Here’s why you can’t always trust your gut

It can deceive you in the hiring process.

Insiders Bad Hire

Credit: Fanatic Studios/Getty Images

Attracting and retaining talent is a constant challenge. I work in San Francisco, where the unemployment rate is below both the national and state averages, giving qualified candidates tremendous choice and agency in determining their next career move. In such a competitive climate, it can be tempting to make an offer before someone else steals the candidate away.

But in the hiring process, each side needs to come to the table with honesty, self-awareness, and patience in order to avoid bad decisions, which can have long-term consequences and be difficult to undo. Here’s how you can avoid such an outcome:

Set realistic expectations
Hiring begins with the job description itself, which needs to reflect the position’s real requirements and responsibilities. Too many companies go forth in search of a left-handed, purple unicorn: that elusive individual who possesses mastery in a broad range of skills and can single-handedly do the job of many people.

Unfortunately, unicorns don’t exist. Companies that think they’ve hired one stand to be disappointed, and candidates who represent themselves as such are either on the fast track to burnout or are overselling themselves. Your job listings need to be realistic in order to attract real candidates and give your interviewers tangible evaluation criteria.

Pick and prepare your panel
You need to choose the right interviewers, determine who’s asking what, and prepare them in the art and science of effective interviewing. We have candidates meet their potential teammates, as well as stakeholders in other departments and at least one member of our executive team.

Beyond basic guidance on what kinds of questions to ask, we train employees in overcoming bias and caution them not to form preconceptions based on a candidate’s resume or educational credentials. We can’t stop employees from Googling someone prior to their office visit, but we can alert them to how doing so might generate unfair or inaccurate assumptions.

Probe for answers
During the interview itself, we dig for specifics to see how candidates have contributed in past roles and how they describe their interactions with colleagues. In addition to reviewing work samples, we also assign exercises and have candidates present to a group for their second-round visit to our office. This helps us get a sense of how candidates approach problems, think about strategy, and drive results.

Be sure to tell your interviewers to listen more and talk less. When you jump in to add a comment, it can lead the candidate to tell you what they think you want to hear.

Don’t rely on gut decisions
When it comes to giving feedback on an applicant, urge your interviewers to be specific and direct about why the person is or isn’t suited for the role. It’s important not to interpret easy, free-flowing conversation or good chemistry as a signal that someone is right for the job.

The concept of “cultural fit” has been criticized for leading many companies to hire a homogenous workforce, but shared values do matter. One misaligned worker can disrupt a previously effective team. We use an online tool for capturing feedback — all interviewers weigh in on how a candidate aligns with each of our company values. By calling that out explicitly, we get more granular feedback, which helps us make fair, informed decisions.

Make the match
A successful hire requires both the employee and the employer to feel satisfied. Candidates are evaluating you, too, during the interview process. Clearly communicate your employer value proposition, and then deliver on that promise to new hires from day one. No one wins if you misrepresent your company in order to woo a job prospect.

Similarly, it rarely works out when hiring decisions are made in a rush, either out of desperation or simply because a candidate seems “good enough.” New hires shouldn’t just be able to do the job; they need to love the job. And we, as employers, need to provide the environment, tools, and support to show we appreciate that.

Everyone makes mistakes, and you’re probably going to hire the wrong person once in a while. If you do make a bad hire, act quickly and don’t succumb to the sunk-cost fallacy. Just because someone isn’t a fit for your team doesn’t mean they won’t be perfect for another company, so free them up to find that better match and move on.

This article originally appeared on Fortune Insiders.

August 19, 2016: Friday news roundup

Happy Friday, everyone! Are you ready for a roundup? We’re sharing tips for evaluating potential employers, thoughts on the value of college, stats on the global skills gap, and more.

How to tell if you’ll fit into a company’s culture before you take the job
Whether you’ve heard stories or lived the tale yourself, it’s a huge source of stress, disappointment, and frustration when the company you interviewed with doesn’t seem to match the one you’ve joined. Check out these helpful tips for sussing out the real culture before you accept the offer. On a related note, a new tool has launched to arm women, specifically, with information about how companies treat female employees.

Should college come with a money-back guarantee?
It’s a provocative question for sure. The authors share examples of a few schools that actually are offering guarantees of sorts. For example, SUNY Buffalo called “Finish in 4” that makes tuition free if students fail to earn their degrees in four years. (Of course, Udemy courses all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee… just sayin’!)

