Lawful Discrimination

Relax. This is not a posting about FORMER Jet Blue  Flight Attendant Steven Slater.  It’s actually about the cop!

No one has more respect for law enforcement professionals than I have.  I am certain that he is an excellent officer, a good spouse, father, son, etc., etc., etc.  He is probably well respected by colleagues and all who know him.  But he is NOT a role model for someone looking for  a job.

A number of years ago I was in Barnes and Noble.  As I approached the Customer Service desk I heard a commotion.  There was a young woman, probably no more than 17 or 18, arguing with the manager.   She was yelling at him, “You’re discriminating against me!  You won’t even give me a job application.”

The manager assured her that he was not discriminating against her, but to no avail.  I then decided to chime in.  I looked her straight in the eye and, after introducing myself said, “You’re right.  He is discriminating against you.”  I then paused to see the manager’s face go white as a ghost and added, “And he’s perfectly within his rights.”

As the color returned to the manager’s face I asked the would-be employee why she wanted to work at B&N.  She said, “I love books.”  I then asked her if she had ever been in a book store before.  She got a bit angry and sarcastically said, “Yes!”  I then asked her if she had ever noticed the employees.  “Of course!”  “Did you ever see one who looked like you?”

Then it began to sink in.  “Look,” I told her.  “A business owner has the right to determine his corporate image.  Have you ever seen a receptionist at a dentist’s office with bad teeth?  An obese person working at a health club?  Or someone with tattoos from her fingers up her arms, and from her neck down?  Or someone with piercings everywhere conceivable on her face and in her mouth?”

Reluctantly she said, “No.”  I told her that she was not being discriminated against because she was white, Christian, female, or because of her age.  She was being discriminated against because the manager is a discriminating person.  “He knows what corporate image he wants and you don’t meet the minimum standards or qualifications.  You made a decision to look the way you look, now you have to live with the ramifications.”

She then asked me where she could get a job.  I suggested tattoo parlors and piercing establishments.  I then told her that I honestly had never seen anyone who looks like her working anywhere that I go.

Before she left, practically in tears, she asked what she should do.  I suggested removing all of the piercings (including the tongue!), hope that the wounds heal quickly, and go to a physician to see about have the tattoos removed, at least those that will be visible on the job.

As she departed the manager told me that when I had said that he was discriminating against her he had had every intention of throwing me out – literally!  He then smiled and revealed his own tattoo carefully hidden under his shirt sleeve.

The lesson: Appearance counts.  You have to look like you belong when you go for a job interview.  If you don’t believe me look at the photo again.  What’s the first thing you noticed?  The prisoner?  The officer carefully fastening his seat belt?  Wearing his hat even though he’s in a van?  Or the incongruity of a police officer with tattoos up and down his arms?  What do you want people to notice about you, your professionalism or your appearance?  Most employers, maybe all employers, want the former.  You should never want the latter!


Sometimes You Just Have to Vent

The first article I ever had published was when I was a doctoral student at the  Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  It was an op-ed piece in the Jerusalem Post.  I was sitting in my office when the phone rang.  One of the Post’s readers called to criticize what I had written.  I defended my position and when I hung up one of my professors, whose office was next to mine, came in.  He told me that he had overheard the conversation and despite the fact that everything I said was correct, I was still wrong.  My mistake was that I should not have argued with the caller.  As he put it, “You had your say, now it’s her turn.”

He was correct.  As I have come to learn, if you don’t want to be criticized don’t publicize.  Anyone who visits my website Press Kit page knows that I am regularly quoted by various media outlets.  (One day I’ll write a blog on how I do it. )  Yesterday, for the first time, I actually received some “hate mail.”  What was ironic was that it was from two individuals who were complaining about comments I had made warning against, of all things, lying on a resume.   (The article was on things job seekers should avoid doing.)  Here, in total, was my offensive statement:

“Lying on a résumé. I had a marketing director e-mail me her old résumé (which I only had a paper copy of) and an updated résumé. The dates of employment on the updated résumé did not match the dates on the previous résumé and the first job listed on the previous résumé did not appear on the new one. When I asked for an explanation, she told me that she could not remember the dates of employment at her previous job[s] and that she had removed her previous job from the new résumé because she wanted everything to fit on two pages. When I told her that I could not proceed with her candidacy because of the inaccuracies, she actually got angry at me. The second was a lawyer who, on a new résumé, changed the dates of his previous employments and removed one job completely. The funny thing was that he knew I had the previous résumé. The rule is simple: Liars need not apply!”

One critic was rather articulate, writing about the “lack of coherent reasoning articulated on your part,” while the other was less articulate… but equally passionate.

One does not have to be a certified psychologist to read between the lines.  Clearly both of these gentlemen are having problems finding a job.  I would be willing to bet that they lost jobs, or job offers, because of discrepancies on their resumes, although I could be wrong.

Everyone has the right to complain and to vent.  It is, of course, better to vent to a stranger – which is what my two critics chose to do.  Needless to say, if either one were to write to a prospective employer the way they wrote to me they would not be offered a job.  And, if one day they were to apply through me for a job with one of my clients…

In any case they do raise an important issue:  How do you properly vent when you are having a frustrating job search?  Here are a few suggestions:

1)  Don’t vent publicly.  By “publicly” I mean leaving a paper trail.  “Paper,” in today’s age, means not only writing a letter the old fashioned way, but in an e-mail, a recorded voice mail message, or a video posting.  It may come back to bite you on the part of the anatomy that one of these guys suggested I need to have “tuned to helping people.”   If you still feel the need “to put pen to paper,” do so professionally.  Don’t launch personal attacks.  The rule is simple:  If you don’t want to read about it in the morning paper, don’t do it!

2)  By all means vent to relatives and friends.  Tell them what is bothering you and why.  If they care about you, they will listen and be supportive.  If they truly care about you, they will also make suggestions which you may not want to hear.

3)  Exercise.  Get on the treadmill and run until you have literally sweated the aggravation away.   That works for many people, but not all.

4)  Change of scenery.  Go somewhere where you can forget about your problems for a while.  It’s called “escapism. ”  This does not mean spending a lot of money on a vacation.  Going to the movies (granted, it can be expensive…) may do the trick.

5)  If all else fails, and this is not an advertisement for my services (OK, it is.  You caught me.  I lied.), speak with a career counselor.  Develop an Action Plan.  But remember, it’s YOUR plan, not the counselor’s.  It’s your responsibility to get the interview and the job and if you fail, it’s your fault.  Maybe that’s the secret to professional success: understanding personal responsibility.

By the way, I will be happy to post any comments on this blog, as long as they are polite and profanity-free.