17 August 2010

Life is an application

Even William of Orange had to apply for jobs.
For years, one of the most important file folders on my computer has been called "Application Hell." Every resume, cover letter, portfolio, and list of recommenders I have sent to grad schools and employers for most of the past decade is in there (as well as some college application essays, just for the hell of it).

Applying for things is hateful. Nearly everyone hates being a salesman, and even practiced salesmen hate selling themselves. Yet the nature of modern life is that salesmanship is an essential skill. At the moment, I am collecting emails from people interested in taking a room in the house I share, and it is clear that they are treating the process for what it really is: an application-and-interview process no less irritating or important than a job search.

Why do we hate talking about ourselves? Even my most successful friends loathe writing cover letters or resumes. More to the point, even my friends who enjoy talking about themselves in any other context will postpone writing applications until the last possible moment, and when they do produce one it will be listless and ashamed.

There are three strategies to cope with applications. The first is to be a narcissistic sociopath:

But that path has some drawbacks.

The second is to have someone else write your application. (I know at least one professor who took this route; it worked not least because the spouse who wrote the tenure packet was an academic as well.) When this works, it works great, but it requires the other person to know you well and also to know how to handle applications--which is a rare combination.

The third is to grit your teeth and do it. Grit your teeth, not gnash them, because there is no use raging, raging against the writing of the C.V. It is trivially easy to spend more time complaining about the unfairness of a universe that requires such a noisy filter for matching people with jobs, roommates, and Match.com hookups than actually writing an application.

The good news is that it gets easier to write these applications with time, if for no other reason than that you have a well-stocked "Application Hell" folder of your own. The bad news is that it never feels any easier.

No comments:

Post a Comment