What Employers Want From Employees: Value

nytLast week I read the New York Times article, How to Get a Job. My first reaction was that it was “spot on.” My second reaction was “do I add value?” My third reaction was “what is really broken in our society?”

Two important statements sum up the entire thought process.

“It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.””


They [employers] just want to know one thing: Can you add value?

I can remember exactly where I was when I took the “list all 50 states and their capitols” test in second grade. It was at Tracey Elementary School outside of Tatamy, PA in the afternoon on a very hot day. I sweat for hours before that test hoping that I would remember at least a fair amount of them. I also remember memorizing geography map after map labeling countries, states, and the like. I would spend hours memorizing formulas in algebra, chemistry, and biology. When I was able to remember these facts…I was deemed smart. If not, my grade would reflect my perceived efforts.

Is vomiting facts what we consider intelligence today? Is that what 21st century skill sets are all about? Is that what the Common Core State Standards initiative identifies as its goal? Is any job today successfully accomplished by simply memorizing a series of facts? Every sentence can be answered with “NO”. Today’s knowledge workers need to be able to effectively communicate, think creatively, collaborate, and think critically with no exceptions in order to be successful now and in the future. Employers are speaking out and this time they are spot on! They need employees who, on a daily basis, add value to knowledge pool. They also need people who can take that knowledge and apply it on actionable items.

These questions remain. Are we giving our students employable skill sets? Are students getting a return on their bloated college debt? Is education resting on long held traditions that do not meet the needs of the modern job market? Could the educational institutions currently in place be that broken?

As always…my perspectives and mine alone.

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