Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Opportunity knocks

I do believe I scent one of those career choices that are supposed to appear in hard times. We have speech writers and lawyers and spin doctors. What the world needs now, obviously, is a consultant in cover story management.

First we had the NWA pilots with the story a day gambit, until they fessed up to the worst possible sin: deliberate violation of regulations by using their laptops in the cockpit. They clearly needed help with their cover stories, and advice on coming up with one that would shift the blame off them. Although I have my eye on this career path, if you read the comments here, you'll see one suggesting carbon monoxide in the cockpit. Now that is an A-plus cover story!

Now we have the South Carolina assistant (or whatever) attorney general, age 66, caught in a car in a cemetery with sex toys, Viagra and an 18-year-old-stripper: in broad (if you'll pardon the expression) daylight. The cover story consultant would tell them to be sure they were paying their respects to (fill in the blank). The need only note the name on the nearest headstone and use it to fill in the blank, then describe the departed as a dear friend. Get that one down pat and it's end of story when the interruption happens.

Needless to say the woods would have been a much better choice for screwing around, but for that they will need the services of a choice advisor. Catbert, move over!

The indiscreet deceptions of job hunting

The alarm of my job-hunting compeers over the fact that I express opinions here would be cubed if they also knew that here, among other things, I
  • discuss in detail a chronic disease that I live with, in ways that I hope could be clinically useful to somebody
  • admit to being over 40; considerably so
Twice in the past, in interviews, I detected and ignored warning signs of age bias in interviews for freelance gigs, bias that took very little time to appear. The most immediate, and subtle one, I call "the look." This is body language from the interviewer that says they clearly expected someone at least 20 years younger and that they do not want an older worker.

HR departments and hiring managers read the same articles that older job-seekers read. They want neither a bad reputation nor a followup phone call from the interviewee's lawyer. Also, they may be under immediate pressure to fill this particular position. They don't ask the giveaway questions that we're all coached to answer, and you, the job-seeker, give suitable answers to the questions they do ask. You're hired, and life in hell begins as soon as you get your cubicle.

Companies afflicted with age bigotry (that's what it is, pilgrims) are unlikely to get as far as this blog. All but the most basic HR departments now have a background check subscription, through which they run everybody. When they do that, the second piece of information they find is age. If they're age bigots, the story ends there. All of the clever little dodges job-seekers have learnt to use over the past 25 years are useless. They don't need this information; they're not even supposed to ask for this information until they've hired you. It doesn't matter, because all they have to do is key your name into a security screening search engine and they have your age, right there between your name and address. I'm not making this up: I tried it recently.

Between this revelation, and those two uncomfortable gigs that wasted my time and the clients', I've reached one of my defining conclusions. Up to a point I'll play the hiring game but, if anyone crosses a line by word or by action, I'll be in their faces. Yes, I'm old. Suck it up, because I have. Yes, I live with a chronic disease. I have taken less sick time in the eight years I've had it than most people half my age. Unlike most of them, I know how to work through pain and be reasonably productive in spite of it. Unlike people afflicted with bigotry, I'm not sick all the time.

One of the three best bosses I've ever had was on a job I began about four years ago. When we started work together, he was 29 and I was 58. It is not age difference that is a barrier to understanding. I do not think timeworn formulas about cost and seniority and sickness are anything but excuses. It is that in some essential part of themselves, age bigots have not grown up. They are afraid of what seems like an upside-down relationship with older subordinates. Most of all, they see older workers as an uncomfortable reminder of their own mortality, a thing to fear. Like most humans, they lash out at what they fear.

My 29-year-old boss did none of these things. We both knew my compensation related to my time with the company: my age meant nothing. He could see for himself that sick and well, I produced, and that I took less time off than my younger peers. Above all, he had enough confidence in himself to define the relationship purely in terms of supervisor and employee. I was never some sort of surrogate for his older relations or remembered authority figures. He wasn't afraid of his own mortality, so did not have any fear to project on to anyone.

