On your resume you’ll know that you are commoditizing yourself if you notice any of the following (psst … this is where you take out your existing resume and check it against this list):
:: Phrases taken directly in part or whole from books, online materials or from other people’s resumes to help you create your own;
:: You have multiple versions or can create a version out of your “monster resume” suited to a post depending on what job you’re applying for (only under one specific circumstance do I think having two versions is acceptable – that will be covered in a future article);
:: Your resume contains clichéd or canned phrases (e.g. team player, works well under pressure, professional x seeking y, etc.);
:: You have skills and traits on your resume that aren’t actually you, but you have them on there either because you think you should or because you think that that’s who everyone wants you to be for the jobs you apply for;
:: You don’t like some, part or all of the wording on your resume;
:: You keep your resume pretty close to “industry standard” – in terms of language + design so you’re difficult to differentiate from other candidates; and
:: Your skills and content either contradict or compete.
Let’s spend a bit of time exploring that last bullet to explain what I mean because contradictory or competing ways of working is rarely if ever actually talked about –
Great sales and marketing personalities aren’t often found in the same body as someone who is a true guru of detail + organization + administration. Or an exceptional layout + graphic designer is not as exceptional at writing + creating content.
And if someone says they want competing skill sets from you in equal stellar measure, then you really probably are and should be “good enough” at both but not great at either.
In practice, you might notice when it comes to contradicting or competing skills, one skill shines bright while the other is significantly paler almost always if you’re trying to be both. You might notice that one skill takes more energy than the other. You might try to devote time to the one that you’re not as good at and let the one that is easier maintain “status quo” because you can take it for granted (no one asks for better of you). You might see yourself “saving” the easier skill to use for “later” or invalidate it altogether because it feels enjoyable. And as a result you might be aware that your overall performance doesn’t “feel” like you want it to feel because of how you are using your energy – directing it in ways that drain you rather than replenish you. And not because anyone asked this of you, but because you expected this of yourself.
But each skill at the actual expert level is an entire universe unto itself. And when someone is looking for someone really actually stellar and stunning at that they do, you’re presenting yourself as all things or you’re not available. You might then believe that change would happen if “there were more hours in the day” or if you could just “get some more notice” but to be recognized for what you want to be recognized for, you have to be doing it all along in some capacity and acknowledge it as such.
The resume you’re going to make using this tool and methodology is about changing that. No more playing the game of hoping (or worse getting appreciated) for doing things you don’t even want to do. When you could just as easily find a way to do things that you don’t need thanks for, but find that the thanks just keeps coming your way.
To begin this change, what needs to start happening is an accurate assessment of desirable skills in job postings from employers as well as what appears in your resume as an applicant. You’re going to be the brave one and take the first step in your resume because I happen to know that even if a job posting isn’t presented honestly, an authentic resume can still win highly desirable results.
And you know how you feel when you find a posting that describes you perfectly. Everyone can feel relief and anticipation in contrast to what is usually an anxious and depressing process on both ends (my clients are bosses too, so I’m very aware).
You’re much more likely to actually be in possession of complementary rather than competing or contradictory talents.
As any personality assessment tool will show you, a certain personality type is known for certain things and not for others. But we live in a world where we are taught to be all personality types – which is a gross misunderstanding of what it truly means to tend to your weaknesses.
As a source of amusing truth, there’s a reason that when you picture a “university professor-researcher-type,” for example, that such characteristics as punctual, social, good dancer, and great dresser rarely also come to mind in the same picture. It’s not that this combination can’t exist, it’s just extremely rare in our culture. And if they do exist, chances are that they have help behind the scenes.
And if you were like me and in a relationship with said “university professor-resarcher-type” in a past life you would know that if he turned up punctual and dressed in a dashing manner it was heavily influenced by my efforts. His dance moves were eccentric, but certainly respectable all on his own. Endearingly so. And his social skills? They were on a timer. T minus 2 hours to the minute. If that. Extended only if you could match his interest in rock climbing, particle physics, or craft beer.
It’s the ego of “Corporate America” that chooses to essentially ignore that certain skills and qualities of talent vary by individual and/or personality type in how job vacancies are advertised. Simply in how job postings are written, companies are looking for a “human doing” and not a “human being.” This is how people are subtly and not so subtly asked to be a commodity.
And it’s your desire to live “the American dream” that has you pretending that you should be a “human doing” and therefore treat yourself as a commodity as a means towards acquiring success.
(BTW I’m not blaming “America” here, it’s that these “terms” stand in for so much imagery that is ingrained in the psyche no matter which Western world you live in).
