If you’ve watched the blockbuster Netflix hit Stranger Things, you have some idea of what my life — and the life of my Generation X peers — was like. As a 51-year-old parent who grew up in the 1980s, I’m part of a generation of parents who’ve watched the world undergo changes at an historically unheard-of pace.
I’ve spent the last two years, every Friday and Saturday, designing a practical playbook to help parents, students and educators understand that “Stranger Things” is not just the name of a really cool Netflix series. It is also a phrase all of my parenting peers could use to describe how the world looks to us now.
For this reason, I chose to write a book announcing my new career guidance system, Precisely Engineered Career Guidance ™, involving a psychologically rigorous career guidance process leading to precise pathways to sustainable fulfillment and fun.
As I have worked intimately with over 1,000 people, many of them have told me how miserable they are in their current jobs. And hundreds of high school and college students have revealed they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to figure out how to design the rest of their life. And then there’s the mountain of statistics the size of Mount Everest that show most people do not feel fulfilled with their current work. All of these have led me to address what I considered to be a worldwide need to change how we mentor people.
Why is that? Because the vast majority of career guidance approaches involve using personality tests or self-reflection exercises only. As a published personality expert who regularly testifies to my findings as an expert in court, I can tell you these approaches only scratch the surface of the personality labyrinth. In fact, the abuse of personality tests has led to what I call “typology astrology,” and over trust of self-reflection exercises has led to people remaining locked away in their own echo chambers.
During my 15 years as a clinical psychologist, I have repeatedly compared the level of depth where I go to truly understand someone with the level of depth of the typical career guidance approach. The clinical psychology approach is to go as deep as you are, while typical career guidance approaches are often shallow.
Shallow career guidance was not as harmful in the 1980s as it is now. In the 1980s, if you went to a good college, you could change majors numerous times, and your parents would probably still pay the tuition bills. Now, the typical middle-class and upper-middle-class family cannot afford college.
AI Is Radically Changing the Key to Employment Success
On top of skyrocketing tuition costs, Artificial Intelligence is climbing up the brainstem, taking over more and more of human cognitive functioning. A Google AI scientist recently reported that Google through their Deep Mind program has created an AI program that shows some signs of self-consciousness. While this may be a hyper-inflated claim, parents need to understand that sending your child to college is no longer a winning formula on its own. The content knowledge an adolescent will learn in college is becoming more and more replaceable by AI. Meanwhile, acquiring skills that transcend any one area of knowledge is becoming the new educational gold.
The funny thing is, the vast majority of my Generation X parenting peers are still following the herd mentality, bragging about the top college their child is going to. Meanwhile, my research team and I, as I will discuss in my upcoming book, have discovered there are very specific ways Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making the employment success formula a “Stranger Thing” compared to the past.
Key Realities Parents Need to Consider
Here are seven key realities that forward-focused parents (and your adolescent student) need to recognize. This is just a sneak peak of what I’ll be talking more about in my upcoming book.
Key Reality One
What you know matters much less than how well you can integrate information from many different fields. The narrow content expert is increasingly being replaced by the new winners in this employment market: the multi-disciplinary integrators. AI is now the content expert, because it can retrieve information from Goliath databases more reliably than we can.
You could be a “know it all” in the 1980s and have survived that job market. Now, you have to “integrate it all.” How times have changed! Parents need to make sure their high school graduate does not position themselves deeply within one field, but charts an educational or training pathway that strategically positions them to be a masterful integrator of different perspectives. You could be a “know it all” in the 1980s and have survived that job market. Now, you have to “integrate it all.” How times have changed!
In order to be able to “integrate it all,” you must have analytical tools that transcend any one field. Your tools have to be powerful enough that they allow you to be able to climb to an altitude where you can look across fields and identify patterns. The ability to recognize patterns across diverse datasets is the new way for your adolescent not just to survive, but thrive in what people are now calling the “Idea Economy.”
Key Reality Two
Companies are much less interested in whether you went to an elite university and earned a degree in a narrow area of study. Brand-name degrees will no longer raise an employer’s eyebrows, and companies today care less about a “hood ornament” college degree and more about the skills your adolescent has acquired “under the hood.”
My research team and I have reviewed thousands of pages of literature regarding what the marketplace of jobs looks like now. I can confidently tell you that if your adolescent has a vertical stack of credentials that show they have “ready to work” skills, that adolescent is far more attractive than the student who graduated from even an Ivy League school.
Key Reality Three
From working with families over the past five years, I have observed that many parents have a significant degree of their ego invested in getting their student into a brand-name college. But these new realities should make parents sit up and take notice. Google, Intel and other AI era defining organizations have dropped their college degree requirements. In fact, Google has created Grow with Google, a new credential-focused learning program that is essentially like an online university. Going forward, this will become more common.
Key Reality Four
Companies want your adolescent to be able to start a job and get to work. Jane Smith, who completes four or five specialized credentials in the area of computer engineering, has a much better chance of having a better educational Return on Investment (ROI). John Jones may have earned a college degree in computer engineering, but his coursework likely included a lot of elective classes that are unnecessary to eventual job-related activities. It’s easy to see which person will be more valuable to an employer.
Key Reality Five
Credentials are overtaking higher education degrees as the new “Lego building blocks” of a successful career pathway. If you want to be a medical doctor or an attorney, you do still need to go to medical school or law school. However, with the exception of a few careers, credentials are becoming a more economical and smarter pathway to a sustainably fulfilling career. Yes, statistics still say a college degree will allow your adolescent to make more money generally speaking. However, employers now look for the specific skill sets a potential employee has developed, and credentials and certificates, generally speaking, clearly show an employee’s value than a college degree does.
Key Reality Six
Artificial Intelligence is changing the fundamental definition of what it means to be creative. In the past if you drew from new ideas within your field of study, you could be considered “creative.” This is no longer the case. AI can quickly identify creative ideas within your own field. Now to be considered “creative,” you must be able to cross-pollinate your ideas with ideas from other fields of study. The new way to get a creative edge, and to be truly visionary, is not to dive deeper into your own field. Artificial intelligence is already doing that for us very efficiently. Rather, your adolescent needs to be able to develop hybrid ideas that draw from even seemingly unrelated fields.
Key Reality Seven
Because masterful integration is the new way to get a critical competitive edge in the employment market, the smartest students are operating like “gritty nomads” (™). These students strategically patchwork together a string of training and/or credential experiences that allow them to acquire a toolbox of integrative skills that are less likely to be taught in classes within a college degree major.
Want to learn more? I welcome you to sign up to be notified when my book will be published later this year. It may just save you a couple hundred thousand dollars!