I live much of my life in a world of 20-somethings. I try hard to keep up. I’m on Facebook. I’m pretty technologically savvy even though I refuse to Tweet-- I just don’t need to be THAT connected. I’ve accepted that khaki pants and a button-down shirt pass for dress up these days. I’ve even given up on the long held idea that the standard is two spaces between sentences when you’re typing a paper. But there’s one characteristic of this younger generation that continues to drive me nuts -- their habitual use of the word “like.”
I hear it every day, ad infinitum. What prompted me to write about this here is that I realized this week just how pervasive habit is, and it IS a habit. Sitting on a plane prior to takeoff, I heard a young professional woman behind me on her phone. “Well, we had a conversation about our relationship and I was like this is what I want and he was like I can’t believe you would say that and I was like ...” and on and on and on for about 5 minutes. Then, walking up the concourse, I was beside two college students talking: “I was like ... and she was like.” It took everything in me to not stop them on the spot and just say “do you KNOW how stupid that makes you sound!!!”
I know I may be an old fogey here, but I’m on a crusade. I want young people to realize that the use of the word “like” is a habit, one that does not serve them well. The first thing it does is to interfere with good communication, particularly communication with others who are not in the 20-something age group, and that’s most of the workforce. This indiscriminate use of fillers is extremely distracting.
Perhaps more critical, in this difficult job market, the way you present yourself is all-important. Two things that will make you more attractive to employers are the way you dress (that’s for another column) and the way you speak. I’ve had several recruiters tell me that they have made decisions on whether or not the candidate peppered their language with “like.” The same goes for graduate school interviews.
If you have a young person in your life who fills their language with “like,” join me in this quest. Bring it up with them. The first step to changing the behavior is to recognize that you do it. Talk with them about how it is not serving them well in the long run.
If you are a young person, take note. It’s like one major thing you can do to like help yourself as you like enter the job market. Those of us who like do the hiring will be, like, listening.
Business executive and organizational consultant, Jan Flynn teaches at the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College & State University.