21 uncomfortable truths about your industry

20. That travel and hospitality schools, barring few exceptions, are training the young for jobs of the previous generation, instead of all the new types of positions opening up in travel and allied sectors. In fact, the deans, professors and teachers are more clueless about the current and future of the travel industry than the students they are teaching. – 21 Uncomfortable Truths That I Have Learned About the Travel Industry

The founder and CEO of Skift, a global travel intelligence company, wrote a killer post on the uncomfortable truths about the travel industry.  Having worked several years in the travel industry, it was refreshing to read it. Most of these truths are usually confined to conference conversations after a few drinks. They’re rarely shared publicly. Judging from the shares and comments on the article, it’s clear it resonated with others too.

I would love to see this list for other industries.

Your employer is probably spying on you

FAQ from Teramind, a software that records, logs, and monitors employees.

Corporate America enjoys spying on its workers. According to Wired, “94 percent of organizations currently monitor workers in some way.” Even worse, you likely can’t escape it. From The Creative Ways Your Boss is Spying on You:

Try to hide from this all-seeing eye of corporate America—and you might make matters worse. Even the cleverest spoofing hacks can backfire. “The more workers try to be invisible, the more managers have a hard time figuring out what’s happening, and that justifies more surveillance,” says Michel Anteby, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Boston University. He calls it the “cycle of coercive surveillance.” Translation: lose/lose.

Last year I wrote a post called, AI is going to make your asshole manager even worse. Nothing I’ve read since then has convinced me otherwise.

Is it appropriate now to inquire during the interview stage ask what technology the company uses to spy on workers? If not now, when will it be appropriate?

Also, who monitors the executives? Who monitors the monitors?

The quality of your head movements will help determine if you get hired and I’ve got nothing but questions

Yobs.io isn’t the first HR tech company to promise better candidate selection technology through AI and predictive analytics. HireVue has been using algorithms to review and assess video interviews for companies like Unilever and JP Morgan, and they’ve got $93 million in funding to do it. AI technology is rapidly changing the job search.

Yobs.io, however, positions itself as a platform that can identify a candidate’s soft skills and improve team dynamics. Their tech implements “quantiative soft skills analysis in the recruitment.” It claims its platform “determines the emotional state of your candidate which reflect the real-time soft skills that they will take to the job everyday.” Their algorithms analyze facial expressions, word choice and tone, and even head speed to predict candidate success in an organization.

I find it hilarious that employers are banging the drums about the need for employees with soft skills yet they’re increasingly willing to hand over the process of selecting people with those same skills to a machine.

I work on interview chatbots and conversational AI in my contract work. I find it fascinating. I enjoy watching the algorithm improve and seeing its limitations. However, technology that uses personality assessments and predictive analytics to make hiring decisions fills me with questions. They’re questions that I rarely see addressed in tech media or HR industry coverage. They’re questions in need of answers that aren’t marketing copy.

Just look at that engagement level! Source: Yobs.io website

Here’s the ongoing list of questions I never see answers to:

How are companies evaluating whether hires by AI are better than human-led hires? Is this technology trusted for use in all hires, including executive management? Moreover, do the AI engineers have the soft skills they’re designing algorithms for? Does it matter if they don’t? Do the managers who oversee the implementation of this technology also have the soft skills they seek?

Also…

Why should my head speed be part of my interview evaluation? How much weight is my head speed given in the algorithm? What is a quality head speed and how does it affect my ability to do a job that I’ve trained for? Who decides what interview tone is appropriate? Would a monotone AI engineer with an abnormal head speed, a high rate of neuroticism, low rate of extraversion be an acceptable hire (trick question, of course they would, they’re the most in-demand occupation)

And…

Who loses out on an opportunity during the tuning phase of the algorithm? Algorithms don’t work perfectly out of the gate. What feedback loops exist inside the organization’s that use this tech to ensure they’re not getting false negatives? How do HR tech companies who claim to reduce bias prove they actual reduce bias rather than reinforce it?

