The essence of Brené Brown’s new book Braving the Wilderness lies in these words from an 8th grader:
“If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.”
Where do I belong?
I have struggled with this question many times while living overseas. Belonging will become the major theme of my book as I rewrite. I know that now. I am grateful to Brown for pointing down the road that only I can travel.
For months, as I worked and overworked my résumé, I hated my summary. I couldn’t understand why. It said the things I was supposed to say: 10+ years blah, blah. Fortune 500 yadda yadda.
Three days ago, when I reopened my résumé for the first time in weeks, I hated it. Still.
So I did the thing I learned to do—the thing I was taught to do at Anita’s Attic—the only refuge I had in the storm of writerly indecision and panic. I reached for my trusty notebook. But, alas! I had left it upstairs! So instead I reached for the closest piece of paper I could find: the flyer for a talk on the Indian electoral quota system. I flipped the flyer over and wrote—in screaming purple.
I asked myself tough questions. Gradually, the answers started to flow. I wrote in first person—a person with whom I still experience great discomfort. I call it the “fucking first person.” No, really. I do. Despite this distaste, however, the first person remains my power person, my power space. I know that now.
After several false starts and half-starts, I finally wrote:
“I tell stories. Human stories, brand stories.”
I wrote a lot words that day. Some of those words made their way into my summary. I hit on the idea to tell my story in less than three lines in the first person. Twitter pro that I am, this task should have been easy. But, it wasn’t. I kept second-guessing myself. Should I get someone else to read it? My frequent refrain is that even editors need editors. I stared at the computer and thought, “No. You’ve been second-guessing yourself too much, and every time your gut has been right all along. You need to go with this. Do. This.”
I focused on the gifts I bring to the corporate table. I mentioned “delivering high-quality branded content on time and on message.” Standard corporate newspeak. But, then I added a softer touch. I wrote, “I listen to my design team.” The truth is that I am not always a great listener, but I do listen to my designers. I marvel at them. I love them and the world they show me that I can’t see.
Every sentence I wrote has a deeper story for me to tell an interviewer. That’s my job. Telling stories, writing stories, honing stories.
Maybe this approach is unorthodox. Maybe a recruiter will think I’m nuts, especially after they see the featured photo on this post. Both those statements are probably true. But I don’t care.
Or, rather, I do care. I care enough about me to make myself vulnerable, to take a risk. For as Brown says elsewhere in her book, “No vulnerability, no courage.”
In the last chapter, Brown talks about having a strong back, soft front, and wild heart. My courage helps me create a strong back. A back that gives me strength to meet the storm. I have the skills. I am capable. But, after five years on a career hiatus, I find myself needing to show that time was well spent. I volunteered. I traveled. I edited a bestseller. I wrote a book. I lived. Perhaps I wasn’t living in Brown’s wilderness yet, but I was on my journey toward that refuge where my wild heart could rest.
To find the place where I belong, I need to have a soft front to complement that strong back. My new professional profile is my soft front. The right employer will get it. They will get me, and I will get them. For that’s true belonging.
If you’re wondering about the final version of my résumé, you can view it on LinkedIn.
P.S. About that feature photo…
Admit it. This is what you think I do. But, don’t worry. I only eat writers’ brains at Halloween.