These countries are facing the greatest skills shortage
Some pretty interesting and alarming stats in here, especially if you’re trying to find a qualified worker in Japan, where 81% of employers report having trouble. In a virtual tie for second place are India, Brazil, and Turkey, three important emerging economies. Workers themselves aren’t confident of their skills either. Read on for predictions on what will be the most in-demand skills in 2020 (and start learning about them now!).

Your phone is becoming your favorite screen, even when you’re at home
Despite the word “mobile,” our phones are actually becoming our go-to devices even when we’re sitting around. New research found that 30% of internet data use at home is on phones and tablets. There’s a surprising twist, however. When it comes to streaming video, Windows PCs still grab the lion’s share.

If you want to be a better person, find something to do outside of work
Here’s a great final thought to take into the weekend: get out there and do something! Today’s society pushes us to be productive and results-driven all the time, but there’s real value in taking up a hobby with no tangible payoff or “point” to it. This is an idea that will resonate with Udemy’s legions of self-motivated learners, makers, and doers.

#SummerSkillsContest: What did you learn this summer?

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Whether you’re perfecting your backstroke or learning a new barbecuing technique, summer is the perfect time to master a new skill. Share your summer skills success stories on Twitter with the hashtag #summerskillscontest for a chance to win $100 Udemy credit.

The contest will run from August 3, 2016, to August 10, 2016 (11:59pm PST). We will be picking two lucky winners August 11, 2016.

Read the full contest rules here.

July 8, 2016: Friday News Roundup

We’ve just about reached the weekend, but first we’ll take a look at interesting things we read over the last few days.

The power of “why?” and “what if?”
This columnist, who’s written a book on questioning, thinks “there are real forces in business today that are causing people to value curiosity and inquiry more than in the past.” That manifests itself in asking the right questions in order to spark innovation and anticipate what’s next.

Here’s the career advice President Obama gives to his summer interns
You may have seen the blog post introducing Udemy’s new crop of summer interns. We like to think we give our interns a rewarding work experience that exposes them to real-world activities and situations they’ll encounter on the job. Still, they (and all the rest of us!) can benefit from these words White House luminaries, including Vice President Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama, shared with their interns.

MOOCs put a new spin on professional development
Our own VP of Content Grégory Boutté is quoted in this article explaining why learning options for working adults need to be flexible, up-to-date, and available on demand. With many legacy companies pivoting to maintain their success in the digital age, professional development is more critical than ever but the old ways of training employees won’t cut it.

6 ways to check that your skills are still competitive
If you’ve got a good job, you may think you’re doing well by hitting your performance metrics and checking off your to-do list. You’ll need to go further than that, however, to keep your career growing and prepare yourself for the unexpected. This article advises keeping your eyes and ears open to what’s happening around your company and in your industry and setting personal goals outside any formal review program.

The myth of the millennial entrepreneur
Today’s grads are carrying loads of student debt, which makes them risk-averse and more inclined to find a job with a steady paycheck. This article examines how it affects the overall economy when young people aren’t able to start new businesses, thereby consolidating power among a few dominant companies.  

Udemy LIVE: It’s a wrap!

Udemy LIVE has concluded, and consensus is that it was a huge success! We were so thrilled to see everyone connecting in-person and hanging out like lifelong friends, not simply professional colleagues. This is the solid foundation upon which we’re building Udemy’s future and, more important, the future for millions of people around the world who want to learn.

Your faithful blogger wasn’t able to attend every session, but here are some highlights from my Udemy LIVE experience. Admittedly, this only scratches the surface of the great content and conversations we were treated to over the past few days, but we’ll be posting more materials from the event in days to come and you can also check out #UdemyLive on social media. Lots of folks posted photos and videos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and their personal blogs, so you can get a taste of what went down.

What struck me, in particular, was the instructor-bonding I witnessed throughout the weekend. Udemy instructors may only interact online most of the time, but it’s clear they’ve developed strong friendships, and I loved seeing everyone enjoying each other’s company so much.

Friday night reception
We welcomed instructors to Udemy headquarters to get things kicked off right. Personally, it was a thrill to finally meet several people I’d only spoken to on Skype before, and I know a lot of others felt the same way. It was so cool to discover we’re all “real people”!

