Thursday, March 1, 2012

"You aren't who we were expecting..."

A few too many times recently, I've gotten the above comment "You aren't who I expected" when I meet people in a professional context.  I could diatribe that being a young-(ish) female scientist puts me in the way of all kinds of bias and discrimination.  But given that presenting myself too young or girly is actually something I've worked really hard to scrub from my professional communications and presentation, that's not exactly what that comment means.  I may have bleached all the personality out of my applications- possibly to my detriment.

I do a lot of informational interviews- which usually means I find via a contact someone who might be willing to talk with me, have a couple emails back and forth and meet in person.  There is always that hesitation about approaching a stranger, but I had someone tell me recently they just assumed "Dr. Sandlin" would have more grey hair.  Plenty of folks that I meet face to face tell me I am very personable, not at all like the stereotype of a scientist that they imagine.  Or that someone with my passion for science shouldn't be unemployed.  It's flattering, but it does make me wonder- am I doing something wrong?  Have I drained the passion and personality away from my CV and resume in an effort to look like a moldable, blank canvas of a candidate?  Would I have a job if I led the professional summary on my resume stated "Ph.D. who is much better with people then you would think, actually likes talking and communicating and really gets jazzed up about exciting science"?

I doubt it, but I have decided to give a once over to my professional documents again.  I have a very plain-Jane business card with my contact info- which I like.  I have a fairly bleached out photo of myself on LinkedIn, which I need to update to something less pasty.  And I might retool the language there and on my resume to be a bit more honest about where my passion is.  I already don't have my dream job, but I work enough to pay my bills.  That should give me the leverage to really focus on just those pie in the sky opportunities- I don't need to be that blank canvas of an applicant anymore.  I can focus on being the best candidate for only the types of jobs I would LOVE to do.

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