12/6/2015 0 Comments
Thomas L. Friedman is a foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times. In this article he recounts an interview conducted by Adam Bryant of the Times, in which Bryant sat down with Laszlo Bock, Senior VP of People and Operations for Google, to talk about what Google looks for in gathering talent for their highly competitive company (original article part 1, and part 2). Bock's insights shed light on a growing crisis in education and career preparation within the United States, and points to a growing future collision between the massive and highly profitable market of higher education, and the real demands the modern global company. Bock's words paint a picture of a growing disconnect between how young people are being prepared for future employment, and what skills employers are looking for in the talent they recruit.
While our education system is still highly focused on metrics of achievement like GPA, as it turns out, Google has determined that, "G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless." because, he explains, "We found that they don’t predict anything.” Google, he explains, employs an increasing number of people without any college degree whatsoever. Bock outlines five hiring attributes that are company wide:
What's striking about this lists is that none of these skills (and they are all skills that can be learned and developed) rely on a heavily structured and content oriented system of education that prevails today in both primary institutions and institutions of higher learning.
Before I go any further, I think it's important to mention that it's not my desire to prepare everyone for a job at Google, or even a company like Google, but these skills are universal and transferable to success in occupations across the board. Let me give you a one example from the life of a close friend of mine. One that helped to expand my concept of success and how to prepare young people for life.
I've known my buddy Jay for about twelve years now. After high school, Jay spent fourteen years of his life working as a white water rafting guide during the summers and a ski guide during the winter. He "bummed" around in his truck, pursuing his passions, eventually working his way up to become a trainer of rafting guides for a company in northern California. Then he fell in love and got married, and the realities of having a wife and kids began to sink in and new priorities began to develop in his life. With his passion for his family beginning to outweigh the draw of a continuous life of outdoor adventure, I watched him worry deeply about how he was going to find steady work and make enough to provide. He went through a very real and painful struggle, because he was convinced that he had acquired no valuable skills to an employer simply because he had not obtained a college education. He had forgone a traditional education for an informal education on the road. What he had obtained were a particularly valuable, yet undervalued set of skills that would eventually pay off.
Jay was always one of the most outgoing people I had ever known, We would joke that he knew everyone and everyone knew him, but It was kinda true. He was also a constant tinkerer. He would build things in his spare time and found value in things that other people considered junk. Perhaps most important of all, he had a "just go" mentality which leant to his success in guiding, but more importantly, is a foundational skill for any entrepreneur. As a guide, he would make a quick assessment of risks and just take a first step. He would explore possibilities without the hindrance of fear and insecurity. He had to know what was on the other side of that next step, the possibilities of his imagination and he wasn't afraid to fail. He now owns a small but successful mobile oil change business. He had an idea one day and he just went for it. He worked hard and in the end it paid off. He has a beautiful family and works hard to take care of them. He and his wife are happy. His kids are happy and healthy. If there's a definition of success, he's living it.
That brings to mind another question: How should we define the success we're trying to prepare students for. I don't know the answer to that. What I do know is, the skills that are outlined by Bock are far more applicable in preparing young people for a variety of definitions of success.
How to get a Job at Google Part 1
How to get a Job at Google Part 2