Gossip, Informal Reputation Management

In thinking about gossip, we giggle and think of something trivial we said behind someone’s back. Never thought much regarding the power of gossip until a professor in my A Brief History of Mankind MOOC identified gossip as one of the most important characteristics in the evolution of man. His argument is: gossip allows us to interact in ever-increasing social circles and, without it, we would be confounded in making new connections with persons in groups outside of our own. Similar to a point made in Wikipedia: Gossip is crucial in the forming of social bonds in large groups. People quickly get up to speed on characteristics and rumors of someone new in another group.

Gossip

Gossip

With social media, gossip is potent. It can sway the opinions of large networks of users in a frighteningly swift manner. A single post on Facebook or Twitter can command the attention of many people, especially as it gets introduced to ‘other groups’ as users share or like it. Gossip in social media blurs any distinction between personal and professional conduct; it is impossible to keep a personal life out of the prying eyes of coworkers, clients, and associates.

The primary benefit of gossip is “it is intimately connected with the moral rules of a given society, and individuals gain or lose prestige in their groups depending on how well they follow these rules”.[i] This is why gossip has endured through ages.

“This preoccupation with the lives of others is a by-product of the psychology that evolved in prehistoric times to make our ancestors socially successful. Thus, it appears that we are hardwired to be fascinated by gossip.”[ii]

A problem with gossip is it often contains an unproven record and veiled truths. Gossip is meant to reach the masses and there are victims – persons whose reputation or standing in a group is tarnished. These victims cannot present their side of the story and sometimes do not even know precisely what has been said about them. This is why some offices ban gossip; it damages workforce morale. According to a recent article on maintaining your reputation: “Gossiping, triangulating—and not following the basic rules of your workplace—can certainly undermine your credibility”.[iii]

I think it is worth accepting the existence of gossip and that it may serve a purpose, so separate useful information and gossip; as a corporate-training executive put it, “one person’s gossip is another’s ‘information-sharing’”[iv]. Think about the intent behind it. Does it affect you in any way? Instead of tearing someone else down, why not improve your own perceptions and talk to someone directly. Once you partake in gossip, it never goes away (especially in a digital form – a text message, social media post, or an email). It can also erode trust and damage relationships.

Gossip requires informal reputation management and therefore ties into your personal branding. First and foremost, if you are the target of gossip, it is best to get a handle on what is being said about you. Sometimes it requires a smart response to stop it from spreading and hurting your reputation. Second, if you hear gossip, you need to process the information and choose a response (partake in it or remove yourself from the conversation). And remember this Turkish proverb: who gossips to you will gossip of you. Third, if you are the gossiper, consider how putting yourself out there affects your reputation. Are you providing accurate information and giving both sides of the story? Are you damaging someone else’s credibility? Gossip has been around for thousands of years and will continue to be around; social media is a powerful platform to spread gossip.

[i]http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_evolution/2012/10/groups_and_gossip_drove_the_evolution_of_human_nature.single.html

[ii] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-of-gossip/

[iii] http://preview.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/career/how-to-take-control-of-your-reputation-at-work/ar-BB59SBu

[iv] http://online.wsj.com/articles/what-to-do-when-you-are-the-subject-of-office-gossip-1412701581

Self-Guided Learning

Self-guided learning is increasingly accessible to us – through online learning platforms, digital content, discussion forums, etc. Sometimes going back to college to learn a particular discipline or subject is avoidable. To illustrate this notion of self-guided learning, I discuss my experience learning about K-12 and higher education systems over the last couple of years. I have a working knowledge in education systems and offer a unique perspective when I cross disciplines with my business and technology background.

Self-Guided Learning

Self-Guided Learning

I took a MOOC called Emerging Trends & Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom and earned a grade of 96.4 percent (give you the grade as an assurance I took the course seriously). Through the course, I acquired a basic understanding of how teachers are utilizing technology and learning platforms in the classroom. Online courses are great for laying a basic, foundation of a new subject.

