Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Life in the Swamp
I ended 2008 swamped and start 2009 swamped. This time, I'm finally putting together the paper that will cap off my scientific work in Houston. This will allow me to finally move to Boston to be with my wife, and I may take a day or two off from blogging here or there if I find that I need to to make that happen faster.
In the meantime, I have a decent backlog of interesting material that will permit me to create my roundup posts faster, including a few blogs and other web sites you may find of interest.
I'll start with one of those today....
Scott Holleran has a blog.
Scott Holleran, whose movie reviews I have mentioned here from time to time, and whom I met at Telluride last year, has a blog, which he calls, "as an informal forum for my thoughts ... on a variety of topics". One passage that caught my eye was his take on Obama's pick of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State:
During the campaign, Obama practically (and rightly) denounced Sen. Hillary Clinton as a liar when she falsely -- and repeatedly -- claimed she was under fire in Kosovo. He pointed out that she routinely substituted being First Lady for foreign policy experience -- and now he has designated the woman who all but declared him unfit for the presidency as his secretary of state. You want change? His appointments are Clinton/Bush retreads, unmasking his change theme as a fraud less than a month after he was elected.Other Objectivists have accused Obama of being a pragmatist on the basis of his proposed appointments, but -- although this wasn't his point here -- I don't recall any showing that the appointments were pragmatic quite so well. Scroll down to or search "2 December" to read the whole passage.
Although browsing around his blog promises to be worthwhile -- I plan to go back later some time to read what he said about the various presidential candidates of both parties -- I do wish there were a way to link directly to individual posts. But that is a problem for the blogger, not the casual reader....
Stop by there from time to time for more from the side bar. I alphabetize by blog title, so look under "S". Also, for fellow fans of his movie reviews, he has been posting them at his site since about the middle of 2008.
Skills vs. Talent
An aspect of the job hunt I must attend to even as I finish up my work here has been the well-known Catch-22 of experience: Many times, I have seen jobs advertised online that I know I am perfectly capable of doing, but for which I am nominally unqualified. This is patently absurd. Sure, nearly all ads list "experience" as a requirement for being hired, but people do have to get experience somewhere. Highly specific experience is clearly not always a requirement for getting hired.
The solution to that problem is to get to know people in the companies and industry one wants to target. They, in turn, can point you to places that might need (and be willing to train) you, and perhaps introduce you to people who are better willing and able to evaluate your abilities than whoever it is in HR buried under that pile of resumes Monster coughs up. Not that a few pieces of paper can really do justice to such important intangibles as your personality, intelligence, or motivation.
I owe the above insight -- which runs against the grain of lots of advice out there -- to professional head-hunter Nick Corcodilos, whose archived "hot tips" reads like an Art of War for job hunters -- and businesses looking to hire good people, for that matter. On this subject, he says:
If you need skills, hire talent.This sounds like common sense. So why is so much of job hunting focused on ads and resumes that simply list specific skills?
Anyone can hire people with specific skills and deploy those skills to get a job done. The best managers hire talent rather than skills, because when you have talent, you can develop all the skills you want. The best managers know that talented employees can handle new projects because these employees can acquire almost any skills they need to do jobs they've never encountered before.
In many cases, it's cheaper and less time-consuming to let a talented employee learn to do a new task than to find, interview and hire someone who already has the necessary skill. It can also be more efficient to hire someone who lacks specific skills but is talented enough to ride a fast learning curve. [one minor edit, bold added]
There are many reasons for this, some cultural (pragmatism comes to mind), and some inherent in the nature of the problem of trying to find the right man for the job from a huge pool of strangers. The best solution for job-hunter and employer alike is to sidestep this mess and work through personal referrals as much as possible.
This reminds me of a related topic Paul Graham recently discussed: The declining importance of academic credentials relative to performance in American business culture:
Think about where credentialism first appeared: in selecting candidates for large organizations. Individual performance is hard to measure in large organizations, and the harder performance is to measure, the more important it is to predict it. If an organization could immediately and cheaply measure the performance of recruits, they wouldn't need to examine their credentials. They could take everyone and keep just the good ones.I suspect that Graham is correct about the freer parts of the economy, but wrong about those under a greater burden of government control.
Large organizations can't do this. But a bunch of small organizations in a market can come close. A market takes every organization and keeps just the good ones. As organizations get smaller, this approaches taking every person and keeping just the good ones. So all other things being equal, a society consisting of more, smaller organizations will care less about credentials. [bold added]
1-7-09: Corrected a typo.