I’m at the point where I want to start asking people if they know any job openings/get me a job where you work, goddammit. I’ve never gotten a decent job without already knowing someone who worked there, but I hate asking things like this. It makes me feel like I’m taking advantage of people.

Honestly, other than my first job (which was on campus and helped pay my college tuition), every job I applied for and received (or “collected” after I became an independent consultant and had to curate my own projects) has been through networking. I even have a coworker who has boasted that in all his 40+ years working, he has never needed to write a resume because his entire career had been built through referrals. This strategy has worked immensely well for me thus far, and I have never been bothered by it for several reasons:

1) Depending on the industry and the location, there is a high probability that the people who get the job I’m applying for (and not me) had used their own connections. In fact, sometimes one can’t even get their foot in through the door without going through an internal referral system (no matter what positions they may post for open application on their website). In these cases, by not using what connections you have, you are not giving up an unfair advantage - you are actually giving up what is helping to level the playing field for YOU.

2) There is nothing which can force an employer to hire me if they truly feel I am unqualified, and getting the job in the first place is not a complete and accurate reflection of my abilities, personality, or adaptability … and there is no reason to expect an employer to know either, through just a one page resume and maybe a 20 minute interview. That is where the referral HELPS. But what is incumbent upon me AFTER I get the job is to prove that I can contribute meaningfully to the business. If I do, then they benefit just as much as I do, and there is no reason to believe that anyone - my referrer, my employer, my coworkers, etc - should be unhappy about this. Quite the contrary; they have received exactly what they asked for, which is a contributing member of the team. You have actually done them a favor, in that case.

3) I am willing, and have many times in the past, helped make referrals for my friends. I have not felt burdened by this, and in fact, I have only been happy to try and help a friend’s chances of being gainfully employed - a happy, income-earning friend is much easier to be around than an anxious, unemployed one. (Actually, I had all but dragged one of my college buds out to my first job and helped push him through the company’s door - he’s not only been with the company for 8 years and running, but he married and bought a house in the area. I would say that it turned out rather well for both him and the company - and in my time there, I gained a friendly and familiar face to work with who knew all our college in-jokes.)

If someone truly feels that it would be a hardship to refer me, then they may tell me that they are unable to help me and I will accept it with good grace. I am hardly twisting their arm with just a simple question, and a polite retraction if they are uncomfortable or too busy to help.

Sorry if I come over pretty aggressively on this subject, but I feel very strongly that networking is just as valid and important a tool as good interviewing skills and resume writing, and it is something I have seen lots of women, in particular, decline to use. Partially, I think, because we tend to be more sensitive to social dynamics and perceived “fairness” - or, at least, this was so in my case and several others that I’ve counseled. It took me years to realize that I was hamstringing myself for an ideal that was actually looked down upon by many “professionals” - I was perceived as being inexperienced, or not aggressive, proactive, or decisive enough - not to mention that many times, my concerns were unfounded. People I knew were, far from being inconvenienced, HAPPY to help. Of course, there are ways to do it gracefully and ways to do it tastelessly, but that does not make it any less essential, particularly in the current job climate. 

P.S. Something else to consider - if you know someone who works somewhere and are on good terms with them, then chances are that the job environment is more compatible with your personality, character, values, etc. than some other random job you’re doing a cold application for. Thus, perhaps the best jobs you find are through networking because you are already preferentially filtering for those that are filled with people you get along with.  :) Just some food for thought!

P.P.S. I am always happy to accept friends’ resumes in case there are other people I can refer them to! I always like to keep a running list of folks in the back of my mind because of how much oddball stuff the start-up/venture community tends to need on an immediate basis. Work that network bb! :D


Mark Pagel is Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor of Evolutionary Biology; Head of the Evolution Laboratory at the University of Reading; Author Oxford Encyclopaedia of Evolution; co-author of The Comparative Method in Evolutionary Biology. His forthcoming book is Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind.

I want this book.

Mark Pagel via Edge

One of the first things to be aware of when talking about social learning is that it plays the same role within our societies, acting on ideas, as natural selection plays within populations of genes. Natural selection is a way of sorting among a range of genetic alternatives, and finding the best one. Social learning is a way of sifting among a range of alternative options or ideas, and choosing the best one of those. And so, we see a direct comparison between social learning driving idea evolution, by selecting the best ideas —we copy people that we think are successful, we copy good ideas, and we try to improve upon them — and natural selection, driving genetic evolution within societies, or within populations.

