Thursday, May 24, 2007

Good on Paper

by Diana Holland

'Committed, dedicated, results-driven, people-person seeks opportunity to contribute to large corporation …'

One’s resume, bio or curriculum vitae is always good on paper. It is almost like a rule that cannot be broken, like a law that we must abide by.

“Well, what am I going to do, write discouraging stuff about me?”, a Hispanic job applicant told me once, as I delivered a workshop on job hunting tips.

So why is it that we seem to have a knack for stuff that is ‘good on paper’? What gets us excited about something that sounds so good, that it is almost impossible to be true? Or is it that we are constantly looking to reaffirm that we, as human beings, can be regularly deceived or tricked into something that we then realize we don’t want or like?

‘Good looking, charming, friendly, sweet twenty-something girl, looking for Blue Prince’, reads a posting in an online dating website…

Personally, I am very leery of what sounds too good to be true, but trust me, I am tempted to go there, every time, and sometimes I do.

When I read about the US immigration dialogue, I can’t help to think that, at some point, it all looked good on paper. Why would someone, anyone, put together a set of laws that would not look 'good on paper'? I am sure that back in 1986, when the ‘amnesty’ was approved, it looked good on paper. Can we blame those who believed in the ‘good on paper’ resolution back then, about the troubles that we are encountering now?

I regularly hear comments like, “This immigration issue is very frustrating…”, “How is it that we got to this point…”, and, my favorite, “All we have to do is start from scratch…”, and I can’t help but wonder why is it that we cannot accept that, sometimes, 'good on paper' will be just that: good on paper, not good in life.

But then, as my student said, what are we going to do, make it look 'bad on paper'? Would any of us want to support, let alone vote for, something that doesn’t look good on paper?

“Well, you know, they could’ve thought about it more before they voted on it”, my friend, who is waiting for his immigration papers to come thru, told me recently.

Yes, it's true. We can analyze, and review, and then analyze again, and we can continue doing this indefinitely and, frankly, never come up with the perfect idea or program. However, we need to move forward, and take action. And that is why we write stuff that looks ‘good on paper’ and then set out to apply it in real life.

And in the process, some will benefit, and some will not; some will be disappointed, and some will be very satisfied with the outcome. And some will not be affected at all by it.

‘Good on paper’ initiates the conversation. It opens up the dialogue to move forward, to continue with the process and mostly, to be open to connecting. If resumes didn’t look ‘good on paper’, it would take forever to get a job interview.

Getting the foot in the door is a first step that cannot be avoided. Once we are in, we can sit down at the table, share a meal, and review how good the ‘good on paper’ really is.

And that is why I like to talk about the immigration 'dialogue', rather than the immigration 'debate’. Diverse thoughts and ideas about an issue are good, as long as we can move along in the process. That is dialogue, not debate.

It is in the diversity of thought and in the diversity of ideas where we can make the ‘good on paper’, become ‘good in life’.

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