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Experience Weighs Less Than Paper

I’m beginning to think that these days, there is some underlying plan in the works when it comes to the hiring of a workforce and its subsequent employees.

Riddle me this…

Why would an entry-level Customer Service applicant (job description includes answering phones and taking orders) be required to have not only a minimum four-year degree but also be a certified Six Sigma Black Belt? Just so they can be considered as qualified to even apply?

Makes no sense.

The words ‘entry level’ indicate a beginning step in a company – the first rung on the ladder. Overly-gluttonous demands such as these indicate only a seasoned professional is capable of performing the ‘entry-level’ responsibilities.

This employer quite obviously does not want to hire an ‘entry-level’ employee to be trained in the company. These demands preclude anyone that would ever be considered ‘entry-level’.

Like I said, makes no sense.

Actually, the only avenue that makes any kind of sense in this scenario is that of a company looking to harness a desperate, unemployed, highly skilled professional they can place in an entry-level position, but more importantly – will only have to pay as an ‘entry-level’ newbie.

Under those conditions, the company gets what they consider to be ‘top-of-the-line’ for next to nothing and can subsequently fill other gaps in the organization – and do it for nickels and dimes.

It smacks of an attempt to corral the best possible employees in the lowest possible paying positions, all the while playing on the fears and pain of unemployment to squeeze more out of them than the job they were hired to perform.

Once they’re able to snare these people, the company would then have access to this employee’s skills and abilities while continuing to pay them as though they just jumped off the work-truck for the day. You can bet this company will find dozens of special projects for this newbie to champion, all the while he/she continues to be titled – and paid as “Entry-Level Customer Service”.

No promotions. No raises. No recognition.

More work. Do more. Much more. Being assured that “this is how you climb the ladder in this company”.

Something for nothing. That’s what it’s called. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

It makes me wonder what is really behind this recent rash of questionable employer/recruiter practices. What is the true intent? Something for nothing seems too simple and too easy of an answer.

A degree does not teach anyone how to interact with other people – be they vendors, co-workers or employees. It simply does not. That comes through hands-on-the-wheel experience. One of the most pronounced problems in the current labor atmosphere is that of ‘over educated’ employers believing the only employee worth regarding or hiring has – at minimum – a four-year degree – and a string of letters after their name. Again, the piece of paper designating thousands of dollars, does not in any way teach or prepare its recipient for personal, people interactions…or the many tripwires and pitfalls associated with those interactions.

No classroom ever can or will. You have to do it before you can know it.

If…you…did…not…do…it, you…do…not…know…it.

There is a growing number of freshly graduated and degreed ‘executives’ that were hired and thrown into the lion’s pit by virtue of nothing more than a degree who are now walking right out because they had NO experience to prepare them for what laid in wait.

Yet, no one seems to be able to see the correlation…even when their recruitment function has become a revolving door, and within six months, they’re out looking for the next degree to hire.

But where can such an approach to the workforce lead?

What good can ever come from the alienation of the workforce that begins with their initial hiring into the company? I can’t see much, and I do have the experience to know where to look.

Sure, the members of the ‘boys’ club’ will be most impressed as they crowd around in the club to compare credentials, clamoring to be the one with ‘best employees’ by virtue of degree, not tangible success.

It’s not a matter of, “We have the highest potential in our employees and with guidance, they will become our greatest performers. It’s nothing more than, “Look at all of the degreed employees we have! Our company is obviously upper-echelon. Just look at all the degrees. There’s no doubt we’ll be successful!”

Appearance, it would seem, is much more valuable a commodity than quality.

And in tandem, experience now weighs less than a piece of paper.

So much potential for profit and growth is brushed away for the sake of bragging rights. There really isn’t much more to gain, and there certainly isn’t much more to see.

Even if you do manage to manipulate these over-qualified newbies, how long do you really think it will be before their education and experience carries them to a better employer?

How long before they realize they’ve been thrown to the lions with zero preparation or training?

That is the short-sightedness of someone that ‘does…not…know’.

That is the short-sightedness of someone that does not know how to relate to other people in the work place…even though they may have a string of letters after their name longer than the alphabet itself.

“But wait a minute!”

Someone who succeeds without a degree is not afraid to voice their opinion. I say, so what?

Someone who succeeds without a degree is not afraid to embrace risk? Again, I say, so what?

So-called higher executives should chamber both of these qualities, not empty them from the cylinder. Employers should be looking for these kinds of people – degreed or not. It is so damaging to seek out only those that can be kept on a short leash and will never question their employer in any way. It can be catastrophic but rarely will an employer recognize it. It is much easier to vilify the executives who do not ‘fall into line’ than it ever is to allow question of guidance. Funny that the ‘blame’ for any failure will, almost without fail, be leveled on the ‘dissenting’ executive and never on the one that actually made the decision that was questioned.

The truly tragic element is that these two qualities are also present in folks who are degreed, sometimes to a greater level than those who are not. That fact seems to be overlooked quite a bit.

At this point, let me tell a little bit about myself…

I was Manager of Labor Relations, Assembly & Shipping at an old – but successful – manufacturing plant for twenty years. In that time, I hired and fired. I managed multiple classifications and departments. I wrote and administered labor agreements over those twenty years. I did all of this most successfully. And I did all of it without a degree or any string of letters. What I did not do was immediately acquiesce to every whim and want as though it was ‘gospel word from Heaven above’. At the same time, I never once disregarded or begrudged anyone who earned a degree simply because I do respect the hard work it took to get it.

That doesn’t change the fact that experience and degree are not interchangeable terms.

I have always believed that if, as a Manager, I see anything wrong or suspect or even questionable, I would be remiss for not bringing it to the attention of the management team for assessment. Unfortunately, in so may cases, my kind of thinking is viewed as radical and disruptive, no matter what may be at stake. No matter what may be exposed. People in power, as a rule, do not like to hear any kind of question regarding their opinions and directives, and it is most often relegated down to simple dissent. Those in power don’t have to act on everything that’s said – they’re the boss – but they lose all credibility if they ignore it all outright…and never listen to anyone but themselves.

I always told the folks that worked for me, “If you see something you don’t like or understand, you damn well better say something about it! I don’t see every possibility and I want to hear it if you disagree!”

And they did exactly that.

And I can tell you, there were many times that serious problems, be they production or relations, were not only solved but completely eradicated from the landscape.

And the company progressed as a result.

I believe that approach is much more sound than ignoring anyone and everyone without a degree, assuming they have nothing to say of any validity.

Business comes down to PEOPLE. If you ignore them or abuse them or just plain disregard them, you invite the very real dissent you fear so much. You will bring about that very dissent, not just from them but also from those around them.

Believe it or not, PEOPLE DO understand what’s happening to them. It comes down to a question of how much they’re willing to take before they break and run.

Too many ‘executives’ pride themselves on being so high and lofty and above the fray that they completely lose sight of the PEOPLE that work for them. Those very PEOPLE are the REAL reason the company makes money and survives, not the accumulated degrees of its management.

So, to sum it all up…

If you didn’t do it, you don’t know it.


It is far more profitable to trust in PEOPLE, not paper.

“Here endeth the lesson.”


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