Since a lot of Baby Boomers have found themselves unexpectedly on the job market for the first time in years, I thought it might be a good idea to provide a primer on how to get hired by people who used to be your kids. If you’ve been out job hunting you know that at some point in recent years every business in America was taken over by 22 year olds.
These people aren’t dumb, on the contrary. They are smart---and wired from birth to operate any techy piece of machinery without having to read the Owner’s Manual. But it’s hard to have any real working knowledge with only months of experience on the job.
Still, we are now working for them.
First you’ll need to spruce up your resume. Rule number one. Never use the word “Senior” in your resume. In the minds of the young it conjures up images of toothless shriveled cronies doddering around waving their canes at, well, the young. Don’t use “highly experienced” as a substitute. Remember, you’ll be working for inexperienced folks and these people don’t like being reminded of it, especially by someone who may be older than their own parents.
“Mature” is a fairly safe word to use. The people you will be working for and with like to be thought of as mature, even as they attend meetings in jeans, tee-shirts and baseball hats turned backwards after just coming from a heated game of foozball with a colleague.
Rule number two---lie on your resume. I know it’s frowned upon by those stick-in-the-mud job sites, HR types and the criminal courts, but do you want a job or do you want to live in a cardboard box? Enough said. Make up stuff that sounds hip and cool and obtuse. Titles like Chief Existential Eco Guru work well. Nobody knows what it means but it sounds so au courant.
Drop a bunch of words and phrases into your resume like “optimized the SEO applet widget” or “Installed social networking microsite phalangic morphisms into the mainframe downline cloud.” It’s total gibberish but none of the 20-somethings you’ll be working for will admit they have no idea what it means. It sounds cool. Maybe even innovative. Who knows? Do you know? I don’t know.
Avoid historical references of any kind beyond the year 2000. Very little of it is acknowledged as existing by these people. If you served in the war in Viet Nam, drop it from your resume. To these people it’s one and the same as the Civil War, maybe even around the same time. History isn’t their strong suit.
Don’t talk about what you can do for the company but what you can do for the children, I mean employees, working there. Remember, this is the instant gratification generation we Boomers created. They want what they want when they want it and they’re used to getting it when they want it. Which is now.
That’s why the Executive VP hiring you (maybe, but probably not) is only 23. No waiting around for some inconvenient obstacle like experience to get where they want to go for these people. Don’t forget, we created these little monsters and like Dr. Frankenstein we have to live with the results.
If you put Other Interests in your resume be sure to include “active” stuff like rock climbing, windsurfing, playing Grand Theft Auto, all night binges and twittering so they have some basis for identifying with you. Speaking of Twittering, be sure to also have a Facebook page, Plaxo account and LinkedIn. Learn a few social networking buzz words so you seem relevant (if that’s even possible).
Get an iPhone and some cool apps. I like Turrets, the app you secretly download on the iPhones of people you don’t like. They’ll be in a meeting or at a party and suddenly their iPhone shouts “Shit!!!” or “Butt hole!!” or “Crap Face!!!” If you see a position at a company you like that someone else unfortunately already holds, send the Turrets app to their iPhone and maybe it will be available soon.
Never ever say your interests include restoring antique cars (antique subliminally translates as old) or reading books (Books? What the…?) or, god forbid, spending time with your wife and six kids. Marriage = bad too. And old. Remember these people just “hook up.”
Remember when our generation couldn’t trust anyone over thirty. Well, now they don’t hire anyone over thirty. The only old wise person acknowledged by these people is the Dalai Lama. But they would never invite him to go binge drinking. Or hire him as a junior account executive.
One “Hail Mary” shot at getting hired when you’re a Boomer is to mention how hiring you will help the firm avoid any Age Discrimination suits in the future. You’ll have to finesse how you word this or it could seem like a threat, which it is. Your chance of this ploy working is infinitesimal, but then so are your chances of getting hired. So consider giving it a shot.
Never wear a suit to an interview. These people have seen photos of men wearing them but have never actually owned a suit themselves. Avoid the Gordon Gecko look we all loved so much in the ancient 80s. If you have the body for it (or a body at all) you might consider wearing an unlaundered tee-shirt that says “F*%K You” on it or some other Gen X witticism. Just avoid the “Dad” look at all costs (although they may slip up and call you that now and then). Go for the deranged older brother look instead. It will confuse them. Or rather confuse them more.
It’s more than OK to wear a baseball hat. These people all wear them, male or female. You can wear it any old way you want too---straight on, sideways or the ever-popular backwards. It can say Google or Clonetec or even SF Giants on it---but if it says John Deere you will be buried up to your neck and stoned to death by IT nerds. It’s also OK to wear your baseball hat 24/7, which is Web 2.0 talk for “always.”
By the way, be prepared to work 24/7. It’s what these people do when they aren’t binge drinking. It’s not hard work but more like playing office.
Bald is not good either. If you’ve got that genetic male pattern Dick Cheney look going on you may as well just shoot yourself. Your career is over. Now that the Republicans are out of favor you won’t even be able to fall back on a government job, where looks and even ability have never mattered much.
Your only hope is to go the Bruce Willis route. You may look like Mr. Clean but at least this is acceptably cool to these people. Avoid tattoos or any metal objects inserted under your skin as this will be frowned upon as over-reaching, despite its ubiquitous usage by these people. You could grow a mustache and goatee. Depends upon what kind of face you have whether this will make you look hip or just old. Old is not good. However, facial hair does have the advantage of covering up those unsightly wrinkles. Not recommended for Boomer ladies though. They’ll want to get rid of any post menopausal facial hair.
