I Don’t Need to Hire Anyone to Tell Me Stupid Shit: Advice to Students

My next-door neighbor started college this fall and when I ran into him today and asked him how classes were going he said,

Last semester was harder, I took Botany and didn’t get a very good grade in it. This semester, I took Environmental Science and it’s really easy because it’s mostly about what’s bad for the environment and I knew that, hey, this is bad for the environment and that’s bad.

I sighed and advised him,

Seriously, don’t take any more courses like that. I’ve hired a lot of people in my life and never once have I said to myself that what I really needed in my office was someone to tell me it’s bad for the environment to throw your trash on the beach or have chemicals drain into the ocean.

All of my life, I have seen people taking the path of least resistance. Based on the number of people who read my previous post on whatever happened to graduate research (over 8,000 in two days), I’m not the only one who noticed this. Year after year, students tell me with a straight face that they are going to do a qualitative dissertation because “it is easier” and they have faculty who advise them to do so, “because it is easier” and then they come to me and ask if  I know anyone who is hiring. Hiring to do what? First of all, most of what we do at The Julia Group is statistical analysis, writing evaluation reports and programming. Our clients want actual facts – how many people were seen, what percentage of those showed improvement, what has been the trend over the past four years? Our other two companies, 7 Generation Games and Fractal Domains require coding in Javascript, PHP, Objective C, HTML and CSS. We do have a couple of non-technical positions but none of those are for people who are looking for “whatever is easier” .

Take our Chief Marketing Officer, for example, who works her ass off. In an average month she will write an application to an accelerator, including slide deck and corralling our staff into being a video, edit a couple of videos that go into the game, create a demo video, fly to Minneapolis for three days to present our game to teachers at an educational technology event, write 8-10 blog posts, organize a tweet-up in Las Vegas to meet with teachers in that state, fly into Las Vegas for two days, have 8 hours of staff meetings to monitor progress toward marketing milestones.

Now I can hear some of those people saying,

I could do that. I could put together slide decks. I’d like flying around the country. I’d be good at that.

Oh, really? Just like you were good at Botany (apologies to my next-door neighbor who is only a teenager and I think is really turning it around). Seriously, though, what do you, hypothetical person, know about our game or our company? Nothing. Which is okay, since you don’t work for us but really do click on this link and watch the video that Maria put together. One thing you’ll notice in it is that she combined screen shots, photos, video and animation plus she knows a whole lot about our game design and results. She also wrote the script and did all of the sound and video editing. She learned how to do all of that because it needed to be done and since she wasn’t going to help with the coding, this was where she could pick up the slack. Are you saying, “Well, I could teach myself to do that, too.”

I’m willing to  believe that you could, but given your demonstrated propensity to take the easy route, there is nothing in your background to give me the confidence that you would.

On a regular basis, I meet people who want to be consultants, but when I ask them what they can do, they rattle off a bunch of buzzwords about strategic-leadership-partnership-team building-new media-search engine optimization and do I know that millenials are a $2 trillion market who can only be reached via Google glass? Actually, I really don’t know what they are saying because I quit listening.

Years ago, my late husband had a friend who had been laid off. Since Ron’s company had just landed a new contract and was in hiring mode, I asked him why he didn’t hire the guy, and Ron replied,

I need engineers, machinists, people who can read a blueprint, inventory control specialists. I asked him, What can you build?  And he said to me, ‘Teamwork. I build teamwork.’ I told him that’s too god damn bad because we don’t build teamwork here, we build airplanes, rockets and missiles.

Last weekend, The Spoiled One convinced me to go to a movie with her (if your child at almost 16 years old is still willing to do anything with you, grab the opportunity while you can.) In it, the (villain) father, was mocked by his son as saying,

“You’re majoring in Communication? Why not just major in alcoholism?”

We had a talk about college majors the next day and I told her that I expected her to choose something that was hard because that is what people are willing to pay you for and it’s also where you learn the most. That doesn’t mean you have to major in math or computer science. One of her older sisters is a middle school history teacher in downtown Los Angeles. It’s hard. What it ISN’T is telling people how they should teach middle school, what someone said about middle school teaching or the post-positivist pedagogy versus pre-modern empiricism (any relation of that last clause to reality is indeed a fortunate coincidence.)


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  1. That’s the second pearl-o-wisdom you quoted Ron with that I’ve seen. I love ’em both! Like you, he’s my kind of person- to the point, no misunderstanding. 🙂
    PS. I wouldn’t call HIM a peach, though… 😉

  2. liked your original content
    as usual.Still trying to find
    someone to feel sorry for me
    for thoroughly enjoying looking
    at proprietary charts on any liquid
    financial market all day and delivering
    research to only a handful of very
    large a$$et managers.Light a candle
    for me pleez 8^) and
    to spice up your life again i hope
    your new knee sets off all the metal
    detectors in Las Vegas,

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