It’s no wonder that we live in a culture of mental health issues because when you try to ignore how you are and then try to make yourself fit into something that is even more not you, it’s a recipe for crazy making and perpetuates distortions of what work is and who you are when you are at work.
But what the writers of job postings and people who apply to them do is pretend that it doesn’t matter what someone is stellar versus just good enough in, when it does. And it matters because that’s how we get into talking about ourselves in ways that we don’t mean to that we feel fake and icky about. It’s how we turn others and ourselves into commodities rather than people.
And just so you and I are clear, it’s not bad to be “just good enough” at something and get compensated for it somehow. Especially if someone “wants the job done” and what you know is just the right about of “good enough.” Like this:
When I traveled internationally for work doing education recruitment and career advising, my body felt like it was 70 years old in my late 20s. The frequent time zone changes, heavy workload and hours logged largely immobile on a plane left my body feeling stiff. So I started doing Pilates privately.
After I quit that job, my Pilates instructor and I had talked enough that she knew about my past in public relations. I had always thought of myself as mediocre at it especially when I compare it to my skills in career counselling. But that didn’t matter to my instructor. She didn’t want what a pr firm would offer her. That felt ‘over the top’ for where her business was at. To her what I knew how to do was “good enough” for her. So she hired me to get to a few things off her “list” that she had a small budget for.
For her, I created a press kit – which is basically a folder with various documents in it that told her story from different angles. Angles that would be considered newsworthy. It wasn’t fancy in the least (I bought the folders from Staples rather than having then professionally designed and printed), but it apparently got the job done. She got three local tv stations to do stories and/or shoots from her studio and a national magazine article interviewed her as an expert. She was thrilled beyond belief because she knows that media pitches don’t have a guarantee.
And me, I was fine doing “good enough” work because I wasn’t trying to “sell” myself as the best. I knew how to do something more than someone else did and they wanted to know what I knew.
Was it my ideal job?
No. But I didn’t find it painful to do either. Which had been a first because I didn’t try to “sell” myself as better than I actually was. And it felt good to offer my “good enough” knowledge to someone that found it more than good enough. And when you’re in career transition, that’s a great thing.
The reason I share that story is because it’s actually useful for your career and well-being to know and care about which skills are your favourite and that you have guru status in because your bliss is so wise. More than you know.
I could never sustain a career in pr for example. It would cost me so much more energy, but I can sustain a career in career couseling because it’s the effortless effort in contrast.
So the way out of the so-called “vicious circle” of not being yourself on paper and then not being yourself at work is to acknowledge what the job really is and who you really want to be at work, then learn the rules (which you know already … believe me you do), and finally break the rules like a true artist (that’s what I’m here for) because work and how you live it is your art.
If you understood yourself as something other than a commodity you wouldn’t be communicating about yourself as such. You would seek to create and cull your own unique content for your resume.
It is here that we take a bend in our travels to explore the nature of why you would behave against your true nature. And to do that we return to the subject of the article in part 1 – survivability [in childhood].
In part one, survival and safety needs were the focus and now we turn to the role of emotion in the career equation.
From my years of working on resumes with people, I’ve witnessed a pattern that will be of great interest to you that may be a source of freedom to choose your future approach to work. And it is this: Think about how you feel and as a result behaviourally approach work … and now think about how similar that is to how you felt and behaviourally approached your “work” in childhood of belonging to your family.
Take out your journal and write about all the ways in which they feel similar and how the interpersonal and emotional dynamics between people at work (like your boss and/or colleagues and/or clients) remind you of dynamics you had with early care givers or family members significant to you in your childhood.
Remember what you expected of yourself in order to ensure your survival (emotional or physical) in childhood and ask yourself where you still have those expectations of yourself now at work. Write about them.
Remember what “the right feelings or behaviours” were that you were supposed to exhibit in childhood to feel like part of the family – what were they and at what times? And how and when do you still try to make yourself feel those “right feelings or behaviours” in adulthood at work?
Remember to take your time. This stuff is a big deal and it’s not fluffy – it’s deep and real and liberating. And there might be more that you recall later. Always be open to writing it down and listening for whatever wants acknowledgement from the past. Because as you keep acknowledging your truth, your most authentic resume content that claims your highest and best skill set will be easier to access. You’ll start to let go of how you were taught to be and become who the world needs you to be that you magically want to be too.
Childhood is actually quite stressful for us as children because we learned that being loved meant hiding or manipulating ourselves – essentially “working” to feel loved, approved of and accepted.