Humans are flawed. But so are algorithms and even the data we use to build them. Just because it can be measured (head speed) doesn’t mean it needs to be. Asking the hard questions about new technology is important, especially in high stakes situations like job interviews and career progression.

Also, I’m parking this fab find here: Yobs.io uses the big 5 personality traits (OCEAN) to predict candidate fit. There’s a fabulous overview of the Big 5 that includes psych student videos explaining the big 5 concepts. Highly recommend watching these videos, especially when they discuss the person-situation debate.

Employees who are already living the future of work

Curious about how AI technology might change your job? The NYT offers a glimpse at how algorithms are changing traditional roles. In retail, fashion buyers who are normally tasked with making purchasing decisions, are increasingly using algorithms to do the task. These algorithms make fashion decisions and predict the next big trend, a task normally associated creative geniuses. With so much consumer data, predicting trends and stock levels is left to the machines, no intuition needed.

“Retailers adept at using algorithms and big data tend to employ fewer buyers and assign each a wider range of categories, partly because they rely less on intuition.

At Le Tote, an online rental and retail service for women’s clothing that does hundreds of millions of dollars in business each year, a six-person team handles buying for all branded apparel — dresses, tops, pants, jackets.”

The result is two-fold: the industry is using fewer buyers in the decision-making process and retailers are increasingly hiring people who can “stand between machines and customers.” The article notes that there are plenty of areas where automation can’t do the job. Negotiating with suppliers, assessing fabric transparency, and styling all need a human touch.

Instead of replacing all the humans, algorithms are changing how we work.  As a result, future roles (and managers) will demand employees who understand understand how to use algorithms to make decisions that improve the final product, while also understanding the limitations of the technology.

In the future of work (which is already here and we need a better phrase), we’re going to need a lot more of these employees.

The student loan struggle is too real.

This tweet summed up all my feels on the soul-crushing burden that is student loans:

It should surprise nobody that this tweet currently sits at 47K retweets. On a follow up tweet she adds that these are all federal loans, not even private ones.

This is the reality of being buried by student loans. Scroll through the responses too and you’ll see even more people crushed by higher education debt.

 

Do employers care about your online certificate?

Recently I came across a certificate in Higher Education Administration from Northwestern. For $19,975, I can “deepen (my) understanding of the field and expand (my) networks.” Details on career outcomes or paths are notably absent. Instead the page offers the basics of college career services: “access to ongoing professional development support, one-on-one career coaching, academic advising and networking opportunities.”

The certificate reminded me of a Northwestern ad I saw last year promoting a $10,000 global mobility online certificate. The ad was marketed towards future international education professionals. As someone who has worked in international education for over a decade, I got a bit riled up. Aside from the fact that you don’t need a $10K certificate to get a job in international education, the program’s career preparation promises were lackluster at best. The lack of testimonials from employers raving about the certificate, or explaining how the certificate signaled a candidate’s competitiveness, was telling.

Despite my frustrations with certificates with lackluster career promises, I recognize the role certificates play as career paths and institutions adapt to changes in the market. Certificates are revenue generating programs which help institutions shore up revenue from diverse sources. Certificates also provide an attractive option to employees who want to upskill or change careers. They usually take under a year to complete. Certificates are frequently associated with a university brand name. While affordability varies by institution and certificate program, they’re cheaper than a full degree and they qualify for financial aid.

However, data on career outcomes from non-degree credentialing – i.e. certificate holders – is hard to come by. Employers’ attitudes towards certificate holders are difficult to pin down, which makes it hard to know if certificates hold their value in the market or even determine the ROI on a $20K certificate.

Thankfully we’re a bit closer to understanding employer attitudes to non-degree credentials thanks to a new report by Burning Glass Technologies. A recently released report, The Narrow Ladder: The Value of Industry Certifications in the Job Market, examines how employers use certifications (not certificates) in the hiring process. Using their vast database of over 700 million job postings, Burning Glass Technologies examines the types of certifications that employers value, along with the skills and salary bump employees receive post-certification. It’s well worth a read for anyone who advises students or mid-career professionals about their upskill options.

