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.

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67 replies
  1. Zenio
    Zenio says:

    I like it better when you write about smashing lamps onto your head and going through hell like a crazy attention seeking narcissist.

  2. Karolina
    Karolina says:

    The global economy, where so many jobs are outsourceable, is really calling for differentiation. Differentiation in whatever it is you have done in the past and are doing right now. And like Penelope said, it doesn’t matter if you made – what older generations would consider – career missteps. It really comes down to this: what best can you deliver this very moment? I love this new trend because one can achieve amazing success by not ruminating on the past but by pushing oneself forward with an open mind and willingness to let creativity be expressed.

  3. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Dear lord, that porn study is amazing. A link from left field.

    Excellent post. The things we’re told to worry about when looking for work are, often, no longer relevant.

  4. Carmen
    Carmen says:

    All of the things you listed apply to a disappearing middle class, which is why now everyone is an entrepreneur. Not simply out of choice, but out of necessity. You can choose to either be poor, rich, or an entrepreneur. Since I’ve freelanced for the past 18 years I’m used to the ebb and flow of relevancy in the workplace. The earning-a-better-income part is what everyone is struggling with. Entreprenerialism is great if you’re getting paid. Most aren’t. Taking risks when your certain outcome is either poor or rich sucks.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I come from a tiny town that is hard to find in google maps where jobs are horrible to come by. Everyone is an entrepreneur. But it’s not hip. It’s just what it is. And sometimes you make money and sometimes you don’t.

  5. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    Reading blogs all day as advice is absurd. You do not know your audience or know them more than themselves. Sitting around reading blogs is an addiction that helps people like you and keeps people like me from getting anything done. Not to mention the lives its destroying by keeping people connected to the net, and disconnected from the reality around them. You make to much sense normally for me to simply dismiss your ideas. But this one is absurd.
    Maybe you were laughing in your head while writing it or just so used to being business savy.
    You know as well that so many great businesses give away there there “recipes” because they know darn well that most people are never gonna use them. Most people are just consuming.
    Ive been working on a website/blog. I should advice people to read blogs all day. Now that is some good advice.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Maybe the advice is best taken in a less literal way. After all, the advice to read blogs comes in the same paragraph where I tell you I am not reading blogs – I am reading a book about Renaissance art.

      The point is that reading a lot every day is fine. It’s part of each of our jobs to gather new information about how we can do what we are doing in a fresh way. That’s how we add value. In the scenario where most of us are paid as knowledge workers, and information is commodified online, our best hope for reliable employment is to be able to synthesize information to come up with new ideas.

      Maybe you are doing that now, reading this comment.


      • Mark
        Mark says:

        It also comes in the same paragraph in which, having spent the first part of the post telling us (yet again) how little you value education, you then tell us how great an opportunity it is to find yourself working with an art history professor. So, apparently, an education is good for something – it’s good for getting you an education. For free.

        Having said that, I fear that much of what you say in this post is true. Why “fear”? Because this complete obliteration of any notion that there is an absolute standard by which quality and competency can be judged is one reason the world is going to hell in a handbasket. After all, who needs educated climate scientists when you can read a blog post by some crackpot denialist?

        • Will Urich
          Will Urich says:

          I think you make a solid point about why it’s scary to live in a world where competencies are not universal, but, if you’ve read some of her other blog post you’ll know that she believes that we are all entrepreneurs, creatives and individual success stories in our own unique ways. The world might be degrading in terms of universal competencies in the workplace, but that’s just because of the myriad number of specializations that are out there.

          As to the scope of an individuals reach and influence, sans formal education – it’s not about the certificates you hold or the resume so much as it is about the drive, passion and influence you carry with you in life. Your comment about people discounting credited work in favor of impassioned exposition might carry some merit, though, at the end of the day, the real influencers, for good at least, in our world come from people who can back up what they say and walk the talk, so to speak.

