Sell Yourself Without Selling Out

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As a young professional today, there is an increasing need to sell yourself and create a “personal brand.”

We gawk at everyone’s Instagrammed lives daily, wondering how someone’s life could be quite so perfect. This double concern with representing our true selves and presenting oneself as hirable begs the question: how can we stand out from the crowd when everybody’s a star and we’re just trying our best to adult, one day at a time?

But really, all that perfection is an illusion; it’s much better to represent your authentic self. When it comes to applying to your dream job or finding the right employer, it’s undeniable that you want to represent yourself well, but it’s possible to do that without losing your sense of self. You can’t control the competition, but what you can do is present yourself in the best possible authentic light.

After missteps and the odd rejection e-mail, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like your true self might not be what employees are looking for. However, it’s not personal and there is always something that you can do to improve your chances of being a successful candidate; framing your previous work experience and skills well on a resume makes all the difference when you’re trying to connect with a future employer. Keep reading to find out how you can represent your true self and find success in the job hunt.

Job Hunting isn’t a One-Sided Relationship

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To feel positive about your job hunt, remember that it’s a two-way street. It’s not a one-sided relationship. You’re not only presenting yourself; you’re also looking to see whether employers correspond to your values. You’re seeing if they’ll be a good fit for you as much as they’re determining how well you’ll fit their company.

Landing a job is only the beginning. What matters is the mutual feeling of fit, the potential for growth and empowerment, and the amount of effort put in on from both sides to make the relationship work. At the same time as you’re out there searching for the right employer and your dream job, your dream job is out there looking for you.

It’s absolutely possible to present yourself authentically without selling out. Many of us misinterpret resumes and cover letters as opportunities to talk about ourselves as much as possible. In trying to impress the employer however, we may forget to be authentic in presenting who we are as people.

Resumes and cover letters are opportunities to showcase your unique characteristics, skills, and experience to employers. One of the best tips I ever received was this: recognize that resumes and cover letters are written for employers, not job seekers. They are avenues to help employers appreciate and learn more about job candidates. Rather than stressing over the balance of “personal” and “professional,” keep in mind that the more authentically you present yourself, the more you help employers make better informed decisions about hiring you.

Perfect Resumes and Cover Letters Don’t Exist

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At times, it felt like my resume became a part of my very identity. That document was no longer an opportunity to showcase myself; it became a marker of my success and failure in life. If employers rejected my resume, I mistakenly thought it was because they were rejecting me as a person, not because they were rejecting the application. This whole misunderstanding naturally made me more anxious. Don’t fall in the same trap!

Rejection isn’t personal. Employers evaluate you based on their belief of what your resume and cover letter conveys and how well they think you would fit their team. Not getting the job is also a great opportunity to see where you could have communicated better to give a sense of who you are, rather than just listing your qualifications.

Your experience, skills, and education are important, but those sections alone aren’t necessarily going to make you stand out. Don’t be afraid to include more personal elements if you feel they will make you more memorable in a positive, relevant light. If you’re applying for writing positions and you write 1000 words per day and publish your own blogs, that’s relevant! Your story and who you are as a person are vital, especially if you’re the candidate whose skills and personality can take the company to the next level.

While you want to represent yourself authentically, including a sense of your personality and your values and goals in an application, you’ll also want to brand yourself a little. If social media relates to your line of work, utilize platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. A good rule of thumb when you’re trying to balance authenticity with branding is: don’t sell out, but don’t sell yourself short! Represent your passions and goals on a resume; these personal tidbits will give a hiring manager a chance to get to know you. Finally, your chances of employment increase significantly when you show recruiters you’re hungry to learn, align with company values and are ready to help their organization grow.

Showcase who you are to the best of your ability and don’t fret so much about achieving perfection. It doesn’t exist. What matters is doing what you can and what you love, and then going out there, applying for opportunities that are meaningful to you!

“Better an imperfect dome in Florence than cathedrals in the clouds.”                                  – Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

Remember that while you’re out there applying for jobs, employers are doing the same, applying for you. If you don’t represent yourself honestly and authentically, they might not get to know who you really are (and how you could be the right fit for their company, if not the perfect one).

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