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Even though I had a bachelor’s degree in journalism and three summer internships, I didn’t find a good-paying newspaper job right away. In fact, my situation got so bad after I graduated on Mother’s Day of 1996 that by fall, I found myself working the graveyard shift as a grocery stocker at Piggly Wiggly. The nightmare was made all the more Kafkaesque by all the “Shop the Pig!” announcements that blared every so often over the P.A. system – offending my sensibilities as an observant Muslim who doesn’t eat pork.

After a month or so at Piggly Wiggly, a school teacher job opened up, and I took it. A month or so after that, a friend called with an offer to work full time at one of the local newspapers. I’ve been in the news industry ever since. But that rough patch right before I became a full-time journalist reminds me that beyond all the hard work I did in college, at the end of the day it came down to getting a lucky break.

Jessi Streib, a sociology professor, has found through research with business majors and hiring agents that when it comes to the job search for college graduates, luck plays a much bigger role in finding a good-paying job than people may think.

“Employers regularly offer graduating students different amounts to do similar jobs,” Streib writes, “so it’s hard for the soon-to-be grads to develop a general idea about what they should be paid for the type of work they want to do.”

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Jamaal Abdul-Alim

Education Editor

College graduates are often in the dark when it comes to hiring practices and salaries. Chuck Savage / The Image Bank via Getty Images

College may not be the ‘great equalizer’ − luck and hiring practices also play a role, a sociologist explains

Jessi Streib, Duke University

A new study finds that hiring practices, not a bachelor’s degree, may be the ‘great equalizer’ of opportunity for some soon-to-be grads.


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