          I think it is more damaging to say that someone can’t be or can be something because of what degree(s) or accreditation(s) they hold than to simply affirm that you can do whatever you want to do if you really push yourself for that. The world is dynamic and the work world is just as so, so realizing that competency comes from within is more important than limiting what someone can achieve at just because they might not have gone to college.

  6. christy
    christy says:

    Momentarily popping out of lurkdom to wonder something …

    Is Penelope writing this amazing and intriguing posts about her super secret start-up just to see who reaches out to her for a job, knowing only that they’d get to work (even indirectly) with her?

    Gotta say, that the art history professor on sides in addition to Penelope makes me want to do that.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Just a word of advice: there are pretty much jobs at the beginning of a startup. Startups don’t have money. They have tons and tons of work to do, and no money to pay people to do the work. So if you want sane work hours with a reliable paycheck, you should probably reach out to your friends who work at Fortune 500 companies.


  7. mbl
    mbl says:

    Yesterday I was reading an interview in Psychology Today about 17 year old Tavi Gevinson* When I read that Tavi “devotes her afterschool hours (and many late nights) to directing Rookie’s 60-plus editors and contributors, who range from 13 to 50” my jaw dropped–over the fact that she is actually enrolled in school. She is clearly a self-directed learner, deeply insightful, and incredibly sleep deprived. Now that I think about it, maybe she is just using high school to stay current in her field.

    * (A former fashion blogger and current founder and editor in chief of online magazine Rookie, whom I first heard of via PT’s post from 3 years ago when Tavi was named as PT’s role model.)

  8. Marie (INFP)
    Marie (INFP) says:

    “Don’t worry about reading this post instead of doing work”.

    Read that and laughed out loud…had just promised myself would get back to work after reading this one last NYT post, and then of course you pop up in my updates and couldn’t resist. Curiosity really did kill the cat because now I’m onto all your great links!

    Thanks for another great post. I manage a lot of Gen Y’s and have tried to pass on some of these insights. Some get it and some, shockingly, are still looking for that corporate gig for stability. Huh, good luck with that.

    Oh, I did get some work done – ordered Brazen Careerist as thank you gift for my assistant’s last day. Will tuck the Blueprint post into it. Gawd, wish that advice had been around for me in my early twenties.

    Also, you’re right about this:

    “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”.

    Where I get all my programming ideas for event planning for my college . And how I decided on my next career move from traditional HR to Data Analytics.

  9. Mary
    Mary says:

    Blogs post like this make me feel sick because I spent my educational years neurotically maintaining a perfect GPA. The skills I developed as a people pleasing student did not help me in the real world at all. I spent 10 years trying to make life work with no real world common sense and now that I am 30 I am teaching myself to think outside of the box and make my own path and be myself and all that crap. I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. Does anyone else from a similar background feel this way?

    • Carmen
      Carmen says:

      Don’t feel bad. The only skills we are born with are to eat, sleep and poop. Unless you personally knew someone growing up who could teach you a skill, then you would have no other choice than to find knowledge and skill from somewhere. For most of us, that’s school. Not fair, but reality never is. If the internet didn’t exist, opportunities to learn from new people would be an impossibility. My teachers exist on line now, so my job has become learning again, all new stuff. Life is very long…so time is on your side.

    • Trist
      Trist says:

      Mary, that is so true. I’m going to be 30 in september and I feel the exact same way.

      I’m having to develop spiritual practice to not feel like I’m in a race against time, and to understand that a lot of people are facing the same setbacks and challenges as me.

      Lol @ make my own path and be myself and all that crap.

      • Caroline
        Caroline says:

        “I am teaching myself to think outside of the box and make my own path and be myself and all that crap.”

        Interesting. Teaching yourself to think outside the box seems counter- productive. Teaching yourself often implies learning and/ or understanding ideas, methods, process, and concepts in a fixed this has been tried, done and works way. Whereas think outside the box is not teaching yourself at all. It’s is simply exploring, discovering, thinking, meditating, pondering even planning if the thoughts lead to what is can be done in certain dilemmas and situations.

