Did you get Barney's spring catalogue? Neither did I, but I noticed my neighbor's pile of mail had the catalogue on top, so I stole it, because Barney's is a bellwether of how to dress for success.
Barney's, usually a snot-fest of nose-in-the-air overachievers dressed in black, is now whimsical and carefree as an antidote to the anxiety of terrorism and pressure of unemployment. The guys in suits jump, dance and play: Corporate fun sells.
If you are unemployed, you need to be up-to-date on what sells because you have a full-time sales job — selling yourself. This doesn't mean that you should act like a used car salesman in interviews, but you do need to be conscious of what product you offer to prospective employers. You need to differentiate yourself in a market where unemployment is so high human resource hotlines jam with overqualified candidates.
Think of the situation this way: You are looking for a job, sending your resume to the paltry selection of open jobs you unearth. The hiring manager receives 500 resumes for each opening. (This is no exaggeration.) More than 50 of these resumes are from people who are extremely qualified for the job, but no one is going to interview 50 people. Someone would interview 10 people, at most. By some miracle, your resume makes the cut and you get an interview. How are you going to outshine the other nine extremely qualified people in the interview?
The answer is by being fun. You are going to be the Barney's catalogue of the interview process. It makes sense that people would hire the person who is the most fun to work with. After all, office workers spend more time with co-workers than friends. So co-workers end up being weekday stand-ins for real-life friends.
My cousin just interviewed with a large company and she prepared for all the standard questions. But she got a new one: “How do you maintain optimism in these rough economic times?” You need an answer to this question in case someone asks or even if no one asks. Because people want to know if you're fun even if they don't know to ask; no one wants to work with a doomsayer, and no one wants to work with someone who starts out feeling defeated.
When you interview, talk about the fun in your life. (Do you play racquetball on Tuesdays? Do you go camping in the snow?) And be fun in the interview (Tell a joke if you are funny, otherwise, be a good audience.) When someone says, “Can you give me an example of a way you were a leader?” (How many times have you heard that question? 300?) give an example that includes a way you were fun.
Slip the fun stuff in wherever you can, but don't be a fake. Fake is not fun. Well, it is fun for the people who will make fun of you, but it will not be fun for you. The Barney's catalogue includes men in suits playing basketball. Check out the guy on p. 14. I don't think he had touched a ball in his life before this photo shoot. He holds the ball like it might bite, and he does not look like he is having fun. He looks like he is anxious about trying to look like he is having fun. Bad. Very bad. Surely his linen shirt will not sell.
If you are unemployed, definitely do not spend your money at Barney's, but if you can, steal a catalogue from your neighbor. And then do a little networking with your neighbor, because anyone who can still afford Barney's must have a really good job.