Being Creative in a Standardized World

In today’s economy it is especially important that job applicants find the correct balance between being “generic” and “overly-specialized” in their career path. Because of the various ways in which people can apply for jobs, as well as the overwhelming number of people doing so, there is a requirement to stand out amongst the rest while retaining the standards that help to organize a large quantity of potential candidates.

As confusing or difficult of a task it can be, people in today’s world are simply required to present themselves distinctive of others while doing so using the forms of standardization that are well-known, universally accepted, and relevant to a time period (i.e. Resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, Business Cards, etc…). Ilana Gershon explains summarizes this complex situation by stating that, “everyone is engaging with standardized forms to represent themselves, but they have to use these standardized forms to represent themselves as distinctive. Figuring out what makes you distinctive is an act of interpretation, but how people will read your efforts to portray yourself as distinctive also depends on context-specific interpretations” (Gershon 2017). One reason for this situation is simply for HR and hiring managers to create some amount of organization of applicants in order to make comparing them easier.

The difficult part of this is using the standardized forms to present yourself as distinct. Finding the balance between following standard guidelines and being creative and distinctive can be quite difficult. It definitely does not help matters when hiring managers are, “developing narrower and narrower sets of requirements” (Gershon 2017). In fact, even job recruiters “were frustrated that if applicants haven’t demonstrated that they have done a particular job beforehand, and haven’t demonstrated all the desired skills from A to F, then hiring managers will reject the candidates out of hand” (Gershon 2017). In many cases, because of these narrower requirements job applicants are required to focus their resumes to the specific job at hand. For example, I am interested in the field of marketing and advertising. Because of this, I have created an original and somewhat flashy resume using Adobe’s Indesign to present my design skills, and fill it with job experiences and projects that reflect the world of marketing and advertising. While some may say my resume could possibly veer too far from the standards, at the very least it is still a resume constructed and organized like the average resume. This allows it to hold some amount of standardization so that employers can more easily compare it to other applications.

As a way to help applicants find success in the professional world with the amount of creative distinction and standardization required, Gershon introduces the idea of “genres,” which she describes as “predictable forms for organizing how knowledge and experience are presented and circulated” (Gershon 2017). Some examples of said genres include business cards, resumes, cover letters, etc.. Various forms through which applicants express themselves creatively and present their worth and skill to the company. Genres also help to understand how people classify social interactions and the ways in which social interactions should take place. If I were wanting to increase my strengths and improve my weaknesses, it would be very helpful to use “genres” to my advantage. Making sure to:

1. Have a resume, cover letter, business cards, etc…

2. Organize them in standardized and organized fashion that will help me seem more comparable to other applicants

3. Alter them in a creative way in order to accentuate and emphasize specific tasks/roles/experiences that are more or less important with different positions.

The biggest takeaway from this story is that when it comes to the professional world, it is extremely important to balance standards with creativity. As much as we may want to jump completely outside of the box and blow the employer away, it is important to understand that us as humans rely on norms and expectations. Most importantly, however, this is not to say we must tighten our tie, stand straight, and live a life of grey. Instead, we have to truly express how we feel, but present it in a way that is comparable to others so that we stand out even more.

Below I have included links to three websites including information that will hopefully help you better present yourself in the professional world: