career Alphabet Formation

You know who I’m envious of? People who work in a job that has to do with their college major. Journalists who studied journalism, engineers who studied engineering. The truth is, these people are no longer the rule, but the exception. A 2010 study found that only a quarter of college graduates work in a field that relates to their degree. Very few of us hold jobs that line up directly with our past experiences or what we studied in college.

We all know people who were ignored or overlooked at first but went on to prove their critics wrong. My favorite story? Brian Acton, an engineering manager who was rejected by both Twitter and Facebook before cofounding WhatsApp, the mobile messaging platform that would sell for 19 billion dollars.

The hiring systems we built in the 20th century are failing us and causing us to miss out on people with incredible potential. The advances in robotics and machine learning and transforming the way we work, automating routine tasks in many occupations while augmenting and amplifying human labor in others. At this rate, we should all be expecting to do jobs we’ve never done before for the rest of our careers. So what are the tools and strategies we need to identify tomorrow’s high performers?
Here are three ideas to take forward:

One: expand your search.
If we only look for talent in the same places we always do — gifted child programs, prestigious organizations — we’re going to get the same results we always have.

Two: hire for performance.
Just as teams have tryouts and plays have auditions, candidates should be asked to demonstrate their skills before they’re hired. If you’re hiring a data analyst, give them a spreadsheet of historical data and ask them for their key insights. If you’re hiring a marketing manager, have them plan a launch campaign for a new product. And if you’re a candidate, don’t wait for an employer to ask. Seek out ways to showcase your unique skills and abilities outside of just the standard resume and cover letter.

Three: get the bigger picture.
There are recruiters who are quick to label a candidate a job-hopper based on a single short stint on their resume.

Until we get a holistic view of someone, our judgment of them will always be flawed. Let’s stop equating experience with ability, credentials with competence. We could live in a world where people are seen for what they’re truly capable of and have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

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