It may be too much to expect the same thing in another job, but I hope not. As a boss, JB was the antithesis of age bigotry. If he could do it, there's no excuse for anyone else.

In this contest, at least a portion of us hold the upper hand. First, age bigots must, if they do not die, get older. By writing their fears into corporate conduct, they stand a very good chance of being treated as we now are treated...and not far in the future, either. Second, all busts end. The demographics, and the damage wrought to retirement incomes, both dictate that older workers will be a significant part of the workplace within five years. Age bigots will be obliged to face their fears sooner or later. Third, I just crunched some numbers at home. If we both retired tomorrow (which would be involuntary) there would be enough in the piggy bank to support us. No Caribbean cruises each winter, but we wouldn't be eating cat food either. In my experience age bigots tend to be assholes in other aspects of their management style. The reality of older workers with other income sources means that I and others like me will be calling a lot more shots when it comes to work-life balance. It's much harder to bully people who don't need your job to survive, and it will place a higher premium on imaginative and collaborative management styles that allow everyone to give the best they have to offer. And don't forget that a good part of our often maligned generation made life very miserable for Authority when we entered the stage. Many of us are prepared to be just as troublesome when we leave it.

The age bigots can enjoy their moment, but they should either change, or be preparing for future careers as tailgunners on dump trucks.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tried patience

For about two months my various job-hunting resources have inundated me, and every unemployed person within reach, with fearful advice on the proper care and feeding of social networking sites.

Most of the advice is chyme.

I was thinking about this the other day whilst going over the Facebook entries of various friends and relations who are either employed or legitimately retired. They are easy, relaxed, natural, unaffected, without being the least likely to set off the sensitivities of an uber-hypersensitive age. In short, they are social.

None of this will do for the employment gurus. In their view, one must purge these products of one's hours of social activity of the slightest trace of humanity, and turn one's image into that of an asocial, Orwellian automaton. This, says I after many job hunts, may get the interview. It won't get one the job, because any sane HR person looking at the flesh-and-blood person, rather than the sanitised social networking profile the job gurus advised you to present online, will be convinced that the interviewee just showed up from a parallel universe. If you are a match for your sanitised profile—for example, if you walk the beach in wingtips and wear a tie to bed—there may not be such a great disconnect.

A Web site is in the works here, and after some thought it will link to this blog. When I mentioned that intention at a networking meeting, I said that the blog contained sometimes candid opinions. My well-indoctrinated meeting mates rose up as one and said, "be careful! You can't do that!" I said nothing to them but it made my mind up, and formed an obvious rejoinder to such over-anxious caution.

I'm a writer. When I'm not expressing my (hopefully) informed opinions in public, I'm collecting the opinions of others or, as an editor, I'm giving shape to the opinions of others. A writer who would do none of these things is of no use to anyone.

The job gods need to reconsider this approach, along with many others. Not everyone they advise is in sales or marketing, or bean-counters or in some other role where they have no right or interest in giving an opinion. Many job-seekers are in occupations which demand that they give, or present, informed opinions. By my observation, much that the authorities say about social networking simply increases the anxiety level of people who are already too anxious to make good decisions. Perhaps I'm alone in thinking that is unhelpful.

Are you worried about either your past remarks or the boisterous remarks of your friends and relations? These sites have privacy functions: use them. It costs nothing. An inquisitive HR type can discover that your name is on this site or that (which proves that you live in the 21st century) but that you choose not to share your personal information with the universe. If they have a problem with that, you're better off not working for them. Wiser heads might conclude that if you do not want to hand out free passes to your own personal data, you might be just as discreet with theirs.

There will be more on this directly.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A few of today's headlines

With editorial commentary, of course.

The Bush political heir will have to wait for his political career. The delay is due to the fact that it's a little harder to join the Guard or Reserves and be guaranteed safety than it once was, so George P. Bush is shipping out. He joined the Navy as an intelligence officer, says The Daily Beast. (No... really. Go read it.) And his nickname is Pee...oh I'm sorry, that's P.

