By Shea Ki
When you talk about yourself in a professional situation, do you feel that people are hitting the snooze button?
When someone at an interview says, "Tell me about yourself", do you wish you could kick things off in an impressive, memorable way?
Then you are in the right place. I geek out about developing ways to fix these communication problems, especially for women rising up in the workforce.
I know how nerve-wrecking and overwhelming it is to prepare and get through an interview or record an introduction video about ourselves. This becomes double the challenge for those of us more socially anxious, sensitive/empathic, or introverted types.
I often see inaccurate, damaging guidance of how we are suppose to show up when presenting ourselves. Much of it encourages saying or doing things that don't feel like the real us. Fortunately, many types of businesses and self-employed people are realizing that holding back who we truly in an interview leads to disaster in the long term.
Sharing only one dimension of ourselves or leaving out too much about what we value hinders how we represent ourselves. It also won't get us remembered and allow us to attract work we deeply enjoy. Instead, keep this "ACE" strategy and infographic up your sleeve (or on your smart phone) for next time you want to engage others in what you offer.
A = Authentic
Have you noticed it is way too easy to find out what we are "suppose" to say in an interview with an internet search?
Since there is SO much advice on do's and don'ts, all kinds of imposter syndrome or other feelings of not being good enough can start to grow inside us. I still sometimes fall into this trap, even with my background managing employment centers, getting degrees in Communication and Counseling, and creating successful, highly attended workshops about upgrading interview skills.
Each time we follow an overly used template or rely too much on a cookie-cutter answer from somebody else, it blocks our authenticity. Since the communication isn't customized to our unique background, we are often doing more damage than good.
Synonyms for "authentic" include genuine, believable, and fully trustworthy. These are characteristics that behavioral science shows us time and again we are judging each other on, often within the first few seconds of meeting or seeing a person on video.
Strengthening our message of professional value goes faster with one-to-one coaching where you gain actionable tips and feedback. But everyone can start by reflecting on these two questions:
Am I 100% clear about what I value, how I work best, and who I enjoy working with?
Do I believe fully in what I am bringing to the opportunity (or in the service, product, or other offering that I provide?)
By reflecting on these questions, you will help ensure that your communication comes across as genuinely YOU. How much you believe in yourself and what is important to YOU is as unique as your fingerprint. Neither is something you can fake-it-until-you-make-it or borrow from someone else if you want to come across authentically.
People often will move on quickly to finding someone with a visibly strong belief in their work and a clear vision of how it contributes to others. If either of these areas are fuzzy to you, seek a professional you trust in your field who has time to explore this with you. Another option is to email me and set up a time to talk about how we can work together to do the inner work and outer practice to help you gain this essential clarity for career momentum.
C = Captivating
Think about your favorite moment in movies or Ted Talks you have seen. When someone is fully present and their mindset, body language, and energy are in alignment with their message, it is often captivating.
One of my favorite parts of interview coaching is helping other women boost their power to hold the attention of the person they are talking to. At first, this might sound like some type of magic trick or that it is a challenging skill to master. But, it actually is a communication technique that most can do after learning a few facts about human behavior and the art of building connections.
For starters, add more interest to your message next time you are presenting about yourself by trying these three following tips. See what shifts.
1. Share your true personality and what matters to you.
If it doesn't sound like you, don't say it.
If it isn't comfortable, don't wear it.
If you get a feeling they can't handle who you fully are, don't ignore it.
Would you really want to work at a place or for a client that expects you to change or hide who you are? Over time, you might earn a nice paycheck, but this pattern puts you at high risk for burn-out as well as an unfulfilling experience and serious health problems.
"When we choose to courageously not blend in and instead unveil what is unique about ourselves, we become magnets for professional opportunities that fit better and feel good."
I often get asked a lot of "Should I....?" questions that often relate to "how much of my true self should I be in the hot seat?" If a client is concerned about this or I notice them holding back their personality, we work together to bring out more of their amazing spark.
Every person and interview situation needs a different, specific touch to it, but often these prompts help:
✅ Tell the story behind a piece of meaningful jewelry or clothing you are wearing or something else that lights you up
✅ Offer insight into what refuels your energy outside of work, books or people that have inspired your goals, or other dimensions about yourself besides being a professional
✅ Add in some appropriate humor if that feels natural to you, acknowledge how your differences can be an asset if that is on your mind, or take the risk to speak with clarity from your heart about your fit for the opportunity
2. Be genuinely interested in who you are talking to,
Ask a question such as "what is your top project right now?" or invite them to share about something important to them offering, "I'd love to hear about the highs and lows of your work week so far." Hear what they are saying without thinking about what you will say next. Instead, reflect back out loud what you heard and follow with a question about what they told you. This type of active listening and genuine curiosity often keeps the conversation going as a meaningful, memorable exchange for both sides.
3. Surprise them--in a good way.
Talking doesn't teach us about someone nearly as much as experience does. Demonstrate a skill or talent that is relevant to your personal brand. Show them samples of your work or a new idea to a problem they need solved.
E = Effective
In order for your communication about your professional value to bring about the intended results you want to experience, it has to be effective. There are many qualities I look at and listen for when determining if what is being shared is going to be received in the way the sender intends.
