In the premiere episode of “Job or No Job,” which ran on ABC Family in 2015 for one season, Jane Buckingham explains why she signed on to host the show, in which she gives millennials career guidance. “I have seen so many young people trying to find a great job but most don’t have the tools they need,” Ms. Buckingham says. “People under 30 have some of the highest levels of unemployment in the country.”
But, she said, “nobody’s ever told them what they don’t want to hear.”
The conceit of the show was that Ms. Buckingham, the founder and chief executive of a youth marketing consultancy called Trendera and an author of advice books, would coach recent college graduates on real-world skills, like preparing for job interviews. “It’s pretty clear that young people have some misconceptions about what’s acceptable and what’s not,” she told The Observer in 2015 about her motivation. “I don’t think that that’s because they’re arrogant or anything like that, I just think no one’s giving it to them straight and I can do that,” she said.
“You’ll see some people acting so entitled that you want to slap them,” Ms. Buckingham said in that same interview, talking about what to expect from the show. “You’ll see some people disagree with me and people that just don’t like me telling them what to do. And, you’ll see candidates getting jobs that they shouldn’t, others getting jobs that they should, and still others getting passed over for jobs that they really deserved.”
On Tuesday, Ms. Buckingham was one of the dozens of people charged with participating in large-scale fraud scheme, hatched to game the college admissions process. According to the complaint filed by federal investigators, Ms. Buckingham agreed to pay a bribe of $50,000 to a phony foundation in order to have someone else take the ACT college-entrance exam on behalf of her son Jack, earning him a 35 out of 36 points. Marcus Buckingham, Ms. Buckingham’s former husband, was not charged.
On Wednesday, Jack Buckingham released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying: “I am upset that I was unknowingly involved in a large scheme that helps give kids who may not work as hard as others an advantage over those who truly deserve those spots.” Mr. Buckingham said that he hopes that “this might help finally cut down on money and wealth being such a heavy factor in college admissions.” According to the complaint, Ms. Buckingham wanted to administer a copy of the test to Jack so that he would believe that he had taken it.
Ms. Buckingham was not reached for comment through her company or her publisher, HarperCollins.
[Read more on the Justice Department’s largest ever college admissions prosecution.]
Until Thursday, when most of the pages on its website disappeared, Trendera, Ms. Buckingham’s marketing firm, listed Netflix, HBO, Facebook, Condé Nast and Target as clients. The firm helps clients reach younger demographics. Though Ms. Buckingham founded Trendera in 2009, she has been analyzing youthful interests for much longer. In the late ‘90s, she founded Youth Intelligence, a consulting firm with services similar to Trendera’s; it was later renamed The Intelligence Group.
Creative Artists Agency bought that firm in 2003, and Ms. Buckingham stayed on as its head for several years. According to the Los Angeles Times, as part of her consulting services, Ms. Buckingham led a “Trend School” in which participants paid $2,500 a head for the chance to look into the hearts and minds of Generation Xers and millennials. For those not interested in attending “Trend School,” the Intelligence Group published the crib notes in reports that were sent out several times a year for a $35,000 annual subscription.
At Trendera, Ms. Buckingham and her team continued to produce reports for a fee. For a time, they referred to Generation Z, the cohort that includes people born between 1995 and 2010, as Generation V — the “V” was for viral. By 2017, they adopted the more common term in a report on the demographic, which included a section called “Decoding Gen Z Communication” that defined terms like “issa,” “velfie” and “tings.”
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Ms. Buckingham is also the author of a series called “Modern Girl’s Guides,” which offers tips on topics like what tools to keep in the kitchen or how to write a cover letter. The introduction to the first of these, “The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life,” promises to “let you cheat without getting caught — or even feel like you’re cheating.” The book inspired a series of the same name, which ran on the now-defunct Style Network for three seasons.
The third book in Ms. Buckingham’s series, “The Modern Girl’s Guide to Sticky Situations,” came out in 2010. (The second was a guide to motherhood.) Felicity Huffman, another of the parents charged in the college bribery scheme, was one of the guests at its launch party. The book, Ms. Buckingham wrote in the introduction, is “a stack of get-out-of-jail-free cards for the deserving gal with the best intentions and a moment of bad luck.”
To comfort worried readers, she wrote: “Most hideous predicaments are not the end of the world.”
Valeriya Safronova is a reporter for the Style section. She is based in New York. @vsaffron
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