More and more employers don’t care about your education. It makes sense: the first place social change happens is usually at the workplace because social change is almost always financially prudent. Think about it: hiring women during WWII meant factories could keep operating, so women got equality at work faster than other places. Giving gay partners health benefits gave employers access to a much stronger candidate pool, so gay rights launched from corporations (companies like Disney lead the way).
So that’s what’s happening with the backlash against school. Employers will continue to get much better at picking successful candidates by largely ignoring schooling (Google is leading the way), and then they’ll start to ignore other largely meaningless issues that are problems only for less progressive people. Which means you need to start adjusting whether you worry about this stuff, too.
1. Sketchy work history
The fact that the hiring process is broken is actually a benefit to everyone who managed their career poorly in the past.
There’s a terrible cycle going on in the recruiting arena: Candidates send out hundreds of resumes because it’s so easy. Companies end up receiving five hundred resumes for each job, which is unruly to manage, so they use applicant tracking systems that use computers, instead of people, to sort resumes. Candidates realize that they are unlikely to get a human reading their resume, so they perceive their odds of landing a job as poor and send out extreme numbers of resumes. And they automate the sending process.
The New York Times paints this picture of the candidates and companies automating the sending and reading of resumes as a pantomime of a real screening process, except the stakes are real for everyone involved.
This means that companies are looking for ways to sidestep hiring by way of work history. Silicon Valley companies are enthralled with the idea of hiring from employee referrals because they are cheaper and better . Startups like HireArt help employers sidestep resumes by focusing on what a candidate is able to do rather than what the candidate has been hired to do in the past. Google is hiring candidates out of high school, which means HR functions more like talent scouts banking on estimates of potential performance than recruiters banking on resumes.
2. Bad grades
Kids need to differentiate themselves early on. After college is too late. By the time kids are 22 many have had four or five internships and they are no longer entry-level candidates. Many kids are starting their own companies as teens, and even in New York City, teens are able to launch careers they love, before the pressure is on to pay a mortgage.
So parents need to get their kids doing things early if they want them to be super-employable, because the recruiting world knows that anyone can get into college. That the college bar is too low to be distinguishing anymore is actually good news for kids because not only does this mean that they won’t be saddled with insane school debt, but it also means happiness – kids who feel like they are doing something useful are usually happier kids.
If you doubt the argument, look at Google, which was once the quintessential education snobbery place of employment. They cut you off during the screening process if you didn’t go to the right school or have high enough SAT scores or GPA.
They’ve done away with all those qualifiers, and instead, they use an algorithm that decreases the importance of college and SAT scores and increases the importance of what you do with your time and who you associate with online.
Googles’ algorithms reward you for self‑directed learning and the ability to create a network of people to learn with.
3. No portfolio
What if you want to be a designer but you don’t have a portfolio? (Or, you do have a portfolio, but it’s so bad that you wouldn’t want to show anyone.) It’s okay because you can skip all those follow-the-rules jobs where you’re at the beck and call of Marketing or Sales departments. Now designers can tell marketing and sales people what to do.
Venture capital firms are funding designer CEOs, because in our Internet culture, user experience is the idea, business model, and product all wrapped up together. Or you can go straight to Kickstarter, which has become a popular route for designers who don’t want to slog through the portfolio song and dance to get a job.
And if this sounds more fun than any route you were thinking of taking through corporate America, don’t fret, because the Internet is a visual, design-heavy medium, so we’re all designers now, and these paths are yours for the taking.
4. Poor communication skills
Today’s workplace is more flexible in allowing you to communicate however is best for you. So you can suck at writing and focus on speaking. (Interesting tidbit: Gen Y is the generation of the best writers, Generation Z will be the best speakers.) I’m struck by the increasing demand for visual communicators as well.
It’s likely that if you are both a poor writer and a poor speaker, you learn visually, which is fine because we are in the age of the infographic. Newspapers are investing tons of money in having visual information designers on staff and visual information is making data fun. For example, feast your eyes on this series of gorgeous – but NSFW – renditions of the data behind the porn industry.
Instead, you will have to feast your eyes on that LinkedIn profile that I stole for the top of my page: Josh Williams. I love what he wrote about education. He inspires me to assume that whatever I’m worrying about when I’m worrying about getting a job is not actually something that’s worth worrying over.
5. Reading blogs all day
Don’t worry about reading this post instead of doing work. After all, Josh’s profile came to my inbox from someone who reads the Internet all day long.
And remember I said I am doing a secret startup? Well, one of the people who works at this secret startup is Laura, an art history professor. You know I’m at the right startup when you hear there’s an art history professor, right? So I thought, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance so I asked her for a reading list. I am reading Women in Italian Renaissance Art: Gender Representation Identity, by Paola Tinagli.
Renaissance painters started out placing hot contemporary women in paintings, sometimes naked. And there was discussion about how much viewing was too much viewing of these paintings. People hung them in their homes with a sheet over them. Which tells me that throughout history people who make intellectual and creative progress are always told they are spending too much time on it.
So go ahead and spend too much time online. Read blogs all day to stay employable. Your real work is figuring out where the new ideas are and being a part of them. That’s how you’ll get your next job. And the next.