        Notice I do not say read, write or teach. To think outside the box ironically requires precise writing, fluid assembly and disassembly of ideas from what you read and either teach yourself or a taught. Those are a precursor to thinking outside the box not part of thinking outside the box. I know a few very good thinking outside the box who barely grasp an education in their hands. I know people who read, write, teach and learn very well much better than bachelor degree standard and can not think outside the box at all.

        The reasons are they hold on to what they have been taught and have learned and not what what could be, what can be , and what they would like to see happening.

        No one truly makes their own path. Other people and your environment interfere and either aid or sway you from that end. Also people influence you for better or worse. You work with people to make their path and your own work. On the whole collaboration beats competition in that you have fewer enemies to bring you down.

        Being yourself is a bit trite. First it can mean being ruthlessly honest, being free to think, say and do what you want. Firstly focus on what you need, what you cannot do without what is to you enough to really appreciate days, weeks, months, years at a time.

        Going after what you want leads to more and more of a bloated life as you acquire qualifications that are unnecessary to you, buy things, meet people who just end up wasting your time and their time. Going after what you want is just pleasure. That’s it.

        Going after what you need and acknowledging others’ need changes your life. You get more discerning, you buy less, waste less, use more, live more for the moment and the future at the same time.

        Why I bother to write this? Because people have said to me many times. I find it meaningless. Instead, I think what can I do, think, say, know, understand. I am doing what is true to me, not for me only but what is me.

    • Hendo
      Hendo says:

      Hey Mary,

      I get where you’re coming from! I did well at school and extremely well at university. If I were 20 years older I probably would have had a great (obscure, but great) career as an academic.

      Then, I had an ok career in government. The skills that let me do well while studying – listen well, work quietly and hard, absorb information, give back in thoughtful analysis not straying too far from what was given to me, do what you love not what makes money – were not what I needed in the workplace: get it done quickly, tell people how great I am, choose skills that are worth money. It partly came from my baby boomer parents subconsciously teaching me that if I studied hard and got a steady job I’d have everything I needed. That paradigm is dead. It’s not true. However, I take comfort from the fact that at least I have woken up to this now and I try not to waste time complaining about that – I know too many who do. Plus, the world is changing quickly for everyone – every industry – so change is the constant now, better get used to it and work out how to deal with it. I think we are living in very interesting times and I see that as a positive. We can whinge about not having grown up using computers, or we can adapt. Adapting is all in your attitude and you aren’t limited by age on that.

      • Hendo
        Hendo says:

        I meant to say, I realised at the time that academia was broken (I’m in Australia) with years of slog at low pay expected and no guarantee of a stable career at the end, and I’m so glad I did, because it has only gotten harder to have a career in academia.

  10. Cassio Raposa
    Cassio Raposa says:

    Hi, Penelope.
    I’m a Brazilian reader and have been watching your blog for some time now – one of the few I really do read, ’cause what its written is ever somehow interesting, not ’cause I have to or would be expected to read it.
    Your story is quite enjoyable, reading the downfalls and finding out the steps you took to “re-spawn” is a valuable lesson and it has told me more than any book I’ve ever read – and I read a lot =).
    You know, living in Brazil but near a huge megalopolis like Sao Paulo can be a bizarre experience, since we’re kind in a not defined zone between developed world standards and 3rd world corruption and stuff like that. Even so, many of your posts are very helpful, so, thank you for your work. I also laugh a lot with some of the things you write. Your point of view is kind ahead our time – well, at least ahead of the time the society I know stands for.

  11. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    Hahahaha Keep on “reading blogs all day”. And here we are: wasting the day away reading and commenting instead of doing anything. What wonderful consumers of info we are. What fools we are.

  12. NickP
    NickP says:

    Please confirm that this is meant to be a joke: “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.”