McDonald's is leaving Iceland. And you thought there was no good news in the world.

The wayward NWA pilots were working on their laptops. That's the excuse du jour. I'm sure that would have been a great comfort to the widowed and orphaned if someone had gotten trigger-happy and shot that plane down. But tomorrow will bring another excuse.

Jon Gosselin criticizes wife. You don't say: now there's breaking news.

I refuse to make one more cow or beef joke in the aftermath of the Mass Turnpike beef truck accident this morning.

And those people from the Bronx will be playing baseball against those people from Philadelphia sometime later this week.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I have my Halloween costume

The trouble with being at home so much is that one sees too much daytime TV. I guarantee that no dead actor, no dead musician (no names please) has had as much posthumous exposure as the late Billy Mays.

What we're looking at here is daytime TV of the Living Dead, which ought to merit a costume. That thought ought to scare the robes off any other Halloween figure you can think of; even Lord Voldemort or Dick Cheney.

If Billy were still with us, he'd probably be selling it, bless him.


An odd symptom of imperialism

I am about ready to attack my TV if I hear one more talking-head imbecile around here try to sound like a Briton during the run-up to Sunday's Patriots game in London.

Once again: remember the part in journalism school that talked about informing the public? Oh, right, oh course you don't. Informing the public in this case would include running clips from various Tony Blair or Gordon Brown sound bites, or even something from Frost-Nixon. The object would be to show what a reasonably educated inhabitant of the British Isles actually sounds like in the 21st century. Or how about 20 live interviews from Londoners-on-the-street, who approach the language from 20 different directions?

It would be so much more useful than newscasters putting on a bogus Colonel Blimp accent that wasn't representative even its heyday. Newsrooms might even point out that most people interested in American football represent the 90 percent of the population who never, ever, spoke like that.

This is a case of the shoe being on the other foot. Nothing in British popular literature between, say, 1890 and 1940 matches the pathetic comedy of an English writer trying to capture Americanisms in print. That was the era when--at its start--the sun really didn't set on the British Empire. At its end, the sun was setting on it rather fast.

Now we are the imperialists. Although Americans don't dress for dinner (or any other occasion) anymore, we inherit the privilege of stereotyping everyone else. The chief distinction between stereotypes aimed at Britain or Ireland, and those aimed at Iraq and Afghanistan, is that the former are socially acceptable, and can play out on the evening news, even when it isn't Fox.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

On second thought...

The only really bad thing about Rush Limbaugh's attempt to buy into an NFL team, and so become one of the big boys, may have been his choice of teams.

He should buy a piece of the Oakland Raiders, where he'd fit into the culture from the start.

(I was going to label this, but I don't want to start rumours...yet.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A message from our sponsor

After going back and forth on whether to do my own Web site, I'm starting to do one...actually, two. In order to post a reasonable set of samples, I'm accepting nominations for copy from this blog suitable for inclusion.

Let's keep in mind the purpose here is business, or chiefly business. Therefore some items will probably not be suitable for inclusion. I can legitimately use somerecent reportage, but I figure the blog can demonstrate variety and adaptability.

As for the second, I'm adapting a technique of Mr. Harrumpher's. I'm far from laying claim to a relatively common name that needs clarification. However, the results of the last Google experiment show that one has to explain which Welshman is which. It may be partially in Welsh (I need to work on my Welsh writing skills) and the tentative title is Beth am Bryn, beth bynnag.

Look it up, bwahahaha.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gullibility in modern life

The subject of the homily is Balloon Boy hype, and I shall take Good Morning America's rather tense interview with Clifford Irving as my text.

I'm not sure exactly what GMA expected Irving to say, but he nailed the situation by saying "the pomposity... outweighs its seriousness." Not exactly what you expect a hired talking head to say, but the truth. As Chris Cuomo visibly lost control of the interview, Irving added that "this hoax is only possible because the media loves [these stories] so much and feeds them to an extremely gullible public," both of which are also true.

