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.”

 

What makes you trust a chatbot?

Or better yet, should we trust chatbots?

Should we build relationships with AI bots?

Should our children?

Two recent podcasts explored issues of trust and relationships with chatbots and robots.

There’s.so.much.to.say.on.this. I’m writing up a storm elsewhere this week so I’m just parking them here for the curious. You should listen and then get your friends together for a podcast dinner to discuss it. Because it’s a wild topic sure to make for engaging conversation.

Science Friday – A Bot You Can Trust

Radiolab – More or Less Human

Don’t trust employers with your career plans

Here are two brutal quotes from an Axios post reporting on executives’ attitudes towards general pay raises and employee retraining. There were made during a conference for CEOs titled “Technology-Enabled Disruption: Implications for Business, Labor Markets, and Monetary Policy.”

“Executives of big U.S. companies suggest that the days of most people getting a pay raise are over, and that they also plan to reduce their work forces further.”

Damn. And then:

The moderator asked the panel whether there would be broad-based wage gains again. “It’s just not going to happen,” Taylor said. The gains would go mostly to technically-skilled employees, he said. As for a general raise? “Absolutely not in my business,” he said.

The CFO of AT&T also said that he doesn’t have a need for so many call center employees or guys that install their cables.

The message is pretty clear: employers don’t need you.

The idea that employees should be loyal to companies is a hold over from traditional career narratives. We’re still waiting for old school career narratives to catch up the present reality of work. But in the meantime it’s a good reminder that companies aren’t looking out for your best professional interest. Waiting for your employer to give you a raise, direct you to the next step, or reward you for your hard work – that’s not going to happen. Instead, it’s going to be up to you to figure out your next move and make sure you have the skills to get a pay upgrade. Don’t expect your employer to do it.

Your job search is becoming less human. Here’s how to adapt.

Imagine you’re a job seeker looking for a job. You submit your resume to a company’s website.

Your resume is scanned by AI that is evaluating your resume against the job description. It’s also comparing it to the employer’s existing database of current employees’ qualifications. Your new format and design don’t matter. Neither does your keyword stuffing to beat the ATS.

The algorithm also pulls in a few publicly available data points about you, like your social media profiles. It scores you based on that data and your resume. Your score puts you above the competition. Your resume isn’t reviewed by a recruiter.

Next you get a text on your phone. It’s the company and they’re asking if you have time to answer a few questions. You answer a few basic questions about your professional experience and interest in the role. You realize it’s a chatbot half way through but you’re just happy to avoid the awkward phone interview.

You make the cut again. You receive an automated email with a link to an online video interview platform and instructions. You record your answer to common behavioral questions. It’s awkward to stare at yourself on the screen. There are no visual or verbal cues to see how your answers land. Your responses are recorded. An algorithm analyzes the video, reviewing your micro expressions and looking at 25,000 possible data points to evaluate your personality and fit within the company. Your video response is scored by the algorithm.

Then you get an email from the recruiter. You’ve passed all the steps. They’d like to invite your for a day in the life experience at their company.

The visit is the first and maybe the last opportunity you’ll have to interact with a person in the entire search.

Back to reality. The situation above isn’t totally hypothetical. It’s the new job seeker reality. Companies are adopting HR tech that uses AI and automation to make the hiring process more efficient. It’s also making the hiring process less human. In 2017 Companies like Unilever and JP Morgan started automating their hiring process. Here’s what hiring looks like at Unilever:

Candidates learn about the jobs online through outlets like Facebook or LinkedIn and submit their LinkedIn profiles — no résumé required. They then spend about 20 minutes playing 12 neuroscience-based games on the Pymetrics platform. If their results match the required profile of a certain position, they move on to an interview via HireVue, where they record responses to preset interview questions. The technology analyzes things like keywords, intonation, and body language, and makes notes on them for the hiring manager. All of this can be completed on a smartphone or tablet.

If the candidate makes it through these two steps, they are invited to a Unilever office to go through a day-in-the-life scenario. By the end of the day, a manager will decide whether they are the right fit for the job.

A fundamental shift in hiring is under way and it’s powered by machine learning. From resume screening powered by AI to interview chatbots to predictive analytics that determine who’s most likely to leave a job, the list of startups transforming the hiring process is long. Over half of HR tech investments in 2017 went to companies offering products and services powered by AI.

For example, Entelo is an AI recruiting platform that uses machine learning to determine whether you’re a fit for their organization. The company’s knowledge base provides a few hints on how the AI will score you:

All of these new HR technologies are changing how you get hired for a new job. To succeed you must learn the new tools and adapt. Here’s how to start.

Don’t stop at resumes 

HR tools are evolving to evaluate you on more than just your resume. Tools like Entelo assess your social media data as part of your potential employability:

AI Recruiting on Entelo

The more work and knowledge that you share online will benefit you. So start by producing small bits of content. Create a personal website, show off a portfolio online, write small blog posts, or share articles related to your professional interests so you can be found, and evaluated, online.

