A career can be described as the sum total of life experiences including all paid and unpaid work, education, interests and leisure activities. That being said, we would have a wealth of skills to draw from and an expansive definition of self. Talking about ourselves should be easy, shouldn’t it?
For many it is not easy. I meet people who have such difficulty in defining their background, skills and attributes as soon as the question “tell me about your self?” appears. Most women (not all) will default to their personal life first “I am married, have two children…” and then migrate to their previous work experience, men will usually jump to their last job and follow up with a description. In both cases they rarely find a way to truly define themselves and it appears to be such an uncomfortable question.
Now lets jump to a scenario. You have just lost your job and are attending a party at someone’s house, as you mingle around the room, what is the question you get asked? “So Kim, what do you do?” The question you dread when currently you are doing nothing but getting over your lay off or trying to find more work. Many people define themselves by their last job and find it particularly hard not to immediately jump to that identity, as if they are less of a person without their job title.
What I want you to do is take out a piece of paper and write down the title of a previous job you have had or a volunteer position. Put the job title at the top of the page and if you have been a caregiver or stay at home mom that title is also extremely important to include. Now, write down everything you did under that position, not in book form but a point form of everything you can remember you did in your daily activities.
Once you have completed a list of those activities go back up to the top of the page and cross off your job title, just erase it!! Now, what are you left with? Your skills, your knowledge and I bet there is a lot more on that list than what was originally given as your “job description.”
I want you to own all of that and more. Describe yourself in a holistic way: “I am a sales person with 10 years of experience…”, ” I was a stay at home mom with a background in management which was particularly well used in managing my household”. There are multiple ways you could explain who you are but the best that you can do is to look at the big picture. This lesson applies not only to the question asked of you but also when you are creating your resume. Don’t short change yourself, remember your experience is vast.
Even if you have been off work and are travelling around trying to find the next opportunity, your suitcase is still full of all the skills you have accumulated along the way. Decide what is important to you now. Promoting who you are starts with a very clear answer to the question “Can you tell me about yourself?”
“Well yes, I can!”