I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of my students find it hard to say or write nice things about themselves. Some of this is down to practice and experience, so to a certain extent there is improvement over time. The more jobs a person explores, the easier it becomes to spot the patterns in what employers really mean when they list their requirements. Even better when you actually do different jobs, because you find out what those requirements on paper translate into in real life.
Funnily enough, though, pretty much everyone – young and old – finds it hard to articulate and express what they can offer when applying for jobs. Even someone like me, whose daily working life is full to the brim with thoughts of CVs, applications and interviews (and I must admit there are occasions when it’s overflowing!) can still be thwarted when it comes to doing my own. Human beings seem to have a tendency to close our eyes and ears to the evidence of what we’ve achieved. Here are a few thoughts about why this might be and what you can do about it.
1) We only value what we’ve worked for
When you’ve slaved away at something and really put in the hard graft, you’re more likely to be proud of it and recognise it as an achievement. Conscious effort means the experience sticks out clearly in your mind. that’s great, but it has a downside since unfortunately, it makes it all too easy to overlook natural talents. Take a moment to consider what your gifts are and appreciate them. Talking to friends and family, tutors, managers or colleagues can put into words what you bring that’s unique.
2) We value difference
Being in an environment where you have a lot in common with the people around you can make you feel like you’re not so special after all. Many students are used to being the star pupil at school, recognised by all and sundry for achieving high grades, but when they arrive at University it seems that EVERYONE is the star pupil. Suddenly, they’re small fish in big ponds. Nevertheless, we need to remember that the combination of attitudes, abilities and attributes we have are what make us individual, so look for the whole package.
What looks like a mountain when you’re at the bottom can be magically transformed into a molehill once you’ve conquered it. I’m sure psychologists can explain this quirk of the human psyche and it probably has some evolutionary advantage, but it’s rather unhelpful when it comes to presenting yourself for jobs! Try to think back to how you viewed things before you did them, so that you can see your achievement for what it really is.
With jobs, what you need to put forward to be reallyconvincing and stand out from the crowd is Personalised, Positive, Proof. Proof is provided by giving specific examples from your experience. The positivity comes from finding the best possible (truthful!) words to express yourself and show enthusiasm as well as achievement. The personalisation has two strands: firstly, what you present must obviously be personal to you and represent what you’re all about. Most people grasp that idea easily, even though it’s still hard to express in words. Secondly, though, the approach needs to be personal to the employer. Using their requirements as a starting point is a great way to get the inspiration you need to decide what goes into your letters, CVs and answers and what stays out. Make the match between the employer and yourself and you can’t go wrong!