In addition to mixing and mingling over drinks and hors d’oeuvre, Udemy instructors got to visit stations where they could create personalized Udemy badges for their websites and take professional headshots. The evening’s biggest hit may have been the station where instructors could generate heat maps, like Laurel Papworth’s, showing where their enrolled students are located around the world. It’s one thing to see a list of countries in your instructor dashboard, but these visualizations really brought that data to life and demonstrated in very clear terms the impact Udemy instructors have.

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Saturday general sessions and breakouts

100 Million Students and Beyond
The heart of Udemy LIVE was Saturday’s full slate of presentations by Udemy team members and instructors themselves.

VP of Content Grégory Boutté got us started by reviewing the accomplishments of those in the room: 160 instructors representing 28 countries, including such far-flung locales as Australia, Pakistan, Singapore, Panama, and Roumania. Collectively, these instructors have:

  • Taught more than 1.9M students
  • Created more than 1,400 courses, yielding 419 years’ worth of content
  • Answered 92,000 student questions

In other words, Udemy instructors work hard!

Grégory also called out a few in the crowd who’ve been teaching on Udemy for 4 years or more:

Cathy Presland
Alexa Fisher
Joseph Caserto
Miguel Hernandez
Charles Wall
John Bura

CEO Dennis Yang praised how far we’ve come together but reminded the audience there are still millions of people worldwide who are hungry for access to quality learning resources, and “we’re just getting started.” Understanding that online teaching can be a rather solitary pursuit, Dennis reassured everyone that “we’re here for you.” I think the instructors felt that commitment in so many ways this weekend, from meeting Facebook community hero Lindsey Bonner to having candid, constructive conversations with Udemy team members.

VP of Product Rob Wong and SVP of Engineering Claire Hough previewed product enhancements we’ve released and are working on to make Udemy’s marketplace more relevant, accessible, and rewarding. Our goal is to help instructors plan, organize, and create amazing course content and monetize it. Rob and Claire talked about our new course management UI, revamped review system, mobile-first experience for phones and tablets, and recently released Apple TV app. A hint at future voice-to-text capability for automatic captioning got the crowd pretty pumped too.

From there, everyone picked which breakout sessions to attend.

Ask an Instructor panel
I went to this session featuring some of Udemy’s longest tenured and most accomplished instructors taking questions from their peers. Cathy Presland, Peter Dalmaris, Scott Duffy, and Rob Percival addressed common instructor challenges. Here’s a sampling:

How can you provide a unique, differentiated course experience?
Scott: Being unique is the most important thing you can do to stand out among 30,000 courses. Be yourself and give your students personal attention and encouragement.
Peter: With the marketplace growing so fast, it’s hard to find an unfilled gap for your topic. Spend extra time on the details of your course and make it perfect, so the quality level becomes your differentiator.

How can you demonstrate quality?
Cathy: Teaching is not the same as talking. I’ve changed my approach over time and now focus a lot on learning style. I offer very specific, bite-size courses that are very practical and include exercises, but there’s no single right answer. Know what your students need and give them that.

How do you determine your course length?
Rob: For my first course, I just included everything I thought should be in there. I wanted to overdeliver in terms of information and content, so students would have lots of reasons to buy.
Peter: Consider having a comprehensive flagship course that can become a category leader.
Scott: Course length is definitely a purchase driver, and offering a lot of content raises the perceived value of your course. I don’t care if students finish.

What’s your strategy for keeping up with student questions?
Peter: It’s the first thing I do every single day, including weekends. It’s my morning ritual and tends to take about 60-90 minutes. I start with public Q&As and then email. I’m very thorough and careful in my replies. Student questions are also a great source of new lecture topics, and I also put questions and answers into my email newsletter.
Rob: I get 100-200 questions a day, so I created an HTML page that allows me to answer in bulk. I make sure to answer every question, but I simply don’t have capacity to go back to do follow-ups and address everything in each thread. I also create new videos to answer debugging questions.

What’s the best day/time to send promotional emails?
Cathy: It depends and is different for everyone. The key is consistency so whatever fits into my routine is what I do.
Scott: Look at your revenue trends to see when your students are already most active. I teach work-related courses and get most of my sales on Mondays, so that’s when I send my emails.

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How to Create an Exciting Learning Journey
Udemy employees/instructors David Kim and Pete Sefton started this session by sharing the goal they had for their “SQL for Newbs Masterclass”: to do for learning what Jon Stewart did for news, i.e., make it entertaining and watchable. As they explained, having subject expertise is only half the battle; instructors also need to encourage and engage their students. DK and Pete did this by including “brain busters” in their course for students to solve on their own. Another trick they shared for “shocking students back to attention” was adding surprising elements like wearing funny hats for a lecture or replacing themselves with R2D2 and a piňata in another.

