Julie Hengen, French and Spanish, Third Year
In today’s highly competitive job market, using family relations to secure valuable work experience is irresistible. Unfortunately, doing so disadvantages those who can’t.
This is why internships should be valued less by employers, and why companies and schools should also focus more on accessibility programmes and diversity for young people.
Receiving a helping hand from family and friends when it comes to getting a foot in the door is common, and it’s far from a crime. Subtle nepotism pervades all social classes and professions, from finding a summer job at the local grocery store to cronyism on an international scale.
"I think that internships should be earned based on merit, and that nepotism is unethical. I am not sure, however, if avoiding nepotism as an applicant would do anything to put a stop to the practice." https://t.co/MmYOcudUaH— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 25, 2018
Truthfully, preferential treatment may even have its positive sides; it could open doors for marginalised groups to get a foothold in industries from which they have been historically excluded.
Sofia Coppola’s entrance into the film industry, for instance, is patently nepotistic. And yet her success marked an important step forward for women in a male-dominated industry, allowing for others to follow her.
Anyone who’s got a great opportunity lined up would be unwise not to take it
Nevertheless, these cases are the exception. When it comes to the general population, practising ‘who-you-know’-ism is a hindrance to achieving equal opportunities for all.
The numbers speak for themselves: according to the Social Mobility Barometer published by the Social Mobility Commission in 2021, 46 per cent of all adults in the United Kingdom expressed the belief that where you end up in society is predominantly determined by your background and who your parents are.
And up to 48 per cent of people with a high level of education claimed that their background had been advantageous in getting them there.
Handshake UK's latest research highlighting "Netpotism" (online nepotism) was raised as part of a parliamentary discussion on youth unemployment last week. Find out what @d_barker & peers had to say on the issue hampering SMEs in their search for talent https://t.co/EV6e2mfc84 pic.twitter.com/oB8e2v3FwB— Handshake UK (@JoinHandshakeUK) May 17, 2021
And it makes sense: professional opportunities largely go hand in hand with family wealth. Unfortunately, part-timing a working-class job to pay the bills does not carry the same weight as a prestigious summer internship at a renowned firm.
At the other end of the spectrum, many less well-off students end up finding themselves in a catch-22 situation where their lack of experience hinders them from finding employment and their lack of connections and assets keep them from gaining experience.
Nepotism will never fully disappear from the job market
On that note, the pandemic has only contributed to impeding social mobility and increasing the ever-persistent class gap. According to a report made by Handshake UK, the uncertainty caused by the crisis has led to an increasing number of employers relying on word of mouth and their personal networks when it comes to making HR decisions.
Likewise, the move towards online recruitment due to COVID restrictions should have been an opportunity to level the playing field. Instead, the connections section and who-do-you-know indications on professional networks such as LinkedIn only reinforce the feeling that who you are matters more than what you are capable of.
Keeping it in the family: is nepotism a barrier to graduate jobs? http://t.co/cqBVFaa3hk— The Guardian (@guardian) September 17, 2015
This is by no means to say that accepting a helping hand into a first job or a good internship dismantles the experience’s validity. Anyone who’s got a great opportunity lined up would be unwise not to take it, no matter how it came about.
Nepotism will never fully disappear from the job market, and while it might not be entirely fair, with all the pressure on students these days it’s understandable.
More and more companies have begun to recognise the benefits of having a diverse and skilled workforce
It would be naïve to expect young graduates to start turning down great professional prospects on nothing more but a moral basis.
Consequently, it’s important for internships and work experience to be attributed less importance overall, especially since not everyone has the same chances at acquiring them.
Nepotism at its finest: 7 out of 10 young people use family connections to get a first job#employment #workexperience #YoungPeople #youthunemployment https://t.co/QoPFGfwijd pic.twitter.com/M8V8hzsAq2— Shout Out UK (@Shoutout_UK) May 29, 2018
Rather than expecting a long list of impressive placements, employers and schools should be offering access schemes to assist disadvantaged students in receiving professional opportunities and matching their better-connected peers.
Luckily, more and more companies have begun to recognise the benefits of having a diverse and skilled workforce, but there is still a long way to go.
It’s important to recognise that even behind the most subtle of inequalities, there is a bigger issue at hand.
It seems that despite the common notion that anyone who works hard can make it to the top, glass floors and ceiling are still keeping opposite social classes at different ends of the scale of success. It is up to employers and school to change this.
Featured image: Unsplash | Chris Liverani
Should students avoid using family connections in the name of fairness? Let us know @EpigramOpinion !