Behind the Resume

Sunday, June 6, 2010
Whenever one month draws to a close and another one begins, lately the radio airwaves go haywire with the latest reports on the economy and unemployment. “Good news on the economy,” they say, every month. Never mind that they’ve been telling us “good news” about the economy for at least a year now.

It’s becoming apparent that at long last, the job outlook is truly improving. For the first time in long time, employees who needed financial security and as a result kept their noses at the grindstone much longer than they originally intended are saying “I quit,” and heading off to the greener pastures of other employment opportunities. But here we are, smack dab in the middle of graduation season and the outlook for this year’s batch of B.A.s and B.S.s is grimmer than ever. How can this be?

Well, when I was in college, just a few years ago, it had become clear that a B.A. was the new high school diploma. Then I graduated and the economy tanked. Entry level jobs, besides ever ubiquitous administrative assistant positions, all but disappeared and the batch of new grads I belonged to were told to stay in school. We could pay off that buttload of loans once the economy turned around. In just three years, as my class played the ultimate waiting game, we turned a master’s degree into the new high school diploma. And a wave of highly educated young adults with very little work experience emerged to give today’s college graduates a run for their entry-level jobs.

Anymore, we all look good on paper. As Lawrence Wetherhold said in Smart People “Students used to be passionate about literature. Now the only thing students are passionate about is getting A’s.” *gulp* Yep, guilty.

I had an ex-boyfriend accuse me of being a teacher’s pet. This wasn’t particularly true, but I did chose a major field that while extremely interesting to me, wasn’t exactly a great intellectual stretch. I worked hard in college, but I’d be lying if I said my GPA didn’t provide part of my motivation.

Still, I don’t have a master’s. When I met up with a friend in NYC in April, we both commiserated about feeling like the whole “getting a master’s is the greatest idea ever” mentality was a falsehood being shoved down our throats. “I want to see how far I can get with a B.A.” she said. Me too! And in order to outshine recent college graduates and as well as prove my three years of post-college life experience as more edifying than working towards a master’s degree, I had to write an impressive resume.

Of course, in a world of staunch job competition, we’ve all learned how to produce resumes that make us look intellectual, creative and well-rounded. When jobs are few and far between, and often not especially intellectually stimulating, we spend a lot of time bemoaning the time we’re losing to use our “skills.” But when we’ve never really used the skills our resumes allude to, the pervading sense of over-qualification in all of our resumes is perhaps our greatest fictional achievement.

Today’s young adults might think of themselves as over-qualified. But in truth, our resumes are just us groveling on the ground asking for a chance to prove ourselves.

But what do we do when our resumes land us the job we wanted?

I have a new job with more responsibility than I’ve ever had before and those icky needles of self-doubt poke around in my stomach. I wonder if I’m working hard enough. I wonder if my competency was just an allusion that I sold to myself a long time ago. I wonder just exactly how I’m going to prove myself.

Most of all, I wonder where my confident, adventurous resume persona went. That girl was really good at stuff.

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