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.

Jobbatical gets international job seekers

I’m spending some time these days trying out a lot of HR Tech. I’m in search of user-friendly, forward-thinking job search tools for my online career courses.

Jobbatical has been on my radar for over a year. Since I teach people how to build global careers, I frequently include their job postings in my weekly newsletter.

There are no shortage of job search platforms for job seekers to use. Nearly all have international location filters. But here’s what makes Jobbatical so good: they understand international job seekers.

Here’s what makes the exceptional:

Visa sponsorship is front and center 

The top question on any internationally mobile candidate’s mind is work authorization. Right after, who’s hiring, they’re asking “Will the company sponsor me?” Jobbatical puts that information front and center. LinkedIn, the global jobs platform, still doesn’t do this.

Company overview with tags for more exploration

The country tags make it easier to explore additional open positions in the country. This easy-to-find feature is ideal for international job seekers who have specific geographic goals. It also facilitates exploration, ideally getting people to spend more time with your content. Given that most people searching for work online are in an exploratory phase, this little feature can make a big impact.

jobbatical geo tag

Introduction to the city and cost of living comparisson

When a job seeker is considering moving their life across the world they need more than a job description. Instead forcing users to find expat information on another site, Jobbatical provides a quick glance at living costs and often a city guide. This makes it easier for international job seekers to envision their new life, not just in a new role but thriving in a foreign country.

Overall, Jobbatical’s UX is solid. They offer international job seekers a seamless yet delightful exploratory search experience. Career platforms, especially the ones that serve universities, should take a cue from these guys.

LinkedIn’s mediocrity is killing me

I’m a LinkedIn power user. At Yale SOM I lived on LinkedIn: reaching out to global employers, training global executives how to be thought leaders, and teaching students how to search alumni and track opportunities. These days I use it only slightly less with more focus on building partnerships and teaching students in my online courses how to use it.

So I say this with much love and experience: LinkedIn is so ridiculously mediocre.

I can’t for the life of me understand how a company with so many users and Microsoft-backing still spends so much time trying to get me to spam my inbox.

Yet when I get those connections, LinkedIn makes it ridiculously hard to organize and keep up with those connections.

My connections are all parked in a feature-poor list. If I’m looking to connect with someone working in fintech in Seattle, the sort feature offers little to help me find them (when’s the last time you remembered a conference contact by their first name?) Even the search feature doesn’t work properly:

Results of my Seattle search, where I’d wager 25% of my professional contacts reside

Yet when I want to search alumni from my school, I get this incredible, visual, search feature.

Why isn’t this feature replicated for contacts? If the point of LinkedIn is to stay connected to your contacts, why don’t they make it as easy as possible to find and visualize your contacts? (side note: What is the point of LinkedIn?)

Also, it’s worth noting that this is the result after they redesigned it to be more user-friendly.

Then there are all the attempts to get you to upgrade.

Not sure that’s the best way to motivate me to use premium.

LinkedIn is also pushing the online learning opportunities. There too I find their suggestions and course-dump lacking.

 I have zero connection to digital arts or animation.

LinkedIn has all the resources, deep data, and millions of users. Yet these are the results.

LinkedIn, hopelessly mediocre.

Can Artificial Intelligence find me a job?

Imagine if LinkedIn had a smart technology that guided you through each step of your job search. Imagine if it could accurately match you to jobs based on your background, conduct a skill gap analysis, and recommend courses to make you more qualified for a job. Imagine if it could pair you with a mentor and recommend conversational topics and questions based on mutual interests.

Admittedly, that’s all a bit of a wish list. But my hopes were up when I saw a IBM College tweet about a new service with Watson. For job seekers interested in working at IBM, Watson will help provide “job recommendations that match your skills and interests.” Watson, the do-it-all cognitive technology, is dipping its non-existent toes into career coach waters. As a career coach who’s spent years helping people figure out which jobs are right for them, I had to give Watson a try.

