What employers want: real world experience

When I went to work out at Duke today, I had to share the gym with a career fair:


Two interviewers for Deloitte & Touche were in the section of the gym where I was working out, eating their box lunches (they were wearing a suit and tie — not usual gym attire), so I asked them what sorts of questions they ask of students. Deloitte, by the way, is a top company that does — well, it does a lot of things — here’s what Deloitte’s website says:

“Deloitte” is the brand under which nearly 200,000 professionals in independent firms throughout the world collaborate to provide auditconsultingfinancial advisoryrisk management, and tax services to selected clients. Not all Deloitte firms provide all services.

The two interviewers I talked with — one lives and works in New York and the other lives and works in Richmond, VA — said they don’t really ask too many questions of students at this stage.  Their role at the Duke Career Fair is more to direct students to the right part of Deloitte, so that there’s a good match.

They said they look at students’ resumes to see what people have done — in internships or other real-world experience — and that gives them a sense of what part of Deloitte would be the best match for that student’s experience and interests. They said most people at Duke have done some remarkable things and it’s fun to talk with smart, interesting people.

Once a student applies to work at Deloitte — hopefully to the right department — then the funneling begins. Apparently, Deloitte hired 40 people from around the country to work in its New York office last year, so that means that maybe 1 or 2 graduates from Duke would be offered a position at Deloitte. That’s because Deloitte is also recruiting at places like NC State, and UNC, and Harvard and Yale and Stanford.

It’s a competitive job market out there.

The folks from Deloitte said they also look at what a student is learning in his/her major, and presumably at the student’s grades; but they want more than just good grades — they want to see real-world experience.

This seems like a great reason to think about the questions raised in the upcoming PBS documentary Is School Enough? — here’s the first line from the trailer:

If you walk into a school today, and you go over to any student, and you say, “is the work you are doing real or fake?” they can give you an answer just like that [snaps fingers].

Middle school would be a great time to start getting students doing real work in the real world.  That “real work” should continue and get progressively more sophisticated as students advance through high school and college.

And it’s also a good opportunity to think more broadly about the question that serves as the title of Will Richardson’s $2 book, Why School?

Here’s a review of the book from Amazon.com —

Why School? is a superb summary of why schools need to be different. We now live in a world where the rule is abundance, not scarcity. Where teachers are from all around the world, not just in those buildings down the street. Where students can make and do and share, not just sit passively and regurgitate.

There are lots of insights in this short text. I read the entire book in a sitting of an hour or two. But the ideas within will last much, much longer…

A few quotes to whet your appetite:

1. “let’s scrap open-book tests, zoom past open-phone tests asking Googleable questions, and advance to open-network tests that measure not just if kids answer a question well, but how literate they are at discerning good information from bad and tapping into the experts and networks that can inform those answers. This is how they’ll take the real-life information and knowledge tests that come their way, and it would tell us much more about our children’s preparedness for a world of abundance.”

2. “Discovering the curriculum changes the teacher’s role in the classroom. It becomes less about how well the teacher develops the lesson plan and what that teacher knows (though those ingredients are still important). Instead, they must inspire students to pursue their own interests in the context of the subject matter. Teachers need to be great at asking questions and astute at managing the different paths to learning that each child creates. They must guide students to pursue projects of value and help them connect their interests to the required standards. And they have to be participants and models in the learning process.”

Are the students you know doing real work? If not, why not?


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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