They say companies don’t want to hire people who are unemployed. They say that it’s harder to find work if you are over 45, female, a recent college graduate, an auto worker, from the construction industry, or a single dad. Then they say that lying on your resume will get you disqualified.
Hmmm… They sure say a lot of stuff, don’t they?
In our culture, the whole process of getting a job is more taboo than the sorts of steamy sex you can see on cable in the evening. It’s more okay to talk about the ways in which we are broken or are victims than it is to discuss the real challenges of finding work. From every corner comes the message that you should be ashamed if you are unemployed, underemployed or actively looking for work.
If you’re in the market for a job, the competing ideas create a real box. Don’t let them know you are unemployed, but don’t lie on your job application. Hide your identity and preferences in order to avoid discrimination, but never, ever misrepresent yourself.
When you need the work and fall into one of these categories, it’s easy to be confused and bewildered. Fear, the great destroyer of integrity, moves right into your heart during bouts of economic transition. It’s natural to yield to the temptation to lie and pretend.
Don’t give in to it.
Fear and dishonesty are symptoms of a lack of self-confidence. If you are trying to pretend you are someone or something other than who you are, people will be able to tell. Human beings are amazing in their ability to sniff out desperation.
Low self-confidence snowballs. Every little shortcut you take on the way to being something you’re not results in longer pauses in your conversations, stiffer responses to interview questions, inability to maintain eye contact and a sort of tinny sound when you speak. People who are hiding something (and that’s what it feels like once you start lying about who you are) always sound that way.
The real problem is that dishonesty is a slippery slope. Once lying becomes okay, there’s no telling where it stops. The best job hunting advice anyone can give you is “always be honest”.
So, what do you do if you really believe that you are a member of a class of people who are being discriminated against?
- First of all, don’t knuckle under. Be who you are and be proud of it. Remember Popeye the Sailor who famously said, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam”.
- Second, like all objects of discrimination, you are going to have to work harder than the others. I know, I know, it’s not fair. So what? You are just going to have to get used to it.
- Third, stop acting like you are entitled to a job. It may feel like you are being left out of all the fun. It usually looks like you are whining. Saying that you are being discriminated against (or even feeling that way) never comes across in a useful way. Just stop it. Get therapy if you have to.
- Fourth, know what you are good at, what you are bad at, and what you are learning. Those are the stories that employers want to hear. Clear self perception and a demonstrated willingness to learn are signs of enterprise and the willingness to work hard. Employers seek these things.
- Finally, get clear with yourself that nothing in the employment world is worth lying about.
The economy is changing. Where we used to have the luxury of deriving our self concept from our vocation, now we have to find it in our lives. In the end, we are responsible for building our own self esteem. It begins by being up front about what and who we are.