R U Career Ready?

Peering down into the skillz gulch

Once upon a time our public schools prepared kids on both sides of the excellence divide for a mythical place called “the future.” Students from non-excellent-ville went on to labor in factories, while their more excellent peers went on to college and then became bosses. But then the factories closed or moved overseas and, save for a handful of hedge-fund managers, the wages of just about everyone became less excellent. Which raises a fiercely urgent question: how should our failed and failing public schools prepare students for the non-existent jobs of the 21st century?

Fortunately reader, we have an outstanding tour guide to help lead us across the mighty skillz gulch. His name is Mr. Thomas Friedman and he has helpfully prepared just the map we need to navigate our path to 21st century prosperity. Follow the following sign posts directly to career readiness and a fulfilling, financially-secure and successful career—that is if you don’t get laid off first. Let’s follow along, shall we?

Tip 1: Attend an Ivy League college and room with Friedman’s own daughter
In the past few weeks Mr. Friedman has written not one but two Sunday columns in the New York Times drawing upon the career-planning insights of his daughter’s Harvard roommate, a 20-something former McKinsey consultant who, after a brief stint McKinsey-ing, became an expert at dispensing career advice

Tip 2: Learn who Kanye West is and start tweeting about him
OK—you weren’t excellent enough to attend an Ivy League school (so you can forget about rooming with Thomas Friedman’s daughter). But there is still hope for you, as long as you can demonstrate to your future employer that you are able to “add value.” For example: 

Sample question: “Kanye West just released a new fashion collection. You can see it here. Imagine you had to write a tweet promoting this collection. What would your tweet be?”

If your answer was “I would rather throw myself into the skillz gulch than work at a job that requires tweeting about Kanye West,” it is pretty clear that you are not cut out for 21st century prosperity. In fact, I’m guessing you might be a college dropout, which, by the way, just happens to be the name of Kanye’s first album.

Tip 3: It’s not what you know, it’s how many times you use the word “entrepreneurial.”
Did you know that the most successful job candidates are “inventors and solution-finders” who are relentlessly “entrepreneurial” because they understand that many employers today don’t care about your résumé, degree or how you got your knowledge, but only what you can do and what you can continuously reinvent yourself to do?

Tip 4: Learn to Excel
So what if you already have a career but it is of the future-less variety, like teaching? Don’t worry, value subtracting friend. There is hope for you too. Take this woman from Detroit who was working as a cashier at Borders. She realized that she had no future, because Borders was going bankrupt and Detroit was on fire, so she taught herself Excel. Good news reader: the story ends happily.

“We gave her a very rigorous test, and she outscored people who had gone to Stanford and Harvard. She ended up as a top applicant for a job that, on paper, she was completely unqualified for.”

In other words, she taught herself to Excel—and you can too.

Tip 5: Be prepared to work for free
At the heart of the 21st century economy is a novel concept known as the unpaid internship. As Thomas Friedman and his daughter’s Harvard roommate explain it, the principle is as simple as it is rewarding.

Experience, rather than a degree, has become an important proxy for skill, and internships give you that experience. So grab one wherever you can, because, even if you’re just serving coffee, it is a way to see how businesses actually work and which skills are prized by employers.

As to the misguided fear that the unpaid internship will widen the income gap as the only young people who can afford to work for free are already wealthy, I say “pish posh.” With wages on the decline for almost everyone, save for the top .1%, it will only be a matter of time before we’re all working for free.

Tip 6: Don’t get laid off

What about the millions of workers who were so career ready that they actually had careers, only to get laid off when teachers and other public sector employees caused the economy to implode by failing to add enough value? Is there a way for them to retroactively blame failed and failing public schools for stifling and de-skilling them? 

No employer will say this out loud for legal reasons, but if you’ve been out of work for six months or more, they won’t even look at you because they assume nobody else wanted to hire you. This is a tragedy that may need a public policy fix.

Send comments about Kanye West’s fashion line to tips@haveyouheardblog.com.


  1. Dear Edushyster:
    You make me laugh out loud! And this “R U Career Ready” sh*t isn’t funny.

    The foundation of untruth that supports this web of lies is that we, the people of the US, cannot get jobs because we are ill-prepared. A recent ALEC education report asked- if an engineer can be hired in Mumbai for $5,678 per year to do the same job a US trained, debt-burdened engineer would do for $50K what corporation will hire the US worker? None. Duh.

    The ALEC report had the same answer but their analysis of the problem was mendacious. ALEC says the problem is that the US trained engineer needs to have some special mojo – something really innovative and creative to offer which the college-educated US engineer obviously lacks because our failing schools fail to give choices of excellence blahblahblah. Clearly, in ALEC land, it is all the fault of our failed public schools that the US trained debt-burdened, $50K a year engineer can’t find work. http://www.alec.org/publications/alec-2013-jobs-innovation-and-opportunity-in-the-states/ “The Problem: Schools are Failing Students and Teachers Unions are Blocking Reform”.


    Corporate entities are bound by the very articles of their incorporation to create the most value for their share holders. The eduprenuer’s cri de couer: “How will our public schools prepare students for the jobs of the 21st century?” is, as you so eloquently show – ” a bullsh*t question”. There are no jobs because corporations have moved the majority of jobs out of the country to maximize profits. Corporations have no allegiance to anyone or thing. Corporations are amoral and slither on their bellies under the bottom line while they lie like snakes to the rest of us.

    My question is ” When will we wake up to the *bleeped* logic of corporate edReform ?” – which seems to be following us now from pre-K to the grave?

    1. No, they are PURPOSELY sending all our jobs overseas.

      The solution? You force Congress to force the goddamn corporations to either hire Americans here, or give up their right to be here. Or perhaps tax the living daily lights out of them, if they persist in pushing jobs overseas.

      Don’t you guys get it?

      1. How do I “force” Congress to do anything? By threatening to vote for the other party (which is just as corporate controlled)? By threatening to vote third party or not vote? I’m pretty sure they have a drinking game for every time someone threatens that. So, please, enlighten me about this “forcing” thing.

  2. Absolutely hilarious. I’ve read these columns by Friedman and boy, do I scratch my head. Does he hear himself?


    “relentlessly “entrepreneurial”

    All this token wording to puff yourself up is very sad.

  3. I have become brainwashed and believe that the failures of our “leaders” to actually “lead” us out of this economic depression is that as they spout their schools failed them and we are being “led” by a bunch graduates from a collapsed educational system, n’est-ce pas?

  4. Thomas Friedman has been wrong about topic he has written about for the last 20 years. He was one of the loudest voices insisting the US attack Iraq because of their weapons of mass destruction. I wonder at what point the NYTimes will realize he is full of hot air and kick him out of pundit-land.

  5. I had an unpaid internship once. It was called “Student Teaching”. In fact, come to think of it, I actually paid the university for the experience. And, the supervising teacher saw exactly $0 for supervising me. That’s quite a racket.

  6. Another brilliant piece of reportage disguised as satire, Edushyster!

    While we ‘re on the Thomas Friedman beat, Matt Taibbi is a dedicated scholar and connosieur of the Master, and has a hilarious pair of blog posts that are totally inappropriate for an educational blog:

    http://www.rolling stone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/contest-come-up-with-the-ultimate-thomas-friedman-porn-title-20130502

    Then, for all you flat earth lovers who just can’t get enough of a good thing, there’s the brilliant http://www.thomasfriedmanopedgenerator.com

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