Looking for work? So what?

Photo of a man struggling to articulate his career strengths and personal branding for a job application or interviewOne of the best bits of my job is working with interesting, talented and motivated people – specifically, helping them to recognise their strengths, skills and talents…

Things they’re often blind to, because if there’s one thing we all struggle with, it’s getting a clear handle on ourselves.

We all, each and every one of us, see the world through our own, blinkered eyes. 

And when it comes to career development, that can be a very limiting view.

The more we stand inside ourselves looking out – the less practiced we are at stepping into others’ shoes and taking different perspectives – the harder it can be to recognize who we are, what we do and what we can bring to the table.

We all have times where we’re in the wood, and blind to the trees.

I see this all the time as a career coach, and if it makes choosing career direction difficult, it can be fatal in a job search. After all, if you can’t step out of your own shoes and reflect on yourself, how can you hope to identify and articulate your value to others?

If you struggle to do this, you’re far from alone – and there are certainly plenty of ways to start developing your self-awareness.

Some ideas to start with:

1. Reflect on where others ask for help: what’s easy for you that’s hard for others?

2. Talk to people you know, like and trust: what strengths and skills do they see? 

3. Take established personality and strengths assessments: step back and self-reflect 

4. Work directly with a professional coach: build insight and gain clarity

Clearly, all of these are valuable activities and well worth pursuing.

But here’s a quick, practical one if you’re actively job-seeking. When I’m helping someone to market themselves – to sell their skills and strengths to secure a job – there’s one simple question that I find often helps people cut through the noise:

“So what?”

If you’re applying for jobs and struggling to articulate your ‘brand’ – the unique value that you can offer – you’ll likely default to listing your tasks, duties and responsibilities instead; it’s what most of us do.

The problem? It sounds like a list of generic tasks, duties and responsibilities; the opposite of a unique selling point.

Here’s a really common example of how candidates often present themselves:

“I have over 10 years’ experience in this industry…”

“OK, great.  So what?

10 years of experience is not, by itself, a statement of brand or value – it’s just a fact. It tells me that you turned up for work, for 10 years. Commendable? Possibly.  Compelling? Hardly.

As a recruiter, what I want to know…

  • What does that 10 years’ experience actually mean?
  • During those 10 years, what did you learn?
  • What skills did you develop?
  • What did you create, implement, achieve in that 10 years?
  • What does that tell me about you?
  • How does that translate into value for this company?

Here’s another fact that regularly pops up on candidates’ resumes:

“I’m a long-standing member of the XYZ Committee…”

“That’s nice.  So what?

  • What roles have you played?
  • What have you achieved?
  • What practical skills have you developed?
  • What people have you worked with?
  • What relationships have you built?
  • What’s the value to us?

You get the picture…

Beyond the bare facts, why should your employer care? What’s your point – what specifically are you offering them? Until you can answer that question, you’re not demonstrating value. 

Whether you’re writing your resume or preparing for interview, if you’re unclear on your brand, your value and why they should hire you, you can’t sell your candidacy. Push yourself further.

Repeatedly asking “so what?” sorts the wheat from the chaff. Deceptively quick and easy, I’ve found it’s one of the quickest ways to jolt yourself out of uninspiring resume-speak and right into the recruiter or hiring manager’s shoes.

And that’s when you can really start articulating your value.


Need help identifying your strengths and defining your brand? Get in touch!


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