The online talent community is a yeti, and we have yet to photograph it

Still responding to Sullivan’s article on what to avoid when doing recruiting via social media. In it he stated that using talent communities was still an area where corporate recruiting was still lacking.

A talent community is still a concept vastly underdeveloped on the internet, so it does not surprise me that recruitment underutilizes what barely exists. The public is so facebook-focused that entrepreneurs fail to create these talent communities. Facebook has failed to help many vital initiatives viralize, so it surprises me to hear journalists expecting all things to be accomplished through this network.

I am not sure why facebook emerged as a ground-shifting trend in 2008, but began to flame out, in its person-to-person notoriety by 2011. Malcolm Gladwell and Douglas Rushkoff are the most vocal on this trend, but I believe it has to do with the fact that the wall format of facebook is a good social innovation, but it has failed to catalyze pools of similar-minded people in the economic space. Obama’s presidency made waves through social media largely because of his oratory presence, and his use of Youtube, with each speech. Truly his campaign represented a 360-degree social movement of money and politics. But in the economic sphere, the success story of brands is limited to a few (Old Spice guy on Twitter, not facebook).

But the idea of talent community has several characteristics.
1) a group of relatedly-talented people arranged in one place, with communicative links
2) some assumption that this talent pool is somehow relating actively, to stimulate membership retention
3) some common purpose for meeting, or communing

When you take these basic assumptions of community, it’s pretty hard to locate them, then assume they are public enough for open membership. For example, if a union of concerned scientists decided to gather, then rally against tupperware that melts in microwaves, they would need to keep their membership from dilution from employees of industries they would regulate. In this way, publicizing communities of common interest serve to potentially dilute the validity of the mission.

Getting people employed consistently, and survive hard economic times, is a potential purpose, and reason to gather. The group could be joinable by those with the proper credentials. Then, if highly valid conversation took place there (a la slashdot, where techies convene), then there would be rationale for daily visits.

Most aggregative new sites (reddit/digg) are frequently visited, but lack clear membership criteria. They are largely open, despite being visited by a characteristic group. I believe that my young computer science students are reddit fans, who enjoy the irreverent postings and arch-alternative ideas presented.

Meetup.com is perhaps the best-known set of talent communities. Recruiters have traditionally joined these groups, to mingle with the active talent in their region. However, the infrequency of the meetings, which are sometimes non-existent (outside san francisco) are confounding. Without the conduit of face-to-face meetings, meetup has very little other attraction.

So Sullivan’s advice remains true to the date of this blog. The online talent community is a yeti, and we have yet to photograph it.

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The Decline of Facebook

I do see a real decline in the level of trust folks invest in the favorite social networking platform, facebook. Today, the site defends the validity of its vast information-sharing program to the FTC.

 

But from what I am discovering, though I attempt to limit my posts to only my friends, and carefully select the most restrictive privacy options, any of my Wall posts are still visible to others, so long as they wish to search on various search terms. This means that despite the social sharing initiative on facebook, there is no privacy. In fact, there is ample ability to view and surveil my private posts, and drill into my posts depending on whether I meet certain criteria.

 

Here are my privacy settings, set to ‘friends only:’

fb priv.jpg

 

 

 

And here is what happens when I search for someone. I can see their posts:

transparency within facebook.jpg

 

 

And when I wish to view posts based on certain criteria, such as ‘Egypt democracy,’ here’s what I get:

transparency facebook #2.jpg

 

 

 

I sense that despite the media’s claim that facebook is a tool for removing governments, it’s actually a highly public means to distribute your communications.  Folks using facebook should not make posts assuming that their privacy settings apply. I have to say that the underlying feeling of revulsion I get while on facebook is based on this fear that what I write is available for mass scrutiny.

 

I see much evidence pointing to college students moving away from facebook http://www.usatodayeducate.com/staging/index.php/blog/5-ways-to-take-your-life-back-from-facebook, and a lifestyle dominated by irritating social mediahttp://alonetogetherbook.com/.

