One song in particular has been helpful to me in recent years is Christina Aguilera’s Soar. My favourite line is the title of this column: We start to look outside ourselves for acceptance and approval. A lot gets said about finding your own path through life but I continually come across people who will say this and then add excessive caveats. Certain things, they will argue, are not for the likes of them. While examples range from the big (“Oh I could never move to another country”) to the small (“I wish I could get away with wearing dresses every day”) the explanation is the same. How we see ourselves is key and many of us have a tendency to typecast ourselves negatively. Then, from our own self-inflicted limited life we look outwards to others for our validation.
I am as guilty of validation whorery as the next person; I can be needy and struggle when I feel invisible. I like positive attention and spend more time than I am proud of questing for it. Yet much as I am subject to this common affliction, I am a resilient character and refuse to surrender the control of my fate to others. Not everything will go the way I might wish but I am never a passenger in my life, I am always always (at least these days – there is a murky past that led to this attitude as you might expect) firmly in the driving seat. The views and opinions of others matter hugely but that is merely information to take on board. It doesn’t matter who that person is, they can never know my full story because each of us is far too complex to be completely understood by a single person. While we may tap into a song that thousands of others will also tap into, we all have differing playlists.
In January I was applying for the job I currently have and needed a soapbox from which to process my thoughts. I wrote a column on Advertising, PR and Marketing. Similarly I am once again thinking about my career and it would be all too easy to allow myself to feel that my fate lies in the hands of others. When you have landed the job that you wanted, statements such as the one repeated below can sound sensibly self-evident but when you are unsuccessful they can seem vague and superficial.
Important as it is to make a personal impression, the ability to demonstrate a skill set that will help them meet their objectives is imperative. Just as the social marketer looks down the line of who they know to see who they can reach, the successful interviewee is the one that best identifies the needs of their potential employer and can best advertise themselves as the package to meet those needs.
I stand by the above words. This column is an extension of those ideas rather than a contradiction. While the act of applying for a job may appear to be the ultimate in looking outside yourself for acceptance and approval, I feel there is an interpretation that allows you to maintain your role as driver and not see you relegated to being a passenger. It is important to genuinely believe that the job application process is a reciprocal one.
In applying for a job you are starting an evaluation of your potential future role as one that might be worthy of your time. The money is a bonus to my mind; what I’m really concerned with is what I’ll get out of all those hours that could be spent in other ways. Rather than look out from a self-inflicted limited life for a role that could validate me, I’m looking out from a life that is entirely of my own making for a role that could interest and fulfil me (and pay the bills obviously). I am not and will never be my job title.
Part of that evaluation process is whether or not you get an interview in the first place, how the interview goes and whether you get the job. The platitude of ‘if you didn’t get it, then it clearly wasn’t right for you’ is on the right path. As teenagers we often retort upon being dumped that we were about to dump the other person anyway (funny how as adults it’s the other way around) and it is of course an immature response but I have faith in my abilities and part of my evaluation of a role is looking to my potential future employer. I am a rising star and it matters that they can recognise my potential and encourage me to shine. While of course an important way an employer could demonstrate that would be to hire me, this is about qualifying them as a decision maker rather than sounding like an inverted Groucho Marx and saying I wouldn’t want to work for someone that wouldn’t give me a job.
I'm not looking outside myself for acceptance and approval. Are you?