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Guest Post: How To Get A Job Despite The Economy

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

An entire new feedback loop of accreditation is necessary in the economy we have, and fortunately that feedback is within our individual control.

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we work in the economy we have, not the economy we might want or wish to have at a later time. And what characterizes the economy we have?

It's bewildering because nothing works like it's supposed to. For example, getting a college degree was supposed to guarantee a good job and an 80% lifetime wage premium over people without college degrees.

But in the economy we have, getting a college degree no longer guarantees a good job, or indeed, a job of any kind: 53% of recent college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed or doing work they could have done without going to college.

The payoff for getting a college degree is declining while the risks of becoming a debt-serf due to crushing student loans is rising. The big premium that once accrued to college graduates is eroding for reasons of basic supply and demand: there are far more people with college degrees than there are high-paying jobs for people with degrees--even law degrees, MBAs and PhDs.

The entire notion that a college degree "signals" something valuable to employers is breaking down. In the good old days, earning a college degree proved that a student was hard-working and conformist--just what hierarchical corporations and government agencies want in employees. (The "signaling" value of a diploma is based on work by economist Michael Spence in the 1970s. In general, the signal indicates an attribute whose value is correlated with the difficulty and cost of the signal: the harder it is to get a degree, the greater the value of the signal it sends.)

But in an economy in which education credentials are in over-supply, that signaling mechanism is running up against a basic reality: a degree accredits very little about the student's knowledge, problem-solving skills or professionalism. A degree is simply a proxy of knowledge, not evidence of knowledge or useful skills.

Indeed, the study Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses concluded that "American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students."

Signaling an ability to grind though four or five years of institutional coursework is no longer enough; the signaling needed to indicate an ability to create value must be much richer in information density and more persuasive than a factory model diploma.

A resume is equally thin on information that accredits a worker's knowledge, useful skills and professionalism. A resume is a public-relations summary that everyone knows has been tailored to present the candidate in the best possible light. And precisely how useful and trustworthy is PR in any setting?

Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager or potential collaborator: there is precious little useful information in either a diploma or a resume. As a result, human resources departments have been tuned to eliminate as many candidates as possible by signal-based winnowing rather than by the collection of useful information on the skills, knowledge and professionalism of the potential employee/collaborator.

Conforming to social behavioral norms and being able to grind through mind-numbing work used to be enough to create value in the economy--but this is no longer the case for high-value (i.e. well-paid) work. The "signaling" camp holds that a degree showing the student sat through four or five years of classes is sufficient to justify hiring the person. That the student learned essentially nothing useful doesn't matter; the entire value of college is in the last class needed to get the diploma.

This was true in the long postwar boom when the number of well-paid jobs expanded at a faster rate than the number of college graduates. This is simply no longer true.

In contrast to the "signaling" theory of value, the "human capital" camp holds that working knowledge is what creates value. If the student learns little critical thinking, real skills or practical knowledge, then a college degree has little value.

What if conformity and being able to navigate formal systems/bureaucracies no longer creates value or helps people solve real-world problems? In the economy we have, the "signal" value of a college degree has sharply declined. This is why college graduates can send out hundreds of resumes and not even receive a single reply, much less an interview or job offer.

Systems analysis teaches us that changing the parameters of a system (for example, adding another line to your resume or getting another degree) does not change the system; only adding a new feedback loop can change the system.

Clearly, an entire new feedback loop of accreditation is necessary in the economy we have, and fortunately that feedback is within our individual control: it's a process I call accredit yourself. The most powerful feature of accredit yourself is the process is open to anyone: recent college graduates, those without degrees, those re-entering the workforce, those seeking to launch their own enterprises--everyone who wants an income stream in the economy we have.

I outline the process of accrediting yourself in my new book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy which is on sale through Tuesday evening (Pacific Standard time) at a 20% discount for my regular readers ($7.95 for the Kindle edition, 20% off of the list price of $9.95. The print edition is $20).

