Which One Would You Hire?

mugshotsI’ll save you the suspense. The answer is None of the Above.

Although none of these guys will likely be hired, every year, roughly one quarter of all people who post profiles on Lrngo and other search and hire sites don’t seem to get the memo. Let’s look at the reasons why, and then find what they all have in common.

A. The “mugshot.” Ok, we get that you’re not the smiley type. We even get that you might live in a rough area, so you don’t want to look like “food.” Unfortunately though, people don’t usually do business with anyone they’re not comfortable with. You’re selling your services and abilities, but you’re not showing the face of a salesman. You’re showing the face of someone who makes people feel like they have to keep their eye on you. Would you feel relaxed letting this guy into your office? How about your house? The point is, letting people see that you at least have the capacity to be friendly makes them feel like they want to work with you. Otherwise, they will have the impression that you’re not a team player, or worse that they have to worry about your intentions.

B. The “goofball.” This is the other extreme.  Sure a sense of humor is good, but not if it affects performance or becomes a distraction. You might be fun to be around and even be a team player, but is this the face of someone who I can count on to reach a goal or to tell me the truth? Does this picture tell me you’re funny? No, it tells me you’re not taking this seriously. Unfortunately for you though, I am, and I’m not going to hire you.

C. The “nothing.” Before I get into this, I’m going to make a disclaimer here. There may be legitimate reasons if you are female to not have a picture, for instance, in situations or countries where it may be dangerous to do so. However, for 90% of all you males, you better put up a picture if you want to compete. The reasons why are simple. First, psychologically, people want to feel assured that your profile is real and you are an actual person with good intentions. While you won’t really know how accurate the picture is as a representation until a visual meeting, a picture is the first reference upon which a path to that perceived reality is based. Second, the unknown is always scarier than the known. (It’s probably fine, but what if he has hair down to his knees and molars the size of the Pyramids?) Finally, people like to feel that they are on equal ground. This is why statistics from basically every site with profiles show consistently that profiles without pictures are contacted less often (generally 5x to 50x). Let me explain it another way. If I took this seriously enough to put up a picture and you didn’t, the bottom line is, I’m not talking to you.

D. The “incognito.” Congratulations. You are so clever, the way you beat the system with your cool sunglasses. You managed to get a picture of your face on your profile even though no one can really see what you look like. Unfortunately for you, that’s the whole point of a picture. The “incognito” might as well be the “nothing.” (Are you wanted in ten states, or only five?) They say eyes are the windows to the soul, but apparently your soul is tinted.

At the end of the day, what all of these examples have in common is that they project a visual lack of trust. Of course, one could argue that until you actually see the real person, you don’t know whether you can trust the authenticity of a picture anyway (which is why the other worst thing you can do is put up a picture that doesn’t actually look like you). However, psychologically, the right picture induces the perception of an actual person who can be trusted, and all people are looking to hire someone they can trust to help further their cause so that the outcome will be a job well done.

It is well known in business that people also naturally want to work with people they like. A smile goes a long way in this regard. It’s not a beauty contest, it’s an “I think this person can help me get this done” contest, and “I will achieve my goal if I hire him/her.” By the way, it’s no different with barter transactions. You still want to know that you can trust them with your goals, and psychologically at least, a picture of their face is an indicator–not just of who you are working with, but also that they are not afraid to be themselves, and that they are taking the opportunity seriously.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, a thousand random words are meaningless, so don’t put up a random picture. Make sure it says exactly what you want it to say about you.

Is Knowledge All Powerful?

knowledge is power

It has often been said that knowledge is power, and for good reason.

Knowledge can enable us to improve, protect, help, or hurt, and which of these we choose can decide the meaning in our lives.

The question is, though, is knowing actionable or is it just the first step to more knowing, and do those steps lead to effective results? In short, is there a disconnect between learning and doing?

I’ll give you a real life example. One of my very good friends with a Ph.D. and two Masters degrees decided he wanted to learn to code at the same time as my co-founder a year and a half ago. This is a brilliant guy. He came in to my office with a whole stack of books explaining how it works, and today, he knows all about it. He has a very good understanding and he can answer questions for you.

