I am fascinated by the language found in job recruitment postings.  A quick perusal of local startup company openings on Indeed.com finds that there is an unsatisfied need for Ninjas, Rock Stars, and Super Heroes.  To be accurate, only passionate, team-oriented warriors who are seeking transformative work experiences need apply.  So, dust off your costumes, brush up on those adjectives, and apply.  Every day is Halloween at some startups.

Think I’m exaggerating?  Here is an excerpt from a recent startup job posting.  It is by no means unique:

We’re building the special forces of fundraising and will employ the scrappy startup approach (ninja skillz) to get da monies! As the Director of Development, you will perch atop a world-changing organization and have the chance to make your time here a truly transformative experience. You will empower our teams to perform at their best and work closely with the Founder. Working with a team who cares about your personal and professional growth will provide you the opportunity to work on the projects that you are most passionate about. On a daily basis, you will be exposed to new perspectives and different aspects of growing organization. Our hope is that your time with XYZ Co will be one of the transformative experiences of your life!

Why didn’t my business school professors teach me ninja skillz (sic) that I could use as a member of a special forces fundraising team to get da monies?  For that matter, why is my grade school English teacher turning over in her grave?  The questions are many.

I am particularly intrigued by the question of whether ninjas can be team players.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a ninja is “a person trained in ancient Japanese martial arts and employed especially for espionage and assassinations.”  A spy.  Ninja derives from “nin” a Japanese word meaning persevere, conceal and move stealthily.  Wow.  I was under the impression that spies tend to work independently with few constraints, often violating the spirit if not the letter of the law; they would seem to represent everything that a team player is not.

But what do I know?  After all, I’m no rock star.

To make up for this shortcoming, I am learning to inflate my adjectives and speak the language of HR.  Indeed.com I am.  To use terms and phrases from that same site:

I am now mission driven.  I have resolved to use my dogged resourcefulness to stay calm under pressure so that I can deliver when needed in high-stress situations.  I will demonstrate a supernatural ability to anticipate team needs as I tenaciously prioritize tasks to limit distractions.  In this manner, I will ensure that my focus is on this most pressing and highest priority items.  In short, I will be passionate in my pursuit of this transformative experience.

Soon I, too, will be a ninja.


Peter Dragone - Co-founder of Keurig.