April 11, 2008

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

Memo to Marthas: ‘There is need of only one thing’

I arrived at the career fair with high hopes, 20 resumés and dozens of story ideas turning in my mind.

I had prepared meticulously, ironing my suit, straightening my hair, frying everything into submission. I had memorized the morning’s news, donned my glasses for a scholastic effect and applied a dab of lip gloss. I was set.

The recruiters quickly lowered my lofty expectations. The heavy hitters weren’t exactly interested. Neither were the middle-of-the-roaders. The warmest reception I got came from the editor of a teensy-tiny paper offering a yearlong internship for meager pay and no benefits. Is that all I’m worth? I wondered as I filed into a long line.

Finally, my turn came to talk to the recruiter of a big-time paper where I had applied for an internship. My application had arrived with that much-hyped distinction—the recommendation of a staff member—and I was eager to follow up with an in-person introduction.

The recruiter spent less time reading my resumé than it had taken to print.

“Come back in 10 years,” she growled.

As I walked home, a car raced by, splattering mud on my heels and shins. It felt like a physical expression of the emotional damage the fair had reaped on me.

The job hunt can be a rude awakening to young adults with super-supportive parents and super-expensive degrees. Not only are many headhunters hostile, so is much of the job-searching advice.

“Your present resumé is probably much more inadequate than you now realize,” cautions one Web site. “A job often attracts between 100 and 1,000 resumés these days so you are facing a great deal of competition.”

Whatever you do, don’t you dare use high-quality resumé paper: “Employers HATE pretentious parchment paper. They think they’re phony and toss them out.”

That is, be polished, but not too polished. Get it?

I’m watching friends conform to these standards, stripping their colorful, three-dimensional personalities to black bullet points. So much is lost between the gifts we possess and the credentials we submit.

The good news is our faith defies all these silly rules. Enough with the generic verbs and padded resumés, St. Paul writes: “Stop lying to one another. … Here there is not Greek and Jew, slave and free, but Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:9-11).

While career consultants preach neutrality (one ring per hand, light makeup), St. Paul urges us to pile it on liberally. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3:12).

While career consultants induce panic, St. Paul instills peace: “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts. And be thankful” (Col 3:15).

We are thankful because we have been granted the greatest mission on Earth. No matter what company name is stamped on our paychecks, we are ambassadors of Christ, “heralds impelled by the Gospel,” as Pope Benedict XVI put it last month.

God overlooks our typos, seeing us for who we are—and who we might become.

When we seek his kingdom first, everything else is added onto us. Take it from me: I survived that awful career fair one year ago, and four months later the big-time paper that had rejected me ran my article on its front page.

(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. E-mail her at christinacap@gmail.com.)†

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