 

I sense that despite the ongoing popularity of the site, that folks desire both connectivity, immediacy, but are missing the experience of relevance, and of expanding one’s life beyond the limits of ephemeral social circles.

 

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Toxicity in Career Services Offices in 2011

Today read the Washington Post article  covering disparity in worker skills, hiring and corporate growth. According to the article, that surveys firms in the Fresno, California agricultural industry, when skills go lacking, businesses simply can’t growth according to demand. It’s hard to find people rapidly, and often local skills-training doesn’t keep pace with demand, for lack of knowing what jobs will be required. My hero, Stephen Rose was asked to comment on this mismatch, as a researcher at Georgetown’s CEW.

Contrast this labor-search conundrum with the reverse angle: college graduates struggling to find relevant work options. We know of the alternatives to pursuing work on your degree (waitressing, bar tending), but we also know the cost associated with not landing a relevant career position. The NCPA does a good job covering this angle in a December publication, “From Wall Street to Wal-Mart: Why College Graduates Are Not Getting Good Jobs“.

As we near the heating-up point for close to two million seniors and graduate students nearing graduation, these tensions exist, but within a backdrop of easing recession. The MSU CERI, as I have written before, expect an upturn in college recruiting, so I hope to see the traditional system revive itself. However, since I began closely monitoring college recruiting in 2007, I have a few new observations.

Career Services has taken a beating. Career centers used to be hip to services like ours in 2008, but this year they want us to disappear. Even folks at my alma mater do not want to recommend my system to students.They told me that they don’t want to recommend student to use a system that directly competes with them. They denied us entry to a career fair, and asked us not to distribute information about our service on campus. When folks go from liking to despising career networking websites, it’s possible that the rug is getting pulled out from under this department.

We have heard that most colleges have decreased budgeting toward career services offices each year since 2008, so naturally there is no longer job security in this arena. Though researchers have admitted the institution of career services is fundamentally useless (Sullivan), I see the career services as serving a fundamental PR purpose for the college.

If you look at most private universities you will find pages devoted to listing which prominent firms recruited at the college in the past year. For the thinking investor in college education, this should be the only page they read. When a parent learns that Goldman Sachs recruits at a school, it’s immediately viable to spend $250, 000 sending a child there. Who attracts Goldman to career day? Career Services. I would argue that despite the lack of real consultation one can find in these offices, that the vital purpose of the office is to run a healthy career fair.

The problem with career fair in years 2008-2010 is the massive decline in firms coming there. We believe that most career fairs will see a return to some greatness this year, in line with the CERI’s prognosis. However, I feel that the student market has clearly moved on, looking for better ways to reach out to recruiters, and become aware of what skills are needed while they are in school. We contend that the traditional career-fair is a relic that puts undue pressure on students to locate their future career in the space of three hours, while blocking the access of firms that enable direct contact with recruiters all year long, such as ours. We see Career Services in a battle to prove their own relevance, and they will do so by denying students information about progress in technology that could assist them.

I saw this recently at a career college, where in a conversation with the director of career services she bluntly asked me, “If students use your site, when will they ever need to use my office?” I replied that students will need help in learning how to construct resumes, conduct themselves in interviews, and even begin thinking about the career search. She still did not want to recommend my site to students. I figure this is because her resume, interviewing, and other perfunctory services really are just going through the motions in an employment market where student resumes are useless. She said she had to provide direct evidence that her efforts resulted in student employment, and that the administration kept strict records on her.

So long as career services is regulated in such a way, they will restrict services like mine from reaching students, and broadening their options. Currently career services offices are viewed by the administration as the conduit for all student employment, and this is not possible, given the skeletal staff employed there. But more importantly, if CDS offices are expected to earn students jobs, then they will begin to broker student talent much like a talent agency, thereby totally restricting students to locating relevant employment.

When you look at recent, massive student unemployment upon graduation, these facts are clearly a part of the problem.

 

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Reading the tea leaves in the recruitment economy

The latest MSU CERI report will remain the subject of my blogs as I continue to digest and understand it. This report reviews the recruiting behaviors in 2011 by 3,700-odd employers. Its authors attempt to model the recruiting behaviors of the US economy by including a ratio of firms of appropriate size, reflecting the diversity of companies in the broader US economy.