To understand how learning platforms work (and also satisfy curiosities), I took another five MOOCs in various subjects. Regardless of the subject, there are common elements in MOOCs (or any online course): finely tuned video lectures, learning assignments, quizzes and tests with instantaneous grading, and discussion forums. Practicing or applying what you are learning reinforces any knowledge gains (to be clear, in this case, I studied how learning platforms function).

Over the last two years, I read five books on higher education and two books on education from top thought leaders. In doing so, I became acquainted with perspectives of practitioners who have spent considerable time practicing, researching, and thinking about the education system. Learning from books is now more convenient than ever – simply click a button on Kindle to get it, make comments and highlights in the e-book, and follow the notes by clicking on links. A book is an immediate route into the mind of an expert where you follow their thought processes.

I have a daily routine of canvasing articles in major newspapers. I like the opinions section, where you get a pulse on what people are saying; for example, a parent talking about why Common Core testing is difficult on his or her child’s psyche. Newspapers keep you on top of the current issues and public opinion.

I have social media accounts. With Twitter I follow organizations providing educational services and discussing policy and funding issues. With LinkedIn I follow an education group of influencers. Articles in social media have insights from experts on current events followed by a long list of comments from readers.

I actively blog about concepts that interest me. Blogging forces you to stay current and offer your spin on things. (In a way, it is like building skills by teaching what you have learned.)

In K-12 education, students learn basic skills in reading, writing, and math; in higher education, students learn higher-order skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. Students also learn technical skills based on the degree they choose, and may continue onto graduate school to deepen their knowledge. Regardless of a person’s undergraduate degree, he or she has the basic knowledge and resources to learn other disciplines and subjects through self-guided learning. And, if necessary, he or she takes an online assessment to establish a competency and earns a credential matching a traditional degree.

Economists, lawyers, statisticians and many other common professions apply their technical skills to other disciplines. Cross-disciplinary skills are and will be highly sought after in the Information Age.

Many of today’s global problems are just too complex to be solved by one specialized discipline. These multifaceted problems require trans-disciplinary solutions.[i]

[i] http://www.iftf.org/uploads/media/SR-1382A_UPRI_future_work_skills_sm.pdf

College Maturity

The transition from high school to college to early employment is crucial in career development. A successful transition depends on maturity, being able to prioritize learning while becoming more self and socially aware. In Aspiring Adults Adrift, the authors take their study (started in Academically Adrift) further to understand the lives of early career professionals soon after graduating from college.

Time Management

Time Management

College graduates are still having a difficult time finding satisfying employment. In a recent article in HBR, a study points out that employees also recognize the existence of a skills gap – something employers have been talking about for the last couple years[i].

Internships, apprenticeships, and volunteering lead to greater employment possibilities and are becoming fundamental as employers and colleges work to close the skills gap. This type of work relationship is good for a few reasons. First, students practice skills as they are being learned in the classroom. Second, students explore and experiment in jobs without over committing. Third, employers influence what is being taught in the classroom. Finally, it is cheaper for employers to assess a candidate’s skill set (as opposed to a direct hire).

According to the study, students are not using their college career services to land future employment. A career center’s biggest contribution is to setup career events, where students link up with employers who have a relationship with the college. In addition, career services help students perfect their resume (and this should be moving towards an online personal brand, I argue). The Obama administration is pushing a new college rating system that makes colleges accountable for “dropout rates, earnings of graduates and affordability”[ii]. Career centers, being a bridge between employers and a college, should face an expanded role in courting employers and ensuring their graduates have the necessary skills.

One of the major themes of the book is that higher education needs to reverse the course towards consumerism and concentrate on improving academic rigor. This is challenging because of the above-mentioned college rating system. On one-side there is pressure to improve graduation rates (currently 60 percent of undergrads), and on the other-side there is pressure to get students to work harder with a more difficult curriculum. Perhaps both can be accomplished in the long-term, but would require a major change in social norms – college students showing up ready and willing to learn on day one.

