Want to land your dream job? Don’t be Kim Kardashian

Aug. 27, 2014
To my considerable dismay, Kim Kardashian and her PR goliath have managed to permeate the Shield of Nonsense that normally protects my USS Enterprise. This infestation has led me to create a syndrome I call “The Kim Kardashian Effect.”

I like to invent words — and concepts. As a teacher, I find it helps to convey abstract ideas, especially considering the scientific jargon that's involved in our field. I am inspired to do this by a variety of things: nature, my sons’ odd linguistics, the Spanglish I was exposed to as a child, song lyrics — even modern culture. Try as I might (and I try SO hard), I am not immune to the effects of modern culture and its key players. To my considerable dismay, Kim Kardashian and her PR goliath have managed to permeate the Shield of Nonsense that normally protects my USS Enterprise. This infestation has led me to create a syndrome I call “The Kim Kardashian Effect.”

Only in these modern times where external beauty (acquired through extensive effort and expense) is overly valued could an individual with such a staggering lack of intelligence, talent, and accomplishment be admired and revered. It's equal parts baffling and intriguing. It's also troublesome as Millenials enter the workforce and mimic her “success.” It is not in young professionals’ pursuit of fame and fortune above all else where her influence is most problematic, it is in the belief that in order to be successful all one must be is beautiful.

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A great many well-meaning and accomplished professionals have published a great many well-meaning and informative articles related to the business of success. Attention-grabbing headlines are effective and even I get drawn in: Your Resume Is Costing You That Dreamjob!, Networking: You're Doing It Wrong!,Your Look Is Outdated: Wear THIS! Some young professionals are convinced that networking alone is the ticket to success. While I agree that creating valuable professional friendships is key, I see too many people doing it wrong. (NewYorker.com’s editor, Nicholas Thompson, gives short and concise advice onnetworkingand sets it straight.) As I peruse these articles, I wonder how the intended audience, which is always young people starting out in their careers, interpret the advice. I picture them diligently following the author's advice and rearranging resumes, wardrobes, and practicing interview techniques in front of a mirror. Job markets are fierce and every little bit helps. When they land the job: SUCCESS! This stuff really works.

When they don't: read a different article with different advice.

Rinse, repeat.

The truth of the matter is that there is no shortcut to success, there is only work. Through work you gain experience. With experience you gain knowledge. Knowledge is what people seek, what people need. You are valuable as an employee (or any other role, really) if you know stuff; how to do stuff, how to get stuff, what kind of stuff works best in different situations with different people. If you know how to do stuff, whether or not your resume is one page or two pages is completely inconsequential. If you provide quality service and satisfy your clients, your employer won't even care if your magenta blouse is matching your Esse polish. It's nonsense, see?


Go out and work in whatever office or organization you've been invited to. You might get lucky and find a great job. More likely you’ll find the not-so-great job. Every now and then you’ll wander through the muck of the bad job. But that’s a golden experience because it’s often the bad jobs that teach you the most valuable lessons. Those of us who have accomplished a bit in life appreciate the work ethic of young professionals who are dedicated and unafraid of the work. We see you and we respect your hustle. Conversely, the young professionals who are “faking it,” who are relying on networking, appearance, or the reputation of the university they attended, are offensive. None of us got to where we are that way. We worked. We worked and sometimes had fantastic, incredible days and we worked and sometimes fell flat on our faces. If we were lucky we had friends and mentors help us up. If we weren't, we got up by ourselves.

And nobody cared what we looked like.

Avoid the Kim Kardashian Effect. Do the work; don't waste time and energy on frivolity. Those who encourage frivolity do so because it is their business. Your business should be your patients, your reputation, and your profession.

Do the work and you will have the most important thing: knowledge. Once you are confident in the knowledge you have, because that knowledge was gained through actions and proven through your experience, you will be successful. And no one can ever take that away from you.