I am always running across people who have been told “Make sure you sell yourself!”, whether it be on interviews, in networking groups, or simply in any conversation that includes the question “What do you do?”. They sure are getting bad advice!
Instead of selling yourself, which can lead to your listener getting glassy-eyed and daydreaming about what they’re having for dinner, the score of the baseball game, or anything else they’d rather be doing, focus only on those skills, abilities, experience and knowledge that will have a direct impact on making their situation better. Allow your listener to buy what you are offering.
Nobody wants to hear about the $36 you saved your company back in 1998 by using a different coffee machine, or the project you ran in 2004 that upgraded your company’s software program to a long extinct version of Windows. What they will want to hear is a very short one or two sentence highlight of a recent success that has direct pertinence to what they do. “Earlier this year I showed our legal team how to save numerous hours when dealing with Dodd Frank compliance issues, and I wrote a corporate handbook for counsel to use as a template going forward.” Clearly what you are doing there is not only addressing what is likely a large time black hole for that person / company’s legal team, but you are also showing how you were able to produce a very tangible and useful product for that team to use, and makes you instantly a very valuable potential addition to their firm.
For every time that you have entered a clothing store and been ambushed by a salesperson right away asking you what you want to buy (trying to sell you), there may have been the occasional salesperson that has come over, welcomed you, and simply said that when you’re ready to look for a specific size, he/she will be over there folding sweaters (allowing you to buy). I know which salesperson I’d want to buy from!
Going forward, focus only on a couple of recent career highlights that you are confident will impress your listener because of their relevance to that person’s job / company / industry, and keep them concise and to the point…no stories of how your grandma’s struggle during the Depression led you to be frugal, and therefore save your company money. Nobody cares about these stories, certainly not in an initial conversation!
Remember…don’t sell yourself, allow yourself to be bought!