Dude. You were young once…

I had a chat over beer and wings with a guy last week.  He’s 38, so he’s considered ancient by today’s standard of mid-twenty year old millionaire celebrity CEOs.  He’s a marketing manager at a company I won’t disclose.

“I’ve got to conduct interviews this week.  We’re hiring a couple entry level marketing coordinators straight out of school.  It’s going to be a joke.”

I shrugged and said “Dude.  You were young once…”

This is the thing that struck me when I became an adult (sometime around my 36th year); that somehow job titles and a couple years work experience suddenly equipped people with the ability to adjudicate the next round of talent coming up.  I’ll accept that if you’ve earned your way up to the executive level, and you have a list of successes that match your list of failures and false starts, you’re the real deal.  Like a good scout on a sports team, you can spot ’em coming.  You have both losses and wins.  That’s experience.  That’s the real stuff.  But if you’re sort of in the middle somewhere and haven’t seen the big time yourself, how are you telling some kid he doesn’t have the chops to make it big in your company or the real world?  Just having a job isn’t seeing the big time.  If you’ve read my experience blog and the message to my son, you’ll get my thoughts on the real value of ‘hours clocked’.

Pictured: Not big time.

Remember that kid who was eager to take any job, take a bus two-hours to any interview and speak to anybody who could potentially help him get his first break?  That was you, man.  That was also me.  And that’ll be your kid when he or she is ready to find a job.  Somehow it’s humble to speak of never forgetting your roots, but slap a manager title on a guy and suddenly he was born 45 years old with Covey’s 7 Habits encoded in his frontal lobe.  It seems to get worst as folks get older – as if you’re 50, you have absolutely nothing to learn or gain from a kid coming out of school.  You figure as folks get more experience, they start to realize how little they actually know.  And that whatever success and comfort they enjoy can be gone in an instant due to health, business cycles and random stuff falling out of the sky. Wouldn’t age and experience make them realize that no matter what degree of success they’ve attained, there’s somebody who’s attained more?  If folks remembered that they were young once, they might be more inclined to return the voice mail or email from the bright young kid who is trying every way possible to catch herself a break.  My career started when a lady named Erica Chow from Royal Bank returned a random phone call from a random kid.

As my career progressed, I smartened up.  I just assumed everybody is smarter and more talented than me.  How else will I get anybody to teach me anything?

The primary social drive in humans is recognition, especially recognition of achievement and ability.  Hence the importance of rank and job titles. When you were a new grad, you desperately sought recognition from anybody who could give you a job.  Do you know who new grads are seeking recognition from nowadays?  Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors.  It’s a different world and anybody who is not fluent with the commerce of information will find that it’s 35 going on 65 in a hurry.

If you’re a new grad, before you think about applying for your first job, think about creating your first job.  Nobody has a monopoly on information anymore.  There is absolutely nothing you can’t learn on your own.  The only thing that you’ll need to keep tabs on is your emotional maturity.  And that’s cool.  At 36 I’m still trying to figure out what that means.  As for experience in new media and web 2.0 (or whatever number it’s at), it’s unlikely you’ll find anybody outside of industry people over 35 that have more than you.

So to the guy who’s conducting interviews this week; my advice to you is smile and assume they’re interviewing you.