Talent Is Equally Distributed, But Opportunity Is Not

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America’s recent legacy of trickle down economics has many implications, namely a wide division between the haves and the have-nots. When we talk about this phenomenon, we tend to discuss the reality as if it were merely the economy, but what leads to such an uneven playing field. As education adapts to the modern world, such as online education and distributed access to information and learning, it becomes more obvious that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity isn’t.

This concept comes from one of the leaders in online education: Arizona State University (ASU) President, Dr. Michael Crow, has been out in front of the movement to offer online education in order to provide more access and overcome barriers. What Dr. Crow understands is that we haven’t been operating on an even playing field and this has created barriers that not only keep people from educations, but keep our society under educated, trained and employable.

The Poverty Barrier

Poverty creates some obvious problems with receiving higher education. The cost of attending college has become prohibitive for many. Even with financial aid, much of the financial assistance is received in the form of loans in which young people are less and less willing to take on particularly with no guarantee of future earnings.

There are also more subtle frictions to education that stem from lower economic status. One might think that being poor would be a natural incentive because those in poverty want to escape their economic reality and degrees produce higher earnings, but statistics show that college is often perceived as an unattainable goal. Because of this perception and/or reality, there is usually a lack of planning, savings or academic commitment.

Society Implications

There are some out there who think this is merely the problem of those who can’t afford education, but the implications affect everyone. When we don’t have enough qualified people to fill positions, there is a drag on the whole economy. Businesses can’t expand without adequate skilled workers. Innovations don’t evolve at as quickly and there are many costs to society from welfare to crime.

Because of these factors, there is strong justification to return to a free or at least less expensive post secondary education system. I say return because in the 70s college was tuition free in California within the UC system and across the country, state colleges were so inexpensive that they could be paid for with a part-time job. Now, the cost of college has skyrocketed to the point that millennials don’t see it as a good investment in general, and it is particularly true among the poor.

The Point

One point of resistance when we talk about providing college for free like much of the rest of the world does is its cost. When we dig deep into the real costs, we see that student loan debt is over 2 trillion dollars, and students are having increasingly difficult time paying back student loans. This is creating a burden on our society in multiple ways.

First, the money is borrowed, then there is the cost to try and collect. Plus, students feel trapped by the debt and avoid taking on additional debt that could be very valuable, like going to graduate school or buying a home. Both of these things hinder economic development, and we all pay for an economy that doesn’t grow to its potential.

Second, a better educated population earns more, providing more tax revenue and reduces the burdens of social programs. This should be easily understood. It’s basically the principle of you can pay me now or pay me later. When we invest in our society the future costs go down and we prosper across the board. When we don’t we must manage pervasive crises. It requires forward thinking, but it is better to invest upfront for everyone.

Ultimately, we must come around to the idea that the talent among us is distributed equally, but the opportunity isn’t. When we can accept this, then we can put down limiting perceptions that people who don’t succeed are just lazy or not as capable. This understanding helps promote a more civil and productive society where people pursue their dreams based on desires and not fears. And with democratizing innovations like the internet, there is no reason to hoard education and opportunity, especially when everyone can benefit from increased availability.  

4 Things to Consider Before Taking the Job

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When we first apply for a job, most of us only think about being hired so we can begin making a living for ourselves. However, as a job-seeker, there is more to take into consideration presides a salary. Often, we think that we are the only one who benefits from being hired, when in fact, the organization benefits as well.

You have been offered a position because they see value in you. Therefore, it is important that the organization show how much they value you as an employee. There are four things that I look for when contemplating whether to take a position or not.

Diverse workforce.

Understanding cultural competency is a major aspect that many organizations and non-profits promotes to its employees so they can effectively serve clients from all walks of life. However, many organization’s employees are not as diverse as it could be. Ask yourself if your potential employer is diverse. Some ways of evaluating its diversity includes race, gender, sexual orientation, body-size diversity, diversity of able-bodyism, etc. A major aspect for me would be cultural expression through hair. For instance, if men of color are expected to only have low-top fades and women of color can only wear their hair straight, then you may want to reevaluate the position.

Daily Tasks. 

Many of us have advanced degrees that has given us specific training to do particular skill sets and work with various populations. Some of which requires us to be licensed to practice. When deciding whether or not to take the job ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this what I have been trained to do?
  2. Does it require an advanced degree?
  3. Does it require a professional license?
  4. Do I like this daily tasks?
  5. Am I good at the daily tasks?

Work Culture. 

According to Forbes, culture is the set of behaviors, values, artifacts, reward systems, and rituals that make up your organization. Think back to your interview and ask yourself whether it was a warm or cold feeling. When you asked about their work culture, what did they say? What is valued: results or relationships. This is also where self expression comes into play. If you are prohibited from having office decor that expresses your culture, nationality, race, etc., then you may want to reevaluate accepting the position.

If you did not feel comfortable, chances are you won’t like or fit in well with the work culture. If the employer is not understanding about you missing days because you are sick or because of a family crisis, then you may want to reevaluate the position. Do you identify with the mission, vision, and goals of the organization? If they do not match with your mission, vision, and goals then you may want to reconsider. One last thing, if the work place values competition and not collaboration and helping one another, or if on the job training is minimal and not ongoing, then you may want to reevaluate the position.

Benefits and Opportunities. 

Employers want employees who are invested in the company, but employees should want employers who are invested in them. Before you say yes to the job evaluate what’s in it for you. Are there opportunities for you to attend conferences and training events to better hone your skills and increase your credibility? Will your employer give you paid time off to attend such events?

Will they support you financially to attend these events? If you need supervision for your advanced license, ask if they have an advanced licensed supervisor so you don’t have to outsource it out of pocket. Also, evaluate the position. Are there any opportunities for promotions and growth or is it a terminal position? If there is no opportunity for growth, you may want to reevaluate saying yes.

There many more things that should come to mind when deciding whether or not to accept a position. The biggest thing is what is your initial feeling when you go to the interview and once you leave. Go with your gut feeling. Your gut instinct is never wrong so trust it. If you felt on edge before and after the interview or you felt uncertain about the fit, then you may want to ask some followup questions addressing your concerns before committing to that position.

Do not settle for anything less but the best. There are many great opportunities waiting for you so hang in there. Accept a position that is going to help you grow as a professional and help you achieve your goals. It’s one thing to get a career and another to get a career that you love.

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