One fact uncovered by its authors is the two leading majors for recruitment. Computer science and business majors are leading the pack in 2011. Those who can manage a business process and those who can automate them are ahead of the pack, while other majors exhibit slow but certain growth over 2009’s decline. Overall, most majors show some improvement over the last year, where some estimates tracked a 25% decline in university hiring. We are positioned to experience an increase, year-over-year, but given the leadership of business people and programmers, I see a particular character to the nature of desirable recruits.

Companies emphasizing the hire of management, finance, marketing and accounting graduates are emphasizing corporate office functions. For large firms flush with cash, capable of making investments, their expanding employee base will be tasked with managing operations. That’s for the leading group of recruits, too, whose recruitment increases 22% in 2011.

The very healthy increase in corporate skill-hiring may exhibit the general plan to manage the vast increase in productivity over the past two years. The economic downturn has caused firms to winnow its employee base down to a base minimum, and though some green shoots cause sales to increase (take cars, for instance), the nature of each firms’ base of operations has shifted toward high-productivity models.

The increase in business-student recruitment likely reflects this shift toward managerial processes on-shored and enhanced here in the USA. This is an important consideration for students of most majors. It would behoove students in upcoming classes to bulk up on business courses no matter what their occupational curricula. For example, health services majors could study accounting, to apply for hybrid care and management-track positions. Psychology majors could bulk up on finance and investment courses to potentially branch out into roles where mentality-of-market analysis is valued. Also, language and cultural-studies majors may find meaning in their majors by cross-pollinating their transcript with courses in international business and finance.

This recruiting trend would cause my graduate school colleagues in MBA programs to win an important tavern argument, stating that the future of the USA is likely entitled “MBA Nation.” In this scenario, management functions for a host of globally-sourced operations are created, as manufacturing comfortably resides in former Eastern-bloc countries, Latin America, Asia and elsewhere. Remember, companies hire into university populations to fulfill long-term operations goals, and feed 10-year plans.

And how about those programmers? Computer science and information systems grads are trailing business graduates in recruitability. However, being #2 is never a bad place to be. The big-picture asked by this blog is, what does it mean when programmers and business-people lead the 2011 recruitment story?

Combining programmers and financial analysts, marketing people, and/or management people no-doubt results in highly effective types of cross-functional teams. Teams like these are needed to launch initiatives that combine strategy with information technology. Given my software engineering background, my ears to the ground hear several incredible trends on the horizon. One is analytics, which mine data from deep process-repositories and visualize and graph them. Business Intelligence is pervading most every-day operations. Another trend is visualization, which attempts to capture data feeds and transform them pictorially — giving decision makers a picture of abstract phenomena. Yet another is the upcoming trend toward gamification, where visualization and analytics are combined to give process-owners an even deeper level of control of a complex process. Imagine running a hedge fund from a helicopter, where high-risk trades are visualized as mountain ranges, and you can actively monitor those blowing up into volcanoes from above. Data is actionable so far as it’s visible, and programmers have the motivation to make it so.

Hence, when we combine these crafty, scrappy majors, we get high-productivity teams. I think the killer-app student would want a piece of both of these majors, plus an in-depth understanding of yet a third discipline, like Japanese economics, or Russian social politics. Combining expertise is not just for the overachievers; it should be the every day work of students desiring a foothold in this long-term challenging landscape, where automation, offshoring and global sourcing are quotidian.

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Never Waste a Good Crisis: How College Recruiting Will Reinvent Itself — and the Economy, Simultaneously

My belief that the genesis of a dynamic, highly productive economy results from industry’s relationship to academia is a major driver in my business. My experience working in dynamic locales in California and Michigan have helped me understand the vital linkage between globally competitive industries and the role they play in shaping the academic curricula in local schools. Why not? The caliber of employable graduates directly shapes the viability of firms competitive behavior, as human capital shapes any given business. If this were not true, one would not witness the gang-rush of major corporations to set up shop every spring, attempting to corral students in their direction. Creating a well-prepared base of human capital is the key to remaining agile in any shifting marketplace.

