What do you say if someone asked you about yourself?
We’ve been through the drill in school – wait for your turn, think of something witty but not over-the-top, stand up in front of a group of strangers, deliver it.
As we go into higher education or into the working world, we meet people who are less like us – in terms of age, education background, or personality – and the pressure to impress can get #real.
To introduce ourselves, most of us might bring up our work – what we’re studying or do for a living – it comes quite instinctively as a normal (and effective!) act of self-disclosure to new acquaintances. It’s personal but not too personal.
But whenever our work comes up in a conversation, it’s hard to avoid the comparison game, isn’t it?
Sometimes you hear it in the chorus that the impressed group makes when they hear a job title that commands admiration, “Wah, doctor ah!”
Other times you hear it in the falling intonation from your new friend who hasn’t even heard of your company – “Oh…”
Work has been as inextricably tied to our identity as our names are; it’s what we tell people about ourselves. And more than we might realise, it has become what we feel makes us valuable and useful.
I had a fleeting thought one day: What if all my certificates and achievements over the years become nullified?
There will be a considerable amount of unraveling that’ll take place if my qualifications were no longer valid. All our hard work down the drain aside, are we still who we think we are?
For some of us, that thought is frightening. Perhaps because we’ve more to lose, perhaps because we’ve staked so much of our worth on our achievements.
When I look at my own résumé, it doesn’t seem to be much, especially when I compare myself to my peers who have not just studied at great universities abroad, but also excelled in their side pursuits.
But then I recognise that it is much in its own way.
While it may not win the jostle for a coveted job at a big firm, my résumé is a covert testimony.
If we know where to look, we can find gold – not just in our achievements, but in our personal triumphs too.
In the empty spaces between lines of black Helvetica, in the unwritten – lie the stories of our lives. We’ve gone through so much as people on a journey and we sometimes overlook the precious, personal details. Only we know the unwritten things.
Only I know the lengths of which my mother went to ensure my education wasn’t disrupted by changes in the family. Only I know the emotional struggle I experienced trying to fit in at school. Only I know that it is by sheer grace that I have come so far.
And these things don’t always show on the sheets of paper on which we summarise our “professional lives”.
“We live in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life.” (David Brooks, author and New York Times columnist)
Résumés are created for scrutiny – often quite ruthlessly– but if we know where to look, we can find gold – not just in our achievements, but in our personal triumphs too. And if we miss those things, we risk placing all our worth in our achievements.
Take stock! Our personal growth cultivates in us something that cannot be nullified – it’s our inner life. Don’t neglect the seemingly uninspiring and unique details of your life, they may not be remarkable to the #haters, but they count for more than words can say.
They count towards a story that is yours, written by the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:6).
It may take you some time to see the greatness in you, but it’s there. So don’t stop smoothing out the rough edges and allowing yourself to be moulded into the person God made you to be (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So, yes, I am who my résumé says I am – and a whole lot more too.