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.

Credentials Matter

Degrees are important. They matter to both employers and students. Markets confirm that it is not just about what you learn. It is also about what your learning communicates to others. In many cases, having known credentials are required to even be considered.

BUZZ Today Source: Georgia Tech Announces Massive Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science While courses related to OMS CS (Online Masters Degree in Computer Science) will be available free of charge on the Udacity site, only those granted admission to Georgia Tech will receive credit. Degree-seeking students will pay tuition based either on individual course or the entire degree program. Georgia Tcch and Udacity also will develop a separate credential for those who successfully complete courses but do not qualify for full graduate standing. Source: Harvard University faculty member blog on Computer Science CS50x MOOC: CS50x’s “completion rate” is (defined as submission of all work with scores of at least 60%) was .9% out of 150,349 who registered. By contrast, 702 out of 706 students (99.6%) “completed” CS50 on campus this past fall (2012).

The experiments with MOOCs are revealing some important information about how students are viewing the MOOC value proposition. Let’s look at the Georgia Tech Masters degree in computer science. With help from AT&T this innovative and highly cost competitive master’s degree will cost $7,000 to the student. This cost for a master’s degree from a highly prestigious university is rightfully being hailed as a real break through in the cost of an accredited degree. The development has been praised as true innovation. It is.

But what is interesting for the discussion here, is how the students admitted to the degree granting program view the MOOC. As with CS50 at Harvard, the MOOC will deliver the exact same content to both admitted university students and anyone who desires to take the program content. In both the Harvard and Georgia Tech situations, students enrolled in the credit granting activity (CS50 in the Harvard University case and OMS CS admitted students in the Georgia Tech case) have the option to take the same course as a free MOOC. They could have the same content without paying any tuition whatsoever.

So if it were just about the content of the courses, why wouldn’t every student qualified to be admitted and paying tuition simply take the free MOOC instead? The only plausible answer, is that the students with the choice value the credential associated with the tuition. In the case of the Georgia Tech master’s degree, the value of the credential is at least $7,000. This is a bargain compared to traditional master’s programs, but relatively expensive when compared to free. The same thing can be said about CS50x at Harvard where the cost for the CS50 degree related course on campus is at least several thousand dollars. Credentials matter.

A couple of conclusions are immediately evident. The first is that to be a true substitute for the existing traditional higher education model MOOCs will have to address the credentialing issue. The specifics in BUZZ Today tells us that simply issuing a separate certificate is not sufficient to give the student the value gotten in an accredited degree program. To be truly viable alternatives, it is likely that the MOOC model will have to incorporate some of the attributes of accredited degrees. Some of these attributes will no doubt include selectivity and admission qualifications, faculty support, infrastructure support including mentoring, coaching and advising. These, along with investment in content development, will require a revenue model for investment funding. As a result, it is highly likely that at least a portion of the current MOOC phenomenon will become MOC (Massive Online Courses) with non-zero cost to fund the services that are part of a market valued credential. Another implication is that valued higher education requires more than prestigious course content.

The other dimension of the Credentials Matter conversation is the role that employers play. Job position postings overwhelmingly specify accredited degree credential requirements. The qualifications segment of those job postings do not typically say: “The following MOOCs required: _____, _______,______” They most often state:

“Bachelor’s degree required with 3-5 years experience in the field.” Credentials matter to employers too.

How Do You Get a Job When Fancy Resumes Don’t Work Anymore?

Millions of Americans are hired to fill jobs every month in the American economy. If this is true, why can’t you get a response when you send your resume in response to a job posting? Here is the answer.

Buzz TodaySource: The Wall Street Journal, “Your Resume vs. Oblivion”, by Lauren Weber, January 24, 2012. The Starbucks Corp attracted 7.6 million applicants over the past 12 months for about 65,000 retail and management positions. Procter & Gamble Inc. got nearly a million applications last year for 2,000 new positions plus vacant jobs. And the Texas Roadhouse Inc. gets as many as 400 resumes for a job opening within 24 hours after listing it online.

Many people complain that they submit their resume to hundreds of job postings and never hear anything at all back from any company. The reason they hear nothing is because the software “bots” that companies use to screen resumes are not passing the resume on to HR recruiters unless the key words in the resume match up nearly perfectly with the key words in the job description of the posting. The reason companies are doing this is clearly shown in the data in BUZZ Today. There is no other practical way to deal with the massive number of resumes received.

