So… Tell Me About Yourself?
So… Tell Me About Yourself?
"A blank canvas is a playground for the imagination." – Marty Rubin
If you have sat through an interview or been to a networking event, you have heard this question before. It seems straightforward, but why do so many of us get tripped up by this question? I think it is because most of us don't like a blank canvas. A question like this is way too open, and it leaves so much up to creative expression.
Do they want to hear my life story or my job history? How much detail should I provide? To answer this question effectively, you have to understand two things – Context and Intent.
Context: In what context is this question being asked? Are you talking to someone you just met at a networking event or coffee meeting, or are you being interviewed for a potential job opportunity? Context matters. When you are interviewing for a position, you want to tailor your response to what will be most relevant.
Intent: What is the intention behind the question? If you are being interviewed, they want to see how you communicate, how you tell a story, and how you connect with people. In a networking conversation, they are gauging whether or not to invest their precious social capital in you.
I have explored this question for years with my clients, and here are some steps you can take to move from a blank canvas to a unique masterpiece.
Collect Your Stories: One of the first steps in creating a Tell Me About Yourself narrative is to collect your stories. These stories are the raw materials that make up your narrative. Where have you shined in the past? What accomplishments are you truly proud of? You have to make sure that you don't hold yourself back here. Most of us are afraid to step out on stage and highlight our brilliance, but this is where you need to courageously and unapologetically toot your own horn and realize that you are the hero of your stories.
Strike a Balance: One of the key points to keep in mind as you craft your Tell Me About Yourself narrative is to make sure you capture enough interest to leave them wanting more, but not too much that will lose their interest. From a timing perspective, we are targeting no more than a 2-3 minute glimpse into who you are. Remember, less is more.
Present, Past, Future: You want to make sure you take them on a quick time-traveling journey starting with the present, then your past, and enthusiastically paint them your vision for the near future. What are you currently doing? What have you been up to most recently? Then shift to where you are from and where you studied or learned your craft. Add in some of those interesting highlights from the stories you collected earlier. Please note: whatever you do, do not do a walkthrough of your resume. This will put people to sleep no matter how exciting your career has been. Lastly, close out with where you want to go next and how this connects with the opportunities in front of you.
Practice, Practice, Practice: Once you started to write up your Tell Me About Yourself narrative. You have to practice it! When you write it down and practice it, you can integrate it and make it come to you naturally, so next time you are asked the dreaded question, you comfortably and enthusiastically paint them a picture of who you really are!
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