Still the book makes clear a social element has its place in a college experience, for these reasons: 1) it “plays a highly stratifying role in partner selection” (even though people marry later in life); 2) it introduces students to a diverse student body; 3) it is meant to cultivate the “whole man”. Students must learn a balancing act – work commitments (studying and being in class) versus play – that exists throughout the rest of their lives.

In the eyes of graduating college students, everything is peachy. According to the study: 95 percent reported their lives would be better than those of their parents and 90 percent of seniors reported being satisfied with their college experience.

To improve learning in college, educators, policy makers, and parents are going to have to work together – make true learning the primary objective of college.

Colleges and universities thus have a responsibility to address the lack of academic rigor and limited learning we have reported… Consumer satisfaction is not a worthy aim for colleges and universities.

What I like about this book is it speaks the truth of the average college student. It is something I can surely relate to with my college experience. For many, the social experience is overwhelming. We get tunnel vision about earning a credential – the degree – rather than actual learning and building skills needed for a career. In Paying for the Party, two sociologists study women in a public college and come up with similar conclusions. Speaking about partying is taboo because there are deep privacy and trust concerns within a circle of friends (and we all grow up at different times). But I am not suggesting changing the social scene. My suggestion is to treat college from the beginning like a job: you do the necessary work, spend the time, and meet a learning expectation, and then are free to do as you please. In my opinion, it all comes down to: time management, learning commitment , self-control, self-awareness, and social awareness.

[i] http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/09/workers-dont-have-the-skills-they-need-and-they-know-it/

[ii] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/upshot/why-federal-college-ratings-wont-rein-in-tuition.html

Richard Arum and Josipa Roska. Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates. (University of College Press, Chicago 2014)

What Is Knowledge?

Google’s definition of knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Let’s discuss each clause separately.

Knowledge

Knowledge

The underlying notion of knowledge is going through a transformation. Memorization of ‘facts and information’ is less important, and building skills is more important. All possible content is available to us through the internet, social media, and other networks instantaneously on computer and mobile devices. In the not so distant future, implanted devices will interact with our normal thought processes and create an ‘augmented reality’. (Love this video on what this might seem like; be forewarned it is frightening, but realistic .) Why is there rote-memorization in education? Should the focus be on building skills to find, synthesize, and discuss ‘facts and information’?

The ability to mix technical knowledge with solving real-world problems is the key.[i]

Look at the success of IBM’s Watson – a supercomputer that won Jeopardy and beat the top chess player in the world. Winning Jeopardy requires recalling facts and information in a wide array of subjects and winning chess requires cycling through a significant number of iterations for each move. In a chess match, a supercomputer beats the best human player, but a team of a supercomputer and a human player beats a supercomputer by itself (at least for now).[ii] Of course, humans build the computer and program the underlying algorithms. Players now learn chess in new ways. They optimize the computer for crunching out calculations, know how to process the data, and spend more time reading their opponent. IBM has just come out with mainstream application that utilizes Watson to bring ‘big data’ analysis to the average user.[iii] Learning to ask the right questions is paramount.

Memorizing a foundation of ‘facts and information’ is a requirement in certain professions, such as historians, doctors, and lawyers; a common thread in their responsibilities includes being able to recite facts and stats, classify elements, or identify precedence on the spot. Although there are huge online content reservoirs, such as Web-MD and Lexus Nexus, which can be accessed when needed. Nevertheless, a ‘theoretical or practical understanding’ remains critical in these high stakes professions.

Knowing ‘facts and information’ is required for developing a perspective. You cannot make an effective argument without a sufficient understanding of the prevailing schools of thought. Still, immediate access to huge reservoirs of facts and information online accelerates this process significantly. The notion of spending days in a library rummaging through printed copies of journals, periodicals, and books is over (still remember the awful, time-consuming process). Now you can  follow new ideas in social media, conduct Google searches, and access websites of information distributors. Digital content is much easier to manage – make comments, highlight quotes, and copy and transfer to other platforms.

