All of this week, I have been applying for jobs. In academia, it’s all about the curriculum vitae, and in the rest of the world it’s more about the cover letter and resume. Therefore, I’ve had to retool my job application material. Sometimes that means turning my CV into a resume or retooling my CV for a specific job. The same goes for the cover letter. As a marketing friend of mine would say, I’m having to brand myself and create an image of not just who I am, but I also have to create an image, while being completely honest, of the person that someone will want to hire. This takes a lot of self searching on my part. I’m having to examine who I am and what direction I want my life to go.
When you look at yourself in a mirror, what you see depends on the quality of that mirror. Similarly, our mental images of ourselves help determine how we react to daily highs and lows of life. If we think of ourselves as worthwhile and valued, that quality will come across to other people. Molded by both internal and external forces, our self-image makes a huge difference in how we feel and act. Self-image is both a conscious and subconscious way of seeing ourselves. It is the emotional judgment we make about our self-worth. We form our self-image through interaction with others, taking into account their reactions to us and the ways they categorize us. Their responses are affected by their own distortions in worldview, however, so we don’t always get an accurate reflection of ourselves.
In the job search process, I’ve had to think a lot about how I would describe myself to a stranger. My answer largely depends on my mental image of myself. There is a problem with this. First, I think about how I am a very good historian and teacher. I know my material, and I know how to present it in an interesting way. (If I didn’t have a track record of this, would you still be reading this blog?). This is the side of me that I have to present to a potential employer.
However, the loss of my job has greatly damaged my self confidence. If I were so good, then why did the school decide not to renew my contract? From talking to several people, I’m pretty sure I know why, but the question is: why me? There were some teachers who constantly were stirring up trouble, and teachers who barely taught at all, in fact were barely in their classroom. I was always in my classroom, and I refused to get involved in the petty bickering. Yet, I lost my job. This does not help ones self confidence. However, I have to find my self confidence when applying for jobs.
We can’t help but compare ourselves with others, much as we might try not to. We usually compare ourselves against the expectations of friends and family. Often society gives us roles and expectations, such as having a successful career or being a good husband. This contributes to how we see ourselves. This becomes even more complicated as a closeted gay man. We have ways that we are expected to be perceived. We assess ourselves continually.
A positive self-image leads to confidence and self-acceptance. A negative self-image leads to a sense of inferiority and even depression. Those who develop a mature and realistic self-image will not come undone by every critical comment. This is especially difficult when you’re on a job hunt. Some jobs, you may know are long shots; others, you think should be a sure thing (or at least you should warrant an interview). Then you submit application after application and you get rejection after rejection, or even worse, silence. This job hunt has just begun, and I thank all of you for your suggestions. However, I’ve been on the job hunt for a permanent position in higher education for nearly seven years, so the job hunt isn’t something new. This time though, I don’t have the luxury of having a job while applying for positions that I find ideal. I’m branching out and looking at non-teaching positions, and the thing is, this may have been what I’ve needed to do all along.
I’m taking a good look at myself, and doing my best to remain positive about what I see. Trust me, it’s not always easy at times to be optimistic, and I have had a fair number of pessimistic moments this week. I will hold my head up high and continue the search.