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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "How to Get a Job at Google": Sorry, Tom, I Wouldn't Want a Job at Google

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How to Get a Job at Google" (, Thomas Friedman is back with more advice for youngsters considering college and careers. After describing a meeting with Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president responsible for hiring at Google, Friedman concludes:

"To sum up Bock’s approach to hiring: Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so many nontraditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to every one — besides brand-name colleges. Because '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.' Too many colleges, he added, 'don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.'

Google attracts so much talent it can afford to look beyond traditional metrics, like G.P.A. For most young people, though, going to college and doing well is still the best way to master the tools needed for many careers. But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work."

Well, I agree with Mr. Bock that "people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world . . . are exceptional human beings." Me? I regard my years spent in college and law school as a waste of time, which did not teach me much of anything.

Sure, I subsequently got jobs at top law firms, but this did not translate into joy or a sense of accomplishment.

I suppose everyone is different, but I believe that leadership and innovative skills - if any - came to me later in life, but not at school. They were born out of crises and acquired at a significant emotional price.

Can leadership and innovation be taught? Is there a link between the two? Do they have a strong genetic component? Do these traits derive from one's upbringing? I don't have the answers.

Google? I wouldn't want it, not because it's Google, but because it would be just one more stifling body corporate. Online searches? Data storage? Advertising? Not for me, regardless of the corporate culture, but perhaps for others. In my instance, given that we pass through life only once, there has to be much more.

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