Understanding is key. But not superficial, light-bulb moment of understanding. In STEM, true and deep understanding comes with the mastery gained through practice.[iv]

Here are some thoughts for moving forward with a new concept of knowledge:

  • Promote self-guided learning. Learning has become a lifelong commitment because of the rapid adoption of new technologies and dissemination of huge amounts of content. Professionals must keep their skills sharp with new applications. They must also follow the latest trends by following influencers in social media, taking courses, and reading articles, books, and blogs.
  • Focus on skills required to manage, process, and analyze information and facts, as opposed to memorization. Computers are better at memorization and number crunching; humans are better at making decisions and showing compassion and empathy (soft skills).
  • Competency based learning instead of the traditional credit hour model. With online learning, you can learn at your own pace and utilize many different resources.
  • Use the latest technology in all levels of education. It is essential to put the latest hardware and software applications into the hands of students – a generation that is expected to use it.

[i] Tyler Cowen. Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. (Penguin, New York 2013).

[ii] … (page 81)

[iii] http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/16/ibm-offers-a-data-tool-for-the-mainstream-with-watsons-help/

[iv] http://online.wsj.com/articles/barbara-oakley-repetitive-work-in-math-thats-good-1411426037

Bonding With a Leader

Leadership coaches tell leaders to improve their emotional intelligence (“EQ”). In fact, many say it is the single most important thing a leader can do to increase his or her effectiveness. Building relationships is the core of EQ, and since relationships are a two-way street, everyone contributes.

Teams can change in desired ways, but again, without purposeful desire, the changes may be slow or result in unwanted consequences.[i]

Bonding With a Leader

Bonding With a Leader

A leader has to get to know their employees better. Hopefully, this leads to an opportunity for you (as an employee) to share things about yourself: insights, personal stories, values, and a sense of humor. The best advice is to be ready because an interaction might occur at any time: in an elevator, the lunchroom, or a conference room. Avoid clamming up because you do not want to say something wrong, yet acknowledge the fear so you show due respect. Try being spontaneous, though be careful what you say because it can be sticky.

And just as important, it is an opportunity for you to learn about the leader; it is not all about you. If you get a chance, ask an open-ended question that prompts him or her to share a personal experience. A leader’s story might teach a lesson, establish trust, and/or simply make you laugh.

On a professional level, you want to learn a leader’s methods (practiced ways of applying skills) and get candid feedback. Volunteer to ‘reverse mentor’. Teach new technologies or social media applications where you may have more experience and a different perspective; become a valuable resource, beyond simply performing your duties.

When I was an early career professional, I used to coach my company’s sports teams. I remember a very well-liked leader played goalie for one of our soccer games. He was not much of a soccer player, but showed up on a rainy Saturday morning for us – no other reason. By the end of the game, he was covered in mud from making (or trying to make) saves. It was a thrill having him play with us. His simple participation cemented a bond with everyone on the team that day. Everyone remembers the game and, moreover, had an easy ‘ice-breaker’ to strike a conversation with him in the hall or lunchroom.

From a leader’s perspective, you make great strides in building relationships by doing things purely for the sake of the team. From an employee’s perspective, participating in events outside the confines of the office – such as company sport’s teams, happy hours, etc. – are excellent opportunities to get to know coworkers and leaders on a personal level.

The mood of a leader is contagious. It involves both emotional and social contagion. There are emotional triggers in our brain that fire immediately during an interaction; there is nothing we can do to prevent a physical reaction, like a rush of euphoria or discomforting ‘pit’ in our stomach. However, it is important to understand when we are flooded with emotions so we can react to them and improve our ability to learn. We might ask ourselves. Was my excitement from this presentation justified? Did I resonate with the leader? Did I resonate with the idea? Emotions can shut off clarity in our thoughts.

