The Covid-19 pandemic has wiped out careers across industries, all over the world. The unpredictability of the virus means economic contraction is bound to continue, and those seeking employment face brutal challenges. So, when a recruiter for media content bemoaned that despite receiving a surfeit of applications she couldn’t zero in on more than one candidate, her opinion on how people should present themselves in the post-Covid work world was worth hearing. Lavanya Mohan, a CA who works at Vui.ai tweeted: “I really don’t need to know you were “raised by a single mom” and idgaf (I don’t give a F***) about your Netflix preferences. This is a job application not a Roadies audition.”
Ms Mohan’s blunt assessment brings to recall the other millennial phrase: TMI, baby, TMI. (Too Much Information.) I recently helped a young friend fix her CV where she had listed her participation at Shaheen Bagh during the anti-CAA protest. Save your woke-ness for Facebook, and ideally, not even that, I told her. A potential employer doesn’t care if you battled icy February winds for your political beliefs. When she complained I was unnecessarily scathing, I did wonder whether my middle-aged point of view is outdated for a 24-year-old applying for her first job. Because the thing with this generation of 20-somethings is, their every meal and relationship status is meticulously recorded on social media anyway. Oversharing of personal information is so normalised, talking about your single mom in a CV for all I know, might be perfectly acceptable.
It turns out the (unwritten) rules of professional etiquette remain intact irrespective of whether it’s 1990 or 2020. While today’s cut-throat environment might require a differentiator that marks one as unique, referencing difficult family situations as a show of resilience comes across as grossly entitled. Firstly, mentioning your single mom presumes that everyone who grew up in two parent homes had it perfect. A job application is not a competition for which person survived trauma best. Besides, this level of disclosure before a first meeting is alarming; nobody wants to be saddled with a colleague who needs an agony aunt. Unless the level of endurance is like the girl who took her father pillion on a cycle from Delhi to Bihar during the lockdown, best to keep family struggles out of a professional setting.
Undoubtedly, being a successful single parent is a terrific achievement—for the parent, not the beneficiary. Perhaps, this ease with which young people wear damage as a badge of pride is a result of having grown up online, and communicating in 172 characters. Consuming bits of information from here and there and never deep diving into anything, has destroyed an instinct to know what to say, where. But the social contract applies to a career as much as it does to a personal life. Success is often knowing where to reveal one’s authentic self (and where never to). The atmosphere at the modern workplace may be less hierarchical and more laissez-faire but that doesn’t mean the old cliche doesn’t apply, of familiarity breeding contempt.
It appears though that the day is not far when flaunting single moms and the myriad other problems life throws at us will be up for discussion with HR in companies, judging by the oh-so-woke, but actually very clever, PR move by tech giant Zomato. At the height of the Covid crisis, when almost nobody was going to an office, they announced paid menstruation leave for women every month (and were lauded by the international press for it). I fail to understand how all women being shoved into a generalised category of needing this time off can be seen as a step forward. Personally, I would prefer to shoot myself than discuss bodily functions with my boss. Again, TMI. Ask the women. They want equal opportunities for growth, not these insulting sops. Civility, even chivalry, is always welcome but the greatest courtesy anyone can receive in an office is an atmosphere free of gender-based complications.
The writer is director, Hutkay Films
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