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Can you explain your work to a 12 year old?

Explain what you do in universally understandable terms, we can all use some philosophy and internal recruiters are juggling too many candidates

“I think, therefore I am”

René Descartes

In the world of coffee, there exists a stark divide. One morning, Emily tried a cup from her office's Keurig. The brew was quick, yes, but the taste? Flat, lifeless, akin to drinking stale photocopy paper - an uninspiring start to her day. Later, she saw a co-worker who offered her a freshly brewed cup using Sumato Coffee's freshly roasted beans. The difference was night and day. The aroma was captivating, the taste vibrant with hints of chocolate and citrus. Emily realized, with a satisfied sip, that true coffee wasn't just a drink; it was an experience. She was 82% more productive the rest of the day.

In today’s email:

  • Job News: You have done great the last 10 years at your BIG company, but can you explain your work to a 12 year old? 🤷🏽‍♂️

  • Overheard at coffee: Who am AI? GS is encouraging engineers to study philosophy for AI prompt engineering 🤔

  • Trending AI Tools: Say hello to Devin by Cognition Labs. The first AI software engineer. 🤖

  • Hot Jobs: (keep scrolling down ⬇️)

  • Recruiting Fails: Internal recruiters have too many candidates to juggle

Job News

The other day, I spoke with a talented executive who has been with her current company—a Fortune 500 hardware/software firm—for over 10 years. She hasn’t interviewed or looked for a job in a decade. This candidate was interviewing for a VP of Marketing role and, despite having an impressive resume, she struggled to articulate her work experience. The problem? She hadn't interviewed in over 10 years and couldn’t explain her work to a 12 year old…

She is undoubtedly talented, smart, and driven, but her nerves get the better of her during interviews. She often defaults to her company’s internal terminology, buzzwords, and jargon, making it difficult for her to communicate her expertise in terms outsiders can understand. She especially struggled with moving beyond her company's acronyms and had little experience with cutting-edge technology.

Many great candidates get too wrapped up in their own world—stuck in their head, their current company, and their own challenges. They fail to realize that not everyone will understand their references or the significance of projects like the "LRT project." For instance, do you know what the LRT project is? I asked for clarification and still didn't grasp its importance because it was shrouded in company-specific terminology.

When preparing for interviews, think about your work and be ready to explain how it saves money, generates revenue, or improves efficiency for your company. Avoid referring to your projects by acronyms like "LRT" and assuming everyone knows what you mean.

You might be a big deal within the Bottlecap division of your company, but if you can’t explain what you do in universally understandable terms, it will be hard to impress others.

When describing your role and achievements, use the STAR methodology: outline the Situation, the Task, and your role, the Action you took, and the Results achieved. Keep your descriptions general but support them with specific examples to ensure your interviewer understands and can follow along.

Be able to explain your work to a 12 year old. You know your material well, but focus on refining how you explain it to make a strong impact.

Overheard at coffee ☕️

Goldman Sachs is encouraging engineers to study philosophy. AI can write high-quality code, but without a well-crafted prompt, it will likely produce inaccurate or even dangerous outputs. As the saying goes, "Garbage in, garbage out."

I think, therefore, I am... going to learn how to enter a good AI prompt. While this may not have been what Descartes had in mind when he coined "I think, therefore I am," it's fascinating to imagine what classical philosophers would say about AI.

If you’re unsure of who you are, you could ask AI for help—but make sure your prompt is precise, as you might not like the answer you get.

For any philosopher out there struggling to earn a better income, considering a career in prompt engineering could be a lucrative option. There are reports of AI prompt engineers earning $300,000 or more annually.

🚀 Say hello to Devin. The first AI software engineer. If you are a software engineer, I would love to hear your feedback on this tool. Cognition Labs is the company behind Devin. They have raised $175M in venture capital funding with a valuation of $2 billion just six months after it launched.

Devin can plan, execute complex engineering tasks and fix mistakes. Devin also comes with developer tools including shell, code editor and a browser within a sandboxed compute environment (everything a human needs to do their work).

We are just in the beginning stages with Devin but it will be interesting to see this evolve.

🔥 Hot Jobs - $1K Referral Fee

Recruiting Fails: Recently, we encountered a revealing situation with a busy internal recruiter at one of our client companies was juggling too many candidates. Initially, the recruiter instructed us to reject a candidate citing that there were "other candidates" better suited for the position.

However, just one week later, the same recruiter reversed the decision, asking us to advance this candidate to the next round of interviews. While this might seem like a failure on their part, our experience told us to keep options open. We had maintained communication with the candidate, which allowed us to quickly re-engage and schedule the next interview without a hitch.

This experience confirmed our suspicion that the company hadn't lined up a solid backup candidate, and our belief in the candidate’s potential was well-founded. We advised the candidate to remain patient while we clarified details with the client.

And just like that, the candidate was back in the running as if nothing had happened. If you're on the job hunt, remember that the recruitment process can often be chaotic and unpredictable on the inside. Recruiters can be overwhelmed and lose track of details. Maintaining patience and consistent communication—like checking in weekly—can sometimes turn the situation around in your favor.

Do you have recruiting Fail Stories? Reply with your epic fails – we'll feature them. Own your blunders, embrace vulnerability, and let's all level up together.

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