Are You Presenting Yourself Effectively?

If you want that new job, if you want to move up in your orga­ni­za­tion, if you want your boss to give you new respon­si­bil­i­ties and chal­lenges, you need to be able to explain your skills and strengths effec­tive­ly.

Don’t expect oth­er peo­ple to know what you can do and, espe­cial­ly, don’t expect oth­er peo­ple to know what you can do for them.  Don’t expect your boss or any hir­ing man­ag­er to read your mind.  Hav­ing won­der­ful skills and pos­i­tive aspi­ra­tions are great attrib­ut­es but they make no dif­fer­ence for you in the work­place if your boss doesn’t know about them.

San­dra, who worked in a large cor­po­ra­tion, came in for career coun­sel­ing because she was unhap­py in her job.  She liked the com­pa­ny she worked for but felt bored and unchal­lenged in her work.  She didn’t know what she want­ed to pur­sue next.  Through career coun­sel­ing, she became very clear about what her skills and strengths were and what she want­ed from her next job.  Based on her new knowl­edge about her goals and skills, she iden­ti­fied a job open­ing in anoth­er com­pa­ny and applied for it.

When San­dra was offered the job, she told her super­vi­sor that anoth­er com­pa­ny had offered her a posi­tion.  He was quite sur­prised that she want­ed to leave the com­pa­ny and asked her why she was think­ing about leav­ing – what she was look­ing for in a new job.  Based on all the infor­ma­tion about her­self that she’d iden­ti­fied in her career coun­sel­ing, San­dra was able to tell him very clear­ly and explic­it­ly what exact­ly she want­ed in a new posi­tion.

Her boss was thor­ough­ly impressed by her clar­i­ty.  As he said, “I’ve nev­er heard any­body explain so clear­ly what they want in a job.”  He asked her to hold off on her deci­sion for a cou­ple of days and soon returned to offer her a dif­fer­ent posi­tion in the com­pa­ny that matched what she want­ed from her pro­fes­sion.

Too many of us, like San­dra, make the assump­tion that our boss knows what we do in our job and how we want to devel­op in the future.  We assume our man­ag­er is clear about our skills and strengths.  Often your super­vi­sor has an idea about what you do but isn’t think­ing about what your strengths are and how your skills could best be used in the orga­ni­za­tion.  Nor can he or she spend a lot of time think­ing about how you might grow in the com­pa­ny.  Pre­sent­ing your strengths to your boss and help­ing him or her see how your skills could be used in new and dif­fer­ent ways is your respon­si­bil­i­ty.

Three key steps you can take to help your boss under­stand your strengths and how your skills could be used include:

1)      When you com­plete a project or suc­cess­ful­ly fin­ish an impor­tant task, be sure your boss knows about it.  Send an e‑mail explain­ing what you have done and what the out­comes were or hand your boss a writ­ten sum­ma­ry of the project and what result­ed from it.  Show your boss the prod­ucts devel­oped as a result of your efforts.  What­ev­er way you choose to share, keep this infor­ma­tion short.  You’re not try­ing to swamp your boss with infor­ma­tion.  You are com­mu­ni­cat­ing the good effects your efforts are hav­ing.

2)      When you meet with your boss for an annu­al review, come to the review pre­pared to present your spe­cial skills and traits effec­tive­ly.  To do this, pre­pare a typed pre­sen­ta­tion that lists the activ­i­ties and projects you have com­plet­ed on your job dur­ing the pre­vi­ous year.  Present this list and then use it to talk about what you’ve accom­plished, what your skills are and what skills you’d like to be using more.  Dis­cuss with your boss infor­ma­tion about how you’d like to grow and devel­op and what new chal­lenges you’d like to assume.  Don’t expect that you will imme­di­ate­ly be moved into a new posi­tion but, if your strengths and goals are clear­ly described, you are giv­ing a strong indi­ca­tion that you want to be con­sid­ered for new chal­lenges or posi­tions as they arise.

In some sit­u­a­tions, and with some boss­es, you may decide that it would be advis­able to give your boss your typed pre­sen­ta­tion about your activ­i­ties and projects pri­or to meet­ing with him or her – so that your boss has time to review the infor­ma­tion before meet­ing with you.  You need to decide whether it’s more effec­tive to bring the infor­ma­tion to the review ses­sion or to share it in advance.

3)      Be cer­tain to use spe­cif­ic exam­ples when­ev­er talk­ing with your super­vi­sor about your skills and strengths.  Whether you’re try­ing to con­vince your man­ag­er you have lead­er­ship skills so you’ll be cho­sen to lead a project at work or whether you’re inter­view­ing for a new posi­tion, in addi­tion to telling the man­ag­er that you have these skills also describe spe­cif­ic times you used these lead­er­ship skills.  Giv­ing spe­cif­ic exam­ples makes your abil­i­ties clear­er, more rel­e­vant and more mem­o­rable for the per­son lis­ten­ing to you.

Mov­ing up in an orga­ni­za­tion or into a new posi­tion requires speak­ing up for your­self in an effec­tive way.  You have skills and strengths you would like to use so be sure the peo­ple who can influ­ence your career path know about them.  Iden­ti­fy­ing your unique pos­i­tive traits and match­ing them to appro­pri­ate work is an impor­tant part of being suc­cess­ful and sat­is­fied in a career.  How­ev­er, iden­ti­fy­ing and effec­tive­ly explain­ing your spe­cial traits and skills to oth­er peo­ple makes all the dif­fer­ence in ongo­ing career suc­cess.

Writ­ten and adapt­ed by Ele­ta A. Jones, Ph.D., LPC on Octo­ber 1, 2013 from a col­umn writ­ten by Dr. Jones and pub­lished in the Hart­ford Busi­ness Jour­nal on Octo­ber 28, 2002, p. 16