“It’s not that the “non-degree” credentials are rare; more than a quarter of the employed U.S. population holds a license or certification, on top of any degrees they may hold. Certifications can be precisely tuned to industry needs, and they hold the promise of reducing the need for employers to rely on imperfect proxies, like college degrees. In certain occupations, certifications outline career ladders that define industries and give employers and job seekers alike guidance about what skills are necessary to advance.
Those occupations, however, are the exception, and if the nation is to close the skills gap, perhaps they should become the norm.”

Though the report focuses on certifications, its analysis provides material for examining certificate programs as well. Most importantly, it provides a clear difference between between certifications and certificates. The report examines employer attitudes towards certifications, which are “awarded by a certifying body, often an industry association or trade group, based on an examination process assessing whether an individual has acquired the designated knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform a specific job.” This differs from certificates, which the report defines as “short-term, professionally oriented credentials awarded by an educational institution (as opposed to an industry body) based on completion of specific coursework.” 

This distinction is important since few people outside of mobility circles realize the difference. There is a critical difference between these types of upskilling. With such similar terms an employee looking to upskill could be forgiven for thinking a university certificate in higher education administration will provide the same signal to future employers and salary bump as a CISCO Cisco Certified Network Professional certification (it doesn’t). The former is a revenue generation program from a university with little focus on skill building and an unclear career trajectory. The latter is an industry-approved career training model with clearly defined career paths.

What struck me most from this report was the role that certifications played in outlining both the skills and career paths that job seekers and employers agree on. Certifications are built from industry needs. Here’s an example of the skills needed for a AMA Digital Marketing Certification:

Are university certificate programs mapping their content offerings to industry needs? Maybe but we don’t know. The report also finds that employers value certifications that improve technical skills. Do employers feel the same about certificates? Hard to know.

On top of that, the report finds that employers vastly prefer certifications over certificates.

In 2015, the demand for certifications is approximately 1.5 million job postings, whereas only about 130,000 postings ask for certificates.

Is it possible that employer demand for certificates aren’t as in-demand as universities promise? Again, we don’t know, but this stat and the lack of employee perspectives in program marketing for certificates is telling.

Among the most important takeaways from the report, however, is this nugget:

Relatively few certifications actually have market value, and there is a shortage of easy-to-find information to sort out which credentials are pathways and which are blind alleys. More transparency in the certification market can significantly improve the returns people receive on their certification investments.

Finding out which credential pathways are legitimate is difficult. I’d argue the same for certificate programs. Will a certificate in higher education administration make a candidate more desirable than a candidate with 5+ years working in higher education? Will a certificate provide a salary bump or launch a job seeker into a more senior role? Will a certificate ensure the skills learned are still relevant in the next five years? The lack of this data makes it tough to answer these questions.

Since we don’t have those answers yet, it’s up to the job seeker/future certificate student to ask the hard questions before taking on a certificate. So for job seekers thinking about getting any certificate – online or in person – ask yourself these six questions before committing:

  • Does this certificate add to or improve your technical skills?
  • Does this certificate put you on a path to a hybrid job?
  • Does this certificate map to industry needs?
  • Does this certificate frequently appear as a requirement in your future job posting?
  • Will this certificate give you a salary or title bump? 
  • Will this certificate be relevant in five years? 

If you can’t answer these questions on your own or through a Google search, ask admissions. You’re investing in a certificate; it’s perfectly fine to ask about career outcomes. Ask to speak to participants in the program (don’t rely on testimonials). Look at LinkedIn profiles of certificate holders to understand their career paths. If you don’t get a clear answer, consider other options that are either cheaper (i.e. MOOCs), bootcamps, or certificate programs that detail the results.

Employees will need to upskill throughout their career. Certifications and certificates are one of many paths to do so. To make sure they’re actually beneficial to job seekers, we need a lot more data like the recent report from Burning Glass Technologies.

