By Ian Christie, LiveCareer Counselor
Most people don’t know how to take a compliment, let alone talk about their achievements in a job interview. It can be difficult to “sell” yourself to employers, especially if you haven’t really taken the time to uncover your true assets.
Your goal should be to get really clear on who you are professionally and what you offer your current and potential employers. Just like a diamond in the rough, you need to chip away and find your most brilliant center. Then you need to spend some time polishing it so that it really shines.
Step 1: Where have you been and where are you now
Record your educational and professional history to date. What full-time and part-time jobs have you had? Add community service, leadership roles, entrepreneurial initiatives and other notable experience. For each job or position, write down what you were hired to do and your tasks and responsibilities.
If you are early in your career or in college, you will likely have a shorter list. Include relevant academic coursework, class projects, memberships in school organizations and extracurricular activities.
Step 2: Dig deeper to find stories
Review your history again. But this time, focus on the contributions you made.
You are creating mini stories that reveal a lot about what you can do, so be as specific as possible.
For each job or position held, what difference did you make? What accomplishments can you point to? Additional questions are:
- What specific projects did you work on and what was your role?
- What challenges or obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
- What objectives did you achieve?
- What lasting improvements did you leave behind?
Step 3: Track record
Honestly evaluate where you were successful, where you weren't and what you think the factors were. Remember, this activity will help you get a handle on your unique value proposition. Include:
- Where you achieved your goals
- Where you exceeded expectations
- Where you were recognized or rewarded
- Where you had fun or were really engaged in what you were doing
- Where you fell down and what you really did not enjoy
Success stories are clues to help you figure out your strengths and where you fit best. Stories of failure should be equally treasured as they provide incredible learning opportunities so that you know what to avoid in the future.
Step 4: Strengths
What does your track record tell you about your strengths? What patterns do you see? Hint: If you list a particular strength multiple times, chances are it is important. What are you good at? What do you do naturally and effortlessly? Here are 3 ways to uncover your strengths:
- For each of your accomplishments, what abilities did you have to demonstrate in order to get the job done? Customer service skills? Project management? Quick thinking?
- Dig into past performance evaluations, reference letters, assessment tools and notes you have made to yourself. What clues can you find? What does your LiveCareer test say?
- Lastly, and importantly, find a way to talk to people you’ve worked with. Ask them what they consider to be your strengths, what you are good at, why they like to work with you and then listen carefully.
When asked to talk about your strengths, don’t resort to old standby clichés. This is an opportunity for you to tell your potential employer what is unique about you.
Step 5: Environments
Job fit is an important factor in success. You might be a very accomplished salesperson, for example, but if you worked in the wrong environment, sold the wrong product, worked for the wrong kind of manager or used a sales process that didn’t match your selling style, you might fail miserably.
Make some notes about the environments you have been successful in and, equally important, those where you have not done as well. Think about the degree of structure in the job, the level of autonomy you had, the culture of the organization and your manager’s style. What do you need to be successful? This is another way of pinpointing where you fit best.
Step 6: Skills and tangible credentials
Catalogue your skills and level of competency. These might be hard skills like operating specialized equipment, knowing how to use a software programming language or being proficient in office software programs. You also have some soft skills like customer service, negotiation and people management. Record these.
Next, list your tangible credentials like degrees, diplomas, courses and certifications and make a note of how relevant each one is for your field.
Step 7: Experience
Companies buy skills and knowledge. They also buy experience. What kinds of experience do you have? Here are some example categories:
- Industry or specific market experience
- Type of organization (i.e. public, private, not-for-profit and government)
- Size and situation of employer (i.e. rapid growth, shrinking, turnaround and reorganization)
- Special situations (i.e. change initiatives, product launches and international expansion)
When you add these experiences to your functional expertise and skills, your offering starts to become more defined. Rather than being a commodity, you are positioning yourself as a specialized product that can more easily be sold.
Putting it together
You now know a lot more about yourself than you did before. It’s time to put it together.
- Look for overlap and try to consolidate your ideas. For example, you might have a list of 14 strengths that could be boiled down to a list of nine.
- Try combining concepts to create a more focused profile. For example, an accountant with a passion for not-for-profits could effectively describe herself as a not-for-profit financial manager.
- What are your key selling points? Use your intuition to decide what is most important and relevant.
Selling yourself can be an awkward, frustrating experience. When you faithfully work through these 7 steps, you discover that you have a lot to offer. Then, through continued effort in shaping your ideas, honing in on your unique value and learning how to talk about yourself, you are polishing your diamond to reveal your true inner brilliance. This is the most direct route to effective résumés, interviews, career moves and career decisions.
With this newfound knowledge and the confidence that comes with it, you are now in a stronger position to make better choices in your career that are based on personal fit.
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