Some years ago, the British comedian and Monty Python member, John Cleese participated in a series of sales and management training videos. To this day, I still laugh remembering one of them, “How Not to Exhibit Yourself.” “How Not to Exhibit Yourself” focuses on trade show behavior and particularly how to effectively connect with potential customers, but in my mind, the humorous lessons offered by Cleese could just as easily apply to networking with people in general. My key point in this post is that regardless whatever field you work, your ability and skill in relating to people and communicating effectively will be crucial to your success.
The genius of Steve Jobs lies in his hippie period and with his time at Reed College, the pre-eminent Liberal Arts college in North America. To his understanding of technology, Jobs brought an immersion in popular culture. In his 20s, he dated Joan Baez; Ella Fitzgerald sang at his 30th birthday party. His worldview was shaped by the ’60s counterculture in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he had grown up, the adopted son of a Silicon Valley machinist. When he graduated from high school in Cupertino in 1972, he said, “the very strong scent of the 1960s was still there. After dropping out of Reed College, a stronghold of liberal thought in Portland, Ore., in 1972, Mr. Jobs led a countercultural lifestyle himself. He told a reporter that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life. He said there were things about him that people who had not tried psychedelics — even people who knew him well, including his wife — could never understand.
Perhaps the premiere of Season 4 of “Silicon Valley” twigged me to share this post. but despite the title, the HBO series only connection may be the now viral “mean jerk time algorithm.” The real “Silicon Valley jerk” has been around for decades, buried with all the other dirty laundry. Uber’s Travis Kalanick has only brought it front and center at this moment. It is something of a conundrum as some of the jerks are also the most successful. We all now know about the “bad” Steve Jobs. Oracle for years had a very bad reputation that came directly from Larry Ellison himself. Microsoft was long known as a “sweatshop” with a highly negative culture led by Steve Ballmer. Even venture capitalists themselves have caught the disease as evidenced by Reid Hoffman and the late Tom Perkins of KPCB. The best assessment I have heard is that these aggressive unrestrained corporate cultures destroy their own goals. Or better yet, the saying that “culture trumps strategy.”
The unwritten promise of a post-secondary education has been to earn a degree in an applied field such as engineering and you’ll end up with a good, stable job, but the millennial generation is finding that can no longer be counted on. I have been thinking about this issue for some time. Last year, I posted an article on this blog by Robert Reich, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. I was stimulated to share that article by what I was seeing with my own students from the University of British Columbia, and contrasting that with my own experience years ago, walking into my Silicon Valley dream career by sheer chance. That simply no longer happens. Grads must begin plotting out a plan early, no later than the beginning of their third year, and begin to execute on it in order to find an entry-level position commensurate with their education. Networking and cold calling is imperative, but as this article points out, even that may not guarantee solid employment.
Engineer into the Workforce presentation to The University of British Columbia, School of Engineering, 4th year Capstone Project course. November 2, 2016
Accelerate Okanagan should be commended for publishing a document, the stated goal of which is to “assist in attracting new talent, companies, and potential investors to the Okanagan, as well to inform policy makers and the media.” Such reports are commonly used to promote a community or region’s economy. However, as with the earlier 2015 report, there are persistent issues, particularly with the industry definition and methodology of the study. The result is questionable data and numbers that simply do not pass a basic “sniff test.” Accepting the results of this study as published may only serve to mislead community leaders on planning, and mislead prospective entrepreneurs considering relocating here.
Yes, LinkedIn and Human Resources screening technology are suppressing hiring. The fact is, the task of submitting a resume’ that will make it past the filtering technology used by almost all recruiters these days, requires cunning and a shrewd understanding of how to manipulate these screening apps, something akin to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). However, HR SEO techniques requires a knowledge of the app itself, which is a closely guarded secret. WRT to LinkedIn, I have growing concerns that LinkedIn no longer meets the “WIIFM” test, or “what’s in it for me?” LinkedIn seems to have aligned its business and destiny more with the needs of the recruiting industry than with my own needs, while still trying to sell me on the benefits of paid “Premium Membership.” Increasingly blog discussions on the value of LinkedIn to business users are concluding that it’s value has diminished sharply. Perhaps the recruiting industry represents a bigger potential revenue stream and LinkedIn does not wish to reveal that to its individual users. Then there is the matter of the LinkedIn merger with Microsoft, which has left many observers underwhelmed, despite pronouncements of the exceptional strategic value to both companies.
My own odyssey in choosing a major and a career is probably not a great guide for today’s students. I had only a vague idea that I wanted a quality “liberal arts education,” to equip me with the thinking skills necessary to guide my career. I chose an undergraduate major in Speech-Communication with double minors in Philosophy and Photography. In retrospect, despite the disadvantages of my choice, it turned out well at that time, primarily because being able to communicate and present yourself is perhaps the most important skill in any career. Warren Buffett agrees with that. But in today’s much more competitive environment, I am sadly less confident that it would work. This is the dilemma for today’s students.
I ran across this recent HBR article and thought it would be helpful for management students contemplating an internship or co-op employment as part of their degree program. Such programs are a highly valuable way to gain experience, and to find career-focused employment. This is particularly true in this challenging employment market. I would even go so far as to suggest that it may even be a workable strategy for recent graduates still searching for that opportunity that will kick start their careers. Get an informational interview and make them an offer they can’t refuse.
I have been giving some serious thought to the importance of personal resilience in times of adversity. Terry Fox comes up as a prime example of resilience that has inspired people all over the World. But how do such people develop it? Can it be learned? It is a character trait that appears difficult to measure, only appearing in certain people and not others when faced with a severe personal challenge. It is something that all management professionals should ponder carefully because such challenges will most certainly appear in their careers.