Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Some friends of mine hosted an event that, frankly, I wish I could have attended this past weekend. They’re making a go at it as a business and from the sounds of it, their first event was a raging success. Because it’s a business, even though It’s a good five-hour drive for me, I did sign up to follow their social media site just as my way of showing my support. Naturally, one of their first posts asks followers to say a little something about themselves.
As I was writing about my history in their genre of events and other interests, it kind of occurred to me how common it is that we must talk about ourselves. As a society, whenever we are asked to say something about ourselves, we tend to immediately launch into the manner in which we make money. I know I do this, and even though I’m not currently active in that career, I still talk about what I did, and how far I got. To be fair, what I did do was not common, and has yielded a rich variety of adventures and stories to share, so it does tend to keep the conversation going, but I what I don’t share is that I enjoy hiking, that I am trying to get into photography, and that I’m struggling to figure out my 3-D printer (I think I have a bad spool of cord).
Frequently, it is necessary for us to promote ourselves. Every time we apply for a job, we have to present a resume that glorifies our successes and what we’ve accomplished, including when we’re young, even before we have any significant accomplishments. We even have to find people willing to sing our praises as references (which is an odd practice, as clearly, we will only choose people who have good things to say, so is it just to see if we can find three people who actually like us?). We’re asked about our weaknesses, another opportunity to brag about ourselves as we try to find a “weakness” that they will like, such as being a workaholic (as I am), or too detail oriented.
It has never been easy for me to sing my own praises. Oh, I’m getting better at it as I really don’t care anymore, but when I am on interviews, I am typically quite reserved. I try to find a few examples of successes that they might find interesting, but honestly, I assume they’re not interested in me prattling on about myself. Not everybody struggles so. I’ve been in single interviews with people that went on for hours because they literally wouldn’t stop talking. I tended to keep my answers short and to the point, much like they want witnesses on the stand to do in courtrooms. But the reality is that it’s just not easy for shy people to try to brag about themselves (something I’m getting over now that I’m on the down slide into the grave).
For my readers who struggle as I did, here’s a trick I eventually figured out. Just remember that you are interviewing them as well. While you’re trying to convince them that you’re the best candidate for the job, they also have to convince you that you will want to work with them. It’s not a one-way street. You still have to answer their questions, and usually you don’t get the chance to ask questions until the very end of the interview, but the way they behave is a sign for you. Keeping this in mind just helps to level the playing field a little bit so it doesn’t feel quite so pointed, and when you can ask questions, ask a few of them that shows that you want to know about them. Do some research (if you can) in advance, so you can ask questions that shows them that you have done research. Ask questions about the culture so they know that you are serious about finding a job that you want and make them convince you that theirs is the company for you.
I have a friend who might have a different piece of advice for anybody who finds them in a position where they have to self-promote. When you find yourself in that kind of position, remember that they are the ones who put you in that position. That means that you can say anything about yourself, and can do no wrong because, after all, they are the ones who asked. So, relax, have fun, and toot that horn!