Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .

You have to know “The Rules” before you can bend (or break) them . . .

with 3 comments

When I was a kid, (and I’m talking many years ago), I loved MAD magazine.  The way they would rewrite the classics as a vehicle for satirizing politicians and other stuffed shirt types always gave me a laugh even though I didn’t completely understand the backstory.  It wasn’t until many years later, I came to appreciate how deeply the MAD writers understood the classics they used in their satire; they really had to know the material inside and out in order to make the satire work.  They really had to know all the rules in order to break them.

It’s pretty much the same way in the job market as it is in the humor market.  You have to know the rules before you can bend (or break) them.  The main difficulty with this approach, however, is the “rules” aren’t really rules at all; more a list of expected behaviors that, having been followed for as long as anyone can remember, have taken on the patina of Rules.  An example of this type of “rule” is the one which states resumés should be accompanied by a cover letter, that both should be typed on good quality, white (or off-white) paper without fancy fonts or distracting graphics.  All of this is true EXCEPT when the occasion calls for something a tad more “eye-catching”.  Those of you who read my previous posts may recall this example from TheDailyBoss.  The “rules” can be broken, but you have to do your homework.  If you are targeting a specific job within a specific market, it’s perfectly acceptable to “break the rules” in order to accomplish your objective.  Don’t break the rules simply to break them.  Respect the process; have a damn good reason for breaking whatever rules apply to a given situation.

The other example of breaking the rules concerns behavior and dress during the interview.  It is commonly accepted that, in order to convey the “proper” attitude during the interview process, you should dress in a conservative manner.  This means guys should wear, at the very least, “business casual” attire; sports jacket, shirt (with collar, no tee shirts) in either white or blue (patterned shirts are okay if not too “loud”; no bright colors or distracting patterns), dress slacks and “real” shoes (no sneakers or cross-trainers).  Ladies,too, should adhere to a similar mode of dress; skirt and blouse in conservative colors, pantyhose and low-heel shoes (or flats), or an appropriate “business” ensemble.  (In either case, ladies, it’s advisable not to display too much cleavage.  You are, after all, interviewing for a job, not a date).   I advise people, when preparing for an interview, to dress “one level above” the one you’re interviewing for; applicants for “entry-level” positions should dress for a “supervisory” level position, supervisors should dress for middle management, etc. . . The reason for this is to demonstrate, in a subtle manner, your ambition to  move up in the organization, not to fill an empty spot in the payroll.  This brings me to the last and, perhaps, the most sensitive area of personal comportment: personal adornment.

In the past, body piercings and tattoos were seen as signs of rebellion and disdain for the “establishment”.  This is not so today, at least not among the general population.  Today “tats” and piercings have gained acceptance among the “twenty-somethings” and beyond as being “body enhancements”, means by which the wearer makes known certain aspects of their personality or philosophy of life.  Body piercings, whether you and/or the interviewer like them, are distractions to the process and their display should be avoided or, at least, toned down; lip, tongue and eyebrow piercings should be removed for the interview, earrings, if you wear multiples, should be reduced to, at most, two.  Tattoos, on the other hand, present a more difficult and sensitive matter (For an excellent post on tats, check out RedheadWriting; Erika Napoletano pretty much hits the nail on the head).  Tattoos are seen, by the wearer and a large (and getting larger) segment of the population as expressions of the individual self; commemorations of events (both joyful and tragic) in a person’s life, expressions of personal philosophy, etc . . .and I don’t believe someone displaying tattoos should go to undue lengths to conceal them.  That being said, I don’t think someone wearing tattoos should go to undue lengths to display them, either, especially during an interview.  The decision should be a personal one, based on the idea of “reasonable display”.  Don’t show them for the sake of showing them, but don’t hide them for the sake of hiding them.  If you don’t get a job because the interviewer didn’t like the idea of your having tattoos, you’re very likely better off not getting the job. 

What all this comes down to is really quite simple.  If you feel you have to break “the Rules” in order to get your foot in the door, by all means break ’em.  Just be sure you do your homework; know what you’re doing, and why, before you start. 


Written by stevewthomas

May 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Dead On. Great advice for a very tricky subject. There is no wrong. There is no right. Here’s a link about someone who used a very unusual resume to land a job with the Huffington Post.

    Notice how he is dressed and manicured.


    - m

    May 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

  2. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice,
    keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later on. Many thanks


    February 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    • Lamar, Thanks for the encouragement. . .I need all I can get. . .Looking forward to seeing you on the site in the future . . .
      Thanks again,


      February 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm

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