Interests of the week – 37th week 2020

Graduates from elite universities get payed more, but do they actually perform better? A study in the European Journal of International Management by found that elite graduates did perform better, but only marginally. Performance increased 1.9% per 1,000 places in the university rankings table. However the study also found that graduates from elite universities work worse in teams because they tended to be more instrumental in their approach to tasks, as well as being rated as less friendly, and more prone to conflict. So should recruiters use university as guidance when hiring?The conclusion is that it depends on the job. If a 1% improvement in performance is essential to driving revenue, then absolutely hire from elite unis. But if the job requires more personal skills, or if skills can be trained, then hire from other unis and invest in training.

This topic is of interest to me at the moment, and it is rather fitting that there are another two articles on recruiting and hiring in this week’s edition, as I am currently looking for a job. I know that I am currently running Nom Nom Not Dairy, but that doesn’t make enough at the moment to cover living expenses. The plan for the moment is to get a job and run Nom Nom Not as a side project, until Laura is able to run it herself and scale it to supermarkets. I’ve spoken before on the benefit of a strategic side gig, and I believe that Nom Nom Not Dairy is teaching me skills and knowledge that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn in whatever job I get, which will both help me in the job I get and in my future roles.

This week I summarize a productivity tip that actually helped me to get stuff done, how to read job descriptions and negotiate with a recruiter, some interesting science, and a little bit about entrepreneurship.

The days pass quicker than expected when job hunting. – The Melting Watch, Dali, 1954

What I read

THE productivity tip that has actually worked for me is working from a calendar rather than a to-do list. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have a to do list, but that I put my to-do list onto my calendar so that each task has a start time and a finish time. There are many benefits to this. First, I know if I am trying to plan too much or too little. I sometimes find that it just isn’t possible to fit in all of the things that I wanted to get done, and putting tasks on a calendar helps me realise whether or not my goals are realistic.

Secondly, having a calendar takes away the choice of what to do next. Minimising the number of decisions to make is an effective strategy for avoiding procrastination. That’s not to say that I don’t procrastinate with this system, but I find that I procrastinate less often as I know exactly what I should be doing.

Finally, having a deadline to finish by is motivating. If I have to finish something by the end of the day, then you’ll finish at the end of the day (Parkinson’s Law). But if I know that after lunch I don’t have any availability and this evening is booked for my family, then I’d better get it finished by lunchtime.

This tip isn’t a solve all for productivity planning. If you aren’t already making a list of what you want to get done the next day each evening, start with that, and try prioritising 2-3 items. I always find that the days I don’t plan what exactly I need to do are the days that I don’t get much done. Not surprising really.

NEXT up, do you ever look at a job description wonder whether or not you might stand a chance if you applied? What is essential for the job, and what might you be able to get away without if you put in a really good application? Joel Schwartzberg explains that desired and required often mean exactly what you expect, but more usefully that skills are often listed in order of importance, starting with the most essential. If you lack the second skill on the list, you might be better off investing your application energy elsewhere. But if you are only missing the bottom three, then chances are you fit the core job description.

Joel also explains that you can read into the company culture from the wording of the job description (or JD in HR speak). If a company advertises a “play hard work hard” culture, expect toxic long hours and little work/life balance. If they advertise free snacks and fruit, as well as a break room, then the work intensity within the office will reflect that. Finally, titles don’t mean much. A coordinator in one place might do the same as a manager in another, an IT manager might do the same as an agile coach. To sum, a JD can provide details that help with tailoring your application to the role and to the company, and help you decide if you really want that job.

If you do manage to get the job, how do you negotiate? Rebecca Knight explains how to set priorities for negotiation. First, know what is important to you, whether it is working hours, holiday time, or flexible working arrangements. Secondly, show enthusiasm for the role, but ask if it is possible to change certain elements of it. Finally, know that some things might not be able to be changed because of corporate policy. At one of my previous jobs, holiday time was set based on how many years you had been at the company, so that wouldn’t be negotiable.

DID you know that feeding mice 20% fewer calories makes them live up to 20% longer? This is just one of the weird interactions that Laura Deming explains might help people to live longer. Other weird ones include removing the reproductive organs and using young blood to rejuvenate older animals.

A more relevant piece of science this week is the discovery of a molecular cascade that seems to explain all of the weird effects that Covid has on the body, from fatigue and brain issues, to bruised toes and loss of taste. The article is quite in depth, but if you get one thing from it, then know that we are getting closer to finding effective medication. This means that the higher infection counts we are seeing at the moment aren’t as scary as they were initially, as the death rate is lower because we know how to treat it.

Finally, how can you be a successful entrepreneur? An article in Forbes this week confirmed my feeling, and said that ideas don’t matter, what matters is brilliant execution. Many people have ideas for startups every week, but very few of them ever execute on that. To have a successful startup you need to know what problem you are solving, know what technologies exist to help you solve it, and understand that the initial idea is only the first problem you are going to have to solve. The starting point isn’t as important as how successfully you navigate the entrepreneurial path.

What makes a successful entrepreneur? A Gallup survey asked questions to 200 CEOs from the 5000 fastest growing US businesses, and compared those answers with answers from a national survey of entrepreneurs. Ten factors tested by the poll were delegation, independence, risk appetite and management, knowledge, confidence, relationship building and management, selling, determination, profitability, and disruption. Notably, the Inc 5000’s top skill was risk appetite and management. To sum, there is a tangible difference between average entrepreneurs and successful ones.

Twenty-three percent of Inc. 5000 respondents scored in the “exceptional” range on the assessment, compared with just 2 percent of entrepreneurs in the national sample.

6 Reasons These Entrepreneurs Crush It While Others Merely Succeed, LEIGH BUCHANAN

Long Reads

Thanks for making it this far, if you’ve enjoyed this week’s summary then please do go like it on LinkedIn. It helps other people to see it and will help you see other stuff I post. If you don’t know, I post this each week, and this week I’ll also be posting an analysis of Friedman’s doctrine on the social responsibility of business, which was published 50 years ago last week. Specifically, I oppose pure shareholder capitalism, and think that we ought to consider shareholder capitalism more seriously.

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