How to Compete For Jobs while Remaining Yourself

Q. I’m not a self-promoter and my work results have always “talked” for me. I’m in search mode now and I’m being coached to sell myself more than I’m comfortable with. How do I compete for jobs, but still be myself?

A. Bosses love employees who let their work results speak for themselves. However, during the interview process, you need to speak up more than you would on the job. There are ways to self-promote that don’t come across as bragging, or taking on a persona you don’t want.

As you review your resume, make sure to include a section that outlines specific accomplishments at your previous jobs. Include specific projects that you have completed, as well as concrete numbers or goals that you reached. Include any awards earned, information about whether this was a first in the organization or a leading event, or some other terms which showcase the achievement. Don’t include every detail, but enough to peak the interest of a recruiter who will open the door by asking you for more information about the project.

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There is an important distinction between talking about yourself, and talking about what you have done. For someone who does not like talking about themselves, it is important to remember that stating facts is not bragging. Take pride in the fact that you improved the company’s bottom line, or closed a sale that the business really needed. Explaining the steps you took in accomplishing these goals is a great way to open up a dialogue about the skills you bring with you without explicitly stating what a great candidate you are.

Sometimes, it’s not about what you say, but how you say it. During the search process, try to avoid using “I” and “Me” statements when you are elaborating about past experience. Instead, use phrases like “We” and “Our team.” Not only will this help convey that you are a team player, but it will feel more natural. Few people enjoy talking about themselves and if they like it too much, it can be annoying. Using these alternative phrases alleviates the discomfort associated with self-promotion.

You can also talk about why you found a project interesting or challenging. What motivates people is of great interest to recruiters, and showcasing problem solving skills and technical skills may feel less personal than a focus on personal attributes.

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Finally, remember that the job search process is a two way street. You need to find a company that matches your personality. Be yourself. While there are ways to promote yourself without leaving your comfort zone, remember that the company has to be right for you. Finding out if the recruiter represents the culture, or if others within the organization do is part of your job to discover. Matching skills and culture will help you make the right match for long-term, job search success, so you can once again let your great work speak for itself.

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