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    REMINDER: LinkedIn is still not the real world

    In what has become an annual tradition on the blog, as beloved as the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, the running of the bulls in Pamplona, or me passing out on the sofa in a turkey/stuffing coma each Thanksgiving, I wanted to offer my quick reminder that the world of LinkedIn has only a partial, if not passing, resemblance to the real world of work, workplaces, and the kinds of jobs most people have.

    What prompts this regular reflection and reminder? As in years past, (here is what I wrote about this last winter), LinkedIn has released what they call 'The Top Skills That Can Get You Hired in 2017', based on their data set of member profiles, job posting activity, and their assessment of the candidate skills that were more likely to generate recruiter interest and hiring activity. They publish this list of 'top' skills both globally, and for a selection of countries and more or less the narrative that follows is something along the lines of 'If you want to get hired next year, you should try to acquire one (or more) of these skills.'

    Here is the list of these 'top' skills for the USA for 2017, per LinkedIn:

    As has been the case in the last couple of years, these 'hot' skills are dominated by the latest in IT trends and innovations. Cloud computing, user interface, algorithm design, etc., are all skills (and roles), that have certainly seen an increase in employer demand, and is often reported, can be difficult to find in candidates. So simple supply (which is not enough), and demand, (which continues to increase), for these skills naturally make them 'hot' and the folks that possess them remaining in demand.

    Makes sense. Good to know. Interesting to think about if you are just starting your career and want to have at least some level of comfort about your chances of employment.

    But as I like to point out, and did the last time LinkedIn shared with us what was 'hot',  these skills, or said slightly differently, the kinds of jobs that require these skills, still make up a really, really small percentage of overall employment in the USA, and are not the ones that the vast majority of people are doing.

    Here's the latest data that is available from our pals at the Bureau of Labor Statistics on 'Major Occupational Groups as a Percentage of Employment', (from 2015):

    Did you see the grouping for 'Computer and Mathematical', where the majority of jobs that required most of the 2017 LinkedIn 'hot' skills would typically reside?

    It is down towards the bottom of the graph just after 'Personal care and service' and before 'Healthcare support'. If you go to the actual BLS data, 'Computer and Mathematical' makes up 2.9% of all jobs in the USA, about the same as it has been the last couple of years.

    Even allowing for the fact that some of the 'hot' skills would be in demand in other general employment categories, is still stands to reason that just about all of the jobs where these skills are being sought out for represent, still, a sliver of the US labor market, and do not reflect the jobs that the vast majority of people are actually doing, (and will be doing for some time).

    Sure, it is trendy to think that the LinkedIn skills represent the future of work, and perhaps they probably do, and I would encourage anyone, especially younger folks to think about pursuing them,  but these skills don't really represent the 'present' of work, not in a substantial way anyway.

    LinkedIn is a fantastic business, a staggering success, and not at all like the real world where the overwhelming majority of workers reside.

    Have a fantastic weekend And don't spend so much time on LinkedIn.


    CHART OF THE DAY: All the places you can't stop emailing

    Today's CHART OF THE DAY comes to us courtesy of the folks at Adobe, who recently shared some results from their second annual consumer email survey

    As you may have already expected, after taking a side-eyed glance at your out of control Inbox, our collective Inbox is , well, out of control.

    Per the Adobe survey, the typical white collar worker is spending 17% more  time on email compared to last year, and despite this increase in time spent with email, (and email volume), almost half of all workers expect a response to a work-related email in less than one hour. Aside, if you are one of those people who expect that kind of responsiveness, I think I hate you. And you certainly hate me.

    There are quite a few other interesting nuggets in the Adobe survey, but the one chart I wanted to share is below, which shows how our disturbing attachment to email consumes us, and infringes on everything we do. Check out the data, (kids, cover your eyes), then some FREE comments from me after the data.

    That we can't stop checking/responding to email while watching TV or even in bed isn't all that shocking any longer. But some of the other venues (driving, formal ceremonies, in the bathroom) where at least a good number of folks admit to email use are more more unsettling.

    Sorry, I just need to step away from my best friend's wedding/nephew's baptism/grandma's funeral in order to respond to this email. It will just be a second, I promise. And please remember how many folks are all over their email and smartphones in the bathroom the next time a group of people ask you if you wouldn't mind taking a group picture of them with one of their phones. Gross.

    One last data point to share from the survey - people have become so addicted to email that many are actively having to 'detox' from the siren call of their inboxes. Nearly half of folks, 45%, have taken an email detox lasting an average of 5.3 days and report feeling 'liberated' and 'relaxed' from these detox efforts.

    I know I swore I would quit writing/complaining about email. But here I go again. Just like you swore you wouldn't check your email on date night or at junior's soccer game.

    I, like you, just can't help it. We are addicted.

    Happy Wednesday.


    What if everything I told you was wrong?

