Friday, September 19, 2008

Does action really speak louder than words?

Here I am at 3:50am, tossing and turning in bed and what I couldn’t say out loud, I decided to write it down. I just had my first job interview today after more than four years and it didn’t go well at all.

After being unemployed for more than two years, I have decided to get back on the job market. It is a move not motivated by financial reason only but also my own state of being. Since I am on a verge of losing faith in my own professional value, I have recently started to apply for jobs more aggressively.

After applying for like about 20 jobs this year itself, I finally received a positive response recently. So you can imagine my excitement and suddenly with one email from the organization informing me of my short listing, my self-confidence rocketed sky high. It didn’t take long for me to hit rock bottom again, all because of an interview.

You see, I wanted the job so badly and when a very reputable international organization informed me that I was shortlisted for a regional position, based in an attractive location, I thought I had a chance and I should really prepare myself to earn it. I prepared alright but what I wasn’t prepared for was how I could sabotage my own interview by sounding like someone who couldn’t put two words together. Basically, not only did I not sell myself, I decreased my own value. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with my own handicap.

So, what has been keeping me up all night is this question, “Am I still marketable or have I expired and should be put out from the shelves?” But then, I start to think, is an interview the right way to go in ascertaining whether a candidate is truly qualified for a job?

I am not a person of great words. I express myself better in writing. It has always been like this and always will be. Otherwise, it wouldn’t explain the fact that I have a collection of letters, emails and articles saved carefully in my laptop. Whenever I am going through some emotional problems, may it be with friends or family, I don’t confront them téte á téte. Instead, I send them a letter or an email. Whenever I am truly upset about something, I turn it into an article.

Well, sure, I can talk. Don’t get me wrong. If you see me in a meeting, I will participate verbally. You will even see me conducting a training session before a group of people, including imposing figures. I spend half of my life arguing a point which was why my father sent me to law school, thinking that this girl has a mouth on her.

So, what is the problem here? I think most of you can relate to this. When I am nervous, I am unable to verbalise my thoughts. I don’t like talking on the phone as much as writing or meeting a person face to face, simply because it makes me nervous. The thought of talking into a device, not knowing the facial expression of the person whom I am talking to, make me edgy.

With so much pressure for me to get this job, I was inevitably consumed with nerve while talking during the interview via a conference call from Geneva with a four-member panel. I didn’t know who I was talking to because I couldn’t see their faces and no amount of preparation would calm me down. Not especially when I haven’t worked for such a long time and was rather rusty in the articulation department.

So, I blew it although deep in my heart, I was convinced that I was the right person to do the job. But would the organization think the same? No, just because I couldn’t articulate my experiences and skills, I was disqualified.

We often hear people say, “I want it in writing” or clichés like the pen is mightier than the sword, but I can’t help but wonder, does action really speak louder than words?

I consider myself reliable, determined, industrious, dedicated and passionate in my work. When someone signs me up for something, I deliver. (See, I told you, I sell myself better through writing!) Would organizations rather hire someone who can NATO (no action talk only) their way through than someone who has good work ethics?

Yes, yes, I can write whatever I want, but who will believe me? Well, then, I can also say whatever I want, why should you believe me? It is frustrating to have people judge you based on what you say, or don’t say.

For me, there are five types of people in this world. The type who can write but not speak, who can speak but not write, who cannot write nor speak and those who can write and speak. Then, there is a less extreme type, those who can sort of write and sort of speak. I definitely fall under this category for I never claim to be a potential Pulitzer winner either. I envy the fourth type and there is actually a name for this type of people. Lawyer. Yes, lawyers are trained to write and speak because their whole profession is all about convincing people, in a hearing or those who “want it in writing”.

There is a reason why I never become a lawyer and choose to do humanitarian work instead. I can’t work in a profession which requires me to sound professional, articulate and intelligent all the time. I prefer to be myself and I represent myself the best through actions, rather than words.

However, even as writers, if you want to get your work published, you still need to present your ideas to the publisher in person. I have made a few attempts to write a book and even a screenplay. I remember when I was trying to sign up for an online screenplay writing course based in New York not too long ago, I was told that the centre wanted to have a chat with me over the phone prior to being registered. They said that it was important to get to know me and establish my potential. Here I was, thinking that the whole point of signing up for something online meant you never need to say anything.

Why is there such a need to verbalise thoughts? Whatever happens to the saying, “read my thoughts”? Not too long ago before modern telecommunication and media were created, people relied on books to interpret the thoughts of authors. Many great authors and thinkers in the world have perished but yet, their work and thoughts remain immortal through their writings. Do we ever question the greatness of Socrates, Homer, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Victor Hugo and Edgar Allan Poe, even if we have never heard them speak before?

When the screenwriters took their protest to the street in the United States not too long ago, I can sympathise with them. Those dialogues spoken with wit, charm, romance, tragedy, drama, comedy and mystery we like to watch so much on the television are in fact products of scripts written by people who have the ability to put their thoughts, feelings, ideas, visions and creativity on paper. And yet, they are never given as much credit as actors and actresses who are able to memorise and verbalise those scripts. How do you think great politicians get to make those infamous speeches?

Now that we have evolved further, it seems like modern technology is working hard to make us feel bad about ourselves because now, we are supposed to be perfect in every sense. I am not condemning people who can talk because I actually admire them. I am simply “writing” that a person’s ability and character should not be judged by how well that person speaks.

In essence, I do believe that talking should be easier than writing. After all, most of us learn to talk first and then write. However, having said this, doesn’t it make more sense that writing is actually harder to master since we already have that head start on talking? So, why more credit to those who can speak well rather than those who can master the writing?

Alas, the girl who has a mouth on her, is now a woman with eyes. At 32, I can see clearly that talking is not just talking. It is also something we have to master in order for us to achieve independence, to grow up so that we can get a job. In a world where talk is usually cheap, if you can’t talk into getting a job you want, it will cost you more than you could possibly think.

I guess, there is nothing else for me to do but to tell my brain to tell my mouth to tell my potential employer why I think I deserve the job. With that much of talking going on, I hope my nerve will finally listen.

Written on 23 April 2008

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