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.

Current college fad: racking up double, triple, and even quadruple majors in order to impress future employers. This strategy is wrought with irony because, in effect, someone who has a triple major screams, “Don't hire me. I'll be a management disaster!”

My advice to all you triple majors is to dump the excessive course load and get a life. If you want to impress employers, use college as a time to demonstrate creativity, curiosity, quick learning and good social skills. Here's why:

A triple major exhibits no creativity. The most creative act is to choose a path for your life. College is an early opportunity to decide what you want to do with yourself, one course at a time. Cramming your schedule full of required courses for two or three majors is a rejection of creativity; in effect, you allow someone else to dictate your path for four years. Business visionaries set paths to goals that other people could never have thought of. Practice being a visionary in college by choosing a path no one else could choose.

A triple major is not for the intellectually curious. If you love learning then you will take whatever classes you want and you don't worry if they add up to another major. People who need their courses to add up to another major are people who are conditioned to learn only for an external reward. Employers need people who will be curious even after the grading system is over. In college learn for learning's sake, not for the department head's approval.

A triple major is for the timid. A broad education teaches you to learn diverse topics quickly. Practice learning something totally new by taking courses in each of the departments in your college rather than cowering in the safety of topics you're majoring in. Business requires a wide breadth of knowledge — writing, finance, technology, psychology, sociology. You can't learn every idea in school, but you can learn to pick up new ideas quickly.

Once you're committed to choosing just one major, stay away from business. In college you need to learn how to think broadly and critically. How you think is much more important than if you know how to map a brand strategy. You have your whole life to study business; college is your time for Shakespeare, Schopenhauer, and science experiments. In this new era of downtrodden, low-key CEOs, one CEO stands out for her star power: Carly Fiorina. And guess what her major was? English.

Finally, take some blow-off courses. You need time to develop social skills, because when it comes to business they cannot be stressed enough. Go to parties and make conversation with someone you didn't think you liked. Figure out how to like something about that person, because that's an important part of management— figuring out how to like even the most unlikable people. And stop by your professor's office hours. Don't have something to say? Make something up. Because that's what life will be like with your boss. Face time will be everything and you'll have to be savvy and strategic about how to get yourself in front of him and make him enjoy talking to you.

Learn how to make people like you. The smartest are not promoted. The most likeable are promoted. Dump the extra majors and use college as a time to learn about yourself. The more you understand yourself the better you will be able to relate to other people. That's what will really help you to succeed in business.

Being a whistleblower is fashionable right now. It's appealing to be the person who rights the wrongs of the workplace. And many people dream of busting their boss publicly for smarmy acts done privately.

Discrimination, kickbacks, broken promises — these are illegal and immoral acts that happen every day in the workplace. But be careful. Because the most common result of whistle blowing is not reform. The most common result is that whistleblowers lose their job.

Of course, it is illegal to fire a whistleblower for being a whistleblower per se. But the odds are that you will be fired: First your boss lets you know he hates you. Then you get no new projects. Then you stop having anything to do at work and your career stagnates. If you're lucky, you will be able to go to another company. If you're unlucky, your name will be mud throughout your industry.

This is not to say that we shouldn't have whistleblowers. I am as impressed as anyone else with the three whistleblowers on the cover of Time magazine as “persons of the year.” Cynthia Cooper (WorldComm), Sherron Watkins (Enron) and Coleen Rowley (the FBI), showed enormous courage and integrity when they blew the whistle.

But an important thing about these women is that they were all very advanced in their careers. They were at a point where they were trusted widely for their expertise. And part of their expertise was knowing what really mattered in the moral fabric of corporate America. Surely, they had all been harassed at work, and they had all heard someone cutting corners on commissions. These women probably spent decades reporting nothing. They chose their battle carefully.

If one of these women had made a stink the first time she was harassed, if she had brought that case to court, she probably would have received some sort of financial settlement, but her career would be over. She would not have climbed high enough on the corporate ladder to make the huge difference in corporate ethics that she did.

In order to make a huge difference in corporate ethics that is significant enough to be worth losing your career, you should aim to make a difference at the top. Most people who are at the beginning of their careers will not have the ability to make that difference. All you potential whistleblowers in the whippersnapper ranks, think twice about sacrificing your career in the name of corporate ethics.

You can't be a whistlblower each time your morality is offended: You'd never be able to hold down a job. So wait until the moral aberration is huge. And huge is relative, so know what sort of aberrations are out there so you can compare. (Reading assignment: Tales from the Boom Boom Room for extreme examples of sexual harassment and discrimination.) For the most part, our experiences are not extreme, and they should be dealt with through normal, company means — no need for whistleblowing.

Some times you will report questionable behavior to human resources and nothing will change. Stay focused. You will need to put up with a lot of morally questionable behavior at work in order to climb the ladder to a high enough point where you can make a difference. If you don't make it up the ladder, you will squander your power to make change by making small stinks about small issues that will get no attention from people in power.

For some of you, there will come a time when you do have a case against your company. You should call the Government Accountability Project. This nonprofit group counsels whistleblowers before they toot, and represents them after they get fired.

