Tell Me About Yourself
So what do you do for work? Tell me about yourself. You will encounter some version of this familiar icebreaker on job interviews, airplanes, at networking events and cocktail parties. A variety of factors will affect your answer including how you feel that day and whether you’re in the mood for a real conversation.
You can try throwing out a job title or company name. That often does the trick in terms of responding with what’s expected, but if a polite nod is the only reaction, is anything much actually being communicated?
Beyond the Title
• the part of your work that most interests you, what you care about;
• how others would describe the experience of working with you;
• your particular specialty, what you’re good at, and your distinct approach.
When you touch on these items and to put it in marketing terms, you’re communicating something about your core purpose and your personal brand. Of course not every tell-me-about-yourself interaction calls for a comprehensive answer and you don’t need to become a self-promoting sound bite machine. Just realize that words have power and they help you connect with people, ideas, and opportunities.
It’s important to understand the impact you have and the difference you make –- to value it yourself and to be able to communicate it. Whether you are aiming for a promotion, marketing yourself to a prospective client, are in the midst of a job hunt, or are casually networking, it’s worth the effort to clarify this for yourself.
Take Christine, an emerging leader in her organization. She received direct feedback from senior management that they want to hear more about where she sees herself making the biggest impact in the organization long term – ideas that go beyond Christine’s stated goal to attain the VP title. In the coaching that transpired, Christine and I collected observations (her own and those of others) that clarified her top strengths, interests, and values. Prominent themes emerged such as the fact that she cares about and has a knack for creating environments that encourage creativity, collaboration, and growth. This is one of several insights Christine is now bringing into her conversations.
The Way You Do The Things You Do
Once these themes are clear, you’ll use them in your performance review conversations, your resume, Linked In profile, and when introducing yourself in social or professional settings. You’ll ask more thoughtful questions of others in those situations as well.
This Week’s Call To Action:
• For your own purposes, try answering the question, “What do you do for work?” without using your job title.
• Pretend you are describing what you do to a second grader. Now imagine the same conversation but with an elderly friend.
• Describe how the project, person, or end result is different because of you.
Maybe “tell me about yourself” actually means: How do you see yourself? How do others see you? What do you care about? At least, that’s if someone is asking genuinely. Otherwise it might just mean: Nice to meet you. Have you seen the buffet? Either way, it’s good to have a handle on the real answer.
Originally published for In the Current blog.