I’m considering a new book to write – a highly autobiographical (but useful) e-book entitled “How to embark on a long and tortuous career change.” The subtitle will be something like, “What to do if you are visionless, but not aimless.”
I did not realize in 2009 that changing careers and figuring out what direction to point my life would take more than five years. (I still won’t pretend I know what I’m going to be when I grow up.)
I also did not realize I would one day have to turn up at career fairs and job interviews and try and cram this journey into a one minute nugget known as an ‘elevator speech’ so that I could tell potential employers about myself.
One minute. Ha.
One minute is not nearly enough time to include all the relevant a-ha moments, personal insights, game-changing books and blog posts, and life-altering choices I’ve made (and had made for me). Maybe 1000 and one minutes would be enough time.*
But, news flash, you don’t get that much time in job interviews or career fairs. So let me tell you about two different methods I have for answering the dreaded question “Tell me about yourself**”
Method One: Chronological
When I approach this question with a chronological format I am trying to make it clear to the interviewer “How did I get here from there.”
As a someone looking for a new industry and new career I make the case that human services is very similar to human resources and organizational development. Both of them are all about helping people reach goals! Basically the same thing, right?
- I started out at XYZ role because of my passion/interest in…
- While at my position I did XYZ, which led me to realize...
- So I started/decide on this other course of action…
- Which is why I’m applying for this position
Your transition phrases should make clear the path you took, but also WHY you took that path, and WHAT it was about that path that matches up with the position (and company) that you’re interviewing and considering.
Method Two: Identity Driven
Another method I have for answering this question is more about discussing my identity, trying to answer the question “Who am I and how do I work.”
I cut straight to the way I like to describe myself –
I am a problem solver! I love looking at challenges and finding a way to get from A to B…
Then I unpack what the words I chose meant in context with past positions I’ve had –
How do I do this? I use (skills), for example when I was at (company) as a (position)…
I’ve found both of these methods to be helpful in organizing my thoughts and answering these questions. Personally I enjoy using cliches in my elevator speech – which isn’t to say this has never backfired. I’ll save that story for my autobiographical e-book on changing careers, however.
For the very literal among us it’s helpful to know you can usually get away with 2-3 minutes, if you throw in a joke or two.
What about you? What do you say when people ask you to “Tell me about yourself?” Do you have an elevator speech?
*Yep, 16 hours and 40 minutes sounds about right.
** By the way, you should know this question is not being asked to find out what your favorite movie or best summer vacation. Talk about a waste of a prompt all through middle and high school, which should be preparing kids for the ‘real world.’