I think this analogy needs to be taken very seriously, because just as natural selection has acted on genetic populations, and sculpted them, we’ll see how social learning has acted on human populations and sculpted them.

What do I mean by “sculpted them”? Well, I mean that it’s changed the way we are. And here’s one reason why. If we think that humans have evolved as social learners, we might be surprised to find out that being social learners has made us less intelligent than we might like to think we are. And here’s the reason why.

If I’m living in a population of people, and I can observe those people, and see what they’re doing, seeing what innovations they’re coming up with, I can choose among the best of those ideas, without having to go through the process of innovation myself. So, for example, if I’m trying to make a better spear, I really have no idea how to make that better spear. But if I notice that somebody else in my society has made a very good spear, I can simply copy him without having to understand why.

What this means is that social learning may have set up a situation in humans where, over the last 200,000 years or so, we have been selected to be very, very good at copying other people, rather than innovating on our own. We like to think we’re a highly inventive, innovative species. But social learning means that most of us can make use of what other people do, and not have to invest the time and energy in innovation ourselves.

Now, why wouldn’t we want to do that? Why wouldn’t we want to innovate on our own? Well, innovation is difficult. It takes time. It takes energy. Most of the things we try to do, we get wrong. And so, if we can survey, if we can sift among a range of alternatives of people in our population, and choose the best one that’s going at any particular moment, we don’t have to pay the costs of innovation, the time and energy ourselves. And so, we may have had strong selection in our past to be followers, to be copiers, rather than innovators.

Followership is part of a vast meta-genetic pattern of human culture, where we need fewer innovators as our networks grow better at transmitting innovation. As social density increases, social learning increases, and the very best ideas can reach everywhere: or better, everyone.

I’ve had this bookmarked for a while because it’s a long-ish article and I haven’t had a chance to catch up, but I think it’s worth reading through on a top level as it has some interesting ideas which I’ve pondered myself in the past. However, I don’t think it pushes far enough on certain points:

  • I agree on the point that there doesn’t need to be “more innovaters” to help sustain an expanding, socially-connected group - just as there still only needs to be one seed to generate a whole crystal from a solution, no matter how much volume there is to the solution. I don’t necessarily see that this is any different from past models in the human population, however - I don’t think social learning has made us less intelligent. We are inherently lazy creatures - that’s how evolution designed us, because energy is a precious resource and difficult to harvest - and I can’t see how that would change over a few short centuries so that we become even more lazy (at least, on a genetic level). In the past, two geographically and socially remote groups may have independently come up with the design for a spear, but that does not make them any more or less intelligent than a group that is the equivalent of their combined numbers coming up with only one individual who creates the spear … perhaps there were several individuals in the large group who could have come up with the spear. However, there can only be one first place winner - the one who advertises his product before all the rest. This, by default, makes all the other “would-be geniuses” mere “social learners” after that. Science is full of examples of multiple people who developed similar theories, and who then may or may not need to compete for credit as the original innovator. 
  • Social learning itself has its own place in the evolution of ideas. On the micro-scale, say in a company that is trying to generate new IP and patents, there are often individuals who stand out as the “big thinkers” - the ones who come up with truly revolutionary ideas. However, there also needs to be a supporting group who not only polishes those ideas, but they frequently provide some of the incremental advancements which the big thinkers need and use to then make the next leap. (Not only that, there is sometimes a backlash - witness the king of copying, the Chinese. Yes, they copy blindly, and most often are associated with inferior products due to that, but this has often resulted in an eventual market rejection of such products, and companies have now learned to watch for signs of such rejection and poise themselves to take over with new products when it happens.) No true innovator lives in a vacuum - they are influenced as much by social learners as social learners “copy” from innovators. In fact, entrepreneurs often take their cue from general population trends - I don’t know how often I’ve heard an inventor or entrepreneur say that the reason they started a business or thought of an invention was because there was a clear need that wasn’t being addressed in the market, or because the usual modus operandi clearly wasn’t working after they were subjected to constant and identical frustrations.
  • As for the topic on the randomness of innovation - I not only whole-heartedly agree with this, but I have a name for it: guess and check. Musical instruments are a prime example of this - through centuries of painstaking guess and check, guitars have evolved into nearly the perfect shape for producing the acoustics that it needs to. These days, we can use fancy simulation software and engineering principles and equations to come to the same conclusions, but guess and check had worked well enough, if over a much longer timespan. There is also the epiphany - where a series of seemingly unrelated or random facts percolate in the subconscious, until one day, suddenly, it all seems to come together into a single, elegant solution. I think any innovator understands all too well how random such insights can be, and quite often optimize their environments to encourage such happenings. All the thought and development that comes after is usually spent on polishing it, making it, and/or proving it.