    I’m pretty sure that appreciating USA-Today style infographics is not a substitute for being able to express your ideas in writing or verbally. “Age of the infographic” also seems like a bit of hyperbole.

    • Christine
      Christine says:

      Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg Businessweek are devoting a lot of space to Infographic. Definitely getting a lot of attention.

    • cory huff
      cory huff says:

      Age of the Infographic is a silly phrase, but its absolutely true. We’ve gone from an aural culture (Elizabethan times) to a visual culture (now).

      Its not just infographics either. TV shows have shorter scenes. Arrested Development, cult hit show of the 2000’s, shot 20 – 30 scenes per episode, compared to 5 – 9 on older shows.

      Don’t Make Me Think was the title of a recent book on web design that essentially said the same thing – we don’t read, we absorb images.

  13. Mary
    Mary says:

    This may be fine advice for non-linear careers with lots of room for creativity and reinvention, but it makes no sense for hard-knowledge based jobs in fields like engineering, medicine, production, etc. The people who actually keep the world running don’t have time to sit around reading blogs (unlike me) because they are DOING.

  14. ru
    ru says:

    the only thing you should worry about is, can you solve a problem that the employer will care about? and do you care about the problem? if yes, that will be your dream job.

  15. redrock
    redrock says:

    THis part of the google article from the link:
    “Of course, most of Google’s hires are still college graduates. After all, college is still the surest way of learning advanced engineering and other stuff that gets you a job at Google. A college degree still provides some guarantee of intelligence and commitment. And at the end of the day, people with a college degree are far more highly employed and make more money than those who don’t graduate. ”

    seems to contradict the statement that google does not care about schooling and college. Should it be viewed as more like “it depends on the job you are applying for” which determines the role of education/college/grades etc for your success in applying?

  16. DannyE
    DannyE says:

    Wow. This is all too painful to read. I manage a small army of generation y’s. They need to spend far less time screwing around surfing LinkedIn, reading blogs, tweets and Facebook and more time doing the job that they’re hired to do. I must have missed the global announcement that’s it’s totally acceptable for employees to steal countless millions of hours from their employees so they can dry-hump idiotic social media sites all day.

        • Jason
          Jason says:

          Only true to a point.

          At my last corporate gig, I was salaried and they didn’t track hours in the office. I worked about half-time on my actual job, got promoted multiple times, was handed awesome interesting projects, and was considered a rock star employee.

          With the other half of my time, I built a business for myself that allowed me to quit my day job and do something that mattered (to me).

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            well, I did not specify x as in x number of hours. But it is indisputable that an employee who gives a crap about the business and spends all day facebooking, reading blogs and doing other non-work related stuff is a waste of money.

  17. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I’m about to be laid off, I’m kinda looking forward to it for awhile but @ the same time, I’ve got a mortgage to pay. Your post makes me feel better about the changing workplace and the “requirements” needed however I still need work on my resume b/c it sucks….when I get enough $$$ I’m going to give you a call to make it right….

    • Skweekah
      Skweekah says:

      Hey Jenn! Just wanna wish you all the best. It can be a tough time, but it too will pass.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Every time I’ve had a paycheck yanked out from under me, I have gotten money another way. It’s been scary, for sure, but the more times you do that, the more confidence you have that you can do it again.

      And it’s a secure and powerful feeling to know that if you lose your means of making money, you’ll figure out another way to keep yourself afloat.

      I say this because it will happen to you – these layoff times will build up into a feeling of security that you can deal with it, whenever it comes your way.


      • Chad Daniels
        Chad Daniels says:

        This is awesome advice. It’s amazing what we can do when we are left no options. I’ve struggled with the notion of leaving my stable job that I have no more room to grow in, and leaping into uncertainty and see if I can find my way out of it. Thanks for the incite Penelope

    • Cory Huff
      Cory Huff says:

      Getting laid off ended up being an awesome lifestyle upgrade for me. I left a job that was low-pay, low-prestige. I freelanced for about six months, then took a job with a trendy new software startup.

