Things I’d Tell My Career Coach (if I had one)

One of my greater weaknesses is that I don’t know how to express my professional achievements. In some way, my cultural background might have had a little influence on this defect.

As I was growing up, me and my peers were discouraged to mention any praise towards ourselves and we were careful not to sound too boastful about our qualities; lest we wanted to be branded as airheaded kids. The expression in Tagalog literally translates as “Don’t carry your own bench” (“Huwag kang mabuhat ng sarili mong bangko”).

Apparently this saying is derived from Proverbs 27:2 which means “let not your own mouth praise you”. This passage was supposed to teach humility but I guess the elders of our yesteryears weren’t keen on differentiating between self-praise and self-esteem, both of which I believe are healthy practices, given that they are done in moderation.

If I listened to that kind of advice, then who will carry my own bench if not me? isn’t that why it is referred to as “my own”? Therefore, the responsibility clearly falls upon me. The bench of course, is a metaphor of one’s qualities and good traits and to carry it means to lift it higher from everyone else’s perspective so it could be seen and maybe even appreciated.

In my opinion, as long as truths are being told, there should be no harm in letting people know what a good-quality bench you own. Who knows? upon seeing it, others could be inspired to improve themselves and achieve the same things…

Old habits are hard to break but I believe that technique and practice could overcome any kind of quirk. I’m coming up with an actual list of achievements with which to further attract recruiters.

Another thing I’ve been bothered about is the dichotomy of Competence and Warmth. I mention this in relation to the job interviews I’ve recently had  (and did not pass- tee hee!) and which of the two aspects I tend to project more.

Ever since I read this article from the INSEAD Knowledge page, it has been months since it got me to thinking about my own “communicator profile”. Although I don’t believe in the strict definition of people’s personalities, the content of that post has helped me better understand my own self.

What has been an eye-opener is that during an experiment, the research team found out that listeners- or those on the receiving end of a communication- with a feeling of high power lean towards messages emphasizing competence and skills. While “low-power” audiences prefer those which projected warmth and established connection.

Looking back, the interviews I’ve had were for jobs which demanded high level of competence and efficiency. The interviewers were, consequently people who perceive themselves powerful. However, in all of them I gravitated towards projecting more warmth than competence.

As in the case of self-esteem, this could also be a product of the different “happy” and “warm” cultures I grew up in… which is a very safe and comfortable reaction, if you ask me. But realistically, there comes a point where the individual makes the choice of acting a certain way or another.

In my situation, it was my conscious decision to show competence and warmth at the same time. But being a naturally warm person, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up projecting more of the latter than the former.

The reason for all this is that I’ve learned to value good companionship over competence through the years. This is not to say I don’t value competence. Simply put, I find that competence is already measureable by various technical assessments. If the recruitment team wanted to test my knowledge on a subject matter, they would find ways to subtly or openly do so. The results would then speak for themselves.

On the contrary, good characteristic traits, one’s quality as a team player or an open attitude for learning…? 30 minutes is not enough to display all those! Such a feat would require a good grasp of some tough interpersonal skills. Personality tests can only reveal so much…

Before any misunderstanding takes place, let me clarify by saying that I do not consider myself able to demonstrate all those qualities in my past interviews. What I’m trying to say is right now, I’m working towards achieving it. Hence, another reason for the higher warmth-competence projection ratio. Given that the technical part of the jobs I apply for is already familiar to me, I have decided to allot more time and resources in bettering another set of abilities that could also enrich me as a person in the meantime.

I must be doing something wrong, though. Because I never got a call back from the interviewers.

Finally I would like to let you know that ever since Brexit, I’ve been itching to write to this Senior Researcher from one of my job interviews to tell her, “I told you so”. She asked me about my opinion on the EU and if I believed it would stand the various crises it is facing right now. I told her I didn’t think so.

Yes, I admit that I lacked eloquence at the moment but I would so terribly like to ask about her opinion on the EU now. Her nationality of course is a tell-tale sign that she’s pro-EU. She wasn’t convinced of my response as to why I wasn’t optimistic about it, yet when I returned the question her answer was even more vague. I was thinking: perhaps in the light of the recent events she could find better words to defend her stance.

Would you advise me against it, or should I follow my heart? (or instinct, or thirst for knowledge, or that part of me that wants to tell her “neener neener neener”)

 

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