Thursday, September 21, 2006

Female Assertiveness

So, I'm a big proponent of women being gutsy. But I'm also anti-arrogance. And the professional interview (not to mention the thank-you note) feels like a big exercise in harping on how great I am.

What was my greatest success? --Oh, I ran a campus wide election and I had no idea how to do it at the start. It went well. I'm brilliant. A genius. How would I feel if I got a nasty phone call from Jane Q. Public? --I'd handle myself with a great deal of professionalism, diplomacy, courtesy. I would offer them the ear of my supervisor so that they might feel "heard." Would this be a blow to my ego--to have someone ask to speak to my super? --Well, hrrmm, it's never happened before, but no, of course not. I'm a professional. How have I improved a work situation? Well, hmm, I revamped a company's communiques to proofreaders: After my imput, the production editor informed me they would be making changes. Again: Genius.

I'm just a person who's as flawed as the next one, but you're not allowed to let that show in an interview. It's all fake and shiny and they want you to be brilliant and charming and smart and ethical (or have no ethics). Any small accomplishment must be spun into something mentionable and praiseworthy. Maybe the interview really is all about being assertive and selling yourself, and it doesn't have to be fake. But I left there worried they think I'm full of myself. Is it for lack of assertive women being a social norm that I call assertiveness arrogance, that I call confidence pride?

"You wouldn't describe me as arrogant, would you?" I plead with Mark after the interview.

"No," he laughs. The laugh helps. I know he means it.

But I still feel so full of shit.

And then I was faced with an additional exercise in self-praise: I wrote the thank-you note.


ph0rman said...

While I relate (I don't like feeling like a big brag), what I came to realize is that no one else is going to tell them how great you are - it's something you have to do.

H.W. said...

Yeah, it does seem a necessary evil.

Have you ever written a thank-you note after an interview?