Do tell: Preparing for every interviewer’s opening line

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If you’re like a lot of jobseekers, you dread the moment when someone says, “Tell me about yourself.” But have you thought about why?

You have probably submitted a resume and cover letter to countless organizations, corporations, or individuals in hopes of landing a job. However, getting a job involves more than just submitting your bona fides. It takes a story: one that’s composed strategically to connect your past experience, your career goals, and your next move – that is, the opportunity at hand.

As an example, here’s the story I might tell: “My name is Alnierys Venegas, and I have social service work experience in marketing, public relations, multicultural education, and grassroots outreach. Throughout my career, I have successfully supported agency goals to increase brand awareness in the Latino community and build partnerships with local agencies. My desire is to develop a career where I can help people and become a valued leader and educator in the nonprofit community. I believe the Director of Hispanic Community Outreach position with the Dream Foundation would be an excellent match for my skills and experience.”

A narrative like this does two critical things. One, it demonstrates to the employer that you have a clear sense of who you are. Second, and perhaps most importantly, it provides a clear and strategic sense of where you are going.

Here’s how to figure out yours:

Know yourself. Engage in self-reflection exercises such as the Myers Briggs personality test. These will allow you to understand your strengths, weaknesses, and career propensities. When you have a better sense of the type of person you are, it will be easier to narrow down job opportunities that fit your personality and goals.

Seek a mentor. Looking for a job can be frustrating, but it can be even more difficult when you don’t have a sense of direction. A mentor will help you set tangible, realistic goals, and then hold you accountable for them. Mentors will also help you organize your thoughts and provide you with constructive criticism on your job-search process.

Create your dream job description. At some point, most people – even those deep into their careers – find it impossible to define exactly what they want to do with their professional lives. One way to begin figuring it out is to write down your career desires in the form of an imaginary position. Start with your goals, and then describe the types of duties, responsibilities, and work environment that would make up your dream job. This exercise doesn’t just provide you some clarity, but will subconsciously aim you toward opportunities that align with your desires.

Once you have gained an understanding of who you are, sought guidance, and written a description of your ideal position, you will be able to look at your resume for a pattern that tells a story of who you are – and why you’re the right person for the job.

Alnierys Venegas is Supervisor of Program Initiatives for the Helping Her Live program at Sinai Health System, and previously served on the board of YNPN Chicago. This story appeared originally, in a slightly different form, on the YNPN Chicago blog.

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