Wednesday, September 18, 2013
First Job, Second Job
So yes, employers say they want soft skills and keep on hiring narrowly. I expect that will continue until the labor market finally heats up again. Then they’ll discover, again, that smart people know how to learn things. The real challenge is for the generalists to hold on through the storm.
But what that survey shows is why the highest starting salaries go to grads of a highly selective program where they take very intelligent people and train them for the short run while also educating them for the long run. They don't need to be trained and they are also what you want in 5 or 10 years.
Marissa Mayer (Stanford BS and MS) is an example of that track.
It may even be why the BSN is favored in the long run for jobs that need more critical thinking.
I wonder if that will happen in my lifetime.
There is no market for generalists except in retail. Unless you call business majors generalists - but I don't think that's what you mean.
The last hiring boom was brought about by a demographic dip the likes of which we are not likely to see again. There just weren't a lot of kids born in the mid 1970's and those of us who were benefitted tremendously from entering our first "real" employment at a time when there weren't a lot of young people looking for work. That's how my smart friend majored in English but went on to be a CIO. She built websites in the 90's (HTML being a language was just the thing for her), moved into project management and up the corporate chain. The skills she used to do that were not the ones she learned in English class but rather those she learned absorbing English as a second language, dealing with her large and dynamic family, her tyrannical father, and managing their weekend business at the local flea market. Even with all of her skills, if she entered the workforce now, she would never follow the same trajectory. Now, they higher programmers to program stuff. People can have their pick of Stanford grads looking for work – they don’t need someone from a nothing special state university with an English degree to work as an exec. When they sent her to a special Harvard Business School program for company execs she was a little offended. Her reaction -“I went to business school – I already know this stuff.” I reminded her that she was there to meet people and to display her own skills – and we both laughed because it was true. They could have all been learning basket weaving and it would have accomplished the same thing.
The success of a generalist will be directly proportional to their ability to integrate and display the values of members of high socioeconomic class. I don’t think studying a liberal arts program gives you that unless you are surrounded by people at a higher socioeconomic status and my local CC’s would not provide that. It’s not the classes that teach you to “talk the talk” it’s your classmates and to a limited extent your teachers. You could all be learning linear algebra and it would amount to the same thing in terms of reasoning skills.
It’s also false that smart people can learn stuff – they can learn some stuff. But no one is going to plonk them down in a molecular biology lab, hand them a pipette and ask them to go to. The gap is just too great. Likewise, they won’t get hired as a programmer, a designer, a network administrator unless they can demonstrate competence to do the job. Being able to write and reason only takes you so far – without some kind of documented technical skills / knowledge.
I'm not at all convinced that business-useful problem-solving skills and communication skills aren't at least as easy to learn in math/science classes as in English/humanities classes.
In my observation, communication skills mean "routinely writes Strunk and White compliant material", "sounds educated and not poor", and "brings up questions to the right people and with the right tone". None of those are English-class questions. (Maybe if you count composition and rhetoric as part of English.)
And I know nothing better for problem-solving skills than programming--try as many times as you want and get immediate feedback if it doesn't work.
Yeah, and you'll hate every second of it. Actually, that'll be one more thing to savor, the bile that will some day creep out of your liver to devour your insides as this country re-achieves greatness by rejecting Reagan and his vile ilk.
In 2020, the first majority-minority Census will be done. They'll probably gerrymander the hell out of it, but I don't think it'll matter, honestly.