Ben Carson’s Resume Reinvention is SOP on Social Networks (Op-Ed)

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Steve-Lundin-headshotBy Steve Lundin, Cultural Analyst and Author, “The Manipulator: A Private Life in Public Relations (Volume I)”

We’ve all had a friend who’s fudged a bit on their resume, nudged a one-course-shy of completion college transcript into a degree, or repositioned a stint delivering papers as ‘grassroots data collection for a media company.’ So is it any surprise, to anyone, anywhere, that Dr. (are we even sure about that) Ben Carson (if that really is his name) is in the midst of justifying multiple career inflations, and fictionalized character building episodes? This is Standard Operating Procedure in an era of easy manipulation of our own cyber histories. Or in the words of SNL’s Tommy Flanagan, “yeah, that’s the ticket! “

According to a study conducted eons ago (2004), by the Society for Human Resource Management, only 34% of employers check educational histories on applicant resumes, while 25% of applicants inflate their educational achievements (the hopscotch of faith is that some of these people probably get jobs). I’m hard pressed to believe that fundamental human behavior has changed in 11 years, no matter what that equals in Internet time. So for the sake of this argument, liars will continue to lie.

Ben Carson

(Photo source: Twitter)

Fast forward to today and you’ll find an entire social network that has developed to support career puffery: it’s called Linkedin.  If only Ben had waited a bit, his back story might actually have been bulletproof. Because today, there are many, many ways to become the person you always wanted to be, but didn’t have the time, money, discipline, intelligence, energy, (fill in your own blank) to become.

Resume reinvention comes in several flavors, but the most effective manipulations involve starting with a product that is reasonably believable, based in some degree of truth. Like changing the VIN number on a stolen car, at the end of the day, you’re still messing with a real car. Most manipulators will deal with simple exaggerations or cover-ups, not wholesale remanufacturers. Those are the guys you hear about on American Greed.

The two approaches to covering up bald spots and unexplainable cancerous growths on a resume include omission or reinterpretation. Who hasn’t had a three month job that crashed and burned, leaving you waiting for an unemployment check or a recruiter call? The best way to deal with this strange quirk of fate is to not deal with it. Got a bald spot?  Omit it, and account for the time as a sabbatical, extended vacation or better yet, book development (sexy, mysterious, and important).

Reinterpretation is best practiced by those who have run their own businesses or work for a business that has conveniently gone out of business (the next best thing to working for someone who is dead). Reinterpretation allows a creative resume rewriter to turn a company that, say, prints napkins for Bar Mitzvahs (yawn, boring, paper) into an end-to-end graphic design studio utilizing cutting edge digital marketing techniques employing over 30 people (remember to count everyone at all points of contact, no matter where they’re employed). Now that’s hot!!!

For the more advanced, there is a Pirate’s Bay of online solutions that can literally help you construct your own Bourne identity or add the necessary professional padding to a fluffy resume. Need a reference? There’s careerexcuse.com (or Aunt Bertha if the Visa card is already maxed). And let’s not forget that the use of famous or influential dead people is only limited by witnesses and circumstance. Just ask Dr. Carson. His only mistake was in picking the WRONG DEAD REFERENCE.

It’s hard to find stats on the number of people who have been fired over inflated resumes, because presumably this occurs when the candidate is incapable of performing the job for which they were hired or has done something to generate an inquiry. However as more people, with increasingly sophisticated online social skills enter the workforce, this problem won’t be getting any smaller. For example, dig into the work history of a random “social network marketer” and you might find an active Facebook poster whose milestone job experiences include kitchen prep and Uber driver. But hey, 50,000 unqualified followers make you a marketing genius, right?

Besides the slap in the face to those who actually worked hard, attained their degrees and don’t try to pass off a cat scratch as a knife fight scar, the problem with rampant prevarications is not the act of being caught, but being caught and justifying it. What starts with a resume manipulating friend with a faked Kellogg MBA, who takes the stage at an industry speaking event, ends at the Republican debates, where a bona fide candidate for the most powerful job in the world is brushing off his own fabrications. Hey, if everyone’s doing it, just call me Brad Pitt and toss me his Black card. Roll out the red carpet baby, we’re all Hemingway’s in the land of the illiterati.

But imagine for a second, the kind of a world we would be living in, the kind of an economy we would have, if the 25% of people who attained their positions through falsified means, were actually fully qualified for the job. Would job incompetence go away? Of course not, but we’d be giving it more of a routing. And imagine if this honesty spilled over into other aspects of the workplace, and candor started to replace toadyism, because, presumably, the 25% of the executive suite would actually encourage honesty and criticism. All those things they teach in business school might be put into practice, because those people who claimed they had degrees, really had degrees!

It all seems so reasonable:  put in the time, do the hard work, and earn it. That’s the American way, right?

The Manipulator

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Published on November 12, 2015

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