Be curious about HR technology 

Explore the range of new HR technology that’s being used in the hiring process. Get curious about how these tools are used. Check out new AI tools to help job seekers. Tools like Jobscan and VMOCK are valuable resources that use machine learning to help your improve your resume. There’s even a promise of a chatbot to help you navigate your career (though it seems like it’s in permanent secret mode, so no proof that it actually does that yet).

Next research which companies are using AI technology for hiring so you can prepare accordingly. Right now large companies with large resume volumes are the ideal customers for automation tools. Smaller businesses and startups aren’t there, yet. Most HR tech products list which companies use their services. Before you apply, email a recruiter or ask a current employee about their hiring process so you know up front whether you’ll be engaging with a machine or a human.

600+ companies in 140 countries use HIreVue.

Ask hard questions about AI and HR technology 

This tech is brand spanking new. There are plenty of ethical questions about the use of AI and reinforcing bias in recruiting that need sorting out.  Job seekers can start asking hard questions too. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking how.

How do these platforms reinforce existing bias? How is current employee data used in the hiring process? How are candidates being scored by the algorithm? How are candidates screened out of the process? How do candidates rank if they don’t have online profiles or publicly available data for algorithms to find? How can a job seeker beat the AI system? How much do recruiters and hiring managers trust their AI systems?

Then ask yourselves the hard questions:  Are you getting all the information you need in the hiring process – company culture, opportunity for growth, management styles –  to make an informed decision? Does an automated candidate experience make you more or less likely to want to work for a new company?

Become an actor

One question they get frequently, said Lindsey Zuloaga, director of data science at HireVue, is if an applicant is able to trick the A.I. Her answer: “If you can game being excited about and interested in the job, yes, you could game that with a person as well,” she said. “You’re not going to game it without being a very good actor.”

To succeed in the future of work you need emotional intelligence. As more employers delegate emotional intelligence screening to automated tools you need to ensure you’re expressing that emotional intelligence. Start by recording yourself so you know how you look, talk, and express yourself on screen. Pay attention to your tone, body language, facial expressions. Learn how to build your soft skills to improve your emotional intelligence. Then consider taking a few acting or improve lessons to get comfortable expressing yourself.

Cultivate those professional relationships

Interestingly none of the articles praising new HR Tech have addressed internal referrals, the secret sauce to getting noticed in the job search. Will recruiters eschew a recommendation from a human in favor of their AI scoring system? Do AI hiring platforms incorporate internal recommendations into their scoring model? We don’t know. So for now we can assume that internal referrals via professional relationships might be a way to beat the AI system ( or at least, get around it). More importantly though those professional relationships will take on greater importance the more automated the hiring process becomes. Conversations with people inside of companies give you valuable insights and a feel for company culture, making up for the insights you lose in an automated process.

Sharpen your persuasion skills 

We’re not in a fully automated hiring process (yet). Job seekers still have a chance to engage with humans during their search. But the hiring process is evolving and making some career advice outdated. When you finally get in front of an employer it might not be what you expected (i.e. those behavioral interview questions you memorized might not be so helpful).

However one thing won’t change: once you are in front of a human you still have to persuade them that you’re the best person for the job. Your job search is act of persuasion. Learn the new automated systems and then focus on building your persuasion skills. Reflect on what the companies needs and how you meet that need. Learn how to tell an engaging professional story that connects your interests to your future team’s needs. Show employers your intellectual curiosity and passion as you ask questions about the role.

In the end, we need to all pay attention to the way hiring is changing. With millennials looking at a lifetime of job hopping, we’re going to have adapt fast to new hiring processes. As this article so cleverly points out, those “first impressions so carefully emphasized by career coaches are now being outsourced to artificial intelligence.”

So join me over at FutureMe School as we rethink how job seekers engage with employers. We’re smashing traditional career narratives and we’d love for you to be part of it.

Now I really don’t want to go live on Mars

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To be fair I’ve never wanted to travel to Mars. I’m perfectly happy with the options here on Earth. And after listening to the brilliant podcast mini-series, The Habitat, I really really really don’t want to go Mars. I’d never survive the trip.

I know this for sure now after listening to all six episodes of the The Habitat, a podcast that followed 6 NASA volunteers as they lived together in a Mars-like simulation. For one year this group lived on a volcanic surface in Hawaii, an environment picked to simulate the harsh terrain on Mars. They group isn’t allowed to go outside without suits. They live together in a small, confined environment with little private space. There are toilet issues. Personalities clash and nerves fray. Their spacesuits, the only way they can go outside on missions, are noisy and gross. The food is monotonous. There’s limited contact with the outside world. And it’s all done in the name of research.

The Habitat series is captivating storytelling. It will take you on a wild ride inside these peoples’ lives as they try to complete a full year inside the dome. Alongside their stories the Habitat also shares fascinating space history tidbits. It also raises plenty of questions about team work. It might leave you wondering how the eff anyone’s going to survive the trip to Mars with their sanity in tact.

Listen to it and then send it to your friend who insists they’d totally be down with a trip to Mars.

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