Irving might have added that the media's gullibility equals or exceeds that of its audience, but GMA saved him the trouble. In its rogue's gallery of hoaxes, the programme included the 2007 guerrilla marketing of Aqua Teen Hunger Force in Boston. GMA gently elided over the fact that all the gullibility on that occasion was shown by local law enforcement and news media, while pretty much the whole country under 30 laughed their heads off at such idiotic overreaction to a comic character.

It's interesting that this has all happened whilst the White House and Fox News have been having their pissing contest. The White House is perfectly correct: Fox "News" isn't journalism. It's a blundering mix of low comedy and propaganda, with producers and newscasters completely unaware that what they think of as ratings boosters is taken seriously by an armed and none-too-bright portion of their audience.

The difficulty for the White House is that broadcast journalism generally is an oxymoron (accent on the moron) and the Administration has no particular issues with the rest of the medium. But the other networks aren't doing journalism either. They have less propaganda but just as much unintended humour.

For much of the past two days, we the audience have been treated to a torrent of sulky self-defence for an overblown story that could have benefited from a little background work and critical thinking: you know, stuff that journalists are supposed to do? One comparison that has disappeared quickly was to the BBC's April Fool's Day story in 1957 on the Swiss spaghetti harvest.

The difference was that the BBC meant that as a joke, and that's not a comparison the networks want to dwell upon.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Pounding sand

I have to assume that most advice from career pundits* is directed at John and Jane Smith. At the moment I have in mind the advice that says that you must Google yourself to make sure there is nothing out there about you that is embarrassing/inappropriate.

I am better acquainted than most with genuine paranoia, and I must say my hat is off to the pundits. However, I indulged that comedy today. I must explain that the object of the game is to review only the first three pages of the Google returns: anything more exceeds the attention span of the average corporate HR person.

The odds-on winner when googling my Welsh name is a New Zealand rugby player. He appears to have sustained a serious injury, leading to considerable speculation about his future. Second place goes—for reasons I know not—to a British business type who seems to be fairly prolific with his opinions.

Third place is a bit of a problem. That goes to an Australian columnist who happens to be on the same beat I am. That could possibly become awkward, and I shall have to think about ways to address it.

Did I appear? Yes indeed; in connection with a couple of academic monographs I published more than 25 years ago. Go figure.

The best part of this exercise is its educational value for Americans. My name is common in Wales, and far from rare throughout the quondam British Commonwealth. It is only rare (in the extreme) in the US of A, where people feel free to mispronounce a one-syllable first name because they are too lazy or stupid to sound it out: this in a country whose president is Barack Obama. Stir your stumps, people: my name is pronounced just the way it looks. It requires no added vowels dredged from your imaginations.

I just made a Thanksgiving dinner reservation. After profusely apologising to me for getting my name wrong in the records, the restaurant in question got it wrong again in the confirmation. Is it any wonder I think most of the human race are idiots?

This continued comedy does have its benefits. Family members long ago learnt to find me in a crowd by shouting my name instead of, say, "Dad." It is also an instant conversation starter with Britons. They recognise my name and origins at once, and then find it hysterical to learn that Americans can't pronounce it.

This is something you can ponder whilst munching your "freedom fries."

*There is some irony in the fact that the word "pundit" is of Indian origin.

This is bad news?

Now we read that Florida State has football players who read at a second grade level.

This is somewhat unfair for a couple of reasons. First, we ought to be celebrating evidence that college football players can read at all. Second, we should level, let's just say we should make our judgements uniform. I rather suspect that there are college football players for whom a second grade reading level would be a step up. Numbers of them probably play for the institutions that have those smarmy paeans to academic excellence that appear in lieu of more entertaining commercials from time to time. I assume college administrators can read; they can sure count. So suppose we tie their air time during college games directly to the academic performance of their teams. I'd be happy to be bored during the commercials (I'm usually not watching then anyway) in return for some slight hint that these young persons were actually getting an education.

