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ISSUE 121 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/2/2008

Identity destabilized

By Nicole Smith
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 2, 2008

There is undoubtedly an art to presenting yourself to the world, especially on resumés and in interviews. We all went through the college process and were drilled in the best way to sell ourselves to our favorite school. Now that we have entered our hallowed halls of education, we are just waiting to leave them and move into the fabulously horrific "real world." However, it is not only in resumés that students have learned to present their best sides; now with the help of such wondrous tools like Myspace and Facebook there are numerous ways to present yourself to the world. But which means is most effective, and do any of them present the real you?

The resumé is the most precious piece of paper in a person's hands, especially once they leave college and have to find a "real job." And at Olaf, we have the wonderful tools of the Center for Experiential Learning to help you create the perfect you. One sheet of paper is typically all you get to present the best side, the only side that matters, to your future employer. And in this single sheet you must cultivate all of your accomplishments, all your wonderful assets, all your amazing characteristics, all of your best work. You must brag. And brag you will. Gladly. That job, that inspired money-driven life you hope one day to lead will be yours, but only if you sell yourself effectively within that single, solitary page.

This page is your greatest work of art: the perfect version of yourself. You include all of your clubs and awards and achievements. If you are lucky, they will want even more evidence of how wonderful you are. They may ask for writing samples, art, graphic design, websites or anything else you have created that will magnify your prowess and skill.

You take one page and you make one masterpiece. You must do this because if it is not a masterpiece, then it is a failure. Then you lose the glorious job you salivated for, longed for, pined for. You cannot lose. You will not lose, especially not when it is you that creates this paper portrait. You can make yourself a masterpiece, selling yourself to the highest bidder.

And what of all the other opportunities you have to project yourself onto the world? Facebook is the "social network" that allows you not to sell yourself to employers, but to your peers. You are given categories into which you must fit your activities, interests, favorite music, movies, TV shows, books and quotations. Then there's "looking for," "interested in," "relationship status," "political views" and "religious views."

You are able to pick and choose out of these and other categories which "self" you would like to present to other people just like you. You also post pictures of yourself that encapsulates you and "who you are." There is an education and work information section where you can detail your wonderful school and jobs. There is "the wall," the ultimate expression of what others are saying about you, to you. There are countless groups you can join to show everyone what you like, or don't like.

A Facebook profile is the bare-bones self, one that shows what you want everyone to see and hides exactly what you don't. How accurate a portrayal of self is Facebook? It forces you to fit yourself into categories and groups to help you define yourself to everybody else. It literally fits you into boxes and makes you look like everyone else.

Sure you can adjust the placement of these boxes, you can have different music and movies, your photos are different, but there is more similarity than individuality. But I'm not against Facebook -- go check out my profile if you want. I'm just saying that it's a visual expression, perhaps not so much of who you are, but more of who you want to be. And the same goes for those precious resumés. It's not you; it's the best version of you.

On Facebook and in a resumé there are no faults, no quirks, just typeface. Is that all you want yourself to be? How many "Facebook friends" do you have that you have never met or hardly kept in touch with? I know I have my fair share. And how many resumés are different from each other, if all you list is the wonderful things you've achieved in life so far? Isn't it better to be unique than to be the same? Or does it even matter anymore, as long as your Facebook and resumé get you what you want to be: noticed.

Nicole Smith '10 is from Green Oaks, Ill. She majors in English with a concentration in media studies.

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