In the previous post, I discussed two areas where we might feel socially exposed or vulnerable by sharing an idea and asking someone out. We put a little ourselves out in the open and we may not like what we hear. In this post, I want to propose one final area where people feel vulnerable and open themselves to great delight or devastating disappointment.

3. Submitting an Application/Sending a Resume

These are two sides of the same coin but either one we choose leaves us feeling vulnerable. When we apply for a job or a school, we do our best to present ourselves in the most favorable light possible. We double or triple check our grammar or essays. We examine the formatting of our resume and make sure it looks nice printed, on a computer, and on mobile devices.

This process of applications and resumes is my world right now. At work, I serve incoming students with their application into a school. I can hear their fears and the uncertainties about their application being “strong enough” or “adequate” for admission. They wonder if they have the grades or the experience necessary for their application to be approved. What I hear in their voices is simply a longing to be affirmed in who they are and what they have done to that point is good enough and recognized by others.

Applications create an undertow for validation. If our application is approved, we arrive safely to our destination. If our application is denied, we sink into despair and drown in our search for validation. When our value as a person is wrapped up in our application or resume, we will live in a constant state of fear, anxiety, discouragement, and fleeting moments of joy.

I can relate to what many of my applicants at work are experiencing as I apply for various jobs myself. I have sent my resume to many places that I researched and reviewed their job posting. The process is slow and the waiting game from submitting a resume to hearing back is agonizing. For some, they acknowledge the receipt of a resume and others appear to be lost in cyber space (can’t blame the Post Office on that one!). There is a sense of excitement in hitting the “Send” or “Submit” button with a well crafted cover letter and resume.

However, there are the crushing disappointments when the job or company you get excited about responds that they are “moving forward with other highly qualified candidates” and that you are not one of them. I received one of those e-mails while on a work trip. I returned from eating dinner alone to the solace of an empty hotel room and opened my e-mail to that message. I called my wife and gave her the news in a soft, disheartened voice.

Our application or resume appears to be the best compilation of ourselves that time and energy will allow. If someone denies our application or moves along to another candidate, we are left feeling even more exposed and discouraged. It seems like what we have done just isn’t good enough. We feel like all we are was not good enough for them. But, this is not true.

It took me a week or two to get over not moving forward in the process with that organization. As I reflected upon that situation and listen to others sending out their resume, it is easy to feel like our entire personhood and value is wrapped up in our experience, skills, and education. After all, this seems like how schools and companies evaluate their prospective students or employees upon. If we are not careful, then we can believe that this is true about us as a whole.

We can believe that all we are is wrapped up and measured by what we have done, who we know, and where we have studied. The truth is that our value and identity will not change when/if we get a new or different job or go to a different school. Rather, we will simply change jobs or start at a new school. We will have a new title and our office will be in a different location. We will be the same person with the same value as we started. Sure, we might feel more confident or valued but they have not given those to us. They merely served as avenues to let our confidence and value rise to the surface.

As you send out resumes or submit an application, their response does not determine your value and potential. At times, it will feel deeply personal and discouragement will begin to consume you if you’re not careful. You can forget your gifts and passions. In this season of life, surround yourself with people who can remind you what is true about you when it seems like other people just don’t get it.

As you receive applications or resumes, respond with promptness and accuracy. Take a few seconds to simply acknowledge an e-mail with a resume or application you received. If this application or resume does not seem to fit the need or criteria set, recognize that this is will be difficult to hear from those who are not admitted or offered the job. Check the language in your e-mails and responses to be truthful but gracious. If they ask for ways that they could improve, be clear and specific with ways they could grow but also affirm their gifting and the strengths you noticed in their application or resume.

Resumes and applications do not determine our value but it may feel like it at times. Rather, resumes and application serve as an opportunity to reflect upon our experiences and strengths.