IT Career JumpStart

Oct 24 2008   9:07PM GMT

Position Yourself Positively, But Don’t Overdo It…

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

One topic of discussion I see all the time might be baldly stated as “How can I present myself to prospective employers as positively as possible without getting into trouble or promising more than I can deliver?” Besides the obvious answers–namely, “Steer clear of trouble,” and “Don’t claim skills, knowledge, or experience you don’t really possess”–I would urge individuals to answer the following questions as they create resumes, craft cover letters, and present themselves to interviewers during the hiring process:

1. What kinds of things can you do? problems can you solve? Be prepared to provide some history, and maybe even tell a few “war stories,” to back up whatever you claim in this vein.
2. When talking about skills and knowledge, rather than simply providing a laundry list, keep answering the same questions “Why does this matter?” and “How does this relate to the position at hand?” as you dig into these areas with interviewers. This goes double for any IT certifications you hold, especially if they are relevant or critical for the position.
3. Think about your soft skills arsenal: can you write (what have you written)? can you manage projects (what projects have you managed)? can you speak or teach (what presentations have you given, courses taught, etc.)? can you manage people (ditto)?

In general, you want to leave your interlocutors with the impression that you are competent, know your stuff, have a useful array of soft skills to complement your harder ones, and are good enough with people to make a useful addition to the staff. It may be tempting to toot your own horn ceaselessly, or to try to make yourself look better than you really are. Avoid these temptations if at all possible, and settle for a well-rehearsed recital of your answers to the foregoing questions. You’ll be able to play variations on this theme if you have multiple interviews to tackle, and you’ll also get a chance to work on your presentation skills in a pretty serious and meaningful context. You may even want to practice with a friend or family member just to get yourself as comfortable with this material as possible, or perhaps even write out some answers that you can then translate into conversational delivery.

Good luck! I hope you find this information worthwhile.

–Ed–

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