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Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:24 | 4657620 Headbanger
Headbanger's picture


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:32 | 4657651 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

College is a place where stupid people go to get a piece of paper that says it doesn't matter.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:36 | 4657655 SMG
SMG's picture

"The payoff for getting a college degree is declining while the risks of becoming a debt-serf due to crushing student loans is rising."

Which is exactly the plan.  And as time goes on the Olkigarchs will find ways to enslave us more and more.  Until people say  ENOUGH!.   If they ever say that.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:40 | 4657669 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Don't "get" a job. Make your own un-work. Grow soething...



Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:46 | 4657677 TruthInSunshine
TruthInSunshine's picture

" outline the process of accrediting yourself in my new book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy which is on sale through Tuesday evening (Pacific Standard time) at a 20% discount for my regular readers ($7.95 for the Kindle edition, 20% off of the list price of $9.95. The print edition is $20)."

You know things are REALLY bad when Charles Hugh-Smith is openly teasing the mysterious snake oil recipe of how to land the ethereal unicorn job at the low, low price of $7.95, on Zero Hedge.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:01 | 4657684 Skateboarder
Skateboarder's picture

"I say you're accredited within 6 months, or your money back.*"

* I say.

p.s. enough with the sarc guys. Charles just found the secret to 100% employment in a post-neolithic neolithic social pyramid. Give the man an award or something.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:09 | 4657771 kaiserhoff
kaiserhoff's picture

53% of recent college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed or doing work they could have done without going to college.

So, 47% work for the government?

Sounds about right.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:20 | 4657810 sessinpo
sessinpo's picture

kaiserhoff       So, 47% work for the government?


We all work for the government whether it is some tax subsidy or some social program you utilize. Then there is the minority don't use those programs but still have to pay into the IRS coffer.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:48 | 4657925 TruthInSunshine
TruthInSunshine's picture

No, we're in a recover for the 5th year in a row!

This guy...hey, look, Hope & Change!

*From the can't make this shit up (is it Onion or real?) pages.

Millennial menace: Stay-at-home adults

"Burdened by $85,000 in college debt, attorney Bobby Waltman lives with his mom and grand mother in a three-bed room house in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Past frugality led the 29-year-old *** to live in a van parked at the beach, a one-room casita behind a Santa Ana, Calif., house and a tent in Alaska.***

Now, he’s counting the days until his finances are sound enough to afford a home of his own.

“I’ve had this plan to move out for a while, and it just keeps getting post poned,” said Mr. Waltman, who works for a Newport Beach, Calif., law firm. “I’m working at a really good firm and I’m still living at home, and I figure it’s time I move on. [But] it’s hard to take on a mortgage with law school debt.”



Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:52 | 4657951 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Word on the street is - if you want to get hired start remvoing your degree(s) from the resume.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 16:30 | 4658135 BraveSirRobin
BraveSirRobin's picture

If you like your American dream, you can keep your American dream... period!

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 17:29 | 4658365 PT
PT's picture

Gotta give him points for faith and persistence.  I wonder how long it'll be before he wakes up.






We need angry, homeless law graduates.  They may be our only hope.


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:44 | 4657919 Monty Burns
Monty Burns's picture

I thought that a Womens' Studies degree guaranteed a lifetime sinecure in Corporate HR?

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 17:45 | 4658422 PT
PT's picture

If his book has any words along the lines of, "Get there early", "work hard", "go the extra mile", "be courteous, polite, honest, well presented", "do your homework", etc etc etc, I'm not interested.  Already read all them books.  Seen the results in the real world.  Something else is missing.


If it contains something along the lines of:
"What will make poor people spend money?  A promise of making more money.  Write a book that promises to show poor people how to get a job.  That should work."

then at least it will be honest.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:36 | 4657658 ShorTed
ShorTed's picture

+10 for that.

Also, I thought this was about getting a job, not signals!

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:08 | 4657768 Skateboarder
Skateboarder's picture

Signals are useless without systems.


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 17:12 | 4658320 kill switch
kill switch's picture

I got the third degree once....

