I volunteer at Bracknell Careers Springboard , which is a club for job-seekers. We help unemployed people get into work. Many are middle-aged professionals who have been made redundant and find it hard to get re-employed. The most important skill that we work on is how they present themselves and in particular, how they answer the request, ‘Tell me about yourself.’

When first asked many people respond with wooly and wandering statements, sometimes including a long career history starting with their first job or with a detailed and bitter account of why they were made redundant. They miss the opportunity to present themselves in a clear, precise way. We encourage people to develop and practice a short, focused TMAY, which includes the following:

  • Key skills
  • Recent work responsibilities including the names of the organizations they worked for
  • Evidence of achievements
  • What they are looking for

Everyone has skills. It is important to identify the skills which are transferable to other situations and which are valuable to employers.

We aim for about a one-minute delivery or about 120 words when written. It is best to write it out and then practice saying it in a natural way. The statement should avoid ‘motherhood’ claims such as ‘I am a good team player’ or ‘I am focused and determined.’ Who would not make such claims? Instead, they should include concrete statements of achievement e.g., ‘I was responsible for a team of 12 people who delivered a major IT project that resulted in savings of $10m for XYZ Company.’

Some people find it hard to articulate the kind of opportunity they really want. They could turn their hand to many different jobs and do not want to commit themselves. They might say, ‘I am a manager who could tackle any administrative position.’ This may be true but it makes them hard to remember and hard to help. It is better to say something like, ‘I am a qualified project manager and am looking for an opportunity to help run a major change project.’

The TMAY is invaluable, not just in interviews and not just for job seekers. Anyone who networks needs a short description of himself or herself. It is useful when you meet people and they want to know about you. Obviously, it can be adjusted for different circumstances but the core elements remain.

Most jobs are not advertised but are filled through contacts so networking is a crucial part of the job search and your TMAY is the opportunity to tell people concisely what you are and what you want. You may only get one chance so make it short, focused, and memorable.

Featured photo credit:  Happy group of finger smileys  via Shutterstock

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