I remember an exercise in a leadership course (business school) where we broke up into teams and gave presentations with the objective of influencing an audience (the rest of the class). The winner was not a team with the most elegant solution, but rather the one generating the most buzz –a mediocre solution presented beautifully; a scenario that plays out every semester in this class exercise. Emotions influence our short-term decision-making.

Everyone benefits in improving their emotional intelligence. It affects all areas of our life, including: communications, career development, relationships, and happiness. In a way, EQ measures wisdom and IQ measures intelligence. A higher EQ is a sign of maturity and can be improved upon while you are pretty much stuck with your IQ.

[i] https://spark-public.s3.amazonaws.com/lead-ei/Boyatzis%20%282008%29.pdf

It’s Up To You

It is up to you regarding career development. The quicker you realize this, the quicker you are on a career path towards happiness and success. Moreover, you become an active participant and therefore increase the effectiveness of what you are trying to accomplish; for example, you show up to a performance review well versed on what you want to learn from it (rather than just attending it as a formality). This process of taking self-ownership and accountability plays out in many facets of career development: lifelong learning, building skills, career planning, and pulling feedback.

Up To You

Up To You

The traditional education model has changed. Before you went to college for four years to ‘become educated’ and then were employed for the rest of your life. However, due to the rapid adoption of new technologies, you are expected to participate in lifelong learning. It is up to you to for a self-guided education – a combination of taking courses, following influencers, and reading articles, blogs, and books. Do not depend on college administrators, professors, and parents to tell you what degree to major in and what courses you should take.

If you are employed, it is up to you to build and validate your skills. Tap into your employer’s resources by getting them to fund courses and certifications, provide mentoring, advise on making advancements, and perform 360 interviews and assessments. So if any of these things are not part of their standard routine, consider trying to get them to make it part of their routine (at least with you). However, do not depend on the employer to guide and make decisions regarding your career. (In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I discuss what things you should be doing during the building and validating stages of developing a skill set. Check out the website: www.skillsbasedapproach.com.)

Do not leave your destiny into the hands of your employer. Take a pro-active approach to your career and create opportunities for yourself.[i]

Feedback is a critical component of online personal branding. The key is to pull feedback to you.[ii] It is up to you to get others – supervisors, managers, peers, etc. – to give you feedback and make the feedback as useful as possible.

Career planning is only effective when you are self-aware.  It is up to you to learn more about your core-competencies, passions, and values through self-reflection, testing (personality, strengths, and interests tests), and interviewing those who know you best. Hopefully, parents and professors expose you to subjects and disciplines that might interest you (but do not go as far as telling you what career to pursue). It is up to you to decide on your career pursuit.

There is a lot of discussions regarding what colleges should do to get their graduates a job and employers should do to develop their employees’ careers. No question these two influencers have the resources, knowledge, and experience to make significant contributions for their students and workers, respectively. And they should be obligated to do so (especially with colleges because getting a job might be considered part of a college education ROI). Still, I think the biggest gains in job placement and career success come from self –aware, – knowledgeable, and –driven professionals. Now more than ever, we have the resources in place with online learning platforms for persons to take control of their education. For many, it is a matter of maturity; it is up to you.

Thoughts for further discussion regarding education:

  • Low-income students have a disadvantage because many have to work while they are full-time students (in high school and college). Can we provide resources (living expenses) so students are fully dedicated towards learning (and their future can be up to them)?
  • In Academically Adrift, the authors provide evidence that students are not learning much in college. In a follow-up study, a third of the students report “studying less than five hours a week.”[iii] Some are distracted by jobs and/or social activities and some simply lack motivation. Should colleges target maturity rather than teaching issues?

[i] http://chelseakrost.com/creating-a-pro-active-rather-than-re-active-career-2/

[ii] Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Penguin (2014, New York).

[iii] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/upshot/the-economic-price-of-colleges-failures.html
Original Image © Depositphoto/ olly18 #7626816

 

 

Likely You Should Participate in Online Personal Branding

I recently read counter-arguments regarding the relevancy of personal branding. Some of the common themes include: heavy self-promotion, blog and social media commitments, and attention hogging.

