Does the CEO Have a Tramp Stamp?

April 23, 2012

“Hate” is a bad word. Beyond the obvious issues, it’s also abrupt and rigid. It’s an absolute. Not much more negative than hate. But people throw it around easily these days. They hate this TV show, or hate that politician, or hate someone’s behavior. We even use say, “I hate it for you” as if we are obliging someone and doing them a favor by lending them our hate. People also say, “I hate to be a ____,” but… Guess what, if you were so negatively pre-disposed to being that, you wouldn’t. Be honest with yourself and just say, “I’m a _____” and be comfortable with it. Or change your behavior and don’t be it.

But there is one thing I hate….”have to.” It’s just like hate, it’s an absolute. You have to pick up your clothes, you have to behave a certain way in public, you have to eat turkey at Thanksgiving or you’re a booger-eating pinko Commie bastard. Remember President Bush (the first one) saying he didn’t eat broccoli because as a kid he “had to” and now he was President of the United States so he wasn’t going to eat broccoli. Good stuff! When you get to be President, there aren’t a lot of “have to’s.”

You know where else there are a bunch of “have to’s”? When you look for a job! Here’s a brief list of our favorites:
You HAVE to go buy an interview suit
You HAVE to get an interview haircut
You HAVE to take all that crap out of your face…yes, the nose ring too.
You HAVE to cover up your tattoos
You HAVE to take the color out of your hair
You HAVE to shave your legs and wear pantyhose
You HAVE to wear socks and a tie…..no, not a bolo tie Woody
You HAVE to arrive at least 10 minutes early, just not too early. Twenty would be too much. And you BETTER NOT be late!
You HAVE to know what you want to be for the rest of your life even though you haven’t really worked a freaking day in your life, have no idea what it’s like to deal with office politics and the break room fridge, have no idea what “corporate culture” is and have never really publicly failed at anything and been held accountable for it……PHEW!!!!

What the hell is up with all the “have to’s”??? I remember when I finished grad school. I had a ponytail that reached the middle of my back. It was my calling card. People referred to me as the “guy with the pony tail.” Who do I have to go see about renting equipment? You can go to that desk and ask the guy with the pony tail. Who has the keys to the truck? The guy with the pony tail took them. Then school was over, time to grow up again. With one well placed snip I re-entered the herd. Why? No one’s going to hire me looking like that, I thought. You HAVE TO get a regular haircut if you want to get a job.

Last week an older student (i.e., closer to my age) came to my office for help. He’s in a career transition phase. He has over 20 years of sales experience and is just now getting his MBA. He’d like to get out of sales and in to the operations side of hospitality, an industry he’s served but hasn’t worked directly in for a while. Hospitality is big here in Touristland. He’s not working now, a casualty of the recession and getting his MBA was part of his recovery plan. That said, he’s willing to take a few steps back if that means moving laterally into hospitality. One of his concerns, rightly so, was if employers will be hesitant to hire him for a lower level job because of his age. The HR guy in me gets indignant about that and wants to say, why no! It’s ILLEGAL to disqualify someone because of their age! We have laws, good laws, that make it a crime to pull that crap! But it happens all the time. Companies find other ways around it and middle-aged unemployed workers are finding their recession may last a lot longer because of it. So what did I tell him? Yes, it could be an issue. Are you married to the beard? The guy was sporting a full on, mostly grey, Dan Haggerty special. It seems like an innocuous bit of advice, but are we telling people to homogenize for the sake of “fitting in”?

Beards, tats, hair color, fashion; people use all of these things to express their individuality. We usually attribute most of this to traditional students (translation: twenty-something Gen Y’ers.) But everyone looks for that thing that makes them…them. And when it comes to looking for a job, there’s a tendency to mute one’s individuality and idiosyncrasies. In this age of behavioral disorders brought on by the pressure put on young people to conform and fit in, it almost seems counter intuitive to tell someone who has discovered a vehicle for self expression to mute it and look like that line of kids falling into the meat grinder in “The Wall.” On top of that, you WANT to stand out and make employers remember you from that vast, undulating sea of dark power suits and frothy white dress shirts. But it’s a Catch 22 (thank your English teacher for making you read that book!) To be noticed you have to stand out, but we (society) tell you to mute what really makes you an individual.

So, do you HAVE to take out the nose ring? Well, if you want to get an entry-level job with a big employer, move up through the ranks, and eventually be a member of the leadership then, yes. You have to ditch all the frosting and just be cake. But, if you plan on wearing it when you go to work and you feel like it makes you who you are, then no. Leave it in. Focus instead on finding an employer that doesn’t think a nose ring is a big deal. Focus on a trade or occupation where you see others sporting their little silver rings of individuality. And be ok with the impact your individual expression will have on your career. As long as you are cool with all that, then there’s only a few things you HAVE to do:

You have to know what you want to do
You have to pay your bills and support your family
You have to be comfortable with…strike that…LOVE who you are
You have to be ok with the consequences and rewards of your decisions

Oh…and you HAVE to figure out how to stop hating. Seriously, it sucks.

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One Response to “Does the CEO Have a Tramp Stamp?”

  1. Randy Pena Says:

    Well said Great information, keep up the great work!


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