However, he hasn’t built anything. He’s tried and it hasn’t gone so well. He “knows” all about it, he’s studied it, but he can’t “do” it. (My theory is the fact that he was taught “not to get the answer wrong” is the impediment.) Meanwhile, my co-founder screws up stuff left and right then fixes it and makes it work, and I’ll be damned if she isn’t starting to get good at this. Do you see my point?

Our learning structures weren’t traditionally built to learn from getting the answer wrong, but instead to get the answer right at any cost. (More on this from Sir Ken Robinson.) Unfortunately, the accelerated environment that we now find ourselves in doesn’t lend itself well to the fear of wrong answers.

As those in the world of startup ventures know, you have to gravitate toward trying stuff out and failing, and then learn quickly in order to iterate. Being scared to get the answer wrong adds too much time to this equation. I’ve struggled with this issue myself, but even Steve Jobs, as picky as he was about getting every product right, stressed not being afraid to ship and take risks or make mistakes, because that’s the only way you really learn.  Much like natural selection, in order to evolve, ideas need to become mistakes just like animals need to die.

The point is that going forward, there may need to be more emphasis on getting people to learn coping and adapting skills to help close the knowing/doing gap.

My conclusion? Perhaps the real answer is this:

All knowledge is potentially all powerful, but it depends on what you do with it.

Go forth learners, and don’t be afraid to change the world.


See Me Speak - SXSWi

Higher Education: To Get a Job or Create a Job?

Frustrated College Student

Photo Credit: Sybren Stüvel

We’ve all seen the writing on the wall. Over 80% of college students think they’re going to college to get a job,

yet over 50% come out and find themselves either unemployed or under-employed (ie: working at Starbucks). What’s going wrong?

Well for starters, plenty.   The world has changed drastically and very quickly, and as is often the case, the largest industries and systems (like Health and Education) are still catching up with these changes. The disruption of every sector means jobs and skill sets are now in a constant state of flux.

Learning is now 24/7, and extends way beyond the years of a formal education, and roughly one third of the US workforce are now freelancers. In addition, careers rarely mean staying with the same employer. Add to the mix the fact that technology is poised to replace up to half of the U.S. workforce in the next decade, and it’s no small wonder that huge systems like education have a lot to catch up with.

While transforming education to meet our current needs may be a more complex subject than first meets the eye, I would offer one suggestion. Rather than training students solely to think about getting a job upon graduation, how about including mandatory intensive courses in higher education to help enable students to create their own jobs?

There are many advantages to fostering and creating a culture of self-reliance, and it may be time to rethink the purpose of higher education and focus on making students more agile. For instance, I would envision marketing 101 to be a requirement for any future part-time or full-time path—including the arts.

While there are a few small project-based entrepreneurial programs now beginning to pop up in universities here and there, many students are now looking outside of higher ed for this kind of experiential training. One of the best examples of this (and perhaps the most ironic) is Startup Weekend Education, a 54 hour event that takes place in over 70 cities worldwide, where people get together to form teams and create products and services to improve education.

In our hometown of Houston, this event is now scheduled and we are openly calling on college students, teachers, designers, entrepreneurs, parents, developers, and anyone who wants to contribute their ideas and skills to find innovative solutions. The participants work together to design for learning, conduct user tests, receive coaching from experienced education designers & industry professionals, and win prizes to help take their ideas to the next level.

The Startup Weekend Education events are spawned by Education Entrepreneurs which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UpGlobal, brought forth by Google for Entrepreneurs and the Kaufman Foundation.

Events like Startup Weekend Education are not just good training in entrepreneurialism for participants, they also offer a deeper opportunity for the community to come together and an opportunity for teachers to further define our purpose as educators.

My hope is that events like Startup Weekend Education will open the door to discussing the benefits of creating a student culture based on entrepreneurialism and how that directly relates to peer and project-based learning, in addition to how a culture of peer learning and personal learning networks can help to kickstart an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At the end of the day, the unique value of Startup Weekend Education is that by participating, you’re learning the stuff you can’t learn in school. Ironically, learning that “stuff” might just help us change that very fact.


See Me Speak - SXSWi

A recording of my SXSW Interactive panel session “Higher Education: To Get a Job or Create a Job?” from March 2015 can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/Tkak57WaABk