      Just over two years later, I can honestly say it was an amazing experience. I made great connections, learned a ton, made a TON more money, and now have the time/freedom to pursue my own interests.

      Hurray for FUNemployment. ;)

      • Mel
        Mel says:

        @Cory Huff I like you’re attitude.

        and PT is 100% right about learning other ways to hustle without the security of a paycheck. This is the new reality and is very empowering.

      • Mel
        Mel says:

        @Cory Huff I like your attitude.

        and PT is 100% right about learning other ways to hustle without the security of a paycheck. This is the new reality and is very empowering.

  18. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Reading this article by Gladwell helped me worry less about my own doubts and fears about work being too hard or getting in over my head. The article reminded me a lot of some of your blog posts about being lost.
    A few of my favorite quotations:

    ‘[People] are “apt to take on and plunge into new tasks because of the erroneously presumed absence of a challenge—because the task looks easier and more manageable than it will turn out to be.”’

    “Colorni believed that doubt was creative because it allowed for alternative ways to see the world…”

    ” there is no better teacher, Hirschman felt, than a little adversity”

    “Instead of asking: what benefits [has] this project yielded, it would almost be more pertinent to ask: how many conflicts has it brought in its wake?”

  19. Razwana
    Razwana says:

    I love this article and I wish it were written in a way that my 16-19 year old cousins would understand. (hhmmmm…..something I could do).

    One of them is already considering university and the other is about to finish up her first year of her photography course at university. They spend more time online (facebook, pinterest, tumblr, twitter….) than anyone I know (other than me) and they STILL don’t see the fact that they can use this medium to create their own jobs.

    They assume the ONLY way to get ahead is to study, be up to their eyeballs in fees, and then spend the next 20 years paying them off.

    Kill. Me. Now.

    – Razwana

  20. katie
    katie says:

    This reminds me of my high school days when I was obsessively figuring out Ivy League admissions (my obsession paid off… it’s always good to be a bit obsessed with something… as we are with your blog seeing that we’re commenting)– the book A is for Admissions explains how these universities are not actually looking for students who are well rounded, but rather for someone who got an F in math but is a published poet or started their own NGO, or can barely write a errorless sentence but has their own patent. Someone who is passionate about something and excels in that one thing to the exclusion of many others– therefore the bad grades, sketchy work history, etc.

  21. fred doe
    fred doe says:

    Dear Ms Trunk: You nailed this one. I’ve not commented because the other entries I had no strong feeling about. Plus you scare me. I went to college on the GI bill I was told it was the right thing to do this was 38 years ago. In looking back it was a wast of time (for me I don’t speak for anyone else). Now in my sixties I think I would like to have that time back. I know woulda, coulda shoulda. The money could have been spread out in others education and not just driving for a BA. I only held two jobs that required a college degree and I was not happy at all. So I went back to construction trades but the money could have been used for education toward those ends. I like to learn and still do but now on the cheap, auditing classes. I’m even surprised at how easy it is ( you don’t need credits at sixty.) though I’ll not go into it here. p.s. I’m retired and comfortable so no real regrets.

  22. Greg
    Greg says:

    Penelope, you’ve convinced me that traditional education is rather hit and miss, but at the same time some of these assertions are pretty loopy. Communication and writing are more important now, not less. All of those VC-backed designers and people with successful Kickstarter projects have portfolios of some kind. Entrepreneurs don’t have time to read blogs all day. Ok, I know, your blogs point is really about lifelong learning, but it’s also about procrastination and lack of focus. Even allowing for some poetic license, don’t you think half your audience will take all this the wrong way and feel entitled to make a living through an “everything is different now” stroke of luck without having to work hard or produce good results, by whatever measure of good the market uses?

    • Greg
      Greg says:

      By the way, I also love your point about companies sometimes being at the forefront of social change just because it makes more business sense.