Until then, hunker down. Report abuse to someone within your chain of command. And don't piss people off so much that you undermine your ability to get real power to make change. Save your moral high ground until you get to high ranks.

For too many people, staying in the family business is the easy way to worm out of difficulties of adult life: finding a place where you fit in, discovering what you love to do, and living with the fear of rejection. Especially today, with a dried-up job market, the family business is a way of avoiding a difficult job hunt.

I worked in a family business — a bookstore. I started when I was eight, selecting titles for the early reader section, and by the end of college I was a walking card catalogue. After so many years, I was the heir apparent to the store. But I wanted to do something else. I just wasn’t sure what.

Fifteen years and three careers later, I am certain that there are three things you should do before you decide to settle down with your family business for the long haul:

1. Figure out your dream job. Don’t worry about being realistic. Rock star, movie producer, politician: everything is fair game. Then decide if you want to go down the path to fulfill that dream. Don’t feel bad if the dream is impossible – many dreams are not realistic, but they contain gems of truth. For example, someone who dreams of being a rock star probably wants to be creative at work. The exercise of dreaming helps you to figure out your core needs. Once you know these needs, take an honest look at the family business. If you cannot fulfill your core needs in the family business, you should leave.

2. Get a job. Even if you are sure you’ll stay in the family business, get a job outside of the business. Job hunting sucks, which is why you should do it. The process is humbling and scary because on one level, you are asking someone to pay you to work so you can eat; at another level, job hunting requires understanding yourself well enough to talk about your dreams, your strengths, and your weaknesses. You need to experience what it is like to ask for a day off from someone who doesn’t love you. Working for someone outside your family helps you to interact effectively with all people outside your family. This process is a rite of passage, and if you don’t go through it, you risk stunted growth.

3. Take a large risk. If the entrepreneur is on the high end of the risk-taking scale, the kid who stays in the family business is on the low end. At the end of life, the thing people most often say they regret is not taking enough risks. Make sure that staying in the family business will not make you wish later that you were a risk taker. If you take a large risk early on, then you can be more certain that you are not staying in the family business because you are scared of taking risks. Risks are different for everyone — a mountain for one person is a molehill for another. Find something that scares you and do it.

Adult life is about learning what matters to you and creating a life that reflects your values. In order to know what’s important, though, you need to see the world. Take time to establish yourself independently from your family — at least for a while — so you can see yourself more clearly. Whether you stay in the family business or go somewhere else, you’ll be a happier person for making the decision honestly.

I get a lot of email from people who are 50 years old and older and never expected to be unemployed at this stage in their career. Many of these people are annoyed that they are not appreciated for how much they know. Others are bitter, angry or indignant. Often times, these complaints come down to one thing: age discrimination.

Hiring managers know they shouldn’t discriminate based on age, but they do it anyway. Even when the victim has proof, usually a lawsuit is not as appealing as just getting a job. Ridding the world of injustice is a luxury for those who do not have trouble paying their grocery bills — now or during retirement.

I have not experienced age discrimination, but with sex discrimination I have found that bitterness and anger only hurt me. I am certain I have missed opportunities because I am a woman. But in my early twenties, when I was bitter and angry about sex discrimination, I was bitter and angry wherever I went. And my unpleasant personality hurt me way more than any lost opportunities.

Most hiring managers do not discriminate against women, or older people, but all hiring managers discriminate against people who are angry and bitter. And they should, because angry, bitter people are difficult to work with. So if you want to get a job, you need to stop being angry about the fact that people discriminate against you.

It’s very hard to hide anger and bitterness – they poke out of any little opening they can find. The fastest way to get rid of them: Convince yourself that most people are basically good, and when you encounter an asshole, assume he's an aberration and move on.

I have spoken with recruiters about age discrimination, and recruiters say that age is not an issue if the candidate does not make it an issue; enthusiastic, curious, and ambitious candidates are gems no matter what the age. But some candidates don't want to work for someone younger than they are. Some candidates can't hear constructive criticism because they assume it’s ageism. These people are doomed in the job market because they come off looking bitter. Before you cite ageism, ask yourself who, really, is making the big deal about your age.

My mom is a great example of someone who has overcome the age barrier. She is almost 60 but re-entered the job market at 50. She has received many promotions and she loves her job. I am convinced that her success is due, in part, to the fact that she is never angry about being old, and she is never bitter about reporting to someone twenty years younger than she is.

While my mom is just one person, she is a good example. She has a lot more experience in life than the people she works with, and she could lord that over people in a you-can-learn-from-me way. But instead she focuses on things that are new to her — what she can learn, what she can accomplish. In that way, she conveys the bright-eyed excitement that is essential in an enthusiastic employee.

So if you want to beat discrimination, try to ignore it. I am not suggesting that ageism is okay. It's not. But it exists, and you need to figure out how to get a job in the real world. So accept where you are in life and embrace that. If you are pleased with who you are then you will have a much easier time convincing a hiring manager that she will be pleased with you.

For all of you who are disgusted by the rampant discrimination that really does exist, I have found that the best way to change workplace culture is to infiltrate. You can't change workplace culture by whining from the outside, but you can change it once you are part of it. I have always used my positions in management to hire a diverse staff. You can promote diversity, too. Once you get a job.