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:26 | 4657627 SoilMyselfRotten
SoilMyselfRotten's picture

Rummy knows where the jobs are. To the North, South, East and West of Tikrit.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:28 | 4657629 nuclearsquid
nuclearsquid's picture

I have heard of quite a few people offering these types of pitches.  like Tim Ferris.  The dude honestly suggests that you write about a subject, build a following, market yourself as an expert, and sell ebooks, all through an ebook he just sold you.  Must be profitable.


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:38 | 4657661 Arius
Arius's picture

real estate thats where it is ... got a book coming up ... well make it ebook

or How to get Rich quick ... another novel idea

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:27 | 4657630 Obama_4_Dictator
Obama_4_Dictator's picture

I'm a professional Resume Writer.  What is the gobbilty gook? 


"As a result, human resources departments have been tuned to eliminate as many candidates as possible by signal-based winnowing rather than by the collection of useful information on the skills, knowledge and professionalism of the potential employee/collaborator."


This is true, however.  

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:32 | 4657647 FieldingMellish
FieldingMellish's picture

What is the gobbilty gook?


"I outline the process of accrediting yourself in my new book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy which is on sale through Tuesday evening (Pacific Standard time) at a 20% discount for my regular readers ($7.95 for the Kindle edition, 20% off of the list price of $9.95. The print edition is $20)."

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:31 | 4657644 youngman
youngman's picture

A degree is not a degree...all degrees are not the same...the Civil engineer will get a job...the African Womens studies will not....or I should say should not..but she will because of afirmative action.....any engineer will get a job...the liberal arts degrees are a dime a dozen....

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:36 | 4657656 Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill's picture

Not really new either.Back in the dark ages when I went to college, the party degree was

sociology. Wasn't worth a shit back then for getting employment then  either.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 16:08 | 4658027 Senseless Urina...
Mon, 04/14/2014 - 16:43 | 4658200 lotsoffun
lotsoffun's picture

african woman studies got the wookie a half man and got her kids a lot of fun flying all over the world at our expense.


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:39 | 4657649 EvlTheCat
EvlTheCat's picture

LOL... I couldn't get a job with my degree, so I wrote an "editorial" piece on Zerohedge pimping my self help book.  I wrote it, because my BA in Underwater Basket Weaving wasn't enough to get me the American Dream, of an 80% lifetime wage premium.

edit: This is the ZH humor piece for Monday, right?

edit II:  This kind of crap reminds me of Leo K. pimping his services and iron clad investment knowledge in Chinese solar panels and Greek Bonds.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:36 | 4657654 Inthemix96
Inthemix96's picture

Rob a bank?

Steal old folks savings?

Miss-sell financial filth?




Gold Rigging?

Not for you?  Hmm, thats a touch of a bind then.  Fuck off and work at Mcdonalds for the minumum wage?

Thats the tonic.


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:40 | 4657667 Arius
Arius's picture

how about become a banker?

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:49 | 4657686 Inthemix96
Inthemix96's picture

Thats the ticket Arius, lateral thinking.

Used car salesman?

Double Glazing salesman?

Block Paving salesman?

Bread salesman?

Not up your street?  Too much work for not enough pay?  Stupidly long hours?  Working your tits off for people who dont care, dont give a fuck and dont appreciate your hard graft?

Thats the one, be a wanker, sorry a shit-cunt, sorry a twat, whoops, a Banker, and shit on the people who pay your way.

Fixed it.


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 18:05 | 4658472 PT
PT's picture


I was actually looking a different cartoon - "Unemployed Fred" - but this one will do.  Guess you can't find "everything" on the internet.  Anyone else out there find it?  "Fred Gassit", "Unemployed Fred".

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 07:55 | 4659978 PT
PT's picture


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:36 | 4657657 Boomberg
Boomberg's picture

Well, the world needs ditch diggers too - Judge Smails.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 19:33 | 4658740 Midas
Midas's picture

Do you do drugs, Boomberg?

