When I was unemployed and job searching in San Francisco after the dot-com melt down, I hated riding the train at rush hour. Everyone had a place to go where they were needed except me. I was just taking up space. I was an outsider to the in-crowd. I wanted a place where I belonged. I wanted to feel like I was participating in the world that was going on around me. I felt vulnerable to being left behind completely, and I hated it.
To propel myself out of vulnerability I had to act like I didn’t feel – indispensable. No employer was going to hire someone uncertain of themselves. Uncertainty hints of insecurity and of shame in our personal failings – feelings we’ve all felt, normal feelings that we must have to feel empathy, but feelings our corporate structures would rather leave unexplored.
After the viral success of her TED talk on vulnerability, Brené Brown relates in her TED Talk on shame that she received many speaking engagement invitations. “We’d love you to come and speak. We’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention vulnerability or shame.” When she asked what corporations wanted her to speak about the most common answer was, “innovation, creativity, and change.” “Let me go on the record,” Brown says, “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
Brown defines vulnerability as “emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty” and that without it we prevent ourselves from living in authenticity. Without vulnerability we wouldn’t create anything new or ask the uninformed questions that lead to new perspectives enabling us to solve previously unsolvable problems. Without vulnerability we’d never evolve into anything other than what we currently are. We’d be stagnant, which would make us appear uncertain, insecure, and consumed by our personal failings – the person no one would want to hire.
Embrace your vulnerability as the impetus to your adaptability and use the knowledge that you can change to project your confidence. Of course you will not be exactly what an employer is looking for, no one will be, but you can be the one who is most comfortable with the inevitable uncertainty of living, so much so that you won’t appear vulnerable or uncertain at all.