Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Tragedy of Name-Dropping

Sorry to burst your bubble, but no one's impressed with whom you might or might not know...    - Freshhh,

I'm slow, I admit it. I only recently learnt what the popular 100 symbol means. And now having found a website using the expression itself, I have a new favorite go-to spot in cyberspace, one that's both entertaining and informative and I encourage you to sample the delectable buffet of wisdom on their site, the ingenious 40 Days, 40 Habits You Should Break, and beginning with Bad Habit #23: Name-Dropping.

Name dropping. What to do? I googled the topic, and there's scant little about it. This surprised me, because I find it to be a major bane in our quest for truth and honor, which is the foundation of this concept of 100. Well, in those times where truth, honor, or both are required... which, I'd like to think, is most of the time - during a life which is truthfully and honorably lived anyway.

Enter now the domestic industry, where name-dropping seems to have become an accepted short-circuit of some sort in the quest for truth. Yet, it never really is. Our author doesn't mince words:

Too many people come in contact with someone famous (or anyone who might have some sort of title) briefly and feel that this means something significant to other people. Truthfully, no one gives a shit. Everyone can tell that you are just trying to brag and aren't even cool with the person, you only want approval from society, but end up looking like a thirsty groupie.  - Freshhh

Yet aside from a social faux-pas, here's where I see real damage being done by the practice and how it can be stopped:

FOR CANDIDATES:  Everyone has worked for someone famous. Or at least someone wealthy - and it's okay to assign whatever dollar number you personally believe represents that status.

Being in a rather isolated career, however, can create an illusion that a former or current employers' celebrity or financial status is unique. I once found myself helping a very nice Housekeeper to land a new job by explaining to her she first needed to just stop telling everyone that her former employer is a billionaire (she'd actually whisper the word billionaire, as if we were in church). Not only because almost every other Housekeeper listed with my agency had also worked for a billionaire at some point, yet more importantly because, when asked, she was unable to demonstrate how that made her twice as valuable a domestic worker than the competing Housekeeper candidates who'd only worked for those poorer families worth just 500 million dollars.

Name-dropping usually comes from a person who is uncomfortable, anxious, and doubting their own contribution to the situation." - Liane Davey

Yet worse, comes the time when the name itself is dropped, and this is where the candidate catapults themselves into a minefield which they can not easily walk back out of. Highlighting, for instance, the candidate has worked for Celebrity-X assumes the listener is familiar, at best, with the staff performance standards of Celebrity-X, and otherwise assumes the listener simply likes Celebrity-X for their movies, recordings, society pages, or what have you. The danger is threefold:  1) The listener may already have developed a matured position on name-dropping as quoted above(*) and see through all of this, 2) The listener may indeed be familiar with Celebrity-X's house-staff performance standards - and it turns out they're actually pretty awful, or 3)The listener may simply not be a very big fan of Celebrity-X, and despite not having any real information about how the candidate having worked for them will be related to the job being considered, will, naturally and subconsciously, produce a personal bias and resentment against the candidate who assumed that name-dropping as a substitute for any truthful and honorable discussion of service performance would be the ticket in.

FOR EMPLOYERS AND AGENCIES:  Basically all of the above, yet in reverse. Employers who've had few candidates to interview in the past, perhaps due to a small staff - or perhaps due to the fortunate circumstance of low staff turnover in a larger staff, may erroneously believe a "name" on the resume is unusual, and then become enamored for all the wrong reasons: relying on data which may only exist in preconceived notions they have of the manufactured character the celebrity has played in public. 

Shortchanged then is the favored name-dropping candidate, who has missed the opportunity to truly learn about the actual responsibilities of the position, yet cannot, because the employer or agency now has decided an association with a notion is quite sufficient, and possibly setting the candidate up for failure with unrealistic or mismatched expectations. Shortchanged also is the suddenly dismissed candidate who chose to keep it 100, having offered real information about their work experiences (which may be outstanding and actually quite easy to qualify) - and being discreet about who they've worked for, instead of "showing up and throwing up" names to the listener who is relying on the vapors of fame for their standards. Neither turns out well.

Here's the really bad news: "Name dropping is absolutely terrible for our credibility," says Davey. When we name-drop, no matter how smoothly we try to insert another person's name in the conversation, the listener almost always sees through the act. - Leah Fessler

What to do?  IMHO, first - recognize the temptation to shortcut the conversation just because so many people are doing it, and second - just don't do it. When an agency insists to know the personal "names" of your past employers, even though they have no idea whatsoever about your actual and specific job skills and didn't even ask about them beyond scanning the job titles on your resume, don't give into the temptation to make this worse for everyone - mostly yourself.  

Make the effort to move beyond the names, and move into real information, truth, and honor, which can be used by both parties to make real decisions based on real sense. If they won't be honorable first, you step up to the plate and show how it's done.

Bad habits don't make bad people, yet they always make bad outcomes. For everyone. Name-dropping is Bad Habit #23, and this tragedy in domestic service can be broken. 

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