Saturday, December 1, 2012

Don’t make me over: changing for your career

Do I need to change for the sake of my career?

We judge people based on appearances without knowing the full story- we never know the full story- so how you present yourself is really important. People know things about you only if you put it out there…. or from facebook. For example, if you have an accent, should you work to change/hide it? (“take a class to lose my southern accent?”) Or become more assertive if you’re in an aggressive/competitive environment? Dress differently?

house-bunny-makeoverThe makeover assembly line. (Picture from The House Bunny)

During my gap year, I went to a bunch of seminars on Women in the workplace and thought much about being a working woman. One tip I got was this: pick up traditionally male hobbies if your workplace is male-dominated. Tag yourself along on those outings. And fake it (golf, barbecues, hunting) until you learn to enjoy even a minor aspect of it.

And I’m starting to think it’s not just about being female. It might apply to other traits too.

This thought sprouted from a discussion with a classmate whose close choice for dental school after Penn was Loma Linda. I asked her why, since these two schools are pretty different, starting with location.

She answered, “I would have liked the safe atmosphere.” Huh?

She explained that at a place like Loma Linda- which is associated with Seventh-Day Adventist church- she would have been around other like-minded Christians. Loma Linda would have been a place for her to openly discuss religion, talk about incorporating God into her career with her colleagues.

Penn is, of course, not a religion-affiliated institution. And from my personal experience, people don’t openly discuss religion or spiritual beliefs unless they know the other is also Christian or otherwise very spiritual.

Religion is not a trait you can readily change, so it’s a matter of concealing it. But to what extent? Do you take special care not to have “Merry Christmas” signs on your desk? When someone asks you what you did this weekend, do you leave out the “church and small group” part of your day so the conversation doesn’t stray in that direction? Do you take off your cross necklace to work? Your purity ring? Where does it stop?

And even for me, I have never mentioned my personal faiths on this blog- until now. I grew up Catholic, and after neglecting this aspect of my life for the last six, seven years, I am striving to be a better Christian.

But you see, am I putting some people off because 1) I am Christian or because 2) I didn’t have the good sense to hide this aspect of myself? Would you go to a dentist who openly displays his religion (cross in the waiting room, bible verses on the receptionist desk)? What about one you know is deeply religious but doesn’t display it, perhaps takes special care to hide that trait?

What do you think?
Are you working to change or hide an aspect of yourself to become a better dentist/physician/whatever?


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