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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/17/15

Getting a Good Job is Stacked Against the Poor

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I graduated with my BBA in Public Administration and Environmental Studies (minors in general business and political science) in 2004. After seven years of struggling to find a job, I went back to school. In 2013, I graduated with my Master of Environmental Law and Policy. Whenever I apply to a job, I'm either overqualified or underqualified, according to employers. The past few years, I've been lucky enough to find temp jobs here and there, making just under $11,000/year. Recently, I applied for a program-assistant position I really wanted at an environmental organization. Their response to me was, "I regret to inform you that your application will not be moving forward. This particular position is highly administrative and we feel you are overqualified with a Master's degree."

Since I need to pay rent and am trying to live off the small amount I get in food stamps, I have been applying for every job posting I see. I was excited to finally get a job interview for a cashier job at HomeGoods Store and a dishwashing job at Papa Vino's. Maybe my luck was changing! Unfortunately, they both said I was overqualified. Both said my resume was "impressive" even after I really dumbed it down. I guess they didn't want to hire someone who was impressive--nothing but the worst employees is acceptable to these employers.

Furthermore, I don't see how my resume is impressive. Most of my positions are low-level, temp jobs, or unpaid positions. I interned with the Michigan House of Representatives and volunteered with a few organizations. How is that impressive in the slightest?

So, since I'm supposedly overqualified, that means I should starve and become homeless. It makes no sense.

I found that while being poor, the system is geared against you from getting ahead. For one thing, I had to put up a huge battle to get on food stamps. Getting a job is harder for the poor too. For instance, to apply for jobs at Wayne State University, you have to take a clerical test, which requires the poor to skip a meal to afford for parking on campus, and then they still don't ever call you for a job interview. Why waste my time and money if I'm not even going to be considered? Some employers have wanted me to go into debt to fly to DC for an interview, something that us poor people can't afford. So, another wealthy individual gets the job. I applied for jobs with Congress but am told that generally only those who can afford to move to DC to work for free as an intern get hired for a paid position.

I'm about to lose a tooth unless I have gum surgery soon. My gums are healthy because I take good care of them, but my frenum attachment, a bone below the tooth, descended, pulling the gum down. Medicaid won't cover the surgery and free clinics only do routine care, so I guess I will just lose the tooth. The US's economic policies and wacky employer-hiring practices make the rich richer and poor poorer. Something needs to change.

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William holds a BBA from Western Michigan University and a Master of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School.

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