What Employers Want You to Learn

Employers want you to have a very specific set of personal skills. Among the top of the list are:  critical thinking, written and oral communications, inquiry and analysis, quantitative literacy, information literacy, team work and problem solving, life long learning. Notice that this list of priorities does not include, “a college degree from XYZ university” or “a major in ABC”.  This list prioritizes what you need to be able to do to be a valued employee. Your challenge is to wisely invest your time and money in learning that can provide these personal skills. The bottom line is that simply getting a college degree (“getting the piece of paper”) is not sufficient to meet these employer needs.

You need to learn to be able to compete today. Far-reaching global, economic and technological developments have converged to make post-secondary learning an imperative for almost everyone.

Buzz Today Source: Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP): Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College Both the country’s future economic growth and individual opportunity are now closely tied to the attainment of high levels of knowledge and skill, and to the ability to continuing learning over a lifetime. Former Harvard University President Derek Bok reports that college students are under-performing in virtually every area of academic endeavor including skills such as critical thinking, writing and quantitative reasoning.

So a question you should be asking is: “Why are employers looking for better ways to hire?” I defer to Laszio Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations to answer this question. “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.s are worthless as a criteria for hiring and test scores are worthless – no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said. “Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything…On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything.” Source: New York Times Interview

The important thing about this information, is what it means to you – someone trying to decide the best course of action to your learn-prosper future. Here is the main take away. When it comes to getting a better job, one that is challenging, fulfilling and pays well, the things that have been valuable in the past are far less valuable today. Your opportunities are much more defined by how accomplished you are in the skills listed in the first paragraph of this blog than either the major or which college or university you attended. This all brings us to a discussion about the cost and value of your learning. This is a topic I will cover in future blog posts here. In the meantime, it is valuable to read “Your Future is Calling” to better understand why you should view learning as the path to the prosperous future you desire.

Control What You Can – Make Sure You Are In The 64%

Who decides?

Neither the governor nor the college professors have responsibility for the degree you decide to earn.  You do.   Only you can determine if your degree fits you and your desired future.  So let’s get specific here.   Buzz Today Source: The Wall Street Journal:  Many liberal-arts graduates, even from the best schools, aren’t getting jobs in large part because they didn’t learn much in school. They can’t write or speak well or intelligently analyze what they read. In the research “Academically Adrift” researchers found that 36% of college students made no discernible progress in the ability to think and analyze critically after four years of school. .

Notice that this finding is about the performance of students while in school, not about what they study.  When it comes to what you study, I am not of the opinion that math and science are good and liberal arts degrees are bad.

The choice of the degree is important, especially in terms of employment opportunities.  But the Academically Adrift research indicates that the learner has real responsibility for studying enough to get something of value out of their educational experience.

It’s not simply about getting that piece of paper with your name on it. Much of the discussion in the education world focuses on institutional responsibility and policy options intended to improve institutional outcomes.

My conversation is more about individual outcomes and what you can (must) do to improve those for yourself and your loved ones.  Those you have control over.

You have almost no control over institutional outcomes. While important, our conversation here has much more to do with you and your decisions than with any university or the US Department of Education policies. A personal strategy to just “get a degree” provides no guarantee to a good job in an increasingly competitive global economy.

In the end, it is not the governor, nor your professors, nor your parents, nor your employer who are responsible for your employability.  It’s you.  You need good information and a mentor to make good choices in this decision.