Journal: On the Paucity of Introverted Strengths in the Popularity Contest of Job Acquisition

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(Monday, March 18, 2019, 10:30 am)

I just read this article on Ribbonfarm. It’s not that it was so very interesting, per se, but it got me thinking about strengths and weaknesses and how we are taught to deal with them. He makes the point that in schools, teachers tend to give kids extra work in their weak areas and leave the strong areas alone. But according to the Strengths Movement, you should focus more on developing strengths, because that’s what will make you stand out in the workplace or in life or whatever. 

When I was teaching, I always encouraged kids to use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. Like if they weren’t doing so well in Spanish but they liked music, they could learn some Spanish songs for a project or for extra credit or something. It didn’t completely get them out of the regular work, but it gave them a chance to catch up a bit while doing something that they were good at, which I hoped would build some confidence in the weak area by association. 

So Venkat is suggesting that people should look for jobs that play to their strengths. I would like to do that. Except that getting a job, or making money in any way, is not one of my strengths. At all. I would argue that it is an extremely weak area for me. Once I have a job, I generally do alright, assuming that it’s not making me so miserable that I just can’t stick with it. But going through the process of getting it is just straight up fighting against my weaknesses. And the outcome is often so bad that I have no opportunity to use any of my strengths. 

So maybe this is a case where I need to work on some remedial stuff and try to do some self-improvement in a weaker area, like making money. And actually, I frequently do research (which I’m somewhat strong in) to try to learn how to get a better job or how to make money through writing or something like that. But I’m still kind of stumped. I’m generally pretty good at learning and I teach myself how to do things on my own all the time. I could totally teach myself to speak a new language if I wanted to. Most people probably wouldn’t feel so comfortable with that. But there are some things that I’m just SO BAD at, that I just can’t figure it out. And usually it’s something very basic that everyone does, like cooking or driving or getting a job or having a conversation. So there aren’t textbooks and shit that tell you the really obvious parts. Like cookbooks are always saying things like, “boil until done.” But what does that even mean? Or in the driving manual, it says you’re supposed to turn your turn signal on a certain number of feet before the turn. But it’s not like there are numbers on the road or anything. You have to have the spatial sense to know when you’re the right distance away, which I don’t. No one teaches you in geometry class, for example, how to look at a thing and figure out how far away it is. They don’t put it in books. You’re just supposed to KNOW.

Maybe my problem with getting a job is in the interview, since I’m so awkward with the small talk part of it. Maybe I’m supposed to be making myself seem more interesting AS A PERSON and not just as a job candidate. Usually I come out of an interview feeling sort of bewildered. It seems like they’re generally very short and like they didn’t really get much of any information from me that wasn’t on my resume. I always end up wondering what it was that I was supposed to say or do to make them want to hire me. What questions was I supposed to answer but didn’t because they DIDN’T ASK them? Maybe it really is just a matter of making them LIKE you, regardless of your qualifications. The people who go into human resources are probably mostly extroverts, and extroverts tend to see introversion as something that someone should “get over” or “grow out of.” 

If that’s the case, and the whole hiring process is a popularity contest, and they’re really hiring friends rather than workers, then I may just not be suited for almost any job, anywhere. I don’t want a job to make friends. I need to make money. I don’t WANT to make money. But I need to. Sometimes, actually, I do want friends. Not always. But sometimes. Maybe I would feel more motivated to get a job and to convince them that I’m interesting and likeable if I came at it from that angle. If I just tell myself it’s not about making money, it’s about making friends. Although in that case, it would make a lot more sense for me to try to get jobs in places where I already have friends, or at least people that I have met and think I could be friends with. Because I don’t actually like most people, or want to be friends with them. And most of the time, I don’t actually even want more friends. They’re kind of stressful. And a lot of work. Hmmm.

Maybe the online jobs are less like that since you’re not going to be hanging out with, or ever even meet, the people who are hiring you. But with the online teaching, they still want the students to like you, so you still have to be likeable in the interview or the teaching demo or whatever. And it is actually important that the students like you. Especially in the situations where students get to choose their tutor/teacher. In a classroom, students don’t generally get to choose their teachers. But they will respond better, mostly, to teachers that they like. So it’s back to the popularity contest.

I need to go ahead and do this VIPKid demo today or tomorrow. But I’m not feeling very positive about it at the moment. Everything feels so uncertain right now. It’s hard to commit to something like that when I can’t picture where I’ll be or what my life will look like a month from now, you know?


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