Something to Seriously Ponder About: Are College Degrees Really Important For Today’s Job Market?
The upshot is that Google values the skills and experiences that candidates get in college, but a degree doesn’t tell them much about talent or grit.
“When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people,” Bock said.
Many businesses “require” a college degree; at Google, the word “college” isn’t even its official guide to hiring. With the rise of self-paced college courses and vocational learning, plenty of driven people can teach themselves all of the necessary skills to work at the company.
Demonstrate a skill, not an expertise: “If you take somebody who has high cognitive ability, is innately curious, willing to learn and has emergent leadership skills, and you hire them as an HR person or finance person, and they have no content knowledge, and you compare them with someone who’s been doing just one thing and is a world expert, the expert will go: ‘I’ve seen this 100 times before; here’s what you do,’” Bock said.
But a degree really doesn’t say what a graduate can do. Can they present an idea in front of a crowd? Can they build a website? Can they think interestingly about problems, or did they just pass some tests? Logic is learned, and stats are super important:
“Humans are by nature creative beings, but not by nature logical, structured-thinking beings. Those are skills you have to learn,” Bock said. “I took statistics at business school, and it was transformative for my career. Analytical training gives you a skill set that differentiates you from most people in the labor market.”
“It looks like the thing that separates out the capable students from the really successful ones is not so much their knowledge…but their persistence at something,” Google chairman, Eric Schmidt said.
For some people, college is just really easy. They can play 10 rounds of beer-pong until 4 a.m. and still ace an organic-chemistry exam the next day while their studious roommate is up to their eyeballs in color-coded flash cards and squeaks by with a B. A college degree can’t tell Google whether an applicant is naturally smart or is a hard worker.
Apparently, Google would rather mold someone with grit rather than someone who is a lazy high-achiever.
If you go to college, focus on skills: “My belief is not that one shouldn’t go to college… most don’t put enough thought into why they’re going and what they want to get out of it,” Block said.