For a long time now, I’ve had Amy Cuddy’s book Presence on my wishlist. Only this past week did I read her introduction and look up her TED talk (below), which brought together body language and power dynamics, success pathways and imposter syndrome, in a fascinating way.
Somewhere on this site (or in a notebook somewhere), I’ve written about the assumptions I make about people based on their walking habits. I see someone striding purposefully and assume they must be headed for work of purpose. I see someone hanging around a street corner and I am on my guard against them asking something of me.
Our society values people who stride purposefully. It devalues people who dawdle, or dance-walk, or dilly-dally. It’s not efficient.
But what if the dawdling produces creative solutions to personal problems? What if the dance-walking shakes loose anxiety and depression’s grip? What if dilly-dallying allows us to notice the beautiful nature around us?
It feels the same for how we approach our careers. Right now I am transitioning, on the lookout for the right blend of skills, mission, and culture that will be a good fit. I have taken the time to reflect on what I need, what I want, how I work best, what is most urgent right now, and there are still several directions I could go. (See the dilemma of the multipotentialite) I’ve gone as far as a shoe-string budget, stopgap jobs, and the-little-bookstore-that-could can take me, and I’m ready for the next stage of my work life.
But when I approach the job market with this honesty, leading with my values, I am getting a lot of No, Thank You’s and non-responses. I know I’m not playing the lip service game, but I thought I was at least playing past the automated-gatekeeper game. Is no one else risking their authentic selves in the job market?
I’ve been dawdling, and dilly-dallying, and it shows. My zigs and zags: I’ve published five novels in seven years. Made adult friends in many different circles. Cultivated self-awareness. Learned about service industry pitfalls. Run a business by the seat of my pants. Forced myself to face my assumptions and prejudices, and learned about other people’s experiences. Put myself out there in the dating arena, in the job field, on the karaoke stage, and put my heart into applying for a writer’s rite of passage: an article, a blog post, a fellowship, a story contest. Put it out there.
Do the people who walk purposefully forward their whole lives do that? Do they know they can do that? What happens when they get rejected? I rather think that many people in power right now have never looked left or right on their asphaulted road to glory. Sure, they’re posturing the confidence and power, but burying the stress and insecurity deep down. That’s not real power. That’s not influence. That’s not one of the values informing my job search.
I’d like to get the chance to use Amy Cuddy’s advice about using body language to increase our power and lower our stress in a job interview, but so far none of the professional jobs I’ve applied for have wanted interviews.
Eventually, I will find something and transition into a new form: a writer-publisher with a day job. I am excited about playing with different materials—instead of devoting time to helping others with publishing questions, spending money on a writing seminar! Or instead of walk-commuting for exercise, attending a regular dance class! And instead of paying for freelance editors, having a collaborative team of professionals to talk things over with! I feel ready to roll with the changes and appreciate the differences.
Now if only someone would pick my resume off the stack and see the way it zigs…