A Question About Identity

There are so many subjects to discuss related to job seeking, but I like questions that involve self-reflection.   It seems as if there are many times in life when a person may contemplate this reflection, for example high school graduation, “What do I want to be?”; or college graduation, “What kind of job am I going to get?”; or marriage, “What kind of spouse will I be?”; or having children, “What type of parent will I be?”.  The problem with these milestones in our lives is that we are moving so fast during them that we don’t have time to pause and make these self-reflections.  At this time in my life I find I have the time, and I find myself returning again and again to the subject of how we allow our job to define who we are in life.  I don’t know if it is generational, gender specific, or even cultural, but we all do it from time to time to ourselves and to others.

This past August my husband and I traveled to his hometown of Durban, South Africa. The main reason for our journey, aside from seeing friends and family, was to attend his thirty year high school reunion (matric reunion).  I met so many lovely people who meant no harm with that age old question, but I found myself, for the first time, unable to give a simple answer.  The question was “What do you do?”.  One year ago I would have simply answered, “I’m a full-time student”, or two years ago I would have said , “I am an office manager at a small orthodontic practice”.  These are the easy answers that others are expecting…easy, but they are one dimensional.  I don’t even think it is a one dimensional question, but we usually supply the one dimensional answer that many times leads to an end to the conversation.  Because I felt the need to explain my current unemployed status, I lept into a ten minute monologue about my recent endeavours.  Truth be told many times we aren’t what we “do”.  Instead what we “do” is simply just that, what we “do” everyday for money to pay for for what we really care about which is truly who we “are”.  What I found with most people I spoke to that night was my answer didn’t scare them away.  Most folks found it gave them a platform to talk about some of their dreams, and it also gave them an opportunity to express how they really needed a change in their career as well.  I believe the reason people want to talk about this outside-the-box answer is because we are multidimensional, and sometimes we enjoy explaining these dimensions.

This issue leads me back to my first post regarding the disembodiment of the online job search.  Our resumes and online questionnaires are designed to take a multidimensional person and compact them into a one dimensional category.  We try to make our  make our strengths and experience match the qualifications of the job we are seeking.  In truth there can be many qualities and experiences unique to each of us or to our work experience that makes qualified, but we simple cannot complicate that resume.  It must clear and concise and fit the job in order for the computer or HR generalist to catch it.  I am wondering if I am alone in wanting to somehow scream from my resume and cover letter, “Hire me because I am so much more than what you read on these pages!”.  I do, however, realize that nothing would push me out the door faster than words such as these.  So, dear reader, I ask you.  Has anyone out there found a way to allow your true identity come through to make “someone” see who you are from what you have done?