Writing a resume has got to be one of the most hated tasks in the world. The last few times I’ve applied for a job, my husband (then boyfriend) basically had to tie me to a chair until I was done. On at least two of these occasions, I wound up getting the job, partly due to his willingness to go out and get me takeout Chinese food and crack the whip over me, literally not letting me up when I tried to procrastinate and let deadlines elapse. I have the same problem many people do, and perhaps nearly all women. We are stymied when we have to say positive things about ourselves, and we don’t feel like our skills really count for much.
This is a confidence issue. I’ve read that men will apply for a job when they have roughly 70% of the skills requested, assuming they will stretch into the role if they work hard. Meanwhile, women are hesitant to apply for jobs unless we are absolutely sure we are at least 100% qualified. I’ve known many ladies to hedge themselves, not wanting to include things they’ve done only for a short while or on only a few occasions. We’ll only include software if we could teach a class on it. We don’t include skills we use in volunteer work. We feel like we’re going to be graded. We see it as an integrity issue; applying for a job when we aren’t already expert at every one of its functions is seen as a kind of cheating.
Here’s the deal. As long as we represent ourselves accurately, it’s up to the employer whom to hire. The employer needs to hire the person who is the best fit for the job. If that’s you, and you made a very meek, falsely modest accounting of yourself, the employer will wind up hiring the second-best choice. That’s wrong. If you’re the one who is going to show up every day, work the hardest, learn the most, and do the best job, it’s not fair to pretend otherwise.
One day I marched into a temp agency and filled out their application. I had made up my mind that I was going to push harder to promote myself and negotiate for better pay. I had practiced and rehearsed and steeled myself. I said, “I can’t accept any positions that pay less than $X per hour.” The rep replied, “We don’t have any positions that pay that low.” I started at $2 an hour higher than I had dreamed possible, and had another $3/hour raise several months later. It makes me wonder what would have happened if I’d started out asking for 20% more. In my mind, I had to scramble to get hired as an office assistant, even though I typed 90+ wpm and I had a bachelor’s degree and over a decade of experience. With another decade’s perspective, I can see that I should have been aiming for office manager, or at least executive secretary. The recruitment email I get from LinkedIn has been very illuminating.
It’s not just in the business world that we tend to sell ourselves short. We settle for unfulfilling relationships with ungrateful or unkind or emotionally withholding partners who take us for granted. We take on more than our fair share of the scutwork. We don’t speak up for ourselves. We generally hold back, giving up on our music or our art. We let years go by without following our dreams. Nobody is going to come along and “discover” us and advertise our good qualities. We have to do it ourselves. It’s not selfish or narcissistic; it’s our duty to be our best selves. The world needs more people like us. Pushing the limit on our comfort zones is just the start. We need to be pushing the limit on our education and skills and contributions as well.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.