Unfortunately, the bots are merely a fact of life in the labor market today. A bot is a piece of software, not a human. The bot does not interpret or infer. It matches key words. If the key words are not present it does not pass the resume to the recruiting manager. So for example, if the job ad says “Bachelor degree required, masters degree preferred and 5-7 years experience” the candidate’s submission has to match exactly.

Here is an example of how hard this can be. Here is an actual job posting for a marketing position at an innovative company.
Position: Sr. Manager, Digital Marketing
* Education: Bachelor’s degree required, MBA preferred
* Experience: 7-10 year’s experience with a consumer-oriented internet business in a multi-channel environment.
* Must have experience in the following marketing functions: agency management, strategic brand marketing, digital marketing vehicles, website operations.
* Experience managing complex projects and multimillion dollar budgets.There is no way around this grim reality. Because our labor markets are now functioning like this it is more important than ever that the applicant do what is presented in my book “Your Future is Calling”. Rather than picking a college, then a major and getting a degree and then looking for a job (marketing in this case), the book advises, Who you are then career choice, major, degree, university. In this way the person has a better chance to have what is needed when they get to the job posting.

Even in the face of this trend in hiring there are some reasons to be encouraged. Employers will need 22 million new workers with post-secondary degrees – and the report shows that we will fall short by three million workers without a dramatic change in course. This translates into a deficit of 300,000 college graduates every year between now and 2018.

JOBS – How to Compete

Traditional: University, Major, Major, Major, Degree, Job, Career?

Your Future: Who You Are, Career, Major, Degree, University, Job

In our last post titled JOBS, we looked at some important data about the relationship between an education and unemployment and income. It provides important evidence about why it is so important to learn.

Buzz Today Source: The Wall Street Journal. Procter & Gamble Inc. got nearly a million applications last year for 2,000 new positions plus vacant jobs. And the Texas Roadhouse Inc. gets as many as 400 resumes for a job opening within 24 hours after listing it online.

What the Department of Labor data in the JOBS post shows, is that it is not only about getting your degree, it is really about learning more in general. That is why I call this blog Learn Prosper. The data shows that for both unemployment and income, more post secondary education is always better. The data shows that an associates degree is more valuable than some education but no degree and that each degree there after – bachelors, masters, Ph.D./professional decreases your likelihood of being unemployed and increases the probability of higher income. The can be no other conclusion than the fact that learning is good for your job and income prospects no matter what the Non-Degree crowd is saying.

In the face of the BUZZ Today information we see here, combined with the data we saw about Starbucks in the last post titled JOBS, it is very clear that merely submitting resumes is not a successful way to compete. When you look at it from the hiring company(s) point of view, you can see why submitting a resume does not work in today’s job market. No one can read 7.6 million or even a million or even 400 resumes for every job.

What companies are doing is using computer software, what are called bots (short for robots) to scan candidate credentials. The approach is to eliminate resumes from consideration to narrow the candidates down to a manageable number. Here are a couple of pointers about this. When the job posting says “bachelor degree required and 3 – 5 years of experience in the field” they mean it. Recent data indicates that as many as 60% of the jobs in the future will require some form of post secondary education.

If you do not have the education and the experience listed, the bot throws your submission out right at the beginning. From there, the bot is looking for matches of key words. The match is between the words in the job posting description and the words in your application and resume. One word of advice. In this case more is not better. What the bot is looking for is matches, not volume. It’s all about the bots.

The harsh reality is that bots are really stupid. They are not designed to interpret and infer. They match key words. If you do not have the key words they are looking for, they do not advance your case to the hiring manager. This is why it is so important to follow the path of Your Future above. Working with O*NET data to understand careers that match who you are is the place to start. From there, the major you chose to study and the degree you earn will put you in area of job opportunities that match who you are. Details on how to best do that are in Your Future is Calling.

From there, it is well worth your effort to really be disciplined about the key words in the job posting to make sure that your submission has the greatest chance of the bot finding the match. Unfortunately the bots are not looking for your potential five years from now. They are looking for what you can do today. It is all about the key word matches.

The other big “gotcha” in the job market is that common phrase: “3-5 years of experience”. More on that in the next post.