This is the future, ladies and gentlemen: intelligent young men and women who can master complex video games, program TiVo from their cell phones, control home appliances from their laptops, write computer code in their sleep, even graduate with honors - but who can’t spell “restaurant”. As a lover of the language, I am deeply saddened. As an employer seeking to hire individuals who can express themselves clearly, I am scared out of my wits. I have nightmares of hiring a recently minted graduate and sending her out on a client presentation. The room is filled with people who could determine the fate of my business, and standing there before them is ….. Snooki from U.S. reality TV show Jersey Shore.
“So, like, yeah – it’s, like, way cool that you’re all here and I’m, you know, like, just sayin’ – this is cool.” You’re here to present the marketing plan for 2011, is that correct?”
“What is it?”
“We gotta sell more stuff.”
What’s your strategy for doing that?”
“You know, just, like, do stuff that makes people want to buy it, you know? Like, commercials and stuff.”
“What kind of commercials?”
“With stuff in it.”
“You know, like ads and stuff in really serious, important magazine like, you know, Vogue and Glamour. And then, you know, like Facebook and Twitter with lots of bling bling about how this stuff is great and how you buy it and tell all your friends ‘cause they’re gonna freak that they don’t have it so they’ll run out and get it and text everybody with pictures and stuff and then everybody’ll be flippin’ to buy it and you’ll sell more stuff. You know, like that. Just sayin’.’’
It’s at this point that I wake up in a cold sweat and read a few pages of Shakespeare to reassure myself that real language has, in fact, not been annihilated during the night by an ICBM missile from New Jersey armed with monosyllables.
It’s unfortunate that these young turks have to write a resume. Try as they might to appear witty and articulate, what should be a list of qualifications often turns into a litany of disqualifications. Let’s start with applying for a job as a proofreader and actually misspelling the word. Really? Then let’s make sure we actually do proofread the resume to avoid saying that previous work experience includes “stalking, shipping and receiving,” or that we were “instrumental in ruining the entire Midwest operation of a major chain store,” or that we spent a summer in a call center “taking odours.”
We might also want to run the spelling and grammar functions on our computer – heaven forbid we would actually refer to a dictionary – to make sure we don’t opine on how we feel our substantial qualifications will prove “detrimental to our future success.”
Logic and specificity help, too. Saying you’re a “hard worker, etc.” isn’t really a list of qualifications. And it’s nice that your twin sister has a degree in accounting, but that doesn’t tell us much about you, does it? Also, just for the record, being bi-lingual in three languages may be impressive, but it doesn’t say much for your math skills. And finally, when I ask how large the department was that you worked in as a summer intern, “three stories” isn’t the answer I’m seeking.
I know you’re smart and capable. I know you’ll perform well and do your parents and your employers proud. But come on, kids – would it kill you to learn how to spell restaurant?