Interacting with Watson starts off easy. Like any good coach, Watson gives you options. It offers the option to explore common questions, answer questions about your experience, or upload your resume to let Watson recommend opportunities for you. I chose the easiest option, the resume upload, because it’s the laziest.

Seconds later, Watson had a list of job recommendations and the initial recommendations were in line with my background. It recommended three job categories at IBM to explore: Marketing, Consulting, and HR. Each category contained 50 jobs. Watson ranked each job by best match, with an icon indicating how well I matched the job opportunity and an info box showing which skills made me a match for the job. Unfortunately, the job opportunities ranged greatly in experience level, education and responsibilities. Oddly internship opportunities ranked high in my results, though I’ve been out of grad school for 8 years and have 10 years of relevant experience. I assumed Watson would only recommend relevant jobs related to my years of experience.

Feeling mildly overwhelmed with 150 matched opportunities, I returned to the beginning to answer questions so Watson could get to know me better. Watons’s questions were related to my work experience, skills, and passion. After answering all of them, Watson recommended a new category to explore: Design and Offer Management. It was a happy discovery. I’m obsessed with UX and immediately found a cool job for a User Experience Designer for Bluemix Garage, their innovation and transformation consultancy which does work with startup communities around the world. Dreamy.

Watson made discovering opportunities relatively seamless because I didn’t have to have to experiment with keywords or job titles to find jobs that may be a good fit, a challenge most job seekers struggle with. Watson also shows which of your skills matched you to a job. Compare that to LinkedIn’s job recommendations which are frequently odd and a mystery, and suddenly Watson seemed quite helpful.

Unfortunately Watson’s helpful magic stalled as I moved from recommendations to interactive chat. As I explored recommended categories, Watson encouraged me: “While you explore these jobs, feel free to ask me any questions you may have about IBM. For example, I want to know about… to learn about company culture, locations and more.”

So I inquired. “Do you have jobs in Portland?” Watson displayed jobs in my category that were tagged “multiple cities” as well as San Francisco and Austin, etc. Was Watson making a hipster connection? I’m still not sure if they have jobs in Portland.

Then I thought of questions a college student might ask. I asked, “what jobs do you have for college graduates?” Watson replied: Based on your resume, it looks like you would be interested in these job categories. You can learn more about these categories or explore opportunities in each category.

I tried to get more specific. “What internships do you have for college graduates?” Watsons repeated the same answer as above. “What is the best way to get a job at IBM?” Same reply, Based on your resume… I asked “How long is the hiring process?” I was directed to a web page on the recruiting process which had little detail. I asked if IBM has MBA-level jobs. The response was “Super, I found opportunities in one job category” The category: Project executive. I tried to clarify, “Are there roles for MBAs in strategy?”

Watson’s response: “Sorry that area is out of my expertise.” Watson apparently hasn’t met IBM’s MBA team.

With daily articles on artificial intelligence and the power of machine learning appearing in my newsfeed regularly, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of cognitive technology. I made a lot of assumptions as I started to interact with Watson, all driven by hype. I assumed Watson would show me unique opportunities based on my specific questions. I assumed it would offer insights about working at IBM beyond a link to a corporate webpage. I assumed it understood job seekers better. Watson isn’t there yet. To be fair, this service is in its infancy. IBM notes that Watson is learning and can’t answer all the questions.

I remain optimistic though. Artificial intelligence applied to the job search is a potential that is too good to ignore. Some companies already see the future. WayUp just raised $18 million for their platform which uses machine learning to improve job matches between students in students and employers. Looking beyond improved matching, a smart service that helps people navigate the job search – an anxious, joyless, and time consuming process that everyone dislikes – is enticing. There are not enough human career coaches to assist people through the coming workforce disruption. People need guidance as they think through retraining options and upskilling. A smarter Watson could serve as a virtual career coach and support system to help people navigate an increasingly ambiguous future of work.

I look forward to that day.