Instructors Teresa Greenway and Rick Walter have their own distinctive methods of keeping students locked into learning.

Teresa starts her courses with a “quick win,” i.e., a simple project that helps students gain confidence in their baking skills. Her other powerful message to fellow instructors is to spread joy. When she was focused on making money, it drove the money away, she told the group.

Rick summarized his own experience of trying to learn to make an app but only finding extremely boring online resources. He kept that in mind when he created his own course. He urged other instructors to put themselves in the student’s shoes by going through the process of selecting a course and purchasing it with their own real money. That’s the best way to glean what will convert prospective students and deliver an experience that’s both fun and educational.

More tips from Teresa and Nick:

  • Include updates in your course description. Showing that you keep content fresh and current tells students that you care about delivering value.
  • Give individual attention. It’s not hard to reach out and make personal connections, and that extra effort will pay off. Both instructors described following up with students who’d left negative reviews, and how the simple act of a personal message prompted those students to revise their ratings.
  • Run challenges and contests. Nick picks student apps of the month and does a live stream of himself using the app; Teresa changes her Facebook group’s cover photo each month to feature a winning baker’s project. Giving students a chance to “win” and show off what they’ve learned is a creative, effective engagement tactic.   

Students First
One of the weekend’s running themes was how Udemy and instructors alike need to focus on student needs first and always. To tackle this broad idea, a foursome of Udemy employees took to the stage and presented suggestions for better understanding students and engaging them.

Catherine Gao challenged instructors to ask themselves why their courses should even exist. If you can’t readily come up with a list of how your courses will help solve a problem and deliver skills and knowledge, maybe you need to rethink your course idea. Catherine also exhorted audience members to be obsessed with their students and get deep into their minds, uncover their fears and dreams, and understand their starting point.

David Quintanilla explained why delivery is such a critical part of the overall student experience. In a nutshell, it’s not just what you say but how you say it. The best course content will fall flat if it’s not delivered in a way that resonates with its student audience.

Lauren Rosenfeld elaborated on DQ’s talk with some specific tactics for improving delivery:

  • Each course should be a clear journey from point A to point B. Scripting your course in advance will eliminate detours.
  • Be conversational and authentic. Putting a photo next to the camera or imagining yourself in front of classroom can help make your delivery more natural.
  • Interject energy and passion. When you’re making a video lecture, you need to amp up your presence and personality in a big way.
  • Vary your tone of voice. It’s easy to lose steam and not even realize it when you’re in the midst of a recording session. Make sure you keep your delivery lively and avoid the dreaded monotone.

Matt O’Dell talked about how to structure your course in a way that keeps student preferences first. He recommended starting your courses with a “quick win” and offering more practical applications than concepts. Giving practice exercises is a great way for students to see the progress they’re making so they’ll continue through the rest of your lectures.

Advanced Video Workshop
With dozens of courses on videography and photography, instructor Phil Ebiner was a natural to lead this session. Conversations in the instructor groups on Facebook are often around video equipment and best practices, so it wasn’t surprising to see a big turnout for this workshop. Using a before-and-after example, Phil demonstrated how music, imagery, talking heads, graphics, and calls-to-action can turn a mediocre course into a great-looking, professional-grade production. His equipment overview included tips on lighting and backdrops, which he had set up right there in the room for people to see.

Fireside Chat with Eren Bali and Dennis Yang
The daytime portion concluded with Grégory Boutte interviewing Udemy founder Eren Bali and CEO Dennis Yang in a casual “fireside chat” format. This was probably the first time most instructors got to hear directly from Eren about Udemy’s origins and how the company has evolved since its earliest days.

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Instructor Gala Dinner
If you weren’t there, the photos won’t do it justice, I’m afraid. Oz the Mentalist wowed everyone with his feats of magic and mystery. We’re still trying to figure out how he knew the serial numbers on Dinesh’s dollar bill… Then it was party time!

Sunday Seth Godin Workshop
There were a few more breakout sessions Sunday morning, including instructor Eric Arceneaux and subject expert Shanna Cook co-presenting on social media marketing, but the main event was Seth Godin’s keynote. Seth had some powerful words of wisdom and left us all feeling very inspired. Not surprising there was lots of tweeting during Seth’s talk!

