Who Are You?

—Defining who you are during a job search

Flying back from Phoenix, I was troubled because I hadn’t been “on my game” in a big job interview.

A major HMO was trying to recruit me for a senior executive position. On the surface, it seemed like the ideal job. The salary was excellent. The title would have looked very impressive on a business card. The responsibilities would have expanded my professional portfolio. I even liked the people I met with. So why didn’t I feel better about the trip? Where was the disconnect?

I searched for answers, and as I got quiet with myself, the reality became obvious:  I had no passion for that job. My heart wasn’t in it because the job responsibilities did not represent who I am!

At my core I’m a marketing professional. I love marketing. My degree, my experience and my heart are all anchored in marketing.

So what was I doing in Phoenix? Well, earlier versions of my resume were misleading. Don’t get me wrong—I hadn’t lied or deceived anyone. The problem was that my resume was too accurate and factual. It led people to make wrong assumptions about who I was. You see, my resume accurately listed the departments for which I had been responsible—marketing, planning, business development, physician services, medical staff recruitment, real estate (as in medical office buildings) and managed care.

Some of those areas—like managed care—were very hot items in the health care industry so recruiters were very attracted to those elements in my portfolio. I suddenly realized that my resume was so accurate that it was actually misleading. It failed to position me for who I am and who I wanted to be. I rewrote it to focus on my core passion—marketing. In the list of responsibilities, I refrained from using the term “managed care” and instead talked about how my portfolio had included building strategic alliances with business partners.

I honed my resume, cover letter and key messages to focus primarily on marketing. I then developed a professional profile (and an elevator speech) that met these criteria:

Passionate. I defined who I was by what I cared most about. There were many facets of my previous job responsibilities that were very hot in the job market, but I didn’t feel passionate about them. There were many things I had done, but that didn’t mean I wanted to continue pursuing them in my career.

Differentiating. In a world where we all blend in, I wanted to stand out. I wanted to be known for something that would separate me from the rest of the pack. I wanted to define who I was by using words and phrases that few others could easily use in describing themselves. We are each different, and in a job search we must capture the essence of who we are and the unique contribution we make in this world.

Multidimensional. I found it best to describe myself in one sentence—an overarching statement describing who I am professionally. I then supported that one sentence with three bullet points to help people triangulate my ideal career position. At the top level, my one sentence summary identified me as a marketing professional. The supporting bullet points added depth by focusing my marketing career on 1) planning, 2) corporate communication or 3) business development.

Memorable. When I described who I was professionally, I wanted people to remember me as a marketing professional. One way I did that was by creating personal business cards that listed the three bullet points in the title section under my name.

My advice to someone in a job search is:  Develop a memorable script defining who you are. Below are suggested ways in which you can develop a compelling, accurate and differentiating definition of who you are.

  1. Write. List the words or phrases that best describe you. Then use those descriptors to write a rough draft.
  2. Test. Select three or four trusted friends and get their reactions to what you’ve written.
  3. Rewrite. Hone the draft to no more than four or five sentences, if that. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Rewrite.
  4. Differentiate. Describe yourself in a way that your contemporaries could not use in their own professional profiles. Be different and memorable.
  5. Practice. Make your elevator speech roll off your tongue with ease. Be conversational when describing who you are.
  6. Adapt. Customize your message to a variety of media—resume, cover letter, business cards, LinkedIn summary, Facebook information, Twitter profile, or whatever method you will use to promote yourself.

Please share examples of how you or others have done a good job of creating a professional profile. What additional advice would you share with someone in a job search?

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