One of biggest reasons people come to me seeking help with their resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, and other personal branding dilemmas, is because it’s extremely difficult to look at yourself objectively and analyze your own skills, strengths, and talents as a professional. Sure, there are the obvious things: if you’re a Copywriter, you’re probably fairly talented with writing, just as a Marketing Manager probably knows a lot about building brands, and a sales person, well, selling.
But dig beneath the surface of the obvious, and ask yourself what other less obvious skills, talents, and attributes might be there that you’re bringing to the table? Think beyond your core functions – what other kinds of things do you do in your position, or have you done when called upon, or especially in cases where you weren’t called upon? Your primary responsibilities might focus on handling the day to day administrative functions of a small office, but you’re actually really great when it comes to building ongoing relationships with your customers. They ask for you by name on the phone or stop to chat with you on the way out of the office. You even know a thing or two about their personal lives.
You’ve heard it a million times: Your resume isn’t just a bullet list of skills and experience. It needs to be branded, it needs to tell a story around your career, and provide context to where you used those skills and how they benefited the company or helped you grow in your role. And again, it’s hard to look objectively at yourself sometimes and pull that necessary information out.
So here are a few questions you will want to ask yourself to be able to provide that insightful, marketable information, whether it’s in a resume, an interview, or a simple conversation:
What do I want them to know about me as a candidate?
This is the one people always get stuck on, because it’s thought-provoking, and chances are, no one has ever asked you this before. Think beyond the technical or hard skills, and think more about what you bring to the table on a personal level. When asked about this question, people often jump into talking about their exceptional work ethic, the passion they have around their industry, the satisfaction they get out of leading a team toward a singular creative vision. Those kinds of things.
What differentiates me from someone with similar skills, experience or education?
Anyone can list skills and experience on their resume, but again it’s about communicating the context in which you used those things to make a contribution, to achieve a promotion, to satisfy a client, or to be proactive. Anyone can be an accountant with the right training, but it was you who identified multiple areas of cost-savings and saved the company thousands of dollars last year. Those kinds of things.
What aspects of my occupation do I enjoy most, and want to see carry over into my next role?
This will help you identify the things that really make a position fulfilling to you, and an environment that propels you to thrive and do your best work. It will also open your eyes up to the things that you’ve been simply “tolerating” and are ready to let go of, or things that have been stifling your growth or performance. Then flip it around and ask yourself, “What do I dislike? What am I no longer willing to tolerate?”
What is the core value that I bring to the table?
You are a brand, so think of yourself as a business. Who is your target audience (it’s the company you want to work for, and the person in charge of that hiring decision)? What need, lack, problem or interest exists that is prompting them to seek out someone to fill this role? What talents, skills, experience, knowledge, and resources do you have that allow you to speak directly to that need/lack/problem/interest? That last question will give you the answer of what the value is that you can bring to the organization. Now you just have to be able to clearly, confidently and concisely communicate it.
Here’s the downside: Arguably, if you’re not in sales, marketing or advertising, you probably feel a lump in the pit of your stomach when it comes to marketing and selling yourself. You worry about bragging, or perhaps being too modest. This is where you want to nix those fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs because it absolutely is about marketing yourself, and doing it well.
The good side? The light at the end of the tunnel…is a better opportunity.
Photo by -XV on Flickr