I attended a careers fair recently, and during one of the panels the main pieces of advice they gave us was: BE YOU.
And it got me thinking. What the hell does that even mean? Should I walk into an interview and tell them about my daddy issues? I’m not sure how or why that would get me employed, but it does in fact make me who I am. So I should let the tears flow, right?
The truth is: I don’t know how you’re supposed to market internal things.
For example, I think too much about television. It’s borderline obsessive. And I’m not exaggerating. I have stills and sound bites that play over and over in my head. Betty shooting at the birds in Mad Men. Don throwing money at Peggy in Mad Men. Joan finding Lane Pryce’s body in Mad Men. Most of Mad Men, actually. Do I put that on my CV? Or do I wait till the interviewer asks me about myself to say ‘The thing that made Don and Peggy’s relationship so special was the fact that it transcended ideals of friendship. It was a mishmash of love, and respect and envy and pride. Shame. It was pure. It was nurturing. It was both ugly and honest. Also I was born in London.’
I have very particular compendiums of knowledge. I’ve been told that makes me ‘quirky’. But quirky is another word I don’t understand. How is quirky a skill that’s necessary in an accountancy? I can tell you so far it has not proved useful at all. In fact it alienates a lot of people and sometimes even offends. So what am I to do with the stuff I know? What job could possibly need someone who knows about men’s shoes, Nollywood, Ancient Greek Drama, taking out tracks of weave quickly and efficiently, 90’s hip hop, Latin Language, Kings of Leon, Harold Pinter, Marlon Brando, true crime, coat styles and casseroles? And do the things that I know make me who I am, or is it the person that I am that makes me interested in these things?
The phrase ‘BE YOU’ is so complex, it’s like being left in sea of words without a life jacket.
Does it mean how I respond to situations? My dry humour? Should I enter the room and immediately start mocking the interview or should I wait until they offer me the job?
And I’m not funny all the time, or in an accessible way all the time. Sometimes I can be painfully serious. Sometimes I can be dangerously absent minded. Sometimes I switch on my computer and think: This is it. This is my life for the next forty years, and it makes me want to scream and or quit. Is that a professional trait or should I keep that one tucked away.
I can be disinterested, easily bored and highly irreverent. During these times, I have been known to make a mountain out of a mole hill, just to entertain myself. I wrote a film about such a situation, where a guy loses his mug and goes on a mini epic quest to discover its whereabouts. I have the ability to be that guy, and also to be the person observing that guy and thinking: what a loser.
I know a lot about current affairs, but it doesn’t interest me nearly as much as reading articles on Vulture. I have no stake in the Kesha/Dr Luke drama, but it doesn’t stop me scoring the page for updates. What am I going to do with this information? Nothing probably. But it’s a thing I do. Just because I can.
I’m passionate about a lot of things. A LOT OF THINGS. I don’t know how you could be a writer and not want to consume as much information with as much fervour as possible, but I can see how ‘broad general knowledge’ could read as ‘generic words to fill up blank space on empty CV. Disregard.’
I find emotions messy and distracting, so I cannot describe myself as ‘trusting’ or ‘tempestuous’ or ‘happy’ like other people might. Bubbly, I am never. Hopeful, even less. But if you put a problem in front of me, I’ll solve it. I might not do it record time, but I’ll sort it in the easiest, least painful way possible. I’m hyper logical, I see things in parts and then as a whole, which means I’m good at finding needles in haystacks. Or at least I would be, if I wasn’t visually impaired.
I’ve never had time for small talk. I don’t see the point in it, and I never feel more wasted than I do asking people I don’t know about weekend plans I won’t remember. But I love talking about big things, broad things, lofty things. Things that might seem silly, or insane, or personal or inappropriate, because that’s how ideas form. I’ve never puzzled over a conversation that’s started ‘Terrible weather’. But some of my favourite bits have come from deliciously absurd thoughts like ‘How do I know if you can actually read, though?’ (You had to be there.)
I’m an organised, well presented whole made up of misshapen, bordering on contradictory parts, and it has taken me a long time to mould all the above into a person that can walk and talk and hold conversation. Even hold attention at times, if I may brag. I don’t really like the idea of deconstructing it and reducing myself to a cliché phrase like ‘I’m a graduate, passionate about TV and eager to make my mark in this highly competitive industry’.
Unless, of course I can get away with an addition: I’m a graduate, but then aren’t we all? Madly in love with TV, because TV has never read my text and then not replied. Eager to make my mark in this highly competitive industry, where everyone wants to be famous and hardly anyone wants to be interesting.