Giving Employers What They Don’t Really Want

The Chronicle of Higher Education offers an essay by Robert Sternberg.

I concur with the current #1 commenter:

“Isn’t there another layer here? Often what we think other people think is not what they think; and what other people say they want and do is often not a reflection of what they want and do.”

My thoughts exactly, and I have spent more than enough time in and applying for corporate jobs to see this. In general, what people want are the signs of success and not success itself, because in the hiring process it’s really hard to distinguish the latter from the former. So, when employers say that they want “critical thinking,” who they actually hire are–if they’re from around here-Texas A&M grads. Sure, an M.I.T. grad can get in anywhere, but in the Northeast, an RIT/RPI/WPI degree will have just as much if not more clout because of the differing socio-economics dynamics of the region.

A much better approach to the article could have been, and this is one I tell my advisees, is to figure out what the signs of success are and try to be as successful as you can within those constraints. Those two factors are in dynamic tension, as any academic familiar with the realities of publish or perish knows: do I write a fluff piece with a kernel of thought, or do I write something truly compelling? The “right” answer? Do the former until you’ve secured tenure, and do the latter only insomuch as you can get away with it until tenure, at which point do your thing.

What’s the probs here, peeps? Somebody wrote a fluff piece for the Chronicle, and maybe someone might take it seriously: avoid the bad advice.


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