Now that the iPhone 6 has made its debut and the buzz is all over the place, it’s really made me think about privacy. It’s not that Apple or iOS8 or the iPhone itself are dangerous…in fact Apple does a great deal to maintain its customers’ privacy by allowing password protected devices to encrypt most personal data, making it indecipherable without knowing the four-number password. Even Apple cannot bypass your passcode. I had first-hand experience with this over the summer when my six year-old son came running up to me and shared that he had found an iPhone in the park. I had no idea who the rightful owner was. All I knew was that her cellular provider was T-Mobile, so I called T-Mobile and asked if they could help and they said there was nothing they could do because of privacies. Fortunately, the owner called her phone, I answered, and she and the phone were reunited within a few minutes!
So, kudos to Apple and other manufacturers of these devices that make it hard for anyone, even law enforcement to “get in” to our phones. But what about EVERYTHING else? Ad tracking, location enabling, wearable devices. When does it become “too much?” When does this hyper-connectedness start to mirror scenes out of George Orwell’s infamous “1984” or Huxley’s “Brave New World”, where the quest for complete efficiency, control and ultimately, power, turns humans into robotic-like creatures?
As summer came to a close and suddenly I realized Christmas was all but 100 days away, I spent all of about 75 seconds on a Web site looking at a few inexpensive pool tables that I am considering buying as a present for my boys. Within a nanosecond, an ad for a pool table appeared in my next Google search. And now I see it. Almost. Every. Day. I realize this is not terribly unusual, but it’s really starting to creep me out. How about you?
I “checked in” recently to somewhere via Facebook and suddenly it tells me which one of my friends has also checked in there before. Facebook has also been telling me when one of my “friends” in nearby. Wow!! Now I know it can “turn off” these setting on my devices and accounts, and it’s my choice to leave them on or disable them, but I don’t think for a minute that the government and/or law enforcement couldn't find me within moments if they wanted to…despite my SmartPhone settings.
Our SmartPhones are truly becoming smarter and smarter. There are so many apps for so many things, and I know that the number of things that our phones can do is going to grow exponentially year over year. I mean, maybe we won’t even call them “phones” in the future, since making or taking a call on it will have become such a microcosm compared to the trillion other things we use the devices for! I envision that one day we will be able to start our cars, place restaurant orders from our tables, take our temperature, measure the air quality, measure our blood-alcohol levels and maybe even weigh ourselves on our “phones”!
We aren’t even far away from Brain-Computer interfaces…do you know what this is? It is a way for a computer to literally read our minds – to turn our thoughts, brain activity and impulses into actions. There are already apps out there that claim to be able to monitor your psychological health based on your social activity and browsing history. Whoa…
So getting back to privacy – all of this information – every step we take, every move we make (and yes, even every breath you take) – is stored somewhere. It’s all the fuss about “Big Data” we hear about. Where is it? Where is it going? Who gets it? What is it used for? I have a feeling this data bubble will eventually burst, and that privacy will be at the forefront of government and technology suppliers at the demand of consumers. Or at least I hope so.
This December, less than a week after she turns 65, my mother will be enjoying a well-deserved retirement. From the age of 21, when she earned her R.N. and started her nursing career, she has worked hard. Really, really hard. The life of a nurse isn’t easy – middle of the night beepers going off, uncooperative patients, and getting up before the birds and the sun. She put herself through college and earned her B.S.N. And then her M.S.N. And THEN she became a Nurse Practitioner. While that’s the incredibly understated version of her career, let’s just say that no one I know has earned their retirement like my mother has.
So why am I telling you this story? Because my mother is a Baby Boomer. Born between 1946 – 1964, Baby Boomers are retiring in droves. What does that mean for us Gen Xers, Millennials and beyond? Well, for some of us it could mean long-awaited career opportunities as we absorb the knowledge of our existing managers and prepare to the lead our companies into the next few decades. So…the baby boomers move out, we move up, and….wait a minute. We’re in trouble here. Who is going to fill all these vacant entry and mid-level positions??
About a year ago, U.S. News and World Report published a report that alleges that the U.S. will face a shortage of 5 million workers by 2020. Five. Million. Whoa…that can’t be possible. Can it?
The report states, “Overall employment is expected to increase by about 24 million to 164.6 million in 2020. The other 31 million positions will open up due to baby boomers retiring” (Bidwell, 2013). Moreover, “of the nearly 165 million jobs, 65 percent will require some sort of postsecondary education or training, up from 59 percent in 2010. In industries like information technology and government, 80 percent of the jobs will require more than a high school diploma.
So, again, I ask what this means for us Gen Xers and Millennials? It means we better start getting on the STEM bandwagon and pushing the agenda in our kids’ schools and even their colleges. And when I say technology, I don’t just mean people prepared to work at a help desk or write code. In the future, almost every job is going to require some level of STEM exposure – gone are the days when the trades (construction, manufacturing, electricians) are only dirty, dark, physically demanding jobs – everything is computerized. Software programs run our machines, draw our blueprints, and design our buildings. In my opinion, also gone are the days when a college student can make it in the business world with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, Philosophy or English Literature. Degrees need to equal real world skills.
We have got to emphasize the importance of formal post-secondary education, whether it is the “traditional” college degree or a vocational trade. But we can’t stop there…we also have to prepare them cognitively. Qualities such as leadership and communication will be in demand more than ever.
Our future depends on it.
“Why should I hire you?”
This can be one of the most dreaded, yet most thought provoking question any employer can ask during an interview. If you haven’t given it enough thought, you will probably just revert back to the hard skills on your resume; you know, say things like “because I am bilingual” or “because I graduated with a 3.5 GPA” or “because I can type 75 words per minute.” But this is not what the hiring manager is looking for, is it? He or she already knows that stuff about you. What the employer is really asking is THIS: “While I know that you meet the basic qualifications of the job for which you are applying, what in the world makes you any better than anyone else I’ve met or am going to meet?”
Hmm…does that change your answer? It better!
What make YOU the BEST person for the job? While certain hard skills are necessary for any position, employers want job applicants with particular soft skills. While it is easy for an employer to train a new employee in a particular hard skill (such as how to use a specific computer program or operate a machine), it is much more difficult to train an employee in a soft skill (such as patience, teamwork, honesty and leadership). “While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills are what open most of the doors to come. Your work ethic, your attitude, your communication skills, your emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes are the soft skills that are crucial for career success.” (Why Soft Skills Matter, 2014)
With years and years of interviewing under my belt, I have some bad news for some of you out there, you have a critical “Soft Skills Gap.” After seeing dozens upon dozens of resumes that can often look identical in substance, I can’t tell you how many times a perfectly qualified candidate has failed to turn the spotlight on him or herself during the interview, invariably landing them in the “thanks, but no thanks” pile. So if you’re scratching your head thinking “hmmm….that’s happened to me a few times”, listen up my friends…this blog is for you. Mediocrity is OUT.
When I ask you to “tell me about a time when you worked in a team environment,” I’m really not interested in the technical details of the project. What I want to hear about is what role you took on the team – are you a team player? Are you a natural leader? How do handle disagreements and conflict? Do you have good time management skills? Do you get along well with others? Do you know how to motivate others to perform? THESE are the qualities I want to learn about!
Leadership, personal accountability, conflict resolution, communication skills, creative thinking, inclusion, and collaborative ability are just a few examples of the things that will set you apart from the pack and make the interviewer remember you.
Before you click off this page and switch to another activity, make a list of things you did, either professionally, personally or academically that showcase these soft skills. Commit these examples to memory – and then let yourself SHINE during your next interview.