Selling yourself is the first step to finding a new job. But how do you sell something you’ve stopped believing in?
Growing up Catholic in the Upper Midwest meant two things, guilt and humility. Neither of these traits ever served me well in the entertainment industry. But I was a good boy, so I adhered to those traditions, right down to the bitter end.
And that’s a problem, because as I learned at a job search seminar last week, you have to sell yourself to get a new job. Sell myself? How do you do that when you feel like a loaf of bread that got moldy around the corners, and was tossed out with the trash?
(C’mon all you marketing students, there’s a challenge for you, come up with a graphic and a sales pitch for moldy bread.)
That was the kind of thinking I was going to have to stop doing to succeed, according to the “Jump Start” classes I attended this week. Stop thinking negatively and start thinking positively, and then work the system to get your resume to the top.
It was all solid information, and I definitely picked up some resume writing tricks and some cover letter writing skills that definitely needed some brushing up. (I would say the job search scene has altered slightly over the last 18 years, wouldn’t you?)
But that part about selling myself and being proud of what I have accomplished? Tough for me to do.
It’s not that I don’t think I’m any good, it’s just that I was brought up to believe that other people had to talk you up. If you were good at what you did, others would spread the news for you. Never were you to “toot your own horn”, that was a sign of vanity.
Now we live in an age of “personal branding” and “accentuating your skill set”. No more am I to think of myself as anything but skillful and a master at my craft.
When the instructor asked us how many skills we bring to the table, I immediately thought “I don’t know, five, maybe six”. The guy in the front row she pressed for an answer was cut from my cloth, he said, “five.”
“Five?” the instructor repeatedly incredulously. “You’ve worked for how long, twenty years? And you only have five skills? No, my friends, you have many skills when you think about it, probably over 500.”
“Well aren’t we full of ourselves,” was the thought that popped into my head the quickest.
But she’s right. When you start thinking about it, the average worker’s skills accumulated over a period of time are boundless. So why was everyone in that room reluctant to say so?
I think it may come from how Americans view their workplace.
The work/life balance is a delicate dance, and the anxiety of potential job loss in a down economy make us lean towards the side of more work. As was pointed out in the job seminar the other day, a lot of us are handling the additional duties of those like me who were let go. This has increased the anxiety in the workplace, and decreased the self-worth of workers.
How many of you feel like if you say no to working longer hours on an additional project, you’re putting your job in jeopardy? How many of you have been asked to take a pay cut in the last four years? How does make you feel, about your job or yourself?
Maybe you’re one of the fortunate ones, and that extra work is acknowledged and rewarded by your employer, if not in cash, than in other ways. I have a feeling you’re a rare exception.
It’s a tough go when you’re willing to grind it out with what you have, only to be told it isn’t enough.
Have you ever had a job that you really loved? And the feeling was reciprocated? So much so that it ceased to seem like work?
While I have been blessed over the past 30 years to do something I truly had a passion for and loved, it is still rare to find the environment described above.
In a recent discussion on a message board at toytowngermany.com, the German work ethic was brought up. It turns out Germans don’t socialize much at work, and it appears to help their productivity.
…the office is very hushed. After work drinks don’t exist, you bring your own tea/coffee/water and people get fidgety if you speak to them too much on non-work related matters.
Germans work to live, they don’t live to work. This is vastly different from the majority of Americans I know. One example: a lot of Germans think Americans are pretty kooky because one of the first questions they ask a new acquaintance is what kind of work s/he does.
And check out this page of comments from people who have worked abroad and in the United States. Do you see a pattern?
Notice the comments on the Japanese — totally different culture — but here’s the thing about the Japanese and the Koreans, their CEOs (not by law, but by peer pressure) rarely are paid over ten times the average workers salary, and they also work long hours, so the feeling is “We’re all in the same boat.”
So here I am, getting ready to once again sit in front of the word processor and sing my own praises to the resume page. It’s a difficult chore for someone conditioned to think it’s not a good idea to sing like that, but the reality has set in on the Upper Midwest work ethic as well.
As Reginald Bruce wrote about the changing economy:
Just being a hard working, intelligent or skilled employee is not enough any longer. It is more important than ever for one to stay educated and to continue to improve skills. … Hard work is still necessary but the future is not guaranteed.
It sure ain’t.