But what do I know?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Web education

A) I wish I had discovered a few jobs ago. Naturally, you have to weigh and assess the content, even though the rules discourage rants, vents and personal insults. (Excuse me, what else is left: balance sheets?) Once you've made allowances, this looks like a place that helps winnow out the truly strange places to work. At the least, the comments give you some fodder to fuel pushback in "stress interviews." Why should you be the only one to sweat?

B) Another venture of the lolcats folk is Emails from Crazy People. For sake of argument, I'll grant that some of these comical messages may come from disturbed people. My overall impression is that most of them come from people who would, alas, be judged clinically sane. The balance sheet makes crazee look pretty good and sane seem overrated.

C) Growing up, I didn't realise that I was learning an antique skill when my father taught us five-card cribbage. We played it because it lends itself more readily to three-handed play than the six-card variety, or so I thought. It appears that Wales is one of the few places where this form survives. At any rate, it's the oldest form of cribbage, with a direct line of descent from similar card games dating to the 16th century or before. It's somewhat popular at SCA events, so I'll have to brush up on it. It offers something to do in garb besides eat, drink and shoot arrows.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Package deals

The idea of Rush Limbaugh perhaps becoming an NFL owner has a lot of knickers in a twist. The pushback seems to have gotten under Mr. L's skin just a little, since he was swiftly driven back to the citadel of "I'm just an entertainer." He hasn't let his hypocrisy show to this extent since the Oklahoma City bombings.

It appears that the owners of sports leagues legally amount to very small, very expensive private clubs, who can admit or blackball anyone they wish, even though they provide a public service. Thus one may want to own a sports team; whether one can is up to the rest of the club.

Owners have indeed included entertainers, loudmouths, boors, bigots, and clowns. I don't know whether the owner ranks have included substance abusers, although we sure know the hired help has had quite a number. I expect we'll find out.

I suppose the pushback has to do with getting all those features in one chubby package.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I knew that reminded me of something

By that, what I mean is the singular retro uniform of the Denver Broncos. If you missed it, Yahoo is happy to show you a still (right).

All through the game, I kept thinking, "what in hell does that look like?

Today, I figured it out. It reminds me of this (below):

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I'm not sure what this has to do with the loss. On the one hand, Denver channeling the Swiss Guards suggests Papal intervention of their behalf. On the other, it suggests Little Lord Fauntleroy whooping ass because of, not in spite of, his foofy clothes.

I can't testify to the accuracy of the retro Broncos uniform. Once upon a time, boys and girls, there was no pro football in New England. Before my time there had been a pro football team in Boston, but that seemed like ancient history. Our team was the New York Giants. We met the advent of the AFL with scorn and contempt, and it was some years before I even saw an AFL game on TV.

That was black and white TV: thus I can't verify whether the Denver Broncos really were uniformed like the Swiss Guard back then. Nor can I verify that receivers used to knock themselves out behind the end zones at...wait for it...Fenway Park.

So much for that. Now, Josh McDaniels' hoody: that is creepy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Parade magazine, that bastion of all that is wonderful in America, tells us this weekend of a Georgia (where else?) programme that would oblige the unemployed to work for their benefits. The magazine's online poll currently shows that readers agree with the idea by a margin of 57 to 43 percent. As of Monday, the neanderthals who support the idea are getting some sharp pushback from unemployed professionals who, like, me, think it's idiotic.

It's a perfect conservative concept. The employer pays unemployment compensation insurance, which in theory is supposed to provide a disincentive to layoffs as well as a fund to keep unemployed workers contributing to the economy with such extravagances as food, rent and job hunting expenses.

Well hell, that worked well, didn't it?