Higher education should do their part by ensuring their certificate programs bring career outcomes data – or employer perspectives towards their certificate – to the forefront of their marketing and information websites. Because right now career outcomes from all these certificate programs basically look like this:

Certificate programs career outcomes page

More career advice like this, part 2

Once again I’m finding fabulous career advice on Twitter. This time from Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom whose book, LowerEd, is top of my list of summer non-fiction reads (and should be on yours).

The entire thread is worth reading but I’ll post my favorite parts here.

On how to figure out what you’re qualified for:

On communicating what you’re targeting:

On the reality of your first post-college job:

On getting alllll the tech skills before graduating so you stand out:

On in person informational interviews when you’re broke af

Just solid career advice. No bullshit. No false promises. Just reality.

Want job security? Become a data translator

In my last role I talked with MBA recruiters about their hiring needs on the regular. When I asked what they were looking for in a candidate the most common answer was: people that can work with data. The need for data-savvy candidates spanned industries and roles. An MBA doesn’t guarantee someone has experience working with data. At the time MBAs were still trying to upgrade their curriculum to include this skill. Yet overwhelmingly hiring managers wanted people who understood how to work with data. These conversations happened in 2016. Now the need is even greater.

Data powers modern organizations. Your ability to identify relevant data, evaluate it, work with it, and communicate what actions to take based on it, is crucial to staying relevant in the business world. And this isn’t just for MBAs – this goes for anyone working in a business organization.

Thankfully you don’t have to be a data scientist to work with data. There are plenty of data-based opportunities that aren’t as hardcore as a data scientist. Some of those opportunities are summed up nicely in this HBR post, You Don’t Have to Be a Data Scientist to Fill This Must-Have Analytics Role

Companies have widened their aperture, recognizing that success with AI and analytics requires not just data scientists but entire cross-functional, agile teams that include data engineers, data architects, data-visualization experts, and — perhaps most important — translators.

Data translators are exactly what they sound like: people who can translate data into meaning. These are the employees who bridge the “technical expertise of data engineers and data scientists with the operational expertise of marketing, supply chain, manufacturing, risk, and other frontline managers.” They’re natural communicators and collaborators. They adapt and understand business goals across teams. Data translators have major soft skills with a solid foundation in analytics. They’re are also highly employable. IBM estimates that by 2020 over 2 million analytics roles will need to be filled. Those organizations are going to need a shitton of data translators.

According to the HBR article above, the best hires come from inside the organization. This means you’ve got a chance at positioning yourself for this future-proof role.

If you’re not using data in your current job you have two options: find another role so your skills remain relevant or create your own data translator role within your department. This is a new, evolving role. Data translators may not currently exist in your organization. Or they may exist but operate under a different job title.

Prepare for the role by exploring opportunities inside your organization to work with data. Get to know your data science team (if there is one). Start a conversation with your boss about your involvement in data-driven projects. Ask about the departments goals. Ask which data is already analyzed and used to support business goals. Identify which data-driven projects exist on your team and then find a way to get involved or at least shadow the project. Create your own data viz project by watching YouTube videos about Tableau and using relevant data from your department. Present to your team about your findings. Then identify a department that you collaborate with regularly. Get to know their business goals and how they work with data to make strategic decisions. The ideal data translator works seamlessly across departments. Getting to know the people in other departments – as well as their business goals – will position you well for any data translation job. Also, you can supplement all of this with online courses. Coursera and FutureLearn have excellent options.

Your ability to work with data is a must-have skill. You need it if you want to move up. But you also need the skill to ensure your relevance in the next 5 years of workplace evolution. If you don’t have the skills and experience to work with data this is the time to start upskilling and adding data analytics to your skill collection.

The potential strike in Vegas is about robots taking hospitality jobs

From Gizmodo:

“I voted yes to go on strike to ensure my job isn’t outsourced to a robot,” said Chad Neanover, a prep cook at the Margaritaville, said.“We know technology is coming, but workers shouldn’t be pushed out or left behind. Casino companies should ensure that technology is harnessed to improve the quality and safety in the workplace, not as a way to completely eliminate our jobs.”

The article also cites a survey from Cognizant that reported “three-fourths of hotel operators said AI-based systems would become mainstream by 2025.”