone that can and many times wil walk out of the doors of the university and go directly across to Walmart or Burger King to find employment. This was underscored to me several times. When I first got to Purdue University I walked into the local walmart and happened to start talking to the cashier. He told me that he had graduated from Purdue the year before. That was right at the beginning of my time at Purdue. Also, a few years later one of my friends and colleagues from Purdue finished her PHD and for the entire next year worked at JC Penny. I would like to know what is going on….and here someone lay this out for me. I have my own ideas but I think that people are either ignoring this phenomenon or blind to it. Id love to hear your thoughts.

  6. Garlin II says :

    @Brandon,

    I too have seen the over-educated, under-employed phenomenon all over the place.

    The economy is a factor, but I think the bigger issue is the cripling of an entrepreneurial spirit. Here, I’m defining entrepreneur as not just someone who starts their own business, but more broadly as one who is willing to take a personal or professional risk.

    Many over-educated folks often end up settling for safe careers, careers beneath their education level, or careers that don’t fulfill them because:

    1. They are saddled with Pacific-Ocean-sized loan debt after undergrad and/or grad school.
    2. Except for the independently wealth, in our country you need a job to have health care (even Wal Mart does this)
    3. They haven’t thought through what we really want professionally.

    The 3rd situation is understandable and natural to an extent. The first 2 have policy implications that, if acted on responsibly, can give these educated, intelligent people confidence to do what’s best for them, their families, and our nation.

    One of America’s promises is that it is the land of opportunity. However, if you’re presented with an opportunity and lack the confidence or ability to take it, it’s of no value.

    One Love. One II.

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