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Would you like a job with that?

By Trish Bolton - posted Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Do you remember when you applied for a job, turned up looking half-good, smiled on cue and walked away with a starting date?

If you do, then a seniors card can’t be far away.

It’s not age though that’s so much the problem - you can tweak the dates on the CV and scheme with your hairdresser to conceal the greying truth - it’s the demands of a now almost entirely corporatised workplace that will soon have you looking for the nearest scrap heap.


You sail in, confident though not smug - your, if not hefty, CV good enough to get you to interview. But it’s inevitable you’ll soon be cut down to size.

You might walk the walk but pretty soon it dawns - you don’t talk the talk.

It’s not like there’s a conspiracy to destroy your confidence, stifle your individuality or condemn your clearly lacking oral communication skills: your interrogators are much too busy for that, ticking the boxes and marking your answers out of five - get anything less than full marks and your next interview could be with Centrelink.

If you have so far failed to impress, you might want to consider the following responses. But be careful, you might get what you wish for.

Aims and objectives: let me assure you that I will identify, reach and exceed these no matter what it takes. Anyone junior to me had better refer to and meet their key performance indicators even if that means they’re on call 24-7. Forty-hour weeks will not be tolerated.

Good research and analytical skills: yep, these are pretty much on target but not so finely honed that I’d use them to criticise crappy initiatives, dumb ideas or wasteful practice. I’m smart, but not so smart I don’t conform. I’m creative, but strongly committed to only creating within your clearly defined framework.

Setting goals: I’ll pursue, dilgently, whatever goals you like, as long as you pay me $60,000 plus salary packaging. I’ll bean count, step on heads, bully colleagues and hang around after everyone else has gone home to their needy families, just to impress you.

Interpersonal skills: these are well developed, so much so that I can deal and negotiate with any a-hole the workplace dishes up. I’ll never let on what I think of their suck-hole existence (with thanks to Mark Latham for this insight). I shall not complain, well not directly, and keep my dark side in check.

Performance: don’t give poor training and supervision another thought because I know you’ll be much too busy slashing budgets and meeting deadlines. I can work under limited supervision, be proactive (when I find out what it means) and hit the ground running to deliver agreed outcomes. And I promise, with hand on heart and a finger on the market’s pulse, that throughput will not be effected.

Leadership: I will move the organisation forward (why would you want to look back at past mistakes), restructure, produce efficiencies, increase workloads and unpaid overtime and ditch the morning teabreak. I’ll remove barriers, ignore advice from advisors and get on with the job at hand. If my leadership is challenged, people will pay big time. I am, however, a team player.

If you’re a quiet achiever who’d rather not stand out from the competition or you haven’t given much thought to being a winner expect to be excluded from the Darwinian workplace race. Human Resources (remember when they were touchy-feely “Personnel”) will soon weed out the wannabees from the true believers. And if perchance, you sent a hard copy job application in duplicate by snail mail, you’re already the biggest loser.


Nevertheless, take heart if you’re a pyschopath, or demonstrate that potential; you will be well-rewarded with much back-slapping and fast-tracked promotion.

If you’re scanning the careers section, or have nailed yourself the less-than-dream-job but are saddled with a huge HECS debt that keeps you awake half the night, and that by day, has you silently screaming at the computer, “I was robbed”, you might well be wondering if that’s all there is.

In a brave Orwellian world of key selection criteria which any articulate go-getter with a piece of paper can spin, a wealth of diversity, creativity, intelligence and niceness is being lost.

Welcome to the 21st century job market - the faint-hearted need not apply.

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About the Author

Trish Bolton is a Melbourne freelance writer.

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