Tom Friedman Needs a Job

I really liked Thomas Friedman in high school. His book From Beirut to Jerusalem was one of the many random books I plucked from the shelves of my high school library. Less so than Michael Herr’s Dispatches, it fed my dream of becoming a war correspondent (which, obviously, didn’t happen). Unfortunately, Tom just isn’t the same since he started his The New York Times column. He’s started writing book-length treatises (and selling them!) promoting is ill-thought-out ideas. Tom needs to realize he’s just not a good social commentator, public intellectual or futurist (nor are David Brooks, George Will, the seemingly always drunk ff, Ross Douthat and others). I’ve largely stopped reading his work, but I have a hard time skipping pieces by well-known and well-paid columnists explaining to the young and unemployed what they need to do to support themselves. And Tom Friedman generally has the most out-of-touch ideas in this regard.

Here’s a snippet of one of Tom’s columns from earlier this year:

My generation had it easy. We got to “find” a job. But, more than ever, our kids will have to “invent” a job. (Fortunately, in today’s world, that’s easier and cheaper than ever before.) Sure, the lucky ones will find their first job, but, given the pace of change today, even they will have to reinvent, re-engineer and reimagine that job much more often than their parents if they want to advance in it.

I commented at the time that Tom should feel free to go “invent” his own job — I’m certain he has the capital to do so — and I’d be happy to take his job. The offer is still open, Tom. In fact, he’d be creating two jobs.

I’ll shove aside the usual edtech BS promoted by the one guy he quotes (single sources seem to be a theme with him, see below, though Tony Wagner is quoted in both).

Then Misty sent me this today by Friedman:

Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America. Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean. It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.” And since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired. So, more employers are designing their own tests to measure applicants’ skills. And they increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?

One of the best ways to understand the changing labor market is to talk to the co-founders of HireArt (www.hireart.com): Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey; and Nick Sedlet, 28, a math whiz who left Goldman Sachs. Their start-up was designed to bridge the divide between job-seekers and job-creators.

Aside from the criticism that he’s only pimping his daughter’s friend’s business, it’s also worth noting where the above two went to college and worked before “inventing” their new jobs. Not until they amassed enough capital and, as Misty noted, connections in high-paying consulting and financial services gigs, did they start this little business. And one great connection to have is your former roommate’s dad, who is a lazy columnist with no problem advertising for you on the op-ed page of the NYTimes.

Tom Friedman needs to come down here to the real world with the rest of us. It’s obvious he isn’t a “Big Thinker” with “Big Ideas” to share. Just like his war reporting, he needs to be in the middle of the muddy facts of real life to have any real idea what’s going on outside his window. The battle for liquidity is right outside.

We’d love to start our own business — that is, invent our own jobs. But, as they say, it takes money to make money. Thanks for inadvertently proving that again, Tom.

(Oh, and, by the way, their start-up sounds pretty dumb.)

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