Here are a few of the essential ones that you need to practice hitting the mark on:
►Make it clear and concise. About two minutes is often enough during an interview and for other purposes, such as a LinkedIn cover story (more on that below), you may only have 30 seconds.
►Become more aware of your body language (non-verbal communication) and how to use it to enhance your message.
►Stay in alignment to your personal brand.
Get ready to ACE Your LinkedIn Cover Story!
A perfect place to practice using ACE right away is on LinkedIn. Did you know that recently the platform released a new feature where most members can post a 30 second video introduction on their profile? It is called a cover story. The potential of this new way we can share about our professional value to anyone visiting our LinkedIn profile is big.
I realize that for many, including myself, posting a video where we talk about what we offer to the workforce on our LinkedIn Profile is a new and perhaps intimidating task. During a recent conversation with a fabulous colleague, Cathy Francois, we decided to challenge ourselves to get our LinkedIn cover story created, recorded, and posted by the end of June.
Our conversation made me curious.
Had others in my network done this task yet? If so, what could I learn from their examples? If not, what might be holding them back?
So far, I have discovered that the majority have yet to use this feature. There seem to be two main reasons why:
1) Many simply don't know about it yet. What a fun time it has been to share the new feature with them as they see the potential of it as well. Several have joined in the LinkedIn #coverstorychallege with me and Cathy (see details below).
2) Similar to myself, they know about it but have not put one together yet and the reasons vary. Although, many are sharing that they just aren't sure yet what message to say, which I can totally understand!
When I am holding back from doing something new that is outside of my comfort zone, I have learned it helps to have accountability and examples to look at to inspire my own ideas.
I am going to make sure you get both of these essentials right now.
Simply start following the #coverstorychallenge hashtag on LinkedIn and let me know you are stepping up for the challenge! So far, fantastic professionals including Palak Narang, Alison Bucklin, Philip Wilkerson III, Sabrina Woods, and more have joined me and Cathy. We welcome more.
This is a positive, supportive we are all challenging each other to get our cover story (30 second intro video) on LinkedIn created, recorded, and posted by June 28th, 2021.
➡️DM me on LinkedIn or follow #coverestorychallenge if you want to join in!
I can't wait to share all the creative tips and thoughtful guidance we all learn about when using the new feature. I will post an article that includes everyone who wants to share that information after the #coverstorychallenge is over.
Below are some of my favorite examples SO far of professionals using the LinkedIn cover story feature. When you visit their profiles, you will usually see their picture instantly change to moving video. If you don't see that happening (sometimes it doesn't do that on a desktop for example), then click on their profile picture. If they have a cover story recorded, it will play.
Go on a fun journey right now and check out the profiles below.
Notice how each person uses many elements of the ACE strategy to communicate their professional value in a memorable, engaging way.
In this first example, Jenn keeps it simple yet powerful. I love that her LinkedIn cover story video also includes clear calls to action so her work can impact more people.
This next example by Jane shows you how to communicate with confidence and clarity. You can sense she loves her work and helping others when you watch her LinkedIn cover story.
David hits all the elements of the A.C.E. strategy and takes it up several notches by sharing his adventurous spirit and captioning his cover story, doesn't he?
And here is one more to get your creative juices flowing. Jessi aligns her cover story wonderfully with one of her top gifts she shares with the workforce weekly, her podcast Hello Monday.
I hope you take the time to visit these profiles to see the incredible, professional value each person offers. Watching their cover stories has inspired me to come up with ideas for mine.
It also has put me on the search for how people are using it who want to be seen and employed by corporations, organizations, government and other businesses. What about professionals who want to be seen and employed by corporations, organizations, government and other businesses, rather than stay self-employed or keep working for LinkedIn? As diverse examples increase of how to use the new feature, it is likely many more people who are actively looking to switch careers or be employed at a different opportunity will create a cover story and keep it updated.
After I get mine posted during the #coverstorychallenge, helping others learn how to create an engaging video for their cover story will become a common project with those I coach. I love how technology is continuing to challenge us all to evolve how we communicate about our professional value.
🥂Here's to gently stretching outside our comfort zones and supporting each other to A.C.E our LinkedIn cover stories!
Your turn: How will you use the ACE strategy to create your 30 second LinkedIn cover story on your profile? Do you also plan to use it to upgrade your introduction at an interview when you hear, "Tell me about yourself?"
If you think your LinkedIn cover story is Authentic, Captivating, and Effective, I'd love to hear from you. It would be fun to possibly add your tip about creating them to my next blog post and article on LinkedIn.
As always, count me in your corner to help you shine in the hot seat.
About The Author
Shea Ki is the creator of the Upgrade My Interview™ method and resources that help you gain the calm, clarity, and confidence needed for career momentum. Her holistic approach and practical guidance have been featured in several publications and she is often included on lists of people to follow for career success on social media.
Shea also provides coaching programs and workshops that include:
✔️how to assess your interview fitness and strengthen your communication about your professional value
✔️practice interviews that feel close to the real ones you are preparing for with actionable feedback
✔️reflective activities, powerful assessments, and inspiring products that make interview prep more enjoyable
✔️insider and intuitive tips based on years of helping employers find top candidates and being a self-employed, spiritually guided woman
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