As a recent leading commentator put it, we are in a slow economic cycle as it pertains to graduate recruitment, and it’s exactly this down cycle that will reinvent the way we absorb new hires from education. I personally have also witnessed the tendency of corporations to saddle recent graduates with job roles that used to be assigned to more seasoned professionals, given the advance of strategic information systems that can mine data more effectively, and put more actionable data into the hands of subnumeraries. This is but one example of how organizations can gain productivity by employing capable students out of school. Insofar as a company puts a strong program of training and cultivation in-place, employees can be expected to deliver high-level results.

The tendency to favor more-seasoned employees in dry employment markets such as this one have their limits. It is true that the aging of the baby boomer population still looms in the distance, and will increasingly take effect. For hard-charging corporate endeavors, the older employee will opt-out of lifestyle-inhibiting work. It will always be best to assign high-adrenaline work to the youth. No company misunderstands this; but given the wealth of talent emerging from universities right now (basically the children of the boomers), adopting a managerial scheme to cultivate high-productivity young employees will absolutely yield rich results. In the down economic cycle (sluggish growth, absent credit and lending), crafting a labor force with low overhead is not optional.

University recruiting is going to increase in 2011. All numbers suggest a double digit increase in many areas (MSU CERI, NACE). This represents only a facet of a larger macroeconomic trend that favors educated employees (GU CEW). Combined with the above-mentioned boomer successionary crisis set to hit soon, firms may well be preparing to launch their own hybridized work process, wherein younger, high-energy hires are expected to play a role. The industrial giants in software, high-tech and defense sectors hire in this pattern, traditionally. And plan to do so in 2011, as well. Though the Kauffman foundation will support a world-view where big corporations are job destroyers, and that startups generate job growth, 2011 will exhibit positive recruiting from the largest entities, as well as fast-expanding new initiatives (Startups, most certainly). We are perennial fanboys of KF, no doubt, but as I’ve intimated on this blog before, it stands to reason that cash-hoarding large firms will have the potential to act entrepreneurially, in tandem to venture-backed small firms.

We believe that economic growth can and will come from the startup sector, where news is good. In Silicon Valley, internet startups are healthily absorbing small packages of new capital, exhibiting vastly better capability to stand on their own after brief incubation periods. We hope that the streamlining of web startups such as ours will help return the US and other tech-savvy countries to the higher employment profiles of the Clinton 90’s. Trying to reduce middle class tax rates will serve this country well, as it did then. Today’s visit by Clinton to the White House may not give the markets the bump as expected (Clinton is a bit of a albatross to spectators outside Democrat circles).

As the Rahm Emmanuel said, . Though this statement is unfortunate and easily misconstrued, the notion that we can leverage the moment to both build more employable grads, improve corporate productivity, and do both sustainably is a real prospect. We are working to make the new normal the New American Paradigm, one that fosters:

  • seamless cooperation between industry and students in universities
  • global leadership through employee development
  • the most productive companies on earth, bar-none
  • moving beyond low-education work, to high-education work, attainable by anyone
  • highly effective educational institutions, who operate efficiently, with high accountability to the public trust

Enabling university students to receive direct stimulation from employers is an important first step. This will be made possible through describing what one knows, and receiving news, blogs and communications from members of industry who can mentor them at a distance. This will have a direct shaping effect on what a student does in his or her research work in every course, and result in a slow but certain path to positive matriculation.

We can’t wait to begin!

Stefan Bund, CEO

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On the Decline of Social Media in College Recruiting

Two years ago when I began to promote my ideas among college recruiters and college students I found it easy to reach hundreds of people within weeks using Facebook. At the time, I was a first time user of facebook.

I find now that as I message those contacts that it takes weeks to get a message replied, and that new friend requests find no reply. I find the same thing with LinkedIn and other social networks. Foursquare appears to be a new casualty as well.

