SmartAssy

Archive for the ‘(un)Professionalism’ Category

A Year Wasted?

In (un)Professionalism on May 21, 2013 at 8:20 am

In a few weeks, it will be the one-year anniversary of my college graduation. Thinking about this brings a mass of complex emotions to the forefront of my mind. The cause of my complicated feelings about one year in the real world? The reality that I have yet to actually enter “the real world.”

My suspension between Animal House and Working Girl is far from straightforward. It requires just as much untangling as that ball of graduation emotions, but I promise to bare my soul if you promise to bear with me.

The seeds of this lost year were sown long before I received a B.A. I spent the better part of college preparing for law school, fully intent on sitting for the bar three years after graduating with a degree in literature. I signed up for writing-intensive classes, took the LSAT, applied to schools, and sent in my seat deposit.

At commencement, I remember my dad gently disparaging the summa cum laude on my diploma with comments about grade inflation in the humanities. That felt good. However, on that day, nothing could tarnish my happiness. I don’t think I had ever been so proud of myself in all my life. Later, my mom sent me a picture of the whole family taken after the ceremony – me in the middle, grinning euphorically in my cap and gown. It sits framed on my coffee table, a reminder of past achievements and present failures.

Though I did end up attending law school, it was only for one semester. From almost the beginning, I experienced this horrible disconnect from the subject matter, from my fellow students, and from the prospect of practicing law for the rest of my life. It seemed limiting; I felt boxed in. Many people have asked me why I withdrew, and the short answer is: it just felt wrong.

With a semesters-worth of the year accounted for, you might be wondering what I’ve been doing since January. Here’s another short answer: not much. To be fair to myself, that is an exaggeration. I have been job searching, following up on leads, and securing a few interviews. But I have not been working nearly as hard as I should be, and this makes me feel guilty as hell.

This guilt stems from luck. I’m so, so lucky in a multitude of ways, and when I’m lazy, I feel undeserving of the privilege I acquired at birth. My father is a doctor. I didn’t really understand what this meant in terms of money when I was younger. We lived in a modest home, our garage housed Hondas, and the Morris children went to public school. My parents are what you would call savers. Big time. And their kids are the primary beneficiaries of this frugality. None of us have any debt from college, and I have had enough money to live on while I job-hunt.

At long last, this guilt-ridden search has led me to an unpaid internship at an art museum. I will be starting it just shy of a year after that proudest of days, and while I’m excited for this opportunity, I wonder if I have just wasted an entire year of my life in the interim. I can’t deny the unsettling thought that I could have been in this exact place 12 months ago if only I had decided against law school. Or maybe I would even have a paying job (the idea!).

Hopefully, I will look back on this time and be able to draw some wisdom out of all the tumult. Right now, I’m at a bit of a loss; it’s too real, too raw. The disappointment in myself is still there, but I know that this can be a fresh start, a new chapter. And perhaps I will create some luck of my own, so that my kids can look back on their college graduations and feel guilty for all that I gave them.

Cathartically,

Leah Morris

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If You’re Not a Leader, You Must Be a Follower (And Other Lies)

In (un)Professionalism on April 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I harbor a bit of resentment toward the word “leadership.” In my 23 years, every application I’ve filled out, every interview I’ve sat through, every evaluation of my character has considered whether I embody the qualities of this pesky term. And I don’t. I’m not charismatic, I don’t enjoy public speaking, and I have no aspirations to command any number of people. It’s not like I don’t have other strengths. I’m good at analytical and persuasive writing, I’m personable, I work well in a team, and I have a strong work ethic.  Leadership just isn’t my thing.

Unfortunately for me, admitting this is tantamount to career suicide. To many, declaring that you’re not a leader is to suggest that you are a follower, that you are not ambitious, forward-thinking, or independent. That all you want from life is to be a cog in some machine.

This is all patently untrue.

I understand why the notion of leadership is held in such high esteem, I really do. The work that “natural born leaders” can accomplish is the stuff of dreams (or nightmares). They are our CEOs, our civil rights leaders, our politicians. I have several friends who fit into this category, and I know that they are going to do big things. Leadership is trailblazing. Leadership is innovation. Leadership is progress.

But enough with the motivational posters. Let’s talk about me some more. I refuse to believe that the world is broken up into these natural born leaders and their less worthy followers. Furthermore, it irks me that I must play into this dichotomy to get ahead in the world. I’ll never understand why an entry-level desk job requires me to enumerate my experiences as a leader to secure the position.