  23. Elena @ Blog Givaway
    Elena @ Blog Givaway says:

    I disagree with you on number 4: Poor Communication Skills.
    I think they are more needed than ever in this economy. You need great communication skills to be able to sell yourself during the interview, you need great communication/writing skills to come up with a killer resume that stands out from the crowd, you need great communication skills for pretty much any customer service position: clerk, banker, insurance agent – you name it! And if you ever want to advance in your career, you need incredible communication skills to become a manager.

  24. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Quick addition to Section 2: Youtube as a major medium for self promotion and building a body of credible artistic or information-related work.

    My husband, who came out of a top-5 school two years ago with the self-proclaimed useless majors of theater and psychology, is now a senior manager at an digital media marketing firm due almost solely to his increasingly successful YouTube channel. Demonstrated success in the online space means so much relative to a bachelor’s degree.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      just out of curiosity: your husbands successful youtube channel had nothing at all to do with (1) skills learned while getting his BA. (2) time he had to develop it while doing a BA instead of working full time, (3) contacts made while doing his BA? No inspiration at all which came out of the time he spent working on his degree? I doubt that, and getting a degree and taking classes and conversing with others highly engaged in theater and related subjects most likely helped the youtube endeavor along its successful path. So, while you do not have to show the paper with your degree printed on it to get a successful youtube channel, I am pretty sure that many things learned on the way actually helped.

      • Rachel
        Rachel says:

        Certainly fair questions.

        1. My husband’s skillset now is not based on skills he used for his BA, but rather based on math, statistics, science, and speaking skills he had gained much earlier through his natural curiosity in these areas and accomplishments in high school. There was a brief period where he seriously lamented his college majors specifically for their lack of applicability.
        2. My husband runs his YouTube channel concurrently with a full-time job and has never done any differently. When he began, he was doing 2-3 theater-related jobs in New York at any given time, which he hated (using those skills from undergrad), and now he does it alongside his job as a senior manager at a major media marketing firm on the West coast (a job he earned almost entirely through his work on his YouTube channel). If he could have started this work four years earlier, I postulate that his accomplishments would be commensurate.
        3. My husband has many wonderful contacts in theater and had absolutely none to get him started in the digital media space. While this may seem difficult to believe, “hardcore” actors tend to seriously under-utilize social media and other outlets in favor of pounding the pavement day in and day out in auditions. My husband regularly tries to encourage friends in that world to use YouTube as a tool in their “actor’s toolbelt.”

        Last, the inspiration for his work actually comes out of his childhood love of video games, which he did not study at all in college. This is his channel:

        In short, my husband learned many things in college, but almost none that he could probably not have learned more efficiently in a real-world environment. The one thing I know he did find in college was me, so for that, I am glad his path took exactly the turns it did.

  25. Randy
    Randy says:

    It seems that skipping school and developing expertise in a specific area worked out well for Edward Snowden.

  26. Jewels
    Jewels says:

    We’ve long since said that a traditional college degree is not necessary in today’s workplace where creativity, outside the box thinking, and new ideas are what is making the market thrive. Our CEO at The Indie Chicks is self taught and though I have a degree that I use (in a round about way) it doesn’t necessarily aide me in my career of choice.

    I agree that poor communication skills can be overlooked, to a degree, with the introduction of emails, online services, and tech jobs but when it comes to working with people, customer service, or group projects having decent communication skills is still a must.

    Self taught is the new college degree. If you want to learn about something head to the internet and chances are you can find a tutorial or a guide. The information is out there, now it’s up to you to soak it in.

  27. Matty
    Matty says:

    What if you are 54-years-old… feel a lot younger… identify with the work style of today? Does my age matter? I never fit in with my generation in terms of my work style or attitudes toward education and work experience (even though I have an M.A.).