Georgia's plan would still have employers pay the insurance that isn't enough to make mass layoffs too costly an option for regular use. Then, they get to have the same workers back for nothing and with no commitment to hire them back. The idea of course is the old canard that all unemployed workers are out of work because they are shiftless bums.

The numbers show who really benefits. Turning Parade's trumpeting around, one notes that nearly half the unemployed under this plan are still unemployed. How many employers do we think will take advantage, indefinitely, of workers that they do not have to pay?

Suppose we try an alternative that has made sense to me for nearly 40 years. Have employers pay unemployment insurance that makes layoffs save at the last extremity a ruinously expensive proposition. Give them a refund if they rehire these workers (layoff originally implied laying back on). Give them another credit for hiring people who are on unemployment. Make them say why they haven't taken advantage of these benefits.

Georgia's plan used to be called serfdom, and the label still fits.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

More Darwin Awards

For the most part, I am all for people not getting inoculated, particularly when they are a) religious fanatics; b) gullible fools who believe every urban legend they read on the interweb; c) simply stupid; or d) any combination of the preceding. My sole reservation is the possibility that by not getting inoculated, they might infect someone who really does not care to get the disease whose defence the fools object to.

Hence, I'm perfectly satisfied with Massachusetts' pending legislation spelling out who has what powers in the event of a health emergency. Over the past month, a great many people who ought to be removed from the gene pool have been wetting their pants over the initial version of the legislation. The initial version was as hysterical and overreactive as the objectors.

That is why we have a legislative process.

The bill as digested by both Massachusetts legislative bodies has met the legitimate civil liberties concerns while maintaining the emergency powers public health officials actually do need in an emergency. It's important to recall that the two things you don't want to watch being made are sausage and legislation: in either case you're likely to get agita if you look at it before the product is done. So don't watch...that'd be you, Fox.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Too much of a good thing

If you follow the local news on the South Shoah, or the Boston Globe, you may be aware that Boston Harbour's famed Minot's Ledge lighthouse is up for sale.

Now, before you make a bid or call Rate My Space, I ask you to contemplate this Globe file photo. As some of my neighbours have already discovered, there is such a thing as too much ocean view.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Teachable moment for creative people

Tonight's News Hour had a review of a new production of Euripedes' Medea with Annette Bening in a spectacular imagining of the title role.

What do you think your chances are of writing something that is still that compelling and fresh in 2440 years? Do you think Euripedes could have imagined it?

Show your colours--now what were they?

This came up as a topic on Ms MA's blog a while back (perhaps she can supply the link). I can hardly help being aware of breast cancer, since my local weekly came out on pink paper yesterday. Reading it has been a bit of a trial for my old eyes, and one wonders how it flies with the colour blind.

Just the other day, NECN made me aware that Ovarian cancer awareness has adopted a teal ribbon.

Where, precisely, will all this end? Granting the merits of the various causes, the ribbon thing has grown hackneyed. So has the colour of the week for the various causes. As the palette grows, it gets progressively harder to tell the causes apart.

My chuckle of the day is recalling the similar explosion, and ultimate implosion, of the gay hanky code. Once a useful bit of shorthand in the bar scene, it grew like weeds as fact morphed into urban legend, and as it was adopted by—ahem—certain elements of the het world. Follow the link to see where it has got to now: good grief! If one wanted to cruise following this, one would have to carry the list and a Pantone colour chart.

It's easy to imagine people hooking up in the local coffeehouse because their cause ribbons match up. Geez.

The rich are not like us

The late news regarding the Harvard Voice's calculated stalking of Emma Watson, now a Brown student, at the Harvard-Brown football game, should help explain why rich, entitled young brats grow up to be rich, entitled old brats. They are born with, brought up with, and continually reinforced in, the idea that no emotions or sensibilities matter but their own.

The Voice's editor is quoted at this link and elsewhere as saying, “There seems to be much ado about nothing over this photo and liveblog... these live tweets were made to be intentionally outrageous and overblown.”

