Further proof that success isn't always about hard work

A few days ago, Astarte ripped apart the classist assertion that poor people do it to themselves (they ascribe to “a culture that eschews education and hard work”… right) in her post The Hurricane of Caring. She said many things in the post, but this one struck a chord with me [emphasis mine]:

I’ve been working since I was eleven. We weren’t dirt poor, but poor enough that I knew if I ever wanted anything, I was going to have to get it myself. I picked strawberries for $.11 a pound (think about that when you buy a pound of Strawberries next time). I sold office supplies for $5.60 an hour, made pizzas for $4.95 an hour, and made burgers for $5.20 an hour… all while going to High School. When I was done there, I took portraits for $6.00 an hour. My first tech job didn’t come as a result of working hard. My first tech job, which landslided into many others, came because I knew someone who knew someone who got me the job.

When I saw that, I thought to myself, “holy fuck, that is so true.” Now, I’m coming from the opposite position of Astarte, I’m one of the lazy rich kids who doesn’t know the true meaning of “hard work”. I’m 23 years old and I’ve never had a real job. Heck, I just graduated University and instead of going into the work force (of course, what I would use my Asian Studies degree for I have no idea), I’ve taken a year off to get my life taken care of before I go off to Japan to do language school (two years of learning the language to become fluent). Instead of the crippling debt that my friends have (well, less crippling for my Canadian friends than for my American ones, but still sizeable), I have money in the bank to use as I see fit. When I decide to start my own company, a dream of mine I have no doubt will be fulfilled, I’ll have the not only the financial support of my family but total access to their social network as well. And if anyone tries to tell you that the social network isn’t important, or isn’t as important as “hard work”, I say from personal experience that they’re lying their asses off or just plain ignorant.

I was talking to my uncle about a month ago about my elder sister who just went to law school. He turned to me and did to me what my dad is smart enough not to: he said I should go. After he listed off his reasons, I laughed at him (in a mostly nice way) and said that his points were valid but I’m just not interested. Apparently, me going to Japan and wanting to work in the video game industry is a waste of my time. Right. He then said that he had a friend in LA who runs an agent firm and that I should go get a job there.

side note: Okay, in what world do I look like the kind of person who would be able to smooze with celebrities? Seriously, I don’t know why he thought it would be a good idea to unleash me, the girl who speaks her mind 99% of the time and fuck the consequences, on a group of people who belong to a culture I consider to be vapid, boring, and part of the problem our society has with the evil -ism’s of all kinds.

Key point: Based on nothing more than a family connection and a hypothetical ability to do the job, I would be able to begin a career with a good salary and a lot of potential for upward movement.

Which brings me to the final straw that sparked this post: today I got a letter from UBC (my alma mater) that was an invitation to join the “Golden Key International Honour Society”. Well, UBC was obviously very excited because they sent me two copies (hopefully on recycled paper, otherwise whole forests of trees will mourn the loss). Somehow I managed to be in the top 15% of my faculty (apparently they don’t count my F from failing calculus, but even so I had a 77.7% average, which is on the top end of a B+ average for you non-Canadians) which qualified me.

I’m all for making my resume look good, but the first thing I noticed was an $80 membership fee. Honour societies already evoke the whole idea of elitist organizations that are primarily about furthering the careers of their wealthy members’ children, but it made me wary to see such an obvious way for discouraging the non-wealthy prospective members from joining. Perhaps I’m being too cynical – $80 may be a large amount of money, but many people may see it as an acceptable trade off for all the services that are available by becoming a member. In addition to the advertised scholarship programs, I did notice that once you became a member there was information on student loan debt reduction. Still, it sounds more like excuses to my ears than anything else.

In the end, I did become a member (I called my dad to talk to him about it, got my sister instead and she said “do it” without hesitation; she’s a member, too). I’m probably a big hypocrite for doing it, but if I have an opportunity to help my chances of getting the job I want in the future than I’m going to take it.

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9 thoughts on “Further proof that success isn't always about hard work

  1. yeah it’s so true, the whole connections thing. my job at kumon, enda b kids, and also my pass job at my old highschool was just all connections! the only job i got through my own “hard work” was the one at plum XD it’s sad, but true ^^” that’s how the elitist remains elitist – after all, elites know elites.

