[Author's note: I wrote this in a moment of frustration last semester. I spent the first month of my summer break professionally networking and found that it isn't as black and white as I first thought it was. That said, I think that the professional world-gothic wonderland dichotomy is something that many student readers of this blog will experience, especially as they get closer to graduation. Here is a look at the choices I found myself facing as I wrote my resume. Also, I'd be remiss not to mention that Kyle Knight (Trinity '08/Duke LGBT Network President/published Fulbright Scholar) and Todd Sears (Trinity '98/Duke LGBT Network board member) wrote an especially relevant column in last week's Chronicle.]
"Welcome to the real world," she said to me, condescendingly, "take a seat, take your life, plot it out in black and white"...They love to tell you stay inside the lines, that something's better on the other side...I wanna run through the halls of my high school, I wanna scream at the top of my lungs, I just found out there's no such thing as the real world, just a lie you got to rise above...I just can't wait til my 10 year reunion, I'm gonna bust down the double doors, and when I stand on these tables before you, you will know what all this time was for." ~John Mayer
At Duke, I surround myself with affirming, passionate, and eccentric individuals. Sure, we’re in the minority, but with the sheer number of absolutely amazing individuals in my life, I hardly feel that way anymore. In my communities, being a member of the LGBTQA community and identifying as a feminist are points of pride. Unfortunately, I have to start thinking about what exists outside of our gothic wonderland—I have to make myself marketable to future employers. And, depending on the type of job I’m looking for, those aren’t necessarily the keywords I should use to describe myself.
I don’t personally identify with a label like lesbian, gay, bi, trans or queer, but being a member of the LGBTQA community and as of recently, openly questioning, still has repercussions. I don’t ever want to have to feel like I have to choose between what I believe in (which is the foundation of my involvement in the Community, but more on that in a future post), who my friends are (who I love! Sound familiar?), and “making something of myself.” And yet, here I am, being forced to choose.
If I’m applying for a job in the progressive nonprofit world, I’m all set. They love feminists and queers. But if I’m applying for something else, something more corporate and capitalistic, I run into this problem of what to include on a resume and cover letter and what to “hide” or at least not flaunt.
I’m proud to be a member of the LGBTQA community and a feminist. I’m proud to be BDU Blog Editor. I’m proud to have been on the review boards for WOMYN Magazine and Unzipped (Duke’s Journal for Gender and Sexuality). I’m proud to write for Develle Dish and live in Women’s Housing. And damn it, I’m proud as hell to be fighting for equality and dignity for all people.
Really, it comes back to a fundamental question I’ve always wondered as an activist: should I work within the system, or outside of it?
It is better for me to submit a resume which makes it clear that I’m actively involved with the LGBTQA and feminist communities, maybe get over looked because I might be deemed ‘militant,’ but hopefully end up with something in the end, even if it wasn’t my first choice or the most lucrative or I don’t have as many options? I'd be standing up for my idealist principles, after all.
Or is it better for me to present myself in a way which is acceptable to those who are going to be hiring me, get my first choice job/have a lot of job options, gain a reputation, and then break out my rainbow superhero cape and feminazi bullhorn? Maybe that'd even make more progress, because I'd be in an environment where maybe feminism and lgbtqa activism wasn't the norm? But do I even want to work somewhere where that isn't the norm?
And if I take out my commitment to the LGBTQA and feminist communities, what do I have to even put on my resume? “This is Risa Isard…she spent four years attending classes and getting pretty good grades.”
Or maybe, I’m not giving the corporate world enough credit? Maybe they’d totally LOVE to hire “Risa Isard, unapologetic activist for all things gay and feminist!”
All I gotta say is…I hope they don’t google me (which they will), find this blog post (which they will, cause BDU Blog is awesome at search engine optimization), realize that my resume is only half the story (still to be determined), and end up judging me for the half I’ve left off, anyways. ‘Cause that’d sure be a waste of trying to present myself in a way that isn’t threatening to the status quo.