For my thesis class, I was assigned to read a few chapters from a book by John L. Munschauer called Jobs for English Majors and Other Smart People. In his book, Munschauer describes three different types of employment: The Meritocracy, American Traditional and Do-It-Yourself.
According to Munschauer, it is important to understand the types of employment because it will allow you to get inside the mind of employers. Knowing the focus of their search will help you to tailor your resume to match their needs. As a soon-to-be graduate, I figured I would pass his advice on to others who may benefit.
Employers who are hiring following the system of meritocracy are more like recruiters. They seek the best of the best. They will place emphasis on your degree and the university at which you’ve earned it. They will also focus on your GPA.
When it comes to meritocracy, I think of the son of the owner of a huge big-name company. As a boy, he was placed in the best pre-k, went on to the best elementary school, and so on. Finally, when he graduates from his prestigious high school, he moves on to Ivy League to obtain his degree. Because of his education, he is prioritized by employers, regardless of his individual skills and abilities. If his degree matches the job description, that Ivy-League-graduate is getting the job.
At Gannon, this may not be as likely for us Gannon graduates. While Gannon is prestigious within the Erie community, it is not as remarkable on a larger scale. For example, a 4.0 GPA and engineering degree from a Gannon graduate just doesn’t look the same to a meritocratic employer as a 4.0 GPA and engineering degree from an Ivy League. However, those hired into a meritocracy are often recruited from their schools and asked to apply so that the employer is confident in the quality of the many applicants.
From my understanding, American Traditional employment focuses on the skills. Prestigious schools are less influential, so long as a person’s skills and experiences match the employer’s need.
This is most likely what I will be focusing on as an English major. There is no job titled “English,” so I have to be more strategic in my application processes. This means that my resume should define my skills to show employers that my abilities are versatile. I must use my skills to prove that I am the best fit for a job. For example, if I am applying for a public relations job, I should emphasize my skills in writing, communication, interviewing, etc. to prove to the employer that I can fill their need and perform the job well, despite my degree not exactly being in public relations.
This type of employment is where you create the customer. The examples Munschauer uses in his book include the following:
“An artist who paints a picture a buyer cannot resist creates a customer.”
“An extraordinary dancer at a concert hall entices us to buy a ticket”
Though these examples best explain the “Do-It-Yourself employment, it is not limited to the arts. It may also include individuals who are responsible for bringing in customers or convincing them that they have a need that the business can fulfill.
These jobs can often, though not always, turn into starting your own company or business.
After I read about these three types of employment, I had a headache. I had no idea that hiring an employee had so muchto it. I believed that employers simply had a need and wanted the best applicant to fill it. However, after processing a bit, I realized that my thought was still true. The only difference was that the employers in each of these three methods were focusing on different qualities in their applicants, which affected how and why they get the job.
Now, when I am applying for jobs, I will consider whether the employer of interest is likely to be following the method of Meritocracy or American Tradition.
(Disclaimer, I read the book through a photocopy and the page numbers were cut off, which is why I did not include in-text citations. But I will include a bibliographic citation below because… I’m an English major… it’s what I do.)
Menschauer, John L. Jobs for English Majors and Other Smart People. Petersons Guides, 1991, Chapter 2.