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:36 | 4657659 Stoploss
Stoploss's picture

Real simple: There are no Indians, only chief's.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:50 | 4657692 813kml
813kml's picture

Not sure about that, I've worked with plenty of Indians here on H-1Bs.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:44 | 4657676 Bemused Observer
Bemused Observer's picture

"Signal-based winnowing" huh?

I guess that is the current term...what it actually MEANS is that HR folks want a formula. They want a certain set of signals that will tell them who to hire. And they don't want to waste time actually TALKING to these folks, they want a checklist they can mark off mindlessly..."yes, yes, no, yes, no, no...", and like magic, they will be led to the perfect candidate without having to expend any of their own energy actually examining a candidate and their credentials.

It's laziness. Just like the fashion for test-based curriculums in schools leads to lazy teaching (teaching to the TEST instead of the subject itself..) Everybody wants some EASY way to make decisions, some way to categorize everything in some black and white manner. They want some other entity to make the decision for them, with their role being more of a rubber stamp...

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:47 | 4657679 Frank N. Beans
Frank N. Beans's picture

these days you need to get an advanced degree to boost your "signal," as Mr Smith calls it.  So you are even more overqualified than before, and probably more in debt, but at least you may get a livable-wage job. 


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:47 | 4657682 Let The Wurlitz...
Let The Wurlitzer Play's picture

I understand dat mo women now be gettin mo college degrees dan men.  So are the women smart or are the men??



Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:55 | 4657706 Occams_Chainsaw
Occams_Chainsaw's picture

I don't think it's just the degrees.  Most people who graduate have nearly zero background in doing any of the work they got a degree in.  They all have burger flipping and call center work listed out along with being a debt slave.  I think a key element missing is that there are not a lot of places that have 'foot in the door' type jobs where you work your way up over time with hard work and education.  Those jobs got offshored....

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:35 | 4657880 813kml
813kml's picture

I think some of that is the result of employers taking advantage of their current employees.  Companies know how awful the job market is, they can dump the work of what should be an entry-level position onto an experienced employee with no push-back.  No reasonable employer expects to get much out of a recent graduate, but now they don't even have a reason to take a chance on one.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:56 | 4657712 reader2010
reader2010's picture

"I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead; men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideas."

- Charles Bukowski

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 23:52 | 4659555 MoneyPowerWomen
MoneyPowerWomen's picture

thanks, never heard of Bukovski before, can see I have a beautiful diversion ahead of me

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:56 | 4657713 Kreditanstalt
Kreditanstalt's picture

People don't all work for life for "big companies" or bureaucracies anymore.  Life is more complicated than this paint-by-numbers stuff...


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 17:52 | 4658446 sethstorm
sethstorm's picture

Except for the part where the smaller companies and self-employed are less stable than a badly run nuclear reactor or a (NATO-defined) Second/Third World government.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 14:58 | 4657721 homiegot
homiegot's picture

I'd say if you can read, write and speak fluently and correctly in the English language, you can get a job.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:02 | 4657730 Kreditanstalt
Kreditanstalt's picture

Agreed.  But most big employers are too damn lazy ~ and CHEAP! ~ to get to know potential hires, to look PAST the credentials, to do more than one interview, to check out backgrounds...or to do on-the-job training when they DO find the right person...

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:15 | 4657789 813kml
813kml's picture

You have to play the game and have the right acronyms on your resume to get it past automatic screening.  Electronic resume submission is the new spam, employers get overwhelmed by the sheer volume since job-seekers can blast out 100s of resumes per day without changing their pajamas.

It's far more effective to do some networking and find someone that can submit your resume from the inside.  A visit to the titty bar with the right people can do wonders for a career.

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 16:40 | 4658179 lotsoffun
lotsoffun's picture

i work for a large non-american bank.  and very few of them can speak english.  i doesn't matter.  they don't care.  they won.


Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:06 | 4657760 813kml
813kml's picture

That pretty much explains the current unemployment numbers.

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