I accidentally became a runner because I lied on a resume.
Relax, there was no full blown fraud; though I grew up thinking you could get any job by copying a resume out of a library book and reciting a mantra of: “I’m right on top of that, Rose.” Thanks Christina Applegate.
My infraction was more of a fib. Like saying you’re skilled in Photoshop, when best you can do is chop up a photo in MS Paint; or, listing “Intermediate French” under “Languages” though your vocabulary is limited to “Puis-je aller dans la salle de bain?” and Halloween nouns.
I’ll come out with the moral of the story upfront: it’s risky telling a white lie on your resume. The faux photoshop pro disappoints the whole office with pixelated Christmas cards, the language liar is exposed when she answers “What is your raison d’etre?” with “Oh, I don’t eat raisins, especially for dinner.”
Let me explain…
It was October 2008, mere days after one of the worst market crashes in modern history, and we were all looking for jobs: thousands of type-A, overachieving law students across Canada competing for scarce summer articled positions. It was dim. There were rumors circulating that the major law firms were cutting hiring numbers by fifty, maybe even eighty percent.
Summer articled jobs were a big deal, regarded as the golden ticket to a real-life lawyer job. If you did a good as a summer student, you were likely to get an articling job at the same firm. Prove yourself resilient (i.e., deranged) enough to survive articling, and you get a lawyer job, you’re able to pay off your student loans, and you find love, happiness, and self-actualization.
Don’t find a summer job? You die alone. No exceptions.
I had been dreading the summer job hunt since I walked into my Winnipeg apartment, suitcases in tow. I opened the door and met my roommate for the very first time. She was hunched over a plastic IKEA table in an otherwise bare space, behind mountains of 8 by 11 ½ inch paper and a bulky printer.
“Oh hi, I’m Colleen,” she said, peeking up from her laptop with a smile. “Summer job applications for Toronto are due tomorrow. Are you applying for summer jobs? At which law firms? Which cities? Any practice area you prefer?”
In fairness to Colleen, a lot of pressure was put on students to follow this track: get a summer job, then an articling position, then a private practice lawyer job, become partner, die— as though there was no alternative career path worth pursuing; as though we were livestock, herded into the slaughterhouse.
About a year and a month later…
“It’s all about fit,” our career counselor advised. “You want your resume to go beyond where you did your undergrad. Let the law firms get to know the real you.”
We were instructed to differentiate ourselves by adding an “Interests” section to our resumes. I picked my scalp. “Dancing, writing,” I typed. What else?
Shopping? How about:
Shopping Fashion? Drinking Wine? Flirting Community Relations?
“Maybe we should start running or something?” I suggested to my friends, Katie and Shannon.
I ran with the freedom of a gazelle under the autumn leaves of Assiniboine Park. I hobbled through Assiniboine Park like an elephant with foot fungus. “What’s this pain in my side?” I cried in agony. “It’s called a runner’s stitch, you need to breathe through it,” Katie replied. “I think I’m dying,” I confessed.
I vowed never to run again.
“It says on your resume you like running?” the hiring partner said, glowing with excitement.
“Ah, yeah, totally,” I fibbed.
I was in a posh law firm, downtown Vancouver. I could see mountains and the ocean from the partner’s office window. I applied for over thirty summer jobs in this city alone, and I netted exactly one interview. Failure was not an option.
As I noticed running shoes— not just a pair, but a collection of running shoes— under the partner’s desk, I realized I was screwed.
“Well, aren’t we in luck? We’re looking for another member for our running team. We love running. It’s our thing. Some law firms are golfers, others dominate the softball season. Us, we run.”
Soon, I was signed up for a 100 kilometer relay race with the law firm: my section about 14 kilometers with hills. I consumed about eight Advil before the run. “I don’t think that’s good for your liver,” one of my co-workers (who has WON marathons, speaks five languages and sings Opera, no less) said.
“All the lawyers I know do two things,” my only non-lawyer friend in Vancouver, Jennesia, observed, “drink and run.”
“Does that mean we’re all masochists?” I asked.
“Not to mention, alcoholics,” she added.
In a few months, I’m getting married. In the meantime, I’m stuck in Smalltown, Wisconsin, Population 468. No gym in sight, not to mention fancy barre method classes or yoga or Bollywood dance, or any other forms of exercise that aren’t repeatedly and painfully pounding pavement.
Though I feel a bit like a basic bride trying to tone up for the big day (gag, I hate that phrase; why is a wedding generally regarded as a woman’s most important life event?), I’ve yet again given into running.
My 5K time is almost twice as slow compared to when I was articling. My joints are achy and aging. My lungs are constricted.
But I guess some resume lies become self-fulfilling prophecies.
I kind of like running.