LET’S TALK ABOUT YOU: HOW TO TALK ABOUT YOURSELF
By Michael Goode
By now you’re likely familiar with the numerous ways we’re expected to share and express our work and ourselves. Resumes, portfolios, websites, social media profiles are ways in which we display (hopefully) a branded & consistent presentation of our work, creating a glimpse into our person.
Some of the aforementioned formats are relatively brand new. For instance, utilizing social media profiles to find work was pretty unheard of when I was a freshman in college way back in 2006. However, something that we’ve always been able to count on and likely will continue to lest we begin to rely on robotic avatars (I don’t count anything out at this point) is talking about ourselves.
Tell me about yourself
Simplicity aside, discussing ourselves is intimidating and even downright frightening to many people. As an introvert who primarily relies on writing to express myself, it’s easy for me to recognize how daunting it can be to clearly and succinctly hold a conversation with strangers about what I have to offer. One of the most challenging interview questions is the classic, “Tell me about yourself.” Where do I even begin with that? When someone asks that question, are they wanting me to tell them about the time when I first discovered my love of vintage bobblehead dolls and how I expand my collection by around 20 every passing year?
More realistically, when we’re faced with an initial conversation with someone who wants to get to know us on a professional level, we have a tendency to summarize what we know or what we’ve done. In mock interviews that I’ve conducted with students, many will even fire off a list, spitting metrics back at me about the things that I read about on their resume five minutes ago.
Go a bit deeper…
When you are in an interview, whomever you’re speaking with has already seen that information. Reiterating that you were the highest seller of organic gluten-free red velvet vanilla swirl muffin tops at your bakery gig isn’t going to reveal any new information about yourself or what you can contribute. What we want to give those who are unfamiliar with us and our work is a glimpse into are our vision, our values, and what we hope to contribute.
You can get to those by delving into your past accomplishments, but I’ve recently found that the best practice in such situations is to remain present and focused in the moment. If my goal is to secure a job at a college or university where I’ll have an opportunity to be working with students, I’ll begin by briefly providing an overview of my experiences before discussing what I like about working with students, what I find interesting about working with students, ways in which I hope to improve services provided to students, and on and on and on. Well, not on and on and on, as another issue that comes up with this question is being cognizant of time, but you get the idea.
When working in a creative industry, effectively communicating these concepts is especially important. If you’re interviewing for a position as a contributing writer for a magazine, for example, you don’t want to simply provide a laundry list of the work you’ve done in school and internships. It’s more important to discuss exciting trends in the field you’re going to cover, ways in which the field is changing and innovating, and referencing those whose work you admire to express that you have more than just the ability to write, you also are a committed and knowledgeable aspiring professional.
Stay true to you!
In a time when we can go even as far as creating relationships with other people without meeting them face-to-face, there cannot be enough said about the value of confidently and effectively holding a conversation with other professionals about ourselves. Millennials especially (although I believe unfairly) have a reputation for lacking the social skills necessary to not rely on more impersonal communications. This makes it even more important and impressive when you’re able to entice someone through the gift of gab.
With a bit of practice and preparation, talking about yourself doesn’t need to be nearly as scary as it might feel. Don’t think for a second that these opportunities arise simply through interviews – it doesn’t end there! While networking with others or even when on the job, it’s important to remember that this skill is one that requires some consistent tending to.
Most important, remember to stay true to your own voice. It can be easy to fall into the trap of becoming a phony talking head who repeats meaningless buzzwords in order to just have something to say, so take confidence from the knowledge that you are currently in a position where you have an audience listening to what you’re talking about. You got there for a reason – because you have something to offer, something that others want and need.
Now go talk about it.
With internship, full-time job interviews and Industry Events quickly approaching, talking about yourself is more important than ever! Schedule a mock interview with Michael by calling 312-369-7280.
For further reading, check out the following links:
What you wish you’d known before your interview - infographic