If you sometimes worry that you look too civilized at your job interviews you are probably right. Professional ability in many parts of the world nowadays is measured with one’s levels of aggressiveness and despair. You have to bark and bite, you have to be ruthless. Your jaws have to drip blood.
An interesting link on LinkedIn the other day caught my eye. It was titled “Why are women reluctant to enter the Labor Force?” The article was more a platform to encourage debate and opinion sharing, and it posed questions rather than offered answers. The general assumption was that in the recession world demoralized and mainly young women are afraid to enter the labor force.
My problem with this article begins in the title. Women, as well as men, are not reluctant to enter the Labor Force. The Labor Force is reluctant to hire them. Women don’t “fear disappointment” as the article presumes. They are already disappointed after years of fruitless job searching. True, the entries in the Labor Force have significantly decreased. The HR cats can wave away ironically to the hundreds of disillusioned job seekers on the other side of the shore.
From all the people I know, and not including of course all those people who got jobs through personal connections (and hardly ever admit it), it is the ones that appear hungry, assertive go-getters that have more chance of landing a job than the rest. In fact being “too civilized”, respectful of others and even pleasant to be around will not work at your favor.
Like my friend who slaved away for 6 months in an unpaid internship, and after being praised numerous times for her work and was even promised a full time paid job, was shown the door in favor of someone else. I can’t help thinking that it was my friend’s modest and laid back character and not her surely excellent work, intelligence and integrity that had something to do with it.
Which leads me to this: The problem of leadership skills as a cultural stereotype. Leadership is culturally seen as a skill related more to aggression, arrogance, pathological self-bragging and inflating one’s skills, than respecting and inspiring others, as well as comprehending the unique skills of every person and putting them in work.
Of course not all places in the world are the same. Here in Sweden for example I am not that sure that aggression and self-assertiveness will get you very far. Instead, as one HR expert with touching Scandinavian sincerity suggested: “Put a photo on your CV. HR In Sweden is often unprepared to see a black or Asian person entering the room”.
Thankfully my yellow tone skin never scared any Swede. It was rather my lack of Swedish language skills that did.
I will hold on to this thought dearly.