Last night, I got an email from Centre for Student Involvement and Careers. The subject line was: Your LinkedIn Photo is Ready for Download.
On October 1st, 2014, the last day of UBC Career Days, I headed to the Party Room to get my photo taken for LinkedIn. As I walked into the room, a woman at the Build Your Career booth called out, “are you here for your LinkedIn shot? Please sign up here. Oh, also take a free razor! Here!” and handed me a box of Gillette razor. It’s a razor for men. Sweet. I walk over to the back of the lineup for the LinkedIn shots. A girl walks in, and lines up behind me. Wait, she doesn’t get a razor? I look back to the booth again. The booth only hands out Gillette razors for him. “How inclusive,” I laugh internally.
But as I was waiting in the line, I had some thoughts of how that razor symbolizes our world’s problems in many ways.
Razors are marketed as a gender-based product. Razors should be doing the same job for all genders – removing hair. But razors for women are typically pink, with floral designs slapped onto its package. Venus. Embrace. Goddess. Soleil Bella. Daisy. These are some of the brand names for razors for her. Razors for him? Power. Turbo. Magnum. Flex. Titanium.
Hmm. So maybe UBC was trying to be inclusive after all.
Another thought – razors help you look professional. That means we ought to be clean shaven in professional settings. It’s something we’re all used to, but why? Alright. Ten more people until my LinkedIn shot.
The guy in front of me is wearing a nice, clean, ironed white dress shirt. He probably shaved in the morning. The girl in front of him is wearing a black pantsuit. The girl in front of her, a tailored black dress. The dude in front of her, white dress shirt, shaved. This is starting to look like a pattern.
I remember the “ultimate tip” presenters give me when I go to interview preparation workshops.
They tell us, “And most important of all, be yourself!”
Here are some suggested dress codes:
“Gentlemen, wear a nice dress shirt. But you don’t want to look too casual, it isn’t professional.”
“Ladies, wear a nice pantsuit! It subtly shows your confidence and that you are ready to work!”
“They want to get to know the real you!”
“Don’t wear too much makeup! It is unprofessional!”
“Ladies, if you are going to wear a dress, make sure it’s a neutral color, and that it’s conservative!”
“Don’t show cleavage or show too much skin! It’s unprofessional!”
“Remove any body piercings! It’s not professional!”
“Cover your tattoos!”
“No big bling or statement accessories! They are immature!”
“Show your personality! They want to get to know you!”
“Boys, you should shave.”
“And most important of all, remember to be yourself.”
Do you see where this is going?
Clothes, accessories, make up, beards, you name it – they are function as tools of personal expression.
How can I be “myself,” when I am constantly being showered with encouragement and instructions to fit into this mold of professional identity? It’s restricting, to say the least.
If the purpose of the interview is for the interviewers to get to know me, it must be restricting for them as well. How can they get to know me if I can’t freely express who I am, because I fear that I will appear “unprofessional”?
I walked into the LinkedIn Photo session, the Gillette Razor pack still clutched in my hand.
“Hi, nice to meet you,” I shake my hands with the cameraman.
“Alright Sam, I want you to give me a big smile, lean over to me as if you are having an enthusiastic conversation with me.”
I give my best professional smile, my upper body awkwardly twisted towards the cameraman.
I see the camera flash.