    If you are a fan of the video series TED Talks or have been to an HR conference or two in the past couple of years then you are probably familiar, or at least have heard of Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy. Her work on something called 'power poses' has been the source of one of the most popular TED talks of all time, with something like 35 million views, a bestselling book titled 'Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges', and has been out on the speaking circuit for most of 2016 promoting the book.I'm the person not in the power pose

    The book's central theses: that leveraging body language in these 'power poses', (think standing tall, arms raised, chin up, chest out, etc.), can help us overcome things like anxiety, fear, lack of confidence and allow us to perform our best, (or at least better), in stressful situations like speeches, job interviews, or presentations. The book, the TED talk, and the speaking gigs all stem from the same source: a 2010 study titled Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance authored by Amy Cuddy along with Dana Carney and Andy Yap.

    From the 2010 paper's conclusion:

    Our results show that posing in high-power displays (as opposed to low-power displays) causes physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes consistent with the literature on the effects of power on power holders—elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviorally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power.

    It goes on a bit longer, but you get the idea. 'Power poses' can increase testosterone, improve our feelings of power, and help us perform under stress. Awesome to know this, as taking a minute or two to put yourself in a 'power pose' is about one of the easiest things I can think of to do.


    What if this actually isn't true? I mean what if the benefits and positive outcomes from adopting 'power poses' are really non-existent, or at least incredibly negliible? What would you think if you have watched Ms. Cuddy's TED talk 26 times, bought and read her book, or paid to attend a conference where she was a keynote speaker?

    Remember that 2010 research study at the core of the 'power pose' idea?

    Here is what one of the paper's co-authors, Dana Carney has to say today, as reported in Inc.com:

    There's only one problem: It (the effects of power poses), isn't real. Several subsequent studies following rigorous protocols were unable to reproduce the effect Cuddy and her co-authors found. Striking a power pose did not increase testosterone, associated with confidence, or decrease cortisol, associated with stress in these subsequent tests. And late last night, Dana Carney, one of Cuddy's co-authors on the original paper, published a document disavowing that research.

    She, Cuddy, and the other researchers weren't being dishonest, she explains, but they made some significant mistakes in their research. Their sample size of 47 was much too small. The people conducting the experiment mostly knew what outcome was being sought, which has a tendency to skew research results. The testosterone increase might have been caused by a different aspect of the experiment--people were given the opportunity to gamble and some of them won, which also increases testosterone.

    Considering all that was wrong with the original experiments and the fact that later experiments did not produce the same effect, she writes, "I do not have any faith in the embodied effects of 'power poses.' I do not think the effect is real." She goes on to say that she does not conduct research in this area herself and hasn't in years, nor does she teach the material to her students anymore. And she wants to discourage other researchers from pursuing power poses, which she believes are a dead end.

    If you read what Carney published essentially disavowing the research's validity and the follow-on from the marketing of the value of 'power poses' you will come away wondering just how silly it all sounds now. 

    Standing in the Wonder Woman pose for 45 seconds will actually make you act and think and seem like ,you know the actual Wonder Woman? That seems kind of dopey. 

    And it did to me back when I met Ms. Cuddy, (and where I got the pic you see above).

    She was one of the featured speakers at a conference I attended earlier this year, and I was invited to go back stage prior to her talk for a meet and great, get a copy of her book, and take a picture. Prior to that day I had not seen her TED talk, and frankly didn't know much, (anything) about her research and the book. I had never heard of a 'power pose'.

    But as I waited in the meet and greet line, I observed 10 or 12 people before me all take a picture with Ms. Cuddy, with the author and the conference attendee each proceeding to adopt the Wonder Woman pose you see Ms. Cuddy in the pic above. As I said, I never heard of the pose, kind of felt idiotic taking up the pose for the pic, and instead stood in what was for me a more comfortable, natural position.

    After taking the pic, and talking to some of the folks backstage, I was clued in to just what the Wonder Woman/Power Poses thing was all about. And I felt really stupid that I stood next to the world's foremost expert on Power Posing and took up a pose that (I later learned), was the exact opposite of what I should have done.

    I am standing with my arms folded in, am slightly hunched, (Ms. Cuddy is kind of short), and more or less look exactly like someone who had never heard of a Power Pose, and the benefits that such a pose provides.

    Long, long story short - I really have no idea if Power Posing creates any real benefit or value or not. I suppose even if it can't be scientifically proven, but it still makes one feel better and seemingly more confident, then it can't hurt.

    Just, in the future, if you have Ms. Cuddy speak at your Conference you may want to skip the awkward meet and great posing routine. It did feel dumb to me when I was there. And I'd feel even dumber if I had taken up the Wonder Woman pose only to find out a few months later that it doesn't actually, you know, do anything.


    Have to advise your kid on their college major? Here's some data you may want to review

    Time to dig into some labor market data!

    (Note: all the data referred to in this post can be found courtesy of our pals at the BLS. While their site isn't the easiest to navigate, you can start at the 'Employment, Hours, and Earnings' page to get started with this kind of analyses).

    I had a chat with a friend recently who was sending their child off to his or her, (I can't remember which, does not matter), first year of college this month. In the conversation I faked genuine interest by asking what the child was planning to choose as their major. I think the answer was 'Business' or 'Physics', like I said, I was faking interest at this point, but the entire conversation made me think about just what 'should' the child have chosen, forgetting for now what they are interested in/good at. If the child wanted to make a purely rational, economic decision, what might be the direction to head in terms of college major?

