Read this!! “Women: Apply For Jobs Whether You’re ‘Qualified’ or Not”

Kristen Manes of the Little Black Book of Business nails it here with her recent post Women: Apply For Jobs Whether You’re “Qualified” or Not.

So, over the years, it’s been ingrained in women that you will only be hired for positions if you’ve proven past performance in a certain skill set.” How many times have I seen this happen, where a female friend or student will say “no, I can’t do that – I have no experience, no connections, nothing to prove I can hack it”.  Aside from competence, why is there such a need to “prove” ourselves?  I understand where this may come from – years and years of uneven playing fields mean there’s simply more struggle for women to exist.  And multiply that along various axes of discrimination (color, class, etc) and you can get caught in the track of “just” thinking.  

This phrase is the bane of my existence, as it places the onus on the woman to navigate not just her own life, but attempt to control entire cultures and systems herself, and somehow magic advantages right into her lap:  “If you just work harder, if you just put in more time, if you just wait your turn, if you just….”

How many sexist things are excused with that magic phrase “If she’d just….”

“Men don’t have this threshold. They’ve been conditioned to understand that if they have the potential – and meet only some of the criteria – they have a good shot of getting in, so they apply for the position and take their chances.”  I’d correct this to white, straight, cis men, but Manes is right on track here.  Men are expected to “go for it” while women are expected to “wait for it”.  Why is this?  Why not be cocky?  (A loaded statement!)  Why not apply anyway – if an employer is impressed enough, they should put the time into growing you.  If they reject you for not being absolutely perfect, they wouldn’t have been a good workplace anyway.

Life as a Network-Agnostic

I have a blog all about resumes, developing your career, organizing your life, and blogging itself, but I have a confession to make:   I am very skeptical about networking.

Sure, there’s a baseline of networking that I find valuable.  The general people-skills like listening to others, learnign more about their business and plans, sharing yours when asked, and passing along opportunities.  That’s ok.  But it doesn’t take long before I loose patience with networking as a process.

What are my issues?

  • This is its own job – you’re self-marketing here and you have to take the time to carefully craft every message, photo, and piece of media.  It seems like it should be faster, given our technology and 24/7 pace.  But the ease and speed with which one can communicate should make the writer slow down.  You can and should take your time when tweeting and blogging to make sure you’re representing yourself and your business or project properly.  that’s fine, but consider how much work this is.  This is why scheduling is so important.
  • You have to become a detective – It’s not enough to produce your own message and get it to others – you have to connect with them.  This means you really should investigate each invite and follow personally before you accept.  Who will you be tagged with? What are they doing?  Do you agree with it?  How will it affect your brand – or your personal integrity?
  • I doubt this actually leads to anything – This point is more about jobseeking than promoting a blog or self-owned business.  You can brand, tweak, connect, and link until the cows come home, but if the companies and industries you want to join are not hiring, they are not hiring.  And this is not your fault.  The rhetoric of networking places the onus on the “jobseeker” (not person, mind you, but “job seeker”) to “land” that job.  Sometimes there are problems bigger than you.

 

Still, we are in a networking world, and one must participate.  As skeptical as I am, I’ve tried to find some benefits to this process that make it sound more appealing and me sound less cranky.

  •  Job hunting, especially when unemployed, is incredibly isolating.  This does have a profound effect on your psychology.  It could be helpful to talk to people, even if you’re in the same boat.  Networking is, after all, talking to people.  Even though I have disparaged it from time to time as a simulacrum of activity, I have to admit it can have a therapeutic value – it gets you in public again, not hiding in shame.
  • You will practice professional skills.  If you’re new to working or restarting a career, this is a great way to practice, practice, practice your skill sets.  And I don’t mean just what buzzwords are popular today.  I’m talking about basic things like handshakes, eye contact, body language, listening, and actual communicating beyond pitching.
  • You can learn new skills entirely.  Say you’re new to social media.  You’re pretty much obligated to form some manner of internet presence when job-hunting or working your network for other reasons.  You’ll learn quite a bit of technical knowledge (how to post, security settings, and so on) as well as social knowledge (how to package and deliver your message, learning your audiences’ expectations).  These are yet more things to add to your resume or profile.  This whole process, when approached with an open mind, is very educational.
  • It makes you keep a routine.  Networking behaviors give you “homework” – you create things you have to do, which can be a grounding source of routine if you’re unmoored in your professional life.

Wordplay I: Verb! That’s What’s Happening!

 

Ok, this is adorable, and very useful.  Our generation and its younger cohorts may not be familiar with Schoolhouse Rock, but we all should be.  In the 70s-early 80s ABC ran a show called “Schoolhouse Rock” between cartoons on Saturday mornings.  These were cute animated shorts with really catchy music that demonstrated grammar, science, American history, and civics.  This one here is all about verbs, the action words of the English language.  I’ll put this first to refresh everyone on the usefulness of verbs, and a reminder to have fun:

 

OK, while you’re still singing “verb!  that’s what’s happening!”, I want to ask you a question you may not get that much.  How interesting is your resume to read?  I’m not talking about the fascinating jobs you’ve had, but instead the style.  Are you using powerful, direct language?

It’s true that your resume will be read very quickly.  You still have to carefully write and revise this document, but it may only have a few seconds under a recruiter’s eyes.  How can you sell yourself that fast, especially when the sum total of your experience and abilities are reduced to a resume and letter?

Verbs!  Use your action words!

However, as useful as these words are, there is no magic formula.  There is no one combination of really popular verbs that will guarantee you an interview.  This is something that requires constant practice and refining.  So please avoid cliches: we all know the jokes about synergizing your leveraging potential.  Don’t do that.  Use your verbs to connote action, but make sure you make sense!  Above all, be concrete, be objective, and be succinct.

  • Be concrete

Look at your last job.  Did you do anything?  Say it.  You developed lesson plans, you tested products with focus groups, you compiled reports, you coded software for XYZ.  The fact that you did things is important, but so is how you say it.  Putting the action words first saves time, and gives the recruiter a better idea of your abilities.

Look at the job posting.  What verbs are they using?  Use those in your resume.  If they are looking for a lot of community outreach, choose verbs that highlight your people skills and communication.  Page 14 in this wonderful booklet from Rutgers University Career Services has a list of verbs in case you’re stuck.

  • Be succinct

No one, especially a busy hiring team or manager, wants to read what texts I assigned to my students in 2012, and why I chose those essays, and what writing behaviors I was trying to make them practice, and how the weather was, and what color sweater I was wearing and…and…and…

See what I mean?  You don’t even want to read that and you’re here on this blog by choice!  Wouldn’t you rather read that I:

Developed unique lesson plans for first year students, focusing on structure and grammar.

Boom.  Done.  The fictional manager gets the idea that I can be creative and practical, and work with a higher goal in mind (developing students).  I’ve bolded those words only for you here – don’t do that on your resume.

  • Be objective

You are fabulous, worthwhile, and an awesome person, and I’m sure you’ll make a great employee.  You are knowledgeable, capable, dynamic, and generally helpful.  But there’s no room for that in your resume.  You have to trust that you experience and your skill set will speak for you.  That can be scary, but you have to do it.

Your new potential boss doesn’t need to read about how loved you were at your previous job, or how much you enjoyed it.  Tell them what you did, how you did it, and make sure they know how you can do it for them, too.  It’s all about what you can bring to the new position, not you personally.