If you weigh more than 145 pounds (100 for women) you’ll need to call Jenny Craig or spring for some major liposuction. You cannot be fat with these people. The men all have 28 inch waists and the women look as if a strong wind would blow them away. Remember, they haven’t fully matured yet---as you unfortunately have.
Oh, and get your teeth whitened. These people all have teeth as white as a 125 rated sheet of copy paper. You also may want to pop for some orthodontist to straighten out your teeth in order to be competitive (remember the tens of thousands of dollars you spent so these kids all had movies star perfect smiles?). Or you could adopt a sullen attitude and just never smile.
After you’ve figured out what to wear, lost a bunch of weight, shaved your head, and spent the equivalent of a new Aston-Martin on your teeth, go look in the mirror. Ask yourself if you can imagine these people, your potential co-workers, inviting you along to their favorite watering hole to binge drink with them. You may have to stretch your imagination some.
If you are so lucky as to get an interview (likely because on your resume you dropped your first six jobs, didn’t put dates on anything and made up new titles that didn’t sound as important as the real ones), and you are now waiting in the lobby for the HR gal, here’s a tip---NEVER eye the cute young receptionist with that soulful look that worked so well for you back in the days of the Bee Gees. She won’t like you for that.
You could easily get slapped with a sexual harassment suit before you even get the job. Despite their own profligate ways and scores of sex partners of both sexes, these people are touchy (or more accurately, not touchy) about minor politically incorrect stuff. And if later at an office party the young just-out-of-grad school Executive VP, in a drunken haze, wants to “do you” the response is to flee. Just flee. Even if you’ve fantasized about it, trust me, it won’t be a pretty scene in real life. Especially when she sobers up later in the month and recalls that it was the “old guy” she did.
Now, if you do miraculously get hired, because you’re just so good or they made a big mistake in judgment, never never NEVER show how smart you are with these people. Just like you probably dumbed down your resume to get hired, now you have to actually be dumb to fit in with these people.
Keep in mind always that their prefrontal cortex is still developing. They are not fully realized human beings yet. It will help explain why the decision to paint the company slogan on herds of goats and release them downtown during rush hour was unanimously adopted as the firm’s ad campaign. Or why the Marketing Director glued all his furniture to the ceiling so his office would be upside down, thereby providing a “new perspective” on things. Or why everyone suddenly decided en masse to take a week off to go binge drinking. Don’t panic. Being dumb takes a lot of pressure off you.
This being dumb all the time also makes employment a bit tricky, since they presumably hired you to do something. Here’s a few ways to massage this situation so you can be dumb and not appear dumb.
When it’s suggested that everyone attend the funeral of a stranger as a “bonding” exercise just say, “Got your back there Jason.” Big smile. I don’t know what it means either.
Or when one of the VPs recommends putting Red Bull in the water cooler say “Brittany, what a great idea---as usual.” Say this like you mean it.
Or “Fantastic plan there Kelly. A baseball hat for every man, woman and child in the United States with our company logo on it. Now we know why they made you President at 28.”
Or “Sure, I think poisoning the water coolers at our competitors makes a LOT of sense Jennifer.”
DON’T say, “Gosh Robbie that’s the bestest idea ever since Gallileo invented the telescope.” I’m not sure saying this is a good idea even if your boss is another Boomer, but these people don’t know who Gallileo is, or was. They think it’s a brand of salami. Remember, nothing important existed before these people were 12. Some are downright disbelieving if you are so stupid as to tell them what it was like in the era of Selectric typewriters, mimeograph machines, phone booths and reel-to-reel tape recorders. “You mean, like, computers didn’t even exist? Omigod!!”
You’ll quickly notice that businesses are pretty quiet places these days. What with all the twittering and texting and emailing and downloading useful stuff from porn sites and the like, no one really talks much anymore. Don’t be surprised at a meeting if no one talks at all but just texts each other. These people aren’t into face to-face-socializing (except when they’re binge drinking).
Low-key is the key to success here. Always credit your company-saving ideas to Emily or Jacob or one of the Jennifers. They have no clue if anything they did actually contributed to the success of the company but won’t mind taking the credit for it anyway. That constant self-esteem building praise we gave them when they were in grade school a couple years ago is coming back to haunt us now.
Well, I hope I helped make it easier for you to find a job. It’s tough out there for us Boomers. We’re fighting a scorched earth battle against the age thing and usually we think we’re winning, or at least not losing so fast. Then you go apply for a job that sounds as if it was written just for you and a couple weeks later get a form letter saying they found someone more “suitable” for the job. How can someone be more suitable for a job that is in perfect alignment with your skills, education, experience and knowledge? What’s more perfect than perfect?
Do you think it might be because they figured out you’re 52, not 22?
We’re not really ready to become Wal-Mart greeters and we didn’t save enough to buy a McDonald’s Happy Meal, much less retire comfortably, and our bodies aren’t behaving as they should and it’s all happening at a time when the world needs us again to get back on its feet. We can create another bubble, I know we can. We have two under our belts already this decade.
If you can’t get a job you can always start a business or invent something useful for us Boomers. Motorized walkers by BMW equipped with GPS, Hi Def TV and an iPhone could be a big idea. Face transplants are all the rage now. Maybe we can have a face and body transplant---and be 22 again!