Seth was received by the Udemy instructors like the marketing rockstar he is, and we appreciated how much time he spent taking selfies and signing books after his presentation.

Closing thoughts
With Udemy LIVE 2016 now behind us, we’re already reviewing what we learned from hosting this event and coming up with ideas for next year. The appetite is there for more instructor activities, and I heard a lot of people discussing how we/they can organize regional get-togethers so we don’t have to wait another 12 months to see our friends!

Thanks to all of the instructors who traveled from far and wide to take part. We’ve got a lot of big plans and ambitions for the future, and after this weekend, we’re more determined and excited than ever to continue working toward our mission of 100 million students. Let’s go!

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May 27, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Welcome to Friday and happy Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., where the debate over how, when, and why people should learn coding is really heating up. Read on for a great profile of Udemy for Business—and don’t miss our special request at the end!

American schools are teaching our kids how to code all wrong
We’ve shared some stories in previous roundups about whether we’re missing the point in our push to train more programmers. This article accuses American schools of teaching a “light and fluffy version of computer science” that fails to impart a deep understanding of the discipline.

Change your career without having to start all over again
We know a lot of students come to Udemy because they’re looking to make a career switch. The writer here offers a few strategies for leveraging past experience and transferring it to your new role. Among her suggestions: Find opportunities where inexperience is a virtue, such as joining a troubled company where you’re seen as a fresh outsider.

The number of new businesses in the US is falling off a cliff
Market-watchers are starting to get less bullish on tech companies, but there’s another indicator that our economy isn’t as robust as it had been. According to the Economic Innovation Group, “Fewer new businesses were created in the last five years in the U.S. than any period since at least 1980.” Moreover, startup creation is happening in a very limited number of major metro areas and the new businesses aren’t the type that used to anchor the middle-class, like restaurants or construction firms.

Big companies turn to San Francisco-based Udemy for training
This profile story explores why companies are increasingly recognizing the need to update their learning and development programs and how Udemy for Business is meeting that demand. As VP of Udemy for Business Darren Shimkus explains, millennial workers value training highly but they don’t want the same old boring, dry training content most companies are known for. A senior training specialist AdRoll, a Udemy for Business customer, is quoted saying, “One of our biggest initiatives is creating learning paths for every function across the company, and Udemy is a critical part of that.”

Langbos Care Centre fundraiser
Lastly, please consider supporting Udemy partner Just Creative’s fundraiser in support of the children at the Langbos Creche & Care Centre in South Africa. Making a donation will enter you in a drawing to win a $50 Udemy course voucher, among other great prizes. Just Creative is one of the most popular design blogs out there, and founder Jacob Cass has been a great friend of Udemy.

Who Are You Calling Soft? The Value Of Soft Skills In A Tech-Obsessed Economy

twenty20_0a232b5f-7cfb-411d-8f1c-7adf67fa774dFor a while, the tech skills gap has dominated the conversation around the needs of the 21st century workplace. As globalization and labor automation accelerate the growth of a knowledge-based economy, the perceived premium on “hard” skills like programming is reaching an all-time high. But inside of companies, business leaders have long been crying out for something that’s missing from the storyline: the importance of “soft” skills.

Mastering hard skills while ignoring the soft ones is a bit like going to the gym every night but being careless about nutrition. You need both elements to find success.

What’s in a name?
The term alone — soft skills — reflects the problem. These competencies simply aren’t getting their due in the larger public discussion about upskilling, and maybe it’s because “soft” implies they’re more nice-to-have than must-have.

We can talk about the value of teaching kids STEM subjects earlier or steering students toward more marketable college majors, but soft skills are the foundation for any successful career, regardless of what field you’re in. Engineers aren’t typically associated with these kinds of soft skills, but they need them just as much as anyone — and unlike hard skills, which are always evolving and could be gone with the software update of tomorrow, soft skills never expire.

Communication, leadership, cultural sensitivity, and relationship building — these are some of the most valuable skills you can have in the workplace today, but they’re often eclipsed by a focus on the IT skills shortage. HR departments now rely on resume-reading software that scans for keywords, and soft skills usually get short shrift in that process. It’s tough for recruiters to screen for those skills too.

Time to heed the call of industry
These may seem like the types of skills workers naturally pick up on the job, and until recently that’s mainly how it worked, but in today’s workplace, soft skills are often ignored and rarely nurtured.