If you’re vetting me for the possibility of a managerial promotion in the future, I can assure you I’m all for that and perfectly capable of learning the ropes just as well as these Barack Obamas and Hil-Dogs with their “president of whatever club” credentials. Truthfully, telling people what to do will never be my favorite part of the job, but I’m certainly up to the task if it should present itself. If you’re not vetting me for anything, then I fail to see how my leadership experience will affect how I write, perform administrative duties, or talk to my coworkers by the water cooler.

I may be a lot of things, but I’m certainly not a follower. I have my own ideas, I have drive, and I can still be a trailblazer and innovator, if I so choose. Or I can be a normal human being who doesn’t overhaul social justice or own a Fortune 500 company. Leadership skills are a plus, but those of us who are more introverted are not missing a vital component of success without them. Judging by the insane emphasis placed on leadership skills from grade school onward, you’d think they rank right after food and before shelter in terms of resources necessary for human survival. Yes, everyone should “reach for the stars,” but everyone will not be reaching for the same star, and that’s okay. In the end, I think we non-leaders will do all right, despite what our fourth grade teachers told us.

With hope,

LM

Interviewing or “The Art of Losing Yourself”

In (un)Professionalism on March 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I recently had a job interview with a retail company popular on the high school circuit. It was for a merchandising position, and they wanted to be assured that I “connect” with the brand. This was definitely true in my teenage years – I begged my mom to buy me anything with their logo, just like all the other upper-middle class white girls.

However, as an adult, I find this company a bit reprehensible. Without naming names, I think they go the extra length to promote in-group/out-group dynamics in our public schools and do their part to create body image issues for tomorrow’s generation (…thank you, that one course in Women’s Studies). So yeah, you could say I don’t visit them at the mall too often these days.

Besides my personal distaste, there is also the simple fact that I am 23 years old. Of course I don’t identify with a clothing line marketed toward preppy teens. Still, my appearance at the interview may have suggested otherwise. I looked like their biggest fan, decked out from head to toe in adolescent swag.

Now, I may not have a spiritual connection with these garments, but the economy is crap, money is money, and this job would pay 20K more than any other position I’m qualified for. If there’s someone out there who would display moral virtue under these circumstances, it isn’t me. I fed the overgrown prepster sitting across the table just what he wanted to hear, hoping my acting credentials were solid enough to secure employment.

After the ass-kissing session was through, I started thinking about how strange the interview process is as a whole. We try to become independent adults during college, to stop letting other people dictate how we act or what we like. I spent my time as an undergrad growing into the kind of person who doesn’t care what other people think. Naturally, then, I was more than a little disgusted as I left my interview looking like that mean girl from 2nd period English.

As recent graduates and big kid job hunters, there’s this weird push and pull between our newly found integrity and the reality of needing to support ourselves. Nowhere is this tension more apparent than in an interview. More often than not, we bend the truth, overemphasize certain interests, and downplay others. We spend four years finding ourselves only to lose this person during an hour of artfully answering questions. Maybe someday, sincerity and job security won’t be mutually exclusive concepts in my mind. But today, I’ll just focus on that extra 20K and keep my fingers crossed for the future.

Frankly,

Leah Morris

The Honest Cover Letter

In (un)Professionalism on February 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

February 19, 2013

Dear Hiring Manager:

I am writing to apply to the entry-level position posted on your website.  Attached is my resume for you to meticulously inspect for grammar errors, inappropriate margin sizes and poor column alignment; because my incorrect use of a semicolon definitely indicates an unemployable character flaw. (And no, Microsoft grammar Nazi, I will not consider revising the semicolon usage in the last sentence; I fucking like it)

I know I am supposed to profess my undying love for your company and tell you how much I admire your noble work. I should tell you that I have dreamt of working at XYZ, Inc. since I took my first business class at Harvard. The truth is, I was a sociology major at a mediocre university and this is not my dream job.

What other bullshit am I supposed to make up? I would be a great fit for your company culture, because your company values are… checking the website… integrity, creativity and efficiency?  What a coincidence, those are my personal values too!

I have NO IDEA what “I want to do” with my life.  I know that this week, I would like to eat some food, pay my phone bill and avoid developing an ulcer thinking about my student loan bill.  So, this job will do.

Sincerely,

Jane Black

Bad Ass

Millennial

Will work for money … Get your mind out of the gutterHIRE ME!