A diploma by itself does not create value; only experiential skills create value.
While it is impossible to summarize the job market in a vast, dynamic economy, we can say that the key to any job is creating value. That can be anything from serving someone a plate of mac-and-cheese to fixing a decaying fence to feeding chickens to securing web servers to managing a complex project--the list is essentially endless.
On our way home yesterday we stopped for lunch at a Rubios (a Mexican chain with about 200 locations). I was telling my wife that the young people working for minimum wage at the sterile corporate Rubios today have a VERY different work experience than my friend Sean had working at the second Rubios in 1985 where he got to work side by side with founder Ralph Rubio.
Looking around the mall, 100% of the stores were big chains with 100+ locations and corporate top-down management where just about anyone with an 8th grade education can do 90% of the jobs and people don't have any ability to do anything different or get creative.
When I worked in the local grocery store in High School I could put items where I thought they would sell best (we would keep track of this to see if say Bud Light sold faster after we moved it above the Coors Light closer to eye level, after I got down from the roof after adjusting the beer case HVAC unit to make it colder).
Today kids in retail have to put everything in the exact spot that the corporate marketing people tell them to put it (and would never be allowed to get on the roof and work on the HVAC system).
Young Engineer #1's job (as I understand it) is to take what the people in "Business" want (to offer a new product, to mine the data for new opportunities, etc.) and
1. through his knowledge of the firm's technology databases and data structures say whether what is desired is even possible, or propose parallel alternatives, and
2. determine how a new set of programming instructions would be structured to work with existing systems and produce the desired output.The actual coding is off-shored to coders in India. He writes essentially zero code, despite being assigned previously to a COBOL-language mainframe system.
Young Engineer #2 noted that essentially everything being taught in Comp Sci classes in college is outmoded. He said that now there are entire libraries of open-source code available, and people doing a project simply have to organize the pieces, seeking out and copying "prior art" that is freely available to accomplish tasks of great complexity without reinventing the wheel for any of it.
I got the impression that while knowing how to write actual instructions and compile them may be useful base knowledge, it's simply not relevant to day-to-day work in the field.
Both of these explanations inform me that the basic skill needed is highly abstract, conceptual thinking, the ability to organize multiple elements into a coherent whole and to think through IN ADVANCE the series of intermediate results that combine into a final output.
Then add another necessary skill: interpersonal communication. Young Engineer #1 notes that foreign students in the US getting advanced degrees in STEM fields are wildly intelligent, but in his experience they simply can't connect with the "people in Business." The gulf between them is too wide, and so despite being fabulously intelligent and skilled, the overseas-educated engineers often can't deliver what the firm actually needs.
The overseas-educated engineers are often extremely bright and very skilled at the academics of engineering, but are often hamstrung by cultural variables that render them poor at problem-solving, especially when individual initiative and willingness to break convention are what's needed.
Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy(Kindle, $9.95)(print, $20)
Are you like me? Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.
And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.
You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.
Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.
So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.
It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.
I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.
Test drive the first section and see for yourself. Kindle, $9.95 print, $20
"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers(25 minutes, YouTube)
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