Much like the original web 1.0 products, there has been a shakeout among social network systems. Despite the media’s continual hyping of Twitter and Facebook, the public goes wild for these services, then experiences burn-out. I know myself that I find facebook to be a burden, looking on the system for signs of light. More frequently than not, the discovery of old friends provides a brief flourish of activity which lasts over a few posts.

Mark Zuckerberg truly designed an interesting portal for personal news. The facebook product remains an interesting facet of pop culture. But I do believe that the product will fade from the public interest (at least for those born from X chromosones). I feel a pang of fear whenever I post photographs, messages and other efforts to use the product.

Recently when one of facebook’s major PR outlets, techcrunch heralded the death of gmail, as facebook rolled out its own enhanced message platform, the response from the public to the article was overwhelming refutive; readers could not fathom why a platform like facebook, with an executive with questionable character and sense of reality, would be entrusted with personal communications. Google has proven their ability to be trusted, as evinced by the number of government agencies who use corporate versions of gmail.

I no longer see facebook among my college students. They are not using the system. This trend flowed through academia like a virus, taking over all screens, and now is gone. I demand to know why, and my students, primarily male, all computer science students, disclaim they ever used it.

For folks like myself who are committed to social computing, the news from mainstream media, touting the powers of facebook do not agree with my own circle; facebook is an amusing distraction, which can absorb one evening per month as I follow links to look at photos. However, when news of 600 million users crosses my desk, I tend to believe that users do indeed join, begin to use it, then experience declining interest. Facebook will never release such statistics, instead claiming the participation of dead users — folks who create an account then go silent. For a privately owned company, they have no obligation to publish any real data.

But instead of bash facebook, which is an interesting tool for the discovery of individuals — it’s far more vital to discuss the status of social media designed to solve social problems. In the case of the Next Acropolis, it’s resolving how college students are influenced and integrated into the world post-degree. We know that college recruiters as early as 2008 were clamoring to use the system to facilitate creating pools of interested students, and mine the system for clues related to students.

But the public discovery of personality dimensions is not a facebook forte. One must rely on the extended social graph to do meaningful discovery work. For college recruiters, this is slightly more useful than their own natural methods involving campus visits, career development offices, and alumni employees. Online, one interested person could connect them to others, of like mind.

But altogether, the use of the dominant social media engine — facebook — is not an aggressive, business-like tool for locating students who deserve to be employed. There is no filtration needed to quickly sift through ineligible recruits. Businesses must be tough-minded in employee development and sourcing, and must mind the salaries and benefits they must pay new people. The more cut-throat, the better. New talen must be rigorously vetted, especially given the coddled character of so many recent graduates. (I personally feel that the recession has cleansed the environment of unprofessional Gen-Y grads, with their characteristic egotism, however, business people aren’t swayed easily once they’ve been burned once).

I am finding that people are less amenable to using dominant social media paradigms to get things done correctly. The cracks revealed during this landscape expansion/contraction will provide the market with impetus for change — much in the same vein as facebook eliminated the less-relevant social networks pre-2005 (myspace and the host of all others we no longer discuss).

I vividly recall the pull-back on the e-commerce sites we heralded in the late 90’s (pets.com, webvan, etoys, pink dot and such). These ventures captured our imagination, but failed to do much in reality. Their best contribution was to show the world how the importance of their core offering — online purchasing. And as this vital technique was distributed across many, many entities, by 2002, online purchasing had become de rigeur. Encrypting personal financial information could be done by any vendor, cheaply. Interesting new concepts do have the possibility of dying, while their core ideas remain and are magnified.

I see college students and recruiters as both highly motivated to use social media to drive career development. This group will always rest on the avant-garde of new technology. But if the innovation does not meet their expectations, they will leave the platform quickly. Evidence points to the continued focality of facebook among college students. However, in our limited endeavor of connecting this demographic to opportunities outside and beyond college, we still see a huge, untapped opportunity.

Update:
Apparently even TechCrunch is capable of turning on Facebook. Boy I fear this publication.

