When I was looking for my first job post-college, I remember getting told time and time again that I needed to work on "selling" myself. That phrase always grossed me out. Why do I have to sell myself—shouldn't my accomplishments speak for themselves? Maybe in an ideal world. But after not hearing back from job after job, I realized that it was time to start working on my own sales pitch.
"Selling" yourself may be a shticky way of phrasing it, but in actuality what I needed to do was identify the value I could add to a position and then persuasively communicate that value to the prospective employer. Keep in mind how busy this employer is with his or her own day-to-day—if you don't sing your own praises, another applicant gladly will.
So how can you come up with your own sales pitch? Some suggestions:
Analyze yourself to find your value. What would make you a valuable employee? That's can be hard for you to answer. In fact, it might be better if you didn't answer it. Ask friends, ask professors, ask former bosses—ask anyone who can help you get a third person perspective into what you bring to the table.
Note when people describe you similarly—down to the adjectives they choose—and use this list to develop a sketch of your worth. Then match your personal value up to the position your applying for to form the basis of your pitch.
Present your value consistently and in the best light. Now that you what you can add to a position, it's your job to communicate that to a prospective employer. Double check your resume and cover letters: do they clearly communicate your worth? Make sure they do—a recruiter probably won't go digging for it. Instead of rattling off bland tasks and duties performed, list meaningful accomplishments (bonus points for strong action verbs and numbered results).
In the interview itself, plan ahead how you can keep steering the conversation back to the value you could add. Without sounding like a robot, returning to the same themes will help your interviewer remember what separates you from other applicants.
Remember your value. I don't mean this in terms of self-esteem—that is a different blog post entirely. What I mean is that the application and interview process is not a one-way street: it is an exchange. You and your prospective employer should both be evaluating each other: the employer judging your experience; you judging the fit of the position and company.
If you've done a good job communicating your value and how it matches the open position, the rest is out of your hands. Feeling bold? If you end up not getting the job, very politely ask why. This feedback can help you refine your sales pitch for the next time around.
After this exercise, hopefully you have some ideas of how to "sell" yourself. Above all, though, remember to be sensible and articulate—not aggressive. Act like a lawyer arguing a case or a realtor weighing the pros and cons of an apartment. Don't be a used car salesman.
About the Author
Ethan Scott graduated from Kenyon College and works as a strategist at Firstborn, a digital agency headquartered in TriBeCa.