One of my managers once told me I should change my name to Elle Woods and I had no idea what he was talking about. When I told my partner at the time of this rather odd statement he just cracked up laughing and went and rented the movie Legally Blonde. Even after watching the movie I was confused as to why someone would in a rather passive/aggressive way tell me he thought I was a ditz.
For anyone who has never seen Legally Blonde – Elle Woods (female lead) is the atypical dumb blonde, sorority queen, who’s burning ambition in life is to become Mrs. Warner Huntington III. However she get’s dumped by her perfect boyfriend because he’s been accepted into Harvard Law and has decided that although Elle Woods is a fun girl she’s not the type of girl to marry if you want to climb the ladder of politics and power. Elle Woods determined to fight for her man puts her brain to good use for once and not only get’s into Harvard Law school, she graduates top of the class and steals her now x-boyfriends dream job. Despite apparently being very bright Elle Woods throughout both this movie and the sequel maintains the Dumb Blonde persona and in the process diminishes her accomplishments.
Finally last week after 3 job application rejections in 1 day I finally realised that somehow I’m just not selling myself and my skill base correctly. I was irritated, annoyed, puzzled and upset but most of all I was determined to figure out how to sell myself and my skills better. So after much arguing with myself while I made two batches of chocolate-chip butter cookies, I finally decided to enrole in a course on Personal Branding through The University Of Virginia, which so long as I’m not worried about getting a Certificate of Attainment is free and totally online so I can do it at my speed.
Middle of the first lecture and I suddenly had a flashback to the statement “you should rename yourself Elle Wood” and my partner making me watch Legally Blonde and the lightbulb went on in my brain. My manager at the time wasn’t being a passive/aggressive jerk and my partner wasn’t annoyed or angry with me, he was puzzled and probably frustrated that I really didn’t get the connection between how Elle Wood behaves and my own self distructive habits.
I ALWAYS MINIMISE MY ACHIEVEMENTS
After people read my resume I often here the question “you really have 3 university degrees?” and I reply with something like “well yes it’s not like getting a university degree is all that hard”. Instantaneously I’ve just done two very stupid things. I’ve probably irritated the person interviewing me especially if they either struggled to get a university degree or are currently struggling to finish one. And I’ve just made it sound like I didn’t have to work hard and over come some seriously tough issues to get my 3 University degrees.
Yes I’m naturally bright and have a genius level IQ and my ability to find patterns in data and behaviour meant I found the “this is how I want my assignments done” patterns all lectures have quickly and tried to stick to them. However I’m autistic, I am dyslexic and not only didn’t learn to read till I was 11 I still struggle to read new words I’ve never seen before and I have ADHD which I was unmedicated for at the time so focusing on anything was a struggle. When I did my University degrees because I had no formal diagnosis for Autism & ADHD and my Dyslexia diagnosis was more than 5 years old I wasn’t eligible to access Student Disability Support Services. So yes I had to work bloody hard to get my University Degrees and all my other qualifications but I don’t tell people that.
I also don’t brag about my career accomplishments, the fact I have a genius level IQ or the fact I’m in the 1% of the population of the entire world to have the pattern matching (Data analysis) ability that is considered abnormal efficent, which technically should have intelligence organisations around the globe begging me to work for them (and yes I actually have a formal assessment document to prove it).
WHY DO I MINIMISE MY ACHIEVEMENTS????
I don’t really know but I suspect it’s a combination of
- Autism – I find verbal communication and social interactions especially in small groups or one-on-one situations hard and I truely dislike being the centre of attention. To cope I long ago learnt the behavioural technique that if you don’t make a big deal of your achievements no one focuses on you and you can attempted to blend into the wallpaper.
- Upbringing (growing up) – pointing out how good you where at something was labeled “bragging” in both my family and my social circles and was very much discourage because it was believed it would turn you into a narcissistic self centre adult. Also we where brought up with the values of family first, community obligations second and you last (not uncommon in extended multi-generational families because it is a way of making a living environment that is somewhat more harmonious and helps reduce arguments because you are continually focused on “how will my behaviour effect those around me”).
- Employment – my first big career step was that I joined the Australian Department of Defence as a civilian employee in 2002 on a graduate program. It was an excellent environment to put my skills to use and really develop my abilities and become a Subject Matter Expert in my field. However due to the type of projects I worked on and my security clearance discussing what I did was and probably sill is illegal. Not to mention you constantly got the message that discussing what you do could result in the death of deployed troops heavily reinforced and since I worked primarily with guys who where constantly getting deployed I took the message to heart.
So what should I be shouting from the root tops about:
- Yes I have 3 university degrees and I work bloody hard to over come tremendous odds to get them
- Dept of Defence graduate program – 2000 applicants, 200 people interview, 15 people offered a placement and I was the ONLY female in the Systems Engineering stream
- I’m a walking, talking encyclopaedia on Information Management and how to either fix your data capture and data flow issues or how to set up and implement a data, knowledge, document or Information Management system in your company
- I’m female, I’m autistic, I have ADHD and I didn’t learn to read till I was 11 years old because of Dyslexia, I’ve survived dieing twice in one night, I’ve survived endometrial cancer & permanently losing my ability to have kids and I’ve survived a 10 year long mental health crisis – but I’ve gained 3 University Degrees, worked in some amazing jobs and places and traveled solo so I’d make a fantastic motivational speeker