Granted, the human species has long been evolving. Normally, present-day humans give one another a little more time of day before passing judgment. Even so, you don’t have an infinite amount of time to keep someone’s interest beyond the initial “Hi, I’m Jay.”
It is not by accident that the general recommendation is to keep your brand message (a.k.a. elevator pitch, a.k.a. personal infomercial) so contained as to be delivered in 30 seconds or so. Of course you want to have more “ammo” in your “arsenal,” but you want to conserve it until you can inject it into the conversation, speaking turn by speaking turn.
So, in that 30 seconds your interlocutor is open to your spiel after graciously saying, “Tell me about yourself,” here’s what you might want to get across—meaning, what they are probably really asking:
1. What are you intrigued by?
2. What are you passionate about?
3. What type of challenge do you enjoy?
4. What type of result do people seek you out for?
5. Who benefits from what you do?
6. And, what makes you unique about the way you do what you do?
Consider the following example. First, here’s this version:
I majored in psychology, and my first job out of school was as a research associate. Later I pursued a career in publishing. To that end, I took a Certificate in Publishing program at Boston University. That career didn’t really get off the ground, but I did get a job as a workshop specialist at a One Stop Career Center. Soon I also became a Certified Professional Résumé Writer.
And now this version:
I help professionals connect the dots of where they have been so they can get faster where they are going in their careers. I elicit from clients how they have been contributing, how those contributions have benefited people and organizations, and what the assets are they want to be seen for. What I find particularly striking is when clients see new opportunities where they didn’t even realize they had something to offer. My own career path used to be somewhat meandering; that’s how I get where a wide variety of different professionals are coming from.
Judge for yourself: Which version offers more “hooks”? Which version is more likely to hold your interest past that first 30 seconds?
Right. The first version revolves all around some bullets in that person’s biography. They may even happen to strike a chord here and there, where people may see common denominators, but all in all, the first version takes the “Tell me about yourself” prompt a little too literally.
Now the second version ties in key clientele right away. It gives the listener an idea how this person approaches clients, and what they get out of our professional interaction. The part about clients discovering how some of their assets are marketable is particularly illustrative of the way they benefit from this person’s services. Finally, the mention of a “somewhat meandering” career path goes to show this person has a broad professional history he or she can apply working with many different types of professionals.
So what was your story again?