Technologically illiterate

There is a general assumption sitting out there conveying the idea people over 40 are technologically illiterate. I thought this was extreme bias until I moved to a small Northeast Texas town. It appears to be rampant in major metropolises as well as rural areas.

My sister is, let me think how old my sister is, 55 years old. She is an event planner in a small suburbia outside of Pittsburgh. This family owned company still writes all appointments down on a large wall calendar and manually maintains all accounting in a ledger book. She does not utilize email, text or electronic communication with any vendors. She still calls and visits the local bakeries for cakes and pastries, often carrying photos of what the customer wants. She is unable to switch employers because she is technologically illiterate. Her boss is a control freak and wants no changes to the system. My lovely sister does not want to learn how to access the internet, nor does she have any interest in doing so. For her occupation and stage of life, it is socially acceptable for her bliss to continue. Keeping staff uneducated and in the dark seems to work for entrepreneurs.

The few people I have met in Paris, Texas seem to have the same lack of communication skills. I still have a Houston area code telephone number. When sharing my phone number, I am often informed, they are unable to place a long distance call to me from home or work. Either their employer does not allow (control and being cheap) long distance calls or their mobile phones have extremely limited regional service. It is more often than not, they inform me they do not know how to text nor do they have the capability. These are not retired or stay at home housewives. These are “business people”.

I interviewed for a professional position, a few years back, with a snot nosed twenty something. During the interview, he held up a Blackberry and informed me everyone employed there is required to keep their appointments electronically. He also went on to say the learning curve for programs they used, MS Office Suite, would take time to learn. When he finished making his assumptions and was arrogantly quiet, I told him to hand me his laptop so I could take it apart, reprogram the hard drive and put it back together. He seemed kind of shocked. He went on to explain his mother didn’t know anything about computers. While he was blabbering, my Blackberry was vibrating. I took it out of my purse, checked it and put it back – in the middle of an interview. I never would have done this if I wanted the position. I told him his mother never taught 60 people how to convert manual files to an electronic system in the 70’s either. His mother didn’t convert a financial institution from a manual accounting system to a zero paper system in 4 days, which included placing a PC on every desk and personally training everyone the fabulous benefits of every MS Office program available, including PowerPoint presentations. I am quite sure his mother had “other” talents. By the way, the interviewer and his company went bankrupt within the year. One of my friends got the job I interviewed for and she is still unemployed to this day.

Back off with embracing the idea, old people don’t know what to do with a PC, tablet or any other “hand-held device”. My father was in his 70’s and was more PC savvy than most people I have done business with. After he died, and I figured out his password, I brought his PC up to see eagles flying, flags waving and hearing the Marine Corps hymn playing full blast on his computer. He thrived on researching ship manifests for immigrant relatives, replaced drives in his CPU and conducted all business electronically on the PC. I still miss his emails and humor and most especially him-very dearly.

People do not like change. It is easier to be oblivious. Their world will remain ever so small without the advantages of world-wide access. It also cost a few bucks to be connected to cyber space. I view it as a necessary utility fee, like electricity!  Don’t get me started with how we are all being gouged for fees. I remember paying $.25/minute cell phone service. My boss would imitate how fast we would convey information when calling him. When the cost changed to the plans we have now, everyone relaxed and spoke in full sentences.

I am too nebby not to know what is going on out there. I am so afraid of missing something. The sad thing is – a lot of people still don’t know – they don’t know.




Slap a panty resumes

My beautiful niece asked that I revamp her resume. She is a college student with new work experience. The resume she sent me was 4 pages long! It took approximately 30 minutes to delete 75% of the excruciating details into a one page, clean and tidy resume.

I was previously employed with a financial institution as an operations manager. Part of my responsibilities was to hire for all positions. Hundreds of resumes were received for all posted jobs. They came in the form of novels, perfumed paper, decorated with ribbon and sparkles and colorful meta tags. Obviously some of these formats would have been appropriate for the “Slap a Panty Boutique”, not a loan officer position. Reference lists had disconnected telephone numbers or people who could hardly remember the applicant. These would have been better served for the amnesia clinic. Including graphics and photos did not interest me. They hindered the process. I was expecting professional, to the point, information. I was not looking for glamor shots or cute bears. If I was advertising childhood daycare positions, maybe the singing elephants would gather the correct attention.

