Laid-off professionals are “dumbing down” their resumes to avoid being rejected as overqualified when applying for jobs outside their former field, reported the Boston Globe. Job seekers are deleting graduate degrees and high-level jobs, and revising titles (for example, from Marketing Director to Marketing Manager).
It was Globe reporter Katie Johnston Chase who chose the classist phrase “dumbing down,” not one of the jobseekers she interviewed. I understand that the pain of endless recession has even hit highly educated professionals who suddenly become financially insecure and have to scramble for work outside their familiar fields. But what makes them or this reporter presume that intelligence is what distinguishes people in working-class jobs from those in professional managerial jobs? Some of these PhDs-turned-waiters may be surprised to find that their memories aren’t up to the task of remembering all the diners’ requests.
The article cites a supposedly famous “20 percent rule” that bosses should be 20 percent smarter than their employees. In what universe is that true? I remember that when my mom was a smart nurse working for a dumb doctor, whenever she would catch his errors, he would say, “I knew that. I was just testing you.” Human stupidity doesn’t stop at any class borders; managers as a group probably have about the same mix of sharp and dull as everyone else. Or maybe not, since privilege tends to make people oblivious – or even amoral: a behavioral science study cited in another Boston Globe article found that highly competent white male managers tended to score very high on a test of psychopathology.
Some downward mobility wannabes went beyond deleting their Fullbrights from their resumes. A former website developer said he changed his way of speaking during an interview at Econo Lube ‘N Tune. “I deliberately hesitated a quarter second before every answer,” he said, and at one point he faked a “faint look of panic.” He got the job. The implied assumption is that not only the formal aspects of cultural capital such as degrees must be shed to break into the working-class labor force, but also the intangible cultural capital as well, such as the air of confident entitlement.
How many professional-middle-class job seekers do you imagine are trying to pose as working class? I would love to be a fly on the wall for some of those performances. I wonder if they use those awful, fake-working-class accents, with “dese” and “dose” and “ain’t gotta,” that elite-educated left sectarians used in the 70s to try to blend in (usually unsuccessfully) with the “proletariat”? Those posers always wore plaid flannel shirts; what part of their closet do you think today’s slumming job-seekers are dressing from for these job interviews they think are beneath them?
The other classist aspect to this article is that it’s part of the mainstream media’s voluminous coverage about laid-off professionals and the working-class jobs they’ve been reduced to seeking – in contrast with the pathetically skimpy coverage of how this Great Recession has affected working-class and chronically poor unemployed people. How are they affected when laid-off professionals stoop to taking the jobs they need?
High unemployment rates are dragging on and on, changing the lives of Americans at all class levels. But since the impact on the formerly working poor is the most devastating, shouldn’t it be the biggest news?