My first reaction to the recent trend of “personal branding,” that it’s really just an ego-driven waste of time. (1)

Branding And Professions

Branding And Professions

Still, I think most professionals benefit from projecting their online personal brand.

I agree…

Not all professions require an online presence There are many jobs that do not require for you to be online and active in social media to perform your responsibilities. Although, considering how often a typical professional changes jobs and careers, you might be investing for something later in your career by establishing credibility and connections.  Perhaps it leads to a second career.

Not all professionals have to self-promote… Too many professionals associate personal branding with self-promotion, which is a big reason why they are turned off to it. I cannot deny that there is usually some self-promotion in personal branding; though, it might only play a minor role and does not have to be excessive or emphasized.

I define a functional model for online personal branding that relies less on self-promotion. I emphasize presenting and validating a skill set, radiating an authentic personality, and being connected. I also argue that prevention content, balances promotion content. So professionals have to engage in varying degrees of self-promotion and sometimes very little of it, yet benefit from online personal branding.

Not everyone has to blog and Tweet regularly… I agree that not all professionals have to blog or Tweet on a regular basis, especially if your job does not demand it. Adding these time-consuming responsibilities is something the personal branding naysayers harp on. Regardless whether it is a job requirement, create and curate content if you have something say! Why not? It is technically feasible (it is a file on your computer or mobile), so challenge yourself to be insightful in your area of expertise.

I disagree…

Only leaders and marketers must participate in personal branding… Most personal branding experts assert that if you have an online presence in social media then you should consider how it reflects on you; this reflection is essentially your online personal brand. It is clear that the majority of young Americans use social media; eighty percent of Millennials use Facebook. Many professionals use LinkedIn; there are currently 100 and 200 million monthly active users in the US and outside the US, respectively. Therefore, since most professionals participate in social media, most professionals should think about online personal branding.

Why does it matter? Most employers are going to check out your digital footprint before hiring you, regardless of the nature or your work. You should also have some understanding regarding the impressions you leave with your connections in social media. Why not project a meaningful, unified representation of you as a personal brand?

Personal branding is a waste of time… It can be a deep, effective way to plan and develop a career for most people. You think of a holistic view of yourself – something that is much deeper than planning a degree or profession. You are forced to think about skills, core-competencies, weaknesses, personality traits, values, passions, interests, impressions, relationships, and vision. And then once you commit, you self-reflect, continually learn, works towards mastery, follow a regiment, solicit feedback, and connect with an audience. Personal branding is a powerful maturation process.

Personal branding is all about the number connections you make…It does not have to be. In fact, I discourage professionals from hastily making a ton of connections to gain influence – avoid getting enamored by the ‘network effect.’ Instead, I suggest patience and restraint. First, get your identity squared away. Second, identify a reasonable target market. Third, calibrate the release of content and adding new connections – aim for a steady stream. An effective personal brand is based on differentiating your skills and talent within the boundaries of your target market (not the entire world).

Do not need to personal brand, so a personal website is unnecessary… A personal website acts as a centerpiece of an online personal brand and a replacement to a standard resume, becoming what I call a ‘multi-dimensional resume’. I read a blog where an author delineates between a ‘branding personal website’ and a ‘resume website’. Disagree with this separation. You should have a single website that adapts to various career stages; sometimes it is an employment evaluation platform and sometimes it effectively projects your brand. Since there is significant overlap in content and you want to establish an online identity, a single website works best. Ultimately, a personal brand is the best representation of you anyways.

(1) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140613175212-94869713-personal-branding-hot-tactic-or-hot-air

Become More Self Aware and Knowledgeable Through Feedback

In developing an online personal brand, you must solicit feedback throughout your career. Much of an online personal brand is based on impressions, so it is up to you to understand them. It is a matter of not only accepting feedback as it comes naturally to you (like a performance review), but also building it into your normal routine – conversations, focus groups, emails, etc. Moreover, when you do get feedback, you should be prepared as a receiver to make the most out of it. You want to ask the right follow-up questions, for example. Optimize the experience by preparing yourself as the receiver and those giving you the feedback as the givers.