Organizations have gotten flatter, and middle management, where it even exists, is no longer tasked with grooming the next generation. Without role models and mentors around to share what they’ve learned over the years, there’s a void in the development of younger workers. The frequency with which people change jobs nowadays only exacerbates the problem.

As CEO of an online learning company, I’m fortunate to have unique visibility into trends around corporate training. We talk regularly with CEOs who express frustration with how weak their teams are in soft skills, and we’ve seen increased demand for and consumption of these topics in our course library.

Neglecting soft skills could mean a future where computers can handle more and more of the hard skills, but humans haven’t developed commensurate skills for driving business outcomes – things like how to collaborate, lead, empathize, and build relationships. Meanwhile, if you’re someone who excels in those areas, you might end up being a more in-demand prospect than the hottest software engineer of today.

How we can fill the void
So, what’s the alternative? I think a few things need to happen. First, individuals need to take personal responsibility for developing their soft skills, whether that’s part of their formal schooling or through courses and programs they pursue independently.

Second, companies need to incorporate screening for soft skills into the hiring process and give employees more opportunities to learn soft skills once they’re on the job; then they need to facilitate mentorships and coaching to support newer employees as they learn to master those skills.

Last, our broader culture needs to make room for soft skills when we talk about what 21st century workers need to know in order to succeed.

Hard or soft, all skills matter
In a survey conducted by PwC, CEOs cited “curiosity” and “open-mindedness” as traits that are becoming increasingly critical. Today’s star employees need the full package: hard or technical skills backed up with soft skills and emotional intelligence. It isn’t enough to say you’re good with people, a resume catchphrase that’s become empty jargon.

So, how do we broaden the conversation to make sure soft skills aren’t pushed aside while we agonize over upskilling everyone to become technologists? Science, technology, engineering, and math have all been around for ages, but when they were grouped together as the new must-have STEM skills, it gave them substance that people could understand and rally behind. Industry leaders should be equally vocal about soft skills.

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.

May 20, 2016: Friday News Roundup

Hope everyone had a great week. It’s time to sit back and soak up some news about older people in the workforce, growing numbers of talented folks staying independent, and a feel-good story to wrap things up.

Why high-skilled freelancers are leaving corporate life behind
Here’s further evidence that having a rich combination of skills in different areas is more valuable than being an accomplished specialist at one thing. Those generalists are increasingly choosing to go freelance rather than in-house, posing interesting challenges around hiring.

Disproving beliefs about the economy and aging
This article dispels some common myths around older workers, such as the idea that they drag down the economy by not contributing to it or that, when they do keep working, they block younger people from job opportunities. With these misconceptions debunked, it makes good economic sense to retain older employees.

College is worth it if you have these six experiences
The debate rages on: is that diploma worth the soaring cost? A recent Gallup poll suggests the answer is a qualified yes, but being a high-performing student isn’t enough. College grads tend to thrive if they’ve formed relationships with mentors and had professors who got them excited about learning. It also helps to be involved in extracurriculars and have a job or internship that leverages the knowledge and skills they’re studying.

The languages the world is trying to learn
This is just kind of cool. You may not be surprised to see that English tops the list in many countries around the world, but what are people in predominantly English-speaking countries learning? In the U.S. and parts of Scandinavia, it’s Spanish. Elsewhere, French and German still attract the most language learners.

This 54-year-old custodian just graduated from the college he cleaned at night
Finally, meet Michael Vaudreuil, who went to work as a janitor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts after his plastering business tanked in the 2008 recession. “It was about a 50 percent pay cut, the work wasn’t stimulating, but the benefits were good. He decided he would take advantage of every free benefit the school offered so it would feel like he was making more money.” This week, Michael graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.

May 13, 2016: Friday News Roundup

It’s Friday the 13th, so try to avoid bad luck and black cats today. We’ve got some thought-provoking reads this week about what aspiring programmers should or shouldn’t learn, the truth about millennials, and some ideas from the Udemy for Business team.

Please don’t learn to code
This piece got a lot of people talking and debating. The author, an iOS engineer, suggests that those who’ve been advocating for more people attending coding bootcamps and the like are missing the bigger picture of what it means to be a great programmer. Rather than simply learning languages and generating code, aspiring engineers need first to understand the problem in front of them and why it needs solving, according to this writer.