Uh-huh. So let's say I go out and adulterate your gas tank. Then, the car starts, only to fail in heavy traffic, thereby causing a fatal accident. It would be OK because it was "intentionally outrageous and overblown"?

On second thought, I suppose it wouldn't. I never went to Harvard.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

More on the gentle art of career counseling

Career counselors recognise Bernard Haldane (1911-2002) as the founder of their profession. It was with the firm he founded that I had my first round of job coaching 27 years ago.

First, I call the reader's attention to the dates of Haldane's chief influence: 1960-1977. Second, I suggest Googling just Mr. Haldane's name, which brings you to the firm he founded (and left in 1977) and the many, many pages of consumer complaints against it. Just hold those thoughts.

When Haldane coined the expression "hidden job market," he meant nothing more or less than the jobs one finds using friends, contacts, or business networks. When I was a Haldane client, no one pretended otherwise. You were set on your feet and given some tools that allowed you to live by your wits. Anything that was hidden, one had to tease out for oneself. If you browse some of the consumer complaints, you'll get an idea that times have changed. So they have, and what has changed, I think, reflects some of my misgivings about today's career counseling/coaching/job pontificating in general.

The Haldane methodology was developed in and for the business world of the 1950s and 60s. There was no Internet, no voicemail, no key card access to office buildings. There were no mass layoffs at the first sign of economic trouble until the early 1970s. At most times, the number of people in the job market was manageably small. If you needed resumes, you had them printed. I mean printed: offset usually, but maybe even with hot lead typesetting. Telephone screening was a receptionist whom one could get (hopefully) on one's side. Building security was the night watchman.

It was very much an old boys' club, with a relatively finite number of industries. In the upper levels, the old boys belonged to the same clubs and were only a couple of degrees separated from every other old boy in the country. The very informal networking taught by Haldane worked very well in that world. His business model saw to it that only people affluent enough already to have some entree to those power networks became clients. Those people, in theory, needed only encouragement and coaching to pull strings they already had.

It was also a world of sexism and segregation, not only by race and gender but by religion and ethnicity. No manager ever had to worry about provoking a lawsuit by circumventing equal opportunity laws: there weren't any.

By the time Haldane sold his company, there were signs that the world was changing. By the time I was a client in the early 1980s, the social attitudes were under pressure, word processing had appeared, the phenomenal growth we've seen of industries, not just businesses, had already begun. Today, the climate in which and for which the Haldane model was created has vanished almost completely. I suspect the company's business model did not keep up. In the early 1980s, for example, the firm's well-compiled lists of companies who were hiring, and hiring managers, were valuable to clients, because the only other like tool a job-seeker had was the print want ads. Today, such lists must be obsolete the minute they're generated. Somehow, the mantra of the network being hidden inside you, the client, seems to have collapsed in response to the naive people who expect they are going to get a medicine show elixir of secret formulae. That's a pity all around.

What can we say of the hundreds of career authorities (feel free to pick your label) whose business model is still Bernard Haldane's? For one thing, it's no wonder the present has them stunned and confused, to use Lincoln's simile, "like a duck hit on the head." In a field that requires a continuous show of unfailing optimism, these people simply cannot say "I don't know what to do next." What do they do in an employment environment in which job vacancies must be posted, are posted globally in nanoseconds, and may have a quota of finalists (from 1000 candidates) within 24 hours? How can job-seekers trumpet a prepared list of their strengths to HR departments whose sole interest is whether a candidate fits ten qualifications out of ten without having to apply any lubrication? What if the majority of a job-seeker's actual network of friends and colleagues are either retired or themselves unemployed?

These are questions never conceived of 50 years ago. My personal cure for my native pessimism is to make a joke of it, ("I'm a Celt: I think optimism is a social disease.") but I am exasperated and amused by turns by the pervasive denial shown by so many of the people who have the damn gall to give advice when they truly don't know what the questions are anymore.

Show us some imagination, pundits, then perhaps we'll give you some confidence.

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