Dr. Joseph Barber
Those of you who have watched Disney’s “Brave” will probably have taken away some of the following points from watching the film:
- Your fate is in your own hands – be proactive and stand up for what you believe in
- Some witches believe that turning people into bears is the answer to any problem
- Don’t buy gammy spells from scaffy witches!
There is all sorts of important career-related advice one could probably take from this film – I’ll leave you to extract most of this. It is pretty direct in terms of the message it tries to get across…, unless you are four-year-old who isn’t very familiar with Scottish accents. If you happen to be one of these people, then the film makes no sense at all. With that nice Scottish accent, the key message of the film, “change your fate”, ends up sounding more like “change your feet”. I know this because when I asked my four-year-old what she thought “Brave” was all about, she said it had to do with taking your shoes off and getting new ones. From her perspective, Brave was all about finding the right shoes – a process involving:
- Magical sprites
- Terrifying bears
- Limb loss
- Suitors competing with one another
- Mother-daughter arguments
- Regret, resentment, and guilt
- More terrifying bears
- Mother-daughter bonding
- Did I mention the terrifying bears?
It is perhaps not surprising that my daughter is not so keen on going shoe-shopping when given the choice. From her perspective, the high likelihood that some of these situations may arise must certainly be a trifle off-putting. Actually, changing your shoes is still not a bad analogy for all sorts of good career-related advice in terms of the process of changing your fate. In fact, it is a much more practical approach that is easier to visualize and implement. I might be wary of messing with the cosmos by playing with my fate…, but I am much less scared by the notion of trying on a different pair of shoes for a while to see if they fit, or if I like the way they look, or the direction they are taking me.
The advice I am going to extract from this film for you, however, is focused on how you talk about your experiences in your application materials. Accents don’t interfere with what you write in your cover letter or CV/resume, although poor English certainly does, but there can be accent-like issues. If you describe your experiences and skills by talking solely about your academic research in a very academic research kind of way, then you will have a “research accent” or an “academic accent” to your resume. People who read this resume who are not researchers (perhaps they are program administrators, HR staff, or business executives) may not understand what skill you are trying to demonstrate when they read your descriptions because of these accents. They may take away a completely different meaning from what you have written, even though it sounds like it makes perfect sense to you. As you apply for jobs in a broad range of career fields, you will need to become familiar with the different accents you can use to translate your experiences in different ways. It can be hard to first understand and then learn new accents if all you do is read about them online, so the best approach is to immerse yourself in environments where those around you are using these accents all the time. In other words, network with people working in different career fields and find opportunities to interact with them (e.g., volunteer opportunities, informational interviews, internships). You’ll pick up some of the accent in no time at all, and it will be very helpful in your applications and interviews within that career field.
Whether you hope to change your fate or your feet, you will find that the fantastic network of Penn alumni you can connect with through QuakerNet and LinkedIn will be invaluable. Like the wisps, they can point you in the right direction…, unlike the wisps, they probably won’t lead you down a path that ends with terrifying bears (probably). Listen to what they say and use what you hear to help you refine the way you talk about your own experiences.
Next time, perhaps I will talk about the career advice you can glean from Disney’s “Frozen”. Here’s a hint, I think it will be along the lines of “Let it go…, Let it go…”
The question is, what is “it”?