I was recently asked to help mentor some upcoming graduates with their interviewing skills. Aside from the perfunctory suggestions of showing up on time and bringing extra copies of your resume, the most important thing I stressed was you must, above all else, exude passion.
Here’s the reality. Universities are cranking out degree holders at unprecedented rates. Aside from a few technical disciplines and the medical career field, a degree does nothing to set you apart. Even in the technical disciplines, especially software and technology-centric career fields, chances are what you learned over 4 (or 5, or 6) years of undergraduate courses are going to be outdated in a year or two. Unless it’s old news already. Oh, and there is a good chance that your academic knowledge is going to be (nearly) useless in the real-world. In short, they don’t call it a Bachelors degree for nothing. At best, you are now smart enough to start learning. Lastly, we have Google now. And IBM’s Watson-esque AI is coming soon to a smartphone in your pocket. So jobs that relied on rote memorization of mundane facts are, well, going the way of the Dodo. But want to know what’s not going extinct?
That’s what will keep you from the unemployment line as Artificial Intelligence wreaks havoc on knowledge workers just as machines took over for human hands in factories.
But enough of the cold splash of reality! There is plenty to be optimistic about!
It’s what separates an employee from a superstar employee. An innovator. A leader.
Passion is the ‘x factor’. It’s about connecting the dots. It’s about seeing the future before anyone else. It’s about believing in an idea or product everyone else writes off as trivial, only to have that idea change the world years later. Passion breeds curiosity, creativity, innovation, tenacity, and hard work. Passionate workers take the leaps of faith to take risk that lead to positive change, be they evolutionary or revolutionary. Passionate workers aren’t afraid to test boundaries and push limits. They see the bigger picture before anyone else. They know their value is in improving, creating, building, and inventing. They treat their mind as a factory, not a warehouse. In short, passion is what separates humanity from technology. It’s not about doing things better, faster, cheaper; it’s about doing things we never dreamt about doing before.
So there you have it. Passion. Exude it and employers will notice. We need passionate workers. Even if you are but a cog in the machine, be the most passionate cog ever!
Oh, and if all else fails. Hopefully you were nice to those kids that didn’t go to college and instead took up a trade. They might just be willing to teach you some hands-on skills to complement that shiny new sheepskin.