Times are tough and jobs are at a premium. The best presentation will be short, to the point and professional. We would sort them by appearance and volume first. The pile would be cut down to the one or two page resume, on decent paper with neutral ink color – black, brown, navy. The rest were archived. We were looking for the resume that matched the personality of the position. If a resume is 5 pages long it communicated to us that the applicant could not concisely convey information in a concise manner. If I wanted a “talker”, I would hire my mother. Save the QPA and specific college class lists for university positions. They like that stuff. Save the “greeting customers with a smile” lines. We all want happy, optimistic, charismatic individuals. This info is conveyed at the interview. All crying and somber people will be offered the appropriate counseling. Also, urgently important, do not name drop or tell us who you are related to by extended marriage or cousin-hood. Quite frankly, that lets me know you will be arriving with an entourage of importance and are unable to stand on your on credentials. Remember, even Franco Harris writes down that he is a professional athlete, instead of “Super Bowl Hero, Immaculate Reception, Pittsburgh Steeler, knows Dan Rooney”.

Clean, concise, professional resumes will get attention. The content is what matters. Oh, yea, save the metallic dollar sign cutouts that fall out of envelopes, all over my office floor, for the men’s club.



Bad bosses

Hand your bad boss a mirror and they probably still will not recognize themselves. This has been a situation encountered for generation after generation. In fact, it started with sweatshops in the 1800s. Desperate economic times exacerbate working conditions and leave employees feeling hopeless.

Examples of bad bosses:

  • A vice-president at a local Houston bank repeatedly refused to contact the insurance agent for the death claim of an employee’s child. The life insurance premiums were paid by the bank as part of the employees benefit package. The employee was positive the child was included on the policy but the vice-president refused to file the claim. A formal complaint took 2 years to process before the insurance claim was paid to the employee.
  • A sales team working for a Houston, Texas company was constantly being berated and demeaned by a boss who frequently ran the company in an intoxicated state. Multiple weekly meetings subjected staff to instantaneous employee terminations, conveying to the staff how inept and stupid they were, referring to employees with racial slurs and numerous additional violent tirades.
  • A major home builder in Houston, Texas employs a sales team who are required to work a set and specific schedule and at times at remote locations. They are required to follow a strict dress code, present specific and detailed sales presentations, work as real estate agents without credentials, clean and vacuum model homes, drive customers around in their private vehicles without compensation and attend required meetings. These sales representatives do not receive an hourly wage. They are paid commission only. Sales meetings are an emotional beating. Employees are told they are not allowed to leave their assigned locations to eat lunch. Schedules many times exceed 50 or 60 hours per week.  They are constantly informed they will be terminated if they are over a minute late for work. They are expected to use their personal mobile phones, without compensation, and answer it 24/7 to accommodate customer’s needs.
  • A retail store in Paris, Texas is managed, term used loosely, by a woman conveying her religious convictions through visual, verbal and administrative means. Each meeting is a 2 hour lecture for “achieving your superior self” and “listening to the voice that does not speak”. There is never any two way communication at these meetings. The staff sits in silence while receiving the sermon from the front seat. Most meetings include the sermon on each employee being dispensable and easily replaced. Is this why there is a continual ad for help wanted for this establishment?
  • A major retail chain in Pittsburgh, PA had a long tenured credit/collection staff. They had successfully driven off each manager within a year of service. The general manager was oblivious to the practiced behaviors of referring to the first female credit manager as a “white prince-ass” and 100% of the staff calling off sick on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. They came in late – if they showed at all and left early. The general manager did not want to exercise his right to terminate them because they had been employed there for many years. He was also afraid to reprimand or call them out for adverse verbal outbursts for fear of racial bias accusations or a lawsuit.

Most managers break federal/state employment law because they are untrained or simply do not care. There is a broad circle of bosses on a control trip and exercise their ignorance of the law because they can. Desperate times create desperate employees. There are the under employed out there now enduring untold humiliations at the hand of taskmasters knowing there are few places to turn to.

Bosses compensated for keeping expenses “under control” create maltreatment exercised through frigid or intolerable heat exposure within the work environment. OSHA requirements are ignored due to not providing necessary safety equipment. Employees are now “paying” for the privilege to be employed with desk fees, providing their own office supplies, cell phones, vehicles, occupational insurance, uniforms, mileage, land line use, cost per copy of work related materials, postage, and customer related entertainment expenses. These are not necessarily 1099 employees.

The blue collar employee community is subjected to extensive verbal abuse. Construction workers, service staffs, domestic labor, retail and industrial rank & file are constant targets for denigration. There is a prevalent attitude that the workers don’t know enough to report discrimination, oppression or mistreatment. Management may be positioned from within the in-house force without the benefit of formal education for the advancement. As in families, we do what we know. If the example was poor, the abuse continues.

