Why aren’t we asking about the value of work?

We seem to have ‘consumerized’ every decision from buying a car to choosing a college. But when it comes to the workplace, where we spent the majority of our days, we don’t take the time to consider the value of the experience or fully assess the impact on our professional portfolio.

David Brooks wrote a ‘letter’ to employers in 2014. “Dear Employers, You may not realize it, but you have a powerful impact on the culture and the moral ecology of our era. If your human resources bosses decide they want to hire a certain sort of person, then young people begin turning themselves into that sort of person.”

Google consistently ranks at the top of surveys of best employers. Recent reports indicate that their hiring process is more selective than the admissions process in top ivy league schools.

Yesterday, Laszlo Bock,  the Senior Vice President of People Resources at Google published a new book that fundamentally describes how to get hired at Google. Even as I write, I imagine potential candidates reworking their job search strategy to meet the standards described in the book.

This is the most recent illustration of how candidates are encouraged to alter expectations in order to perform the magic required to obtain an offer.

What happens after you accept the offer?

Reading the Wall Street Journal review of the book we learn that “…Google spends more than most on recruiting, it spends far less on training. Top people need less training. And the lesson for talent is watch how you’re recruited: it’s an indication of the company’s mind-set and the talent you’ll be working with.”

Similar to our most elite academic institutions, Google has created a process to attract the best and the brightest; generalists who know when to lead and when to step back, can learn and solve problems and do so with ‘intellectual humility’. The ‘hook’ is the promise of a workplace where your colleagues will mirror your talents and learning will spontaneously combust.

In some ways it sounds like graduate school. You take from the work experience what you put into it. In other words, we set the table, provide the kitchen but you cook the meal. There will be no gourmet flourishes, because attracting you to the feast is more important than the meal itself.

When you leave Google are you transformed by the experience or are you pretty much who you were on your first day of work?

You will have Google on your resume and future employers will be mesmerized by your fortune, but who will you be after a few years at Google?

These are universal questions. When you go to work for any employer, over any period of time, will the work transform you? Will others remark on your growth? Will a spectacular failure result in termination or be viewed as a critical learning tool?

The process of being courted for a position whether it takes a few weeks or a few years is intoxicating in its’ flattery. Remember that it’s a conversation about your future as well as your contribution to an organization.

What is the value of the promised work experience? When you invest your energy and ideas solving problems for others, do you also fill a void in your portfolio?

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