I’ve just finished watching two episodes of season one of Mad Men, the popular AMC television series about people connected with a Madison Avenue based advertising business in 1960. It’s a show about salesmanship; the mad men sell their ideas to the clients so that they can create ads to sell the product of their client. Four episodes in, the characters I thought I liked and didn’t have become jumbled; as characters become less cardboard, my likes turn to dislikes and vice versa. To the creators of Mad Men, I say bravo. I was hooked with just one episode.
In addition to being well done, part of the appeal of Mad Men is that it reminds me so much of growing up in the sixties. I recognize the decor in the homes as well as the cars people drive. And all the cigarette smoke. I’d forgotten how popular smoking was then. But some things I was too young to know. For instance, Mad Men depicts 1960 Corporate America as a caste system: Jews and gentiles did not mix, women were secretaries and switchboard operators rather than professionals, and of course the racial line between black and white was huge and bold and not crossed. If this characterization is correct, I’m glad I entered the workforce in the late seventies rather than seventeen years before.
By 1977, women professionals were no longer a novelty, though we were still trying to figure out the ground rules. For instance, I tried hard just to be seen as one of the guys. I worked just as hard, traveled without complaint if needed, and wore my version of a business suit. Of course, when I became pregnant, the guys thought I wouldn’t return to work. But I did. And believe me, I kept under wraps that I cried all the way to work that first day back, after leaving my eight week baby girl with another woman to watch.
I entered the accounting profession, by the grace of God, as an employee of a small regional accounting firm. The ‘Big 8″ firms didn’t want me, in spite of my stellar grades. And the lack of job offers had nothing to do with my sex. Plain and simple, I just didn’t know the rules of interviewing, and because I was painfully shy and insecure, I could not sell myself. I hate that phrase — selling myself –it sounds like prostitution. But that’s the interview game is a nutshell: the interviewer tries to sell the candidate on his employer and candidates try to sell themselves to company representatives. An after all the selling comes the waiting to see whether anyone was sold.
My college interview experiences have been on my mind the last few days because my oldest son is going through the interview sweepstakes right now. And since Bryan has more than a few on campus interviews lined up with public accounting firms, I’ve tried to sell him a few tips. But my best advice to Bry was to have fun on his interviews. Because people having fun are more relaxed. And if relaxed, Bry will focus more on others rather than trying too hard to sell himself.
Best to leave the business of selling to those Mad Men on Madison Avenue. But let’s see if we can make use of a famous ad slogan to wrap us this sale post: “Don’t get Mad. Get Glad.”