Being Confident

Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of meeting with Carrie Nygren of Laughlin Constable’s Milwaukee office. I have known her for years as the mother of an old skating buddy, but recently rediscovered her as a wise woman in the advertising world. We talked about a lot of thing—the sad state that figure skating is in, the differences between the North and the South (she grew up in Tennessee), the pros and cons regarding various agencies in town, and the small world of Milwaukee PR.

As she looked over my resume, Carrie offered up one main critique: “Be more confident”

She smiled, letting the initial wave of shock behind her statement resonate with me before it faded into confusion. Furrowing my eyebrows, I look from my resume to her, then back to my resume. As I opened my mouth to question her, she laughed and explained that she knows I’m confident. “But,” she said as she pointed to the first few bullet points on my resume, “these points do not necessarily showcase that”.

I could feel my eyes reaching full expansion capacity as she continued her bullet-by-bullet explanation. Obviously, she was right. What I couldn’t believe was that I had been doing the same thing that so many women before me had done. I had been doing exactly what so many professors had been warning us about and begging us not to do.

I had been selling myself short!

I know, I know. It's shameful.

I know, I know. It’s shameful.

As Carrie knows, confidence is not something I lack. Maybe this was instilled in me through DSHA. Maybe it was through my life in the spotlight as a competitive figure skater. Maybe it was through my bombtastic friends who always make me feel like a San Fran 49er pre-SB ’13. It could just be my Puerto Rican blood. In fact, my parents might tell you that I came tumbling out of the womb radiating spunk and tenacity. I really can’t say. Regardless, I know I’m smart, funny, fun, talented, and whatnot. Plus, on the few days a month when my hair decides to drop its attitude and behave, I am nearly unstoppable!

Bringing it back to my future career, talking and writing have always been my strongest points. To the dismay of my grade school teachers and the delight of my current professors, it’s what I do best. Everyone who knows me knows this.

Yet, as Carrie pointed out—not once did I mention my communication skills on my resume. Similarly, my writing skills had hardly been touched upon. The same went for my unique ability to connect with pretty much any audience. The points on my resume could effectively let an HR person know that I have had legitimate internships, but it hardly describes the extent to which I threw myself into my work experiences and turned it into something more valuable than a job description on Big Shoes Network.

When professors spoke of women who rely on hedging as a crutch, who are afraid to ask for a raise, and who continuously fail to highlight their successes, I never thought they were referring to me. Surely, blunt and boisterous Becky rose above all that! Right?

I mean, look how strong and aggressive I am!

Look how strong and aggressive I am!

Nope. What’s worse is that I thought I was properly displaying myself to the world. I thought I was coming off as a powerful woman. Alas, I had fallen into the same trap as so many others. As it turns out, the disconnect between women’s true selves and the way they portray themselves on paper is more common than I had assumed. This type of behavior is so customary that some of us are oblivious to our own passiveness!

Talk about a much needed reality check. Looks like “amplify resume’s aggressive power” just got added to my weekend to-do list.

So, to my fellow dynamic female compadres—check yourselves! This could be happening to you. Look over your personal branding material. Could you be taking a more aggressive approach to the presentation of your skill set? Standing out in a crowd is crucial to success, and bland resume statements are the equivalent of a beige sweater.

After all, no one wants to be the Michelle of the group.

After all, no one wants to be the Michelle of the group.

Where is the (Communications) Love?

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Tuesday morning, I woke up with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face.

Unfortunate clichés aside, I truly was more inspired than usual to go throughout my day. Nearly grand jeté-ing out of bed at 7 a.m., I quickly showered and began packing my things.  My open laptop hummed, and a quick glance at the screen confirmed that my recently edited document was ready to make its grand entry into the world.  As my printer birthed a fresh stack of newly-revised resumes, I slipped into a black and turquoise dress and plugged in my curling iron.  A bowl of Special K and a few swipes of mascara later, I was out the door and speed-walking to my first class.  Aside from the brain power it took to strategically avoid the suspiciously well-hidden patches of ice on the non-salted sidewalks of Wisconsin Avenue, my mind was focused on the events that would unfold later that evening.  At around 6 p.m., I was to attend my first Reverse Career Fair.

As a graduating senior without a job already secured for mid-May, events like these give me hope.  We have all heard about “that one person” who attended a career fair or a networking event and got hired on the spot.  If only that were a common occurrence!  Nevertheless, a good number of students (like myself) look forward to these events as a chance to network with professionals and learn about companies that are hiring in their field.

So, it was with a great deal of enthusiasm and vigor that I bounded up the steps to the AMU ballroom and signed in at the registration table 20 minutes before I had originally been scheduled to arrive.  Questions swam through my mind as I walked towards the room: Will tonight be the night I meet my future employer? How many people will I get to network with (and more importantly: Will they all have a LinkedIn account)?  Did I print out enough resumes?

Ah, but alas.  Upon entering, the cruel fist of reality introduced itself to my stomach, effectively knocking the questions out of my mind.  Two of my peers were standing behind our uncomfortably vacant table shooting rage and envy-fueled glares towards the astrophysics booth kitty corner to ours.  There, approximately 89% of the employers were fighting like teenage fan girls to get a word in with the super genius equivalent of a 90s boy band behind the table.

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Ladies, please. Calm yourselves.

Hesitantly, I asked my fellow PRSSA members if anyone had yet approached our table.  Without breaking their gaze, they replied with a clipped “Nope!”

Looking around the room, I noted that a laudable amount of employers had also gathered around the other engineering and business tables in the room.  Greek Letter Organization tables were also receiving more action than us!  Aside from the other communications table, everyone was receiving a heavier flow of traffic.

As time passed, even the employers wondered what was up with the lack of attention we were receiving.  Curious as to why our table was so empty, the occasional employer would walk towards us.  Upon reading our sign and seeing (what I can only imagine was) our desperate grins, they would either throw a sympathetic look our way or sharply turn their heads and quicken their pace as they shuffled in the direction of the astrophysics table.

We did get approached by 2-3 companies, but they quickly and awkwardly cut their conversations short with us when they realized that we were all seniors.  They had been looking for sophomores or juniors to apply for their unpaid sales internships.  Before their sharply tossed business card landed on our table, they had almost reached the door.  “Tell your friends about us!” they said with a backward glance as they briskly walked out.

Disheartened, we began looking over and critiquing each other’s resumes to assure ourselves that we hadn’t completely wasted our time by attending this event.

It affected us on a deep level.  The College of Comm is often a punchline of many a mediocre joke delivered by students across campus.  I wonder if Career Services sees us in the same light.  I have attended standard MU-hosted career fairs and have had similar experiences.  I hoped that the reverse career fair would be different, but that was foolish of me.

We in the Comm school are proud of what we do, and we know that it takes a hefty amount of intelligence and wit to succeed in our fields.  So, why does Marquette continue to embarrass us at events like these?  Where were the agencies and companies with marketing/project management/communication departments?  Why must I attend off-campus events that cost anywhere from $10-$50 bucks in order to network with local professionals in my field?  Why does this site have to exist?  Why does our college have to stand alone, without the support of the university?

Where is the love, Marquette?  Why won’t you support us?