“Tell me about yourself.” It’s the question we’re most likely to be asked first on a job interview, and the one we’re least prepared to address. When it comes to crafting a compelling career story – one that highlights our strengths and encourages people to want to learn more about us – we really struggle. As a result we miss the opportunity in those opening moments to intrigue the interviewer with our unique blend of abilities.
It’s easy to understand why this is such an issue. After all other than a narcissist, who really enjoys talking about themselves? Most of us are much more comfortable extolling the virtues of others than publicly affirming our own brilliance. But when it comes to successfully selling ourselves in an interview, that’s exactly what we have to do. Developing a stand out career story that makes clear what we have to offer, and why we would be an asset to their organization, is key to successfully securing a new position.
In my new course Be Bold. Be Brilliant. Be You. I offer an exercise to help you craft a career story that helps you stand out among your peers. Below are a few tips to help you get started.
- Identify Your Excellence – While it’s great to have a myriad of talents, it’s more important to be clear about what you master. Here’s something to keep in mind – most companies want to hire employees that excel at the skills they need most. Make sure your career story is based on your excellence, not a random collection of skills for which you’re competent. For an example of what I’m describing check out this short video on Loving on Me TV.
- Select Your Stand-Out Examples – Once you’ve identified your areas of excellence, select a few examples of your work as proof points. You’re looking for examples that allow the interviewer to visualize you in action, affirming what you’ve identified are your greatest strengths. Focus on impact not activity. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to share everything and end up saying nothing.
- Research Your Field of Focus – In order for your career story to powerfully work for you, it must position your skills as a solution to employer’s challenges. That means you need a clear understanding of not only your skill set but also the industry needs and opportunities – particularly in your field of excellence. Do a little research to determine how you can use your strengths to give value from the start.
- Write Your Career Story – To avoid rambling take a moment to write out your career story as a five paragraph essay. The first paragraph should be an introduction to who you are personally and professionally, without going into distracting details. In the next three paragraphs cover one area of excellence in each, and identify your examples that will serve as proof points. In the final paragraph summarize and clearly articulate your value. Here’s a preview from my Be Bold course with an example of how I tell my career story.
- Practice Your Presentation – Once you have a draft completed take it for a spin with a friend or mentor who has experience interviewing others. This will give you valuable feedback on a) if your areas of excellence are easily identifiable, b) whether your examples provide credible proof that you master these areas, and c) whether your narrative inspires others to learn more. Be conscious of intriguing people without overwhelming them. Talking too long will lose their interest.
- Update Your Resume and Linked-In – When looking for a new position this is the step where most of us start, which is why our resume and Linked-In profile reads like a recitation of facts, rather than a compelling career story. However if you follow the steps outlined above first, your resume and Linked In can be an impactful reflection of your greatest strengths – communicating clearly the areas you master and how you add value. They can also become a powerful magnet to attract opportunities that align with your strengths.
For more tips on how you can advance your career sign up for Be Bold. Be Brilliant. Be You. In 9 simple steps you’ll develop a plan to get noticed, acknowledged, and rewarded for your great work.