A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Ugly Truth

I am going to revive a metaphor that I’ve used many times on this blog; I’ve said on several occasions that applying for graduate school is a lot like prostitution – and now I’m going to extend that idea and include applying for jobs in the comparison as well. Career counselors are always telling you that you need to market yourself--sell yourself--to potential employers. It feels a bit like parading yourself up and down a runway, if not quite like being out on the street-corner. I haven’t been at it long yet (I started applying for jobs about a week ago) but I already have that dirty feeling, as though I've been trying to sell myself. Of course, I genuinely would love to work for a university, a non-profit, or a social services organization, and so filling out those types of applications makes me feel better about myself, excited about the new directions that my life could take. But the prospect of all those applications for insurance companies and real estate agencies make me feel like I need to take a hot bath and scrub down with some bleach.

It doesn’t help that plenty of my favorite crime television shows are riddled with images of prostitutes trying to pick up johns. There are always scenes featuring the unfortunate hookers-turned-victims in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Angel, Dexter, The X-Files… In fact, today I chose a random episode of The X-Files to watch while I ate lunch (a well-deserved break from researching job opportunities) and it turned out that Mulder and Scully were chasing a serial killer who regurgitated on his victims in order to dissolve their skin and eat their fatty tissue. His victims were usually lonely women that he picked up in chat rooms, but when he got desperate, of course he went and tried to pick up a prostitute. So here I am, safe at home filling out form after form (“Please list your last five employers, in reverse chronological order”) and yet feeling a chill down my spine from the idea that people will be sizing me up.

"Tonight's the night. And it's going to happen, again and again. It has to happen. Nice night. Miami is a great town. I love the Cuban food. Pork sandwiches. My favorite. But I'm hungry for something different now."

The ironic thing is that I usually enjoy having people’s undivided attention. I’m honest enough to admit that my narcissistic streak is about as wide as an eight-lane highway; I love to talk and talk and talk… Let’s not forget that I have a blog, either. All bloggers should admit that we think that we’re pretty darn interesting -- interesting enough that other people should squander their time reading about our complaints and what we ate for breakfast. Heck, my chosen profession (up to this point) has been as a teacher and a professor – and I love being up in front of the class. Fortunately, I think I manage to entertain most of my students – it’s funny how talking comparing Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Charles Dickens can make you seem like a geeky academic out in the real world, but when you mention Joss Whedon in the classroom your students suddenly see you as much cooler than the other professors. I don’t think it’s that I love the sound of my own voice per se, but I do think I’m rather clever. After my last job evaluation, in fact, my boss told me something to the effect of, “You gave an excellent lecture and explained the poetry very well, but you aren’t letting the students do enough work.” (This could be translated as, "Shut up at some point!" although I don't think that's exactly what she meant, either.)

So if I usually like to be at the center of attention, what is it about job applications that I dislike so much?

I think the difference is that when I am in front of people, I love to talk – but not really about myself. I love to explain concepts to my class using funny illustrations, spin out frustrating experiences into comical stories that resemble Ben Stiller movies (it’s all about the timing of your delivery), and pontificate about the injustice of Dollhouse’s cancellation, the remarkable qualities of Pablo Neruda’s poetry or the brainlessness of Sarah Palin’s comments. But I don’t usually go around saying things like, “I’m an amazing artist” or bragging that “You should really check out that paper that I wrote – it was totally awesome.” Weeeellll… except on the internet, when I post an update on Facebook every time I write a new blog entry and shamelessly urge my all my Facebook friends to go and read my latest thoughts on the Profound Subject of Life. As I said – I can be very narcissistic, an exhibitionist of all trivial. I believe I am totally worth your time and attention – I just don’t like to admit that to myself too often.

But apparently this blog entry has led me to admitting the ugly truth – I’m more used to selling myself than I have been pretending. So what is it that I really don’t like about job searching? I guess it’s all those boring forms…


Tara said...

I knew there was a reason I didn't watch "X-Files."

There is certainly an element of "whoriness" when it comes to job searching, but take comfort in the fact that you're in the company of a few hundred thousand other prosti--er, job applicants.

music obsessive said...

Hi! The worst thing about applying for jobs is trying to appear business-like when what you really want to do is discuss why Dollhouse got canned!

I love using pop culture references in the workplace. I'm a IT business consultant but my best received presentation was based around the albums of Pink Floyd. Be warned - this doesn't always work and those glazed expreassions are difficult to deal with...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...