The first step is recognition. If you find yourself in a derogatory work environment, try your best to get the hell out. Continuing to subject yourself to money monger predators will certainly change who you are. Be tenacious and patient during your journey. There are great places to work and wonderful people to learn from. God speed.

New Age vs Old Age Employmemt Challenges

Unemployment is difficult enough. If your previous employment spanned many, many years – the process is similar to getting a divorce after the silver anniversary. The interview process is in the same category as “What do I wear on the post-divorce first date and am I expected to sleep with them?”

Without going into the world viewing youth as intelligence and aging as demented, crazy and invisible, the interview process is arduous, at best. Interviewers are getting younger as you age in the lobby, surrounded by people your kid’s ages. Especially for the first five or six interview outings, you are most likely over dressed and lacking a nose ring. Your wrinkles and graying hair are secondary to the archaic briefcase or portfolio under your arm. Shoes with buckles and shoestrings are passe’. A good pair of flip-flops or any shoes made of rubber and dirty toenails are available for viewing. The employment opportunities for this scenario are not blue-collar. They are actually professional sales, financial and technological positions.

I had been laid off, for the first time in my long-term professional life, after the age of 40. One interviewer, who appeared to have just rolled out of couch, held his Blackberry up in front of me and asked, “Do you know what this is?” Another wiseass asked if I knew how to turn a laptop on. I informed him that I had the capability of not only turning it on, but take it apart, put it back together and re-program the entire thing. I guess he didn’t like my response because “Tiffany Cleavage” in the lobby, got the job. One of my friends, a current employee with this up and coming executive, was seeking new employment but was in desperate financial straits and stuck. She was also ten years younger than I was.

Being a bit outspoken, follow-up to an interview, always yielded jolly propaganda. I always asked what my deficits may have been. The ones who didn’t blow smoke gave me some true insight such as:

  • You look like a banker
  • I couldn’t picture you unloading product from an 18 wheeler – (This was not in the job description or mentioned during the interview!)
  • You would have my job in a day or two and I couldn’t risk hiring you.

One employment opportunity resulted in four interviews. The first three “show and tells”  allowed the escalation of executives a chance to increase expenses by flying into Houston from Boston – otherwise, they would have flown me and/or the other candidates to Boston! The position, up for grabs, was highly compensated and possessed an upper echelon profile. An assessment after Interview #2 yielded that I had an “extreme sense of urgency”! During the process, the company recruiter would telephone me and discuss the previous appointment and inform me of the “going forward” recommendation for yet another go around. A Don Draper, Mad Men type conducted interview #4.  He was the epitome of a well upholstered “suit”. Five minutes into the engagement, he mocked my responses which included one of my hand gestures. Looking back, I wished it had been one of my other hand gestures. He challenged each one of my replies to his questions in a most derogatory and demeaning manner. Fifteen minutes later, as the hair on the back of my neck stood up, I backed my way to the conference room exit while he continued to prattle. I ended the interview.

The recruiter called a few hours later. She asked why I exited the interview early. I gave her the generic response that I was not the right candidate for the position. She informed me that my competition for the job was only one other person. Again, I told her it was not a “good fit”. A few days later, she called me again. She was insistent in knowing why I left the interview. Was it my place to inform her Mr. Suit intuitively appeared a predator, woman-hater, wife beater and general asshole? Yea, Baby, I could just imagine a cross-country travel rendezvous business trip with him as my vice-president! The telephone conversation created the instantaneous response reflex of:

  • Do I assassinate his character and risk a lawsuit?
  • What are the benefits of telling the recruiter something she already knew?
  • Did she really want to hear my conclusions based on life experience, knowing of a bunch of gems like him and intuition?

I made a business quick wit and allowed the recruiter to conclude the outcome with the results of the process. A lot of time, money, travel, and dry cleaning expense to have a qualified candidate turn them down when the horses were coming around the bend and headed for the straight a way. They’re smart people. I think this may have been a déjà vu.

Appropriately, each of us knows when we are qualified and age was a non-hire condition. My personal experience with the hiring process yields the following direction with the interview process:

  •  Do not use Old Spice or Youth-Dew fragrances.
  • Do not be late – Especially a whole day.
  •  Do not have your significant other drive you and wait with the kids in the reception area.
  • Keep the cocktail wear for bar mitzvahs, wedding receptions, glamour shots and family portraits –  Send a photo to the Ellen Show.
  • Stay awake and sober for the interview.
  • Be yourself.
  • Be true to yourself.