Personally speaking as a child, I felt chronically stressed around my family. I constantly doubted myself because I always seemed to be doing the wrong thing or was doing everything the wrong way. So feelings of incompetence were a constant shadow and companion. Everything I did also felt really difficult – as in always beyond the reach of my skills and abilities because it was done through the blur of intense self-doubt. I never knew how to assess if my choices were right for me until I knew the outcome and that did not feel good.
Knowing who my mother is and what she values: she thought she was instilling in me the desire to keep trying and learning and striving. Rather than realizing that she was guiding me away from my joy (that is in alignment with my personality type) and that one day my body would just “konk out” from fatigue and depression from this way of approaching work. It’s ironic how what she thought would make me successful turned out to put my ability to survive in peril.
If I looked like I was having fun then what I experienced was being re-routed to things that were less desirable for me – activities where I was quiet or contained or considered desirably “productive.” The last thing I needed to be to anyone was an inconvenience and having fun by accident seemed to make me inconvenient to be around. And I obliged by not rebelling because this was about making sure that I belonged to my family and this belonging ensured my survival. But it didn’t stop there. I also had to seem or at least say that I was “fine” with all of this because to do otherwise was to invite more negative attention and the best that I could hope for was no attention because there was no positive attention anywhere to be found.
So from your childhood background, a temperature setting for meeting survival needs was set and not questioned for decades.
In my own case, my strategy for survival that “worked” felt incompetent, doubtful, stressed, and like everything was hard. And so I grew up and approached work feeling incompetent, doubtful, stressed and like everything was hard.
I unconsciously went about ensuring that I maintained these feelings because they were normal and indicators of being a productive, accepted and approved of human being.
What happens is the continuation of maintaining key feelings from childhood into adulthood at work. But here’s the thing that should be of great interest to you with regard to your future work: Your family of origin didn’t really see you or if they did, they didn’t know what to do with who you really are. They, with the help of mainstream society, educated you out of paying attention to the parts of you that were effortless to develop or use. And you were educated to use your energy unconsciously, but very deliberately still to sustain undesirable feelings by belonging to a group of people that simply couldn’t deeply acknowledge who you are nor what you had to offer. You’ve maintained the status quo of your family of origin in your adult workplace.
This doesn’t make anyone bad and this isn’t about blaming your parents or care givers in childhood. But I know that that’s what the saboteur in your mind will think because no one wants to “be bad” by thinking that someone else (someone they love) “did them wrong.” Especially anyone that wanted better for you than what they had. But this isn’t about that at all. It’s about acknowledging what influences you without you knowing that you can’t let go of until it’s acknowledged for what it is. Because when you can do that, you can acknowledge who you are on your resume and it won’t feel fake in the least. In fact you could for the first time feel success in your cells.
To be just and compassionate, most families even in our Western culture focus on survival, safety and belonging needs and during child bearing and child rearing years life feels pretty overwhelming with whatever else was going on when you came into being. Your parents or care givers had parents or care givers they had to contend with that had difficulty acknowledging their uniqueness and worried about their security, bosses and colleagues that were difficult for them, society telling them that they weren’t enough through imagery and advertising, and a spouse or no spouse to deal with. They were people at the stage in life that you are now. People doing too much and trying to be all things to all people. Hard as it may be to imagine. What you are exploring and examining here as part of writing your resume are the influences and consequences of living with the absence of self-awareness.
Your struggle now to feel satisfied at work is your reaching for greater consciousness.
Consider this and that self-esteem needs and self-actualization or human contribution needs are about courage and stepping away from your unconscious heritage and into the fullness of your being. These higher level needs are centred around thriving rather than surviving as a human being. Your parents and care givers may never have done the inner striving that you are doing now because to do it is actually a choice you have to make on your own for yourself.
Status quo path or my own path?
So understand that, while you finagle around with your resume, part of your process to regain your own psychic territory while you engage in conscious decision-making, may be to choose to be a little more reclusive or selective about who you include as part of your resume creation process and inner circle. This is to give yourself the best chance of coming out into full view differently from how you have censored yourself up until now and in a way that will absolutely be of significance in work that feels really you.
I cannot tell you the number of colleagues I have had that “reminded” me of how I interacted with my mother. And I cannot tell you the number of clients that have admitted the same about their mother, father or brother or sister even – transferring the desire for approval, acceptance, belonging and security from their family of origin to their current source of security – work and the people there. Work and how our psyche interacts with work en route to experiencing work as blissful seems to be designed to help you recognize the unconscious past you are reliving so that you can now consciously choose freely.
In the next article we’ll talk about the real solution to freeing yourself so can meet the real you and get on with your resume already.
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