Originally from Minneapolis, Greene moved to Nashville so his wife Sarah could attend medical school at Vanderbilt. A strategy and marketing consultant with his own company, Greene has a master’s degree in sociology from Stanford University and has worked for both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. Inspiration for the book, a workplace primer for the post-college set, came when he took a job requiring long hours on the road. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Chevy Malibus and Fairfield Inns,” he says.
Scene: How do you know so much pop culture? The book’s packed.
Greene: I’m a 20-something who grew up with a remote control in my hand like everyone else. I thought it could be fun to incorporate pop culture.
Scene: You say 20-something but are you on the dark side?
Greene: Certainly. I just turned 28. I’m either the old end of Gen Y or the younger end of Gen X. But, definitively, if you turn 21 in the 21st century, then you are from a generation that was raised on the Internet and reality television. Throughout our formative years [we] learned life lessons from pop culture. It sort of started with Sesame Street, then moved to Full House, then it was the Discovery Channel, and throw in a little moral moment from Saved by the Bell. I didn’t see any reason why that couldn’t continue as we became professionals. You only have a certain window in which your pop culture knowledge is relevant. If I wanted to write it down, now was the time to do it. If I was tossing around Saved by the Bell references in 10 years, people would be looking at me kind of funny. I’d be that old creepy guy.
Scene: Can you write off your cable bill as a business expense?
Greene: It’s up for discussion. I didn’t do it last year.
Scene: You do have to have it.
Greene: Let me make it clear: It was my responsibility to watch Kid Nation this year. My wife makes fun of me all the time. She has no interest in and doesn’t want to watch A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. I love train-wreck reality shows. Given the way reality shows are set up—the competitive nature and all of the anger boiling over and the absurd challenges—it’s sort of a caricature of the business world. Everybody is fighting to get ahead, fighting to get that promotion.
Scene: The book’s chapters are really short—“short” as in one chapter topped out at a page-and-a-half. Was it a deliberate decision to aim for chapters that are more like sound bites?
Greene: It certainly was. I think there are a fair amount of books that are 200 pages of mundane bullet-pointed lists, especially in the business genre. I didn’t want to write a lecture. My audience was my friends. These are people who often didn’t attend lectures when they were paying to be there, so why are they going to buy one? I wanted it to be a situation where if you picked up the book for five minutes you could get something out of it. I wanted it to be a distinct departure from some of the clichéd business books, sort of the corporate tools for Corporate Tools.
Scene: Tell me about your idea that cover letters are like love songs.
Greene: When I was interviewing interns, I was sent these cover letters that literally all looked the same except there’d be a different adjective or a different adverb or suck-up noun. The love song—the idea that you don’t write a cover letter to say ‘I want to get with you’; you write it to say ‘I want to get you’—was kind of an interesting idea. Then it was just a vehicle for me to recall some terrible love songs which was a lot of fun for me, of course.
Scene: How do you feel about Britney?
Greene: Oh, wow.
Scene: You’re speechless.
Greene: I think there are so many experts right now who are commenting and dissecting Britney’s situation that unfortunately I’m just not qualified to offer a professional opinion.
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