Every job listing I read these days says something to the effect of “must be an excellent multi-tasker who thrives in a deadline-driven environment” or “must be able to juggle a dozen biting, coked-out monkeys while riding a pogo stick barefoot through 15-foot flames” or — well, you take my meaning.
As I grimly draft my cover letters, trying to hit the right, balanced voice between cleverly perky, competently go-getting, worldly seasoned, and humbly unassuming (god that was awful, like hodge-podgeish Leftovers Night of words, but you know, the cover letter, The Cover Letter, is supposed to communicate every nuance of your wonderful and capable professional persona)… where was I?
So, anyway, as I ready my missives into the employment ether, it gnaws at me once again that while I am a multi-tasking machine, the proof of my over-qualification doesn’t really have a place in the business world. To illustrate:
Right now I’m simmering homemade chicken stock, helping a 2nd-grader with her reading comprehension homework, bathing a feverish 3 yr old and paying bills. Two hours ago I was cold-compressing and applying juice to said 3 yr old while making unexpected, emergency turnaround revisions to a (freelance) work assignment and giving my SIL phone advice on newborn sleep issues. I’ve also talked to my health insurance provider, vacuumed the house, washed and put away the dishes, done school pickup & dropoff runs, entertained and held fever boy, dressed and fed everyone, including even myself. And stayed current with my Twitter peeps, natch.
(And I’m not tooting my own horn here, really. I don’t actually have a horn, more of a wheezy, whistling kazoo, but even if I did have an actual horn, my mouth would be too busy begging my children to wash your hands, for the love of Pete — oh never mind who Pete is — but those hands were just wiping your bottom, so wash them, please so you see really? No horn tootling, promise.)
I mean, I’d say most of us parents have become, if we weren’t already born so, incredibly nimble multi-taskers. Life with children necessitates attention-splitting, detail-driven catch-all mitts of enormous proportions. All the above tomfoolery was just to show that if these businesses want multi-tasking monkey-juggling deadline-driven pogo-stickers, they should be willing to hear from the non-professional aspects of our lives that have really tested our mettle and earned our trial-by-monkey-fire badges.
Of course, wiping noses and scraping silly putty out of the sofa cushions before it sets isn’t the same as delivering a polished presentation to a client or launching a new product line on time and on budget. It doesn’t even require a degree! (Though lots of intestinal fortitude and a tolerance for Dora certainly help.)
My point being, that the qualities many employers are looking for these days are in character, rather than education. They want people who can perform in scaled-back, under-resourced, stressful settings, that can advance the company forward through challenges and setbacks. People who take initiative, solve problems, can work independently yet are great team players. Sound familiar? It’s what I do every day. I did all the business stuff once, too, but it’s eight years out of date. It doesn’t seem to do much now other than relegate my resumes to the “on file” file.
So, to all you MBA’s and worker bees up there in the gainfully employed stratosphere, I envy you. Not for your shining careers or getting to have actual grownup conversations or even your dry cleaned suits unmussed by snot or masticated Cheerios. No, I envy you for the competence you can claim on your resumes as well as in PTA meetings or with other parents at the sandbox. I envy your cred in the business world. I have a golden ticket too, you see. It’s just one I made in this here Play-Doh press.