When Facebook hunts for new talent, what tops its wish list? Brace yourself for a surprise. The giant social network – now valued at more $150 billion – is in the midst of a skills quest that doesn't involve its usual pursuit of software virtuosos.
What Facebook craves these days is people who can sell.
Scan the listings on Facebook's careers page, and you'll find an impressive 170 or so openings in sales and business development. (The exact total fluctuates slightly, day by day.) The reason: Facebook's money engine is built on advertising. Even in the highly automated world of online marketing, it turns out that making deals come together still requires a human touch.
There isn't a single technical department at Facebook that is as eager to hire. As of Feb. 9, Facebook was hunting for 97 more software engineers, another 78 infrastructure specialists, and 51 data/analytics experts. Yes, fast-growing Facebook has some openings in every section. But the demand for extra people is most intense in the time-tested world of sales.
There's a bigger message here.Think of Facebook's job postings as a peek into the next decade's career options for all of us. We're in the midst of an age of incredible technological disruption to traditional jobs. But there's a way to make your career automation-proof without needing a high-tech Ph.D. As I've suggestedbefore, the key to sustained employment will be to concentrate on the people skills that machines can't copy.
Don't just take my word for it. Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics updated its 10-year employment projections, listing the fields where it expects the most job growth by 2022. The BLS's top 10 areas for expansion include two categories that are totally customer facing: retail sales and customer service, as well as four health-care sectors (including nursing and home health aides) in which basic people skills such as empathy make all the difference.
Books such as "The Second Machine Age," by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, do a great job of alerting us to the labor-market disruptions brought on by new technologies. Read about the implications of self-driving cars, robot-controlled surgical tools and the like – and you'll come away wondering if anything useful will be left for human beings to do.
But as the movie "Her" cleverly suggests, when it comes to interpersonal dynamics, even the most alluring machines can't quite get it right.The movie's lead character, Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix), starts out totally enchanted by his virtual girlfriend. Then, as the story plays out, we learn some surprising things about the "perfect" machine. And we come to view the "imperfect" people in Twombly's life quite differently.
Facebook's hiring priorities are a wake-up call regarding the importance of human connections, too. As the current job listings show, there's room at the giant social network for someone who can build sales relationships with German automakers or Singaporean gaming companies.
For that matter, if your Turkish, French, Italian or Polish is strong enough that you can chat up clients in those languages, you're in demand, too. No engineering Ph.D needed. Or, if you prefer stitching together strategic partnerships with big-company clients in Chicago or New York, there's a job waiting for you. In fact, multiple jobs.
(Photo of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: by Robert Scoble Flickr/Creative Commons)
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