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How the US workforce responds to the new imperative for heavy training

Bill Clinton in his presidency discussed his role in terms of assisting americans transition from doing respected blue-collar manufacturing labor, to doing service-oriented jobs. For a democrat with duties to labor, this was a particularly tough sell. Folks with generational ties to high-wage union jobs were amazed that the political elite would permit the transition of jobs to Mexico, through NAFTA, and to Asia via trade policy.

The Obama administration is in a similar position, with its heavy debt to unions. Shovel ready projects are heavily criticized in their slowness to implementation, and the general ineffectiveness of heavy stimulus. During the last three years of research, and experimentation on our project, I have witnessed the meltdown of the traditional labor economy in the hands of the current elite, and publicly speculated on the changes this ongoing crisis would make on how we train for jobs in America. It is a strange thing to ask for someone’s vote one year, then tell them there is no such thing as a ‘shovel-ready’ job two years later.

Clinton had his fingers on the pulse of an awesome trend – the transition of skilled labor to different labor markets, and the burgeoning wealth creation in the USA. On one hand, a new class of entrepreneurs were creating record employment with the opening of startups, and the use of capital to create jobs. Typically, jobs in internet startups, finance and emerging markets would absorb college graduates only. This increase in the employability of educated workers credited the meritocracy of the country — train hard, become marketable. This serves our sense of entitlement in the way our grandparents would want it.

But the meteoric wealth gain due to globalism and the capitalism of the 1990s also led the president to depart his union base, and admit to them that there was little he could ethically do (in the new global capitalist context), to save their jobs. The federal government was second-fiddle to the powers of venture capital in creating rapid-fire new positions. The best the government could do was to increase its commitment to public post-secondary training and college-level curricula. Clinton believed that the new labor market equillibrium could be achieved by permitting jobs to depart the country, and move leftover US workers into post-employment training, in addition to bolstering public education for adults, everywhere.

Now, community colleges are burgeoning. New research (which I have twittered) points to an emerging imperative to be highly trained. College entrance continues to grow each year, engulfing new classes of individuals who traditionally would not enter college. It is true that proprietary colleges (university of phoenix, devry and its cousins) are engulfed in controversy, largely beyond public view. But the points of controversy affecting the periphery colleges will pass in time. They will receive new layers of regulation, and the enrollment of individuals into labor-preparation programs will go on, if not for economic reasons for shareholders in these systems, then for their political efficacy (university of phoenix is the largest single educational system in the US, 50% larger than its next public competitor). As an adjunct professor at my local community college, I can attest that these proprietary systems are much better run than their public counterparts by a long shot, and offer excellent value, in the hands of motivated, mature, and disciplined students. By increasing the regulation on proprietary colleges will cause them to operate more legally, thus increasing the public’s trust in them, and they will attract more federal money, long-term.

If it is by merit that the US workforce will survive, then so be it. If generations of manual labor are to be passed on to expanding immigrant groups via loose border policies (which will persist in California under Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown), then we will need to recommend to our children not to become mere carpenters, but to ascend to contractor status.

Forces set in motion well before our tenure will continue. Globalism will flourish, and productive non-US cultures will flourish. Belarus, Vietnam, Argentina, among others, will become centers of excellence in computer programming and other areas. This will mean that the process of becoming a global leader in any given subject will be the new educational imperative, not the mere acquisition of skills, and the membership in the middle class. Becoming an adult will be defined by elevating oneself through the dramatically expanded array of career development options (CC, proprietary school, newer / cheaper online schools).

Our company remains disciplined to serving the needs of the transitioning labor economy, much in the way Clinton intended. We believe that each individual in our system needs access to the breadth of knowledge about how their specific skills integrate into the larger economy, and how the marketplace for employment is creatively using their talent. If a person needs to retool, they need to know this, and act proactively, not retroactively upon displacement. If a student has trained in an area, they need, very much, to leverage knowledge on their employment sector, and transition into positions quickly / seamlessly upon graduation. Our current morass of unemployed young people will haunt us for decades, if they are unable to seque into valuable employment. If they can grasp the complex landscape of options, they will surf and survive the next ten years of economic tsunami.

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