In conclusion, I think it’s not so much that we’re getting dumber due to larger groups of social learners, but that there is now competition arising between the innovators themselves. As we become more and more globally connected, it will be harder for anyone to claim the truly independent and genius idea, and on top of that, earlier than anyone else. Not only that, but our body of knowledge is so huge - witness our current problems with trying to filter out information overload, rather than struggling with information scarcity - that innovation time is potentially eaten away by the time it takes to process the necessary data to see where innovation can take place. Of course, a true innovator’s genius lies in this subconscious, knee-jerk ability to identify these very holes without going through the number-crunching … and that, I think, is something which will always be present in a population to varying degrees, and it’s only whether the current environment will support these people that will matter the most.

Make a culture hostile to entrepreneurs and start-ups? Yes, you will see a decline in innovation. Make it hospitable to such endeavors? You may very well see an explosion in revolutionary ideas.

(Source: underpaidgenius, via emergentfutures)


Neil deGrasse Tyson - We Stopped Dreaming

“How much would you pay for the Universe?”


JOBS Act passes House: What the new crowdfunding bill would mean for startup

The JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act that passed in the US Congress contains some big changes for crowdfunding startups. It now moves on to the Senate.

Right now, it’s illegal for a startup to solicit investors on platforms like Twitter or Kickstarter. But the JOBS Act would change that. For startups raising $1 million or less, anyone can now buy up to $10,000 or 10 percent of the annual income (whichever is less) 

Full Story: VentureBeat

Not only a beginning analysis of what good can be expected to come from this change, but also a good summary of the other challenges beyond the simple administrative costs facing companies that decide to take advantage of it.


“Until now, it has been illegal to invest as little as $100 at a time into a new startup without first being an accredited investor. If you don’t have $1 million in assets or $200,000 in annual income, you don’t qualify and can’t invest. Until now, venture capital has been a game only for the…

Businesses like Kickstarter have certainly pushed this type of structure into mainstream thought, though “investors” there are not exactly investing, with respect to the expectation of receiving equity. I do wonder, however, if this is even desirable from a company’s perspective, as depending on its philosophies, trying to calculate equity and controlling dilution of previous investors can often take months and months of effort and resources (ie - lawyer fees). Would they really want to spend the time figuring out the fraction of a percent that someone investing $100 should receive, and how that will fluctuate with subsequent valuations and investment? In the context of this particular article, however, I suppose this is merely providing a choice - the company has the right to refuse such investment amounts, but it gives currently unqualified investors a chance to invest if the company should choose to accept it. It makes me wonder, though, if such a privilege wouldn’t be retained mostly for friends and family funding as opposed to the random investor.

(Source: mrgn, via emergentfutures)

The coming deluge of data (more on that in a moment) will create demand for a new kind of computer scientist — a gig that’s one part mathematician, one part product-development guru, and one part detective.

The hot tech gig of 2022: Data scientist - Fortune Tech (via mediafuturist)

A very hot and relevant topic! And it doesn’t apply to just the corporate level. Everything from niche markets - such as the millions of hours of video and telemetry data gathered by drones/UAVs - to the individual sitting at home with the entire WWW at their fingertips will have to face the problem of how to not only make sense of the information deluge but reorganize it into something useful.

(via emergentfutures)


Burglars as consumers: Not worth nicking [CDs or DVDs]| The Economist

“These sorts of crimes are regarded even by criminals as the preserve of the desperate,” says James Treadwell, a Leicester University criminologist. Burglars are generally drug-addled, unskilled and opportunistic. Yet they are capable of making economic calculations. And their behaviour reveals something about the state of the media business. Hollywood and the record labels believe they can hold off the threat from technology, both legitimate and illegitimate, and maintain the value of their products. Britain’s burglars disagree.

HAHAHA. Well. ‘Nuff said.

(via emergentfutures)