Maybe you’re a star. Maybe you’ve got talent just shining out from every pore. Maybe you have always known exactly where you’re headed. And maybe you feel like you’re great at actually doing things, but you just have one key weakness. You don’t know how to talk about yourself. You’re doing great, and your focus is pure and powerful, until you’re asked to put the focus on yourself.
And maybe that’s where you freeze up.
Or maybe, like me, you’ve got lots of work still to do to clarify ‘where you’re going,’ but still there comes a time when we all are asked to talk about “what makes you special?” or “what do you bring to this project?”
Many people find it hard to put the focus on themselves, and this struggle can make it especially hard to spend time thinking about how to describe yourself and what you want. But knowing how to talk about yourself, your accomplishments, and what you have to offer is an important part of having a personal brand that is clear, powerful and attractive to other people.
So how do you get past the weird feeling?
In some ways you probably don’t ever get past it — not really. You just have to understand why it’s important to overcome the discomfort, and then discover the ways you can learn something useful about yourself anyway. I think that’s why most people tend to shrink back from delving too deep in ‘the big question’ that seems to rear its head in this situation:
Do I have to answer the BIG question: “What is my purpose? Why am I here on Earth?“
Big question, huh? Yeah – I know. But I don’t think we have to solve world peace, you just have to identify some insights about yourself that can help you answer the less big-hairy-scary-questions that you’re faced with in more everyday situations. And it’s not that I think we should avoid big audacious questions — it’s just that in most cases you don’t have to write a book about your ‘purpose-driven life’ as much as be able to talk about yourself a little without sounding like you’ve never thought about what makes you a great worker or leader. It’s about knowing how to talk about your strengths and worth.
And that takes some time, and maybe a few tips and tricks. Here are some ideas about how you can put yourself under the microscope:
1. Figure out what you really need
Are you just interested in a quick elevator speech about your goals? Maybe just a quick way to run down your strengths for other people? Or are you looking to really craft a vision of where you’re coming from and where you’re going? Knowing what is the end-game for you can help keep you focused, and avoid an inward spiral.
2. Commit to the hunt
It’s important to recognize that this kind of work is not easy. It will take some time to figure out the best ways to understand yourself as a brand, and be able to talk about yourself in ways that help you stand out for the right reasons. So start off your journey with a promise to yourself that you’ll put in the work to do it right, and push through the weird feelings. If you put unrealistic expectations on yourself to quickly throw together something genius, then it’s likely that you could feel defeated when it ends up taking a little while to get things crafted in just the right way. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you’ll get there eventually, and decide consciously to dedicate the time needed to get the job done.
3. Review the evidence
In looking around your current online profiles, resumes and even job performance reviews, look for snippets and phrases that stand out as being particularly apt about you. Maybe you had a really good bio written for a conference you recently attended. I still play around with my little bio on Twitter to see what just ‘looked right’ as a description. You can always try purchasing a book about researching your strengths – some Marcus Buckingham books are great for this. Or maybe you’ve got an even better sounding board, which brings us to…
3.5. Interview likely allies
(We only made this 3.5 rather than 4 because it just a continuation of reviewing the evidence.) Now you will want to review the evidence through other people’s eyes, and gain their perspective. Identify some people who know you well, and talk to them about how they view you and your talents and working style. Be sure to choose carefully who to involve, because you’ll want them to talk about how you come across, and what they really appreciate from working or living with you. You’ll want them to be fully honest, so make sure the conversation isn’t just about how awesome you are, but try to get a real picture of how you are perceived. Clarity at this point is crucial, because you’ll want a firm foundation to build on.
4. Craft a story
Using all these inputs, the really hard work begins. Can you put these traits and attributes together into a story? The Story of You and how you fit into the world. I like to think about it as a shortened way of telling my life story, focusing on what I see as my overall purpose, my unique strength, and then how I perform the best, or how to get the best from me. You may want to tell your story differently, however, and you’ll want it to match your personality, background and style. Don’t worry about being a hero in your story, just make sure it’s about who you really are.
5. Try it on and talk it out
Eventually you can just think about it, and you have to try it out. Again, starting with friends, maybe you can give the concept or statements a trial run with some friends. And if all goes well, then start using the insights to talk about yourself in all kinds of situations, like job interviews and performance reviews. Be aware of how your words are coming across, though, and always ask yourself: “Is my story truly communicating the essence of me? The best of my authentic self? Are they ‘getting’ me through this story?” If not, you may want to back up and try again.
6. Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Don’t assume you won’t ever have to revisit your story. Go back and take a look at your trusted sources for self-insight on a semi-regular basis to make sure you’re still being honest about what makes you tick. To make sure you don’t forget, you can give yourself a little calendar reminder each year to go back and see if any aspects of your insights are falling flat, or need some more attention to perk them up.
Let me know how it goes!
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