What makes you unique ? What can you do better than anyone else you know ? What is one thing that really makes you stand out ? And what size of a shotgun do you need pointed at your smarty-pants to get you to sell yourself ? Selling ourselves seems like bragging and not only are most of raised not to brag, but we also don’t tend to enjoy listening to people that do brag. Think “that guy” at the party who seems to only have one topic to discuss: himself. As unpleasant as that is, at least he has the chutzpah to put it out there. I’m guessing that being unemployed feels the same for just about everybody as well: awful, aggravating and avoidable. How do we avoid extended periods of unemployment ? By learning to brag just enough to get us noticed and not enough to turn potential employers off.
My recent education has given me new skills that I have to remember to own and helped me to recognize my existing abilities as valuable. I am considered a strong contingent planner with excellent problem solving skills and the ability to plan and strategically execute projects on budget and on time. Sounds great right ? And in private I completely agree with that assessment. I see myself as a confident leader who is encouraging to team members, places realistic expectations and is open to new ideas. But saying that out loud to a potential employer just smacks of bad manners and is just not how I was raised. It’s hard to overcome wiring like that but in order to sell ourselves, it’s a must to cut whatever is holding us back.
Perhaps it comes down to the perception of bragging versus selling. Perhaps by looking at our skills and abilities as commodities we can push past the inability to sell them when we need to. What I need is to find balance between PT Barnum and the communications professional I know myself to be. In between lies a capable woman who wants to sell her skills and start the career she has always been dreaming of. Learning to sell skills in a comfortable way to convey confidence and demonstrate clearly to the company with whom you want to work is key to this success. What’s one step to doing this ? Well figuring out what your skills are in the first place. I’ve been using a great book by Robin Ryan called “Over 40 & You’re Hired”. There is a fantastic resource available with a very explicit skills list: http://www.robinryan.com/forms/skills.pdf. Take the time to use a list like this. If this one seems too daunting, there are other resources that are available on the Net:
Doing this type of exercise helps you to build confidence in what you can do and that, my friends, is a big part of bragging. Though some would argue otherwise, you have to have some confidence in what you’ve done in order to brag about it. At least I do. It even helps uncover things that you might not discover with the self-guided, open-ended “tell me about yourself” kind of questionnaire.
The goal of all this is to sell yourself to those in Human Resources who are the keepers of the key to happiness in JobLand. Shocking as it may seem, those in the hiring chair do not want to hire the wrong person. They do not relish going through resume after resume of people who “feel”, “just know” or “really believe” that they are the right for a company in an industry they probably have no experience in. While the applicants enthusiasm is admirable, the wasting of the HR person’s time is not. People in HR positions want you to hustle and sell your skills because it makes their job easier to hire the right person. They want you to clearly demonstrate that you would be a good fit with your skill set, personality and experience. I can guarantee you that they know the pain of reading wishy-washy resumes and if they believe their time is being wasted they will feel no remorse in filing your resume in the shredder. Do you really want all the work that you put in to that resume to end up lining a hamster cage ?
Finding the bragging balance is essential. Applying for jobs that actually fit your skills rather than wishing the HR department would have an epiphany and see your potential is even more essential. Once you’ve found the job description that sounds like it was written just for you by the Gods of job hunting, you need to pull those special words out that make the HR persons heart go pitty-pat. Those words that match the job description enough that the person who gives their time to read your resume doesn’t do an eye roll and sigh before swishing a 3-pointer in to the shredding pile. By simply be cognizant and considerate of the person receiving the resume, by actively trying to not waste their time and by clearly demonstrating that you are the holy grail (or a reasonable approximation) to their candidate search, you just increased your chances of getting hired.
What can you do better than anyone else ? Sell yourself. It is something you must do as no one is going to do it for you. HR people are not going to magically line up to offer you the top job in their company but by doing some homework, finding your skills and learning to embrace the brag, you at least improve your chances. As awful as it may seem and as aggravating as it might be, selling yourself is not avoidable. I’m guessing that being unemployed is much worse than learning how to brag and that’s not a hard sell at all.