  2. Joyce – Glad to see you actually commenting 😛 But, yeah, connections are one main way that the elites remain elite.

    DS – I think it’s mostly just to put on my resume; maybe if I end up working for an American or Canadian company before striking it out on my own it’ll be a point in my favour. Who knows. The events looked dumb to me too, but I never was one for events. My family was shocked that I even went to my own graduation.

  3. Hey, I had a 3.9 and I didn’t get an invitation! Working your ass off in grad school is so NOT worth it! We get passed over for all the good stuff that you get as an under grad. Humph!

    But, to your actual point- yes, it’s who you know, not what you know. As I like to say (in most cases) who you know gets you in the door, but what you know keeps you there. A friend might get you the job, but lets face it, if you are a total dumb ass with no work ethic, it is very unlikely you will *keep* the job.

    And unrleated, well, you did mention it, but this is just us. Are you talking HW agent types? Or someone who knows someone who knows a literary agent? What’s the point of those connections if not to abuse them? LOL Yah, anyone without the connections (like me- look at all my work to find a job even though I have the education and experience) whines, but if they had them, they would so use them.

  4. 3.9 = what letter grade? I never figured that stuff out LOL I don’t even remember how percentages correlate to letter grades in the American system. But, yeah, it is somewhat arbitrary ’cause it’s top 15% of your faculty/major – which I guess says something about my faculty!

    You’re right in the keeping the job part, unless it’s your family company. Or you get relegated to a useless job that pays well but doesn’t put any real responsibility on your shoulders. For dumb rich kids that sometimes happens.

    HW agent types. So far my only literary connections are useful only after we find an agent – for negotiating contracts and the like.

  5. So, got any contacts for a job with opportunities for advancement? I’ve had to deal with enough media relations bullshit in this one that I could probably knock out press releases one after the other. And technical writing experience!

  6. DS – LOL. I’d have to talk to my uncle; he’s the one with the hookups. Although I do warn you, the tech company that he got Josh a job in several years ago tanked (and screwed him out of like 1k dollars). It was a great idea, but the people running it were clueless about technology and ended screwing the company over; I think after it went bankrupt it was sold to Kodak or something, but not soon enough for Josh to get the last of his pay.

  7. “As I like to say (in most cases) who you know gets you in the door, but what you know keeps you there.”

    Actually, my experience says otherwise: a lot of incompetent or mediocre workers with good connections not only get the plum jobs, but their upper class connections ensure that they all cover their asses. So they *keep* the jobs, as well.

    As always, your mileage may vary and all that. 🙂

    And I think there’s a different between networking, and using your parent’s neighbors at your Hamptons summer home to land a job in a publishing firm. But maybe that’s just me. In the first case, you do the work *locating and fostering* contacts; the other is based on being able to move in rich social networks.

    As to the question of whether we would all use such resources to our advantage, if we had them – this isn’t the point. In fact, that reasoning *could* be used to excuse alot of bad behavior. The value of this post is that the author is obviously aware, or becomming aware, of her class status and how it gives her advantages simply through an accident of birth. Maybe more will become more aware as well, reading her post. The awareness can then lead to change.

  8. SD – I agree with you on the upper class being kept in jobs pretty much solely on their connections. While I can’t speak from personal experience job-wise, the school I went to (private, obviously *self-depreciating laugh*) was full of rich kids who didn’t give a shit because their parents’ connections would get them into university, into a job, etc. Learning? Who needs it! They certainly didn’t.

    Also, good point on networking versus using a social network. Although sometimes the latter does take work, smoozing effectively once you’ve been introduced, it doesn’t have to. In the case with my cousin that I noted (the tech company that tanked), family connections got him a foot in the door but he still had to prove his mettle.

    The value of this post is that the author is obviously aware, or becomming aware, of her class status… Maybe more will become more aware as well… The awareness can then lead to change.

    It is so weird seeing that chain of thought be applied to me and my life. I know, I know, it’s the kind of thing I advocate all the time here, but… The thought that me, personally, right now, just by talking about my privilege, could possibly help lead to change… It’s just freaky.

    As always, thanks for commenting, SD. I’m glad that you’re finally back in action in the blogworld ^_^

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