You can look at my degrees and academic transcript, but how do you know what I actually learned in school? More importantly, how do you know what I remember today?
You can talk to my professional references and co-workers, who probably have a good sense of what I know. But I’m friendly with them. How likely are they to tell you the whole truth (and nothing but the truth) about what I actually know and am able to do for you?
Let’s face it: You don’t know much about anyone you hire. Not with the main methods in use today. Employers today rely upon checking diplomas, transcripts, resumes, and references. These methods are not only limited but also distorted. People are going to ‘puff up’ their resumes. (The truth is, your job candidate can’t take sole credit for that game-changing product strategy; there were actually three other people who developed it.) In general, job candidates are going to merchandise themselves to you. It’s human nature.
No matter where the candidate has worked, no matter where he or she went to school, or whom you both know in common, you’re taking a risk in hiring that person. How much of a risk? According to multiple reports such as this one, hiring the wrong person can cost employers 30% of that person’s annual salary.
Graphic by Shannon Holloway.
Working on a startup is the new graduate school–you learn a lot, and you hope it will pay off someday.
I’ve learned a ton from my startup experiences, but I’d like to share one of the most important concepts to which our software engineers recently introduced me. It’s called Test-Driven Development – and it contains a kernel of wisdom for anyone seeking to develop their career-related knowledge and skills.
Humans have been building things for millennia, and there’s been a standard approach:
Simple, right? And yet it’s fairly dumb, because you don’t know if ‘it’ works until you’ve already put in the time, the energy, and the expense to build it. If it doesn’t work, you’ve wasted all three.
Enter some smart software engineers, who in the last 10 years have popularized a New Approach to Building Stuff, which goes as follows:
“Sign up for our free webinar!”
Do those six words make you feel excited? Intrigued? Doubtful. You probably feel some combination of bored, burdened and “Blech!” Why? Because like most people, you secretly never want to attend another webinar if you can possibly avoid it.
It’s time to bid farewell to one of 1998’s greatest inventions: the Webinar. When webinars went mainstream in the early 2000’s, everyone loved them. “You mean you don’t have to be in a room with someone to hear and see their presentation live??? Amazing!!!”
Since then, we’ve ditched other turn-of-the-millennium technologies, such as Palm Pilots, MiniDiscs, and Rio MP3 players. Yet the webinar hangs on. Along with other defunct inventions, it’s time to replace the webinar with something better.
Think back to your high school days. Admit it — you spent a lot of time daydreaming, even in the more interesting classes. Why? Because your teachers spent large chunks of time standing in front of the classroom talking at you. During those times, you were merely a passive participant in your learning who was expected to sit still and sustain focus as content washed over you.
Now, what happened when the teacher announced that it was time to take a quiz? Your brain snapped into action! You quit passing notes, you sat up straight, your pulse quickened and you focused. You knew you were about to be challenged, and therefore you became both cognitively and emotionally engaged. You suddenly had become an active participant in your learning.
You’ve seen quizzes all over social media. Why? Online quizzes are what I call Cognitive Catnip; people engage with them at remarkably high rates, often spending several minutes in each quiz, then sharing with colleagues and friends. Quizzes fit the ‘on-your-own-time, bite-sized’ ethos of social media, and are thus very audience-friendly (unlike webinars.) Most quizzes are simply designed to generate clicks, pageviews and ad impressions but can do much more.