  28. ian
    ian says:

    What if you have no applicable real world skills or are incompetent, but have the education? I still have trouble with simple everyday stuff, like unbuttoning my shirt or something. I don’t learn quickly and have a poor memory, I can watch or hear something and 30 seconds later not be able to do it. I am not physically strong, or the best communicator (have social anxiety, but at least I’m good with talking/writing about things in a clear way).

    I am mostly finished with my college degree now (in Computer Science), so there are job prospects, but I am also learning that my natural talents for computer science are not quite up to par with what is expected in the workplace, or with my peers. In college, if I put in enough effort, I could finish the assignments and get good grades, but they often took me twice as long as everyone else. Now I am realizing that in the workplace, you have to be timely and there is less time to think about things. There are many other responsibilities which appear

    Is there a place in the world anymore for a person like me, who has an education but no skills? I’m afraid I will be poor in the years to come.

  29. Sabrina Calnan
    Sabrina Calnan says:

    Interesting post. I agree with 2/5 of your claims and the post leaves me longing for more information.
    1) Sketchy work history – I agree. The hiring process is completely broken. It’s about who you know, not how many resumes you send out and not your work history.
    2) Bad grades – I disagree. Sure, groom your kids to be super employable early. Yeah, anyone can go to college…that bar is too low. The fact that Google has done away with the “grade” qualifiers is completely meaningless. Let’s face it, good grades mean more options, not just working for companies that have done away with the “grade” qualifiers. And who’s to say Google won’t test out this new strategy and decide that it sucks. I’m a manager and my company tried doing away with the college degree requirement. The result was poor quality candidates and poor quality workers. I don’t need an entry level employee with straight A’s but I need one who takes accountability and responsibility for themselves and decent grades is a great filter for that.
    3) No portfolio – Yeah right. Sure there are sites like Kickstarter out there where you can bypass traditional means. There are tons of yahoos on Kickstarter…to get what you want you have to distinguish yourself otherwise you just fail. You might not need a traditional portfolio, but you need a portfolio. Maybe this is your point? If so, it’s not clear.
    4) Poor communication skills – Um, no; these are important. The people in this world who get what they want know how to cater and match their own communication skills to those they are working with. You can be great at written communication, but if your boss loves to talk, you’re going to drive him/her up the wall.
    5) Reading blogs all day – OK, I’ll give you this one. People seem to be all fired up about this claim, but I think it’s true; stay informed and stay relevant, you’ll have more to offer any employer (as long as you do your required task before you spend the rest of your day surfing the web).

  30. Jessie
    Jessie says:

    Great article – I really enjoyed reading this – you’ve covered some really interesting and important points so thank you!

  31. CareerAdvice
    CareerAdvice says:

    I totally agree with your comments about kids and bad grades. Before employers take someone on they have identified a need within the business – even when it is a straight one on one replacement. They will choose a person based on whether or not they feel he/she can satisfy that need. The need is normally related to a specific hard skill ie can the person perform xyz. Job applicants so often talk about motivation, self confidence, leadership etc and forget what their hard skills are. Having a grade A or D in math is not a hard skill. Being able to use a calculator and spreadsheet are.

    Well done great article.

  32. Donna Thrash
    Donna Thrash says:

    So, I am reading this post as a parent of young children. I am a reasonably well educated, degreed professional however do get that today, a college degree does not guarantee anything. My children are being taught (by me) to be thinkers, to ask questions and to understand that creative, out-of-the-box thinking is cool and exciting. My goal is to see that they have a solid education (hard skills) but also that they have every opportunity to develop what I think of as wholistic, contextual learning.

  33. Chanel
    Chanel says:

    Right now I am so worried that I don’t know what to do. I am currently unemployed but I am volunteering at Sheltering Arms Rehab hospital twice a week. I did go to school, but after I finished I like most kids my age didn’t want to do that, now i have student loans over my head, so I got a job, loved it then I quit due to a personal reason, then went back on the job hunting, found a job a year later setting up a new store, was laid off then back on the job hunting with no luck. Now, I am so worried that if I don’t find a job what will happen.

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