A Dictionary for Self-Motivated Self-Starters

At any given time, more than a billion people around the world are unemployed. About a third of them are actively looking for jobs, another third are searching halfheartedly and the remaining third have resigned themselves to living with a rich relative. Or at least a relative who has a decent job and a fairly comfortable couch.

Finding work isn’t easy, especially when you have trouble understanding the job ads and figuring out exactly what employers want. Some employers want you to be a “self-starter,” as though you’re a generator or something. Others expect you to list three references on your application, as though “dictionary” and “encyclopedia” aren’t enough. A few want to pay you a salary that’s “commensurate with your experience,” as though you’ve had any experience at all with the word “commensurate.”

To make things easier for job seekers, I’ve decided to create an “employment dictionary” that explains, from an employer’s point of view, the various terms and phrases found in job ads. Some of the entries would look like this:

“Salary negotiable”: We don’t want to mention any salary here, just in case you’re willing to work for less. Don’t worry: We will pay you what we paid the previous person or what you expect to be paid, whichever is lower.

“Previous experience necessary”: We will not consider future experience. Please tell us only what you did in the past, not what you plan to do in the future. Nobody can predict the future, but we can certainly look into your past.

“Excellent P.C. skills required”: We expect everyone in our office to be politically correct. You must not make fun of the Zambian man who says, “Sank God it’s Fly-day,” nor the Indian guy who warns everyone about “compooter wire sirs.”

“Must be self-motivated”: We prefer employees who can inspire themselves, including those who are inspired to take naps under the desk. The important thing is to not rely on the boss for motivation, but to possess self-esteem, self-confidence and a collection of self-help books.

“Exceptional communication skills needed”: When we ask you if you’ve done any “bookkeeping,” we don’t want to hear about all those books you didn’t return to the library. And when we ask you to “cc the human resources director,” we don’t want you to go and see the director twice.

“Come and join our winning team”: We haven’t won anything in our lives. By calling ourselves a “winning team,” we’re hoping to forget all our sports disappointments, including the last-place finish in the kindergarten egg-and-spoon race.

“We offer a competitive benefits package”: Our benefits package includes a discounted membership to a local gym, where you can be as competitive as you wish. Exercising regularly is a great form of health insurance and the only kind we offer.

“Energetic and enthusiastic individual needed”: Your energy will be highly valued in our office, especially when we ask you to fetch the coffee. Your enthusiasm will come in handy too. We expect you to jump and scream when we give you the annual bonus: free fries at McDonald’s.

“You must have good organizational skills”: We may ask you to organize the company picnic. But if our employment conditions are deficient, please do not organize any type of strike. Otherwise, you may have to organize a trip to the unemployment office.

“Must have a can-do attitude”: If we ask you to complete a task, please do not say, “No-can-do.” You must approach the task as something that can be done, even if you have to say something like “Can do tomorrow” or “Can do next year” or “Can do when pigs fly.”

“No phone calls please”: We hired the president’s niece as our receptionist. She’s still trying to figure out how to answer the phone. We’re trying to teach her the proper greeting: “Hold please.” If you have any questions about our job openings, please consult Melvin’s employment dictionary. Especially the section about nepotism.

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