The myth of ‘selling’ yourself

“I just don’t know how to sell myself in recruitment processes.”

If I had a pound for every time a client (or potential client) had said this to me, I wouldn’t need to work any more. (Although I’m sure I’d miss coaching if I had to give it up).

There seems to be a wide acceptance that to succeed in recruitment processes, and in your career generally, you need to be able to sell yourself – your skills, your experience, your personal brand.

I see two problems with this.

1) No one likes receiving a hard sell

We might enjoy shopping, but very few people enjoy the process of experiencing a pushy sales person doing a hard sell.

It often feels uncomfortable, pressurised and icky. Why would this be any different in your career?

2) It’s not enjoyable doing a hard sell

Most people don’t enjoy trying to manipulate others into buying stuff they don’t want or need. If you work in sales you might enjoy the buzz, the money, or the meaningful relationships you forge, but it’s unlikely that trying to trick others into buying something they don’t want excites you.

So, what’s the alternative?

Knowing yourself, and showing yourself.

You need to have a clear idea of your skills, strengths, interests, and values. Knowing these different elements not only helps you to work out WHERE you want to apply, it also makes it will make it easier for you to show these elements to employers.

But how can you know yourself and show yourself?

  • Self-reflection – Work with a therapist, coach, mentor or friend to write down what you are good at, what you enjoy, your values, and what you want your career to give you.

  • Identify your USP – Reflect on what makes you stand out. Consider if you are passionate about a particular topic, or have interesting experience in an area that many others wouldn’t have. If you’re struggling, create a new USP! Set up a charity or fundraising event, networking initiative, or online community. Companies love to see proactivity and personal initiative, and setting up something that represents what you are passionate about or interested in is a great way to do this.

  • Manage your personal brand – Your personal brand doesn’t mean giving the hard sell, it simply means being aware of the impression your create – in person, online, and in job applications. Manage your online presence, and consider creating or sharing content related to your interests or areas of expertise.
  • Nudge your comfort zone – Practicing public speaking, presenting, or networking are all great ways to stretch your comfort zone and get a little braver. The more new things you try, the more confident you will feel showcasing your skills and experiences to others.

  • Research – research companies well before applying, and talk to as many people as you can that work there. Learn more about the culture, what makes them different, and identify which parts of this specifically appeal to you (or not). This will help you naturally align your skills and strengths with that the employer is looking for.

  • See every interview as practice – After interviews, remind yourself that regardless of the outcome you will interview again – whether next week, or in five years’ time. See every interview as an opportunity to practise your interview skills, allowing you to be even better for the next one.

Finding the right job is like dating…

After knowing yourself and showing yourself, it’s then up to the employer – and you – to work out if it’s a mutual match. Do they want to hire you, and do you want to work for them? If it’s a match – great. If it’s not a match, you probably weren’t right for each other in the long run anyway.

Just like dating, it’s not about pushing yourself on everyone you meet, it’s about finding a suitable match. It’s not your job to ‘hard sell’ yourself to employers. As long as you know yourself, and can showcase your best self, you are doing everything you can from your side to give yourself the best chance of finding your match.

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