September 16, 2014

KIM | Her Majesty’s Ship: Résumé

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Resume in hand, I reluctantly sought after my professor who I believed would lend me useful advice on how to edit it. I was reluctant, not because I was putting my resume (that was rather lacking for a senior) under the scrutiny of someone I looked up to, but because I had no desire whatsoever to pursue a white-collared job in the first place. I have always felt comfortable with the idea of going to graduate school to continue my studies — living the “life of the mind” as some would call it.

Up until a week ago, the chit-chat of the implications of going to the Career Fair and what to expect from the fair amongst my friends flew over my head. As the week before the Career Fair turned into days, my friends began to notice my aloof attitude towards the idea of starting a corporate job come graduation and suggested, “Teresa, you know, you should at least try going to the Career Fair.”

And that statement somehow landed me in front of my professor who began to peruse through my resume with a highlighter in hand. She gave my resume back to me. Thankfully, there wasn’t a large X through my paper. There were, however, small circles around the many verbs in the descriptions of my work experience. I asked her what the circles were for, and she responded with a series of questions: “Teresa, did you lead the development of a rehabilitation program in India or helped lead the development of it?” “Did you develop the business strategies for project X or assist with the development of these strategies?” “Did you deal directly with the school administration in finessing educational curriculums or supplement the finessing of a curriculum that was already in the process of being finalized?” After going through all of her suggested amendments, she told me, “I’ve realized that you Americans have a tendency of taking something and making it your own in your resumes.”

My initial hesitation to ask her for advice was met with the above statement that pointed to the reality of our usurpative nature. I — or who I am on polished, resume paper — was a reflection of that nature. Although I thought I knew myself to give credit where credit was due, I began to realize that I was not the manifestation of the humility I thought I encompassed. In fact, I was the “American” I feared I would be.

I had a similarly unpleasant revelation dawn upon me a seven months ago when I visited the British Museum of History. There are only a few moments in my life where I can aptly recount leaving a museum or any academic venue with a guttural feeling of disappointment — this was one of them. The trail through the first floor of the museum begins with an exhibit of Egyptian sarcophaguses, goes through a hallway of Babylonian murals and ends with a collection of the remnants of Greco-Roman sculptures. The more floors a visitor gained, the more exotic the artifacts became (Arabic, Chinese, Indian, etc). This was not a “British” museum. If we were being politically correct, the museum was more or less a cave of stolen goods.

The British Museum of History in and of itself is impressive to say the very least. And the reason for its global popularity is due to the indubitable fact that there is no collection as vast and all-encompassing like it in the world. Yet when I came out of the museum and looked up at the monumental pillars pointing to the marble inscription “British Museum of History,” I felt as if the significance of every single stone and statue within the building was reduced to items without stories. It was almost as if I was to sign off on what was clearly a Rembrandt masterpiece, detrimentally diminishing the worth and identity of the piece.

The experience of visiting the museum felt oddly comparable to that of going up and down an escalator in a department store or taking a day-trip to the zoo, watching items or animals become simplified under one brand name. In his book, About Looking, prominent art critic John Berger recounts his experience of visiting a zoo from his influential chapter “Why Look at Animals?”:

This observation by Berger has remained an interdisciplinary discussion because of its ability to lend itself to how we obtain and commodify animals, historical objects and, ultimately, knowledge. I am certainly not the first to voice my disagreement with the museum keeping items collected by British colonialists through the ages. I find much merit in the dispersing of knowledge via museum spaces. Yet, what we should remember from this is how we continue to marginalize those who have contributed to our success thus far. No matter how many wars have taken place or how much tea has been sunk into the harbor, the sheer fact of the matter is that we unnoticingly hearken back to our imperialistic roots: taking things that don’t belong to us.

So as you start dispersing your resumes, remember to acknowledge those who have helped you create the content for your resume in the first place. Don’t Sir Francis Drake your resume. It’s likely that every single letter, font size and paragraph indent can find its thanks in someone.

Teresa Kim is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Proverbially Speaking appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.