by Suvi Rivinoja
Last year I attended a workshop offered by the UM Career Services. It was designed to help me to pinpoint my biggest assets as an employee – put differently, to choose the labels and ribbons to wear that would make me the most irresistible package in the labor market.
After three hours of various psychological tests, I was confronted with a word that was told to be my “core asset” in work life: Sensitivity.
So there I was, Miss Sensitive, surrounded by Miss Creativity, Miss Effectiveness and two Mister Natural Leaders, asking myself whether I should go and sign up for the first manned mission to Mars, since clearly this was not my planet. In my mind I began to formulate future job applications: “An inexperienced-yet-sensitive journalist looking for a position as your paper’s sharpest watchdog! Let me dip my pen in my endless fountain of tears and bring you the biggest scoops!” My package was starting to look pretty last season, with orange -70% stickers slapped all over it.
Every-day life is filled with situations where we need to repeatedly reinvent ourselves. Like chameleons, we are taught to change our color according to the wallpaper of any given room. The major struggle happens between two different worlds with their separate sets of expectations: the private and the public. In private, we don’t need to be constantly contemplating our value, whereas in public, our worth is determined by how much the Trumps of the world are willing to pay for us.
Some people – including yours truly – have dominating characteristics that are just majorly unsexy from the employer’s perspective. Idealists, daydreamers, weepers, narcoleptics, porn-addicts, slow-witted or shy ones: you are soft balls trying to work your way into steely squares. You are not missed at any business luncheons or pinstripe golf clubs. In no television court drama have I seen a boss telling his secretary to get that “eternally PMSing lawyer with social skills of an owl and eating habits of a chimp” on the phone. It always has to be “the shark on the speed-dial”, Lucy Liu with a wit faster than a whip and a natural charisma of a Greek goddess.
Does Miss Sensitive stand a chance on Planet Earth? I’d definitely like to think so. It depends on whether she can stop trying to change her color according to those whose colors don’t seem to fit her.