    I confess to not knowing the answer, but a recent piece from the Nieman Lab about trends in employment in selected information industries, (copied below), at least provides one set of data points to (hopefully), better inform these kinds of economic decisions. Take a look at the Nieman Lab chart, (knowing by accessing the BLS data in the link above, you could create similar charts across other or all industry classifications), and then some comments from me after the data.

    The point of the Nieman Lab piece was more or less 'Gee, what a crappy last decade it had been for the newspaper business, and the people working in it', but examining this kind of data a little more broadly can be instructive on a number of levels.  Sometimes this kind of data validates what we think we know or have observed in our own lives - do you know anyone who actually reads a newspaper anymore?

    Other times the data can be a bit surprising too. I personally had no idea that employment in Motion Picture and Video Production had just about doubled since 1990. Are there really that many more films being made? Besides the Sharknado series I mean?

    Back to the original question raised in the post - what should someone making what they hope to be is a rational, economically sound decision choose for their college major? 

    Some topic or subject that maps easily to an industry group we think holds bright employment prospects for the future? 

    I still have no idea I suppose. But at least I would tell them to not plan to work for a newspaper after they graduate. 

    And then I would take a minute to explain what a 'newspaper' is.

    Happy Wednesday. Have fun with the data.


    Learn a new word: Asymmetric Information

    Let's go with the definition first, a decent example of challenge that asymmetric information causes in a non-HR and workplace context, and then tie this up, (and this is the real reason I wanted to talk about this), with a great example of how this is playing out in HR/Talent and is being exacerbated by a recent legislative change in Massachusetts.

    Asymmetric information - In contract theory and economics, information asymmetry deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other. This creates an imbalance of power in transactions, which can sometimes cause the transactions to go awry, a kind of market failure in the worst case. Examples of this problem are adverse selection, moral hazard, and information monopoly. Information asymmetry is in contrast to perfect information, which is a key assumption in neo-classical economics.

    Asymmetric information plays out all of the time, in just about every negotiation or contract that most of us participate in. When sellers know more about the value of products and services than buyers do - say in the case of a used car, or even a hotel room, then often we as buyers can be left uncertain and anxious about the prices we pay. Conversely, when buyers know more about the value of an item than the seller, think of a rare baseball card discovered at a garage sale in a bin offered for $1.00, then sellers can get underpaid for their offerings. 

    The internet, social networks, online sites designed to 'uncover' or reveal the true value, (or at least what other people have or would pay for a given good or service), have gone far to reduce the potential negative impact of asymmetric information in many markets. TrueCar provides insight into new and used car prices, SeetGeek aims to let you know if the tickets you are about to buy for the ball game represent a good deal or not, and auction-type sites like Ebay and Priceline put much more power, (if not always perfect information), in the hands of buyers of goods and travel services. 

    But even in the age of TripAdvisor and Glassdoor, many of the markets in which we transact are still pretty far from exhibiting so-called 'perfect' information, where buyers and sellers are equally informed, (or can reasonably obtain such information), thus resulting in efficient functioning. Are you really getting a good deal on that refirgerator or car or flight to Phoenix? Who knows.

    That's what takes me to the HR/Talent example I mentioned that the top, specifically, the recent move by Massachusetts to prohibit asking candidates about their current or prior salary history during the interview process. This legislation, according to Massachusetts officials, is designed to combat wage inequality - the theory being that if women or other groups have been unfairly underpaid in the past, then making their current salary an anchor point in negotiations for their next salary will simply perpetuate this wage inequality.

    And the other, unspoken, impact of this legislation will be to reduce, (but not eliminate), the asymmetric information condition that exists in any salary negotiation. In any potential job offer/negotiation the employer knows certain pieces of information that the candidate has almost no way of determining on their own. The salary budget (or range) for the job, the salary of the last person who had the job, the overall financial/budget situation of the organization, and the 'wiggle room' that the hiring manager has to negotiate the offer.

    In this negotiation the candidate has exactly one piece of information that the potential employer can probably guess at anyway - their current, or most recent salary at their prior job, and ostensibly, the baseline to figure out what kind of a bump (fifteen, maybe twenty percent?), it would take to get the candidate to make a move. And lots of recruiters, and even many online job applications, press the candidate to divulge this bit of information, their only potential edge in any negotiation, very, very early in the process.

    Recruiters and hiring managers will line up to bemoan the Massachusetts law, (and the others like it in states like New York and California that will almost certainly follow), clinging to the 'Let's not waste everyone's time if the salary for the job is not sufficient for the candidate'. Better to find that out up front, they argue. But figuring out the ballpark range a candidate might be willing to consider is part of your job, Ms. Recruiter. And there are other, less lazy ways that simply demanding that candidates turn this information over to you before you've even spoken to them.

    Asymmetric information plays havoc in all kind of markets. It's bad economics, bad policy, and bad for the person who is sitting on the wrong, or less-informed side of the table. And it doesn’t matter how rational, or well-intentioned people are, or how well the process/markets are set up - asymmetric information throws a wrench in the works, one that many candidates can spend a career trying to recover from.

    Have a great week!