(Regarding feedback…) the real leverage is creating pull. Creating pull is about mastering the skills required to drive our own learning… the key variable in your growth is not your teacher or supervisor. It’s you. (pg. 6)

Feedback

Feedback

According to the book Thanks for the Feedback, there are three types of feedback: appreciation, evaluation, and coaching. You want to get each type of feedback, but keep them separate.[1]

Naturally, you want to have some positive feedback in the form of appreciation. Everyone needs some form of loving; it is what fuels our motivation. Start by getting some general comments and perceptions from your audience. Are you getting appreciated the way you think you should be?

With the evaluation aspect, try to get quantifiable ratings that you can use in a longitude study – something you can compare results over a period of time. This might be rankings or grades. A typical performance review includes a lot of evaluation feedback, which is often tied to compensation and promotions. Be proactive. Do not rely on HR personnel and leadership to perform the task as a formality because it is your opportunity.

Leave open the possibility for feedback givers to coach you. You might try to do some prompting with open-ended questions, where you get some valuable nuggets of advice. When I review the results of a survey, I always start by reading the unadulterated comments.

As you pick an audience, make sure you include a wide sample of people you work or interact with on a normal basis. Make sure there are workers with a lower status than you. They might have a refreshingly different perspective on things, so give them a chance; let them speak openly and freely without fearing your wrath.

Feedback leads to greater self-awareness and knowledge, which leads to a competitive advantage in delivering an authentic, effective personal brand. To learn more about personal branding, buy the book Online Personal Brand: Skill Set, Aura, and Identity

[1] Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Penguin (2014, New York).

 

Original Image © Depositphoto/ ljsphotography #45858255

Where is Technology Taking Us?

For better or worse, technology is going to significantly transform our lives in the next decade. Pew Research Center conducted a survey, Digital Life in 2025: AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs, where they canvassed leading thinkers with open-ended questions about job displacement, education, and social policy due to new technology. Here are some of their insights.

The education system is not well positioned to transform itself to help shape graduates who can ‘race against the machines’.  – Bryan Alexander, technology consultant

One common argument made by the respondents is that our current education system is not adequately preparing students for our technology laden future. The usefulness of rote-memorization, a staple in early education, is questionable for a few reasons. First, just about all content ever created is accessible online at our fingertips whenever we need it. Therefore, rather than being taught to memorize information, students should be taught skills to find and synthesize information and higher order skills like storytelling, judging, decision-making, and problem solving. (I am hopeful that Common Core addresses some of these issues in current and future iterations of the standards.) Second, there will be devices to augment our ability to remember things – something that acts like a hard drive. Google glasses is an example of a peripheral technology device meant to boost our perceptions in everyday life. Let’s teach students to harness new technologies, not memorizing things.

Creating, coding, designing, engineering, and analyzing skills will be highly coveted in future careers. Our education system should introduce STEM to students at an earlier stage, and provide the necessary resources for children who want to pursue a related career. For example, provide an introductory coding and engineering class before high school and then classes and programs throughout high school.

Most of the respondents agree there will be displacement of workers, but have varying opinions on how it effects the overall job market. Forty-eight of the experts argue displacement will have serious negative consequences. It will polarize the upper and lower classes by hollowing out the middle class. There will be underemployment, which is something we currently experience with early career professionals. But they also predict a new, scarier phenomenon: unemployable workers – professionals who cannot build the skills needed to become employed. Contrarily, the other fifty-two percent of the experts argue enough new jobs will be created to compensate for the lost jobs.

Services that are currently very expensive are being targeted for automation. In the medical field, machines are already starting to replace radiologists and anesthesiologist. Hopefully, these advancements help lower healthcare costs. One of the respondents is a lawyer who says computers are taking over supporting roles in the legal profession (researchers, document processors, etc.).

