Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Jobs Will Exist in the Future, But Résumés Might Not....

When I read Friedman's piece on "inventing jobs", I had hoped that he would be speaking to a future in which workers were more entrepreneurial - whether in terms of finding ways to work for themselves, or to position themselves to be more secure or more competitive when seeking or holding jobs. The forces that inspired Friedman's column, essentially the decline of the middle class crossed with the reduced possibility of completing your education before embarking on what we once might have called a career, are real.

But have you actually looked at the job market lately? Have you tried to get a job?

First, for a lot of employers the traditional résumé is something to be scanned and algorithmically processed. If you don't have the right keywords, it's possible that the only person who knows you've applied for the job will be the person who opens your job application and feeds it into the scanner. And if you're submitting your application electronically, you don't even have that.

Second, it's easier than ever for employers to investigate the applicants that they are considering interviewing. People put an alarming amount of personal information on sites like Facebook and Twitter, and most neglect to limit access to at least some of their more embarrassing information. And while that information may disqualify you from a job, we're reaching a point at which your qualification for a job may be even more tightly related to your online profile.

Frankly, employers don't trust résumés. It's easy for employees to exaggerate, even fabricate qualifications. Some people are very good about bluffing their way through interviews. The employer ends up with a suboptimal employee, and a choice between terminating the worker and engaging in another job search or hoping the employee grows into the position. The gamble often works for the dishonest employee - and if it doesn't, they suffer no real harm.

How is that changing? I suspect that over the next ten years, the traditional job posting is going to go the way of the dinosaur. Connections will be more important than ever. But the connections of growing importance aren't going to be the traditional "who you know". Instead, prospective employers will look for prospective employees on sites like LinkedIn, examining their credentials, and then reaching out to their own networks to verify the prospective employee's claims and professed skills. Historically, finding a common connection between yourself and a prospective employee was difficult, at best hit-or-miss. Now an employer can cultivate a select set of references, people who are trusted to give honest recommendations and referrals, and rely upon those people to suggest or verify the qualifications of prospective employees.

Ten, fifteen years from now, I think the typical opening for a "good job" will involve an employer identifying prospects, verifying their credentials, and narrowing their list down to a small number of prospects before the prospective employee even knows that the opportunity exists. Headhunting on steroids.

My advice to anybody in college: Build your professional network on Google Plus and LinkedIn, stop tweeting about your social life and latest snack, and start documenting your actual accomplishments. (If you don't have any yet, start accomplishing - what can you do, right now, that might impress a future employer in your field?) And keep it honest. The more technology-oriented your field, the more you need to get started... yesterday.

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