A few years ago, I applied for a job at one of the world’s biggest oil and energy companies. I hadn’t sought it out; I’d been interestingly head-hunted, which is at the same time complimentary: someone employed looked at my CV and seriously considered it above others; and creepy: how many companies and agencies have access to our phone numbers, email and house addresses via an on-line application?
Leaving that minor worry aside, I’ll gladly tell you that I impressed in a phone interview, did very well in two computer tests and charmed in two face to face interviews. You may refer me now to my article on humility, if it weren’t for the result of this 2 month process. After having done all these interviews and exams, and having spent a considerable amount of time researching and of money travelling, I was told I wouldn’t be taken on because I didn’t have a BSc: my experience, grades and skills were laudatory to them, but they couldn’t see how a BA holder would be able to function in an analytical role.
…this may seem far removed from a graduate’s situation, but it isn’t.
This is not a one off complaint however. Many BA graduates find themselves in exactly the same situation: spending hours writing carefully-crafted CVs and applications, attending interviews and dreaded Assessment Centre,only to be turned down for something to do with their past that was never meant to be a negative. In a way, it makes a BA a semi-degree: not worth the paper it’s written on to some employers.
The problem is also understood at the opposite end of the world. Scott Thompson, current CEO of Yahoo and past President of PayPal, is accused by Yahoo’s largest stakeholder, the Third Point, of falsifying CV information, namely a degree in Computer Science; the parent company now wants an interim CEO put forward as Mr Thompson is further investigated. Now, this may seem far removed from a graduate’s situation, but it isn’t.
Society wanted its children to be better educated…
Whether Mr Thompson is being ignominiously taken off the job for this reason or another, it is ridiculous that this is even a passable excuse: a man who has so much experience of being a CEO (PayPal grew tremendously under Mr Thompson) is being shouted down because his degree is not right. Do employers truly believe that science university leavers have undergone a substantially different education process or that their minds are wired differently? Some do. Some believe that remembering a plethora of equations and working in highly logical fashion is only ever found in the sciences, because you would never get that cramming of information in history or in the memorisation of rigid grammar and its exceptions, nor in formulating an argument in the thesis/antithesis/synthesis style in any arts-based subject. Oh no, but of course you would.
At this point, it’s easy for me to start blaming the government for having allowed a surge of BA students as opposed to BSc students, which is true to an extent, but it’s not the government’s fault this happened. Society wanted its children to be better educated, to be degree educated, and more often than not people haven’t been attracted to the sciences, but to the arts. But the arts isn’t just English, Languages, Linguistics, History, and Geography any more, it is a new pool, welcoming in whatever new subject that should be reserved for an MA or PhD title, and which has the result of tarnishing and undermining the rest.
As one lecturer once told me and others in a seminar…
It’s one argument, perhaps, but it still doesn’t allow employers to think that a BA branded at the top of the CV is a sign of unreliability, of an unsound mind, or of not being up to the same challenges as a BSc holder. Yes, a BA holder is less likely to be able to get through a segment of data that needs various formulae applied without the aid of a calculator, but all of that is done on a computer, in any case. Perhaps, the reality is that employers think that BA holders would provoke too much independent thought, trouncing a draconian hierarchy where managers give their underlings more and more work for less and less pay, but I think any recent graduate would jump at the chance of any job, forgetting all about any rebellious moral code at university. As one lecturer once told me and others in a seminar, “university is not about education, but indoctrination: every day you come in, sit down, listen and do the work I tell you. It’s only here to prepare you for office work”. This is sadly the case, so employers should listen.
Image courtesy of Cienpies Design