The three skills every software developer should learn
Software paragon Joel Spolsky doesn’t necessarily disagree with the previous article. He, too, advises people not to focus exclusively on the hot tech skills of the moment. Instead, Spolsky points to three fundamentals every programmer should learn: economics, writing, and C programming.

How badly companies misunderstand millennials
No, millennials aren’t just looking for the employer with the coolest rock wall and most tempting snack selection. According to a new Gallup poll, we’re seeing a shift from “paycheck to purpose” as the most important factor when millennials go job-hunting. Moreover, 59 percent of millennials rate opportunities to learn and grow as “extremely important” when applying for a new job.

The thing employers look for when hiring recent graduates
Okay, so if millennials want career development and purpose from their employers, what do employers want from new grads? In a word: internships. And other “experiences outside academics.” There are interesting findings from the Chronicle of Higher Education about how different industries value different aspects of a resume, whether it’s grades, major, or work experience.

Consumerization of learning
Here, Udemy for Business Director of Product Marketing Yvonne Chen explains why companies need to deliver training that’s less corporate and more consumer-oriented. That means making engaging content available across devices and on demand whenever employees want or need to pick up new skills.

Hey, grads: Your major is not your destiny

shutterstock_57140281At 22, I hit one of my first major life milestones: receiving my degree in chemical engineering. Those four years of hard work and late nights had led to this moment of celebration—yet something felt amiss. After pursuing and reaching goals for so long as a student, I no longer knew what the road forward looked like.

I’d just finished an internship where my job was to design safety valves for chemical reactors. I didn’t find much joy in it. Instead, I was actually spending a lot of my time worrying I was going to get someone hurt or worse. Previously, I’d thrown everything I had into chemical engineering, but now, at this late date, I realized I didn’t want to make it my career.

What I wish I could have told my anxiety-ridden, 22-year-old self is this: Your major is not your destiny.

In fact, your first job isn’t your destiny either. I moved away from engineering and took a job with a big accounting firm, despite not knowing much about finance. After that I spent time at a venture capital firm and then an internet marketing startup.

At the time, I was struggling to find my fit, but looking back, those early choices were good ones. I shouldn’t have worried so much! In fact, what I picked up in my wanderings is the same advice I’d share with today’s new grads.

Be patient: You’re eager, energetic, and full of ideas, but before you rush to present your thoughts to the board of directors, slow down and listen. College isn’t the end of learning; it’s just the beginning of a new phase. Use your newcomer status to observe and soak up on-the-job lessons about your work environment, interpersonal dynamics, decision making, communication styles, etc. Appreciate the transition from classroom to real world, and don’t feel bad about not having everything figured out. You’ve got time!

Go broad: Even if you think you’ve nailed down your perfect career path, keep an open mind and expose yourself to as many different things as possible early in your working life. As I found from my experience in consulting, you don’t know what you don’t know. And you can’t continue growing and evolving as a professional if you don’t stay curious and receptive to new skills, new responsibilities, and new points of view. Now’s the time for exploration and experimentation; you can specialize later.

Get mentors:  Now that I’m a CEO, I don’t get as many new hires approaching me directly for guidance. I suspect they assume I’m too busy or “important” for such interactions or they’re afraid of looking green and clueless. All of that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know from speaking with colleagues that we all feel an obligation to help when junior employees want to tap into our experience. We were all in their shoes at one point. So, don’t be afraid to approach your senior coworkers and ask to chat over coffee. You may very well find a mentor for life.

Always be learning: If I had only one piece of advice, this would be it. Take a risk and try something unfamiliar while you’re still new to the game. In fact, my other suggestions all add up to embracing a learning mindset. If you’re taking the time to listen, venturing beyond your comfort zone, and seeking guidance from more experienced colleagues, you’ll always be growing. And that will make you a valuable team member and contributor over the course of your entire career, no matter where you end up.

Back when I graduated, “job-hopping” was frowned upon and perceived as signaling a lack of commitment and seriousness. The average worker today has 12 different jobs (and counting) by the time they turn 40. Exploring new career paths and constantly evolving as a professional are now normal, expected parts of the journey. Tools like online learning give people the opportunity to reinvent themselves and create the lives they desire in a way that just wasn’t possible in the past.

If you’re 22 and just entering the world of work, go into it with an open mind and boundless curiosity. Not only will a lifelong learning attitude serve you well, it’ll make the journey a lot more interesting and rewarding.