Working to strengthen my online presence the other day (say that in your best affluent, Southern, 19th century accent), I was flipping through others’ profiles to see how it is that they were displaying themselves–the length of their descriptions under their Experiences section, the vocabulary that they were using to communicate such-and-such position, what awards they thought were worth listing, etc.
Wow! National Merit Scholar, recipient of X award and Y award. “Geez!” I thought to myself, comparing my nonexistent awards section to theirs. “And business proficient in three languages and at an intermediate level in two others.” Upon reading these things, I became a bit discouraged. What do I have to offer that employers are looking for?
Over break, I was at a whole foods store with multiple locations around the Twin Cities area–Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. I was coming back from Northfield, and decided to stop in to look for toothpaste and some hand lotion (I had just finished up the little expensive tube that I had purchased in Paris at the tail end of my semester abroad, and MN winters can be pretty harsh). When I got to the checkout counters, a woman one over from the line I was standing in enthusiastically told me that she was free to help me. She vacated the area behind the counter to come greet me and personally take my items before I had even gotten to her station.
She greeted me with one of the warmest smiles that I have ever received from a stranger and saw that I was buying Trader Joe’s lotion. She started telling me about how much she loved it, and that I should try some from the sample bottle that was conveniently placed at her station. Sleep-deprived, having driven for the past hour, I was slow to process a lot of what she was saying. Despite this, I could not stop smiling, and tried the lotion, not because I wanted to, but because her happiness was so contagious, and I just had to because of how much she seemed to love it.
“Have a great day!” she said, and I started walking back to my car.
“What just happened?” I thought to myself.
I left feeling so good from that interaction that my brain was not comprehending whether or not it really did happen.
I am not sure if you are able to picture this exchange yourself, but what I was thinking to myself walking back to my car was that I had just met one of the enlightened ones whom we are studying in our Buddhist readings for my religion course. She, without a doubt, has discovered all the secrets to life and is basking in the pure joy of this knowledge. My second thought was to go back and ask for a job application.
The point of this anecdote is that accomplishments and success are such ambiguous terms, but happiness–although no one can define it, but everyone can recognize it–is not.
I am not sure whether the worker at Trader Joe’s who convinced me to put on hand lotion was a part-time worker, a full-time worker, or truly one of the enlightened, but she was definitely happy. Yes, establishing an online presence can be a useful tool to connect career-seekers with employers, but it is not the most important thing in the world, and neither is being the recipient of award X and award Y.
By the way, Trader Joe’s does have really good hand lotion.