Everything that can be automated will be automated. – Robert Cannon, law and internet policy expert

Machines and automation may boost productivity enough so we have shorter workdays.

The work week has fallen from 70 hours a week to about 37 hours now, and I expect that it will continue to fall – Hal Varian, chief economist for Google

Moreover, they will reduce the time we spend doing mundane, routine chores: laundry, grocery shopping, driving, and house cleaning. This would allow for us to spend time being more creative and productive (why many of the big IT companies provide these perks to their workers).

Robots will assist humans in tasks thus allowing humans to use their intelligence in new ways, freeing us up from the menial tasks – Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker

Being a technologist, I am optimistic we can find ways to embrace AI and robotics. We need to find ways to share productivity gains achieved from automation with the lower and middle classes. I think not having universal access to a quality education and new technologies would be the biggest contributors to the bifurcation of the classes, so I have two remedies. Provide a free K-12 and higher education. With breakthroughs in online learning, this is possible because there are no real marginal cost in adding students. I am not suggesting revolutionizing the whole higher education system, but rather making sure there is an ‘education safety net’ for those who need it. Make sure some of the new technology gets in the hands of the general public. (Currently some schools in underprivileged areas loan tablets and laptops to their students, so they have access to the Internet and the latest apps. This is a good start.)  Also build an infrastructure that delivers high-speed Internet to everyone. Finally, we should continually expand the reach of innately ‘human jobs’ – those that require soft skills, empathy, judgment, and decision-making.

Who Gets the Recognition?

In Invisibles, David Zweig talks about brilliant professionals whose work goes unrecognized (“invisibles”); usually someone up the chain gets the glamour. Some examples in the book include (in parentheses who gets the credit): a structural engineer (an architect), perfumist (a celebrity whose name is on the bottle), a sound engineer (a rock band), and a cinematographer – (a director). There are of course many other examples. Zweig’s first trait of an Invisible is an ambivalence towards recognition.

Revolving Door: Who gets the recognition?

Revolving Door: Who gets the recognition?

He goes into painstaking detail to explain precisely what these invisibles do. Why does he take so much effort doing this? So you appreciate the complexity of a task that might otherwise seem mundane or facile, perhaps not deserving of your recognition. Tuning a concert piano, translating from one language to another, and creating a perfume (examples in the book) require meticulousness – a second trait of an invisible according to Zweig.

Invisibles are expected to not make mistakes. An architect has faith that his structural engineer designs a building that will not fall down; a rock band performing to thousands of fans has faith that his studio engineer properly tuned and configured the instruments. Zweig’s third trait of an invisible is the savoring of responsibility.

I think David Zweig challenges the need for self-promotion and recognition in what he calls the “era of micro celebrity” – something driven by social media. The absence of recognition has nothing to do with compensation as all of the invisibles make enough money, but rather other extrinsic motivators: respect from an audience, verbal acknowledgement or praise, higher status, and awards. From within, these professionals are intrinsically motivated to work towards perfection. Is all the extra fluff necessary?

I spout off that almost all professionals should do some form of personal branding. For the invisibles, personal branding would be helpful in landing their gig; but after that, an online presence and self-promotion seems unnecessary. Invisibles are journeymen who have found lifelong careers where they leverage their core competencies. None of them seem destined for a major career change.

Most professionals face career changes, however. Personal branding is an effective way to go through a career transition. It helps you focus on a vision and clarifies what needs to be done to move forward.

Moreover, for many professions, our ruggedly individualistic society forces us to be assertive. We are in a non-stop series of competitions – for clients, partners, jobs, and/or an audience. To differentiate, I suggest developing a personal brand. How else do you gain influence over a target audience?

David Zweig. Invisibles. Penguin Group (New York, 2014).

Original Image © Depositphoto/ ABCDK #5819414

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46 other followers

%d bloggers like this: