I know I won’t be saying anything earth-shattering by admitting that job applications suck. The whole process is extremely anxiety-producing.
If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I recently made a big decision. I’m moving to Minneapolis! This, of course, (if you’ve really been following along), is not the first time I’ve made an I-want-to-move-across-the-country type of decision. It’s remembering the last time, in fact, that is the source of a lot of my anxiety this time.
The first step, after picking the place I wanted to move to, of course, is finding employment in said place. Which brings me to job applications.
Like I said, this is probably nothing new to anyone. I could go on and on about the innumerable frustrations of the process, both large and small. From writing resumes to writing cover letters to actually having to search for jobs to write resumes and cover letters for. I don’t know about you, but the very idea of it usually sends my brain running to literally anything else to occupy it.
Last week, however, I did apply for a job, and, miraculously enough, I didn’t hate the process. The job itself wasn’t what did it for me, though. I was certainly interested in it, and, God-willing, if I get it, I think I could really enjoy it. But I had a bit of an epiphany writing the cover letter.
Now, it may or not surprise you to find out that I, a writer, have difficulty with certain kinds of writing. Namely, writing about myself.
Let me stop you right now and say this is not humility. I wish it were, sometimes. No, this is straight-up lack of self-confidence. I have never been “good” at writing cover letters or resumes. Last year, I had to a write an author bio for a book I wrote, and I thought I was going to die.
Needless to say, this is my least favorite part of an already agonizing process. Whenever I do get around to actually writing a cover letter, I feel that I am simultaneously exaggerating my accomplishments and not talking about them enough. That I am somehow both a fraud and a coward. This, of course, is how Impostor Syndrome works.
But last week, something happened. I had a realization that changed my outlook on the whole process. It started when I was writing my resume, another thing I do not look forward to. I was struggling, as I always do, with what I should leave in, what I should leave out, and how in the world anyone was going to look at it and think I was remotely hire-able.
But then my sister gave me an idea. According to her, rather than lead with my job experience, I should lead with my actual experience. Rather than list, up top, all the places that have previously paid me to do work for them, I should list out all the skills I have: what I learned from those jobs and what I brought to each of them.
She reminded me that, in the end, people aren’t really going to hire my job experience; they’re going to hire Me.
This idea changed my perspective on the process, and, with it, I was able to completely rewrite my resume to the point where I was actually impressed by it. More than that, though, it helped me write a cover letter that I was actually impressed by.
The job I applied for is in editing, something I have experience in, but, until recently, I might not have had the courage to apply for. Now, though, I had a resume that actually illustrated that experience, but when it came to writing the cover letter I found myself back in the same mode of thought that always gives me anxiety when applying for jobs: trying to impress people.
Because that’s it. That’s the thing about the job application process that turns us from normal people into anxious, little rabbits. We’re trying to impress people, trying to convince them that we’re worth their time and money. So we talk about how we have a “great work ethic” and we’re a “fast learner” and we lie and say we totally know what we’ll be doing in five years.
And I realized that’s what I was doing. Here I was applying for a job I was actually interested in, and I felt like a recent grad trying to make up for their lack of job experience by explaining how they have “life experience”. Even I wasn’t impressed by the cover letter.
So I deleted it. It felt good, because I realized none of what I was saying felt authentic to me. Then I thought about my resume, and I was reminded of something Kayla Hollatz said in one of her vision boarding prompts about designing services for your client work. In the end, we shouldn’t think about what we can do for a client, what we are offering them as a service, but what we are offering them as people. Because that, more than anything, is what’s going to make them say “yes” and keep them coming back.
I realized, like my resume, what I was offering this job wasn’t experience or even knowledge, it was me. My experience, yes, and my knowledge, but my passion, too. So, instead of writing a blithely worded letter about how good an employee I am, instead I wrote an essay on what I thought about editing, how important it was to me as a writer and a creative, and how much I enjoyed doing it for people.
It was the wildest thing I’ve ever done in a job application, but it felt so authentically me that I could not help but submit it.
Now’s the part where I tell you I got a call the next day and was offered the job instantly because, after reading my application, the company knew they’d be stupid not to snatch me up before someone else did.
No. That’s now how it works. Because the other frustrating thing about the job application process is the waiting. In the end, though, this isn’t a story about how I got a job by being unapologetically me; this is a story about how I learned to be myself and not apologize for it. Because that’s the thing that is going to get me through this process.
I might get this job. I might not. I might find one better. I might have to settle for one that doesn’t move me as much. That’s the process. But the point is that I will still be me at the end of it. I will still me regardless of what job I get. And if I can’t be me and get the job, then I don’t want the job. So I better learn how to be me because that’s what I want to offer people.
Because that’s what they’re getting.